Mary Finnigan: Psychedelic Suburbia: David Bowie And The Beckenham Arts Lab

A personal and thoughtful look at life with the Starman.

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When journalist Mary Finnigan met David Bowie in 1969, he was a 22-year-old folkie who hadn’t quite made the 60s scene. She lures him into her flat with tincture of cannabis and he becomes her lodger and lover for six months.

Under her suburban roof he writes most of Hunky Dory and plays Space Oddity for her two children on a Stylophone. Together the couple transform a Kent suburb into a gathering point for freaks far and wide by setting up the Beckenham Arts Lab And Free Festival, enabling a creatively revitalised Bowie to get his act together.

This unsensational, thoughtful memoir depicts a transitory but significant few months where Bowie made the leap from struggling wannabe to plausible rock deity. The star’s inevitable betrayal is a suburban tragi-comedy in itself, namely the day Mary returns home to find wife-to-be Angie Barnett in situ and cooking dinner for her brazen prince-turned-frog.

Claudia Elliott

Claudia Elliott is a music writer and sub-editor. She has freelanced for BBC Radio 2's Sounds of the 60s, Uncut, History of Rock, Classic Rock and The Blues magazine. She is a 1960s music specialist.