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Heroin chic: Christiane F., teenage junkie, prostitute, style icon
09:34 am



Christiane F. - Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (“Christiane F. – We Children from Bahnhof Zoo” in English) is a 1981 German film based on the autobiographical recordings of a young heroin addict and prostitute in West Berlin. It was one of the most successful German films of that year, going on to become a worldwide cult hit, but one that stirred up a lot of (I think justifiable) controversy.

Vera Christiane Felscherinow
Two journalists from Stern magazine, Kai Herrmann and Horst Rieck, met the girl, Vera Christiane Felscherinow (born May 20, 1962) in 1978 when she was a witness against a john who paid underage prostitutes with heroin. The reporters were shocked to the extent of the escalating teenage drug problem and spent over two months interviewing Christiane and other young junkies and prostitutes (of both genders) who congregated near the Berlin Zoo. They ran several articles and a book Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, covering four years (ages 12-15) of her life on the streets, was published in 1979.

Christiane lived with her mother in a bleak West Berlin neighborhood full of the sort of postwar high-rise apartment blocks that were often hives of social problems. She became fascinated by a discothèque that she had read about called “Sound” and although she was only 11-years-old, too young to be admitted, she was able to get into the club. There she fell in with a fast crowd who were experimenting with various drugs and by the time she was only 14, she was turning tricks to feed her habit in the Bahnhof Zoo train station.

When the film—directed by Oscar-winner Uli Edel—was released in 1981 it was a huge hit in Germany, and elsewhere, turning Christiane into somewhat of a celebrity in Europe, a real-life “Go Ask Alice” who had great fashion sense and cool hair. And this was the problem: Although the film does not intend in any way to glamorize the life of a heroin-addicted teenage prostitute, it inadvertently does. The fact that the actress who played Christiane F. in the film, Natja Brunckhorst, was so beautiful didn’t help matters. Soon teenage girls were emulating both the cinematic “Christiane” and the real-life Christiane’s hair style and clothes. The Bahnhof Zoo station even became somewhat of a Japanese tourist destination, for a while.

Actress Natja Brunckhorst and David Bowie

I saw this film when it came out, when I was a teenager myself, and I can recall thinking that a) Natja Brunckhorst was super hot and that b) doing some drugs with such a cute girl and going to a David Bowie concert (he’s seen in the film performing and provided the soundtrack music) seemed like a really good time to me. I can certainly understand why why German youth advocates were concerned at the time by the way impressionable young girls saw Christiane F. as a role model.

Thirty-some years after it was released, the film still has that undiminished heroin chic quality going for it. This comment was left on YouTube just one week ago:

Amazing film. Amazing book. She was so beautiful. So clever. Such a shame she ruined her life. But she’s a hero. And maybe I’m the only one who thinks this, but it looks to me kinda attractive,you know. I mean,seventies, Berlin, David Bowie, freedom,it all looks so great! Today it’s awful.. Like everything.

You see what I mean?

The real Christiane F.

Christiane F. released a few records under the name Sentimentale Jugend, in partnership with her then-boyfriend, Alexander Hacke (of Einstürzende Neubauten) in the early 1980s. (Here’s their cover of “Satisfaction.”)

The couple also appeared in the 1983 German film Decoder, along with Neubaten’s F.M. Enheit, William Burroughs and Genesis P-Orridge (you can read about the film at The End of Being) (I suppose this is as good a place as any to tell you that I once answered the phone at a German friend’s apartment. I had to take a message and when the caller said “Tell her Christiane F. called” I just HAD to ask if she was THE Christiane F. and she said yeah and seemed really annoyed with me!)

Although she has been able to support herself from author’s royalties for many years, Christiane F.‘s life has been anything but easy, She’s been on and off drugs since her teens and at one point a few years ago, she lost custody of her young son. In 2011 she was caught up in a drugs sweep when police searched her bag at the Berlin train station, Moritzplatz, a known haven for junkies, but no narcotics were found on her person. As you might expect, every couple of years the German media check in with her to “see how she is doing.”

Below, Sentimentale Jugend, live (with Christiane F. on guitar) in Berlin, 1981.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
‘Supermigration’: A career-defining album from Solar Bears
03:25 pm

Pop Culture


It’s been worth the wait.

Three years after their excellent debut She Was Coloured In in 2010, Solar Bears are about to release a career-defining album, Supermigration.

