Bowie's Berlin

Without You

david bowie in germany in 1978 dpa
David Bowie at a concert in the German city of Frankfurt in Germany in 1978.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    David Bowie recorded three of his most influential albums while living in West Berlin in the 1970s.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Bowie, born in Brixton, England, moved from Los Angeles to Berlin in 1976.
    • For a while, he roomed with U.S. musical chameleon Iggy Pop, helping Pop record “The Idiot,” one of his most successful albums.
    • This week, Bowie’s fans in Berlin draped his former apartment in Schöneberg with flowers to mark his death.
  • Audio

    Audio

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No, the Deutschlandhalle concert hall was only just “quite full” in April 1976 with 7,000 visitors who witnessed what a critic for daily newspaper “Der Tagesspiegel” enthusiastically dubbed a “major rock event.”

“We have never before experienced such an intelligently conceived and perfectly performed show,” the reviewer  wrote, referring to the razor-knife scene from Luis Bunuel’s seminal 1929 surrealistic short film “Un Chien Andalou” which opened the rock-pop spectacle.

Music from German band “Kraftwerk” filled the hall in the intervals, the lighting was dramatic,  perfect and the performance drew raves. “Every gesture of the hands and body was fitting, every pose well conceived, and every dance step harmonized with the spotlight movements,” the newspaper gushed.

So began David Bowie’s life-long love affair with Berlin, then West Berlin, a city that gave him gritty asylum in the mid-1970s as he sought to shake a drug habit and restart his musical career.

During his stay, Berlin granted Bowie his wish. He rediscovered his creative muse, cut three influential albums and, in the process, burnished the German capital’s reputation as a good place to make edgy, new music and to be reborn.

But it all started with Bowie’s 90-minute performance in the immense hallway, a reconverted relic of Nazi German architectural excess, which exceeded all expectations.

The reception from the critic at Tagesspiegel, then and still the city’s leading daily newspaper, was immediate, warm and unconditional: “He is a great, serious artist,” the newspaper wrote.

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