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Ralf Hütter reviews Kraftwerk’s albums, 2009
10:20 am


Ralf Hütter

In 2009 Uncut magazine managed to get Ralf Hütter of Kraftwerk to go through the entire Kraftwerk discography and comment on the albums one by one. Because of his role in creating these albums it’s a bit silly to call his comments “reviews” but you know, it’s close enough.

When this piece was executed, the split between Hütter and Florian Schneider was quite fresh—Florian had played his last gig with Kraftwerk three years earlier, on November 11, 2006, at Feria de Muestras in Zaragoza, Spain, and the news of Florian’s exit from the band was only a few months old. Uncut addressed the situation in the introduction:

The acrimonious departure last year of Hütter’s fellow Kraftwerk founder, Florian Schneider, is still a sensitive subject. “We haven’t seen him for a long time,” Hütter shrugs. “I cannot speak for my former partner, friend and co-composer, but he always hated touring and concerts.”

Perhaps it was to assuage any doubts people might have about a touring four-piece Kraftwerk with just one member from the classic 1970s/‘80s lineup in it that Hütter chose to discourse so expansively on the legendary band’s illustrious catalog. Uncut skipped a couple of releases, notably Kraftwerk 2, Electric Café, and The Mix, but covered covered the entirety of what they surely saw as the meat of Kraftwerk’s golden period in the late 1970s.

For every album, ranging from 1970’s debut Kraftwerk up to 2003’s Tour De France Soundtracks, I’ve excerpted a paragraph or so from Hütter’s full comments. For the full scoop, by all means check out Uncut’s page or the large-format images of the pages we’ve provided below.

We were finding Kraftwerk, setting up the Kling Klang studio, finding musicians to work with, discovering composition, discovering the German language, human voice, synthetic voice. Me and Florian had our Kling Klang studio since 1970, and before that we had a free-form music group. We used to play at universities or parties or art galleries. And one day we said: OK, there must be a mothership, a laboratory, a studio HQ where we put things together.

We listened to quite a lot of electronic stuff at that time. On the art scene, and on the radio. We were brought up within the kind of classical Beethoven school of music, but we were aware there was a contemporary music scene, and of course a pop and rock scene. But where was our music? Finding our voice, I think that was the use of the tape recorder. So that’s what happened, we tried to forget all the things we knew before. I think our contact to the tape recorder made us use synthetic voices, artificial personalities, all those robotic ideas.

It’s not about cars, it’s about the Autobahn. People forget that. It’s a road where we were travelling all the time: hundreds of thousands of kilometres from university to art galleries, from club to home. We didn’t even have money to stay in hotels so at night we’d be travelling home after playing somewhere. That’s very important, it’s not about cars, it’s about the Autobahn. It’s also a road movie, with a humorous twist.

It’s a science fiction kind of album. Horror and beauty. The concept was infiltration by radio station – which is maybe more dangerous than radioactivity. We worked with tapes, editing pieces, glue. All electronics. And more singing and speaking, like speech symphonies.

It was written in two languages, English and German. Autobahn was just one. It was not a statement, just these lyrics came to our mind—“Radioactivity, is in the air for you and me…” Just ideas coming together, and then anticipating the next album, which was all in two languages, like in films. There were always talks about Kraftwerk working with films, but they didn’t happen – apart from [German director Rainer Werner] Fassbinder, but he used finished pieces of our music in different interpretations in his films. Radio-Activity was a favourite of Fassbinder, he used it in Russian Roulette and in Berlin Alexanderplatz.

Much, much more after the jump….....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Siouxsie & The Banshees, Kraftwerk, Suzi Quatro, AC/DC & more on German TV show ‘Rockpop’

AC/DC rehersing with Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielson for German music TV show
AC/DC jamming with Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielson during rehearsals for the German music TV show “‘Rockpop’ in 1979. You can see footage of Cheap Trick on ‘Rockpop,’here.
Today I have the perfect remedy for it sadly being Monday—again!—some incredible footage of bands such as Siouxsie & The Banshees, Kraftwerk, AC/DC, Suzi Quatro, and a number of other notable musical acts performing on German music television’s Rockpop in the late 70s.
Suzi Quatro performing on
Suzi Quatro performing on “Rockpop” in 1979
Rockpop was aired on German public-service television broadcaster, ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen) starting in 1978 and running until 1982. The show would feature several performances from its diverse selection of musical guests on each episode. Some even performed live, not just miming along to their tunes, like AC/DC, Suzi Quatro, and Wayne County & the Electric Chairs did in 1979.

I’m especially fond of the clip of Siouxsie & The Banshees performing their 1978 single, “Hong Kong Garden” on Rockpop in 1979 (during which a 22-year-old Siouxsie Sioux does a sweet punk rock aerobic routine on stage) to a virtually motionless, rather serious-looking studio audience. In addition to the bands I’ve already mentioned in this post, I’ve also included clips from Rockpop featuring heavy metal heroes like the Scorpions and Judas Priest because the crystal clear footage (in most cases), is just too good not to share.

