David Bowie Continues a Long-Held Obsession With Berlin
Everyone and their mother got a bit excited yesterday when David Bowie released new material for the first time in 10 years, to coincide with his 66th birthday. Not only is "Where Are We Now?" very good indeed, but it's also accompanied by a freaky video, which reassures us that the old Bowie magic is still very much alive and well. A lot of critics spent yesterday talking about the somewhat sad, reflexive tone of the new song, but the thing that struck us first and foremost was the lyrical setting -- the streets of Berlin. It's not the first time Bowie has demonstrated a love of, and fascination with, Germany. Here are some other notable examples.
In 1976, when Iggy Pop was so smacked out of his mind that he checked himself into a Los Angeles mental institution, it was the Thin White Duke who got him out. That's right -- our hero, David Bowie, swept Iggy Pop out of the hospital and off to West Berlin so that the two of them could overcome their demons and addictions together. It all sounded terribly romantic to us, until we read in the February 2012 issue of Rolling Stone that Bowie: "became a heavy drinker. He threw up in alleys at night. He reportedly called out to people: 'Please help me'." Nevermind...
Using Germany as Musical Inspiration
It wasn't all vomiting and crying down backstreets in Berlin, fortunately. In 1977 Bowie and Pop found their new living situation creatively inspiring, and ultimately collaborated on Iggy's The Idiot album (Bowie helped with writing and production). Iggy returned the favor by helping his friend write some songs, one of which was "China Girl," which did rather well, as you might recall. Look how cute they are in that photo! Ridiculous!
"The Berlin Trilogy"
1977's Low and Heroes albums, as well as 1979's Lodger, made up what came to be known as The Berlin Trilogy -- in Bowie's words, a "triptych". The trio of albums marked a new period of experimentation for the Brit, as he embraced Krautrock influences and incorporated more ambient sounds into his work. Side bonus: by the end of the trilogy, Bowie was no longer a massive coke-head. Hurray!
Getting a Little Obsessed With Nazis (Whoops)
In 1977, Bowie told British music paper The Melody Maker, in no uncertain terms: "I'm NOT a fascist." It was nice to have that clarified once and for all, because the year before, he had been detained at the Russian-Polish border carrying a heap of Nazi memorabilia. Which didn't look good, given the fact that he had also told Playboy in 1974 that "Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars." We'll put the unsavory interest down to drug use and temporary insanity -- Bowie has since referred to his short-lived fascination as "ghastly". Phew!
Recording Songs in German
You can't very well live in Germany for years on end and not embrace the language, can you? Which is how this happened: