"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Travel Report: The David Bowie Mural, London.

David Bowie Mural London.

The David Bowie Mural, Brixton, London.

May 2019.

I didn’t get into David Bowie until I was in my early thirties. In fact, I’m not sure how his unbridled brilliance escaped me. Obviously I knew who he was and had become familiar with a handful of his biggest hits. But it wasn’t until I bought his 1969 self-titled second album that I began thinking… hang on a minute… I’m starting to see what all the fuss is about.

David Bowie 1969 self titled album.

Davie Bowie (1969).

Thus, over the next five years or so, I gradually worked my way through his entire discography. In chronological order naturally, to get a feel for how The Thin White Duke evolved with the times and moved from one startling transformation to the next. By the time I’d taken in his final album, the incredibly moving Blackstar, I realised I needed to go back and mop up that first record I’d skipped in the beginning.

David Bowie Blackstar.

Blackstar (2016).

Bowie’s albums ended up soundtracking my travels around The Netherlands, China, Spain and Scotland. He now stands among my top ten solo artists. A fearless, groundbreaking singer-songwriter whose work I often return to when a certain album fits my mood. Hence when I heard there was a memorial mural to the great man in London, I knew I had to go and take a look.

Brixton Tube Station in London.

On the way to the David Bowie Mural in London.

I’d never been to London’s Brixton neighbourhood. Consequently, it felt like a genuine adventure as I emerged from Brixton Tube Station and paused for a moment to get my bearings. As it turned out, the mural couldn’t be easier to find. Indeed you’ll see it right across the street occupying a side wall of Morley’s Department Store on Tunstall Road.

David Bowie Mural, London.

David Bowie Mural.

David Bowie Mural, London.

This stunning piece of artwork sprang from the mind and hands of the artist Jason Cochran, aka Jimmy C. He created it in 2013 to coincide with several London-based Bowie exhibitions, including The Many Faces of David Bowie at The Opera Gallery.

Visiting the David Bowie Mural in London

David Bowie Mural, London.

Cochran’s mural took inspiration from the cover of Bowie’s 1973 album Aladdin Sane. The image, which shows Bowie as his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, is one of the defining photographs of the singer’s career. Vibrant and defiant, the lightning bolt across his face stands as a powerful representation of duality.  A symbol that stood strong throughout his work and public image.

David Bowie Mural London.

David Bowie Mural, London.

The cover, Cochran explained, lends itself well to his style, known as aerosol pointillism. Which is basically the technique of making large pictures from thousands of small dots of spray paint.

The mural became an instant hit with locals and tourists alike. And, according to several online articles, was even responsible for an injection of fresh interest in Brixton as a neighbourhood.

“You Didn’t Die, You Just Went to Sleep One Day”. 

However, when the news of Bowie’s unexpected passing broke in January 2016, Cochran’s mural suddenly became the focal point of a nation’s grief. Thousands of Bowie fans flooded into Tunstall Road bringing flowers and gifts. Furthermore, many began scribbling RIP messages right onto the mural itself!

David Bowie Mural by James Cochran

David Bowie Mural, London.

It took just a day for fans to cover the mural in graffiti, quite literally from top to bottom. As a result, Cochran had to repaint the entire thing, while the local council subsequently covered the art with a perspex protective cover.

Fan tributes on The David Bowie Mural

David Bowie Mural, London.

Cochran says he had no issue at all with fans graffitiing the mural. “I’m honoured people are using my work as a shrine” he said. “His death was an incredible loss to the world, but it’s amazing to see all the positive responses. And how the mural has brought people together”.

We Can Be Heroes the David Bowie Mural

David Bowie Mural, London.

Indeed I soon found myself lost in the sea of tributes, song lyrics and quotes sprawled across the cover. “We can be heroes!” exclaimed one. “You’ve got five years, but we’ve got a million years to remember you” cried another. Perhaps most touching of all is a fan photograph, which somehow made its way inside the perspex cover.

David Bowie Mural, London.

Miss You Forever David Bowie.

David Bowie Mural, London.

I was also pleased to see that a lot of thought went into the mural’s location. Bowie was actually born in Brixton as David Robert Jones on the 8th of January 1947. As if the mural isn’t enough of a thrill, you can also take the short walk to his childhood home on Stansfield Road. It takes just under ten minutes on foot from the mural.

How to find David Bowie's birthplace and childhood home 40 Stansfield Road London.

Walking from the David Bowie Mural to his birthplace.

