Features

SDE Berlin Diary: Day One

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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…

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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.

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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!

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Prague, yesterday.

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.

img_20161117_192802My 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).

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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.

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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)

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Two displays of the Pink Floyd box set and loads of stock (click to enlarge)
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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.

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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).

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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 CommotionsRattlesnakes 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.

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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.

paulsig

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60 responses to SDE Berlin Diary: Day One

  1. ANDREW r says:

    What is it about this country ? There is nowhere that you could find an opened Floyd box set,
    firstly someone would nick part of it , secondly the broad attitude is “buy it or don’t buy it “with a shoulder shrug. This is a small but pertinent sign of the difference between europe and the uk
    and crucially one of the intangibles we will miss when Brexit kicks in. Thanks Paul really interesting piece.

    • Jim says:

      Talk of people nicking stuff from the Pink Floyd no reminds me that the Pink Floyd CDs used to be the only ones in the display racks in Glasgow HMV with no discs I them. Eventually they even stopped putting out empty boxes with artwork and had plain cases with the title on a sticker.

      • Tonk says:

        Blame Pet Shop Boys fans – 80’s casuals, discovered PSB, then discovered spliffs and Floyd and then, in Virgin shops after losing every single PSB insert for weeks and months on end, it became all Floyd inserts . . .
        The stories I could tell!

    • Henrik Kirkegaard says:

      Super again paul
      Respect for this shop
      I hope you do video’s of the sting box and pink floyd and Bob dylan
      Great that someone cares for music
      These shop’s are closing
      It’s a shame

    • richie says:

      Andrew, don`t be too quick to put the UK down re: pinching stuff on display. I was at a `Show of Hands` (folk band, they have a triple CD set for those interested, it`s great. I now have all their stuff), right back to my point. At the merch tables there were loads of CDs/DVDs on display with a sign saying `The roadie would be selling stuff at the interval`, no one `pinched` anything so there are still honest and good folk in the UK.

      Paul, have a great time in Berlin, hopefully me and Mrs richie have chosen Berlin for our next city break, that`s when we can afford it. That shop looks great and you are eight when you are “immersed a a wonderful environment” you do want to buy stuff and enjoy doing so. Enjoy!

  2. Mike the Fish says:

    There’s a certain joy in delivering a terrible joke like the Spandau one. Good work.

  3. elliott buckingham says:

    any mov release under £20 is a bargain

  4. Andrew Mogford says:

    Ah yes. I spent HOURS in this shop :) my girlfriend at the time used to live just round the corner and most of my salary got spent in here :)

    Berlin is a wonderfully relaxed friendly city with a great attitude to culture. You will find wonderful little dens and great second hand shops but for new stuff you’ve probably hit the mother lode on your first day Paul.

    • Tom of FIN says:

      Fantastic tip, Paul, cheers. Been to Berlin several times – and again within a few weeks – but never noticed Dussmann. Maybe also because purchasing vinyl practically only online for the past fifteen years or so.

  5. Stefano says:

    Dussmann is my first stop when I’m going back to Berlin, that’s for sure! Wow, what a beauty.
    I visited the Media Markt at Alexander Platz the last time I was in Berlin, and was amazed to see the enormous CD floor. The have a special corner with many interesting titles on sale. You should take a look at that one too (take bus 100 or 200). But beware, there are 2 Media Markt stores at Alexander Platz. You should take the one situated directly at the square and not the one in the Alexa shopping mall.

    • Ziv Barber says:

      The name is Saturn and not Media Market. Same owner but different shop.

    • Fatima says:

      Re. Alexanderplatz – There is no MediaMarkt at Alexanderplatz, the megastore mentioned is called SATURN (same company, different store concept). The actual MediaMarkt (in Alexa shopping center across the street) is quite good after the recent relaunch. Their SDE wall is even bigger than at Dussman, and the vinyl section is gorgeous (and much cheaper than in the specialist shops around town…)

  6. Miguel Rocha says:

    I remember getting the same joy 16 years ago, driving into Olympia (between Portland and Seattle) and seeing the Sleater Kinney exit sign on the highway! With regards the Floyd box, I haven’t even seen one, open or sealed, here in Toronto!!! Still excitedly waiting for my order to arrive from Amazon.uk.

