Two weeks ago, I found this record at a Berlin record convention. This promotional flexi-disc for the Berlin tobacco company of Otto Boenicke fits the framework of Berlin Beatet Bestes perfectly. The front side of the record was illustrated by Helmut Nickel. Nickel, an outstanding stylist in the German post-war adventure comic genre, was known for his instantly recognizable black and white pen work. This gouache style illustration shows, he was very good with color, too.
Born March 24, 1924 in Dresden, Helmut Nickel fought in WW II, was a prisoner of war for three years and left East-Germany for West-Berlin in 1948. To finance University, Nickel started illustrating various comics series in 1952. From 1952 to 1964 he worked on a whole series of comics, such as Robinson, Hot Jerry, Titanus, Die 3 Musketiere, Der Graf von Monte Christo and Peter’s seltsame Reisen.
( Robinson No. 84, page 11, 1958. From the collection of Hansi Kiefersauer.)
Informed by his studies, Nickel´s comics were educational, at a time when comics were still regarded as trash that was subverting the children. After finishing University in 1959, Nickel worked in a Berlin museum and then applied for a job at the New York Metropolitan Museum as a curator of the historical weapons collection. He stayed there until his retirement in 1989. Today he lives in Florida.
In 2011 Helmut Nickel was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the Munich Comic Festival. Yesterday, Helmut Nickel turned 94.
The Helmut Nickel-side of this flexi is a tongue-in-cheek narration admiring the beautiful brown body of a Boenicke cigar…
Boenicke-Rumba (The song doesn´t have a title. I just called it that.)
Like many flexi discs that I´ve posted over the years this was also published by the Phonocolor company of Berlin-Lichterfelde. Phonocolor also issued the Okay Exquisit, Rondo and Topas labels.
While the Rumba-side runs at 45 rpm, the side with the cigar smoking middle-aged gentlemen runs at 33 rpm. Compared to the comissioned front, this looks like a stock illustration. The male and female narrators sound like Berlin cabaret Die Stachelschweine. Five jokes interrupted by some boogie woogie piano. Kenn´ Se den? Have you heard this one? …
I bought these two very similar 45s, credited to a Harold M. Kirchstein, at a local second-hand record store. Both have white labels, are hand-decorated with Victorian die-cut Santa Clauses and wrapped in plain paper sleeves. The one with the small hole has the words Liebe Weihnachtsgrüsse, Harold M. Kirchstein and the speed 33 1/3 written in red marker. The other one with the large hole says Frohe Weihnachtsgrüsse, plus the name and the same 33 1/3 speed. The first thing you´ll find is the name. Harold M. Kirchstein (1906 -1993) was better known in the world of popular music as Henri René. I own a few of René´s 45s backing Eartha Kitt.
But it´s not Harold M. Kirchstein or Henri René that is heard on these records. These elaborate Christmas joke records were made by a smart and sophisticated person not so long ago. The small hole 45 even has Henri René written in the outer grooves, plus I – m – re – I. Further the small hole 45 cites the swingin´ Ach, verzeih’n sie meine Dame, Gottlieb Schulze mein Name, a song written by Harold M. Kirchstein and recorded in 1936 by Peter Igelhoff. The lyrics also mention Die Goldene Sieben, one of the top German swingin´ orchestra in the 1930s, co-founded by Kirchstein. Harold M. Kirchstein left Germany in 1937. The whole record musically hints at the German-American story of Henri René. A story that has not been told in full yet. Let´s hear:
Two minutes into his goofy Christmas collage you´ll hear a sample of the Singing Dogs version of Jingle Bells. Frohe Weihnachten und Prosit Neujahr! Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
One last Berlin country & western record in this series. No information available online about the County Pickers. I´d put their privately pressed “Take One – Stereo EP” – a DIY production with hand-made sleeves – in the early 80s. But who knows. This seems to be the first public appearance of the group on the Internet.
The six members of the Country Pickers were: Charly – lead guitar, chorus, 12-string guitar; Eric – vocals, chorus; Evy – Vocal, chorus; Frank – drums; Norbert – guitar, vocals, chorus, organ, string orchestra; Peter – bass, vocals, chorus
I especially love the strangely endearing Springtime in September…
A mystery country & western 45 from Berlin. No idea what year it was released and I couldn´t find any information or image of Jennifer Lee. What I do know, is that both songs were written by Ruth Händel. Ruth Händel had a local hit record (written in part by Drafi Deutscher), the novely song Meine letzte Zigarette . My last cigarette, cough, cough…
According to the German web forum of Memory Radio, Ruth Händel, born Heidemarie Gerbsch, performed together with German C&W stars Western Union and co-founded the German band Country Child, prior to her solo career in the 70s. Ruth Händel died in 2003.