AC/DC performing “Highway to Hell” live on ‘Rockpop’ live in September of 1979.
More from ‘Rockpop’ after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Father and son cover Kraftwerk’s ‘The Robots’
09:52 am

Pop Culture

The Robots

Okay, we’re going to do some cute here on Dangerous Minds today. Here’s father and son duo, Andrew and Hudson covering Kraftwerk’s “The Robot.” Kudos to dad for turning his son onto the good stuff instead of all the horrible manufactured pop drivel that most kids listen to nowadays. Parenting done right, in my opinion!

via Nerdcore

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The Vienna Vegetable Orchestra covers Kraftwerk’s ‘Radio-Activity’
11:19 am


Vienna Vegetable Orchestra

Vienna, world capital of classical music and opera, might have more musicians per capita than any other major city. It certainly feels that way when you walk through the city’s bustling 1st district, where a man dressed up as Mozart will offer to thrust a flier for a classical concert into your hand and you’ll probably hear someone practicing the scales through an open window.

If any city were to spawn an ensemble of musicians playing actual music on actual vegetables (and releasing actual records), you’d have to bet on Vienna. And thus we come to the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra, or Das erste Wiener Gemüseorchester. (That word “erste” there means “first,” so technically their name translates as the First Vienna Vegetable Orchestra—the presumed joke being that there ain’t a whole lotta competition for the title, right?)

When the orchestra plays, it uses drums made out of pumpkins and celery roots, carrots become flutes, and they’ve invented a “cucumberphone” that employs a hollowed-out cucumber with a bell pepper at one end and a carrot (serving as a reed) at the other. At the top of this post you’ll see a picture of a man playing a “leek violin,” but how it works is anybody’s guess. There’s a wealth of information about the instruments on the group’s website.

Since every concert concludes with the preparation of a vegetable soup using the instruments that have just been used to produce melodious tones, it belongs to the very concept of the group that much of the effort of each show goes into creating the instruments from scratch, every time. As a matter of fact many of the photos on the group’s website depict the various members in the act of forging the new instruments, as shown below.

The Vienna Vegetable Orchestra was dreamt up by a group of students in 1998 and has released three albums: Gemise (a pun on the word Gemüse—vegetables—I can’t quite parse, it may play on the word mies, which means “lousy, rotten”), Automate, and Onionoise.

The tenth track off of Automate is a cover of Kraftwerk‘s “Radio-Activität,” known to you and me as “Radio-Activity.” Listen below:

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
He was a robot: DM catches up with ex-Kraftwerk member Wolfgang Flür
08:49 am


Wolfgang Flür

You know those Pink Floyd laser shows that set trippy visuals to either the entire Dark Side Of The Moon album or to a hodgepodge of greatest hits? Imagine being at one of those, but Roger Waters is there. In fact, he’s not just there, he’s onstage. And not only is he onstage, he’s holding his bass. There are also three other guys there whom you don’t recognize, and they have instruments too—you can’t really tell if anyone’s actually playing the instruments, but you give them the benefit of the doubt that they probably are; anyway, live music is utterly beside the point of the show, you’re really there to be dazzled by the visuals. Now imagine that’s not a Laser Floyd show—imagine that Waters is representing this event as an actual Pink Floyd concert and charging accordingly for tickets, despite the SCREAMING obviousness of the fact that this is in no way the Pink Floyd the world grew to love, and seriously, who the fuck are these old men with the other instruments?

This is not an invented scenario, and it’s not Pink Floyd. I have basically just described a 21st Century Kraftwerk show.

Some of the commentariat will surely howl for my head over that, but whatever. The truth, in retrospect, is obvious: the Kraftwerk that was every bit as important to the development of Western pop music as Elvis, the Beatles and the Ramones has been stone cold dead for at least 25 years. The four-piece lineup that produced the string of five literally world-changing albums from 1975’s Radio-Activity to 1986’s Electric Cafe began to splinter when in 1987 percussionist Wolfgang Flür departed, followed by percussionist Karl Bartos in 1990. Their next album was a 1991 best-of that offered contemporized versions of their classics, but no new compositions, signaling that Kraftwerk were no longer the future, but a holdover to what the future once promised. Both percussionists were replaced on that album,The Mix, by Fritz Hilpert, who remains a member to this day.

Kraftwerk began touring in earnest again in the late 90s, adding sound engineer Henning Schmitz to the lineup, restoring the quartet formation that had figured so importantly in their visual presentation. They FINALLY released new material in 2003—though to consider it entirely new is a stretch, as the album, Tour De France Soundtracks, was built around a re-working of the “Tour De France” single from 20 years earlier (a magnificent song), and it’s their least essential post-Autobahn work. Kraftwerk’s founders and principal songwriters were synthesists Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider (who himself jumped ship in 2008), but the fact that they never recovered artistically after the losses of Flür and Bartos strongly suggests that those percussionists may have been more crucial to the band’s creative nexus than the bossmen were ever willing to say.

