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Heddon Street, London 1/2

Time Out magazine cover (October 1984)

 Heddon Street Fan Pictures

If there is any London location which can be justifiably described as THE Ziggy Stardust "shrine" it would have to be Heddon Street. This small side-street, the site of the Ziggy Stardust album cover photographs, has for many Bowie fans the same significance as the Beatle's Abbey Road or (more fittingly?) Jim Morrison's grave in Paris.

London's Handbook Guide to Rock and Pop (1997) lists Heddon Street as an historic London music site due to the Ziggy Stardust album cover and magazines such as Time Out and Q have also featured Heddon Street's Ziggy Stardust fame.

Heddon Street, W1 - "It's surprising to discover that the disturbing "space invader" cover for David Bowie's 1972 album, "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars", was photographed in such an ordinary backstreet.  K West.....furriers, are still present and correct, but the phone box at the north end of the street (featured on the back cover) has been replaced by a more recent model.  However, the graffiti on the wall behind bears testimony to its status as third only to the Tardis and Clark Kent's changing room in Space Age phone-booth mythology." - Time Out magazine (18-24 October 1984)

Q magazine feature 1998

Where It's At....
David Bowie: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars

"On a rainy January night in 1972 David Bowie and photographer Brian Ward created the photograph for the Ziggy Stardust cover. The story of an alien who comes to earth, becomes a rock 'n' roll star and informs us we only have five years to live was illustrated by Bowie's dress sense - "a cross between Nijinksy and Woolworth's" - and the self-mythologising artwork, which located Ziggy in an empty London side-street. Originally shot in black and white, Ward tinted the photographs to achieve the ultra-real, storybook style of the album sleeve and telephone box back cover, reflecting the album's overtly British vaudeville pop and fantasy narrative. In the 1980s Ward found work as Gary Numan's photographer." - Q magazine  (1998)

Click for larger image

Heddon Street in January 1972 and February 1998

The cover of the Ziggy Stardust album shows David Bowie posing as Ziggy Stardust in front of #23 Heddon Street.  Heddon Street is a small, quiet side-street and alleyway off Regent Street in the heart of London, close to Piccadilly Circus.

Map of Inner London - Heddon Street in red boxed area

Piccadilly Circus showing the location of Heddon Street.

The viewers perspective on the album cover is south-east towards the heart of London (from Position A in the LEFT site map below).  The glow in the sky is the inner-city lights. The building in the background at the end of the street is the Heddon Street Post Office which still exists today. The phonebox is located away from #23, around a corner at the far end of the northern alleyway.  There are two access points to Heddon Street from Regent Street - 1) through a pedestrian tunnel at the north (Point E) and 2) by road access to the south. 

Heddon Street circa 1987

1987.  The K.West sign is gone (replaced by the ALPHABET sign seen on the TIMEOUT cover above)
but at this time the building still retains the original brickwork paintwork, gas-light and K.West lettering.

In 1996 and 1997 Heddon Street, like much of inner city London, underwent historical renovation.  This involved painting the building facades white, repaving the footpath and road, adding wooden decorative doors and non-functional gas lamps and erecting curb poles and traffic barriers.

Click for larger image

Heddon Street phonebox in January 1972 and February 1998.

Trivia: The Dial-a-Ziggy-Phonebox number (with UK access code) is (+44) 0207 7348 719

As part of the renovations a red 'K series' phonebox was returned to the street in April 1997, replacing a modern blue phonebox, which in turn had replaced the original phonebox featured on the rear cover. It is rumoured that the original telephone-box was auctioned/sold to an American fan in the late Seventies. While many of the famous landmarks seen on the album cover (i.e. the K.West sign above #23, the gas light and the original red phonebox) have been missing from the street for some years, fans have never-the-less continued to visit the street in pilgrimage, some scrawling messages to "Ziggy" on the walls next to the replacement phonebox and on the door of #23 itself.  

On 23 January 1990, David Bowie held a press conference to publicise his 1990 Sound & Vision Tour. The press conference was held in the Rainbow Theatre - location of his famous August 1972 Ziggy Stardust concerts .  

Promotional postcard.  (RCPC0036 - David Bowie - K.West)

As seen on the promotional postcard above, the foyer was decorated to resemble the Ziggy Stardust album cover with a fake telephone box, K. West sign, light fitting and dustbin - all used as Heddon Street props.

Bowie himself revisited Heddon Street on 1 March 1993 with David Sinclair and the following extract is taken from Rolling Stone's 'Station to Station' article (10 June 1993) which documented Bowie's personal tour of his London:

BACK IN THE HEART OF TOWN, Bowie has arrived at a tiny cul-de-sac called Heddon Street, tucked away off Regent Street. He gets out of the car a little uncertainly and starts walking toward an alley at the end, mumbling: "We're gonna have to guess this out a bit. . . Everything's gone, obviously. There was a photographer up here called Brian Ward, I think it was this building here, and outside the building there was a phone box..." There is indeed a phonebox, a squat, modern blue job. Suddenly, the realisation dawns. This is where the photography for the cover artwork of Ziggy Stardust was done. But of course it's all changed. For one thing, the sort of big, red enclosed phone box in which Bowie posed for the shot on the back of the sleeve is a thing of the past. A woman walking up the street toward her office greets Bowie with a genial smile. "They took your phone box away, isn't it terrible?" she says. Whatever Bowie may say about wearing glasses and keeping his head down, he is still a face that few people fail instantly to recognise. The woman informs him that the photographer has moved on and so has the company, K.West, under whose sign Bowie stood with his foot up on a rubbish bin twenty-one years ago. Amazingly, the old light above the doorway is still there, but the famous sign was auctioned off as a part of a sale of rock & roll memorabilia. At home, Bowie has got hundreds of photographs of fans who sent him pictures of themselves with their foot on a dustbin under the K.West sign.

Do you have a picture of yourself at Heddon Street, London? i.e. under the now missing K.West sign, or standing outside #23 or by the phonebox?   If so, send me a scan by email (or send me a photo and I'll scan it myself) and I'll put it on the Heddon Street Fan Pictures section.

"It's such a shame that sign went. People read so much into it. They thought K.West must be some sort of code for "quest". It took on all these sort of mystical overtones. We did the photographs outside on a rainy night.  And then upstairs in the studio we did the Clockwork Orange look-a-likes that became the inner sleeve."  - Bowie (1993)

Click for inner sleeve detail

LP Inner sleeve

"The idea was to hit a look somewhere between the Malcolm McDowell thing with the one mascaraed eyelash and insects. It was the era of "Wild Boys" by William S. Burroughs. That was a really heavy book that had come out in about 1970, and it was a cross between that and Clockwork Orange that really started to put together the shape and the look of what Ziggy and the Spiders were going to become. They were both powerful pieces of work, especially the marauding boy gangs of Burrough's Wild Boys with their Bowie knives. I got straight on to that. I read everything into everything. Everything had to be infinitely symbolic." - Bowie (1993)

Heddon Street, London (continued)

---This page last modified: 12 Oct 2002---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)