Christopher Recommends: “Neuköln” by David Bowie

Christopher Iacono
May 15, 2018 · 2 min read
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When I was seventeen, I bought a used cassette of David Bowie’s album Heroes from the Record Exchange in Salem, Massachusetts (which, by the way, still exists). Growing up in the eighties, I was very familiar with Bowie, not just as a musician, but as an actor, too. At that time, I knew and loved some of his music from the seventies, but I wasn’t familiar with anything from the “Berlin Trilogy.”

When I bought the cassette, I figured the songs were going to be somewhat along the lines of “Young Americans” or “Fame.” I put the cassette in my 1980 Datsun and headed home. Since the tape was rewound to side two, I heard the album out of its intended order.

Needless to say, I was a bit surprised when “V-2 Schneider” came on. It sounded kind of Bowie-ish, but it had almost no vocals. Okay, so Bowie did an instrumental.

But then it was followed by two more: “Sense of Doubt” and “Moss Garden.” To my ears, neither sounded like anything you’d expect from Bowie: the first had spare piano and synthesizer, the second had a koto. I wondered if I had bought the wrong tape, so I pulled over and ejected the cassette. It looked like the right album, so I played the rest. Maybe a song with a vocal would come up next?

Nope. But “Neuköln” — the fourth consecutive instrumental on side two — was the most compelling: moody synths, guitar, and organ create a mournful atmosphere for Bowie’s saxophone, which combined Middle Eastern music with free jazz. Hard to believe it was the same artist who’d scored a number one hit two years earlier.

At the time, I didn’t really appreciate the multiple layers of “Neuköln” or the different musical influences he had incorporated. However, as I grew older, and my tastes became more eclectic, I learned to admire Bowie for experimenting and defying listener expectations.

I don’t have my Datsun anymore, but I still listen to my Heroes CD in my car every now and then. And I still get intrigued when this piece comes on.

Memoir Mixtapes

The ultimate mashup of the two things we all love to talk…

Christopher Iacono

Written by

Christopher Iacono lives with his wife and son in Massachusetts. You can learn more about him at cuckoobirds.org.

Memoir Mixtapes

The ultimate mashup of the two things we all love to talk about: ourselves and music.

Christopher Iacono

Written by

Christopher Iacono lives with his wife and son in Massachusetts. You can learn more about him at cuckoobirds.org.

Memoir Mixtapes

The ultimate mashup of the two things we all love to talk about: ourselves and music.

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