Berlin has always attracted great artists from all of the world. One of those artists was David Bowie, who moved to the city in 1976 in search of a new career, in a new town. At the time, Bowie was one of the world´s biggest musical stars and had left Los Angeles home to escape his decadent lifestyle and the negative influences that fame had brought. He moved to Berlin to focus on his next musical projects, and what followed was arguably his most prolific period. Over the next two and half years he wrote and produced three of his most artistically acclaimed albums known as the “Berlin Trilogy”. Here is your guide to the famous sites of Bowie’s Berlin:
Hauptstrasse 155 – Where He Lived
Hauptstrasse 155, 10827 Berlin (U-bahn Kleistpark)
David Bowie rented a flat at 155 Hauptstrasse with his good friend and equally influential artist, Iggy Pop. Bowie has stated that he wanted to get as far away from the plastic glamour of Los Angeles, and so he moved to this working class neighbourhood in the West Berlin district of Schöneberg. Bowie particularly liked the anonymity this neighbourhood gave him, and the fact that he had to walk to the local supermarket and do all his own food shopping! The rock stars lived essentially as flatmates in a 2 bedroom flat on the second floor. Regularly eating out, going to clubs and shows, and soaking in the local culture of the area. A favourite café of theirs was the Anderes Ufer on the ground floor next to their building. You can still visit the cafe (although the name has changed to the Neues Ufer) and see some photographs of the pair together.
Hansa Studios – Where He Worked
Köthener Str. 38, 10963 Berlin (U-bahn Potdamer Platz)
Hansa studios is where Bowie recorded the first two albums of the trilogy - Low
. On certain days, the studios open their doors for guided tours of the rooms where the recordings took place. If you walk down the street to the intersection of Stresemann Str. and Köthener St. you can see the cobbled stone path of where the Berlin Wall divided the city for 28 years. Bowie claimed that from the view of the studios control room, he saw a young couple kissing by the Berlin Wall, and he drew the inspiration for one of his most famous anthems Heroes
, with the verse:
I can remember
Standing, by the wall
And the guns shot above our heads
And we kissed,
as though nothing could fall
SO36 – Where He Partied
Oranienstraße 190, 10999 Berlin (U-bahn Görlitzer Bahnhof)
One of the most infamous rock clubs in Berlin, SO36 was a popular hangout for Bowie and Iggy. Although never performing on the stage during his time in the city, he would frequent the club and watch the local bands perform, specifically West Berlin’s 1970’s burgeoning punk rock scene. As popular today as it was during the 70’s, SO36 is Berlins premier venue for live music. With bands performing most nights of the week. The doors never open until late in the evening, or sometimes well into the morning. And when they do, you will be sure to see hundreds of club-goers lining up on the pavement along Oranienstrasse.
Platz der Republik – Where He Performed
Scheiderman Str. 10557 Berlin (U-bahn Bundestag)
There have been many famous events taking place in the gardens around the Reichstag – Germany’s houses of Parliament. On June 9, 1987, Bowie played to 60,000 people on the lawns in front of the building at the Platz der Republik. Although at the time he was no longer a resident of the city, the site was chosen not for its historical significance, but rather due to its location next to the Berlin Wall. This gave his fans living in East Berlin the opportunity to hear the show, even if the policies of their government prevented them from attending the gig. During the cold war, East German citizens were forbidden from listening to “Western” Rock music due to its negative influence. Nevertheless, on the night of the show the streets around the Reichstag were packed with thousands of East Berliners listening to the music which flooded the area in an act of defiance against the authorities.
Bowie was just happy that all of his Berlin fans enjoyed the songs! The 1987 concert beside the Berlin Wall has since been remembered as one of the most public displayed of East Berlin rebellion. Two years later the Wall fell. Although he only lived here for tow and half years, David Bowie credits the city for reigniting his musical inspiration, and his artistic spirit has remained in the city ever since.
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