David Bowie’s “Berlin Trilogy”: “Low”, “Heroes” and “Lodger” reconsidered

At the end of the 1970s, david bowie had long since abandoned his Ziggy Stardust persona in his search for new surroundings, both musically and personally. Struggling with drug addiction and creative pull, he eventually moved to Berlin, where he sought to redefine himself as an artist and, in turn, establish a bold new musical direction. He warmed to the new approach by agreeing to produce Iggy Pop’s first two solo albums, The idiot and thirst for life, before immediately embarking on the three albums that would later become his “Berlin Trilogy”: moo, “Hero” (each released in 1977) and Tenant (which followed in 1979).

Listen to “DJ”, from Tenant

All three albums represented an expansive leap into experimental realms, as well as a decidedly non-commercial approach that was markedly different from the glam-rock sound he had pursued in his Ziggy guise. Consequently, the albums received mixed reviews from fans and critics, with some decrying the lack of instant accessibility even while others praised Bowie for venturing into experimental environments without fear of backlash.

Related: Our opinion on David Bowie Ziggy Stardust album

Indeed, in retrospect, the three albums are now hailed as milestones in Bowie’s meteoric career, and a marked influence on other artists, including Moby, Joy Division, Gary Numan and even King Crimson, including Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew. have contributed to “Hero” and Tenant, while channeling those sounds into Crimson’s progressive posture. Bowie also received direction and help from co-producers Eno and Tony Visconti, both of whom helped nurture Bowie’s cheeky change of course. Eno’s ambient soundscapes in particular, a signature stance he developed after his departure from Roxy Music, were – along with the emerging sound of “Kraut Rock” pioneers like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream – a defining influence on the Bowie’s new pattern and expertly woven into the duo. dynamic.

While it’s best to consider the albums as a whole, each was distinctive on its own. moo gave three songs of special meaning: “Breaking Glass”, “Sound and Vision” and “Be My Wife”, all emboldened by distinctive tones and textures. Yet it was also clear that Bowie’s penchant for seductive, seductive melodies could still be fully fueled. As a result, they would become staples of his live repertoire for decades to come. Nonetheless, the music was as dark as it was dramatic, with lyrics open to interpretation, which is hardly a surprise given the inner turmoil Bowie faced as a result of the addiction.

“Hero” continued the progression towards experimental art-rock, and although the sound seemed more diffuse than before, the title track continued to be considered one of Bowie’s best. Its effusive and anthemic chorus is both powerful and persuasive, insisting that “We can be heroes, just for one day.”

Tenant is decidedly less accessible, but its emphasis on world beats has provided a strong influence of its own. The most obvious proof is on the track called “Yassassin”, based on the Turkish word meaning “long life”. Likewise, the continuing theme of travel without permanent residence underscores this sense of worldly appeal.

That said, the cluttered arrangements and tedious production precluded any real commercial possibility, with the exception, that is, of the track entitled “Boys Keep Swinging”, among the catchiest songs in Bowie’s catalog during this entire particular period. Ironically, it recalls Bowie’s early mod motif while foreshadowing his ’80s commercial comeback, carried by the song “Let’s Dance,” which finally took him to the top of the charts for the first time in years.

Bowie will have to wait another four years for that aforementioned commercial comeback, which came via the album let’s dance and the string of hit singles it spawned. In the meantime, however, the “Berlin Trilogy” would finally find its own audience, albeit belatedly. Looking back, the imagination and innovation remain as impressive as ever.

look Bowie performs “Sound and Vision” live

Lee Zimmerman
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