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The photos for the front and rear of the Ziggy Stardust album were taken on 13 January 1972 on a cold, wet night by photographer Brian Ward, who had a first-floor studio at #29 Heddon Street, London. Heddon Street was the chosen site for the photographic session.
According to Ward, Bowie had phoned him requesting a shooting location resembling a "Brooklyn alley scene" where he could appear alone like an alien being.
Brian Ward's later business card.
"He was playing on this Man from Mars thing. He wanted to come over like a real stranger, like a science fiction movie" - Brian Ward.
Both the front and rear cover photographs were shot by Ward using Royal-X-Pan Black & White film and later colourised by Terry Pastor of Main Artery.
Altogether, 54 photos were taken. Outside a number of photos were taken of Bowie posing in front of 23 Heddon Street (from different angles); in and around the telephone-box on the same street, and close-ups.
The cover shows the jump-suit-dressed Bowie on a London backstreet looking like he'd just beamed down from another planet. While colourised turqouise blue, the jump-suit was actually the grey/green one seen on The Old Grey Whistle Test show in Feburary 1972, and while Bowie's hair was colourised yellow it was actually mousey blonde as seen in other outtakes.
Many aspects of this album cover helped contribute to the Ziggy-mystique and mood such as the stormy and wet weather; Bowie's lone appearance under the prominent K.WEST sign that could be interpreted as "Quest"; the cartoon/sci-fi feeling the colourisation gave; and most importantly the equal billing of David Bowie & Ziggy Stardust's name that suggested that David Bowie WAS Ziggy Stardust (even though he was holding his guitar right-handed).
“It was cold and it rained and I felt like an actor. We did the photographs outside on a rainy night...upstairs in the studio we did the Clockwork Orange look-a-likes that became the inner album sleeve.”
- David Bowie
According to Ziggy Stardust writer Mark Paytress - the cover's setting may well have had its roots in an obscure 1960 British film directed by Michael Powell called "Peeping Tom" about a serial killer (played by Carl Boehm) who films his victims as he kills them. The film outraged viewers and critics alike when it was first released. Paytress writes of being surprised when he watched the film again recently:
Peeping Tom (1960)
"The credits roll. An eye blinks on the screen and the first scene is unveiled. It is ... the cover of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars. The film's protagonist, Mark Lewis, approaches a prostitute, who is standing by a wall in a dimly lit street. Boxed debris fills the foreground, right-side. Up ahead, sandwiched between and above the darkened buildings, is the night sky. So the film has another fan, albeit one who, to my knowledge, has never declared his interest...." Mark Paytress (1998)
The prominent K. West sign seen on the cover was the name of a furrier company occupying the 1st Floor at #21 which shipped animal furs (but no longer trades today).
The "K" stood for Konn (Henry Konn was the owner) and "West" stood for its location in the West End.
The K.West sign and the gas-light no longer exist there today. The original K. West sign was taken by a Bowie fan in the early 1980s (you can view the original sign and read about how it was removed here and restored here). It is believed that its subsequent replacement (a slightly different sign) was auctioned off as a part of a sale of rock & roll memorabilia when the furriers closed in 1991.
According to Bowie, hundreds of fans have sent him pictures of themselves with their foot on a dustbin under the K.West sign. The gas-light survived the longest but eventually was replaced with curb mounted street lights. Today an ornamental gas-light fitting has been re-attached to the building as part of London's inner city renovation.
What is written on the signs by the door?
Paquerette Dresses 4th Floor
Ramar Dresses Ltd 3rd Floor
International Wool Secretariat
Cravats Ltd, main entrance,
T.H. Ferris 2nd Floor
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---This page last modified: 13 Jan 2019---