Pay­ing homage to a leg­end

Where Berlin - - FRONT PAGE -

E ven though he spent less than three years in Ber­lin, David Bowie is so in­trin­si­cally tied to the city that, on the day of his pass­ing, he was thanked via Twit­ter by Ger­many’s For­eign Of­fice for “help­ing to bring down the #wall.” And when David Bowie Is…, the ex­hi­bi­tion of more than 300 Bowie ar­ti­facts, toured the world, Ber­lin was, nat­u­rally, one of the few stops. The mu­sic gi­ant’s legacy lives on from Char­lot­ten­burg to Schöneberg, and sev­eral neigh­bor­hoods in be­tween.

Diehard fans look­ing to pay homage should start the trib­ute tour at Haupt­straße

155, the non­de­script build­ing where Bowie and friend/artis­tic col­lab­o­ra­tor Iggy Pop lived dur­ing their Ber­lin res­i­dency, from 1976–1979. Al­though you can’t go in­side, you can peek in the foyer, which also has a cameo in Bowie’s 2013 video for Where Are

We Now?, it­self an homage to his adopted home­town. Days af­ter his death, thou­sands of Ber­lin­ers signed a pe­ti­tion to change the name of the street to David-Bowie-Straße, putting up the sign right next to the singer’s for­mer build­ing.

Just down from Bowie’s for­mer abode lies Neues Ufer (Haupt­str. 157), where the room­mates would ha­bit­u­ally break­fast in the morn­ing and tip­ple in the evening, and where you can still stop by to tip your hat to the im­age of Bowie’s al­ter ego, the Thin White Duke. Other fa­vorite haunts of the duo are, alas, no longer, such as the bo­hemian Café Exil, which Bowie and Pop treated much like their se­cond liv­ing room and which has been rein­car­nated into up­scale eatery Horváth (p. 43). And al­though Café Wien, which played the role of the Eden Bar in the Bowie film

Just a Gigolo, has also van­ished, you can still visit the space, which has trans­formed into

Ap­ple’s flag­ship store on the Ku’damm. Bowie once de­scribed Ber­lin as “the great­est cul­tural ex­trav­a­ganza that one could imag­ine,” and he took great plea­sure in the city’s wealth of arts and his­tory, most no­tably in his ad­mi­ra­tion for the artists of the Brücke Mu­seum (p. 37). There, he drew in­spi­ra­tion for the al­bum cover to the madein-Ber­lin “He­roes”, al­though opin­ions vary as to which of the art­works — in­clud­ing Erich Heckel’s Ro­quairol and Wal­ter Gram­motté’s self-por­trait — was the great­est in­spi­ra­tion. Be­cause the mu­si­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the two friends was so in­ter­twined, the works of die Brücke move­ment sim­i­larly in­flu­enced the cover of Pop’s de­but solo al­bum, The Id­iot, also re­leased in 1977. Al­though the mu­seum, lo­cated out­side the city cen­ter in the leafy en­clave of Zehlen­dorf, still stands, the works ro­tate fre­quently, so only serendip­ity can as­sure that you catch one of Bowie’s fa­vorites.

To Bowie — and, by ex­ten­sion, Pop — Ber­lin was as much an al­co­hol­drenched play­ground as it was cul­tural idyll, and he seemed to have a fa­vorite wa­ter­ing hole in nearly ev­ery Kiez. While Schöneberg and Kreuzberg were home to the ma­jor­ity of his haunts, when he and Pop wanted to revel in style, they of­ten headed west to Char­lot­ten­burg’s Paris Bar (Kantstr. 152), the site of Pop’s in­fa­mous Rolling Stone in­ter­view that ended with his rolling about in the snow. When they wanted to catch up on the lat­est Krautrock and new-wave acts, their venue of choice was SO36 (Oranien­str. 190), of­ten cited as a ri­val of the now-de­funct CBGB and to this day an in­flu­en­tial in­sti­tu­tion for break­ing new bands.

When not cre­at­ing art or find­ing in­spi­ra­tion in the city’s many dens of in­iq­uity, Bowie could most likely be found at Hansa, the record­ing stu­dio where the three al­bums of his un­of­fi­cial “Ber­lin tril­ogy” were pro­duced. Vis­i­tors can tour the fa­cil­ity and even peer out the same win­dow that Bowie sat at as he penned “He­roes.” (Book through Ber­lin Mu­sic Tours, p. 35, which also of­fers a city­wide Bowi­ethemed tour.)

Even well af­ter mov­ing away from the Ger­man cap­i­tal, Bowie con­tin­ued to pay homage to the city. The 2013 re­lease Where Are We Now? name-checks Ber­lin land­marks past and present, from KaDeWe to the long-de­funct Dschun­gel night­club, while the song’s video show­cases fur­ther renowned sites. Mem­o­ries of the late leg­end echo in most ev­ery cor­ner of the city, which, as long as it stands, will con­tinue to pay trib­ute to one of its most beloved adopted sons.

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