Album of the Day: David Bowie (5/18/79)

Released on May 18, 1979, David Bowie’s Lodger was the final disc in the “Berlin Trilogy” of albums he recorded in collaboration with Roxy Music keyboardist and ambient music pioneer Brian Eno. Along with 1977’s Low and Heroes, Lodger reflects Bowie’s relocation to Berlin, his fascination with contemporary German rock music, and the zeitgeist of living and experiencing the divided city at the height of the Cold War.

Lodger is the most audience-accessible of the three Berlin albums. Whereas Low and Heroes are pervasive with heavy instrumentals, Lodger has none. Its brighter melodies and pop sounds were still mostly experimental in nature, but “Boys Keep Swinging” managed to break the Top 10 at #7 on the U.K. charts and the album as a whole reached #4. That Lodger largely failed to make a dent in the U.S. market is not surprising. The heavy handed Eno-induced synthesizers and Krautrock influences of Lodger did not play well to American listeners who were just beginning to tune to heavy metal and its offshoots. Even though Kraftwerk’s break into the U.S. airwaves with the hypnotic Trans-Europe Express album came ahead of Lodger in 1977, Kraftwerk, while ultimately a highly influential sound, was still viewed as more of a novelty than a serious contender in the U.S. in 1979.

Lodger is underrated at best, but only serious Bowie fans will really appreciate its existential tones and European influences. If you’re adventurous, give it a try on Amazon and iTunes. The less adventurous can sample my Top 25 Bowie tracks in the Playlist Vault.

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