Although she’s celebrated as “the mother of punk,” the musical fruits of Nina Hagen’s early career sounded much closer to the tuba-led Bavarian oompah music of Heino than the scratchy, three chord thrash of The Slits. Which is not to say that the young Nina Hagen wasn’t the very embodiment of punk rock rebellion in Communist East Germany before anyone had ever heard of the Sex Pistols, because that is exactly what she was…
Raised by her mother, well-known film and TV actress Eva-Maria Hagen and her stepfather, dissident singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann (who was a big influence on her political views and a big nuisance to the GDR), Hagen began singing professionally at a young age. Backed by her group, Automobil, her 1974 single, “Du Hast den Farbfilm Vergessen” (“You forgot the color film”) became a huge hit in the GDR and made Hagen a big star. The seemingly innocent-sounding lyrics (a girlfriend berating her boyfriend for not bringing color film on their vacation) were a subtle dig mocking the sterile, gray, Communist state. The fluffy-sounding ditty became one the most popular songs of 1974 and the double meaning of the comical lyrics was apparently well-understood by both the general population and the Politbüro elites.
In 1976, Wolf Biermann was stripped of his citizenship and refused re-admittance into the GDR after he’d played a TV concert in Cologne. When her mother left to join her husband, Nina claimed to be Biermann’s biological daughter. However, the thing that probably got her visa stamped stat was her threat to the authorities that she would become “the next Wolf Biermann.”
Four days later she was living in the West. I wonder how many people were thrown OUT of East Germany? That’s punk!
Below, 18-year-old Nina Hagen (and Automobil) singing “Du Hast den Farbfilm Vergessen” (“You forgot the color film”). There is a version with subtitles here.
This Dutch TV documentary from 1977 captures some brilliant performances by The Stranglers, Blondie and The Sex Pistols. The bands are firing on all cylinders as they perform in Amsterdam.
In 1977, this is what was moving my world. I had just arrived in New York City and I felt like a sail in a hurricane. Slept all day and hit the clubs at night to see a rock revolution in the making.
The Stranglers at the Second Avenue Theater were particularly awe-inspiring. Unsung heroes of rock and roll, which is probably as it should be - no more heroes. Though, I have my share.
The Stranglers - No More Heroes, Something Better Change
Blondie - Detroit 442, Love at the Pier
Sex Pistols - E.M.I., Pretty Vacant, Anarchy in the UK
The video quality is pretty rough, which seems appropriate - like an underground transmission from the distant past. It’s also in Dutch without English substitles, but it hardly matters. The music speaks for itself.
According to editors at Record Collector magazine a rare recording of The Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” has gone on sale for $16,000 (£10,000).
It is said the A&M recording of the song is the most valuable piece of vinyl in the world, because the band was dropped by the label before the track’s release, and the bulk of copies were destroyed. The disc is on sale at 9991.com, where it is described as:
“SEX PISTOLS God Save The Queen (Well, this certainly shouldn’t need any introduction. Quite simply, a MINT unplayed copy of the legendary withdrawn 1977 UK original A&M 7” b/w No Feelings, in the A&M company sleeve. Obtained from an ex-industry source with impeccable credentials, this is not only one of the rarest records in existence but is certainly the most sought after and no serious record collection is complete without it, regardless of your thoughts on the band or indeed the music itself. A period piece of punk/musical/social/history. I hope this goes to someone who will love and cherish it as much as i would. Be quick before the original reluctant seller wants to buy it back…).”
John Belushi left Saturday Night Live in 1979 but agreed to appear on the show on Halloween of 1981 if one of his favorite bands, Fear, was hired as the musical guest. SNL, which was in a ratings slump, didn’t hesitate to agree to Belushi’s terms. Fear got the gig.
In order to create some excitement during Fear’s upcoming performance, Belushi contacted Ian Mackaye, who was fronting Washington D.C.‘s Minor Threat at the time.
