The very first record that I posted in 2007 was similar to this one, in that it was also local, political and privately pressed. While the former was anarchist, this is a straight communist record. It was issued to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Freie Deutsche Jugend Westberlins (FDJW), the youth organization of the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Westberlins (SEW). The Socialist Unity Party of West Berlin was more or less a Berlin branch of the SED, the governing party of East-Germany.
In short, these cats were West Berlin fans of communist East Germany. After reunification, the party quickly dissolved. Not surprisingly, it was later revealed that East Germany had financed the party with more than 10 million German marks a year. I´m sure none of that money went into the making of this record. It´s got the touch of a genuine DIY project, from the “graphics” on the front sleeve, to the paper of the labels and the lack of any address or copyright. To say this release looks private, is an understatement, it looks clandestine.
Musically both bands are close to the radical leftist Krautrock of fellow locals Lokomotive Kreuzberg and Floh de Cologne (from Cologne). Recorded in 1977, these guys were not into fun stuff like Blitzkrieg Bop or sniffin´glue, but 37 years later their earnest commie rock is a lot funnier than most Berlin punk records of that period…
(Ein kurzer Text über diese Platte erschien am 22. Mai als Folge 242 meiner Berlin Beatet Bestes Kolumne in der Wochenzeitung Jungle World, nachzulesen hier.)
It´s hard to believe today, that Germany´s “Bible Belt”, way down in the south, used to be a hotbed of communist activity, dating back to the Bavarian Soviet Republic of 1918/1919. In the late 1960s, a group of communist musicians, the Münchner Songgruppe, were still rallying for the revolution.
Dürer-Lied deals with the public celebration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528). Sung in Franconian dialect, it claims that, in contrast to the official appraisal by the Bavarian upper class and conservative political elite, “Dürer´s warm painter´s heart was close to the peasants.” It points out, that the capitalists do not own Dürer and that “Not before that mob is gone, will we, the workers – the peasants of today – finally “own” Dürer. Everything for the workers – Nothing for the corporations. You don´t own shit!
“…und Euch gehört ein Dreck!”
Recorded live in Nürnberg in 1971.
Lied vom Bayernland is a bold criticism of the ownership structure in Bavaria. The catchy chorus links the notorious head of the Bavarian governement Franz Josef Strauß and his “gang” to the Neo-Nazis, calling them “Bavaria´s worst plague”.
“Strauß und seine Bazis/ und die Neo-Nazis, / die sind Bayern größe Plag.”
Recorded live at the Arbeiterlieder-Festival in Essen in 1970.
The leftist Pläne label was most probably the oldest German independent label. Founded in 1961, their records were initially sold independently through grass roots distribution. In the 1980s it changed distribution to Rough Trade, still mostly focusing on political singer-songwriter material, but also releasing a heap of extraordinary rock, jazz, and even some punk/new wave records. Almost unnoticed by the German entertainment industry, Pläne went out of business, after 50 years, in 2011.
During the 1970s it was vice versa: the conservatives were always struggling to kick the social democrats out of office. But no matter how catchy their songs were, they failed each time.
“Das Lied vom politischen Frühling” – The song of political springtime.
“Komm aus deiner linken Ecke” – Come out of your left corner.
Another flexible record, this one advertizing for a political program: the Leber-Plan. Georg Leber (1920 – 2012), a German social democratic politician, was Minister for Transportation from 1966 to 1972. When in the late 60s the volume of traffic on the German Autobahn reached a unmanageable size for the first time, Leber introduced a plan to minimize cargo transportation. The idea was to have freight traffic largely done by train instead of trucks. Well, as we see today, the plan never made it. Traffic jams have become a part of everyday life and trucks still keep clogging the highways…
The practical purpose of this record – campaigning for the Leber-Plan – is not explained on the sleeve, apart from a girl in a mini-dress getting into a car on the front, and a speeding train of the Bundesbahn on the back, but is reflected in the length of the political lyrics.
The obscure singer Karl Gross was a man of many trades and names, alternatively calling himself either Karl, Carl, or Charly Gross. He recorded quite a number of equally obscure schlager records for big labels like Polydor, Ariola and Philips, for smaller labels like Bella Musica, Populaer, Saba, and Linda and even budgets like Neckermann and Starlet. I posted one of his Metronome 45s in 2009 Carl Gross & Die Flaschenkinder – Wir Sind Die Flaschenkinder/Wum Wum Wum. No idea when this commissioned work came out, but I´d guess in 1969 or 1970. Musically this is pretty much in the Heino school of German schlager.
Last Sunday my girlfriend and I had been invited to a friend´s house. In a quiet moment I took the liberty to browse through their record collection and that´s were I found this 45. Apparently I´m not the only one to discover odd privately pressed records from Berlin at flea markets. Generously they lent the record to me to scan and digitize.
A musician needs initiative, self-confidence and courage to publish his own record, even more so, if he´s not really a professional musician, but a fire chief or a car mechanic. Dieter Barth, a Berlin car mechanic who operated his own garage, certainly did´t lack self-confidence. He even had his musical venture endorsed by his business partner. From the late 1970s to 1992, the acronym V.A.G was used by Volkswagen AG as a brand for group-wide activities, such as distribution and leasing. Contrary to popular belief, “V.A.G” had no official meaning, and was never the name of the Volkswagen Group.(Wikipedia) On the back of the sleeve he proudly announced: “Three years ago I have been kissed by a muse and today I would like to present the result. Thanks to all my customers for their long lasting trust “.
