What's the best book on night clubs

: Book about Berlin nightlife: Heroes of Darkness

Every day, when twilight absorbs the city's facades, Berlin changes its face. Some people are driven by darkness into their houses, others are lured into the streets in the first place. Night hikers are driven to the bars and clubs of that city, where you can party 24 hours a day.

These places - whether illegal bars, concert halls, hipster disco or punk bars - have established Berlin's reputation as the “world capital of nightlife” for almost four decades. Wolfgang Farkas, Stefanie Seidl and Heiko Zwirner dare a panopticon of this: In their richly illustrated anthology “Nightlife Berlin”, which is being published by Metrolit-Verlag these days, they let authors, DJs, bar shoppers, dramaturges, club bosses and musicians tell the stories which took place from 1973 to the present day in the night shelters of this city. Sometimes anecdotal, sometimes atmospheric, protocols, essays, interviews and reports illuminate the legendary places of hedonistic Berlin.

The book is divided into three major chapters on the culture of celebration. The journey through time begins in Schöneberg, which developed into the center of nightlife in the early 1970s. With the opening of the “Chez Romy Haag” travesty bar, the transsexual of the same name sparked the beginning of a subculture that was to flourish in a particularly diverse way in the boundaries of West Berlin.

In times when half a liter of beer still cost fifty pfennigs and the outdoor seating culture was invented in Café Mitropa, David Bowie found himself in the arms of Romy Haag, while Iggy Pop hung out on the other bank, Andy Warhol dined with his factory crew in exile, the Neue Wilden populated the Paris bar and Rio Reiser put on tapes in the jungle. And in the Kreuzberger SO36, the rat Jenny beat up the young Martin Kippenberger, twice.

Risk, ruin and no man's land

The names of the shops alone - Risk, Ruin, Shizzo, Intensive Care Unit, No Man's Land - testify to the attitude towards life in a city, the edges of which appeared to be the end of the world. Actors of this time such as Bernd Cailloux, Wolfgang Müller, Claudia Skoda, Salomé, Gudrun Gut or Jochen Arbeit cast their memory spots on those places, behind whose entrance doors one not only shared butts and coke, but above all a common self-image. During those forays one meets David Bowie on every street corner of a text, who came in 1976 from London to the "world capital of heroin", as he is supposed to have said. Of course, the stories are sometimes accompanied by the subjective and distant pride of having been there - and at times their truthfulness can also be questioned. The counter of a bar has always been the best birthplace for legends, where a dash of nostalgia glorifies the foggy gaps in memories of the previous evening. But that's the way it is when you are at the right bar at the right time in a city like Berlin.

While in West Berlin the underground slowly matured into pop culture and soon punk was also industrialized, the book also takes a somewhat too brief look into the east of the city, where the tip was called “dust” and the music that you wanted to hear wasn't playing. You wander through the Fengler, the Mosaik, the Hackepeter, the Schoppenstube, the Scala, the Sputnik or the Kaffee Burger, "in 1999 that had to become what it should have been before 1989", as Jörg Sundermeier remarks in retrospect.

With the fall of the wall, an era ended - also in nightlife. And a new one began: "Old houses, new spheres" describes, in the name of the second chapter of the book, the programmatic superstructure of that interim period up to the turn of the millennium. In Berlin-Mitte and Friedrichshain, parties were celebrated in buildings for which there was not even a rental agreement. Club culture blossomed for the first time, with paintings, light installations and, last but not least, the influence of the digital. The transition period was particularly noticeable in Berlin's nightlife. "Going out was a scavenger hunt, with which one appropriated the new city, the unknown Middle East at the same time," writes Christiane Rösinger. Berlin was an adventure playground - old garages, basement holes or fallow land were hotspots for a short time before the city's real estate was redistributed.

As part of a temporary structure, clubs like Cookies or the WMF inevitably became nomads, which the night folk followed sometimes more, sometimes less. With the first big Love Parade in 1991, techno culture moved into the city and settled in new clubs such as the Tresor, Planet and later the E-Werk. At the same time, with the Love Parade, sex also found its way into the clubs. For example, Jackie A. describes how, as a counter worker from the east, instead of in the glittering world of capitalism, she was stranded in a windowless ex-Nazi building called a bunker amidst masturbating half-naked people. Johannes Steinbeck, the former managing director of 90 Grad, knows that you had to give the toilet bouncer a twenty so that you could fuck in his small cleaning room.

The third part of the volume covers the years from 2001 to 2013 and can only begin with a text about the club monolith that still lures planes full of weekend tourists to Berlin: the Berghain. The text by blogger Airen, whose descriptions seem to be based on memories rather than current visits, shows that not much time has to pass to fill those nights in the techno cathedral with nostalgia. A visit with the author Walter Kaul in the attached men's sex club Laboratory is far more revealing. Or the interview with the dramaturge Matthias Lilienthal, who knew how to reformulate the insignia of nightlife on the cultural scene.

: // about blank and king size bar

The last third of “Nightlife” takes the reader on a foray through today's Berlin, whose clubs and bars have wandered further and further in the direction of Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain or Neukölln. You end up in WestGermany, where "sweat dripped from the tiled walls" in summer, in Café Kotti or the Würgeengel, who "is just Kreuzberg and not Kreuzberg." You learn from Tobias Rapp like this: // about blank his left-wing radicals Implementing club culture and Martin Kwade that Vicky Leandros, Lothar Matthäus and the Guttenbergs like to go to the King Size Bar. Last but not least, you can meet friendly Berlin police officers at an unannounced open-air rave under the Warschauer Brücke.

From 1974 to today: Together with all those nocturnal figures, you trudge 300 pages through their memories and the history of night culture, which is illustrated with around 400 previously unpublished photos. With “Nightlife Berlin”, the three editors have succeeded in a comprehensive book project that no one has dared to do before. As in any club, no matter how high-tech, it is also in this book: The spot of the headlights never reaches everywhere, someone always stays in the dark. In the preface to “Berlin Nightlife”, the editors levered out the obvious weakness of such a large-scale project, the claim to completeness. And tear out stories and pictures that are missing: for example, how Rio Reiser composed “King of Germany” at the piano at night in 1977 in his shared apartment on Belziger Strasse, or like the only photo showing Karl Lagerfeld in the Kumpelnest at a meeting in May Wind was blown into the Landwehr Canal and sank there forever.

How many great stories have sunk not in the canal but in the gaps in memory cannot be measured. But the nightlife goes on: every day new legends are born, whether true or not, precisely because this city never sheds the nimbus of the unfinished. Today, new nomads wander through the nights in search of adventure and places of longing. Until the dawn comes, even if that is not until the day after tomorrow.

Wolfgang Farkas, Stefanie Seidl, Heiko Zwirner (Hrsg.): Nightlife Berlin: 1974 to today. Metrolit Verlag, Berlin 2013. 304 pp., 36 euros.

To publish the book A two-day festival with readings, discussions, concerts and DJ sets takes place at HAU: with Westbam, Wolfgang Müller, Claudia Skoda, Gudrun Gut, Jim Avignon, Christiane Rösinger and many others. On Friday and Saturday, October 11th and 12th, from 8 p.m.