The rock star mural has, at best, been an inconsistent art. Some Freddie Mercury’s dazzle with the supernova star quality of the great man himself, others have about then more than a faint air of Roger Rabbit. Some Elvises could be screen grabbed direct from Jailhouse Rock, others have been done by artists that clearly believe The King faked his death in 1977, changed his name and went on to a successful career as Ross in Friends. So in honour of the majestic new Bowie unveiled this week in Sarajevo, here’s the best and worst rock murals in the world…
Best: Morley’s Department Store, Brixton
Painted in 2013 by Jimmy C, drawn away from his usual patch of East London by his research into Bowie’s roots, this Brixton mural became a focus of mourning and celebration of Bowie’s life in the wake of his death in January, despite picturing Ziggy caught in the middle of some sort of anarchic table tennis contest.
If it didn’t say B-WIE, you’d assume this mural, which appeared on Dublin’s Richmond Street two days after Bowie’s death, was an advert for Trainspotting 2, or at best a tribute to Lady Gaga’s Bowie tribute.
Best: Hollywood Wax Museum, Tennessee
Elvis came from an era when street artists didn’t ‘do’ faces. So the best street King we have is crammed between Marilyn and John Wayne on the back wall of the Hollywood Wax Museum in Tennessee, also home to the Great Ape Of Pigeon Forge which, we believe, might well be the town’s only homo sapiens.
Worst: Milan, Italy
World’s worst Elvis mural? Jesus, take your pick. Never in the field of human endeavour has so much effort been thrown at so many walls with so little talent. But for fright factor alone, the worst has to be this two-headed Frankenelvis – Presley merged with Napoleon - by Ron Engish in Milan. One look and you’ll never take ketamine again.
Rising 18-feet above the store where Hendrix bought his first guitar, Dan and Mae Hitchcock’s eye-catching Hendrix with eyes for hair captured the late guitar legend’s psychedelic aura perfectly, until new owners whitewashed over it in 2000.
Worst: Diabat, Morocco
In the late 60s Hendrix paid a wild, acid-mangled 48 hours in Diabat, near Essaouira in Morocco, and the town has been living off the legend ever since. A café dedicated to Hendrix even sprung up, canvas for numerous portraits that could only have been produced by cataract-riddled madmen in the dark. With their feet.
Best: Litherland, Liverpool
The first piece of work of The Liverpool Mural Project, begun in 2008, Lennon’s iconic ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ album sleeve stance was recreated in an arch by one of the city’s busiest roundabouts, alongside the ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ mop-tops of all four Beatles. Stay classy, Litherland.
Worst: The Lennon Wall, Prague
A focus of peace, love and political upheaval in the 1980s, Prague's Lennon Wall has been an ever-changing montage of Lennon portraits and lyrics since the days of communism. Yay, freedom, well done everyone. But as little as we want to piss on the sandals of progress, some of the portraits here look more like Spike Milligan, or Les Dawson hoiking up a fake boob.
Best: The Alley, Chicago
For decades, street artists have chosen to represent Kurt’s internal agony by making him look a bit wonky. Take this grizzled portrait adorning an alleyway in Chicago, over which the authorities have placed a parking warning to reflect Cobain’s sense of being clamped by drugs and fame and towed away to the existential metal compactor of commerciality. Deep.
Worst: Lau N. Son Co, New York
Little is known of the budding Michaelangelo behind this Cobain tribute adorning the shutters of a NYC fruit produce company, but we can only assume he or she was under the mistaken impression that Chad from Nickelback had sadly passed.
Best: Graff Lab HQ, Los Angeles
To commemorate what would have been Michael Jackson’s 52nd birthday in August 2010, artist Rudy ‘Rude’ Martinez splashed an image from his This Is It press conference across the side of the Graff Lab headquarters in Downtown LA, swathed in Prince-esque purple.
Worst: Ipoh, Malaysia
Jacko’s tragic death brought out some of the most moving and heartfelt tributes from shit-awful street artists everywhere. Probably the worst was to be found in Ipoh, Malaysia, where some wall-ruining idiot seems to be under the impression that Eddie Izzard recorded ‘Billie Jean’.
Best: The Brockley Barge, London
In the spiritual home of the Jamaican reggae legend - Brockley, South London - a picture of Bob that adorned the MOT Centre for 40 years was destroyed by housing developers. But the locals raised £5k for a stunning new Marley by Dale Grimshaw on the side of a Wetherspoons. A lifelong fan of pound-a-pint Stella, it’s what Bob would’ve wanted.
Worst: Whatever the hell this is
No details exist online about this street portrait, but we suspect it’s one of a series of works merging the images of pioneering music stars with that of Boycie from Only Fools And Horses.