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Terry Pastor on the Ziggy Stardust album cover

Signing album cover prints

In the early 1970s, illustrator Terry Pastor was asked by Bowie's childhood friend and fellow artist George Underwood to do the artwork for the album cover for Hunky DoryBoth George and Terry shared a design studio in Catherine Street, Covent Garden, London operating under the name Main Artery.

According to Terry, it wasn't George's style - "He was also an illustrator and David asked him to do the Hunky Dory cover, but he didn’t really use an airbrush or do that sort of work so he passed it onto me."

A Brian Ward black and white studio portrait of Bowie for Hunky Dory arrived which according to Terry had a “slightly fey sort of pose and longish hair”. Terry reddened the musician’s lips, made his hair yellower and added some eye-shadowing, “although I didn’t want to go over the top and make it overtly androgynous, because at the time Bowie wasn’t really projecting that image yet”.

"I suggested to David that he should use Terry Pastor again to colourise the Brian Ward [Ziggy] photo - front and back" - George Underwood

Terry was subsequently commissioned to do the next Bowie album - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - the cover image showing Bowie standing in Heddon Street, just off London’s Regent Street, not far from Bowie's GEM management office at #252 Regent Street. With Mark Pritchard's Les Paul guitar slung from his shoulder, foot up on a step, he stood under a lamp and the K.West sign.  The rear image was of Bowie in a telephone box.

Album colour separation scheme

Terry's brief was to colourise and add titles.

For both Hunky Dory and Ziggy he was given just one photograph to work on. "In both cases I was given just one photograph. Luckily my first go seemed to work okay."

"I was given a black and white photograph printed on matte paper - David Bowie's management wanted some colour put into it. I also did the cover for his previous LP, Hunky Dory. This was also a black and white photo that I coloured up in the same way. Perhaps this is why the label decided that the Ziggy cover would be similar? I applied the colour using photo-dyes with an airbrush  - a DeVilbiss Super 93."

"It was just a case of a black and white photograph which was a good shot but a bit dull.  It needed life breathing into it with colour really."

"The lettering was lettraseted (rub-down transfer lettering) - a very hands-on way of doing things, but in 1972 that was the way things were done. Then traced down onto hardline art board and painted using the airbrush. All the lettering for track titles and credits for the back of Ziggy were rub down Leteraset type. No Mac computers in those days!"

Terry estimates he spent about a working week on hand-colouring and tweaking the photograph – using the paintspraying airbrush technique popular at the time, and hand-tinting. "The colours were my own choice. If I had seen a colour shot of the [Bowie's real] outfit I would probably have stuck to the actual colours. Same goes for the hair. [But] as people generally like both covers perhaps it was a good thing!"

“For his jumpsuit I went for that Turquoise because it’s a very contrasty colour – a colour in the centre that’s completely different to the reddy browns and the yellows.” In reality, Bowie's jumpsuit was grey/green in colour as seen later on his The Old Grey Whistle Test performances.

“Certainly with the turquoise and the yellow hair, he” – Bowie – “stands out quite well. I think at the time his hair wasn’t blond; it was a mousey/blond colour."

"At the time that was shot it was a rainy, damp night, and quite cold. The band and David did some shots in the studio. Then Brian [Ward] said ‘Let’s just go out and do a quick shot outside.’ “It was such a horrible night the other guys said ‘Oh no, we’re not going out there; it’s too cold,’ so just David went. That’s why he’s on his own. There’s a chance that had it been a warm night, in the summer, you’d have had the whole band standing out in the street.” 

“It was lucky it was a damp night because you’ve got the wet reflection in the road, which gives the whole thing a little bit of atmosphere.” And Bowie being alone works better than being in a group, as he was, really, the exotic focus."

"I was working on the back cover one evening at my studio, which at the time was in Covent Garden, London when I received a phone call from David. He asked ‘How’s the cover going?’ I said it was all right. I’ve finished the front and I’m doing the back. ‘Oh, there’s a back?’ Yeah, with the phonebox. ‘Oh, I didn’t know there was going to be a back cover as well. Can’t wait to see it!’”

"He was very excited hearing that, having no idea there was an image for the back cover. He asked me what the image was, and said that he was really looking forward to seeing it."

"From that you can assume David didn't have any real input into the art direction at this stage of the cover. He probably had much more input when the photograph was being shot."

"The back cover, featuring Bowie in a phone box was done in exactly the same way."

When asked in 2007 about whether the creases - seen top-right on the Ziggy back cover - were an artistic addition to depict an old or aged photograph, Terry replied "I didn't know there were creases. They certainly weren't creased when they left me. Perhaps the courier did it or something, or it was just handled carelessly."

