INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
The Telegraph JANUARY 8, 2013 - by Bernadette McNulty
BOWIE IN BERLIN: A BLUFFERS GUIDE
Why is everyone delighted that Bowie is going back to Berlin?
Bowie fans have been sent into paroxysms of excitement by the news that not only is their idol releasing his first work in a decade, but that he is returning to what is known as his Berlin period. The image of the Brixton-born singer may have been defined by his early glam rock days from late-'60s London, burnished by his American soulful sound in the mid-'70s and commercially crowned by his high point during his '80s big shoulder-padded Let's Dance phase, but in terms of influence and critical acclaim, the trilogy of records Bowie made while living in Berlin during the late-'70s are seen as his career's high water mark.
How did he end up there?
Increasingly strung out on drugs, Bowie decamped in 1976 first to Switzerland, and then to West Berlin, attracted by the bohemian living and the sounds of the Krautrock scene coming from bands like Kraftwerk and Neu! Working with old friend Iggy Pop and former Roxy Music member Brian Eno, Bowie released the abstract electronic album Low in 1977. He followed this with the more rock-influenced "Heroes" and finally Lodger in 1979.
It was a transformative period for Bowie personally as well as artistically, where he managed to give up drugs and separated from his wife Angie.
Why are these seen as better than his other albums?
In this self-described triptych, Bowie finally achieved his vision of melding art and music. Although yielding hits at the time like Sound And Vision, "Heroes" and Boys Keep Swinging, these albums have probably had the biggest long-term influence of all Bowie's records. They directly inspired post-punk bands and New Romantics and they've kept on giving to each generation, with everyone from Duran Duran to Radiohead taking a cue from the mix of electronics, abstract rock and straight-ahead anthemic pop.
Also, "Heroes" as a song has developed a life of its own over the last few years. Re-recorded in 2010 by the X Factor finalists for the Help For Heroes charity, it became the unofficial anthem of the London Olympics, played as Team GB came into the opening ceremony and every hour thereafter.
Even after all that, it still brings a tear to the eye.
What's so 'Berlin' then about the new one?
The lyrics to Where Are We Now? reminisce about Potzdamer Platz and "Sitting in the Dschungel / On Nurnberger strasse / A man lost in time near KaDeWe." It swells like "Heroes" from a pensive beginning to a big ending. In the video there are images of the old city along with footage of the repair shop below the flat he used to live in. The new album artwork which Bowie posted on his website looks like a play on the cover for Heroes.
Short of actually singing this in German, all arrows point back to Bowie's Berlin days.
Of course this could be a giant wheeze by Bowie and he will release a Bedouin dub-step mash-up, throwing in a duet with Jessie J and Vera Lynn, because if the surprise of this release teaches us anything it is that Bowie can still surprise us. But at the moment, all indicators are that this is a return to what many consider to be Bowie's golden years.