If you don’t love this photo I may be incapable of understanding you.

I’m very glad to have seen their 1998 tour, though it was a pretty gimmicky affair; it was crowd-pleasing and great fun, but that was when it really hit me that Kraftwerk had become a nostalgia act packed with placeholder members. Their tours had long deployed stagecraft that was conceptually germane to the band’s obsessions—typically a variation on the theme of artificial humanity, expressed via dummies, automata, computer modeling—but that tour was a backward glance, the presentation of every song adhering strictly to the cover design of whichever album it had come from. Lately, the Hütter-led Kraftwerk cover band also called Kraftwerk has been packing ‘em in on a “3D” tour that is essentially nothing but its visual gimmick. They’re scheduled to perform eight Kraftwerk albums in their entirety in Oslo this summer, with the 3D visuals, which will surely be much more fun to look at than four old men in form-fitting catsuits standing still behind podia.

But as far as music goes, those departed percussionists haven’t simply disappeared, and in fact have had vastly more active release schedules than their ex-bandmates who continued to keep the name “Kraftwerk” going. Bartos collaborated with members of New Order and the Smiths in a project called Electronic, and remained active in the ‘90s with his own project Elecktric Music. His pace has since slowed. In 2003 and 2013 he released albums under his own name, which are quite enjoyable, but VERY throwbacky—the cover art for the most recent, Off the Record, even depicts Bartos as an unmistakably Kraftwerkian mannequin.

Wolfgang Flür has remained an active presence in electronic music as well. In 1993 he founded Yamo, a collaborative project with Düsseldorf electronic experimentalists Mouse on Mars, that released an album, two EPs, and two singles in a concentrated spurt from 1996-98. Since Yamo he’s been DJing and composing, lately doing a multimedia show called MusikSoldat:

Recently, a compilation of Flür’s post-90s music called Eloquence was released. It features solo works and collaborations, including the later Yamo single “I Was a Robot,” the significance of which surely can’t be lost on anyone still reading this. (It was also the title of his autobiography). The comp reveals that though Bartos is probably the most prolific when it comes to releasing, Flür may actually be the most creatively vital Kraftwerk member at work today, and his penchant for collaboration may be key to that. His track with Meat Beat Manifesto’s Jack Danger sounds unmistakably like a combination of that band with Kraftwerk. “Axis of Envy,” his work with Nitzer Ebb’s Bon Harris, unsurprisingly bears strong currents of industrial menace. “Moda Makina,” with Nortec Collective’s Ramón Amezcua, seems like an answer song to Kraftwerk’s much-covered “The Model,” (perhaps a favorite topic of his—there’s also a song called “Cover Girl” that covers similar conceptual territory) but with a Mexican horn section. Farther from his old group than that, I doubt one could get.

Flür talks more than he sings—he’s addressed this himself, saying “Eloquence shows my way of performing most of songs as a story-teller than a vocalist. I slip into roles like an actor inside the song, trying to be the character within the song”—and while that can sometimes be Leonard Cohenishly effective, that’s not always so, and perhaps recognizing this, he turns the vocals over to guests from time to time, as on a Japanese language version of “On The Beam,” sung by Pizzicato Five’s Nomiya Maki.

Flür was gracious enough to answer a few questions in an email exchange.

DM: It seems like a good bit of your output during and since YAMO has been collaborative. I imagine, given your history, that you must be a sought-after collaborator. How do you choose the artists with whom you’ll work?

Wolfgang Flür: It seems so, sought-after, and I’m very happy about this situation. Having so many friends and colleagues in the world is really making me a happy man. Being involved in so many interesting and different projects is something I could not believe twenty years ago. I choose what inspires me what touches my heart and soul. I immediately feel a familiarity when certain things come together.

DM: Does the release of your retrospective herald a new productive phase for you in terms of releasing more of your own compositions?

WF: Of course is it this. I had much fun with all of the ELOQUENCE productions. Next time I maybe call my album “COLLABORATIONS“

DM: Is anything stopping you from forming a new group with Karl Bartos and Florian Schneider? What would that group sound like in 2015?

WF: That’s a question I’m often asked and also this time I answer, I’m open for everything which is fun. Have you watched what Florian is currently in? I’m proud of him and say “chapeau!“:
After the jump, some music…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
High-end plush dolls of Frank Zappa, Robert Smith, Kraftwerk, Jim Jarmusch & more, that you NEED!

Kraftwerk plush dolls by Uriel Valentin
Kraftwerk plush dolls by Uriel Valentin

Uriel Valentin is the talented Argentinian-based doll maker and artist behind a massive line of plush, hand-painted dolls that are about to send you running for your credit card. I often blog about these kinds of collectibles here on Dangerous Minds but didn’t know until today how much I needed a plush Robert Smith doll clad in look-alike pajamas like the ones that he wore in the 1989 video for “Lullaby.” Did you?
Robert Smith of The Cure in his Lullabye pajamas
Robert Smith of The Cure in his “Lullaby” PJs
Frank Zappa plush doll by Uriel Valentin
Frank Zappa in his iconic “PIPCO” shirt.
Among the illustrious and eclectic inhabitants of Valentin’s cool world are plush versions of everyone from famous punks like Elvis Costello, director Jim Jarmusch, Charlotte Gainsbourg (covered in blood clutching the disemboweled fox from Antichrist), Andy Warhol and Jean Basquiat (wearing boxing gloves and attire no less, as in the poster for their 1985 collaboration), Iron Maiden’s “Eddie” (as well as Maiden bassist Steve Harris, squeee!), two delightful versions of Robert Smith of The Cure and every member of fucking KRAFTWERK.

Valentin’s figures stand about fourteen inches tall, are hand-painted and sealed with a transparent acrylic varnish, and have wire inside of them so they are able to be put into posed positions. I’ve included over 40 (!) images of Valentin’s dolls for you to digest after the jump that will run you around $100 (including international shipping). The talented Argentinian also does custom orders (which are $115) - contact him via his Flickr page for more information.
Jim Jarmusch
Jim Jarmusch
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford from the 1962 film, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford from the 1962 film, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Hedwig (played by actor James Cameron Mitchell in the film and play Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
Hedwig as played by actor James Cameron Mitchell from Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
Way more of these amazing handmade dolls after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘We are the Robots’: German elementary school kids do Kraftwerk
09:02 am


Kids doing weird things

OK. We’re pretty sure that this is the cutest kid-related thing you’ll see all day.

Students at Lemmchen elementary school in Mainz, near Frankfurt, Germany perform Kraftwerk’s classic “Die Roboter,” complete with adorable cardboard robot costumes.

What’s most remarkable about this version, outside of the cute-factor, is the fact that it sounds so totally (perhaps, refreshingly) HUMAN.


Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Krautrock legend Michael Rother talks about the new Harmonia box set, plus exclusive footage!

Of the so-called Krautrock bands, Harmonia’s music is the most beautiful. It often sounds as if they’re playing colored lights rather than musical instruments. As Julian Cope writes of Harmonia’s first album in Krautrocksampler:

Each piece was a short vignette of sound which faded in, filled the room with its unearthly beauty, then left just as quickly.

Formed in 1973 by guitarist Michael Rother, who had founded NEU! after leaving Kraftwerk, and electronic musicians Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, who played together as the duo Cluster, Harmonia lived and recorded in a communal setting in the rural town of Forst, where Rother still lives. Brian Eno, who believed Harmonia was “the world’s most important rock band,” traveled to Forst to record with the trio in 1976, after the group had already agreed to break up; he described what he found there as “a small anarchic state.”

Harmonia only released two albums during their brief career, both essential: Musik von Harmonia and Deluxe. Tracks and Traces, the album resulting from Harmonia’s collaboration with Eno, did not come out until 1997; a decade later, the release of Live 1974 brought the total number of Harmonia records to a slim but sturdy four. On October 23, Grönland Records will release Harmonia’s Complete Works, a five-LP box set that supplements all of the above with a new archival release, Documents 1975, a poster, a pop-up, and a booklet with photos from Forst and an enlightening essay by Geeta Dayal.

I spoke with Michael Rother about Harmonia’s remarkable career early one morning in September.

It strikes me that you have a really distinctive guitar tone. I feel like if someone was playing a recording of yours that I’d never heard before, I could identify that it was you. Do you have any insight into how your tone developed?

Of course, this is a compliment. Actually, it should make me happy. It makes me happy—and maybe it’s also true, to a certain degree—but there is no real secret about the guitar. I think it has to do with the way I play guitar.

I used to, in the sixties, when I was still a copyist, a copy guitar player, copying heroes like Harrison, Clapton, Hendrix, Page, and whatever [laughs], I tried to play the rock’n’roll, rock type of guitar. But I stopped that in the late sixties, and the idea was to throw away the fast fingers and concentrate on one note, and then gradually find out what I can express on the guitar without being a copy of someone else.

And, of course, maybe you’re right, the fuzztone is special. I have a fuzz—the original was built for me in the seventies, but not NEU! so, see, it can’t be the only explanation—that was built when I was with Harmonia, by some people in the vicinity, music fans and also musicians. And this guy built a copy of, I think it was a copy of a Big Muff or something like that for me. In recent years, I was lucky that a real audio guru, a real, very talented, experienced studio electrician—electrician, maybe not; like, he knows all about studio technology, and he can build stuff—so I asked him to rebuild that fuzz, and to build it in a slightly smaller case, so that I can carry it around the world. And he laughed when he looked at the original copy from the seventies, and said “Ha, ha! These people have made a mistake!” And I asked him to stick to that mistake, because maybe the mistake is partly responsible for the special sound.

