We were in Berlin for a couple of days last week, mainly to see Neil Finn. That worked out really well, as he was playing in a small club just inside the former East Berlin, much smaller than any place he would have played in the UK. Small as it was, the club had immaculate sound and lighting and Finn was great, playing for well over two hours and effectively taking requests for his second encore.
People who snap pictures on phones during gigs really annoy me, but I grabbed this quick and crappy picture from the back of the club, disturbing no-one (as no-one was behind me…)
Anyway…the next day, the plan was to go on Berlin Musictours’ (www.musictours-berlin.de) visit to Hansa Tonstudios and then take their bus tour of Berlin’s musical places of interest. It seemed a bit steep but, hey, we were there anyway…
It seemed worth every penny after about the first ten minutes of the studio tour, and we weren’t even inside the place yet. Thilo Schmied, the guide, is funny, enthusiastic and knows his stuff.
Inside, the first port of call is the room where Lust for Life was recorded.
This tape machine was used on “Heroes”…
…and some of “Heroes” was recorded in the big room here. This room is currently used for meetings, conferences and functions as well as remaining a recording space.
The control room for the big room is now a bar; it features this very important window, where Bowie saw Tony Visconti (illicitly) with Antonia Maass and came up with;
“I can remember, standing by the wall; and the guns shot above our heads, and we kissed as though nothing could fall…”
There’s a picture of Bowie at the mixing console which was in front of this window in Visconti’s book Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy.
Back then, the window looked out to the Berlin Wall and was itself overlooked by an armed checkpoint; it’s a lot blander now, happily, but there a couple of souvenirs of the wall behind the apartments adjoining the studio.
To go back to the great Where Are We Now?, which I put at the top of this piece; in the first verse, Bowie mentions three places in Berlin; Potzdamerplatz station, which he shows in the video for WAWN in the seventies and I’ve shown as it is now; then there is The Jungle, a club he frequented during his stay. That’s also in the video and below is how it looks now – a florist’s on the ground floor of the Ellington Hotel, where we were staying. The Jungle, a club he frequented during his stay. That’s also in the video and below is how it looks now – a florist’s.
The third Berlin landmark, mentioned in the song, but not (as far as I can see) in the WAWN video is the KaDeWe department store.
So, a musically and historically interesting couple of days.
But perspective is important and no chance to be photographed looking like a balloon should be resisted; so it was good to see many fibreglass renditions of Berlin’s trademark bear all over the place; the one below was at the end of the street where Hansa is…
And this one was at the airport, just before a trip to the Irish Theme Bar therein (mine, not the bear’s…)
Heroes live in Berlin 2002