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  "Suicide Suite" CD
by Philip Sanderson
Special Feature

Cover of Suicide Suite (Image 3)

February 2001's Special Feature profiled a unique tribute "soundtrack album" CD (called "Suicide Suite") to Heddon Street and the Ziggy Stardust album by Philip Sanderson.  

"As I live not far away I've visited Heddon Street many times. Sometimes if I'm up in town I will just make a small detour and take a quick walk round it just to check they haven't painted the phone box green or anything. There has been a lot of new development in the last couple of years and the somewhat surreal set-like quality of the street is being replaced by the bustle of bars and shops. The passage that leads off Regent St and down to the phone box still has that certain magic though."

Heddon Street, London
Heddon Street Fan Pictures section

Notes on Suicide Suite by Philip Sanderson

All the samples and musical parts were arranged and played by myself.  I have been working on the project on and off for about three years.  So far the music has only been available privately to friends and those expressing an interest.  The Heartache in Heddon St track is scheduled to appear on a compilation of artist¹s sound work to be released by Underwood Audio sometime this year.  Most of my activities are in the visual arts field and include short "experimental" films and installations, one of which entitled "If we can sparkle he may land tonight" featured a large blow up of the rear of the Ziggy sleeve.

Colourised outtake (Image 1)

About Suicide Suite

Holding a battered copy of the Ziggy Stardust LP in one's hands, it can seem like a repository for nostalgic residues, as if the the grooves in the vinyl were in some way the sculptured marks of time¹s passing.  Rather than let the sediments settle, the idea behind Suicide Suite was to create a means of once again setting in motion the sounds and images that have lain dormant since 1972.  Suicide Suite dose not aim to remix or add to the original but rather to create a ghostly twin; an echo of the LP that occupies a parallel but somewhat warped trajectory.

My first glimpse of Ziggy was at school. Leaving a double physics class sometime late in 72 I caught sight of a curious LP sleeve in a fellow pupil¹s bag.  From a distance it looked like an eighteenth century scene, with what I took to be a costumed female figure posing at night in the window of a grand country house.  Of course closer inspection revealed it to be Bowie inside the red Heddon St telephone box, but that impression of a creature from some other time and space; simultaneously intimate and yet remote was only to be strengthened when later I heard the sounds contained on the LP.  

A deep South London  melancholy pervades Ziggy (Bowie was of course living at Haddon Hall in Beckenham at the time) and this not only makes for a poignant and tangible depiction of 70's Britain but is a perfect expression of suburban adolescent angst, of unfulfilled longings and desires.

Over the years, and after many hours spent both listening to Ziggy and gazing at the cover; sleeve and music gradually began to merge seamlessly together. So much so that sound and vision combined together to form a kind of three dimensional world.  An imaginary landscape composed of pure atmosphere, but nonetheless tangible for that. I began to search for clues, looking for hints just at the edge of the hand tinted images, or for small sounds concealed on the margins of the LP¹s tracks as they begin to die away.  I began to experiment with these samples, using them to construct a new artifact.

The samples are either looped or processed using granular synthesis, a process which breaks the sounds down into its constituent elements. The sounds can then be restructured into new forms that contain ghost like traces of the original. Single guitar chords stretch into symphonic proportions, vocals rise and fall like disembodied ghouls.

Interwoven around the samples are rhythms and instrumental motifs together with ambient sounds recorded in and around Heddon St.  Overall Suicide Suite has something of the feeling of a soundtrack. This is perhaps not surprising as in many senses the music is a soundtrack to a phantom Heddon St movie.

In a similar fashion to the music the artwork takes the out-takes from the Ziggy cover photo shoot as its starting point. The first step was to tint some of these black and white images, digitally remodeling them on the colour palette of the original sleeve. (see image 1 and 2).   Following on from this a number of photographs were taken of the present day Heddon St and these were then processed and combined with elements from the originals to create a new composite for the cover of the CD, part past and part present (see image 3).

Suicide Suite Track listing

Download some of these tracks from Philip's page listed below

1 Intro (The Boy in the Bright Blue Jeans) (0:41)

The Suite is introduced by a short overture; a granular synthesis montage of elements from a number of the Ziggy tracks, stretched and twisted into a new soundscape.

2 Golden Showers (January 72)  (3:35)

On a cold and wet night in January 1972 our cast assembles under the street lamps in a quiet cul de sac off Regent St, London, namely Heddon St. Creating a backdrop to the scene "Golden Showers" takes a very familiar 3/4 drum pattern as its starting point and laces it with staccato bursts of feedback Ronson guitar and romantic piano flourishes.  "It was cold and it rained..."

3 Cortege (3:09)

The tracks starts with a revolving organ pattern, over which can be heard the old manual dialing sound of a phone as someone rings the Heddon St box.  Next the track moves into processional mode with Ziggy repeating "Rock, Rock, Rock N Roll", before the dark coated funereal horns arrive, and the Cortege makes its way up from Piccadilly and into Heddon St proper.

4 Heartache in Heddon St ( 5:46)

A blustery day out in Heddon St, as our hero revisits the scene of past romances ("Lucy stayed at home to starve..").  The track starts with the distant sound of traffic and passers by, In the background Ziggy repeats a slow "Bom, Bom, B-Bom Bom" as above piano's tinkle and a piccolo picks out a mournful tune.

5 Scene Change  (1:13)

A breathing space for the cast to get their breaths back whilst out in the Street the finishing touches are put to the new set.  Almost ambient, granular synthesised elements from Ziggy float past.

6 Through a Telephone Box Darkly (5:10)

"When the kids had killed the man..." a slow mantra for now the departed main man with full backing from sweeping mellotrons and the Vienna boys choir.

7 Weird & Gilly Ride Again (4:22)

After the sadness and despair of "Through a Telephone Box Darkly", hope comes again as Weird and Gilly pick themselves up and prepare for the long journey home.  The track combines the first and last sounds of "Rock N Roll Suicide", namely the final string chord of the LP and the strummed guitar intro to create a number that has more than a hint of the spaghetti Western about it as our two heroes ride off into the sunset.

Colourised outtake (Image 2)

Obtaining the Suicide Suite CD

Until the CD receives copyright clearance - it is currently only available privately.  Those interested should contact Philip at philipsanderson@hotmail.com

Philip's page:
http://www.users.waitrose.com/~goldshow/

---This page last modified: 27 Jun 2002---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)