Bowie, Ziggy Stardust and me
It’s a special time for David Bowie fans – the 40th anniversary of the album that made him a glam-rock phenomenon. STEVEN RUSSELL meets the Suffolk-based artist who helped him on the way . . .
IT’S the early 1970s and illustrator Terry Pastor gets an invitation from an artist pal. This mate had been a schoolfriend of a musician called David Robert Jones, who had grown up to become David Bowie. The singer had made three albums, and single Space Oddity had got to number five in the charts in the summer of 1969, but he hadn’t yet secured a permanent hold in public consciousness.
Now another LP was in gestation. The friend couldn’t do the cover for Hunky Dory – it wasn’t really his style – so would Terry like to do the honours? Yes, he would.
A black and white studio portrait of Bowie duly arrived, taken by Brian Ward, and the artist set to work to give it his own stamp. The singer had a “slightly fey sort of pose and longish hair”, says Terry – apparently, Bowie had taken a Marlene Dietrich photographic book along to the shoot – and that provided the inspiration. Terry reddened the musician’s lips, made his hair yellower and added some eye-shadowing, “although I didn’t want to go over the top and make it overtly androgynous, because at the time Bowie wasn’t really projecting that image yet”.
Hunky Dory – featuring songs such as Life on Mars and Changes – was released a week before Christmas, 1971, and the singer evidently loved the cover.
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So much so that Terry Pastor was commissioned to shape the look of the next album. It was this record, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, that would truly propel David Bowie along the path to fame.
By the February of 1972 Terry had moved to a cheap but handy basement studio beneath the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, where most of his neighbours were fellow creative types.
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Again, photographs arrived, taken by Brian Ward. The image on which Terry worked his magic showed Bowie standing in Heddon Street, just off London’s Regent Street. With a guitar slung from his shoulder, foot on a step, he stood under a lamp, next to cardboard boxes piled outside the premises of furrier K. West.
Terry reckons he must have spent about a working week, all told, on hand-colouring and tweaking the photograph – using the paintspraying airbrush technique popular at the time, and hand-tinting with inks and photo-dyes, to create impact.
“For his jumpsuit I went for that turquoise because it’s a very contrasty colour – a colour in the centre that’s completely different to the reddy browns and the yellows.”
In reality, the suit had been green. Bowie wore it later on the BBC 2 TV show The Old Grey Whistle Test.
“Certainly with the turquoise and the yellow hair, he” – Bowie – “stands out quite well. I think at the time his hair wasn’t blond; it was a mousey/blond colour.
As well as enhancing the image, Terry airbrush-painted the titling on the front. On the back of the cover he used Letraset – letter transfers, basically – to list the tracks. That was “as good as typesetting, but fiddly”.
He remembers the phone ringing one day. It was David himself. “He asked ‘How’s the cover going?’ I said it was all right. I’ve finished the front and I’m doing the back. ‘Oh, there’s a back?’ Yeah, with the phonebox. ‘Oh, I didn’t know there was going to be a back cover as well. Can’t wait to see it!’”
In those freer and easier days, Terry hadn’t been given a detailed artistic brief for the job, for which he thinks he probably received about �200.
“It wasn’t ‘corporate’ in those days!” he smiles. “David Bowie was virtually unknown, so there was no pressure on me to pull something out of the bag because he was a big star. He became a big star about six months after that LP came out. He became mega. But prior to that I often used to bump into him, or he’d be round the studio or something.
“I think if I’d thought ‘My god! David Bowie! I’m not worthy’, I would have tightened up so much that it wouldn’t have come out well.”
As it was, Terry gave the completed cover to the singer’s manager . . . and moved on to his next bit of work.
The LP was issued on June 6, 1972, and reached number five in the UK charts. One single was released: Starman peaking at number 10. David Bowie and his invented alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, rode the tide of glam rock, caught the zeitgeist, and became famous.
The artist/illustrator wondered if Bowie’s success might bring commissions from other folk keen on mimicking the look. But it didn’t. And life moved on.
It’s only in fairly recent times, perhaps the last decade, that the artwork for The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars achieved iconic status. Fans had their pictures taken in Heddon Street and sought out the phonebox.
Terry’s had emails from Bowie fans over the years, asking things like “Did he stand there because of that . . .”, “Does that mean something?”
“They read all sorts of things into it, and actually I don’t think it means anything. It’s just an image that looks quite nice!”
Two years ago, the cover was among 10 selected by the Royal Mail for a set of classic album cover stamps.
And, would you believe, a gallery in the midlands is now offering a Ziggy Stardust album cover print, signed by Bowie, for �1,450.
