Ziggy Stardust: David Bowie's Edinburgh inspiration

It is an unremarkable basement flat on Drummond Street which people pass every day without giving it a second glance.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 11th January 2016, 10:22 pm
Updated Monday, 11th January 2016, 11:11 pm
British singer/actor David Bowie on stage at Murrayfield stadium in Edinburgh, during the 'Serious Moonlioght' tour, June 1983.
British singer/actor David Bowie on stage at Murrayfield stadium in Edinburgh, during the 'Serious Moonlioght' tour, June 1983.

But it was here that a young David Bowie forged one of his greatest artistic relationships in the formative stage of his glittering musical career.

The rock legend shared the small two-bedroom flat with the mime artist Lindsay Kemp, who became his mentor and is credited with inspiring some of his most famous works, including Ziggy Stardust.

The singer, who was one of the most influential musicians of all time, died of cancer aged 69. A statement on his social media account confirmed he “died peacefully, surrounded by his family” after an 18-month battle with the disease.

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David Bowie at The Empire Theatre on the 6th January 1973. Picture: Julie Tomlinson

Pete Irvine, director of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, bought the flat after Bowie left and remembers it as “dark and small”.

“All the furniture was gone and he certainly didn’t leave any of his albums behind,” he said. “I lived there for four years and did it up and kept the garden and made it much nicer.

“It was a basement flat with two bedrooms, pretty small and all subterranean. It was the first flat I bought. I paid £500 for it. Bowie stayed there all the time he was in Edinburgh – I don’t know how long but it was a few months.

“I knew some of the people he knew. It was the very early 70s and he lived there with Lindsay and his [then] wife Angie and [dancer] Jack Birkett.”

David Bowie on stage at Murrayfield Stadium.

Former Simple Minds boss and music supremo Bruce Findlay met Bowie in Paris during the late 80s or early 90s.

But he saw him for the first time in 1969 in the Usher Hall at a gig when Humble Pie were headlining and he performed his soon-to-be-released single Space Oddity.

Bowie went on to play several shows at the Empire Theatre – which became the Festival Theatre – in 1973 from the Ziggy Stardust Tour and also at Murrayfield Stadium in 1983 as part of his Serious Moonlight world tour.

Bruce said: “He was sensational. I can’t think of anyone more influential apart from perhaps Elvis Presley, John Lennon or Bob Dylan.

David Bowie at The Empire Theatre on the 6th January 1973. Picture: Julie Tomlinson

“Like them, he changed the world for the better. When he was recording an album for Iggy Pop in 1979 it was in the same studio as Simple Minds, back to back. He asked them if they would sing some backing vocals. I met him in Paris in the late 80s or early 90s. He was friendly and down to earth – just one of the lads laughing back stage. The first time I saw him was when he was supporting Humble Pie.”

Tributes have flooded in around from around the world to the “extraordinary artist” whose last album was released just days ago.

Sir Paul McCartney described him as a “great star” who “played a very strong part in British musical history”.

Bowie’s son Duncan Jones, who is a Bafta-winning film director, wrote on Twitter: “Very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all.”

David Bowie on stage at Murrayfield Stadium.

Friend and collaborator Brian Eno said: “David’s death came as a complete surprise, as did nearly everything else about him. I feel a huge gap now.”

The Rolling Stones paid tribute to “an extraordinary artist” and a “true original”.

The artist’s hits include Let’s Dance, Changes, Space Oddity, Starman, Modern Love, Heroes, Rebel Rebel and Life on Mars. He was also well known for creating his flamboyant alter ego Ziggy Stardust.

The singer, who had been living in New York in recent years, only released his latest album Blackstar last Friday, his birthday.

The album has been well received by critics and was intended as a “parting gift” to the world, according to long-time friend and producer Tony Visconti. The haunting track Lazarus, released just two days before his death, opens with the lyrics: “Look up here, I’m in Heaven!”