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. Getting 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.
“Hatschi Waldera” a 1975 love song to a sneezy hero:
Bonus clip 1: The Nina Hagen Band performing “Auf´m Bahnhof Zoo” in 1978:
Bonus clip 2: an odd “drag king” moment from 1976 that reminds me a bit of Victoria Wood:
Thank you Jesse Merlin!