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…
I bought this Swiss EP in Zurich in the past summer. The record commemorates the International Jesus Festival Of Music held in Lenzburg, Easter 1972. The pop-art-meets-political-collage sleeve caught my eye, but I couldn´t listen to the record in the thrift store. So I had to take a chance. I was expecting the music to be somewhat dry and unfortunately most of these songs actually are, so I didn´t record them. However, the song House Of The Rising Sun by Les Pêcheurs (the fishermen), with lyrics changed to Oh Jesus Christus, Gottes Sohn, is quite charming.
Eccentrics have a hard time in Germany. In popular culture our land of poets and philosophers never spawned a Liberace, Salvador Dali, not even an Elton John. Siegfried & Roy would have never gotten famous in Germany. We don´t like eccentricity, it´s thought of as pushy and artificial, instead of flashy and artistic. We love authentic, honest and modest stars like Herbert Grönemeyer, Peter Maffay und Wir sind Helden. Artists that are so boring, that nobody outside of Germany knows who they are. Even abroad we are appreciated for our dull German virtues : reliability, straightforwardness and strictness. German Engineering and Techno made in Berlin are our German trademarks.
Consequently culturally we don´t have much to offer to the world right now. Because we´re lying to ourselves. To a degree every artist is an eccentric. Artists need to be eccentric because art needs to be a “deviation from the center” to be recognisable as art. In German the word just doesn´t have a positive connotation. Our most famous eccentric German pop star is Nina Hagen. She´s great but she´s also the only one. At least no other famous German eccentric pop star comes to mind. There still is Heino though, the epitome of German squareness. At least abroad people seem to think he´s really weird.
Ramma Damma on the other hand seems to have been a real eccentric. Sadly to no avail, because I couldn´t find any information about him, besides a picture of another one of his 45´s . For some reason his singing reminds me of the X Files-episode of the Simpsons, in which Mr. Burns is a glowing and drugged ghosts and whispers: “I bring you love!”
The lyrics of Ich bin Dein Taugenichts (I´m your good-for-nothing/ne´er-do-well) are pretty cool though. He´s singing about the flower-pot that he carries around, the green grass that covers his car and how he wants to hypnotize the world to be less normal.
“Whoever fools around a lot in the daytime, is the king of the night.”
„Ich bin Dein Taugenichts/ Ja wirklich, ich taug zu nichts/ Nur in der Liebe bringst du mich auf Trab/ Nur in der Liebe racker ich mich gerne ab/ Ich hab auf meinem Auto grünes Gras und bin auch sonst nicht ganz von hier/ Ich pfeif auf dies und pfeif auf das und fantasier´/ Denn wer am Tag viel Unsinn macht, ist König in der Nacht/ Ich geh mit meinem Blumentopf spazier´n und hänge rum, im Zeitkanal/ Ich will die Welt hypnotisier´n, seid doch nicht so, nicht so normal/ Denn wer am Tag viel Unsinn macht, ist König in der Nacht“
Of course while in Lisbon, I also took some time to go look for records. I didn´t find any of the stuff that is featured on the three volumes of the Portuguese Nuggets compilation LP series that Marcos had at his appartement. No cool Portuguese 60´s beat, surf or garage rock. What I found was fado, a very Portuguese type of music that mostly sounds like a lot of whining and moaning. But that´s just on the surface, fado songs can be about anything. I like a little fun in my fado, so I picked the records with the funniest sleeves.
Hermínia Silva was one of the greatest stars of fado. Here she is singing in a Portuguese film from 1938. Actually the bars I´ve been to last week in Lisbon, were just like the one in this film: everybody was chain-smoking, including me…
She was already 63 years old, when she recorded these Yé Yé songs. Chunga Chunga is a cover version of Sugar Sugar by the Archies. Hermínia is making fun of the young hippy generation while still being sympathetic to them. I hope I´ll be as cool and funny as she was when I´m her age. Hermínia died in 1993.
The sad and sentimental fados might be the most well-known ones, but Sr. Peles soccer songs are definitely fados too. Compared to most German football related songs, these are in a league of its own. German football songs can be funny but I have yet to hear any, that are of this musical caliber. Now of course Domingos Pereira is a die-hard fan of the Portuguese team, but why must he insist, that the Portuguese team is better than the Brazilian one?