Bowie’s time in Berlin continues to exert an almost mythical fascination, at least for biographers. First published in German in 2008, Rüther’s book is certainly well researched.
It also makes a fair job of placing him in a wider cultural context, with Berlin’s status as a fading artistic hub, hopelessly caught between East and West – an ideal spot for Bowie to find the anonymity he craved. Cue bike rides, lakeside walks, rivers of booze and nights out with transsexuals and Iggy Pop.
But interviews with tangential figures like Hansa Studios’ engineer Eduard Meyer, singer Antonia Maass and Neu!’s Michael Rother – none of whom were tight with Bowie – fail to throw fresh light on Rüther’s subject. Instead he relies on conjecture and assumption to join the dots between Bowie’s personal and creative lives. And one more thing: why do a book about Berlin and slap the Thin White Duke on the cover?