I´m currently on a visit to Brussels together with the staff of Jungle World. Yesterday I bought this EP at a second-hand record store. I did not record the A-side Théo-Party, because I do not understand it. It´s a spoken-word piece by Belgian comedian Stéphane Steeman imitating Belgian Christian-Democrat politician Théo Lefèvre.
The political satire extends to the pseudonyms of the bands: Alex Trémiste et ses Meneurs (Al Extremist and his leaders) and Fred Eralist et ses Fanfare (Fedearalist and his fanfare) . Likely the actual band leader behind those aliases was Belgian musician and composer Jack Say ,who co-wote the songs with Stéphane Steeman.
I like the two songs on the flip. No release date given, but sometime between 1962 and 1964 – when Théo Lefèvre was Prime Minister of Belgium. Le Temps Du Ja-Ja has the subtitle: Le twist du Brugois – The Bruges Twist.
STÉPHANE STEEMAN, Le Temps Du Ja-Ja (Le Twist Du Brugeois)
STÉPHANE STEEMAN, L´Air Du Bruxelles (Brussel-Air)
Rucki Zucki Stimmungskapelle, Vitamin A, Stromspere and Ixtoc-1 were part of the scene of the first Berlin DIY punk venue KZ 36 (36 – old zip code of Kreuzberg, KZ short for “Kulturzentrum”). In its short existence between 1980 and 1982, Karl Walterbach – a guy ten years older than most of the teenage punks of the collective – managed to release two KZ 36 albums that documented the bands from that scene. Volume II also features RZSK, Vitamin A, Stromsperre and Ixtoc-1. Walterbach later capitalized on the booming German amateur-punk movement through his label Aggressive Rockproduktionen. Tired of being exploited, the four bands took a radical anti-commercial stance and formed their own collective – VISA-Tonkooperative (Vitamin A, Ixtoc-1, Stromsperre and initially Actosin Pervers. When they broke up, Rucki Zucki Stimmungskapelle stepped in). In 1982, they put out this political DIY punk record.
The complete works of Stromsperre and Vitamin A have been re-released on vinyl in the early 2000s by the Berlin punks of Rotten Totten Records. Rucki Zucki Stimmungskapelle and Ixtoc-1 have not been re-released. After more than 30 years, I think it´s time to take a closer look.
Like many other punk bands, members of Stromsperrre and Vitamin A grew up in Berlin-Gropiusstadt, the high-rise ghetto made famous by Christiane F. It still makes my mind boggle, how politicized these ghetto-teenagers were. Nurtured by Social-Democrat politics, leftist teachers and the very visible 1970s radical movement of Berlin, these guys were decidedly brave and idealistic. In the 1980s, the conservative backlash changed German society. In general, working class kids were no longer encouraged to get higher education. Today, this type of politicized working-class teenager has vanished. In fact, teenagers today don´t seem to claim any identity of their own. When I became a Teddy Boy and later discovered Hardcore-Punk, I was 14 and 16. We were all just kids. Working class kids met with rich kids through youth-subcultures. Today´s kids mostly stay were they were put by their parents. I´m stressing the word “kids”, because you can hear it on the record. Beside all the serious politics there´s a lot of goofy kids stuff on this record.
Like this short a capella introduction by Rucki Zucki Stimmungskapelle:
Metamorphose should have been a hit. The saxophone gives it a post-punk feel, but it is also a political song full of bitter sarcasm:
“Soon we´ll be at the end/ Of the great experiment/ We´ll love the taste of gasoline/ We´ll need exhaust fume to breathe/ Onward, onward to the next step of metamorphosis”
Despite their silly and misleading name, Rucki Zucki Stimmungskapelle were the most musically and lyrically ambitious of the four bands. Their songs Clockwork (Uhrwerk) and Softanimals are also the only non-topical songs.
“People are scared/ Afraid to walk the streets/ I´m a colourful rocking horse/ And I´ll lend you my super-ego/ I wear a red striped shirt/ And I´m eating mom´s mail”
Softanimals is a direct translation of the German “Weichtiere”, so called Mollusca – spineless animals like snails, clams and octopuses. A funny song on a serious topic:
“Soft animlas have a hard life/…/ That´s why everbody wants to be hard and angular”
Another goofy bit by RZSK. You can hear that these guys are not some West-German small town transplants, but local Berlin teenagers.
The door is locked. Their buddy “Duffy” is sent to get a key….
Ixtoc-1 named themselves after a huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on 3 June 1979, shortly before they were forming. Again, despite its clever political implications, Ixtoc-1 was not a good choice for a punk band name. Ölpest (Oil Spill) would have been better. Or Katastrophe. Or Blowout. The band also recorded the 12″ Gut ist was modern ist in 1982, that was more refined and progressive, while still largely remaining punk. Why Do Things Have To Change blog posted it in February and you can get it here. The early Ixtoc-1 is a great mix of political and goofy:
Staat (The State) is an anarchist song:
“Greed rules the world/ Anything and anybody is for sale/Corruption in politics/ People want to govern people/ That´s what they call democracy/ I hardly ever works/ The good thing about the state is/ Death!”
Von oben (From The Top) is another anarchist song:
“What´s you life worth?/ Do you have the right to exist?/From the top / They want to control you/ You´re not supposed to think”
Teenage Love is a song about masturbation.
Teenager indeed! Very young looking Ixtoc-1 vocalist Harald Gantzberg on the cover of a book about punk (Last Exit. Punk, Leben im toten Herz der Städte, Rowohlt 1982).
By coincidence, I found a profile and a photo of Ixtoc-1 in a Berlin rock music guide (Rock City Berlin – Das aktuelle Handbuch der Berliner Szene, 1985), that I bought some years ago in a local second-hand book store. By then, vocalist Harald Gantzberg had left the band. Incidentally, today Harald works as an editor in the comic book field! The line-up was Mathias Klötzke, bass: Lutz Werner, drums; Christian Werner, guitar. In 1984 the group was among the top-20 at the annual Senats-Rock-Wettbewerb, a government-funded battle of the bands. “Our music is a combination of entertainment and modesty. We´ve known each other since elementary school.”
Ixtoc-1 broke up in 1985.
Discogs says that the booklet that came with the LP has 18-pages, Sadly, mine is missing 6 pages. Stromsperre contributes a lot of small type anarchist writing. Their slogan is: “Musik als Waffe” – Music as a Weapon.