At the end of March, landowner The Crown Estate unveiled a plaque to the (fictional!) Ziggy Stardust on 23 Heddon Street. Back in 1972, the area was a bit grungy; now, it’s one of W1’s foody quarters – a pedestrianised courtyard offering al fresco dining.
Former Spandau Ballet guitarist and songwriter Gary Kemp, a Bowie fan, did the honours. He said “Ziggy was the ultimate messianic rock star, and with him David Bowie successfully blurred the lines not just between boys and girls but himself and his creation. Bowie was Ziggy, come to save us – and I bought him hook, eyeliner and haircut.”
Also at the VIP breakfast were Mick Woodmansey and Trevor Bolder, original members of Bowie’s Spiders From Mars band, and Terry Pastor.
The artist/illustrator has found himself in demand, being interviewed in his Long Melford home by Kemp for a BBC Radio 2 programme to mark the 40th anniversary, and by Ultravox’s Midge Ure for a Radio 4 slot going out later this year.
Terry’s work is also likely to be included in a David Bowie exhibition opening in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum next year.
Today, the artist can’t help smiling about it all. It’s hard for him to evaluate his Ziggy Stardust design because he was too close to it. “It’s like you never enjoy a meal you’ve cooked yourself as much as one somebody else has prepared!
“People have said to me ‘I suppose that was the turning point for you . . .’ Well, it was just another job. The thing I do find fascinating about the fact it’s become ‘so iconic’, and that people talk about it, is I’ve never been asked to do anything like it since! You’d have thought someone would have said ‘Can you do a David Bowie-type thing . . . ?’
“In all the years I’ve worked as an artist and illustrator, and had a portfolio as a professional shop window, I’ve never featured either of those LPs.” Why? “I never thought much of them – never thought they were that important: because they were coloured-up photographs, and I’m more an artist than I was a re-toucher. I thought ‘Well, no-one’s really taken much notice of that stuff . . .’”
In fact, a lot of it was down to chance,
“The two remaining members who were in his band, Trevor Bolder and Woody, were saying that at the time that was shot it was a rainy, damp night, and quite cold. The band and David did some shots in the studio. Then Brian said ‘Let’s just go out and do a quick shot outside.’
“It was such a horrible night the other guys said ‘Oh no, we’re not going out there; it’s too cold,’ so just David went. That’s why he’s on his own. There’s a chance that had it been a warm night, in the summer, you’d have had the whole band standing out in the street.”
As it was, it was January. Brian Ward had rented a space upstairs in the building as a makeshift studio, and had already shot 17 pictures on Royal-X Pan black and white film when he persuaded Bowie to step out onto Heddon Street.
“It was lucky it was a damp night,” says Terry, “because you’ve got the wet reflection in the road, which gives the whole thing a little bit of atmosphere.” And Bowie being alone works better than being in a group, as he was, really, the exotic focus.
“Trevor was saying that, when they did the LP, they didn’t even think it would sell! But you never know with things, do you? You never know you’ve got a hit until you’ve got a hit.”
Ironically, too, Terry wouldn’t become a dyed-in-the-wool David Bowie fan, though he recognises the talent. His heart and soul had already been captured by rock and roll. As a lad, he’d listen in bed to Radio Luxembourg. Little Richard was his big idol.
“I did think Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust were very good albums musically: very strong. The fact it’s become an iconic cover isn’t because of my artwork, in a sense, but because it was a very strong album musically, and the cover worked with it very well. So it was a kind of symbiotic relationship.
“If it had been a turkey of a record, the cover would have gone into obscurity as well. It’s the psychology of how people perceive things. It’s like Van Gogh hardly sold a painting during his lifetime, and years later they’re worth millions of pounds. How does that work?!”
Terry admits he didn’t then have a sense that Bowie was on the cusp of making it big. He was “Very nice. A clever guy, but straightforward. Didn’t seem to have a ‘side’ to him. Not pretentious.”
The singer hadn’t yet developed fully the androgynous look hinted at in those album covers, though it was about to happen. “He was fairly exotic, but not too much!”
Terry remembers how, if one went into a pub with David Bowie in the early 1970s, he wouldn’t really attract attention at that stage.
“Once I was in a pub with him, next to the studio, and Bowie went totally unnoticed. At the same period, I was in a pub with Tony Visconti [the record producer and Bowie collaborator] and Mary Hopkin [the singer, and Visconti’s wife], and everyone knew them.”
Terry hasn’t seen Bowie since the early 1970s. “Because of his situation, I never thought of him as a rock star – just my mate’s friend, David!”
Cadillacs to Jeffrey Archer: an artist’s life
TERRY Pastor’s story begins in rural Surrey in 1946. His father was Austrian and Terry assumes his grandparents must have come to England from Vienna having seen the writing on the wall earlier than most. His father was a successful paper merchant in the City and also wrote scripts for Billy Cotton, the bandleader and entertainer.
Terry’s mother was artistic and her son seemed to have inherited her talent, drawing from the minute he could hold a pencil. “She’d go shopping once a week and always come back with a drawing book, which I’d fill before the end of the weekend. There was something about having a virgin piece of paper and a nice pencil.”
He also remembers the American National Geographic magazines from the 1950s, with their adverts for exotic vehicles such as Cadillacs, with huge fins. “I was really blown away by these cars, which we didn’t have.” In fact, Americana helped shape his outlook. The artist recalls pictures of beautiful and futuristic-looking Zenith radios, with their wood and chrome and dials – “beautifully designed. Again, the kind of thing you just didn’t see in this country. It fascinated me, that American culture – although I don’t suppose I knew it was American. It was just exciting – as was the music of the time”.
British life also made an impression. The youngster loved the Eagle comic, with Dan Dare and the cutaway centrespreads showing the technology of the age. Then there was Journey into Space and The Goon Show on BBC radio, neither of which he could miss. “Those three things were the highlights of my week.”
When his father died rather early, Terry and his mum moved from their big house to a nearby cottage. Until 1962 it had no electricity, relying on gaslights. Leaving school at 15, Terry got a �3-a-week job with a publicity company in London’s Fleet Street. It was a studio linked to an ad agency and did a lot of film posters. He was there three years and didn’t much like it, though he developed his skills and learned about techniques such as airbrushing.
He remembers saving for months to buy a thick book on the fantastical 15th/16th Century painter Hieronymous Bosch – not the usual kind of thing coveted by 15-year-olds!
Then, in 1964, he was sacked. “They didn’t give me a particular reason. I just don’t think I fitted in. I had long hair and looked like a Rolling Stone. Hard to believe that now! They were very much a business that was stuck in the past, really.” And would soon disappear, too.
So Terry turned to painting and some commercial work, finding a gallery at Croydon, near where he lived with his mother, before moving to London. He lived initially in Queensway, by Hyde Park, and rented a mews flat with a garage for a small sum. Unthinkable now, considering how prices have rocketed. He got an agent in about 1970 and became very busy with illustration work, earning two Art Director of America awards.
The ’70s and ’80s were dominated by advertising illustration work through agencies such as J Walter Thompson. Some jobs in 1973 or so would pay about �500 – good money.
There were also magazine spreads, book jackets and album covers for artistes such as the Beach Boys and The Sweet. Book jackets included covers for Len Deighton and Leslie Thomas novels – and lots for new editions of Jeffrey Archer stories.
“I met him a little while ago at a gallery. He was doing a talk about buying art. He said ‘Hello, I’m Jeffrey Archer.’ I said ‘I know who you are. I did all your book jackets with Hodder & Stoughton.’ He said ‘Ah, happy days . . .’”
Painting went onto the backburner in the 1970s and ’80s because Terry was so busy with commissioned illustration work. In recent times he’s enjoyed being able to give it more attention.
He’s busy producing limited-edition prints. His subject matters are generally determined by what he likes and finds interesting. The influence of the pop art movement is clearly there. Terry works mostly with digital tools these days, such as the computer program Photoshop, but does sometimes use the airbrush technique that served him so well.
So how did he and wife Carol, a cook and food writer, come to live in Suffolk? Well, when he lived in London he used to collect stuffed animals. Their house in Long Melford, home for 12 years now, used to be a taxidermist’s premises from which Terry would buy items.
“Now I’m living here! How bizarre is that!”
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Back in London, home was a flat in Swiss Cottage. When his son was born, it was clear more space was needed. Such were property prices that the cost of an abode in north-west London with one more room was the same as a huge house in Norfolk. Terry had a couple of friends there and moved up in 1981.
“Bit mad, I suppose,” he grins. Mind you, it was a 17-room Georgian house with three acres and a swimming pool not far from Norwich. Who’d turn that down? “I think we paid �59,000 for it. In those days Norfolk was very cheap!” Long Melford was always a favourite place to visit. Once his son had left home, the Norfolk house seemed a bit too big. In Long Melford, the house they liked – the former taxidermist’s – had become a storeroom for an interior design business. Offers to buy it were rejected, so a cottage was rented nearby. Four or five months later, the chance to buy came.
Web link: www.terrypastor.co.uk