Richard Purden

A selection of reflective images of David Bowie from the spring of 1972 capture the birth of his much-loved creation Ziggy Stardust. These were the first shots taken by photographer Mick Rock who would become the official snapper for the duration of Ziggy’s 18-month lifespan. They feature in The Rise of David Bowie released this month, a collection formally approved by Bowie.

The most notable portrait from the shoot feature the singer’s different coloured eyes gaze out into space while his pale skin absorbs incoming sunlight. That ephemeral shot was used for the release of Space Oddity, a repackaged version of his self-titled debut for the Ziggy audience. The iconic vinyl sleeve was the most familiar to Bowie fans of the 1969 album during the singer’s ascent and is also reissued next month. Rock had been invited to Bowie’s then home Haddon Hall in Southend Road, Beckenham, where between 1969 and 1973 this arresting gothic villa would provide essential succour for the development of his rock-star alter ego. All the essential players in Bowie’s creative world either lived or crashed-out at the stately detached residence during the period.

Some of the energy and mythology is captured in Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie, a graphic novel by French cartoonist Nejib. Regrettably, the house was demolished in the early 1980s leaving us to wonder how many visitors the former Victorian landmark would attract today. Fortunately for Bowie enthusiasts a vibrant, well-researched walking tour, called In Ziggy’s Footsteps, summons the spirit and vitality of that time as well as a mine of information and landmarks associated with Bowie when he was writing albums such as The Man Who Sold The World, Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust.

Kat Webb began the endeavour shortly after Bowie’s death in 2016. “When I was a little girl I would have seen David around” explains Webb. “He stood out with his long hair and androgynous image amid these very conservative bankers going to work with bowler hats and umbrellas.”

Webb brings a life-long knowledge of the area and has amassed a plethora of stories from Bowie experts, locals and those from his inner-circle, attracting fans from around the world and closer to home. Arriving at the former site of Haddon Hall, Webb produces a picture of the young long-haired Bowie standing on the lawn outside the grandiose house attired in the Michael Fish “male dress”, one in a series from the British designer’s collection known as Peculiar To Mr Fish. Fans can recreate the image with Bowie standing here, in the shot he is wearing the same outfit he adorned for The Man Who Sold The World album cover (spread out on a chaise longue in Haddon Hall’s living room). The record would be written and rehearsed in the basement with long-term Bowie associate Tony Visconti also living, playing bass and producing the record.

He said: “I think there would never have been a Ziggy Stardust if it wasn’t for The Man Who Sold The World. This was very good for David to realise he could write progressive long-form songs and to use his vocal flexibility to the max.”

There would be some crossover between Visconti moving out and the Spiders From Mars moving in. Guitarist, arranger and pianist Mick Ronson would eventually share his room with drummer Woody Woodmansey after their short-lived return to Hull. They would soon be joined by bassist Trevor Boulder who would sleep on the landing. The birth of Bowie’s son Zowie (later Duncan) in May 1971 with his then-wife Angie Bowie (who also played a major role in Ziggy’s development) would influence tracks such as Kooks on Hunky Dory released later that year.

But it would also feature songs that presented a notable shift, said Woodmansey: “We knew that Hunky Dory was going to be different from the albums that Bowie had recorded before — more accessible and definitely more immediate. He’d sit writing songs in his lounge with his guitar or in his bedroom, where there was a piano.”

Changes and Life On Mars, two eventual popular standards, would reach a mainstream audience but not until Ziggy reconceptualised Bowie’s post-1969 back catalogue.

Kat Webb leads me to the Beckenham bandstand which was granted Grade II listed status last August. It was here Bowie sat on the steps and began composing Life On Mars.

In the notes for his iSelect compilation, Bowie reflected: “A really beautiful day in the park, sitting on the steps of the bandstand. I took a walk to Beckenham High Street to catch a bus to Lewisham to buy shoes and shirts but couldn’t get the riff out of my head. Jumped off two stops into the ride and more or less loped back to the house on Southend Road. Workspace was a big empty space with a chaise lounge; a bargain priced art nouveau screen, a huge overflowing freestanding ashtray and a grand piano. Little else.”

The song would capture the public imagination with the help of Mick Rock’s iconic video shoot in May 1973. Rock suggests that, “David was particularly excited about the ‘aqua green’ suit to go with his red hair.”

Since Bowie’s death, it’s landmarks such as the “Bowie Bandstand” that provide an ongoing connection for aficionados. Beyond Life On Mars, this was also the spot where Bowie helped to organise a one-day festival inspiring his 1969 track Memory Of A Free Festival.

Webb adds that many fans finish the tour here, “quite emotional, with some in tears.” We stop for lunch at what was formerly the site of Beckenham Arts Lab co-founded by Bowie in May 1969. Now an Italian restaurant, the fact that Bowie was essentially the resident musician here in a backroom is marked by a plaque outside the pub. The restaurant interiors feature two stunning murals by Sara Captain, a London artist who has held Bowie exhibitions in Paris and Dublin. A controversial Aladdin Sane flash, attracting complaints from some residents, was funded by the local council and graces the pavement outside.

Alternatively, a lunch option is a nearby Wimpy which was also a location Bowie used to frequent with members of the Beckenham Arts Lab.

Another member of the lab was Mary Finnigan who Bowie lived with for a few months before moving to Haddon Hall. We visit the site of the former abode she shared with Bowie and her two children shortly before the release of his first chart hit Space Oddity. Our final stop on the tour is the home Bowie moved into with his parents in 1955 – 9 Plaistow Grove in Bromley, which would become the family home for the next 15 years.

As darkness begins to fall an old-fashioned lamp-light switches on underneath a metal tablet which simply reads “David Bowie, singer and talented musician 1955-1965”.

The tour clocks in at just under three hours. For those wishing to make a night of it Webb also runs Twentieth Century B&B, a beautifully restored 1930s art deco structure on the Kent coast once owned by screenwriter Tudor Gates (Barbarella, The Vampire Lovers). The David Bowie Room features a miscellany of decorative items from Webb’s vast collection.

I make my way to London’s West End before boarding the train to visit Ziggy’s cocktail bar at Hotel Café Royal. This was where Bowie had Ziggy’s “last supper”. It was the character’s retirement party and one of the most notable of the 1970s. The guest-list included Barbra Streisand, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and Lulu. On offer are a range of Ziggy themed cocktails. I opt for a Tiger on Vaseline, a line from the Hammersmith 1973 opening track Hang On To Yourself. Above me is Mick Rock’s famous image of Bowie holding a saxophone in front of a red background and a range of Ziggy shots from the period also featured in The Rise Of David Bowie. The sax shot was Rock’s first studio shoot with Bowie, which took place a stone’s throw from here in nearby Soho. A short walk from Ziggy’s is Heddon Street where the cover was snapped for the Ziggy Stardust album. A black plaque honours Bowie’s alien alter ego.

I also visit the former home of Trident Studios in Soho which features a metal plate from BBC Radio 6 Music marking the fact that Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust were recorded here as well as his first hit Space Oddity. You could add that most of Aladdin Sane was also cut here, where this journey began for me after finding it in a relative's vast record collection, around the time Haddon Hall was being demolished. Beguiled by this strange alien creature on the cover I slid the record out of the sleeve and waited patiently for the needle to hit the groove.

For more information on Ziggy’s Footsteps and 20th century B&B please contact Kat Webb on 07954 847746 or email on

Mick Rock’s The Rise of David Bowie is published by Taschen is out now priced £30

Space Oddity is reissued on vinyl picture disc on April 17th