    • Simon F says:

      You will love it when it arrives Miguel. So much utterly fantastic music and other stuff to discover. A real labour of love and worth every penny. Enjoy!

      • Miguel Rocha says:

        I hesitated for a moment when it was first announced but it really does look like so much love went into this! I feel like a little kid again…I can’t wait!!!

  7. Gerd says:

    Paul, on Saturday you can go to The Human League who are playing in Berlin…

  8. Dan says:

    Thanks Paul. Really interesting article and I’m enjoying the experience with you (remotely at least). I recall the days in the 80s and 90s when I could browse for hours in such stores. My girlfriend would patiently wait on some nearby steps immersed in reading a book and grade the shops by their friendliness to non-music lovers, like a place to sit and have a tea or coffee whilst waiting. We have both covered countless CD and record stores in many places in Europe and America. I have particularly fond memories of place like FNAC in France and Free Record Shop in Holland. A few in Belgium too were great for a good browse and finding CDs or LPs of interest..
    Now however, I’m guilty of getting my ‘musical kicks’ from downloading all the albums I want from sites like Google Music. Saves me a sodding fortune and of course heaps of time. But I do recall those days when ‘hunting’ for music was absolutely everything for me. Keep up the great work, Paul

  9. Spencer says:

    Thanks for the update Paul. Wish I could see all that for myself. But I’ve got enough to see in the good ‘ol US of A first! What a record shop. Would never, ever see anything remotely like that near where I live or anyone else. If only I had the coin, I’d open a shop like that for me and all my audiophile friends. WOW!! Look forward to your next installment. God speed your travels.

  10. DaveM says:

    Wow, that shop looks stunning and is how it should be done.

  11. Daran says:

    Do I spot Mark Reeder’s ‘Berlin’ SDE box up in the bright yellow on main picture Paul. I think so. If ever there was an appropriate thing to buy whilst you are there…..

    For those who don’t know ex-pat Mark Reeder (DJ / Musician) has made a feature film from footage he has dating back to the 80’s and the fall of the wall. It’s 100% about Berlin’s underground music culture from that era (+ some of the dodgy stuff like sex and drugs).

  12. Daran says:

    … it’s the one with the capital ‘B’ on the front.

  13. Daran says:

    Any interesting / rare Depeche stuff in the shops there Paul?

  14. Colin Mitchell says:

    Looking forward to day 2! Keep a look out for that book for me too won’t you Paul!

  15. J says:

    Paul
    Don’t miss the 33rpm Store (Wrangelstraße 95, 10997 Berlin). Eccentric does not begin to describe what they have. And they have good snacks next door. I was born & raised in Deutschland and you will love this shop
    J

  16. ken says:

    It reminds me of the days when record shops were good. Going downtown on a Friday night and checking out Sam the Record Man, A&A, Peter Dunn’s Vinyl Museum, Sunrise and Records on Wheels. Back then a record release was celebrated with stacks of records at the front and posters. When you went to the artist’s section you would find almost all if not all their releases.
    Now there are less shops, less music in them and they display more videos, t-shirts, trinkets and headphones then music.
    Thank goodness for vinyl or there would be less shops. I went to the local HMV and noticed that the vinyl section had grown immensely. At least there’s something still keeping music alive at our shops.

    • Roberto says:

      There was a Peter Dunns Vinyl Museum down here in Clearwater, Florida. Eventually his brother took it over and it was one of my favorite hangouts

  17. David Stanley says:

    Although you may complain about London vs. Berlin in terms of record stores, in America we have nothing. Even Manhattan is lacking to me, as there’s only some small shops–we’ve lost Tower, Virgin, and so many small stores. I have to drive an hour and a half to Princeton, New Jersey for the quite fab Princeton Record Exchange. California has it much better with the incredible Amoeba, although the L.A. store is threatened, apparently. Otherwise, the average person here has to order online–the only mass retailers with CDs are places like Target and Best Buy which are pitiful with shrinking and neglected add-on music sections. I’m travelling to the UK next month and look forward to checking out every HMV and Fopp I can that may seem so ho-hum to people there. But now I really really want to go to Berlin.

