Live In Berlin (1978) album coverRecorded: 16 May 1978
Producers: David Bowie, Aisha Cohen, Nigel Reeve

Released: 2 March 2018

David Bowie: vocals, Chamberlin
Adrian Belew: lead guitar, vocals
Carlos Alomar: rhythm guitar, vocals
George Murray: bass guitar, vocals
Roger Powell: keyboards, synthesizer, vocals
Dennis Davis: drums, percussion
Simon House: electric violin
Sean Mayes: piano, string ensemble, vocals

Tracklisting:

Live In Berlin (1978) was an eight-song mini album sold in 2018 at the David Bowie Is exhibition in Brooklyn, New York City.

The live show

The music was recorded on 16 May 1978 at the Deutschlandhalle in West Berlin, during Bowie’s Isolar II tour. The front cover features a shot taken by fan Antoine Loogman at the show.

The audience was seated throughout the show, although a single fan in the front row stood to dance during ‘Station To Station’. A military man, also at the front, signalled to security to stop the fan, but Bowie ordered them to leave him. The singer’s protestations were ignored, so Bowie halted the band – telling them “No! Nein! Stop!” – until they let the boy go.

The sound quality was below the normal standard of Bowie’s live releases, which was reflected in a note on the rear cover which read:

These recordings have been mastered from the only available source to provide the best quality possible. We hope the historical importance of the recordings outweigh any imperfections inherent in the source and does not detract from your enjoyment of the performances.

The album was produced for release by Nigel Reeve for Warner Music, and Aisha Cohen for RZO Music.

Three of the eight songs – ‘Be My Wife’, ‘Breaking Glass’ and ‘Sense Of Doubt’ – had previously been released on major streaming services for just five days from Tuesday 26 September 2017, ahead of the release of the A New Career In A New Town (1977–1982) box set.

One of the other recordings, ‘Blackout’, had been the b-side of the 40th anniversary ‘Beauty And The Beast’ 7” picture disc, released on 5 January 2018. The other four recordings on the album – “Heroes”, ‘Fame’, ‘Alabama Song’, and ‘Rebel Rebel’ – were previously unreleased.

The release

Live In Berlin (1978) was released on the day David Bowie Is opened at the Brooklyn Museum on 2 March 2018.

Brooklyn was the final stop for David Bowie Is, the touring exhibition of Bowie’s costumes and artefacts. It ran at the Brooklyn Museum from 2 March to 15 July 2018, having previously been hosted in London, Toronto, São Paulo, Berlin, Chicago, Paris, Melbourne, Groningen, Bologna, Tokyo, and Barcelona.

Live In Berlin (1978) was one of three vinyl releases at the Brooklyn exhibition. The others were a 7″ single containing the US single edit of ‘Time’/’The Prettiest Star’, which, like the Berlin LP, was exclusive to the exhibition; and iSelect, a red vinyl version of the 12-song compilation which had first been made available at the Paris exhibition.

The live mini album was released on semi-opaque orange vinyl, with a cover photograph taken by Antoine Loogman, a fan at the concert. The LP was shrinkwrapped with a sticker on the front which read:

David Bowie – Live In Berlin (1978) cover sticker

Brooklyn Museum,
New York, U.S.A.

David Bowie Is
Exclusive

Orange Vinyl

Due to the exclusive nature of the recordings, and the limited time they were on sale for, the mini album quickly became highly sought after by collectors, with prices peaking at over $300 on eBay. The vinyl was sold on the Brooklyn Museum’s website for a time after the exhibition closed.

The artwork

The cover photograph was taken by Antoine Loogman, a fan from the Netherlands who was visiting Berlin at the time of the show.

Early 1978, my parents wanted to visit Berlin. To their great surprise, I asked if I could join them and they agreed that I could. Almost as soon as we arrived I told them about the Bowie concert taking place that same evening that I had read about in a German teenage magazine called ‘Bravo‘. We drove to the Deutschlandhalle at once, so I could buy the last ticket in the afternoon for a seat at the back but on the ground floor.

When the houselights went out I ran forward to the second row and some nice Germans allowed me to squeeze in. So close to my hero! I was already very interested in making concert photos and had taken my Canon AE-1, with 50mm 1:18 lens, which was no problem during concerts at that time. Bowie’s show was beautifully lit with red, yellow and blue lights. During ‘Breaking Glass’ I captured a picture of Bowie with outstretched arm “I’ll never touch you!”. Sadly I had just the one 35mm roll of film. I can still remember the smell of incense in the hall. David was pretty happy!

During the song ‘Station To Station’, there was a boy dancing on his chair who was led away by rather heavy-handed security. Bowie saw the episode unfolding so he stopped the band and yelled at the security; “No, no, let him go!”. The grateful boy was allowed to return to his place in the audience, accompanied by loud cheering from the crowd. This was the signal for everyone to join in and dance on their seats. ‘Station To Station’ was played again in its entirety during the encore. What a show!

I had to wait almost forty years to be able to hear some songs from that show, and with the release of the orange vinyl David Bowie Live In Berlin 1978 album for the David Bowie Is exhibition in Brooklyn last year, not only could I finally hear them, but I even had my ‘Breaking Glass’ shot selected for the cover. An official Bowie release! What an honour!

Antoine Loogman
Bowie Kooks Facebook group, 17 June 2019