I’m a Londoner and I can say we’re proud to be the home not only of Bowie’s music, but also his fashion, film, art and pop culture inspiration. The best bit? The London that formed Bowie’s unique and wonderful mind is still surprisingly intact.
Like many other English artists, Bowie’s fame started in the backstreets of London’s Soho. However, his roots remain in London’s South West. From enjoying a beer in Bowie’s old haunts to standing where he recorded some of his most famous songs, this walking tour will trace the early footsteps of not only Bowie, but of 70’s rock and roll.
First stop? A pint of course! The Ship was Bowie’s regular watering hole, and where eager journalists hung around to get some juicy quotes from him. This Edwardian pub is unchanged since the 70’s: expect stained glass, dark wood and chocolate-colored tiles. I hear the food is pretty good too. Whilst you’re here, look over to 90 Wardour street. This is where The Marquee club once stood; home to Bowie’s earliest performances back in the summer of 1965.
116 Wardour Street, W1F
Continue down Wardour street for a couple of minutes until you hit St. Anne’s Court, home of Trident Sound Studios. Some of Bowie’s most famous tracks were recorded here: Space Oddity, Life on Mars, Changes… you name it. Since then, music giants like The Beatles, Elton John and Queen have also recorded here. Although the original Trident shut down in the 80’s, the new voiceover studio that was built in its place kept the name, Trident Sound Studios in respect for its earlier incarnation. You can still go inside and see a print from Bowie’s The Man Who Fell to Earth’s photography shoot, or, if you’re really keen, why not hire out one of their recording rooms to emulate your hero?
St. Anne’s Court, W1F
23 Heddon Street Alley
A leisurely 10-minute walk will bring you to the sight every hardcore Bowie fan wants to experience. It’s in this small, ordinary side alley off London’s busy Regent’s Street that Bowie’s alter-ego, Ziggy Stardust, posed for the cover of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Hours after the news of his death, this site became a shrine for fans. Look for the commemoration plaque just above number 23 marking the exact spot.
Pollock’s Toy Museum
A 15-minute walk from Heddon Street will bring you to London’s beautiful Covent Garden. Look out for a Victorian toy shop and museum crammed floor-to-ceiling with creepy-looking dolls, toy theatres and wooden Punch and Judy puppets. Bowie first discovered Pollock’s Toy Museum in the late 1960’s while he was living at 39 Manchester Street with his manager Ken Pitt. A soon as you walk through the doors, you’ll understand how Bowie became was influenced by this place. As you explore the museum, try to imagine what it was about these objects that made Bowie’s imagination run wild.
Scala Street, W1T
The Wallace Collection
Manager Ken Pitt said Bowie used to “spend an awful lot of time’ at The Wallace Collection. And it’s easy to see why: this beautiful 16th century townhouse is filled with French, Dutch, Italian and Spanish renaissance oil paintings, armor, silverware and ornate furniture. Like Pollock’s Toy Museum, this place fueled the eccentricity and child-like enthusiasm of Bowie’s early songs. Stroll through its 25 galleries free of charge and try and intuit just what that “something” was.
Manchester Square, W1U
A Bowie tour wouldn’t be complete without experiencing Brixton, his hometown. Once you’ve exhausted SoHo, jump on the tube and head west. Alight at Brixton tube station, where just across the street, you’ll find the lightning bolt image you’ve seen again and again since Bowie’s death. This bold art featuring Bowie as Ziggy Stardust was created by Aussie street artist James Cochran in June 2013. Much like Heddon Street, this mural has become a hub for Bowie fans to gather and remember Brixton’s most beloved musician.
40 Stansfield Road
Just down the road from the mural you’ll find number 40 Stansfield close. David Robert Jones was born here on January 8 1947. During this time, his mother Peggy, worked as a waitress and his father John, worked for a children’s charity. Here, too, hundreds of flowers, candles and cardboard were laid down soon after the news of Bowie’s death.
Finish off your tour at this charming, grade II listed building from 1911. This place is the epicenter of Bowie events both before and after his death. On January 11th 2017, Ritzy Cinema paid a simple but touching tribute to Bowie by changing its film schedule board to: ‘David Bowie. Our Brixton Boy. Rip.’ That night, thousands gathered outside of Ritzy Cinema and partied the night away with candles, live music and, of course, thunderbolt makeup. Go along to soak up the Brixton atmosphere, or why not stop for a film in Bowie’s honor?