But I think—that is probably one aspect, but the idea behind the guitar playing, how I build up several guitars in one track, I think that’s also a very important factor, creating some individual sound. When I started with NEU! I remember I had this vision of making my guitar sound like an oboe, you know, the wind instrument? Like, fading in? So I had these two volume pedals, and if you listen to tracks like “Neuschnee,” for instance, you hear an example. And by EQing the guitar, and then also, of course, adding delays, et cetera. But the idea of a guitar not sounding like a guitar was something that was, from the beginning, in my head. It was supposed to sound different.

I have to admit that I always pictured Harmonia’s music coming out of the city, in more of a laboratory setting, so I was really surprised to see in the booklet that comes with the box set that it was more of a communal situation with dogs and families… there’s one picture of a guy named Jerry Kilian lying on a couch with a beer bottle underneath. What can you tell me about life at Forst?

That’s an interesting thing, what you say about how you imagine the music to come from the city, because sometimes people say the opposite, and they ask me questions like, “Do you think the music by Harmonia could have been the same if you had, for instance, lived in Berlin, and recorded music in an underground studio without fresh air, without any windows?” Of course, it’s hypothetical; I have no real explanation. But what I try to say to those questions is: I believe that Roedelius, Moebius and I already had some kind of vision for the music which would have been independent of the place where the music is played. But, of course, partly the wonder for this magical place—because it’s not only the communal aspect, it’s also looking out of the window and seeing a river and fields, no human structure in sight, and to have this kind of open space—at least, it was something that appealed to me straight from the beginning, this feeling of being at home, sort of, hasn’t left me since.

You know, I still live here. My studio was the Harmonia studio, where you see the three work spaces of Roedelius, Moebius and mine—I think it’s also in the book—you see the gear set up. That room is still my studio. Of course, it has changed; the gear has changed, and recently, since the arrival of the computer, that has significantly changed again, because I can work, I don’t know, I can work in a closet! [Laughs] All I need is a computer and a guitar, like I work live, you know. That setup which I carry around the world is what I basically need, and of course if I have some more gear, that’s also welcome.

I can’t part with Forst. I used to have a flat; my former partner, she let me use that flat in Hamburg when, in the wintertime, it gets rather dark and gloomy and muddy in Forst, but it’s different from city life, of course. In spring, summer, and also autumn, it’s beautiful. Today, I was up, I went into the toilet and I saw a beautiful sky with fog on the river, and I immediately grabbed my camera. I make photos all the time, because with each light—like daylight, bright sunshine, or dark atmosphere—you always have new impressions of the landscape.

Coming back to your question, apart from the beauty of the landscape, which really impressed me, of course, the thing was the lifestyle of the people and the lifestyle that was possible in this environment, which was, for me, a new experience. I came from Düsseldorf; I’d been living in cities with normal flats, and when I came to Forst, at the time—it’s really a funny anecdote—there was only one tap in the staircase with cold water. There was no sewage, nothing. There was just a pipe going through the wall, and everything went down just outside the house [laughs]. What I’m trying to say is, there was so much freedom to create your own living space, you know? Install heating, install proper sanitary things, and also, something I really enjoyed, I took a sledgehammer and just removed a wall that divided the space I could use, and just took out the wall to have a large room instead of two small ones. Try to do that in a flat in Düsseldorf! [Laughs]

So, the positive side was, we were really free. We could make music whenever we wanted to, nobody complained. We didn’t create much noise, but we had space, very much space to leave our gear. There were other people in Forst with whom we exchanged—like the people you see in the photos, you know, that was the kind of people, musicians came to visit. The basic thing is the freedom, really; it all comes down to the freedom.
The interview continues after the jump, plus the ONLY known footage of Harmonia, a Dangerous Minds exclusive!

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Honey, I Shrunk the Autobahn: Rick Moranis sings Kraftwerk
10:21 am


Rick Moranis

This is good fun, and it’s a damn shame it’s not more widely known—in 1989, comedic actor Rick Moranis released a Kraftwerk cover on his album You, Me, the Music and Me. Moranis became known in the ‘80s as Bob McKenzie in SCTV’s “Great White North” sketch and its feature film Strange Brew, as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, and for damn near movie-stealing supporting roles in Ghostbusters and Spaceballs. In the ‘90s he softened his image to suit the family-oriented Honey, I Shrunk [whatever] franchise before real-life family matters prompted his mid-decade retirement.

Despite having been released on the highly notable indie label IRS Records, the album just doesn’t exist anywhere anymore. For some reason, there was no CD issue despite the 1989 release date, and Spotify, iTunes, et al seem to have never heard of the thing. (I’d bet rent money Grooveshark had it, but sadly, that service and its founder are both gone now.) As of this posting there are zero copies for sale on Amazon, Discogs or MusicStack, so unless a copy happens to find its way into your hands on a digging expedition, the debut solo LP by a beloved performer is effectively unobtainable.