I doubt that many Berliners today, would dare to mix their private passion with their business as much, for fear to be ridiculed. Thankfully Dieter Barth was oblivious to such concerns. He was proud to be a singing and songwriting car mechanic and not afraid to laugh about himself.
In “Der Hund an meiner Seite”, he reflects about a dog and his owner:
“When I got him he was small and miserable/ I nurtured him – he got big and bold./ Now he´s big and terribly fierce – my spitting image./ …/ When he looks at me, I sometimes wonder,/ between the two of us, who is the master?/ If I could be the dog for a short time/ I´d pity the poor master.”
“Mein Spreeathen” is Barth´s ode to Berlin, the whole city – east and west.
It´s a shame if it wasn´t. Behind the hissing there´s a nice bubblegum-style pop song!
By 1970 Boyd Bachmann, the handsome former Danish king of swing, had fully transformed into a wacky old comedian. He even appeared in a major advertising campaign in movie theatres, selling Langnese ice cream. A picture of him holding a Langnese ice cream box miraculosly even made it onto this record sleeve.
Omama aus Omaha (The grandma from Omaha) is counting all the things that were bought from the inheritance of the grandma from Omaha in the U.S.Ahhh.: Bubblegum, a blue whig, a musical clock, a Mickey Mouse, a lady´s Colt with a handle made of gold, a cowboy hat made in Hollywood and a motor-driven Whiskey bottle opener:
Willst Du, oder willst Du nicht? is another suggestive song. Do you want or not?, Boyd is innocently asking, but then answers himself: whatever you like, I´ll have ice cream. But at night I´ll be a torero, a Pied Piper, a balladeer, a Mexican or an Indian. In your dreams…
This record was digitized and scanned by my good friend Asphalt Tiger. He sent me the files months ago, but I never got around to post them. Now they fit nicely in this little series of Christian records. Thanks Tiger!
Alfred Flury (1934 – 1986) was a roman-catholic chaplain and a songwriter. He recorded a number of records and also wrote books on drug prevention. In 1971 he founded the Kaplan Flury-Stiftung, an organization that is still doing drug prevention work today.
Personally I have tried most drugs, apart from heroin and crack, but found they didn´t do much for me. I feel like I´m too mellow in my regular life, so I have no use for drugs that make me feel even more mellow. The drugs people use to get excited, also disappointed me. I get excited quite easily so I didn´t feel much of a difference. But the most disappointing thing about drugs, were the people I used them with: none of them danced or talked more. They were as boring as ever. On top of that, I always washed the drugs down with a lot of alcohol anyway. Like many artists, I´m mildly manic-depressive. If diagnosed, a doctor would probably subscribe some sort of mood stabilizing drug. A drug to get rid of all excessive emotion and all my source of creativity. I rather do sports.
Hopefully the age of hipsters like Pete Doherty and Amy Whinehouse, who promoted drug use in the past decade, is over. Their excess was probably a reaction to the conservative political atmosphere and general uncertainty at the beginning of this new millennium. It didn´t lead anywhere, but to self-destruction. This said, I think we all need to get high from time to time, to be transported out of ourselves. There must be a reason why humans have always used drugs in shared rituals throughout the centuries. And as boring as it is, the people who get drunk at Oktoberfest do just that. They partake in a collective ritual to get out-of-control. These intoxicated rituals remind us of the fact, that we are collective beings and that each of us is not the center of the universe.
(Alfred Flury together with Josephine Baker)
In the 1960´s religion had not given up on the youth yet. Or rather, some idealistic individuals, like singin´ chaplains and motor-bikin´vicars, had not given up on organized religion yet. Kaplan Flury hit the charts with Lass die kleinen Dinge in 1965. The death of Jimi Hendrix on September 18, 1970 marked a turning point of the 1960´s youth culture. Drugs were no longer a game. Early on Kaplan Flury recognized the growing drug problems in Germany. His credibility helped establish the first drug awareness campaigns and help-programs.
A book (plus CD) about Alfred Flury´s life was published in 2008. More songs can be downloaded on this site dedicated to Kaplan Flury. Jimi, oh Jimi Hendrix was re-issued in 2008 on the excellent Bear Family CD “Hippies, Hasch und Flower Power”. In this song Flury mentiones that he met Jimi Hendrix personally:
“The world intoxicated is a world that collapses rapidly. Jimi Hendrix, I knew you. Maybe I can even understand you. Hopefully the others also understand your ending. Jimi Hendrix – a path that didn´t know its way. Jimi Hendrix – a light that burnt itself. Jimi, Jimi, your dream couldn´t keep up with life. You took a lot of us with you.”
According to this soulful schlager song, the four things that are most important are: having a heart, loving, believing and living. Three of these things, I wholeheartetly agree with:
Kaplan Flury and singer Katja Ebstein are both wearing a sun wheel necklace, the sign of Flury´s NO DRUGS organization. Flury met the Rolling Stones and many other pop stars. I can´t think of a contemporary religious personality (other than the pope), who would meet and know today´s pop stars. Let alone could ever hit the charts…