Use our guide to fol­low in the foot­steps of the Lon­don leg­end, David Bowie.

Where London - - Contents -

hen David Bowie died a year ago, sud­denly and shock­ingly, his ill­ness hav­ing been kept se­cret from all but his clos­est friends and fam­ily, there was an out­pour­ing of grief in Lon­don not seen since the death of Princess Diana.

Public mourn­ing was con­cen­trated in Brix­ton in south Lon­don, where Bowie was born and spent the first six years of his life. Flow­ers piled up by a Bowie mu­ral op­po­site Brix­ton Tube sta­tion. Im­promptu sin­ga­longs were held among those who, day and night for many weeks af­ter, came to pay trib­ute to their fallen Star­man.

I was one of them. Bowie was the only pop star whose face I hung upon my wall as a teenager; the only one who vis­ited me in my dreams. I loved all his al­bums, but Ziggy Stardust had a spe­cial place in my heart and on my turntable for a two-year pe­riod, and I made a point of play­ing the record, in its en­tirety, ev­ery day.

How can peo­ple now com­pre­hend just how rad­i­cal and dif­fer­ent he was to us in the early 1970s? Merely dye­ing his hair marked him out as a freak, let alone pos­ing in a dress on his al­bum cover (a ver­sion soon sup­pressed by his record la­bel), dress­ing in body­suits by an avant-garde Ja­panese de­signer, or stick­ing an alien rosette on his fore­head or a light­ning bolt across his cheek. His defining movie role, out of the dozens he was to star in, was TheManWhoFell toEarth in 1976, in which he played an alien. It felt like type-cast­ing.

Bowie was to change the face of mu­sic not just once, but sev­eral times. He was the fig­ure­head of Glam Rock, in­flu­enced punk and the New Ro­man­tics, and was still re­leas­ing chal­leng­ing, rel­e­vant mu­sic five decades af­ter he be­gan.

I fi­nally got the chance to in­ter­view Bowie in 1995, on the eve of the re­lease of Out­side, a con­cept al­bum set in a dystopian near-fu­ture in­volv­ing art and se­rial killing, with many of the lyrics jum­bled up and re­assem­bled us­ing a ran­domis­ing pro­gram on his com­puter.

‘There’s an emo­tional engine cre­ated by the jux­ta­po­si­tion of the mu­si­cal tex­ture and the lyrics,’ he ex­plained, when I told him I’d found the lyrics them­selves hard to fathom, but hugely evoca­tive when set to mu­sic. ‘But that’s prob­a­bly what art does best,’ he con­tin­ued. ‘It man­i­fests that which is im­pos­si­ble to ar­tic­u­late.’ It’s hard to imag­ine that there has been or will ever be an­other pop star so ar­tic­u­late, so well read, so rest­lessly in­quis­i­tive.

Bowie’s fi­nal act was to co-write a ‘play with mu­sic’, Lazarus, which in­cor­po­rates some of his huge cat­a­logue of hits within a typ­i­cally baf­fling plot, and which is on in King’s Cross un­til 22 Jan­uary. At the time of writing, tick­ets are sell­ing fast. The V&A’s BowieIs ex­hi­bi­tion has also be­come the most pop­u­lar tour­ing ex­hi­bi­tion in the mu­seum’s his­tory, at­tract­ing more than 1½ mil­lion visi­tors so far in eight venues around the world.

In many ways, Bowie de­fines Lon­don. Fash­ion-for­ward, out­ward-look­ing, plu­ral­is­tic, in­quis­i­tive, ex­per­i­men­tal, cre­ative, un­con­ven­tional – he was all these things, and it is all of these at­tributes that make this cap­i­tal city great. So in this an­niver­sary month of Bowie’s pass­ing, by all means pay your re­spects to rock’s ever-ch-ch-chang­ing chameleon in the fol­low­ing places. Or just look around you. Bowie is Lon­don. And Lon­don is Bowie.


No Bea­tles fan’s visit to Lon­don is com­plete with­out tak­ing a photo on the pedes­trian cross­ing im­mor­talised on the AbbeyRoad al­bum. The iconic studio is still very much op­er­a­tional, and you can visit it vir­tu­ally in an im­mer­sive VR ex­pe­ri­ence re­cently re­leased by Google. While you’re there, visit the gift shop, which sells mu­sic mem­o­ra­bilia from in­stru­ments to records. 3 Abbey Rd, NW8 9AY


Af­ter a two-year restora­tion, the May­fair flat that Jimi Hen­drix dec­o­rated him­self and de­scribed as ‘the first real home of my own’ opened to the public last year. The flat is in the same build­ing in which clas­si­cal mu­si­cian Ge­orge Frid­eric Han­del lived 200 years ear­lier – so you can en­joy two mu­si­cal greats at once in­side this lovely build­ing. 25 Brook St, W1K 4HB


At Madame Tus­sauds, you can see and take a selfie with wax sculp­tures of iconic mu­sic stars from Madonna and Mi­ley Cyrus to Fred­die Mer­cury and One Di­rec­tion. While David Bowie no longer ex­ists here, a wax fig­ure of him launched at Madame Tus­sauds in 1983, and a lock of his hair taken at the time by wig­maker Wendy Far­rier re­cently sold at auction for £14,000. Maryle­bone Rd, NW1 5LR

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