Stansfield Road is a thoroughly unremarkable London street and has changed very little over the years. Unless you know exactly where you’re going, one would struggle to find the house where Bowie was born and lived in until he was six years old.

Stansfield Road in London

David Bowie’s Birthplace.

His former family home is number 40. But there is no plaque, no sign… no mention whatsoever of the building’s history. In fact, it looks like the owner has removed the number 40 from the house altogether. No doubt to reduce the attention the building gets. I was struggling to find it when a man walking his dog across the road smiled at me and said, “it’s over there”. That’s when I finally noticed the number 40 on the bin.

David Bowie’s Birthplace.

David Bowie Childhood Mural.

David Bowie’s Birthplace.

After a bit of online digging I discovered that the house used to be owned by a local man called Martin Stainton. He insists that he didn’t buy the property because of its history and claimed to be largely disinterested in its backstory. Nevertheless, Mr. Stainton did very well for himself with the purchase. Apparently he paid around £270.000 for it back in 2000 before selling it sometime in late 2019 for over £600.000. Not a bad investment.

Leighton Travels travel reports short stories.

For another London music pilgrimage, check out my report from Abbey Road.

For more on my home city, why not delve through my many pieces from across London.

Or maybe search further afield with my articles from all around England.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

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  • Sheree

    Wonderful mural! I’m a big Bowie fan and was fortunate to see him many times in concert, plus my next-door neighbour was his lighting guy who’d known him since they both grew up in south London.

    September 17, 2021 - 9:30 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Lucky you Sheree! How I would have loved to have seen Bowie live, just once. Or indeed to have been given the chance to do his lighting. Though he probably wouldn’t be impressed by my lack of skills. Thanks for dropping by!

      September 17, 2021 - 9:31 am Reply
      • Sheree

        Always a pleasure Leighton

        September 17, 2021 - 9:55 am
  • ourcrossings

    What a lovely and an artistic tribute to the famous singer, and just around the corner from where he was born. For anyone who can’t make a trip to the mural, maybe they can try to get their hands on a local bill. Brixton is known for having a local currency called the Brixton Pound, which launched in 2009. Bowie, Brixton’s most well-known resident, is featured on the B£10 🙂 Aiva

    September 17, 2021 - 10:13 am Reply
    • Leighton

      I had no idea about the Brixton Pound, that’s pretty cool. Thanks for this excellent contribution to the thread, Aiva.

      September 22, 2021 - 1:24 pm Reply
  • kagould17

    A great tribute to a true artist. Like you, I was not a fan at first, but came to see the genius. Good for the mural artist to look at the graffiti as a tribute. Thanks for sharing Leighton. Allan

    September 17, 2021 - 3:01 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Allan, do you have a favorite artist or artists?

      September 17, 2021 - 3:05 pm Reply
      • kagould17

        You know, I must admit a certain affinity to Mark Knopfler. I painted my first house to Sultans of Swing in 1979 and was lucky enough to catch him in concert after the release of his Kill to Get Crimson album. 🤩

        September 17, 2021 - 3:09 pm
      • Leighton

        Cool, I’ve always liked a bit of Dire Straits and Sultans of Swing is my favourite of theirs. The video is just brilliant.

        September 17, 2021 - 3:24 pm
  • Alison

    I must go and see that mural when I can get back to the UK
    I loved David Bowie from when I was about 13 and saw him live when I was 17 sad when he died

    September 17, 2021 - 3:03 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading and piping in Alison. Where did you see Bowie play?

      September 22, 2021 - 1:25 pm Reply
      • Alison

        I think it was Hammersmith, so long ago 😁

        September 22, 2021 - 4:38 pm
  • grandmisadventures

    What an incredible tribute to such a music legend. I think we’re all still reeling from his loss trying to understand a world without a Bowie.

    September 17, 2021 - 3:42 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      He was too young to die, had plenty more years in him and so much more to give musically. Thanks for reading Meg!

      September 17, 2021 - 4:10 pm Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    Beautiful mural! My favorite song of his is the Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy he did with Bing Crosby.

    September 17, 2021 - 3:59 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ah yes, the Christmas video that goes with that is hilarious. I’d be hard pushed to choose a favourite, maybe could come up with a top ten ha ha. Thanks for contributing to the thread!

      September 17, 2021 - 4:12 pm Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    My eyes lit up when I saw that your post was on David Bowie. I loved his music and my first concert ever was to see David Bowie at the Preston Guildhall. I didn’t even live in Preston but I recall being so excited, staying overnight in a small hotel and being in awe of his much and for its time, the lighting spectacle! Have a great weekend. Off to Manchester Airport in an hour or so for an overnight stay ahead of a silly o’clock flight! Marion.

