Ich bin ein Berliner

Buying gifts for men has to be one of the most irritating challenges for the 21st century woman. Minus grooming products and socks (is *anyone* excited by receiving socks?), guy presents tend to revolve around expensive gadgets, which are frequently put aside after the initial novelty wears off. This Christmas was no exception when looking for something for my boyfriend.

Having spent interminable hours browsing gift guides on the websites of men’s mags, a Eureka! moment in the music biography section of Foyles resulted in the purchase of two plane tickets to Berlin this April. As a travel destination, Berlin is somewhere I’ve been hesitant to embrace. After all, its just like east London, right? The same street art, a similar breed of hipsters Instagramming their avocado on toast. With so much destruction wrought on its cityscape during the world wars, its not even pretty in the same way Paris is.

My boyfriend’s keenness to visit made me rethink my prejudices. Berlin still seems to be a creative place, stuffed with the kind of people who lived in Shoreditch during its 1980s heyday – affordable rental prices are a huge boon here. Its also the final home of the Bauhaus, whose asymmetrical lines and snazzy modernist typography won an eternal place in my teenage heart thanks to my GCSE Graphics teacher.

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BUT, the biggest cultural pull for me has to be the lure of David Bowie, and Berlin’s role as the place he spent his wilderness years. Bowie lived in the city between 1976-1979, producing three albums and descending into a state of Heroin addiction that shouldn’t be romanticised despite the strength of the music he made while under its influence. Low in particular is distant from his early 70s pop: its stark, ambient synth music, haunting stuff. The convergence of great art and the political landscape of the time is endlessly fascinating.

In anticipation/commemoration of this forthcoming trip, I’ve pulled together a few songs recorded in or inspired by Berlin. A number of the songs featured here, including Bowie’s Berlin torch song ‘Heroes’, were recorded at Hansa Studios, “the big hall by the wall”. Its a gorgeous-looking space, where many bands have knocked out hits.

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