David Bowie, some people hate him, but most, if not love him (and many do including myself) cannot but appreciate the catalytic influence he had over British (and American) music over an incredible five decades. Arguably, and to my mind it is a strong argument, the case can be made that without the existence of Bowie punk would never have happened. Aside from Bowie himself, two American 'punk pioneers' in the form of Lou Reed and especially Iggy Pop drew inspiration from the man.
The music of David Bowie is so diverse, more so than any other artist that comes to mind. It doesn't follow that diversity of styles is an inevitable consequence of a long career.... I mean, look at The Rolling Stones! But the Bowie back catalogue has something of everything from the whimsical Newley-esque ditties of the sixties to the impeccable glam of Ziggy in the seventies, through to American soul, the avant-guarde electronica of the Berlin era, new-romantisism..... and then into the '90's and he was even doing drum and bass stuff.
For me David Bowie's most interesting period, including some of, but not all of, his finest material was the time that he spent in Berlin. In the years, 1974-1976, the man declared himself to be the 'Thin White Duke'..... this in reality was a rather grand title for a man losing touch with reality with a helping hand from copious amounts of cocaine and other chemical friends. Cadaverous to the extreme in appearance and living with the paranoia that comes with serious drug misuse.... Bowie was in real danger of becoming Aladdin Sane!
So it was time to retreat and where better to do so than that place behind the Iron Curtain, the former inter-war decadence capital of Old Europe.... Berlin. What better place to get clean. So off David went to do just that with his mate Iggy Pop..... WHAT!!!!! Hiding away in an effort to get clean in the company of Iggy!!! Bloody hell the man must have been off his rocker!
'Iggy, did you write down the engine's number?'
Nevertheless, for both men, this East German sabbatical was to lead to the creation of music that then as indeed now is critically acclaimed.
For Bowie a trio of albums was the product of this intensely creative period:
- Heroes (1977)
- Low (1978)
- Lodger (1979)
Of these three, the 1977 and 1978 offerings are masterpieces. I love 'Hunky Dory' no doubt about that, but 'Low' is just sublime. In this time Bowie was soaking up the atmosphere of Berlin and the wider Germany like a sponge. This was instrumental in bringing a distinctive European flavour into British music in the early 1980's. David wholeheartedly embraced this new European music that was the stock in trade of bands like Kraftwerk. Indeed, Kraftwerk were singled out for special attention on '77's 'Heroes' album which features the track 'V2-Schneider', a nod to Florian Schneider, one of the two founding members of Kraftwerk. Schneider was clearly listening as the Dusseldorf-based quartet returned the compliment that same year on their ground breaking 'Trans Europe Express' album, the title track of which name checks both Dave and Ig in the form of an encounter in the band's home town. And let's not forget the reference to David's own rail themed album of the previous year 'Station to Station'. What a bunch of trainspotters eh!
'From station to station, back to Dusseldorf City
Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie....
This documentary tells the story of this incredible period just a few years prior to Bowie's most successful album, '1983's 'Let's Dance'. A commercial high, yet creative low, but hey, that's just my opinion. Give me 'She's Got Medals' any day of the week!