David Bowie performing in Berlin, 1983.

From Bowie to Rattle

Berlin has long boasted a thriving and ever-evolving underground music scene . Since the 60s, the city's musical landscape has produced experimental rock groups such as Can, Cluster and to seminal techno and electronic acts such as Kraftwerk or Einstürzende Neubauten. Throughout previous decades, famous British artists have held an interest and fascination for the city, with the German capital playing an important role for many.


Bowie performing in West Berlin on 6 June 1987
(© dpa)
Bowie's 'Berlin Trilogy'

David Bowie came to Berlin in the late 1970s to produce his album Low at the Hansa Studios. Afterwards he stayed in Berlin and continued to produce songs inspired by the city, resulting in the 'Berlin Trilogy' of albums: Low (1977), Heroes (1977) and Lodger (1979). It was the daily life in the separated city that influenced Bowie’s music during these years. His song Heroes is, for example, about two lovers who kiss in the shadow of the Berlin wall.

Depeche Mode performing in East Berlin in 1988
(© picture-alliance / dpa)
Depeche Mode's purple patch

Depeche Mode, again with Hansa Studios, produced four albums in Berlin during the 80s. Lead singer Michael Gore even lived in West Berlin during these years, to fully take in the city’s uniqueness and the vibrant underground music scene. Depeche Mode also played a legendary concert in 1988 behind the Iron  Curtain, making them one of the only western bands to have ever played a concert in East Berlin.

Berghain night club
(© picture alliance / dpa)
World famous electronic music scene

With the fall of the wall a new style genre of music filled the city’s sudden musical vacuum: Techno. Nowadays Berlin’s club scene is one of the most famous aspects of the city that keeps attracting Britons. With no legal closing times, most nightclubs are open until people want to leave and are sometimes continuously open for a whole weekend.

The nightclub Berghain for example, a former power plant, is now probably the most in-demand nightclub in Europe.  Long queues can be seen out front at every hour of the weekend, even on a Sunday morning. Berghain resident DJs such as Ben Klock or Marcel Dettman now have a large fan base outside Germany. Ben Klock has hosted numerous gigs in the UK and will perform at London’s Fabric in September.

Other Berlin based electronic music bands such as Moderat (a collective formed by artists/producers Apparat and Modeselektor) even played at Glastonbury festival. Berlin independent is also still alive: Although Hansa Studios continues to this day, new Berlin labels such as 'BPitch Control' or 'Tresor' focus on creative, new sounds, that are then exported to the nightclubs of Europe.

Sir Simon Rattle and The Berlin Philharmonic
(© picture alliance / dpa)
Briton at the helm of the ‘Philharmonie’

Being such a diverse and multifarious city, it is not surprising that Berlin is also a world leader in classical music. The 'Berliner Philharmoniker' are world famous and have a British chief conductor. Since 2002, Sir Simon Rattle has influenced and shaped the ‘Philharmonie’ more than many of his predecessors and is now seen as an intrinsic part of the orchestra by many music lovers and artists.

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