PICTURESQUE BELGIUM

picturesque-belgium-frontpicturesque-belgium-backBye Bye Brussels! I´m returning to Berlin after 10 Days in the city together with the staff of Jungle World. Our “Belgium Issue” will hit the newsstands next Thursday.

Rescued a bunch of “Discocarte”- postcard records on the Marolles flea market last Sunday, shortly before I saw the rest of the box getting destroyed in the  rain. Kinda sad, kinda not. Most people who´ve never seen a postcard record, seem to like the idea. Like an E-mail with a picture and an MP3 attached. Only much cooler!

Until they hear the music …

Liechtensteiner Polka

fruit-merchantsdiscocarte

The small scanner is not in the picture, but you can see me digitizing postcard records at our house in Brussels with my portable record player:

digi-andi

 

 


PAUL DORIS AND PAULA SMITH WITH JACK SAY´S ORCHESTRA, Hey! Paula, 1963

e-32-be-32-aOne last item that involved the king of the Belgian Budgets, Jack Say. While visiting Brussels and posting from here, I would have preferred to post a record that involved the Atomium, but that´s rather hard to come by. And probably quite expensive. This one was only 1 Euro and at least has the word EXPO in it. Expo, as in Expo 58 when the Atomium was built.

The Expo label was used to promote bread. Funny, how they re-interpreted the title to Paul & Paula´s hit song and gave them last names.

The anonymous duo tried to be faithful to the original, though. As the label notes: “with Jack SAY´s orchestra”….

PAUL DORIS AND PAULA SMITH WITH JACK SAY´S ORCHESTRA, Hey! Paula, 1963

CONRAD MEYER MIT ORCHESTER UND CHOR, Blume von Tahiti, 1963


SUSKE & WISKE, De Regendag, 1978

gratis-frontgratis-backde-regendagla-pluie

It´s been raining quite a bit here in Brussels over the past days, so here´s a record about “A Rainy Day”. Suske & Wiske is one of the most famous and successful Belgian comics series. Since its creation in 1945, it sold 145 million copies. This promotional multi-media item for kids, produced for German food brand Knorr,  is a good example of Belgian multilingualism. Side A is in Flemish and side B is in French. The four-page comic insert also has speech balloons in both languages, so you can read along while you listen to the record.

If this very thin Flexi-Disc only contained spoken word adventures of Suske & Wiske, I wouln´t have recorded them. Instead, there´s a funny little tune mixed into the story. Kinda power-pop meets nerve-racking noise…

SUSKE & WISKE, De Regendag, 1978

BOB & BOBETTE, La Pluie, 1978

yeahregendag-1regendag-2regendag-3regendag-4

 

 

 


ARVANITAS ET SON ENSEMBLE, Five Cats Rag

k-73-bk-73-aWhen I arrived at the Marolles flea market in Brussels yesterday, the market was about to close. And then it suddenly also started to rain. Big disappointment. Nevertheless, I quickly went through a few boxes, while the seller constantly shouted:” DEUX PIÈCES – UN EURO! DEUX PIÈCES – UN EURO!” Watching all his stuff getting soaked in the rain and the people leaving, he was getting more and more desperate. Surprisingly, I got a dozen 45s for a price way below 50 cents a piece.

Belgian budget label Kraftone was a short-lived offshoot of the Kraft Foods group. Five Cats Rag is not credited to any songwriters, so I assume it is an original by French jazz pianist George Arvanitas.

Great fast Hot Jazz!

ARVANITAS ET SON ENSEMBLE, Five Cats Rag

Bob Azzam´s original hit version Ya Mustafa was released in 1960, so this is likely from the same year.

ORCHESTRE ADI AND HIS BOYS, Mustapha

five-cats-ragorchestre-adi-and-his-boys

 


ORCHESTRE JACK SAY, Ne Joue Pas

j-1001-aj-1001-bOn another visit to a local record shop yesterday, I found this Jungle Records 45 with great simple graphics and two different custom-made Jungle characters. How fitting, for my trip to Brussels with Jungle World!

And it´s another record by Jack Say ,the guy behind “Alex Trémiste et ses Meneurs”. His name is found on many Belgian budget releases. The note: “Vente reservee aux membres de la federation nationale de disquaires Belgique” – hints to a record club. No date of release given. No Jungle records label listed on discogs. This record is Jungle 1001.