Solar Bears is the band name for talented duo John Kowalski and Rian Trench, who have spent the past 18-months at studios in Wicklow, Ireland, working on Supermigration. It’s a long way from their debut recording in a bedroom in Dublin.

The difference is not just in the recording but in the quality and diversity of tracks. The interest in Science-Fiction is still apparent, but rather than the outward urge of space travel, Supermigration is more concerned with inner space and hints at dark, personal narratives that are often analogous with the genre.

I contacted John and Rian with some questions about the new album, Supermigration, and they started-off by explaining the influences on their recording:

John: We were listening to a lot of Eno and forgotten soundtracks which we had discovered on vinyl. Sampling these led to unusual routes for some of the finished songs on the record. It is largely dependent on what happens during a day session or a night session. The seasons played a part also. Often cases it can be something as simple as a string sound.

Rian: Its never a conscious effort to work in a set style, so in a lot of ways, the direction is determined by whatever riff, bassline, drum pattern, texture we start out with. New things definitely filtered through this time. We’d often have Al Green on in the kitchen in between sessions. We researched a lot of recording techniques. Steely Dan records were a constant reference.

Dangerous Minds: What was it like to spend so long in the studio and what was a typical recording day like?

John: It was really positive for me. One thing that did affect the recordings was getting our hands on new gear like a Korg MS-10 which a friend lent us. There were no typical days as I came down to the studio with either an idea intact or nothing at all. Rian had ideas dating back years so we concentrated on them for some of the tracks on the album.

Rian: Typically we’d bring something to the table, and just approach it in our different ways. Usually took a day to write the song, and then several days of tweaking. It was a great experience to be able to think about the tracks for long periods out of the studio. Writing time was interspersed between touring in Europe, so we had the advantage of talking about song structures and sounds etc while away.

Dangerous MInds: What is the back story with the title, Supermigration?

Rian: We were initially considering it as a track title, but then realized it kind of summed up the experiences and process surrounding the record. Its marries the journey the album takes itself. We always want to go somewhere we haven’t been before.

There is a pattern we discovered after the writing process that hadn’t been considered. We tried to vary the style and execution as much as possible, and then try to shape a very abstract narrative gluing it all together. If the composition is ready in our minds, it should allow you to invent your own story.

Cosmic Runner’—Solar Bears, from ‘Supermigration’
John: It is far more about inner space than anything external. The name itself was the only thing that made sense with the collection of songs we created together. We traveled a lot during the making of the record, seeing all that foreign scenery fed into the expansive sound of the LP somehow. My main ambition is to become more skilled as a music maker.

Looking back on the song titles there emerged a kind of science fiction psychedelic short story, starting with “Stasis” and ending with “Rainbow Collision”. We feel very unproven, that’s why we continue to work as hard as possible. Taking any of this for granted would be incredibly foolish. The label believed in us again and we love to work with all of them. Their advice and experience is invaluable to our group.

DM: What are the film references to Supermigration? And would you like to write a film score?

John: The White Ribbon, La Jetee, Gandahar and The Fountain. There is a little known Buddhist fable from Korea called Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring that has a unique soundtrack. It contains acoustics and electronics and has a very glacial sound to it. That would be one that I would like to re-score.

Rian: One of the things we want to do next is write a film score. We would love to work closely with a director on their project, try to elevate the images. Sometimes we feel that we are already scoring when writing together.

Previously on Dangerous Minds

Solar Bears: Soundtrack to the Future

More from Solar Bears, plus a film on the making of ‘Supermigration’, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Bringing the Funk from the East Village to the Global Village: Vintage Deee-Lite performances
01:26 pm



I dropped down one of those deep Internet rabbit holes yesterday looking for footage of New York nightclubs in the 1980s. I did this for hours, until my wife finally insisted that I stop and pay attention to her. I found some crazy good stuff, most of which will no doubt make it onto this very blog, but I took a major detour along the way watching vintage live Deee-Lite performances, some where I was in attendance myself.

Although the members came from all over the globe—Super DJ Dmitri hailing from the Ukraine, Towa Tei born in Korea, but raised in Tokyo, and Lady Miss Kier Kirby grew up all over the place, mostly near Pittsburgh—I thought that Deee-Lite were the most “New York” sounding group of their day. The very embodiment of the East Village zeitgeist, Deee-Lite led a multi-racial, pan-sexual party on wheels for a few years before their worldwide breakout hit, 1990’s “Groove Is In The Heart.” I don’t know how many times I saw Deee-Lite play—in the dozens and dozens—but let me tell you, they were a fucking amazing live act and a wicked good time.

