From Brixton to Berlin – how to visit the places that shaped the life of David Bowie

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The twin albums of American rock star Iggy Pop in 1977, The Idiot and Lust For Life, – co-written by Bowie – also saw the light of day at Hansa. In addition to professional collaborators, the two were roommates at the time, sharing an apartment at 155 Hauptstrasse in Schöneberg. The property is still a private residence, but a plaque on the exterior salutes its importance. Along with Hansa, the apartment is featured on Viator David Bowie’s 3-hour guided tour of Berlin (viator.com; ref. 10847P39, from £ 73).

Bowie would revisit his Berlin days, with a nostalgia tinged with sadness, in Where Are We Now ?, the first single from The Next Day, his penultimate studio album, released, after a 10-year hiatus, in 2013. Alas, we can no longer sit in the Dschungel, the disco-bar recalled in the lyrics; it closed in 1993. The Ellington Hotel – the survivor of the Weimar era at 50-55 Nürnberger Strasse in whose cellar the Dschungel was hiding – also vanished, frustratingly, as recently as last August ( the building is being redeveloped). But KaDeWe (kadewe.de), the department store that has graced Tauentzienstrasse since 1907, is still going strong. Much like SO36 (so36.com), the Kreuzberg club which was another Bowie-Pop hangout. The five-star hotel am Steinplatz has no connection with either star, but makes an ideal base for long weekends in the west of the city.

Three-night stays at the Hotel am Steinplatz cost from £ 768 per person including flights, transfers and breakfast, via Kirker Holidays (020 7593 1899; kirkerholidays.com)

Philadelphia cream

Young Americans (1975)

“Isn’t there a fucking song that can make me crack and cry?”

Arguably Bowie’s most abrupt artistic drift came in the summer of 1974, when he abandoned the last vestiges of the Ziggy era for the soul music that was pouring out of Philadelphia. The handbrake shift was so abrupt that the North American tour to promote his latest glam-rock album, Diamond Dogs – released only in May of that year – was effectively scrapped halfway. When the shows resumed in October, the set design had been reduced – and the songs were reborn with tight harmonies and brass embellishments.

During the break between performances, Bowie stopped in Pennsylvania’s largest city to do Young Americans with local soul musicians (including then-unknown singer Luther Vandross). Released in 1975, the album is an artistic reboot that will have a huge effect on his career, foreshadowing later metamorphoses. However, its impact is less noticeable in 21st century Philadelphia. Sigma Sound Studios, where it was recorded, was reduced to a memorial panel at 212 North 12th Street, with the facility closing in 2014.


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