Bowie In Berlin:: A New Career In A New Town: by Thomas Jerome Seabrook

I just finished up the excellent Bowie In Berlin: A New Career In A New Town, documenting Bowie’s most intriguing period between the years of 1976-1979, when he left the excesses of L.A., and a diet of cocaine and milk to root out a new land and new sound in Berlin. This is the period of Bowie’s work with sonic alchemist extraordinaire Brian Eno and Tony Visconti on the highly acclaimed Low album; its’ follow-up Heroes, which in anti-Bowie fashion works the same ideas as Low and ultimately could be argued is a better album considering its’ added musicality; and finally the third of the triptych, Lodger, the highly ambitious, while relatively disappointing work of two men with distinctively different visions yielding to the destructive malaise of compromise. Moreover, during this time frame Bowie returns Iggy Pop to the spotlight with his writing, playing and recording of the guinea pig work for the Berlin period – The Idiot. These aforementioned albums changed music, making synthesizer based rock/pop possible, and as a result shaped so much of the coming eighties’ sound that one might posit had Bowie never existed much of the music that came later wouldn’t have either. It is pretty easy to argue that no artist ruled the seventies like Bowie. He was incredibly prolific and always ahead of the times. No mainstream artist went from such commercial success to sacrifice it all for art’s sake and the pursuit of new sonic avenues; nor, did any mainstream artist manage to circumvent the destruction of Punk’s supposed year zero – 1977, and maintain relevancy like David Bowie. Those famous drum sounds and icy productions we hear on Low, are the predecessors of the same wonderful world that Stephen Morris and company would occupy in a couple of different bands. Not to mention, folks like Gary Numan were influenced so much they aped the sound to the point of insult, leaving Bowie to once comment that “cloning” was never part of the plan. The book has some fantastic photos and is laid out wonderfully with the subject matter sticking for the most part to details of the inner workings of the music, and what was influencing the sound. Finally, a month or so ago, a current mainstream artist – – John Mayer, made a defense on his blog of that guy in Fall Out Girl who goes out with one of those Simpson sisters, claiming the dude was a visionary like Bowie. For that comment I would offer that there are no similarities, and perhaps Mr. Mayer should spend less time hanging out with the “here today, irrelevant tomorrow” famous set, and actually listen to Bowie and read Bowie In Berlin. All the running mascara and perfectly disheveled hair in the world will never make that guy anything like Bowie.

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