“It’s funk, soul, curly, wiggly music.”—Lady Miss Kier

When they started on the scene, Deee-Lite’s futuristic, uniquely funky, jazzy “sampladelic” sound was something that no one had ever really heard before and it was obvious, from early on, seeing them at places like The Pyramid Club (I lived around the corner), Tunnel, and at the yearly Wigstock event, that they were going to be huge. Frankly I thought that they were destined for a more sustained career than they ended up having together. It’s difficult to point to the reason why that didn’t happen, because it wasn’t the music, which continued to be incredibly innovative, their videos were great and Lady Miss Kier—easily one of the top five foxiest girls in NYC of that era—was an instant style icon and a supremely confident frontwoman. She’s what they call a “belter,” like Ethyl Merman. Back then she was a tiny thing, but her voice had the power of seasoned soul diva.

I thought their act was magic, capturing a particular type of distinctly East Village lightning in a bottle. These (mostly) pre-fame videos of Deee-Lite show that magic in action.

Above, Deee-Lite doing “Try Me On, I’m Very You” in 1989, a year before their classic World Clique album was released, at Irving Plaza for the “Viva Carlo Viva Libertad” benefit concert to raise legal-defense funds for art critic Carlo McCormick after he was thrown into a Mexican jail.

More degroovy Deee-Lite after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Rosemary’s Baby, the White Album and the Manson Murders: Conspiracy Coincidence Syndrome Overload
01:42 pm



Save for the Kennedy assassination, coincidence has perhaps never coagulated with the same deeply improbable intensity as it did around the Manson killings.

Stranger still is the manner in which coincidence seems to knit the Tate/LaBianca murders together with both Rosemary’s Baby (a great film) and “the White Album” (a great record), as if all three were somehow of a piece—and in a sense that goes beyond the former’s being directed by Polanski, or the latter’s inspiring Manson’s derided “Helter Skelter” scenario.

Take, as a mere appetizer, the possibility that the Beatles may have stayed (and dropped acid) at 10050 Cielo Drive in the mid-sixties, something (apparently unwittingly) implied by John Lennon during a 1974 Rolling Stone interview.

And then, well, we just decided to take LSD again in California…We were on tour, in one of those houses, like Doris Day’s house or wherever it was we used to stay. And the three of us took it. Ringo, George and I… And a couple of the Byrds… Crosby and the other guy, who used to be the leader… McGuinn. I think they came round, I’m not sure, on a few trips.

Terry Melcher, of course, was Doris Day’s son, the Byrds’ producer, Manson’s almost-producer, and Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski’s predecessor at 10050 Cielo Drive.

In normal circumstances, Mother Superior could very well be accused of having jumped the gun were we to therefore conclude that the Beatles probably had sat turning their minds inside-out within the very walls that would—a few years later—have their as-yet unwritten song-titles scrawled upon them in blood (as if the killers were tracing indentations made by psychic shrapnel). Circumstances, however, are anything but normal…


In the spring of 1968—a handful of years after those mooted sojourns at Cielo Drive—the Beatles made their pilgrimage to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Valley of the Saints in Rishikesh, part of a sparkling celebrity coterie that included Mia Farrow and Mike Love. For the next couple of months, the days were mostly spent in epic bouts of Transcendental Meditation, as the Maharishi attempted to guide the most famous men in the world—who he himself described as “angels”—towards “total consciousness.” The Beatles, though, would spend much of their spare time writing songs – particularly Lennon, who found they were veritably “pouring out.”

Many of these new tunes would find their way onto the Beatles’ next LP, “the White Album.” One such was Lennon’s “Dear Prudence,” which playfully chided Prudence Farrow, Mia Farrow’s sister, for excessive metaphysical studiousness.

Mia Farrow herself had only recently completed filming Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. Her exquisite performance as Rosemary—a resident of New York’s Dakota building, impregnated with an anti-Christ by a coven of neighboring witches—surely meant she arrived in the Valley of the Saints carrying some very interesting inner baggage. Certainly her stay would leave its mark on history—most chroniclers ascribing some rumored sexual impropriety (or worse) on the part of the Maharishi towards Farrow as being the principal reason for Lennon and Harrison’s (the last remaining Beatles) acrimonious departure that August.

