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.)
Most people will probably only shrug their shoulders when they hear these songs, but to me this record seems almost unreal. It´s like this record was made for Berlin Beatet Bestes and on so many levels!
1. It is an advertisement record,
2. It was privately pressed for a Berlin car dealer
3. It´s got a cartoon sleeve
4. The two risqué songs are sung by local Berlin star Brigitte Mira, an actress who frequently worked with Fassbinder
5. The music is in sort of a Dixieland Jazz style
6. Of course it´s also never been reissued.
What more can I ask for?
In a way these two risqué songs, backed by Heinrich Riethmüller, predate Brigitte Mira´s bold later work. For some unknown reason the Berlin car dealer Bunde had the idea to advertize for his business with some naughty songs. Some sleeves even had “Der kesse Gruss vom Autohaus Bunde” ( Naughty greetings from Autohaus Bunde) stamped on the front. You can see this stamp on a copy that some greedy person is trying to sell on Ebay for the ridiculous amount of 35 Euros. Of course nobody will ever buy it. Listen to the songs and you´ll see why. Last week I paid less than 50 cents in a thrift store and I think that´s much more appropriate. Most likely it was the name that got the seller to put a higher price tag on this record.
Brigitte Mira (1910-2005) was most famous for the work she did with Rainer Werner Fassbinder. It was Fassbinder´s genius to cast people like Brigitte Mira for his art films. She had been a popular German actress since the 1940s, but was mostly known for her comedies. Mira´s personal courage made her steer off the beaten path and towards serious, more challenging roles, like in Ali:Fear Eats The Soul (1974).
By the early 70s Fassbinder regularly worked for German television. “Wie ein Vogel auf dem Draht” was a TV-show directed by Fassbinder for Brigitte Mira. German television never got more campy than this:
Despite her adventurous career, in the eyes of the majority of the German public, Brigitte Mira remained „the archetypal funny old Berlinerin with a heart.” (The Guardian). But in the 70s Brigitte Mira basically had two careers, appearing in cutting-edge art films and also starring in funny popular films and on television (most prominently in the series Drei Damen vom Grill).
Finally: the music.
Die alte Clofrau translates to “The Old Toilet Lady”. In the song she tells the story of her life as a bathroom attendant. A blues song about how she flushes the toilet for the very last time…
Triebwagen is railcar, but Trieb also means sex drive. Mit dem Triebwagen nach Italien translates to “Travelling to Italy by railcar”. The lyrics deal with the cliché that Italian men are sexually potent. So horny female German tourists travel to Italy in search of sexual adventures…
The artwork of this record is not signed. I have a vague suspicion who could have done it but so far I can not put a name to it.
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.
Dan Marshall, the singing fire chief, was born at no. 8 Mining Camp near Farmington, West Virginia. He spent the early part of his life in the hills of West Virginia, where he heard Country-Folk music right from its source. Although moving to Ohio after finishing high school at Weston, West Virginia, his voice still caries the plaintive quality heard only in true Country-Folk music.
When was the last time you were knocked over by an impossibly great and new talent? If you can remember how you dusted your pants off and straightened your tie, then prepare yourself once again for that particular rare moment. Dan Marshall has a way of blowing you over. The first time I saw and heard him I was astonished. His voice is an amazing instrument, in fact, his voice is literally an extension of his body. He is also a gifted actor. Among all of these gifts that he possesses, the one that I have not mentioned, and which may be the most valuable one of all, is his special brand of believability that he seems to put into every song he sings.
Following his military career, he joined the fire department in Columbus, Ohio., where he rose rapidly to the rank of Assistant Fire Chief. Until recently his singing and song writing has been confined to local social events and family entertainment. The unusual folk quality of his voice and the candid stories portrayed in the songs he has written, such as BORN LOSER, caused those who knew him to encourage him into making this recording.
Very few entertainers can be credited with creating this type of music, but the man to which this recording was made possible. did just that.
I consider it a great honor to present the singing Fire Chief, DAN MARSHALL.
John R. Bartlett
Another find from the thrift store excursion two weeks ago. Immediately, when I saw this sleeve, I knew I needed to buy it, regardless of what music would be on the record. The crudely penciled lettering is crying! Now how cool is that. It looks like a punk record! Well, it´s not, it´s even cooler: Dan Marshall is a singing fire chief! How this privately pressed 45 from Amlin, Ohio found it´s way to Berlin-Lichterfelde is beyond me.
I googled this record and couldn´t find anything. And I only made up the date for this record, it could be from anytime in the 70´s. The pants look kinda late 60´s, but that´s just a feeling. I did find a fire chief named Dan Marshall however, this one is from Phoenix, Oregon. There is a similarity between the photo on the back of the sleeve and the photo on the website of the Oregon fire department and they both would fit in the same age group. But I´m not sure it´s the same person. Of course lots of firemen wear mustaches. The Oregon fire chief looks much happier than the man on the record sleeve and I would like to believe that after all, it didn´t turn out to be Dan Marshall´s destiny to be a “born loser.