“This is John Belushi. I’m a big fan of Fear’s. I made a deal with Saturday Night Live that I would make a cameo appearance on the show if they’d let Fear play. I got your number from Penelope Spheeris, who did Decline of Western Civilization and she said that you guys, Washington DC punk rock kids, know how to dance. I want to get you guys to come up to the show.”
Mackaye agreed to pull together some of his friends to go to New York. Little did he know that he would be in the center of one of television’s great rock and roll moments.
In an interview with Nardwuar, Mackaye describes what happened:
It was worked out that we could all arrive at the Rockefeller Center where Saturday Night Live was being filmed. The password to get in was “Ian MacKaye.” We went up the day before. The Misfits played with The Necros at the Ukrainian hall, I think, so all of the Detroit people were there, like Tesco Vee and Cory Rusk from the Necros and all the Touch and Go people and a bunch of DC people – 15 to 20 of us came up from DC. Henry (Rollins) was gone. He was living in LA at this point. So we went to the show. During the dress rehearsal, a camera got knocked over. We were dancing and they were very angry with us and said that they were going to not let us do it then Belushi really put his foot down and insisted on it. So, during the actual set itself, they let us come out again.
During the show – before they go to commercial, they always go to this jack-o-lantern. This carved pumpkin. If you watched it during the song, you’ll see one of our guys, this guy named Bill MacKenzie, coming out holding the pumpkin above his head because he’s just getting ready to smash it. And that’s when they cut it off. They kicked us out and locked us out for two hours. We were locked in a room because they were so angry with us about the behavior. I didn’t think it was that big of deal.
They said they were going to sue us and have us arrested for damages. There was so much hype about that. The New York Post reported half a million dollars worth of damages. It was nothing. It was a plastic clip that got broken. It was a very interesting experience and I realized how completely unnatural it is for a band to be on a television show – particularly a punk band – that kind of has a momentum to suddenly be expected to immediately jump into a song in that type of setting. It was very weird. Largely unpleasant. Made me realize that’s not something I’m interested in doing.”
Belushi was also among the moshers.
Fear’s SNL debut cost them future gigs with the show, clubs wouldn’t book them, and reputedly an offer from Belushi for the band to do the soundtrack of his next movie Neighbors was rescinded by the studio producing the film after Belushi’s death. All for the love of rock and roll.
Elvis Costello and The Attractions appeared on Saturday Night Live on December 17, 1977 as a last minute replacement for The Sex Pistols, who had run into problems getting into the USA because of some prior legal hassles in the UK. Costello’s performance on SNLwould become the stuff of rock and roll legend.
Costello’s record label, Columbia, wanted him to perform “Less Than Zero”, the first single from his as yet unreleased (in the U.S.) debut album My Aim Is True. Elvis wanted to perform “Radio Radio,” his attack on corporate control of the airwaves - a punk move that would have been in the spirit of The Pistols. Columbia disapproved and SNL producer Lorne Michaels allegedly also did not want the song performed as per orders from his employer NBC. Costello was told in no uncertain terms not to play the song.
Come showtime, the band started playing “Less Than Zero” and then abruptly stopped and shifted into “Radio Radio.” At the end of the tune, they defiantly walked off the set.
Michaels was furious. According to first hand accounts, he was flipping Costello the bird through the entire performance. Michaels ended up banning Costello from ever performing again on SNL. The ban lasted 12 years, which in TV years is an eternity. SNL was an essential promotional venue for jacking up a band’s record sales. Costello bit the hand that was supposed to feed him even before he even got a nibble of commercial success. In the long run, it didn’t stop him from becoming one of rock’s enduring forces.
Elvis and The Attractions do a killer version of “Radio Radio” in Detroit six months after SNL banning. Check it out after the jump…
In 1983, KTTV Channel 11 News aired a series of reports on Punk Rock and “punkers” in Los Angeles area. It’s a fascinating over-view of the West Coast Punk bands, people and fashions, though at times veers into self-parody, as reporter Chris Harris pitches his story with all the earnestness of an Alan Partridge, who thinks he’s uncovered a Pulitzer-winning scoop of teenage “violence, abuse and self-destruction”, only to find it’s all just a bit of fun.
