Narratives, Photo, Travel

Midnight Love: The Marvin Gaye Tour of Ostend, Belgium

The whole ‘Midnight Love’ album sounds like a haunted landscape when you walk around the place it was written, listening to it. You hear loneliness, desperation and addiction, when wandering streets such as Langestraat, covered in neon signs and once home to numerous brothels and sex shows. The album sounds like the music to a party held in a half-empty eurotrash nightclub, frequented by men too old to still be going out. It is an eerily psychedelic album, right from the opening song ‘Midnight Lady’, in which Marvin sings the lyrics “something’s going on in the men’s room, soon as we come out we’ll be high soon, did you save a line for the ladies?” over a frantic, zany ‘80s baseline that sounds like it was probably recorded whilst the bassist was high on the white stuff.


At the end of the promenade I reached Kursaal Casino, which looked closed, but I tried a couple of doors and one was open, so I snuck in to look at the statue of Marvin Gaye I’d heard was on display. If Marvin’s ghost decided to come back and find peace in Ostend, the place that helped to get him creating again, it would have been here, in the venue that brought him to the city in the first place. A spot where he did what helped his soul fly and his demons dissipate or, in his own words on Midnight Love’s ‘Put On Some Music’: “Music’s been my therapy, taking the pain from all my anatomy”.

It was a poignant sight, because it seemed to capture, in bronze, how lost and lonely Marvin was at the end of his life. It sat alone in a huge hall, nobody around, no flowers at its base, like I had seen on one of King Leopold I’s statues. Finally, though, I’d found a statue in Belgium of someone who I was glad had been immortalised. A statue I didn’t have the urge to spit at.


To book the tour online, visit the Marvin Gaye Midnight Love Tour website.
Solitary travel & bookings recommended.

Rental of iPhone with app and headphones is £5

Alternatively you can contact or visit the tourism information office in Ostende at:
Toerisme Oostende
 Monacoplein 2 
Telephone: +32 (0) 59 70 11 99



6 thoughts on “Midnight Love: The Marvin Gaye Tour of Ostend, Belgium

  1. This article is wonderfully written, with beautiful, powerful accompanying photographs. I appreciate how your initial intentions were to uncover the path of one ghost, and in fact you’ve uncovered a million others as a result of the brute that was Leopold II. Regarding your spitting at the vulgar misrepresentation of history, enshrined in false iconographic form, I felt similarly whilst travelling around Mexico, Colombia and Brazil. It came to a head in Cartagena, northern Colombia, a city central to the slave trade and the colonial raping of a thriving civilisation. I’d been told “you must go there”, “the old city is so beautiful”. Contrary to people’s valorisations, I felt a deep sense of unease, sadness and anger whilst surrounded by some of the most astoundingly beautiful architecture. Not only was it stained in the blood, sweat and tears of the slaves, but it was a staunch reminder that the systems of segregation, oppression and inequality born from that era were resolutely still in place. The poverty, squalor and economic deprivation that characterises Colombia are manifestly obvious in Cartagena. Those with wealth enjoy the old colonial centre, whilst former slaves provide them with tours in the ornate horse and carts from back in the day. I wrote about it after escaping this travesty, which helped me to process my anger to some extent. I wish I’d spat, but I went trekking for five days instead! Here’s the piece I wrote, for anyone interested:

  2. Wow! Really enjoyed this. A fascinating mix of history, reflection and the search for “soul” of a place , of a time, of a person and of an empire.
    Great stuff.

  3. Great read! Now I am intrigued to embark on this marvin Gaye digital tour, whilst listening to his album. Something tells me I’ll also “voluntarily” add my spite of King Leopod’s through the activation of my salivary glands;) hehe !

  4. Great read! Now I am intrigued to embark on this Marvin Gaye digital tour, whilst listening to his album. Something tells me I’ll also “voluntarily” add my spite of King Leopod through the activation of my salivary glands;) hehe !

  5. This is very well worded and useful, thankyou. I like the way you explain key concepts minus hyperbole. It’s useful information and I deem you worth sharing.

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