When Bowie Moved To Berlin: Killing The Duke To Save The Man

By Jacob Shelton
David Bowie performing in Tokyo's NHK HALL on the Low & Heroes Tour, December 1978. Source: (Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images)

The "Berlin Trilogy" -- Low (1977), Heroes (1977), and Lodger (1979) -- by David Bowie consists of three albums made while he was attempting to re-engage with the world. Living in Los Angeles in 1975 and 1976 had led David Bowie down a path of excess that sounds both opulent and terrifying. Adopting the debonair but aloof persona of the "Thin White Duke," the mid-'70s Bowie got by on a diet of cocaine, red peppers, and milk, bringing on a cocaine psychosis that threatened to destroy him. The Thin White Duke was a cynical character, singing love songs without sincerity and known for public fascistic statements. Bowie, ever prone to reinvention, sought an escape from LA and the person he’d become.

After experimenting in Switzerland and France Bowie found himself firmly ensconced in Berlin, a city still divided by the Berlin Wall. From 1977 to 1979 Bowie would record three albums that fed off the energy of Berlin, and its residents' indifference to him, while he was getting sober and finding the joy in life.