‘80s graphic design. Hey, it’s been 30 years, isn’t this style due for a revival?

And it’s kind of a bummer that the album seems to be such a total ghost. I’d like to check it out even just once, even though I don’t have the highest expectations for it. Moranis’ 1981 Great White North LP with Dave Thomas is one of the all time great comedy records, and there’s just no way You, Me, the Music and Me could measure up. Judging by the credits, Moranis seems to be assuming the guise of a DJ, commenting on various musical phenomena—already a played-out premise even then—as well as covering tunes like “A Day In The Life” and “Light My Fire.” Um, OK. Though very little of the album exists in Internetland, one thing that IS available is the “Ipanema Rap,” an ‘80s white-guy rap parody of “The Girl From Ipanema.” You’re groaning, aren’t you? You’re right to be groaning. It’s pretty awful. The video is worth a look, if only so you can marvel at how a video from 1989 looks so much like a video from 1981. IRS was apparently pretty tight-fisted with all that R.E.M. money.

But the album ends on a really high note—Moranis’ fairly reverent cover of Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn.” It’s only four minutes long, which is a mercy, it wouldn’t be very amusing for the full 22+ minutes of the original, but the material actually suits him quite well. The spoken bit at the end is clearly a part of the album’s DJ conceit, and can be ignored.

After the jump, Rick Moranis turns Japanese…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Shitastic 70s cover versions of hits by Bowie, Blondie, Kraftwerk, Sex Pistols, Kate Bush & more
02:30 pm


Sex Pistols

In the few years before K-Tel and Ronco locked down the market segment dedicated to officially licensed compilations of recent rock and pop hits, there existed a demand for budget LPs with experienced session musicians reverse-engineering.recent hits to the best of their ability. If, as a listener, you are indifferent to craft and just want some recent chart-toppers pulsating through your stereo system, then why not buy an album like that, right? It’s 99% as good and costs less.

The world leader in this peculiar industry was, without much doubt, the “Top of the Pops” series put out by the budget Pickwick label between 1968 and the early 1980s, although their heyday was the mid-1970s. Listening to these tracks today yields an odd variety of delight, like watching a pirated DVD purchased on Canal St. or wearing an obvious knockoff of a Rolex watch.

As you can see, Pickwick’s strategy was pretty evident: Package together a dozen or so recent radio faves at the barest minimum cost and put a picture of a pretty girl on the cover. To put this into context, according to this affable enthusiast of these “TOTP” LPs, in 1970s England a full-price album cost about £2.10, and a 7-inch single ran 50p apiece. At 75p, the TOTP albums were a fantastic deal, and customers gobbled them up. They came out every six weeks or so.

The series was founded by a producer named Alan Crawford, but he quit after finishing work on Vol. 14 in late 1970. Bruce Baxter took over the project and was responsible for many of the most beloved/scorned volumes, taking care of the next 65 volumes, all the way into 1980. In its Sept. 2000 issue, MOJO Magazine took a look at the beloved old TOTP LPs, and Baxter was interviewed for that piece. These albums were recorded very quickly, usually in a week—Baxter would receive the dozen tracks to be recorded on a Wednesday, he would score the tracks for the session musicians on Thursday; on Friday the recording sessions would begin. By the next Wednesday, “in a state of abject knackeredness” he would deliver the completed tracks to the label. Baxter also mentioned that the session singers on these LPs usually were given no more than a quarter-hour to nail down their vocal track! Wow wow wow, that’s crazy. 

Most of the songs they covered constitute your basic classic treasury of disposable pop treasures. But every now and then they decided to mimic something more special, and the results are predictably jaw-dropping. Examples include David Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn,” and the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant.”

Not all of the imitations are uniformly terrible—you can nod your head in a gesture of strained respect some of the time—but when they start trying to reproduce a dizzying track like Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” that’s when they get into trouble. For sheer awfulness it’s hard to top the Poppers’ versions of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” or Ian Dury’s “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.” The Kraftwerk cover is particularly striking—Baxter told MOJO that it was “very hard,” continuing that “I did it all myself on an ARP2500 synth. It took the best part of the day.”

We’ve embedded six YouTube videos below of these reverse-engineered tracks; I opted to focus on some Dangerous Minds favorites here, like Bowie, Dury, Bush, Blondie, and so forth. But there’s tons more out there, you just have to do a little research, which is very easy (YouTube search string “dancing queen poppers,” et al.). Many of these bizarre tracks are available on Amazon; all you have to do is put in the title and the word “Poppers” or “Top Poppers” and it will come up if it’s available (here’s an example). Here’s a basic general list; I’ve gone to the trouble of linking to Amazon for the six tracks that follow.
TOTP “Life on Mars”:

TOTP “Wuthering Heights”:

More of these sublimely ersatz “hits” after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Kraftwerk: Pop Art’ documentary asks if they’re more important than the Beatles?
11:07 am



Kraftwerk: Pop Art, the 2013 documentary by Simon Witter and Hannes Rossacher has been available on YouTube in German, French and Spanish versions for some time, but Friday night an English language version was broadcast on BBC Four and surprise, surprise, it’s there now, too, for your weekend viewing pleasure.

