Serendipity and German Popular Music

Preamble

I have been listening to two German bands since I was in my early teens: Kraftwerk and Nena.  Last year, in building my collection of the music of these two bands (mostly replacing long-lost vinyl,) through means serendipitous I discovered more modern German music which I liked very much.  For those who don’t mind music with lyrics in a foreign language, here are some suggestions to widen the horizons.

Kraftwerk

My father recorded (on open reel) a radio broadcast of Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn”; he was fascinated with this track, especially the stereo effects.  It is one of the pieces of music that is now stuck in my mind as “music of my childhood”.  My first direct contact with Kraftwerk (ie: not via my father) was The Model.  I loved that track.  I then went and bought “The Man Machine” (from which The Model comes) and Autobahn (the album) on vinyl. Note that we are still talking ancient history here.

Years went by, including ones where I listened to very little music. With the arrival of my iPod (or eyeProd as I call it,) I decided to start rebuilding my music collection.  Some of my vinyl (which – to the best of my knowledge – is sitting in a friend’s loft in England) had already been replaced with CD. All my CDs were “ripped” to iTunes.  Kraftwerk was one of the bands for which I wished to increase my collection.  The iTunes Store yielded only one album, if I remember correctly (Tour de France.)  All other Kraftwerk albums had to be obtained on CD via amazon.com or amazon.de.

Nena

Remember 99 Red Balloons?  That came out the year before I took my German ‘O’ level exams at school.  We all loved it.  I bought the UK release “Nena” album which had English re-works of some tracks on Side A and some of the original German ones on Side B.  Whilst there is a certain timelessness to the works of Kraftwerk, Nena is one of those bands that might come and go as fashions change.  However, as I have grown older, my love for the music of Nena has been undiminished.  I assume that dates me somewhat.

When I lived in the UK, I had the one Nena album – on vinyl.  This was before the days of Amazon and way before the days of music over the Internet.   Over the last five or so years, I have continued to build my Nena collection – from iTunes Store where possible, with older stuff coming on CD via amazon.de

I’ve loved every single album.  For some reason, “Willst Du Mit Mir Gehn” didn’t gel with me for the first two playings.  I was actually thinking “oh no, what has happened?”  But now I do not understand the earlier antipathy – I really like this album, which is great for long trips, like the bus from here to Adelaide.

It was when I purchased my last Nena CD from amazon.de that I was given a recommendation of:

Klee

Klee is a band that has backed Nena on tour.  Through Amazon’s preview system, I was able to hear a couple of brief samples and decided to give them a go.   Their first album, Unverwundbar, remains my favourite to date.

Once again, due to the lack of content on the iTunes Store, I was forced to buy a Klee CD through amazon.de.  When I purchased this, I was given a recommedation of:

Rosenstolz

Klee is good pop, but Rosenstolz (site in German, WARNING: Flash-based site) is far more my cup of tea, especially the earlier stuff.  Kassengift, to me, is their definitive album.  I also note that this duo is of my age group, not that this is really relevant to the discussion.  Anna’s vocal delivery on Kassengift tend towards the operatic, which I love.  (I like opera.)

The track “Total Eclipse” on the Kassengift album – which is actually a cover of a song by Kristian Hoffman for Klaus Nomi – has been re-worked with Marc Almond and:

Nina Hagen

Nina Hagen, what can I say? Find out what you need to know about who she is on Wikipedia but be advised that she is one of a kind; somewhat alternative, with operatic training and a voice that – I am lost for words to describe it.  If you like punk, if you like opera, if you like the unconventional, if you want a real musicians’ musician, Nina Hagen is for you. I have yet to acquire a complete collection of her works (some are rather pricy on amazon.de,) but she has become one of my firm favourites.

Conclusion

Assuming that you, dear reader, are familiar with the works of Kraftwerk and Nena, you may wish to broaden your horizons with regards to popular German music.  There really is some fantastic stuff out there.  My oral German is very poor – I can understand very little of the sung lyrics in what I have described, but this bothers me not.  It just sounds good. (I also like the operas of Richard Wagner and I can’t understand a word of what is sung there.)  Go forth, discover, enjoy!

 

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