    September 17, 2021 - 4:36 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ah great to hear you’re also a Bowie fan and WOW what an experience that would have been to see him in such an intimate venue. What year are we talking about here? Equally exciting that you are ‘finally’ leaving UK shores. Hope it all goes smoothly!

      September 17, 2021 - 4:41 pm Reply

    Ah this is the post you said I’d be all over. And I am! I didn’t even know this mural existed. I may have to have another night out in Brixton when we’re back in the UK. Huge Bowie fan as you know… from a very long time ago. Best Bowie gig I saw was actually in the later years, on the Reality tour, at Wembley Arena. So much energy, so much talent.

    September 17, 2021 - 5:34 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Would have loved to have seen him live at some point, but it wasn’t to be. Cheers Phil!

      September 17, 2021 - 9:12 pm Reply
  • salsaworldtraveler

    The mural is a great tribute to Bowie. I recognized the pointillism style. Nice to know it is making a comeback. I think Bowie would not object to the graffiti.

    September 18, 2021 - 12:18 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Impressed that you’d heard of pointillism, I certainly hadn’t. I rarely know terminology related to the art world come to think of it. Thanks for visiting.

      September 18, 2021 - 8:46 am Reply
  • 100 Country Trek

    This is a great mural to David Bowie… I’ve always loves his music. Sad that he is gone.

    September 18, 2021 - 4:09 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for stopping by! It was fun to go and visit this spot and pay my own silent tribute to one of music’s great pioneers.

      September 18, 2021 - 8:51 am Reply
  • Rebecca

    I only know a few of David Bowie’s songs, including “Let’s Dance” and “Under Pressure” (with Queen). I never really got into him, but I remember it was a big deal to some of my friends when he died in 2016. He definitely had a huge legacy in the music industry and an icon to the gender fluid/LGBT community. He is missed!

    September 18, 2021 - 5:16 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Yeah, the effect he had on fashion, gender identity and (one might say) sexual politics is immeasurable. Musically he covered just about every genre there is and somehow managed to remain both “out there” and commercial in just about everything he did.

      September 18, 2021 - 8:56 am Reply
  • Lindsay Vine

    I was so sad when David Bowie passed, as so many greats have been lost over the past few years. Love the murial. What a great location. Very clever to have it down the road from his childhood home. 🙂

    September 18, 2021 - 5:22 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Lindsay, glad you appreciate this lovely little London spot. The childhood home is an exceptionally understated spot. One day that house might get is own blue plaque and tourists may start to flock.

      September 22, 2021 - 1:30 pm Reply
  • rkrontheroad

    A beautiful work of art that now commemorates a musician of great imagination and talent, and a role model for young people struggling with LGBTQ identity issues.

    September 19, 2021 - 7:06 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Absolutely, he was a trailblazer in so many areas. Gender identity included. Thanks for your two cents Ruth!

      September 19, 2021 - 7:21 pm Reply
  • Wind Kisses

    Amazing art and fun find.

    September 20, 2021 - 12:29 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading!

      September 20, 2021 - 8:03 am Reply
  • Toonsarah

    Thanks for this – I kept meaning to go to see this mural but never got around to it. You’ve jogged my memory and reminded me to check it out some time soon. We were told when we visited some of the Beatles early homes in Liverpool that English Heritage won’t put up a plaque until the person has been dead for 20 years, presumably to test if the fame will last. I suspect Bowie’s will so maybe the house will get one in due course. Sounds as if the current owner might not like that, but I don’t know if they get any say in the matter?

    September 22, 2021 - 12:44 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Mm, there’s interesting, I didn’t know you had to stay dead for a while and retain relevancy during that time. What a system. I’m guessing the owner would surely have to give his blessing. Which would definitely be in his interests, financially speaking at least. Thanks for dropping by Sarah.

      September 22, 2021 - 12:51 pm Reply
      • Toonsarah

        I’m not sure it would be of any direct financial benefit to him unless he felt he wanted to open it to the public! Or at least, he wouldn’t benefit until he came to sell the property, as it might then attract a higher price. Meanwhile he would have to put up with a lot of people standing outside gawping and taking photos!

        September 22, 2021 - 1:01 pm
      • Leighton

        Yes, absolutely, it would almost certainly increase the value of the house.

        September 22, 2021 - 1:05 pm

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