The film focuses on the group’s eight day residency at London’s Tate Modern in 2013, where they played each of their albums from Autobahn to Tour de France all the way through in front of a 3D screen with elaborate computerized visuals. There are plenty of archival clips, and what is said to be Ralf Hütter’s last known filmed interview, from 1981. Naturally there are a lot of professional talking heads, including British journalist Paul Morley who argues that the lads from Düsseldorf are more crucially important to music than the Fab Four.

Although I personally don’t agree with him, Morley’s got a fair point and he’s able to back it up. Were Kraftwerk more influential than the Beatles? Discuss amongst yourselves in the comments… while I run in the other direction!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Ready for the world’s first academic conference dedicated to Kraftwerk?
03:17 pm



In just two weeks, if you happen to be in the Birmingham, U.K., area, Aston University will be holding “the first ever international academic conference on Kraftwerk.” It was bound to happen to any musical act that has released albums with titles like Trans-Europe Express and The Man-Machine—hell, they almost sound like academic papers already.

The conference, bearing the impressive title “Industrielle Volksmusik for the Twenty-First Century: Kraftwerk and the Birth of Electronic Music in Germany,” will last two days, January 21 and 22, and will showcase the “cultural-historical origins of the man-machine,” the links between Kraftwerk and German techno, and the “cultural studies of cycling.”

On hand will be former Kraftwerk member Wolfgang Flür, who will read from his memoirs, as well as Cabaret Voltaire’s Stephen Mallinder, Visage member and Blitz Club founder Rusty Egan, and esteemed music writer David Stubbs. For those wishing to unwind on the evening between the two day-long sessions, there will be a “Kraftwerk disco.”

The conference will takes place at Aston University’s Byng Kendrick Lecture Theatre. Those wishing to purchase tickets can do so here for just £20 (about $30).

In other news, less than a year ago Ralf Hütter confirmed that a new Kraftwerk album is in the works.

Here is a list of the papers that will be presented during the conference:

Ulrich Adelt, “Moving Up: Kraftwerk and ‘Kosmische Musik’”
Sean Albiez, “Kraftwerk in the Context of the 20th-Century Avant-Garde”
Heinrich Deisl, “Searching for Modernity: Socio-Historical Perspectives on Techno Music and ‘Das Deutsche’”
Pertti Grönholm, “Nostalgia For The Modern: Re-Imagining the Past Futures in the Concept of Kraftwerk”
Alexander Harden, “Kraftwerk and the Issue of Post-Human Authenticity”
Stephen Mallinder, “Kraftwerk: Modernity and Movement”
Alexei Monroe, “Trans-Slovene Expressions: Kraftwerk on the Sunny Side of the Alps”
David Pattie, “Ralf und Florian, Krautrock and Germany”
Hillegonda Rietveld, “Europe Endless: Geopolitical Retro-Futurism?”
Melanie Schiller, “Fun Fun Fun on the Autobahn: Kraftwerk Challenging Germanness”
Uwe Schütte “We Are the Robots! On the Cultural-Historical Origins of the Man-Machine”
Johannes Springer, “Kraftwerk and the Cultural Studies of Cycling”
Nick Stevenson, “Cabaret Voltaire and Dada Modernity”
David Stubbs, “The Archaeological Years: Kraftwerk before Autobahn”

Just for funsies, here’s the “Ralf and Florian” sitcom, which we covered last spring. Or perhaps it should be re-titled “Thalia, Aristophanes, and Ralf: Reifying Sapphic Assumptions in the Post-Hegemonic Discourse.”


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Can, Tangerine Dream, Amon Düül II, and so many more on ‘The German Rock Night’

In 2006, a six-part Rockpalast documentary on German rock music aired on German TV. It was called “Kraut und Rüben,” a title which literally means “cabbage and beets,” but is idiomatic for “higgledy-piggledy,” “topsy-turvy,” etc. If I could speak German for shit, I might be able to tell whether it was any good. It’s probably incredible—the performance footage is terrific, but unfortunately, it’s all truncated, or talked-over by interviewees. This resulted in an outpouring of viewer interest in seeing the unexpurgated performances:

After the broadcast of “Kraut und Rüben,” the Rockpalast documentary about German rock music, viewers would frequently ask when they would get to see the full-length concerts of which only short snippets had been televised. Before Rockpalast, full-length concerts were shown only in exceptional cases, but we have indeed found so many more or less complete clips that we decided to show the ten hours of footage over two evenings.

