Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bowie In Berlin: A New Career In A New Town - A Review

David Bowie's lifestyle in mid-70s Los Angeles was killing him, physically and psychologically.  Negative media attention, drug addiction, paranoia and a body weight of around 80 pounds were reason enough for a change.  Bowie grabbed his pal, Iggy Pop - also suffering from a bad drug habit - and headed to Europe to find a sanctuary to recover and create new music far from the watchful eye of the press.  

Thomas Jerome Seabrook's Bowie In Berlin: A New Career In A New Town gives an in-depth account of Bowie's musical rebirth centered around his time in Berlin, France and Switzerland from 1976-1979.  This time period was Bowie's most prolific.  Not only did he release Low, "Heroes" and Lodger, toured twice (once as a sideman for Iggy), co-wrote and produced two albums for Iggy Pop - The Idiot and Lust For Life - but also managed to star in a film, "Just A Gigolo."

Seabrook meticulously guides us through each of the Bowie and Iggy albums, song by song.  This book is a rare gem for the diehard Bowie fan, because it focuses on just a 3-year period of his 40+ year career.  The pages are filled with an abundance of trivia, including the birth of the 'Lust For Life' riff, which Bowie wrote on  a ukulele after hearing a Morse code broadcast on the U.S. Armed Forces News Bulletin.  It's also revealed that Iggy Pop was once considered as a replacement for Jim Morrison in The Doors.

While there may be a few moments of questionable details - describing the 4 chord progression that makes up Iggy's 'The Passenger' as a 2 chord riff - overall, Seabrook's accounts are thoroughly researched.  Jawbone Press does a fantastic job on the layout, beginning with a collection of rare photos, including my favorite - a pic of Bowie and Iggy waiting to catch a train in Copenhagen.

I definitely had a hard time putting this one down.  Much praise goes to Seabrook for his thorough look into Bowie's late 70s creative renaissance.

Jawbone Press - Published in April 2008 - 272 pages


  1. Great review. fearpeach

  2. Lovely review, Bret. This is the first time I've heard of the book, but it seems like the perfect thing for me to read right now.

    And thanks for posting a link on your myspace. I had no idea you had a blog! Happy. :))

  3. Thanks! I definitely think you'll enjoy this one. :) Be sure to click on 'follow' to subscribe to my blog.

  4. Bret, you’ve written an enticing review. I've always considered myself fairly knowledgeable with Bowie, but after reading your review I discover the need to re-examine one of the greatest artists on this planet. I've followed some of Iggy Pop's tales of the days when the two of them slipped off to Berlin for the sake of Life, sanity and art. I don't know how I missed Bowie in Berlin when it first came out, but I'm glad that you took the time to write an insightful and fun review. I'm still laughing over the revelation on how Bowie came up with the intro to Lust for Life. Ukuleles Rock. I just purchased my copy, one of the few remaining in Amazon’s stock. Thanks for the review!

  5. I haven't read this one yet ... Brett have you read the 'Low' book .. its a great accompliment to the album ... can't remember the authors name but i'm sure you'll find it on google or bing.

  6. If you're talking about the 33 1/3 series book on Low, then yes! Loved that one too. Hoping someone will do one for Ziggy or Diamond Dogs. I highly recommend the one I reviewed up above. :)

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  8. Did you read this one? -

  9. Hey Bret
    First of all i have 'Bowie in Berlin' my niece bought it for me last xmas ... fantastic book, how i forgot that I'll never know?
    Haven't heard of the Hello Spaceboy one though, will check it out.


  10. Hey Rob, definitely check out H. Spaceboy. Like the Berlin book, it focuses on a specific time period, which is cool. :)