A new comedy hit the movie theaters in Germany last week that depicts a true story from Communist East Germany in the 1960s. Sushi in Suhl is the story of the only Japanese restaurant in the German Democratic Republic. Despite being so far away from its source, the lack of knowledge and the proper ingredients, the Japanese restaurant in the small town of Suhl, Thuringia, became so popular in the isolated Communist country that there was a waiting list for two years.
Also last week Cuba´s Communist leaders announced that they will lift restrictions to travel abroad, so that for the first time in 51 years Cubans will be able to travel freely. As cynical as this may sound, but restrictions can spur creativity. To this day the things people came up with in Communist countries continue to impress and surprise me. Because people were not allowed to travel, the world was not like a supermarket to them. If they wanted something, they had to make their own versions. And as limited or pale those versions seemed, those versions often became the only point of reference. So in the same way that the restaurant in Suhl was East Germany´s only Japanese restaurant, Dieter Resch was East Germany´s only trick guitar player: their own Communist Les Paul. Like his Czechoslovak counterpart Miroslav Kefurt, Resch´s use of overdubbing and multitrack recording, was unique behind the iron curtain. Most East Germans had never heard about Les Paul but they knew who Dieter Resch was. In the 1950s and early 60s Dieter Resch was also one of the few East German artists who managed to record something that resembled rock´n´roll. The Communist rulers banned rock´n´roll because they considered it to be pure western decadence that was corrupting the youth. Apparently Dieter Resch´s biggest “hit” was a cover version of the String-a-Longs Wheels. But that´s only my guess, because that´s the record I still see most often in stores. Actually there were no hit parades and no gold records in East Germany. Sales figures did not matter in the Communist system where a monopolistic state-owned record label did not have to compete with other record labels.
Information about Dieter Resch´s life and career is mostly in the dark. In the 40s, before they became famous German jazz musicians, Rolf Kühn, Jutta Hipp, Walter Eichenberg, Fips Fleischer and Dieter Resch all belonged to the same Hot Club Leipzig. In the 50s and 60s Resch was part of Kurt Henkels´ and later Walter Eichenberg´s Tanzorchester Leipzig. In the 70s he taught guitar at the Felix Mendelssohn Batholdy conservatory in Leipzig. In spite of his singular position, Resch´s solo output for the state-run Communist record label Amiga remained small. His instrumentals only appeared on about a dozen B-Sides.
Today his 45s can still easily be found on Ebay, but there is no Dieter Resch on Wikipedia, no retrospective reissues, no photos, no biography, no nothing. Even the conservatory in Leipzig seems to have forgotten about him.
Guitarren-Swing was written by East German Jazz pianist Harry Seeger, who also wrote Grandezza for Miroslav Kefurt. Only a few of his songs have been reissued, thrown in randomly with some compilations, sadly repeating Dieter Resch´s fate as a B-Side artist. I dont think it does his work justice. Whoever is sitting on Dieter Resch´s material – this guy deserves a full reissue!
Gitarren-Swing b/w Robert Steffan, Amiga 4 50 224 (1960)
Dieters Boogie b/w Helga Brauer, Amiga 4 50 046 (1959)
Dieters Ragtime b/w Horst Fischer, Amiga 5 50 100 (1960)
Gitarre, Sonne und Meer b/w Willy Hagara, Amiga 4 50 157 (1960)
Esmiralda b/w Monika Grimm & Jiri Popper, Amiga 4 50 242 (1961)
Espirito b/w Reinhard Mühlbacher, Amiga 4 50 285 (1961)
Amboss-Polka b/w Helga Depre, Amiga 4 50 338 (1962)
Kahlenbergdörfel-Twist b/w Erika Bartova, Amiga 4 50 361 (1963)
Zurba b/w Perikles Fotopulos, Amiga 4 50 650 (1967)
It´s a shame if it wasn´t. Behind the hissing there´s a nice bubblegum-style pop song!
My girlfriend fished this record out of a box while waiting for me in a Berlin record store in 1998. I remember, because it was before we moved together and the store was near her old apartment. She always had a good eye for picking odd looking records, like this one. Audiodiscs were one of many home recording labels that produced blanks that could be recorded at home with special recording machines. There is no date given on the record but I would say late 50s, because it already runs on 45 rpm.
