This particular ‘pictorial’ music ‘journey’ through history, is a topic that I have wanted to do for some time, as I am, and have always been a huge fan and follower of the subject matter – “David Bowie”.
So this is my “Bowie’s London” blog, which I hope you find interesting.
David Jones (e.g. Bowie) was born on 8th January 1947 at 40 Stansfield Road, Brixton, London SW9.
Bowie was always artistic and left school with an O-Level in art. He started his working life in an advertising agency in Soho, but his real passion was always music.
In his teens he either played in, or fronted, numerous ‘minor league’ club type bands throughout the 60’s, such as The King Bees / The Manish Boys / The Lower Third – mainly playing ‘covers’ of r&b numbers – all of these bands would play (albeit, way down the bottom of the bill) regularly down at the legendary ‘Marquee’ club at 100 Wardour Street in Soho W1.
As a growing ‘face’ in London’s music scene, Bowie was signed up by the showbiz impresario Ken Pitt, who wanted to steer Bowie into being an all-round entertainer in the mould of Anthony Newley, who was big in music, tv and film at the time – and who had a unique distinctive vocal style that often accentuated cockney phrasing – something that Bowie himself would often do throughout his recording career. (go to YouTube and listen to Newley’s ‘Do You Mind’ – and you will see what I mean)
For a time, Bowie moved in and lived with his manager Ken Pitt at his house in 39 Manchester Street W1, and during that period Bowie released a couple of singles, none of which were successful.
However, having watched the iconic Stanley Kubric film “2001-A Space Odyssey” , Bowie was inspired to compose the song “Space Oddity” – a ‘story’ song where the main character ‘Major Tom’ is shot into space and becomes a global hero, but having witnessed and experienced the awful state of the world he’s left behind, he decides that he would prefer to ‘stay’ in space, and does everything he can to sever all communication with planet earth.
The song ‘Space Oddity’ was quickly picked up by tv and used as intro music to the then coverage of the Apollo moon landings.
The popularity of ‘Space Oddity’ provided Bowie with the hit single and media coverage that he had always craved. However, follow-on success did not happen and Bowie’s career went into a lull, as he searched for a musical identity and a niche in the music business.
Bowie split with is manager Ken Pitt and moved out of Manchester Street, and rented a couple of rooms in a magnificent but extremely run-down, gothic mansion called Haddon Hall in the London Borough of Bromley.
Whilst plotting his next career path, Bowie kept his ‘end in’ so to speak, by running an ‘Arts Lab’ at a pub in Beckenham high street called ‘The Three Tunns’ – where he would perform his music, whilst encouraging the attendees to present their own music, poetry and literature – via sort of ‘open mike’ sessions.
Very soon, Bowie had the run of Haddon Hall – and its ambience and atmosphere clearly had an influence on his song writing and direction – and now with new management, he started to get his foot back on the ‘music’ ladder, with the release of the (heavy rock) album ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ – which didn’t set the world on fire, but did revive his profile.
He started to put a band together by recruiting 3 musicians from Hull, namely Mick Ronson-guitar / Woody Woodmansey-drums / Trevor Bolder-bass, who all moved into Haddon Hall with Bowie, where they were able to rehearse together 24/7 each and every day.
The lighter (and brilliant) next album “Hunky Dory” was released in Dec 1971, and was well received, enabling Bowie and his band to start gigging regularly, showcasing his new material.
It was at this time that Bowie decided a change of image was necessary to draw attention to himself and raise the profile of his music – and so he invited a local hairdresser from a salon in Beckenham High St, down to Haddon Hall to chop his locks off and completely re-style his hair – and that is how the iconic ‘Ziggy Stardust’ image came to be.
The new material that he had written subsequent to the Hunk Dory album, was packaged up into a new album – “The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars”, which was released in June 1972 – and following a historic appearance on Top of the Pops, performing the single ‘Starman’…..a star was born, and the rest, as they say, is history!!!!!
The Ziggy Stardust album, and its predecessors The World of David Bowie / The Man Who Sold the World / Hunky Dory – and the subsequent Aladdin Sane album – were all recorded at “Trident Studios” – which was a tiny basement studio located in St.Anne’s Court – a small alley just off Wardour Street W1, that boasted an 8-Track recording desk – quite innovative for that time.
Many other iconic (and historic) music from other artists and bands was also recorded at Trident Studios – (see accompanying photos).
Following the success of the Ziggy Stardust and the subsequent albums/singles that followed throughout the years – Bowie eventually became a global star, and simply one of the most successful and influential artist in the history if popular music.
With all his success and fame, Bowie owned and resided in numerous homes throughout the world, but never again resided permanently in London.
However, upon his death in 2016 there have been many commemorative landmarks displayed in London, as a tribute to Bowie – but for me, the best and most poignant, is probably the mural on a wall opposite Brixton station……that was put there by the fans-and for the fans, almost immediately after his death.
From a personal perspective – thank you ‘David Robert Jones’ for providing the soundtrack to my youth, and beyond – thank you for the now legendary concert at London’s Finsbury Park’s “Rainbow Theatre” in August 1972 (without doubt, one of the most brilliant gigs I have ever, and will ever attend) – and most importantly, thank you for the wonderful legacy of music you have left us.