    • Mike the Fish says:

      You may even find vinyl in some of our supermarkets!

    • ZoetMB says:

      I was just going to write pretty much the same thing. I find it incredulous that in a place that’s supposed to be one of the media and cultural capitals of the world, where we used to have a record store in almost every neighborhood, there are now almost none and no large stores with deep stock, with the possible exception of Rough Trade in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which is far smaller than what we used to have, but does have a pretty good vibe and even has some concerts.

      When I was a kid in the early 60’s, my favorite thing was to hang out at Spinning Disc records on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. I would take in the vibe and read the Billboard, Cash Box and Record World magazines that they’d leave on the counters and observe what people were buying and browsing the LPs, even when I didn’t have the money to buy anything. And nearby, on Fordham Road, in addition to the Alexanders department store selling the top-40 stuff pretty cheaply, there were two independent shops, one of which, “Cousins”, had a speaker outside in the doorway that was probably a cheap piece of garbage, but sounded so incredibly great, it actually used to make me sweat when they’d play some great R&B single!

      And then there were the early chains like the original Sam Goody’s on west 49th street (and other locations) in Manhattan, where in the mid-60’s, long before Woodstock, I walked in and saw a floor display of hundreds of copies of Richie Haven’s “Mixed Bag”, long before anyone but WBAI (public radio) listeners knew who he was. There was just something about that album and I noticed that Harvey Brooks was playing bass and I bought it without ever hearing Havens’ music before. And in addition to the independent shops like “House of Oldies”, there was J&R and Tower Records and later Virgin and HMV, but now everything is gone.

      There was this incredibly tiny (not more than 3 people could stand in the store at a time) at street level at the DeKalb avenue subway stop in Brooklyn. Because they had no storage space, they had to put everything they received out immediately. They charged list price, but they had the records available for sale before the chains did. I remember buying the first Blood, Sweat & Tears and Electric Flag albums there, shocked that they had them.

      The Millennials really don’t understand what they’re missing. And the same thing is happening to bookstores. Barnes & Noble hasn’t been renewing any leases and most independent bookstores in NYC are long gone. This isn’t just Amazon’s, Apple’s or Spotify’s fault, although e-commerce certainly played a large role. It’s the fault of incredibly greedy landlords who demand rents that are impossible for media retailers to pay. NYC has also lost 31% of the number of movie theaters and 17% of the screen count (in spite of some new builds) since 2001. Since July of 2012, we’ve lost almost 20% of the seats, although a lot of that is due to the theaters installing lounge seating.

      So the once supposed cultural capital of the world is now severely lacking culture and instead has an over-abundance of Starbucks, banks, phone stores and bad fast food restaurants.

  18. Alexander says:

    I used to work round the corner of Dussmann back in 99 to 02. It was always a joyous walk home when I entered Dussmann. BTW: They were the first to have the shop open after 20h which was difficult back then because of German laws.

  19. Miguel Rocha says:

    I was last in Berlin in ’98 when the central city was building cranes as far as the eye could see. Two highlights were the Jazzcock for obscure free jazz records (especially on the FMP label) and Schallplatten, where I picked up the first dbs and Feelies records! Amongst many others… Now that Potsdamers Platz is completed, time for another visit.

  20. colm47 says:

    I was 15 in 1981 when I visited Berlin with my parents and sisters.
    I remember it was ’81 because they had the wedding of Diana and Charles on TV!!!

    We saw the Wall and the barbed wire at the river where people died trying to escape, among other poignant sights for an impressionable teenager.

    I went again a few years ago and it was fascinating to see the changes and to see the parts that you could not see in 1981. An amazing city with loads to see and do.

    Sadly, I missed that Dussmann shop that looks brilliant.
    Anyone know what the box set to the right of the Stones in the picture is?

    I got the Human League CD box set today by the way Paul.
    The vinyl seems to be delayed until next week.

    Have a great weekend Paul.

    • Paul English says:

      Colm47 – did you buy the Human League set in Dublin? If so, how much?

