Revisiting Bowie: The Berlin Trilogy 1977-1979
A New Career On A New Town
David Bowie had many life’s, that, we all know, and by the late 70’s Ziggy Stardust was no more. In between Bowie swung into the American soul music scene, doing what he called “plastic soul” on the 1975 album “Young Americans”. It can be disputed if what he did next, “Station To Station”, can be considered the beginning of what became known as The Berlin Trilogy, although recorded in Los Angeles where Bowie had succumbed to the tragedy of stardom indulging on a diet of cocaine , milk and peppers. “Station To Station” it’s an album that sounds more European than American regardless being recorded and developed in the States. It is one of Bowie’s finest pieces and also the point of return back to Europe leaving behind the obscure dangers of Los Angeles.
Look back in images at the Bowie’s Berlin period 1976-1979
Bowie arrived in Berlin in 1976, together with Iggy Pop, both wanting to clean themselves of substance abuse. They moved together to an apartment and start writing together. From that period, resulted Iggy’s two most successful albums to date, “Lust For Life” and “The Idiot”. They collaborated together in each other albums, but Bowie went further ahead and start working on a new style of music that was neither rock,pop or new wave, it was highly influenced by electronic music of bands such as Kraftwerk, Neu! and the recent works of Brian Eno from Roxy Music. “Low” was the first album to come out of that highly creative period. An album loaded with synths and distorted guitars, a fusion like only Bowie could dare to do back then. It’s fair to say that it wasn’t what audiences were expecting from him back then, not only 4 years after albums like “Ziggy Stardust”, “Aladdin Sane” or “Young Americans” and even “Station To Station” already experimental, but “Low” had a different kick, art-rock, avant-garde, labeled in so many ways but none correct, RCA advertised this Bowie period as “there is old wave, there is new wave and there is David Bowie”. Co-produced by Bowie and Tony Visconti with musical directions by Brian Eno, the A-side is where most of the radio friendly cuts can be found, “Be My Wife”, “Sound And Vision” or “Always Crashing In The Same Car”. The B-Side is fully instrumental, experimental synth music, to some it’s a musical description of the city of Berlin back then, cold, grey, dangerous and dark. An album ahead of it’s time and with a freshness to the ears today as it was back then, and maybe more fitting into today’s music scene, but “Low” was only the first of 3. In the same year of 1977 “Heroes” was released, shaped in the same molds as “Low”, was not an easy album to digest by those nostalgic of the Glam Rock Bowie or Ziggy. The first and only fully recorded in Berlin album of the trilogy (“Low” recording sessions took also place in France) and still co-produced by Bowie and Tony Visconti, “Heroes” had co-written tracks with Brian Eno, unique instrumental segments and also songs such as “Heroes” or “Beauty And The Beast”, lying heavily on Carlos Alomar guitar playing. “V-2 Schneider” and “Sense of Doubt” are the two most famous instrumental cuts from the album and both and again a musical photography of cold and grey Berlin. In 1978 for the first time since 1969 there was no new Bowie studio album released, instead there was the double live “Stage” LP that featured a lot of the songs from “Low” and “Heroes”. In 1979 the third and last of the trilogy albums “Lodger” is released. The only album that wasn’t recorded in Berlin, instead the recording sessions took place in Switzerland and New York, musically also brings a different approach and Bowie’s return to more simple pop songs, the electronic influences and instrumental experiences of the two previous albums are only vaguely to be found in here, there are however a lot of world music influences and as said, a return to simpler pop music in songs such as “D.J”, “Look Back In Anger” or “Boys Keep Swinging”, the experimental world music grooves present in “Fantastic Voyage” and “Yassassin”, the intriguing “Move On” that is actually the hit song he wrote for Mott The Hople “All The Young Dudes” when played backwards. The next year, Bowie once again would reinvent himself musically, absorbing the New Romantic and post punk trend that featured new pop artists and bands such as Visage, Duran Duran or Joy Division, bands that paradoxically had been influenced by his music and persona when developing this new emerging genre.
Listen to the best of The Berlin Trilogy compiled by Pop Expresso on Spotify:
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