Lennon later claimed that, while packing his bags, he came up with the rudiments of another tune destined for “the White Album,” “Sexy Sadie,” four syllables that supplanted the original—and extremely libelous—“Maharishi.” The same four syllables would also find themselves supplanting the name of Manson Family Tate/LaBianca murderess Susan Atkins—known in the Family as “Sadie Mae Glutz” prior to Manson’s fateful encounter with “the White Album.” Before falling in with Manson, Atkins was an associate of Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan. LaVey is said to have served as an unaccredited technical adviser on Rosemary’s Baby.

Incidentally, Lennon and Harrison’s jaded view of the Maharishi was such that, when their protracted flight from Rishikesh was impeded by a series of disruptions—they were abandoned in a broken-down taxi, and Harrison soon thought he was coming down with dysentery— our ruffled angels feared they had been cursed by their unceremoniously discharged guru. (Echoes, here, of Bobby Beausoleil’s attempted escape from Kenneth Anger, legendarily curtailed by Anger’s magickal locket.)

Around the very time the Beatles were arriving in Rishikesh, meanwhile, Mike Love’s cousin and fellow Beach Boy Dennis Wilson would reportedly pick up hitchhikers (and Manson Family members) Patricia Krenwinkel and Ella Jo Bailey in Malibu.

Whether or not this actually happened (Charles Manson, for one, would later contradict this account, saying he first met Wilson at the house of a mutual friend’s) Wilson would definitely spend the following months as a sponsor and de facto member of the Family—footing the bill for their VD treatments (and much more besides), introducing Manson to industry figures like Neil Young and Terry Melcher, and so on.

Although Death Valley—in apparent contradistinction to the Valley of the Saints—sounded like an overtly hedonistic and nihilistic environment, Manson arguably presided over a commune no less spiritually preoccupied than the Maharishi’s, and Mike Love and Dennis Wilson seemed similarly as well as simultaneously attracted to their Ying/Yang gurus. But it appears positively miraculous that Wilson would be fraternizing with Manson while his cousin, on the other side of the world, would be fraternizing with the Beatles at the very time the songs were “pouring out” for “the White Album,” some of which would find themselves daubed on the walls at Cielo Drive in Sharon Tate’s blood, and two of which concerned Prudence and Mia Farrow, the latter having only just starred in a role once earmarked for Tate herself…

And that, as aficionados know only too well, ain’t even the half of it. (A little more to come from me on the topic though, shortly.)


Mark Reeve’s superb essay on the Beatles and the occult is a clear predecessor to the above piece, and can be read in the Headpress collection Gathering of the Tribe

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Discussion
The Catherine Wheel: David Byrne’s criminally underrated funk opera masterpiece
10:46 am



Hidden in plain sight in the midst of his prodigious creative output, there is an unfairly overlooked gem in David Byrne’s discography that I feel is an absolutely monumental masterpiece of late 20th century music, one right up there with Talking Heads’ Remain in Light and his seminal collaboration with Brian Eno, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. I refer to the seamless funk opera score Byrne created for choreographer, Twyla Tharp in 1981, The Catherine Wheel. Unless you were a big Talking Heads or are David Byrne completest, chances are this one might have passed you by.

The Catherine Wheel is, to my mind, the third spoke (see what I did there) of a deeply psychedelic African-influenced polyrhythmic trilogy along with the above-mentioned Remain in Light and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts—all three were easily in my top ten “tripping soundtracks” as an acid-gobbling teenager and all three would still be on my Desert Island Discs list as a middle-aged rock snob. If you’re a fan of the two better-known albums, but have not heard The Catherine Wheel, well, you’ll be in for a profound treat, but especially if you drop some acid beforehand (I’d encourage it, no really!).

Musicians heard on the album include Jerry Harrison, the powerful drummer Yogi Horton, percussionist John Chernoff, Adrian Belew, P-Funk’s resident Minimoog genius Bernie Worrell and Brian Eno. It’s mind-blowing to me that there’s not a deluxe 2-CD set of the album that would include the 12” mixes and live Talking Heads performances of songs from the score, but I feel like this incredible piece of music has always gotten short shrift from whatever major label currently owns it. (The Catherine Wheel is one of the greatest “fuck albums” of all time, too. That’s how they should market it, if you ask me. I toyed with the obnoxious linkbait title of “David Byrne, of all people, recorded the ultimate fuck album” but thought better of it).

Above, Talking Heads performing “Big Blue Plymouth (Eyes Wide Open)” at Wembley Arena in 1982.
After the jump, much more including the full Twyla Tharp ballet as it aired on BBC and PBS in 1983…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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