eclipsed-Feature: The History of German Rock

23. November 2016

Deutschrock Krautrock

eclipsed-Feature: The History of German Rock

Where is the beginning of German rock music? When can you really talk about Deutschrock? In the 60s, German beat bands like the Rattles or the Lords still sang in the language of their Anglo-American idols as if they were a matter of course. This is how Wolfgang Niedecken (65) tells eclipsed: "Rock music in my generation has only become interesting in the first place because of the big English bands. If you wanted to do it yourself, you would be strongly connected to the English language. That was hard to separate."

At the same time - especially in connection with the Burg-Waldeck-Festivals in the 1960s - the emergence of a politicized singer-songwriter scene around performers like Hannes Wader, Franz-Josef Degenhardt or in the GDR Wolf Biermann can be observed, which was clearly influenced by the US folk scene (and the French chanson). The first rock bands to sing German lyrics to harder rock rhythms were Ton Steine Scherben and their children, who found a more lyrical approach to the German rock language - so they are also considered pioneers of German rock for Niedecken.

In this country, Krautrock, the genuinely German variety of popular music, boomed from the early seventies onwards. Texts, however, played a subordinate role in the herb world. But Krautrock was "a pioneer for German rock, less musical, more in terms of attitude and self-confidence for his own language and culture," as Wolf Maahn (61) emphasizes.

Cast off

But only with Udo Lindenberg (70) everything changed. The release of his album "Alles klar auf der Andrea Doria" in 1973 set standards for German rock lyrics. The year before he had - after his half-baked English debut - recorded the record "Thumbs in the Wind" and indicated that someone wanted to go completely new ways here. With "Andrea Doria" as well as the follow-up albums "Ball Pompös" and "Votan Wahnwitz" Lindenberg introduced his "Easy-German" - a slang of youth language, expressions from English and own word creations. At the beginning Lindenberg still doubted: "Musically I have brought together cultures and styles of the Pö [legendary club on the Reeperbahn; note] on the record. From free jazz to tango. I've always been a great unifier. The last doubts were only about the lyrics. Whether they were really all rock compatible. Most of them were actually written like diary notes."

And in spite of his success with this formula, hardly any other musician had been able to get away with trying it in German as well. There were progressive bands like Grobschnitt or Novalis who partly worked with German lyrics, but they remained exceptions. Rock continued to take place in Germany mainly in English, as the Scorpions and Birth Control proved with great success. The first comprehensive breakthrough of German as a rock language came years later with the advent of New Wave. In Düsseldorf and Berlin, a scene was created that took British punk bands such as Sex Pistols and US formations such as Television and Suicide as role models and transferred their aesthetics to the local conditions. The scene was very heterogeneous: Radical punk groups like KFC or Slime, but also Die Toten Hosen or electro pioneers like DAF sprang from it. A groundbreaking album proved to be "Monarchie und Alltag" (1980), the debut of Fehlfarben. Their frontman Peter Hein developed Lindenberg's "Easy-Deutsch" into his own kind of contemporary rock language.

In East Germany, too, rock artists began to write lyrics in German at the end of the 1970s - an amazing historical parallel - as songs by City, Silly or Karat proved.

Lest mehr im eclipsed Nr. 186 (12-2016/01-2017).