In Neukoln, Bowie explores West-BerlinA song that shows Neukölln through the eyes and music of David Bowie
Because of the name, some people believe that Bowie lived, but we all know where he used to live while in Berlin. Another popular theory is that Bowie was referring to the band Neu! And to the city of Köln but it seems like the absence of a double L was just a simple mistake from him and everyone else that overlooked this album production.
David Bowie saw this with his own eyes. According to some of the histories we heard during our researches about Bowie’s years in Berlin, he used to leave his house in Schöneberg and take public transportation around West-Berlin. Neukölln is not that far away from where he used to live, so it makes a lot of sense to me that Bowie would walk around the area and enjoy his anonymity.
Neukoln begins with Brian Eno’s synthesizer, and Bowie’s saxophone is there as a counterpoint to it. After a couple of minutes, the saxophone takes over the song, and we can listen to a Bowie taking on avant-garde jazz with a sound that resembles Ornette Coleman. Too bad, his technique doesn’t allow him to explore this piece with the real depth it deserves.
For me, Bowie’s saxophone in Neukoln sounds like a foghorn echoing through the cold streets of Neukölln during a foggy early winter morning. Some critics see this piece as the Cold War being viewed through a bubble of blood, but this sounds too harsh. I can imagine that Bowie felt like this was a depiction of what he saw in one of the poorest neighborhoods of West-Berlin. Something that he had already done before with the song Warszawa.
It’s interesting to know that Edgar Froese, founder of Tangerine Dream, was from south Neukölln, and Bowie said that his album Epsilon in Malaysian Pale was a significant influence on him and part of a soundtrack to his life in Berlin. Maybe there is a connection there as well. Also, the main character in the movie Christiane F. is from Neukölln. David Bowie starred in the film and produced the movie soundtrack.
In the end, maybe, we will never know the true meaning of Neukoln. But it’s a great instrumental piece by David Bowie, and this should be enough.