Kraftwerk was the most important and influential German musical act of the 1970s, and David Bowie and Iggy Pop spent a few years in Berlin in the late 1970s in one of their most productive phases. The two camps never actually worked together, and there’s been no shortage of speculation about that.
For his part, Bowie insisted that Kraftwerk was not a significant influence on his Berlin output. In an interview for Uncut in 1999, Bowie did credit Kraftwerk for directing his attention to Europe, but felt that their methods and aims were sharply different:
My attention had been swung back to Europe with the release of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn in 1974. The preponderance of electronic instruments convinced me that this was an area that I had to investigate a little further.
Much has been made of Kraftwerk’s influence on our Berlin albums. Most of it lazy analyses, I believe. Kraftwerk’s approach to music had in itself little place in my scheme. Theirs was a controlled, robotic, extremely measured series of compositions, almost a parody of minimalism. One had the feeling that Florian and Ralf were completely in charge of their environment, and that their compositions were well prepared and honed before entering the studio. My work tended to expressionist mood pieces, the protagonist (myself) abandoning himself to the zeitgeist (a popular word at the time), with little or no control over his life. The music was spontaneous for the most part and created in the studio.
As David Buckley put it in Publikation, his book on Kraftwerk, “What is known is that the Bowie camp and the Kraftwerk camp were on friendly terms.”
Further evidence of that claim popped up in the well-regarded 2009 documentary on German prog music from the ‘70s, Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany. Iggy Pop is featured telling a story of going shopping with Florian Schneider and one other member of Kraftwerk. According to Pop, Schneider indicated that it was “asparagus season,” and so he would be visiting the market to “select some asparagus.” Pop responded that he would be happy to join Schneider and told the interviewer that they ended up “having a very nice time.”
I lived in Austria for a few years in my twenties, and I can attest that people in Mitteleuropa do take “asparagus season” quite seriously. It occurs in May and June. The usual term for it is Spargelzeit, which is not an album by Cluster but just a term meaning “asparagus time.”
Also, in America we think of asparagus as a green vegetable but in Germany they prefer the white variety which looks quite different and also has a more subtle flavor.
An artist going by the name gagambo on Deviant Art has helpfully immortalized the big moment for posterity:
A brief clip of Iggy discussing the grand event:
The full BBC4 documentary—Iggy’s story about the asparagus is about 47 minutes in:
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany