Great covers 11. David Bowie: 'Ziggy Stardust...'

Robert Webb
Thursday 16 May 1996 23:02

Great covers

11. David Bowie: 'Ziggy Stardust...'

Once the Beatles stepped off that zebra crossing in the Abbey Road sunshine in 1969, the clouds rolled in, the VW went for its MOT and the capital closed up for the winter. No longer swinging, not yet calling, by 1972 London was as good as dead. So Bowie posed in the rain up a poky turning off Regent Street for the album that was to be a clarion call to a sleeping town. Bathed in the phosphorescence of Heddon Street, W1, part-framed by the near-side of a (probably different) VW Beetle, Brian Ward's tinted photograph re-mythologised both city and artist.

Bowie perches incongruously on an undercliff of refuse, a reptile in a turquoise jumpsuit and stacks. Overshadowing him is an imposing structure occupied by a firm of furriers called, in just about the biggest writing on the cover, K West. Less conspicuous are nameplates for a couple of dress manufacturers in the same building. I like to think he picked up a little off-the-peg number after the shoot: like London, Bowie is at his best when dressing up. And like Bowie, London needs both glam and gloom. Its zebra crossings need to glisten after dark to get any sense of it as a place. That night in Heddon Street, David Bowie was certainly in the right place at the right time.


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