10 sites of (historic) musical significance in London – 2. 23 Heddon Street…

This property (and the street, which runs in a horseshoe off Regent Street in the West End, I which it sits) is famous for its appearance on the cover of David Bowie’s 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stadust and the Spiders from Mars.

The famous album cover.

The cover – which features Bowie (who was ill with the flu at the time) dressed as Ziggy Stardust standing outside the building under the light of a lamp – was one of several shots taken by photographer Brian Ward on a cold and wet night in January, 1972.

Originally taken in black and white, the selected image was subsequently hand-coloured by artist Terry Pastor for the album cover.

There’s been much commentary over the years about the sign which appears over Bowie’s head in the shot and reads K West. Bowie himself, lamenting the fact the sign had been removed when the furrier moved out in the early 1990s, commented later that that it had taken on “mystical overtones” for some fans who thought it was code for the word quest. But the truth is more mundane – it was apparently the name of a furrier who at the time occupied part of the building.

PICTURE: Jnicho02 (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

The back cover of the album featured Ziggy inside an iconic red phone box which was located just around the corner from number 23, still in Heddon Street. One of the K2 boxes, it’s since been replaced.

While the street has been considerably gentrified since Ziggy stood there (rather than a deserted back street, it’s now a popular al fresco dining area), a plaque was unveiled commemorating the role of the building in 2012 (pictured above).

The album, meanwhile, was released on 16th June, 1972, by RCA Records to what was generally a favourable reception.

Dr Livingstone honoured; David Bowie at the V&A; Damian Lewis receives Freedom; pocket parks; and, try a new sport…

The President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, attending a wreath-laying ceremony at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday night to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Scottish missionary and explorer Dr David Livingstone. The ceremony took place at the grave of Dr Livingstone – his body was repatriated to London following his death in Zambia in 1873 from malaria and dysentery. The Very Reverand Dr John Hall, the Dean of Westminster, said the ceremony honored a “Scot of humble origins, but clear determination and courage”. “140 years after his death, he remains respected throughout these islands, and especially in Africa, where, for 30 years, he laboured to spread the Gospel, to explore the land’s secrets, and to map what he discovered,” he said. “Treating all people as his equals, he worked to abolish the slave trade in Africa.” Livingstone conducted several expeditions into the interior of Africa – while they included a failed attempt to find the source of the Nile, he is credited with documenting numerous geographical features including Victoria Falls (he named it after Queen Victoria) and Lake Malawi. Celebrated as a hero of the Victorian age, his meeting with Henry Stanley in October 1871 – Stanley had been sent to find him after he had lost contact with the outside world – gave rise to the expression “Dr Livingstone, I presume?” (though whether he actually said the phrase remains a matter of debate).

A landmark exhibition on the career of David Bowie opens at the V&A on Saturday. David Bowie is features more than 300 objects including handwritten lyrics, costumes, photographs, films, Bowie’s instruments and album artwork selected by the V&A’s theatre and performance curators, Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh. The exhibition takes an in-depth look at Bowie’s music and how it and his “radical individualism” has influenced and been influenced by wider movements in art, design and contemporary culture. Among the more than 60 costumes on display will be a Ziggy Stardust bodysuit (1972) and costumes made for the 1973 Aladdin Sane tour as well as some of Bowie’s own sketches, musical scores and diary entries. This exhibition, which is sponsored by Gucci and Sennheiser,  runs until 11th August. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/davidbowieis.

Homeland star Damian Lewis has received the Freedom of the City of London in a ceremony at Guildhall on Tuesday in recognition of his “outstanding achievements in acting”. Lewis, who graduated from the City of London’s Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 1993, has appeared in The Forsyte Saga, US mini-series Band of Brothers and, of course, in Homeland. Interestingly, his maternal grandfather, Sir Ian Bowater, was Lord Mayor of the City of London from 1938 to 1939. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.au.

Work is underway on the first of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson’s, “pocket parks”. The size of a tennis court, the pocket parks are set to “reinvent some of London’s forgotten nooks and crannies”. Among the first will be an edible park featuring vegetable, herbs, fruit trees and hops located on ‘dead space’ behind a Stockwell bus stop (the hops will be sold to the Brixton Beer Cooperative). All 100 of the pocket parks will be finished by March 2015 at a cost of £2 million. For more, see www.london.gov.uk/priorities/environment/greening-london/parks-green-spaces/pocket-parks.

It’s the chance to try a new sport for the first time in a day of free games and activities which will be held at the Queen Mother Sports Centre in Vauxhall Bridge Road on Saturday. From 10am to 3pm, visitors will be able to try a range of different sporting activities including football, basketball and swimming with athletes and coaches on hand to offer advice. For more, see www.westminster.gov.uk.