Both songs were originally recorded by Dalida in 1959, so I presume this came out the same year. Two easy-listening orchestra songs that seem straight out of a Belgian 1950s movie…

 

ORCHESTRE JACK SAY, Ne Joue Pas

ORCHESTRE JACK SAY, C’est Ça L’Amore

jungle


STÉPHANE STEEMAN & ALEX TRÉMISTE ET SES MENEURS, Le Temps Du Ja-Ja (Le twist du Brugeois)

theo-party-fronttheo-party-backfe-10758fe-10757I´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)

 

avantaprestheo


DIE RUCKI ZUCKI STIMMUNGSKAPELLE, Metamorphose, 1982

v-lp47-11-frontv-lp47-11-backv-lp47-11-1v-lp47-11-2Rucki 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.

kommerzschwein

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:

DIE RUCKI ZUCKI STIMMUNGSKAPELLE, Bassanova, 1982

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”

DIE RUCKI ZUCKI STIMMUNGSKAPELLE, Metamorphose, 1982

metamorphose

 

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”

 

DIE RUCKI ZUCKI STIMMUNGSKAPELLE, Clockwork, 1982

uhrwerk

 

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”

DIE RUCKI ZUCKI STIMMUNGSKAPELLE, Softanimals. 1982

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….

DIE RUCKI ZUCKI STIMMUNGSKAPELLE, Breaking Glass (Daffy, what´s going on?), 1982

 

ixtoc-i

 

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!”

IXTOC-1, Staat, 1982

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”

IXTOC-1, Von oben, 1982

Teenage Love is a song about masturbation.

Teenagers…

IXTOC-1, Teenage Love, 1982

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).

last-exit-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.

ixtoc

ixtoc-music-for-entertainment

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.

musik-als-waffe-seite-1musik-als-waffe-seite-2musik-als-waffe-seit-3musik-als-waffe-seite-4musik-als-waffe-seite-5musik-als-waffe-seite-6musik-als-waffe-seite-7musik-als-waffe-seite-8musik-als-waffe-seite-9musik-als-waffe-seit-10musik-als-waffe-seite-11musik-als-waffe-seite-12


CELAL İNCE, Dostluk Şarkısı (The Song of Friendship)

The Song Of Friendship-frontThe Song Of Friendship-backThe Song Of Friendship-detailIn May, I bought this flexi disc at a flea market in Istanbul. It wasn´t really cheap but I didn´t mind. I was on vacation and  wasn´t going to pass on a 10″ flexi disc that runs on 78RPM. When I saw it, I immediately though: “blog!” But I didn´t listen to it until I got home. Then I did a little online research.

The record has Cold War written all over it. At the time of its release, Turkey was a buffer zone against the Soviet empire. Tens of thousands of these propaganda flexis – recorded and pressed in the Unites States by Voice Of America – were given away for free. From the feeling and graphics of the flexi, I´d guess in the midlle of the 1950s. It takes us back to the Turkey of films like From Russia With Love (1963) and Topkapi (1964), a country in-between modernism and tradition. Only, this record is not dramatized fiction, but real.

Celal İnce, born in 1921, was the king of Turkish tango in the 40s and 50s. In the in the late 50s he immigrated to the US and has lived in Chicago ever since. İnce was in the wine business for forty years and now, aged 95, is still working as an executive wine consultant. Recently Celal İnce´s Sana Nerden Gönül Verdim was featured on „Istanbul Tango 1927-1953“, the fourth volume of the German CD compilation series Old World Tangos. The series is illustrated by none other than Berlin underground cartoonist and fine art painter Guido Sieber.

In the anthemic marching song Dostluk Şarkısı, Celal İnce praises the friendship of Turkey and the United States: “We were blood brothers in Korea/Our determination is to live free , to ensure peace in the world”. It might be full of pathos and  propaganda, but I can think of worse causes. The Voice Of America probably did more damage to dictatorships by broadcasting Jazz music to Eastern Europe, than all the missiles they planted near the borders.

Whatever, it´s still only a pop song…


Some footage of the old Yeşilköy Airport, now Istanbul Atatürk International Airport, from From Russia With Love (1963)

Footage of Istanbul street life in 1964 from Topkapi (1964):

I bought some more Akbaba magazines while I was in Istanbul. This issue from March 3rd 1962, depicting US-sailors in Turkey, seems to tie in with the above record. The bold nudity is surprising for an Islamic country. The sexism and racism are not. This type of cartooning was pretty common in the 50s and early 60s all over the world.

akbaba-3-mayis-1962akbaba-3-mayis-1962-girlakbaba-3-mayis-1962-sailor-girlakbaba-3-mayis-1962-racism

The cover and the next two cartoons are by Necmi Riza. The cartoon below is about the Turkish Coup d´etat that took place on May 27, 1960. The politician is waiting for the military to kick his ass.i

Necmi Riza-Akbaba-27-Mayis-Politikaci

This one is obviously about Elisabeth Taylor standing with her lawyer in court.

Necmi-Riza-Elisabeth-Taylor-1962

This issue also has this cartoon by Yurdaer Kalayci.

Yazisiz means “Without words”.

Yurdaer Kalayci-Yazisiz-1962