East Berlin

East Berlin, the cap­i­tal of East Ger­many, was sep­a­rat­ed from West Berlin dur­ing the Cold War (1949–1989) by the Berlin Wall. It was ide­o­log­i­cal­ly aligned with the Sovi­et Union, where­as West Berlin was a West­ern enclave with­in East Ger­many. Vis­it­ing East Berlin as a West Berlin­er required per­mits and cross­ing through strict bor­der con­trols.

Bowie’s close prox­im­i­ty to East Berlin played a piv­otal role in shap­ing his artis­tic vision dur­ing this era.

There were many enjoy­able things to do in West Berlin, pret­ty much the same as it is now only the East and West Berlins have once again merged. David, Iggy and Coco made lots of good friends. There were art gal­leries, great restau­rants, great atmos­pher­ic bars and cof­fee hous­es and incred­i­ble themed night clubs you’d nev­er see in any oth­er city. One day we even drove through Check­point Char­lie to have lunch in East Berlin. We had a great time there. all that great stuff got into the music and lyrics some­how and those expe­ri­ences changed our lives. It was more than an album. It was an adven­ture.

– Tony Vis­con­ti, A New Career In A New Town (1977–1982), April 2017

The instru­men­tal tracks on “Low” took direct inspi­ra­tion from the divid­ed cities and the Wall that sep­a­rat­ed them.

‘Art Decade’ is West Berlin – a city cut off from its world, art and cul­ture, dying with no hope of ret­ri­bu­tion. ‘Weep­ing Wall’ is about the Berlin Wall – the mis­ery of it. And ‘Sub­ter­raneans’ is about the peo­ple that got caught in East Berlin after the sep­a­ra­tion – hence the faint jazz sax­o­phones rep­re­sent­ing the mem­o­ry of what it was.

– David Bowie, Record Mir­ror, 24 Sep­tem­ber 1977