The summer of 1987 saw West Berlin host a series of open air concerts close to the Berlin Wall. Artists including David Bowie , The Eurythmics and Genesis appeared to large crowds in front of the Reichstag . On the other side of the Wall, thousands of East German fans tried to get as close to the Wall as possible to hear the music coming from the West. They were met with heavy resistance from the guards policing the border, which led to clashes between border guards and young East Germans. Realising that suppressing popular music in the aftermath of the riot would only inflame tensions, the SED attempted to win back the support of East German youths. The following year a series of concerts were organised in East Berlin, designed to counter performances from Michael Jackson and Pink Floyd that were taking place close to the Wall in the West. In East Berlin, Western stars, such as Big Country , Bryan Adams and Marillion performed alongside East German bands like City . On 19 July 1988, Bruce Springsteen performed the biggest rock concert in the history of the GDR in front of 160,000 people. During the concert Springsteen told the crowd ‘It’s nice to be in East Berlin. I’m not for or against a government. I came to play rock ‘n’ roll for you, in the hope that one day all barriers will be torn down’. Springsteen’s words reflected the mood of young people in the crowd, sparking wild cheering and celebrations.
Michael Böhlke (aka Pankow), who in 1979 began his punk-music endeavors in East Germany, has vivid memories of the GDR punk scene. “Punk was a cross-cultural phenomenon in the east,” Pankow said, “The ‘tristesse’ of the GDR unleashed a huge creative potential, and the minute you were on the margins of society you tapped into a network of other artistic activity.” In 2005, Pankow sought to memorialize the phenomenon in a first-of-its-kind exhibition of punk in the GDR. The show featured paintings, collages, photography, and rare pop-culture memorabilia that paints a fascinating picture of punk culture in East Germany.