Standing below the Brandenburg Gate, quickly stepping aside out of the path of the advancing quadriga, I wondered if the copper horses, chariot and the goddess of victory might trample me to death. Suppressed by the humidity, elbowed by the marauding tourists, shoved by the screaming girls and the groaning groups of men and keeping a good distance from the very scary naked man on the other side of the square, I realize that summer is really here and I have reached Berlin.
This is also the site of the US embassy, guarded by a heavily bearded polizist, concealing who knows what in his face. Next to that the memorial to “The Murdered Jews Of Europe”, a series of concrete blocks ascending and descending into the earth, depicting the depth of the attempted genocide by the Nazis in the thirties and forties.
But notwithstanding these staged guarded tourist attractions around the city, Berlin still manages to keep the bohemian spirit alive with its graffitied walls, cosmopolitan cafes, art galleries and buzzing streets. Add to this the first few days of the World Cup with screens everywhere showing the games and every cafe and restaurant is alive.
Tragically the only thing I never find in Berlin like London is a public place where I might enjoy any music. Music is always pumped by the owners of the place you are in – those that are skilled in culinary pleasures, boutique beers and feng shui but never by music lovers. If they do pick a music lover he has to like dance music. Where are the cafes that play Can or Cluster in this country? I thought I’d be very smart and list the great contemporary German bands and apart from The Notwist it’s all electronic, dance, rap. Why is that? Are people so influenced by trends? Really? Are we not individuals who trail our own path, trawling through the net discovering different types of music old and new, getting inspired by different genres and then perhaps creating sounds with our own vision attached. I guess not? It seems like the advertisers own the world and tell the population what to listen to. It’s the DJs that pull the crowds in new music, guitars are for old mega bands only.
Still, the Saturday markets here can be fine hunting grounds for vinyl. I found the second MX-80 Sound album, Out Of The Tunnel on Ralph Records from 1980. The 1969 Man album, 2oz Of Plastic With A Hole In the Middle on Pye with the different German cover. A vinyl copy of Sneaker Pimps’ Becoming X and Morcheeba’s Who Can You Trust? – hard to find on vinyl, plus some early seventies and late sixties compilations, one, That’s Underground – one of the first coloured discs.
Back here on earth as the light fades, the heat lingers, the polizei share jokes with each other and despite the constant terrorist alert it looks like the dropping of a child’s ice cream might be the afternoons biggest tragedy. With the first few World Cup games done, including Spain and Portugal’s 3-3 thriller, tomorrow Germany will play Mexico and the city will be gathered around the screens in the sun, drinking beer and cheering for their team. In the meantime Olivia and I will be breathing in the essence of this vibrant city and contemplating moving here, opening the archive and having a place where music is played by the music lovers not the restauranteurs, the boring radio execs or the trend setters – music you can sit down to.