I suspect this one sided record was made as a gift to a Mr. Zapf by his co-workers, celebrating his 25th anniversary with the Askania company. It´s illustrated by an image of Mr. Zapf in his lab coat, that was cut out of a photograph and glued onto the label, plus the word “verZAPFTes” (a play on words meaning “doing stupid things”) in rub-on letters. The unknown person who is singing, accompanied by drums and accordion, put some biographical details of Mr. Zapf´s life into humorous rhymes: Askania has been living with mechanic Zapf for 25 years (Askania is a Berlin company for optical and precision mechanics)… Mr. Zapf is known as a diligent worker… has survived the war as a messenger in the army… landed in Novosibirsk, Russia… marched to the sea… failed to conquer (the Russians)… dealt in oil… victorious at last… never a big talker… likes to wear long johns…
Two weeks ago I found this transparent flexible 10″ record in an antique book store. The material the record is made of seems to be some sort of plastic, that is much lighter than shellac. On this home recording a certain Nina Winter is reading a poem in celebration of her friend Maria “Mitzi” Lichtenegger passing her driving test on October 25, 1941 at the driving school Suchanka in Mariahilf, Vienna. The rhymes reveal that Mitzi´s husband had already passed the test before her and that her driving instructor Mr. Fischer, though a rigorous and earnest man, was quite pleased with her. That´s about all the personal information I could gather from the record.
It´s a glimpse into the private lives of ordinary people in war time Vienna. While millions were expelled, killed and put into concentration camps, others were obviously still passing the time with making their drivers licenses, writing poems about it and then even having them recorded….
NINA WINTER, Der Führerschein, 1941
Another home recording that offers a short but intimate view into German social life in the 1950s: 43 seconds of a recital by a twelve year old girl. I suspect her name is Christel because that´s what is written on the sleeve. She wishes her father a happy birthday and tells how she first got to know and love him ten years before, after he came home from being a prisoner of war. Quite a common story in many German families in the post-war era.
The label says that it was recorded by Schnello-Tondienst Berlin. The record is from the mid- to late 50s, because it runs on 78rpm. No further information given.
CHRISTEL, Lieber Vati
This plastic coated metal acetate was recorded at Tondienst Leo Polster in Hamburg, Steintorplatz, obviously a recording studio where you could have your music recorded on the spot. No title, name and no date given, but from the style of the label and the 45rpm, I would put it in the mid to late 50s.
TONDIENST LEO POLSTER, Seite 1
TONDIENST LEO POLSTER, Seite 2
Last year I found a whole bunch of Danish 78s in a local thrift store and then already posted Eddie Russell´s version of “Blazin´ The Trail”. Eddie Russell (1908-86) was a popular Danish singer from the 40s to the 70s and recorded over 400 sides. Sadly only a handful of these have ever been been reissued. I found a few Youtube videos of his 78s playing and one CD of what sounded like his 60s material. But no Eddie Russell on Wikipedia, Discogs or any other fan site.
Now here´s another Stalin related record from the same bunch of Danish 78s that I found last year, like the majority of the them, issued by the Tono label, the most important Danish record label until the late 50s. “Stalin og Truman og Churchill og mig” (Stalin and Truman and Churchill and me) was recorded most probably right after the Allied Liberation of Denmark in the summer of 1945.
Two cheerful tunes that celebrate the fact that Denmark finally got rid of the fascists….
With this short little rock´n´roll song I´d like to celebrate the birth of my “new” blog! Just saw this hanging on the wall of a antique bookstore in my neighborhood last week and took it home for a measly 2 euros and fifty cents.
By coincidence it exemplifies the sort of copyright friendly material I was writing about in #2 of the blog ethics. The cardboard record was issued by a defunct “record company” and recorded by anonymous artists. There is no mention of copyright anywhere on the card either and it is definitely more than fifty years old, because it runs on 78 rpm, a format discontinued in most western countries by 1960.
The perfect birthday song for rockin´and rollin´teenagers! And old geezers too…
“Hep-Heppy Birthday to you!”
“Hep-Heppy Birthday to you!”
You ain´t no square! And I know that!
Let down your hair! You´re the coolest cat!
Push back the chairs! Get yer carpet rolled!
Just ROCK!. . . . . And you´ll never grow old!