Top songs foreigners sang about Germany

This week, The Local has hunted out some of our favourite songs by foreigners about Germany, from Bowie to Beirut.

Top songs foreigners sang about Germany
Photo: obs/Sky Deutschland/Jimmy King

David Bowie – Where Are We Now

This melancholy 2012 release looks back at the time Bowie spent living and creating music in the West Berlin district of Schöneberg in the late 1970s.

Bowie remembers the places and bars he used to visit – and the awesome sight 10 years on when “twenty thousand people / Cross Böse Brücke” – the place where the Berlin Wall was first opened in 1989.

Tom Waits – Reeperbahn

The husky voiced American purveyor of all that is seedy and dark in life must have felt right at home in Hamburg's red light district. And his lyrics wonderful capture the excess and sleaze of the famed Reeperbahn.

'Filled with needles and with fools/ the memories are short but the takes are long/ when you're in the Reeperbahn' he croaks.

Waits is far from the only singer to draw inspiration from the brothels and clubs of the harbour city. Elvis Costello, Van Morrision and Runrig have all also been affected enough by their experiences there to write about it.

Blue Öyster Cult – Me 262

This song was inspired by one of the world's first jet planes, the Messerschmidt Me 262, and its last-ditch defence of the German skies against Allied bombers in the final months of the Second World War.

BOC name-check Westphalia and Freiburg – although neither have much of a connection to designer Willy Messerschmidt or his planes, which were built at the former Bayerische Flugzeugwerke in Bavaria.

It's also one of the first songs (1974) ever to use the phrase “heavy metal” – although Steppenwolf got there before anyone in 1968.

Barbara – Göttingen

A 1964 song by French singer Barbara – who was Jewish and had to hide from the Nazis during the occupation of France – was composed during a visit to the eponymous central German city.

It became one of her best-known works at a time when Germany and France were rebuilding their relationship after the Second World War and sold many thousands of copies in Germany.

Infernal – Paris to Berlin

Danish group Infernal had an instant classic on their hands with the 2005 release of “From Paris to Berlin”, which stormed European charts over the following two years, reaching number one in Denmark and number two in the UK and Ireland.

It was even re-recorded as “From London to Berlin” for England fans with high hopes for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Beirut – Prenzlauer Berg

US-based Beirut released Prenzlauerberg – named after the northeast Berlin district – as part of their first album, Gulag Orkestar, whose front and back covers were torn out of a library book in Leipzig.

Clearly big fans of Deutschland, Beirut also have songs called Rhineland and Brandenburg on their break out album.

Bloc Party – Kreuzberg

English noughties hipsters Bloc Party also weighed into the Berlin love-in with their 2007 release Kreuzberg.

They name check the East Side Gallery and even pull out a bit of Deutsch, talking about crying in the old Bahnhof – so one more word of German than most London hipsters who actually live in Berlin then.

Unsurprisingly Berlin's most famous counterculture neighbourhood crops up in quite a few recent odes. We particularly like the lyric 'Kreuz is German for Williams' from folk-punk band Andrew Jackson Jihad – the lyrics is apparently a reference to the similarity to Brooklyn's hipster district Williamsburg.

Ben Folds – Cologne

In this song the American singer-songwriter mopes about in a hotel in Cologne after separating from a lover at the western city's train station.

Folds seems aware of that of the fact that he's not used the German name of the town, singing 'Here in Cologne – I know I said it wrong.'

Peaches and Iggy Pop – Kick It

We couldn't include Bowie without having his old friend Iggy along for the ride. In this 2003 single he collaborates with Peaches – also based in the German capital – for a rock-n-roll rant that ends with “make your way to Berlin”.

Regina Spektor – Düsseldorf

The American singer/songwriter gives listeners a tour of Europe in this 2006 release, stopping off in Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Berlin along the way. The song featured on the bonus disc of Spektor's 2006 album Begin to Hope, which was named the 21st best album of the year by Rolling Stone.

SEE ALSO: What expats love – and hate – about Germany







Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Dancing like there’s no Covid: first German nightclub reopens in Leipzig

For techno enthusiast Philipp Koegler, it almost felt like a normal Saturday night again as he joined 200 fellow revellers at "Distillery", the first German nightclub to reopen since the start of the pandemic.

Dancing like there's no Covid: first German nightclub reopens in Leipzig
A file photo of a disco ball in a night club. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Britta Pedersen

“Tonight, there are no rules,” the almost 30-year-old told AFP, whipping off his mask on his way to the dance floor.

Despite more than a year of closures forced by the coronavirus, it didn’t take long for the thumping beats, low lights and buzzing crowds to reawaken the much-missed club atmosphere.

“It feels like I’ve come back after being away on vacation for a week,” Koegler beamed.

But of course there are some rules to restarting the party, even in Germany where coronavirus infections have declined steadily in recent weeks as the pace of vaccinations has picked up.

The Distillery club in the eastern city of Leipzig, which bills itself as the oldest techno venue in Germany’s former Communist east, is taking part in a pilot project supported by scientists from the Max Planck institute and the local university hospital.

Just 200 club-goers are allowed in instead of the usual 600 and each person must take two different kinds of coronavirus tests earlier in the day, with entry granted only if they test negative both times.

Once inside, the masks can come off and revellers don’t have to socially distance.

Each participant also agrees to being re-tested a week later, to uncover potential infections despite the precautions taken.


Organisers hope the project can serve as a blueprint for further club re-openings to help the hard-hit sector back on its feet after a devastating year.

Although several venues in Germany experimented with open-air parties, club-goer Konny said it “just isn’t the same”.

“In the club, you’re in a different world,” she said.

Growing influence

Distillery manager Steffen Kache expressed pride at being the first club in the country to reopen indoors.

“Everyone is jealous,” he told AFP.

Kache said that if there has been an upside to the pandemic closures, it was that politicians had woken up to the social and economic importance of Germany’s vibrant club culture.

Lawmakers last month agreed to reclassify nightclubs as cultural institutions rather than entertainment venues, putting them on a par with
theatres and museums to provide more protection and tax benefits.

Germany’s nightlife capital Berlin alone – home to iconic clubs Berghain, KitKat and Tresor – usually attracts tens of thousands of foreign visitors each year who generate over a billion euros in revenues.   

Many observers fear that when the pandemic dust has settled, not all of Germany’s clubs will have survived the lengthy shutdowns.

The collaboration with local authorities that made Distillery’s pilot project possible was “unthinkable before the crisis”, Kache said, and evidence of a “reconciliation” between underground club culture and the political establishment.

He said he hoped the next step would be “the nationwide reopening of cultural spots and clubs, without Covid restrictions”.