They cover the full range of the groups that were introduced in the documentary, from Scorpions to Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Eloy, Ton Steine Scherben, Can, Guru Guru, all the way to Amon Düül II. In addition some rarer clips that could not be incorporated in the doc will be shown. The majority of the material has not been seen since the original telecast. We hope that the umbrella term “Krautrock” can once and for all be buried as useless. At the same time, the two nights provide the beginning of a loose series, in which the lost treasures of German television archives could be made available again.


Amon Düül II

Guru Guru

So, for two consecutive Sunday nights, WDR TV aired historical performance footage of German rock bands pretty much nonstop. Plenty of important Krautrock bands are included (say what you will, Rockpalast, that term simply is not useless), and there are gems from bands purveying more standard-issue rock ’n’ roll fare. In the first night alone, there were four songs from Amon Düül II, five from Can, and a television appearance by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider’s pre-Kraftwerk band Organisation. Oh, and the Guru Guru stuff should not be missed.

What follows is only the first night. For the second, see this YouTube playlist. If you carve out enough time to make it all the way through this (and if you’re able to, I think you should, as chances seem really high that you might see something amazing of which you’ve never heard before), I’m certain you’ll get a grin out of the back-to-back juxtaposition in the third video of those binary opposites of German rock, Kraftwerk and Scorpions.

Hours of Krautrock German music after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Kraftwerk’s 1975 BBC TV appearance: ‘The germinating moment for British dance music’
11:11 am



The BBC science and technology show Tomorrow’s World ran for almost 40 years (and was affectionately parodied in Look Around You), but the bit of that show that concerns us here was just a hair longer than two minutes. It was a short glimpse at the seminal German band Kraftwerk, performing their song “Autobahn” in 1975, just before their ten year run of LPs from Radio-Activity through Electric Café completely changed the face of popular music, inspiring electronic dance/techno, hip-hop, and pretty much every form of post-punk rock music that used a synthesizer, making their classic lineup arguably as influential as Elvis. If only the BBC had known what was to come, they might have been persuaded to show more than just two minutes of the 22-minute song.

A few years ago, The Guardian made a rather bold claim about the snippet of footage, placing Kraftwerk’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it segment at NUMBER 1 in their series of 50 key events in the history of dance music! I actually find that assertion entirely plausible.

The germinating moment for British dance music occurred, strangely, in a 1975 edition of Tomorrow’s World, which featured four young Germans dressed like geography teachers, apparently playing camping stoves with wired-up knitting needles. This was Kraftwerk performing “Autobahn.”

“The sounds are created in their studio in Dusseldorf,” presenter Raymond Baxter explained, “then reprogrammed and then recreated onstage with the minimum of fuss.” Here was the entire electronic ethic in one TV clip: the rejection of rock’s fake spontaneity, the fastidious attention to detail, the Europhile slickness, the devotion to rhythm. It was sublime.

When Kraftwerk toured Britain later in 1975, David Bowie’s patronage ensured a long line of followers from OMD to Underworld. Not that everything they planned came to fruition. “Next year, Kraftwerk hope to eliminate the keyboard altogether,” Baxter told us, “and create jackets with electronic lapels that can be played by touch”. It could still happen.


Bonus! Enjoy this clip of Kraftwerk’s robot doubles, also on Tomorrow’s World, but from 1991.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Kraftwerk songs performed by string quartet
Kraftwerk sings ‘Pocket Calculator’ in Italian… and several other languages
‘Ralf and Florian’: the Kraftwerk sitcom
Newly unearthed footage of Kraftwerk—with long hair and leather jackets! Live 1970

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Kraftwerk sings ‘Pocket Calculator’ in Italian… and several other languages
09:49 am



In this video from Italy’s Rai TV network, Ralf and the boys treat us to an Italian version of “Pocket Calculator,” the first single off of their 1981 album Computer World, if not the most successful single (that would be “Computer Love”).

David Buckley, in Kraftwerk: Publikation, writes of the song:

On ‘Pocket Calculator’, Ralf shows how electronica has dispelled all the sweaty guff and ludicrous posturing of the cock rockers because the star of the show isn’t even a real instrument. It’s a battery-powered hand-held abacus which can sound a jingle and is operated not played.

Take that, “cock rockers”! Thank goodness Kraftwerk was around to dispel all of that “sweaty guff” going around.
This video dates from 1981, the year the single came out. It appears that Kraftwerk released “Pocket Calculator in five languages—English, German, Spanish, French, and Japanese—but not in Italian, so they must have cooked this version up especially for their appearance on Italian TV. In a second video below, someone collected the English, German, French, and Japanese versions as well as this Italian one, leaving the Spanish-language version (”Calculadora De Bolsillo”) out—I haven’t been able to find audio of the Spanish version. The same video includes 1991 reworkings of the English, German, and Japanese versions.

If you’d like to see sheet music so that you can play “Pocket Calculator” on a Casio VL-80 calculator, we’ve got that over here.

Kraftwerk performing “Mini Calcolatore” on Italian TV:

“Pocket Calculator” in 5 languages:

Thanks Annie Zaleski!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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