In 1966, a local radical leftist theatre group re-invented theatre for children. Despite criticism from the conservative mainstream, the socially conscious plays of Grips theatre became increasingly popular. Kids like me, who grew up in the early 70s, especially loved the bold and very catchy Grips songs, that were mostly written by Volker Ludwig and Birger Heymann.
In the mid-70s Grips also started to write plays for teenagers. Grips produced a number of actors who later became famous. Heinz Hoenig (leaning over the bench, wearing sneakers) played in Die schönste Zeit im Leben, three years later he starred in Das Boot as Maat (Petty Officer) Hinrich.
These are great songs that do not deserve to be forgotten. Unfortunately so far nobody has cared to re-issue them.
( Im November 2013 schrieb ich über diese Platte bereits in der Jungle World den Text Herz, was willst du mehr. )
This is an EP that I found last week in the 50 cents bins of a local second hand record store. Didn´t even listen to it in the store, but was expecting some boring Christian music from the subtitle “Worte Jesu im Chanson“. What a surprise, when I put the needle on the record! Of course, if I had read the liner notes more carefully, the name Peter Herbolzheimer would have rang a bell. No idea why such a highly acclaimed jazz musician contributed to a record that was meant to help “The advancement of the clerical professions”. In 1972, Herbolzheimer, together with Jerry van Rooyen and Dieter Reith, won the highest German medal of honour, the Bundesverdienstkreuz, for the opening score of the Olympic Games in Munich. Incidentally the three of them teamed up again for this record. Herbolzheimer died aged 74 in his hometown of Cologne on 27 March 2010
Despite the big names, these songs have never been re-released, obviously because they´re suffering from a severe case of Flandersitis.
But listen to the funk!
This 45 is fitting easily into the concept of this blog. It´s a privately pressed EP, that has never been reissued in 40 years, of four jazz tunes, recorded live at a furniture store in 1973, on the occasion of a design-exhibition.
The fact that this 45 is a promotional item makes it seem musically inferior to a proper jazz release, but it´s far from that. Band leader and pianist Hans-Jürgen “Specht” Bock (1939-2006), bassist Klaus Schulze and drummer Slick Salzer were already seasoned jazzmen when they recorded these songs. Everything is excellent here, even down to the graphics, credited on the front to a certain hace. I especially dig the label design that doesn´t imply “furniture store”.
The Ragtime Specht Groove recorded five albums. For this EP they cover Jelly Roll Morton´s “Grandpa Spells”, Tom Delaney´s “Absent Minded Blues”, first recorded by the Dutch Swing College Band, and “Numbers Boogie” recorded by Sugar Chile Robinson. My favorite of this batch is Ragtime Specht Groove´s own original tune “Gisa”. I especially love the part when they go to a minor scale in the middle of the song and the bassist changes from playing with the fingers to a bow, Jimmy Blanton-style. And then suddenly they pick up the tempo again!
These Stuttgart cats sure were groovin´…
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.