JANUARY 9, 2013 6:57PM

David Bowie's new single celebrates a vision of Berlin

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 Bowie Schoeneberg

Memory lane: The apartment house at Hauptstraße 155, Berlin-Schöneberg, the former home of Davie Bowie and Iggy Pop. Bowie wrote his Berlin-themed song "Heroes" during this period.

A PRESENT-DAY VISITOR to Berlin, who had previously known the city only as the divided dream capital of an alternative universe, might well be excused for asking "Where are we now?" Bowie, who lived in down-at-the-heels but swinging Schöneberg and performed at the notorious Dschungel New Wave club in the old Tauentzienpalast on Nürnberger Straße back in the late 70s, swung back to the music world yesterday with his first single in a decade and a nostalgic look at the city that once made him great.

Had to get the train

From Potsdamer Platz

You never knew that

That I could do that

Just walking the dead

No wonder Bowie, who turned sixty-six on the day of the release, is confused. The underground train station on Potsdamer Platz had been a "ghost station" back then. Local trains connecting fragmented West Berlin neighborhoods zipped through at full speed as bored guards looked on from an abandoned platform accessible only from a trapdoor within the death zone between East and West. Today the area is again one of Berlin's busiest - in fact, I caught a train there myself yesterday. And not only is the Dschungel gone, but the Tauentzienpalast has been transmogrified into the illustrious Ellington Hotel.

A man lost in time near KaDeWe

Just walking the dead

The Berlin of those days looked like a waking nightmare and smelled like somebody's acid flashback of the future. And then, one night in November 1989, it all ended:

Twenty thousand people

Cross Böse-Brücke

Fingers are crossed

Just in case

Walking the dead

Who could have imagined this all would happen? I couldn't have. While I came to Berlin eight years after Bowie - I first visited the divided city in 1984 and spent much of 1988 in East Berlin - I settled here permanently in 1991 and have witnessed all these changes in daily increments. But when I pause to think of all that has changed here since Bowie's day, I feel just as lost in time as he does.

In just four minutes, Bowie's song captures the place that was once Berlin, in much the same way that Wim Wenders "got it" in his 1987 movie "Wings of Desire." But songs, movies, and books can never capture the experience of it all. That can only be relived in moments.

Where are we now?

Where are we now?

The moment you know

You know, you know.

The complete album, "The Next Day," will be released on March 11, 2013. Some of us will be waiting to go back there with him - if but for a moment. 

Where are we now 

Click image to play

 

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Great song and video. I had a chance to be stationed in Berlin but turned it down. The army had a strict drug policy in West Berlin and there was no way I could possible had stayed out of jail. Instead they sent me to the asshole of the world, Baumholder. The hash helped pass the time!:-)
Thank you for this post, Alan. R
Thanks for explaining the song. They have been playing it repeatedly on the BBC ever since it was released.
Thanks, Dr. S. I think the song is pretty obscure without the background info.