Nestled among the lurid sex shops and fine eateries of Soho lies Berwick Street – a veritable oasis (no pun intended) of world-class record shops that most music fans would die for.
Berwick Street will be instantly recogniseable to many fans of a certain Manchester band who conquered the world for a brief moment in the 90s.
Yes, this is where the album cover photograph for (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? was taken – a simple but nontheless striking shot that would line the bedroom walls of countless teenagers during the heady days of Britpop.
Though many of the record shops are no more, Berwick Street is a very interesting places to visit, now immortalised forever as part of music history.
As someone generally not a fan of crowds, walking through Central London on the eve of a highly-anticipated football match was quite the experience – it’s perhaps the closest I’ll ever get to experiencing a flashmob in the flesh!
Still, I wasn’t in the Capital to see a show or any of the eye-wateringly expensive trademarks, sorry I mean landmarks!
No, I was on my way to 23 Heddon Street, just off Regent Street, to pay homage to one the 20th century’s greatest artists, David Bowie.
It was here in a doorway that Bowie, as alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, posed for the album cover photograph for The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars – arguably one of the defining records of the 70s.
For me, this was David Bowie at his absolute best: glam, sexy, flamboyant, cool, fake and otherwordly.
As a truly evocative piece of art, the album cover always makes me think of a London that was exciting, raw and dangerous – long before the gentrification and hipster-dom we see today.
I loved the bohemian idea of London in the late 60’s and early 70’s, where struggling artists could rent a victorian terrace for a pittance, writing verse on the peeling wallpaper and composing protest songs in the bath.
However, today Heddon Steet is unrecognisable from that iconic photograph; gone is that sense of urban decay and grime that must have made London such a dangerous and seductive place to be in the 70s. In it’s place is a row of identical-looking restaurants, who judging by the prices on their menus, cater exclusively to wealthy foreign tourists and businessmen with unrestricted access to the company credit card.
Give me that fantasy of Old London any day…
Still, just to be able to stand on the same spot as one of your heroes is a sensation that I never get tired of, no matter how remote.
One can only hope that that a Ziggy Burger isn’t on the menu!
On Thursday 27th May, I took the train to Feltham, West London, to visit 22 Gladstone Avenue – the childhood home of Freddie Bulsara, later to find fame as one Freddie Mercury.
It was a sweltering afternoon by the time that I reached Feltham train station from my home in West Dorset, made only worse by the swarming crowds enjoying the newly relaxed travel restrictions.
Using my phone to navigate, I took a left at the train station, crossed the overhead bridge and made a diversion through the nearby Glebelands playing fields.
A few minutes later and I had reached surburban heights of Gladstone Avenue – a seemingly neverending row of identical semi-detached houses as far as they eye can see. Tere at number 22 was my destination!
There on the opposite side of the road I stopped for a few minutes to think about the life of the young man who once lived here. The boy who would later compose arguably the greatest Pop song of all time, who would lead an era-defining concert and after his tragic death, live in the hearts of millions of fans around the world.
I took a few snaps and then I was on my way back home, thankful to have paid my respects to one of my my musical heroes.