The Berlin Wall

Thirty years ago today the Berlin Wall began to crumble. The exodus of thousands of East Germans had begun in the summer as Hungary relaxed its travel restrictions following Gorbachev’s softening of the USSR’s position, not least his economic decision to start pulling the Red Army out of the satellite states. Many East Germans realised they could travel to Hungary from Dresden and from Hungary westwards to F.R.G. On the night of the 9th November 1989 the East German government, faced with a losing battle and  mounting civil unrest lifted the their own travel restrictions. A bemused official at a press conference, when asked when the freedom to travel from East to West Berlin came into effect, shuffled his papers, shrugged and suggested from now. Crowds began to gather at the wall and pass through the border points without any kinds of checks. Guards looked on but did nothing. More and more people arrived. Some climbed the wall. Some danced on top of it. West Berliners arrived with hammers and chisels and started taking chunks out of the wall. East Berliners flooded into the western side of the city and filled the bars. Euphoric crowds partied through the night. Berlin had been divided by the wall since August 1961. Over 130 people were killed trying to cross it. Watching these events of November 1989 live on TV was bizarre and sticks in the memory as one of the seeming certainties of life vanished.

The Berlin Wall is littered through pop culture. Bowie and ‘Heroes’ and Iggy at Hansa in the shadow of the wall, Johnny Rotten in Holidays In The Sun ‘I gotta go over the wall/please don’t be waiting for meeee’, Keith Haring painting the western side of it, West Berlin’s isolation and interzone status, acting as a magnet for all sorts of outlaws, artists and reprobates- Einsturzende Neubauten, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. On the eastern side of the Wall life was more dangerous especially for those who chose a non- conformist lifestyle. There’s a set of photographs here of East Berlin punks, photographed, arrested, beaten and harassed by the Stasi for their dress and haircuts.

The pictures above are from my visit to Berlin a few years ago. The section of Wall with the graffiti on it, the only real length of Wall still sanding in the city centre, is poignant- ‘Astrid,maybe some day we will be together’. Checkpoint Charlie is more of a tourist trap but worth a visit. The line the Wall took is laid into the streets in Berlin so you can follow the line of it but it’s difficult to visit today and picture the city of the 70s and 80s, divided in two, with watchtowers, the death strip, machine gun posts and roads stopping suddenly, bisected by a concrete Cold War boundary marker.

This is from a series of remixes and re-edits released on the legendary Trax label, classic Chicago house music redone for the 2010s. Bring Down The Walls by Robert Owens, re-edited by Leo Zero.

Bring Down The Walls (Leo Zero re-edit)

Unconditional

This is very good, a new one from Doc Daneeka with a vocal from house legend Robert Owens, recorded in Berlin. The rhythm track becomes increasingly busy, the synths phasing in and out and the vocal twisting further around, repeatedly coming back to the word ‘unconditional’. Vinyl only at the moment from here.