SDE Berlin Diary: Day One
A year on from his ‘exploits’ in New York City, SDE Editor, Paul Sinclair, heads to Berlin for a few days, to walk in the shadow of Bowie and Iggy, take a tour of Hansa Tonstudio, go record shopping and meet up with a few interesting people…
Day 1 / Thursday 17 November
Two great minds think alike. The day a certain Barack Obama decides to drop in to Berlin to say ‘hallo’ to Angela Merkel is also the day that I’m coming into town to fly the flag for SDE. I booked my flights ages ago, so there.
Actually POTUS’s presence hasn’t been without issues. Not unsurprisingly, security levels are rather high and at one point the captain on our flight announced that the runway on Schönefeld Airport was closed because Obama was there. This turned out to be inaccurate and it was later clarified that while the runway was closed, it was due to an immoveable plane blocking it (it had a burst tyre). We had been due to land early (thanks to a gusty tail wind) but due to this one and only runway being closed, the captain took his foot off the ‘gas’ and started flying at the plane equivalent of a snail’s pace (probably still over 400 miles an hour, to be fair) in the hope that things would be sorted by the time we turned up. They weren’t, so after a bit of faffing around in a ‘holding pattern’, we were forced to go to Prague to refuel.
Security is high in Berlin when SDE is in town…
I was starting to regret my decision not to bother eating on the plane, which was taken when our expected landing time was 3pm. It was now 5pm and I wasn’t even in the right country! By some minor miracle we didn’t need to disembark. We refuelled, took off again (with a second safety announcement, by the same crew to the same passengers!) and landed in Berlin, just after six. Phew!
But my plans to head out and do some late afternoon record shopping were in tatters. By the time I’d picked up the luggage (semi-empty bag in ‘the hold’, for Berlin record purchases), stood in a massive queue to change my WelcomeCard voucher for the real thing (the WelcomeCard is a travelcard-type ticket which allows you to get around on trains, trams and buses) and then hot-footed it into Berlin city centre to the hotel, it was 8pm. I’m sure I got to New York more quickly, last year. And I bet POTUS didn’t have these problems.
My travel guide book informed of some super-duper express train from the airport, but the guy at the information desk said I needed the S9 and S5/S75, which is the overground/mainline train which chugs along at a leisurely pace. I nearly got lost when I had to change at Ostkreuz, but hit ‘Gold’ when I spotted the sign to Spandau (sorry).
Anyway, even though it was fairly late, after checking in and freshening up, I thought I may as well go for a stroll and explore the area a little bit. So I walked down Friedrichstraße and unexpectedly hit the motherlode by coming across a shop called Dussmann (tagline is “das KulturKaufhaus” – literal translation, the culture store).
Dussman was open until 11.30pm and has the vibe of a Borders or Barnes and Noble. From the window it looked mainly about books, but I suspected they’d have a music section. Did they!? It was amazing. For a start it was absolutely enormous, with not only separate vinyl and CD (and DVD) sections but old-school segregation for “Indie”, “Hip Hop”, “Soul”, “Jazz”, “Classical” etc.
The most impressive thing was the stock. They had EVERYTHING. They had the best selection of box sets I’ve ever seen in any music store, ever. Check out the photo below (click to enlarge) – that was one wall devoted to box sets but they had loads more box sets in other areas.
The Berlin Wall of box sets at Dussmann
They had TWO separate displays devoted to the Pink Floyd Early Years box set, including one with the box open so you could examine the contents (take that HMV, with your ‘keeping it behind the counter’ mentality), a big display for Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Bob Dylan (and also loads of his new The 1966 Recordings box set)
Two displays of the Pink Floyd box set and loads of stock (click to enlarge)
Plenty of Dylan’s new box (€129.99)
Dussman had all the new releases including all the Crowded House reissues and the CD+DVD super deluxe of Sting‘s new 57th & 9th which was the first time I’d actually seen what these look like! They had the deluxe and the standard CD as well. It’s was a great reminder that when you are immersed a a wonderful environment, created by people who take your passion as seriously as you do, you just want to pick up product and buy it. You aren’t in a quibbling, ‘I-think-I-might-be-able-to-get-this-€2-cheaper-down-the-road’ frame of mind. You really aren’t.
I could rave about this shop all day. They even had a section within the vinyl area for ‘audiophile’ pressings. And nice to see the art of the window display hasn’t been lost with this lovely tribute to Leonard Cohen (he was featured heavily inside).
Having spent 11 hours on the road, visiting Dussman was a lovely end to a tiring day. I nearly bought loads, but in the end picked up that ‘expanded’ vinyl reissue of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions‘ Rattlesnakes which LC was miffed about. I’d never seen it before and it was only €19. I also grabbed the Sting super deluxe. Not cheap at €40 but better than the £50 Amazon UK wanted for it. Photos of this coming soon. When buying these bits I commented to the man at the cash desk that the shop was amazing for music. He looked surprised, espcially when I told him I was from London. But I assured him it was better than anything in Central London, including the big HMV in Oxford Street.
Friday will be a day of searching out record shops that sell new and used music. Check back tomorrow for day two of my Berlin Diary.