Harris kicks off his 5-part investigation with a look at a riot in Mendiola’s Ballroom, explaining what happened and asking that always pertinent question:
“Did the police use excessive force?”
I think we know the answer to that. Three cheers then, for Harris as he states quite categorically that violence was the exception and not the norm with “punkers”.
Listening to some of these young people talk, one could almost imagine they were talking about current events and OWS, as they discuss hopes for change, and that “the world will get better.” Plus ca change…
The series includes rarely seen footage of many of LA’s punk bands, and has interviews the likes of Spit Stix and Lee Ving of Fear, Keith Morris of Circle Jerks, Nick Lamagna and Felix Alanis from RF7.
Also, look out for a young Flea, seen here just prior to his quitting Fear and joining the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The whole of the KTTV Channel 11 News investigation of Punk, after the jump…
I was looking for an image of an old labor movement poster that had the fat cat asking the mouse “You going let that union guy steal your cookie?” which I’ve always thought was the ultimate stick in the eye to working class people who watch Fox News and believe billionaire “job creators” deserve tax cuts, whilst union members and their families—you, know, their actual neighbors and relatives!—should have to make greater sacrifices. Instead of a vintage image, I came across the above illustration, Molly Crabapple and John Leavitt’s “We’re All in This Together,” their contribution to the terrific looking Occupy Comics project (which Alan Moore has just signed on to as well).
Isn’t that just a thing of beauty? It deserves to be a poster/lithograph too. I bet a lot of people would buy them. I certainly would. It’s something that needs to get around. and be seen.
“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”
That quote (and Google) in turn led me to stumble across The Punk Patriot, who has been making politically-themed YouTube videos for some time now—that are often quite good—with the aim to promote “life, liberty and the pursuit of a less fucked-up government.” Worthy goals, indeed!
In the clip below, The Punk Patriot takes on the Reichwing echo-chamber. This is a great video to send to that Archie Bunker-ish great uncle of yours who annoyed the shit out of you on Thanksgiving with his Fox News/Dittohead nonsense…
Ties are supposed to be “slimming.” Doesn’t work too well with Newt’s toned physique, does it?
The organizers of New Gingrich’s big money fundraiser in Washington, DC last night had the misfortune of choosing a location that has glass doors facing outwards on both sides of the ballroom. Dozens of mostly unemployed workers affiliated with “Take Back the Capitol” gathered at the entrance of the swanky Willard Hotel in downtown D.C., passed out fake $100 bills with Gingrich’s swollen head on them and chanted “The poor get poorer, the rich get rich, that’s the platform of Gingrich.” Earlier in the day, the group brought traffic to a near-standstill on K Street.
Earlier, protesters had gathered outside the front doors of the Willard, chanting, “The poor get poorer, the rich get rich, that’s the platform of Gingrich.” They hoisted a “We are the 99%” banner, and the hotel locked several of its entrances.
The Gingrich fundraiser protest was part of “Take Back the Capitol,” a five-day, 99-percent-themed series of protests targeting lawmakers at popular fundraising and deal-making spots in DC, including the Capitol Hill Club, a GOP haunt, and Charlie Palmer Steakhouse, a favorite lunch spot for lobbyists and legislators a stone’s throw from Capitol. On Tuesday night, protesters lined the entrance to the swanky Lincoln restaurant to protest a fundraiser thrown by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). At least a dozen were arrested on Wednesday during a march on K Street, the symbolic heart of DC’s lobbying industry.
The protesters’ schedule includes a full day of events on Thursday, including actions at the Capitol Hill Club and elsewhere around DC. But no 1-percenter knows where they might strike next.
Beautiful. Turn up the heat on these bastards. Boil that Newt!
Earlier this week:OWS Takes the Fight to GOP Donors at Cantor Fundraiser (Mother Jones)