      • colm47 says:

        Hi Paul

        Yes I did in Tower Records (towerreocrds.ie)

        It was 100 euro for the SDE version that I bought. They only had a few copies in stock.
        While I was there buying mine some was on the phone looking for the CD and vinyl!

        They hadn’t got the vinyl in yet Paul, delayed for some reason.

  21. Jesper Jensen says:

    Thanks for updating on you record buying trips abroad. I enjoy the pictures very much and now I feel like going to FNAC and spend way too much money. Enjoy your weekend in Berlin.

  22. Carlton says:

    The photo of the box set wall reminds me of our dearly departed Virgin Megastore, which was always part of the itinerary every time I went to NYC. I was shocked when it closed, and I miss it so much. When I first started visiting NYC in the 90s, your couldn’t walk more than a block without coming across some sort of record shop. Now I go and I can’t find any other than a couple in the Village. I miss the days of stalking the streets of Manhattan and adding to my collection with discs I didn’t even know existed.

  23. Raj says:

    What a great article. Always fun to read about record stores around the world. If you’re ever interested in coming to Chicago for record shopping let me know!
    I look forward to your further adventures in Berlin

  24. jim vandegrift says:

    Great piece. Safe trip

  25. Chris Lancaster says:

    I used to go to Dussmann when working in Berlin, and was always staggered by the amount of music on display. I remember on one trip there picking up some KLF Japanese import CD box sets (one box set for each single from The White Room), each of which contained literally hours of mixes of each track, and which I have never seen anywhere else. They cost me something like the equivalent of £30 each. I later sold them for over £250 each when times were a bit tough, and have regretted it ever since!

  26. PeterJH says:

    Thanks Paul. Very interesting… and I’m very much looking forward to the next installment!

  27. Andy says:

    This was really interesting. I read somewhere once that the German music market is one of the biggest in the world and that they still favour physical media as opposed to downloads and streaming. This may no longer be the case, but if it is then it might be linked to the type of store described here. British retailers take note!

  28. Eric says:

    I shall be daydreaming about this store for months…..wishing what used to be, and what should still be! A music lover’s heaven.

  29. Paul Trotman says:

    HMV were miserable gits when I lived in London more than 20 years ago.

  30. Hsquare says:

    Dussmann looks great. Tonight a stop at Harvard Square’s Newbury Comics (Massachusetts, USA). Big 2 for 1 CD sale. One Floyd box set on a shelf behind the counter. Sting’s super deluxe box for $31.99. Bought new 2 cd Human League set, new 3 CD set from Stevie Nicks and got Tori Amos Boys for Pele deluxe for free. Sale goes on to 11/27. Some items were sorely missing. No Blackstar on CD. Black Friday record store day approaches… Looks like a great trip. Perhaps Boston/New England next?

  31. gwynogue says:

    Wow, what a beautiful store! If I ever went to Berlin, I’d probably spend DAYS in there and ignore all the sights and attractions. :)

    Like others here, I miss the the good old days of record shops. I’m only in my late 30’s so I missed the real glory days of the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, plus I’ve never lived in big cities so I only had small to average stores to enjoy. All I have now is my local Sanity, where the movie DVD section is getting bigger and bigger while the CD section gets smaller and smaller. :(

    I still manage to find some great stuff on Amazon, eBay, etc., but let’s face it – scrolling through sterile web pages just isn’t the same as wandering around a store all day…picking up, looking at, holding and SMELLING the actual product.

  32. Wolf says:

    Living in the western part of Germany I travel to Berlin for business reasons once or twice a year. Accidentally I have been at Dussmann on Thursday evening around 9pm – and I was surprised if I had met you, Paul. Unfortunately I was not in on your Berlin trip as either WLAN or mobile network were very slow (to non-existent) at my hotel room. Today I went back home as business was over – what a pity, passed up a golden opportunity to meet you…

  33. Pingback:SDE Berlin Diary / Day Four | superdeluxeedition

  34. William M says:

    The hood news is Dussmann also sell online

    http://www.kulturkaufhaus.de/

  35. William M says:

    *good

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