Terry sent the completed covers to Bowie's manager Tony De Fries and moved on to his next bit of work.  Terry wasn't given a detailed artistic brief for the job, for which he thinks he probably received about 200. "You could be fairly experimental and not too fixed.  I wasn’t really given any pressure anywhere. That was great for an artist.”

"It wasn’t ‘corporate’ in those days! David Bowie was virtually unknown, so there was no pressure on me to pull something out of the bag because he was a big star."

"He became a big star about six months after that LP came out. He became mega."

"Before this album was released, I would bump into David occasionally in the West End or meet up in a pub, and he would go totally unnoticed. I saw him a fair bit while I was doing the album covers; he’d drop into my studio in Covent Garden in London and see how it was going. I’d go down to the pub with him and Angie, his wife at the time.  He didn’t look all that outrageous to me then, just had long hair and was a bit hippyish. He was just my mate’s mate at the time. It was no big deal. I remember once he popped into the studio with his wife Angie. I was doing a cover for a band called Byzantium with a crystal held by a woman’s hands in a pair of black leather mittens. They were quite excited about the S and M feel of it with the black leather."

"Within a matter of months from the release of Ziggy Stardust, he became a mega-star and would get mobbed if he appeared anywhere in public."

Terry’s had emails from Bowie fans over the years, asking things like “Did he stand there because of that . . .”, “Does that mean something?” “They read all sorts of things into it, and actually I don’t think it means anything. It’s just an image that looks quite nice!”

"David told me that he had started to receive a lot of fan mail and that they believed he was from out of space.  That made both of us laugh".

“I did think Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust were very good albums musically: very strong. All the tracks were pretty good. There wasn't really a weak track on either of those LPs."

The fact it’s become an iconic cover isn’t because of my artwork, in a sense, but because it was a very strong album musically, and the cover worked with it very well. So it was a kind of symbiotic relationship."

Terry didn’t then have a sense that Bowie was on the cusp of making it big. He was “Very nice. A clever guy, but straightforward. Didn’t seem to have a ‘side’ to him. Not pretentious.”

 The singer hadn’t yet developed fully the androgynous look hinted at in those album covers, though it was about to happen. “He was fairly exotic, but not too much!”

“He said to me in the beginning that he wasn’t sure where his career would go, and I wouldn’t say that he was struggling, but it was very early on. I remember him saying that Hunky Dory didn't sell well, and he was quite concerned about what was going to happen to his career. If someone had said to me then that [Ziggy] was going to be a really major record, and also an iconic image I would have said no, you’re kidding."

"Then of course Ziggy came out and that changed everything, and after that Hunky Dory sold well too. At the time they were not anything I considered particularly special. I think Bowie would probably say the same thing, he didn’t know if they were going to be hits or not. “Ziggy Stardust was a make or break thing for him.”

A few months after the Ziggy Stardust album cover, he just became a mega-star, I think partly because of the music and partly because of his look."

"I've never been asked to do anything similar as far as colouring up photographs for LPs. I've been asked to do full artwork, but not a Hunky Dory or a Ziggy Stardust. They were one-offs."

Asked about his thoughts on recent changes in album art - "Going from a 12-inch vinyl cover, particularly if it was a gatefold, to a CD, which was half the size, and now to downloads hardly getting any covers at all, it’s a shame. I think the whole thing with a record is that you can study [the cover] while you listened to it." 

2018 Calendar

2018 Calendar

David Bowie's 1972 album cover was featured on a 1st-class stamp issued by Great Britain's Royal Mail in January 2010.
Others in the Classic Album Covers set were : The Division Bell by Pink Floyd; A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay; Parklife by Blur; Power, Corruption and Lies by New Order;
Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones; Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield; Led Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin; & Screamadelica by Primal Scream.

In 2012 Terry attended the official unveiling of the plaque to Ziggy Stardust on 23 Heddon Street.

"I was asked if I was going to do Ziggy Stardust now, if I'd improve on it?  And I don't think I could.  I think it was pretty good the way it came out at the time." - Terry Pastor

Video credit Big Vision Publishing

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A renowned figure whose paintings feature in private collections around the world, including those of film director Roman Polanski and international designer Roman Ford Coppola, British artist Terry Pastor has also had his paintings exhibited in galleries in London, New York, Munich and Amsterdam, and has won several awards for his work including two Art Directors of America awards. He first became famous, however, for designing record sleeves for rock legends such as David Bowie and the Beach Boys, and for the evocative illustrations he has provided for book jackets by writers such as Arthur C Clark, Jeffrey Archer, Len Deighton, Brian Aldiss, Michael Chrichton, Ed McBain and many others.

Terry Pastor has worked for various bands, designing album covers, but is best known for his cover for David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust.

---This page last modified: 13/01/19---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)