Jennifer Lee recorded at least one more 45 on her own G.M. label, Samstag Nacht/ The Simple Words Of Love. The lyrics to Country Songs pretty much pin her down as a fan and an amateur singer. In the best way:
“I only like bars that play country and western music/ When AFN´s Country Time is on the air, / I invite all country fans to my place/ I´m not singing like Big Hank Snow or Dave Dudley/ Country songs – just for fun/ Country songs – bye bye so long/ I´ll go see live music and will never pass on a record store/ And one day I´ll move to Nashville,/ but meanwhile I´ll make country western in Berlin”
Trucker fahr is about truckers going to Africa to save children…
An unrelated artifact from my personal collection: matchbook for NASHVILLE SALOON, a country and western bar at Kadettenweg 63 in Berlin-Lichterfelde. Although not related, this place fits roughly in the same time frame with Jennifer Lee. Like Jennifer Lee, there´s no trace of the Berlin Nashville Saloon today..
A bit of a mystery record here, starting with the group´s name. Aries Afosheenga on the sleeve, simply Afosheenga on the label, while Rock City, a Berlin rock music guide from 1985 lists them as Aries Afrosound.
And then, what is Afro-European Generation? Is it the title of the record or another name for the band? Further info from Rock City, shines some light on it: ” Steven was born in the star sign of Aries on the Ivory Coast, of Nigerian descent. His music (Afro-European Generation) reflects the life and team play of black and white people. Role models are Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Frantz Fanon.”
Aries band members were: Steve (Voc, conga, g), Kola (voc,b,conga), Yomi (voc,perc,g), René (perc,g), Peter (dr), Conrado (flute, sax), Daniel (tenor-sax), Urban (p-synth). Recorded and mixed at STEVE`S MUSIC SHOP, West-Berlin. Distributed by STEVE`S MUSIKLADEN, Gitschiner Straße 96.
The sleeve´s line-up: Stephen Lawal (voc, g, dr, conga), Kola Adio (b, voc, conga, perc), Tina Warse (tenor sax), Daniel Hermelink (keyboard-piano), Parviz Ghiassian (alto-sax), Barry Anene (g, perc)
Despite its melancholy touch, Way Back To Africa is a laid-back West-African tune, straight out of gloomy 1980s West-Berlin…
The synth is used like percussion on Congaman:
Found this privately pressed 45 at my neighborhood flea market a while back. The seller said it was “kinda punk”. It´s a mish-mash of punk/new wave-influenced ROCK, specific to a lot of local bands in the late 70s and early 80s, when Berlin was punk capital.
Drummer Reinhard “Wurzel” Stey, who wrote both of these songs, came from an older generation of rock musicians. Since 1970, he had played in Panko Musik and later in Tontransport. Stey was also co-founded the first Berlin rock organization. According to rockinberlin.com, he died at an unknown date.
Grunewald forest is the largest green area in the city of Berlin. Still, the chorus of the song goes: ” The forest is much too small/ Concrete everywhere”
Rumpelstilzchen-Boogie is a German cover version of Lou Monte´s Someone Else Is Taking You Home. The German lyrics, written by Klaus Doll and Nicolaus Hix, are completely unrelated to the original and were probably made to fit the kiddie rock´n´roll concept.
The Berlin ultra-budget flexi-label Rondo took over both sides from the Austrian Harmona 3-D label. Changing the pseudonym from Bluejean-Jenny to Susanne, the sides were also released in Austria by Schallplattengilde Gutenberg. Discogs and various German collector-sites accredit both releases to Susanne Adorjan, most likely because she was the only Susanne in the roster of both labels.
Bluejean Cinderella was originally recorded by the The Peewees (a group of kids!) for Josie Records. German lyrics were written by Horst de Gray and Tambour, who also wrote similar teenage material in 1958 for Austrian Rocker Robert Benett (“Das freu´t mich so” (Jive after Five – Carl Perkins), “Insgeheim” (Secretly -Jimmie Rogers) and “Total Verrückt” (All Shook Up – Elvis).
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.