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The Plaque on
This marks the location of the cover photograph for the iconic David Bowie album
"The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars."
Video credit: David Bowie
On the 27th March 2012, The Crown Estate - the business owners of Heddon Street - unveiled a commemorative plaque to Ziggy Stardust at #23 Heddon Street, London W1B 4BQ, marking both the 40th anniversary year of the album, THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS, and celebrating the spot from where the photograph on the front cover of the album was taken.
The Ziggy Stardust commemorative plaque unveiling occurred at 9:00am and festivities were hosted by The Crown Estate at the Hub, 10 Heddon Street opposite number 23 where the original Ziggy Stardust cover shot was taken.
As the plaque was not installed by English Heritage or Westminster Council, it is coloured black, rather than the traditional blue or green used to commemorate famous landmarks and people. As such, it is one of a few plaques in London given to date to mark a fictional character, Sherlock Holmes at 221b Baker Street being the notable other.
Following several years consultation with David Bowie's management company, the Crown Estate decided to pay tribute to Ziggy, with his very own plaque.
David Shaw, head of the Regent Street Portfolio for the Crown Estate: “Regent Street is famous for many cultural firsts. Not only was the first British cinema opened in Regent Street but the seminal album that launched Ziggy Stardust’s arrival on planet earth had its spiritual home in Heddon Street which is now the food quarter to Regent Street. Regent Street is proud of the association with David Bowie, a true British cultural icon."
Gary Kemp at the unveiling.
Attending the unveiling were the remaining Spiders: Mick Woodmansey and Trevor Bolder; artist & illustrator Terry Pastor, who created the iconic album cover design; and Ziggy's record producer Ken Scott who had flown in from Los Angeles for the event.
Also attending was superfan Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet guitarist) who made the unveiling speech:
"Thank you David and all who have worked to make this possible at the Crown Estate.
It’s strange that I used to be chased out of the street with my felt-tip pen for scrawling ‘Ziggy Woz Here’ and now I’m unveiling a plaque. I guess the Ziggy Stardust generation has really come of age.
On 13th January 1972, Ziggy Stardust was first spotted here and snapped by photographer Brian Ward. He was caught standing against this wall where we are now, underneath a sign for a furrier’s, holding what looked like a guitar but could easily have been a ray gun.
Ziggy appeared from the shadows of a much darker London than the one we know now, certainly no pedestrian walkways and alfresco dining; a much poorer, less glamorous London, still in the shadow of the Second World War. And that’s the important context.
He was the ultimate messianic rock star, and with him David Bowie successfully blurred the lines not just between boys and girls, but himself and his creation. Bowie was Ziggy come to save us–and I bought him hook, eyeliner and haircut.
Looking back to what we can now call the Golden age of Rock, this was a cultural highpoint of some significance. The album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars not only changed Bowie’s life forever, it also changed mine, allowing a generation of adolescents to find an escape from the ennui of existence and the hard times of the early seventies.
As a teenager any visit to the West End would have to involve a pilgrimage to here. We’d stare at the phone box that Ziggy had obviously teleported himself into, and then try to fathom the meaning behind the K. West sign. K West? Yes, Quest! It all made sense back then.
I believe that Ziggy is now one of London’s great fictional characters and stands alongside the likes of Dorian Gray and the Artful Dodger, as well as antiheroes such as Steerpike and of course Clockwork Orange’s Alex.
But it seems right that it should be the job of a fanboy, to have this honour; after all, Ziggy is no longer actually with us, killed off by his creator in 1973. And as for that creator, well he is currently nurturing his well-earned enigma in New York. In any case, as Ziggy once sang: ‘He’d like to come and meet us, but he thinks he’ll blow our minds.’
Before I unveil this I’d like to say how thrilled we are to have two of the Spiders here, Woody Woodmansey and Trevor Bolder, and also Terry Pastor whose hand tinting of the photograph added to its theatricality, giving it the look of a film-noir setting. And also choosing Ziggy’s blond hair, which added to his otherworldliness.
Can we also think of absent heroes–Ziggy’s faithful lieutenant and my favourite guitarist of all time, who rode shotgun throughout the album–Mick Ronson. And a special mention to the beautiful Freddie Burretti who created the clothes that Ziggy wore.
And finally, this plaque will make sure that no one forgets exactly where Ziggy first arrived.
Heddon Street today looking north (#23 is at the far left)
--This page last modified: 16/01/19---