Neukölln is a bor­ough of Berlin, known for its diverse cul­ture and vibrant atmos­phere. It had a grit­ty rep­u­ta­tion in the 1970s, marked by social chal­lenges and urban decay.

The locale served as inspi­ra­tion for Bowie’s instru­men­tal com­po­si­tion “Neuköln” (mis­spelled with just one ‘L’), a col­lab­o­ra­tive effort with Bri­an Eno fea­tured on the album “Heroes”. Some have inter­pret­ed the music as cap­tur­ing the sense of dis­place­ment expe­ri­enced by the Turk­ish immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty in the area.

Berlin is a city made up of bars for sad dis­il­lu­sioned peo­ple to get drunk in. One nev­er knows how long it is going to remain there. One fan­cies that it is going very fast. That’s one of the rea­sons, sure, why I was attract­ed to the city. It’s a feel­ing that I real­ly tried to cap­ture in the paint­ings, while I was there, of the Turks that live in the city. There’s a track on the album called ‘Neuköln’, and that’s the area of Berlin where the Turks are shack­led in bad con­di­tions.

They’re very much an iso­lat­ed com­mu­ni­ty. It’s very sad. Very very sad. And that kind of real­i­ty obvi­ous­ly con­tributed to the mood on both Low and “Heroes”.

I mean, hav­ing encoun­tered an expe­ri­ence like that it’s hard to sing ‘Let’s all think of peace and love…’ Because that’s exact­ly where you should arrive after see­ing some­thing like that. You arrive at a sense of com­pas­sion.

– David Bowie, Melody Mak­er, 29 Octo­ber 1977

The song “Yas­sas­sin”, which appeared on the 1979 album “Lodger,” drew inspi­ra­tion from the Turk­ish work­ers Bowie had encoun­tered in Neukölln. He adopt­ed the title “yas­sas­sin”, a phrase sig­ni­fy­ing “long life”, after stum­bling upon it scrib­bled on a neigh­bor­hood wall.

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