When I think of Kraftwerk’s Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider my mind immediately goes to comedy, right? The techy Teutonic twosome are a barrel of laughs. Like the early-80s American TV sitcom Bosom Buddies crossed with “Sprockets.”
Just discovered in a Dusseldorf car boot sale is this rare pilot for the uncommissioned Kraftwerk sitcom, “Ralf and Florian.”
Shame it never made it, as Ralf Hutter has great comic timing and could have been the next Alf Garnet.
This is perhaps the funniest unfunniest thing you’ll see today.
All I can say about this is HOLY CRAP. I’ve seen snippets of this, but never the whole show, and in such good condition. Here is the KraftwerkRockpalast appearance from 1970, the year the band formed. The lineup here is Florian Schneider (he’s the one playing flute), Ralf Hütter, and drummer Klaus Dinger (RIP 2008), who would soon leave to form NEU! with pianist Michael Rother. This is a Kraftwerk that is often very, very alien to people who mostly know the band from their late ‘70s/early ‘80s incarnation as the teutonically severe/severely teutonic synth pop innovators who affected the personae of robots and mannequins. This was a spiky, angular, experimental, difficult-listening proto-punk music that has very little of the sweetness or wistfulness of something like “Tour De France.” I love how so much of the camera work is devoted to audience reaction.
In 1970 - its founding year - were Kraftwerk, although already an avant-garde band, their sounds were still exclusively handmade. In songs like “jiffy” or “Stratovarius” they experimented with distorted sounds of flute and Hammond organ. But the monotonous beat and cool arrangements foreshadowed, in which direction their sound would develop only a few years later.
Rockpalast shows for the first time the Soest concert from 1970 in full length at the power plant as a trio (Ralf Hütter - Hammond organ, Klaus Dinger - drums, Florian Schneider-Esleben - Flute) occurred and astonished faces left behind. An absolute rarity then, and a treat for music fans.
Although they don’t consider it a “mature” work, or even part of their official canon, Kraftwerk’s third album, 1973’s Ralf und Florian saw the Teutonic duo groping towards their man-machine aesthetic using synthetic rhythms and proto electronic drum pads (patented by Hütter and Schneider). By then, they’d already begun to use a primitive Vocoder and the Minimoog, although most of the keyboard sounds on the album were made with a Farfisa organ. They were still using a lot of flute and guitar at this point, too.
Ralf und Florian has still never been released on CD, but the whole thing is on YouTube:
On France’s ‘Pop 2’ program in 1973:
By the time of the 1973 television appearance below, electronic percussionist Wolfgang Flür had already joined them for live performances, but their signature rhythmically precise sound and dramatic image was yet to come. What’s great about this is actually seeing and hearing them play their instruments. The whole “laptop remix greatest hits shows with lots of dazzling visual spectacle to distract the audience from the fact that we’re not doing anything” thing they’ve been touring with since the 90s really doesn’t hold a candle to the live recordings that were made of them until about 1981.
The thrill for fans found on vintage Kraftwerk bootlegs is hearing them make mistakes! It’s only when measured against their very own flubs that you can judge the truly maniacal quality of their musicianship. What other standard would be possible?
Next week Kraftwerk will be staging a series of appearances at the Tate Modern in London, a repeat of their MOMA residency in New York last year that saw the band do many of their albums all the way through. Kraftwerk will play eight of their classics over the course of nine days.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure these performances will be cool events, but let’s face it, Kraftwerk don’t really play much of anything live anymore and there’s only one of the two main guys left. The visuals are incredible and sure, die roboter, are fun, but without all the flash it would just be four boring German blokes—three of them who could literally be anybody, can you name ‘em?—onstage with Sony laptops.
Do they really play anything live other than “Pocket Calculator”? It didn’t seem that way to me when I saw them at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan in 1998. It was just a “remix” show.
Nevertheless, if you listen to tapes of older Kraftwerk shows, from, say, 1975 when they started trekking around promoting Autobahn to the Computer World tour of 1981, way back when they were more or less an analog band, it’s very interesting indeed. Back then, they had to get it right onstage and the drumming was done on those electronic pad thingees. What makes the live Kraftwerk bootlegs of that period so interesting is hearing them make mistakes.
It’s only because of the mistakes that you can tell what great musicians they really were!
Kraftwerk in Budapest, August 14,1981 (an audience recording, but a really good one):
Kraftwerk in Amsterdam at The Paradiso, 1976:
Kraftwerk live at the Nakano Sun Plaza, Tokyo, on July 9, 1981 (this one is great!)
Audio of Kraftwerk performing 2 tracks from their album Autobahn, “Kometenmelodie Eins” and “Kometenmelodie Zwei”, as recorded in Paris, 1976.
“Kometenmelodie” (“Comet Melody”) was inspired by the Comet Kohoutek (which proved to be a rather “spectacular dud” as far as comets go), and the track became Kraftwerk’s first single, released in December 1973.
Comet Kohoutek also inspired Sun Ra to perform a special concert for the comet in December 1973, while singer Burl Ives hoped to increase his bank account with the release of his single “The Tail of the Comet Kohoutek” in 1974. But it was Children of God founder David Berg, who received the most column inches when he pronounced Comet Kohoutek as a sign that a Doomsday event would destroy America in January 1974.
Ah, the joys of the box-set, the artfully designed collectible that allegedly adds value to your music collection. Of course, sometimes it’s a damn fine thing, especially when it includes lots of unreleased goodies. Or when the set is cheaper than buying the individual discs. Other times, it’s little more than a cunning scam to sell you something you already own.
Last year, Elvis Costello warned his fans off purchasing his box of delights, claiming he was “unable to recommend this lovely item to you, as the price appears to be either a misprint or a satire…” The price was $258.70 (£212.99) - ouch. Some bands are undeterred in extracting the cash - how many box sets have U2 released? (Too many?) While others see it as a way of celebrating their oeuvre - last week Blur announced the release of their mega box 21, out on July 31, this year. Yet, often the cost of these box-sets suggests they are really meant for the thirty-plus professional, who can afford to shell out the big bucks on such shiny trinkets.
Which brings me to Kraftwerk, who have announced the release of a limited edition black box set of their 2009 box-set The Catalogue. The main selling point here is it’s a “black box set” and it’s “a limited edition”, limited to “2000 individually numbered copies”. The box includes:
...all 8 remastered and repackaged albums in a 12"x12” box. To celebrate the 35th anniversary of their landmark electronic début, Autobahn, pioneers Kraftwerk re-release the digitally remastered of all of their albums. These include redesigned sleeves and all original titles restored. An absolute must for collectors and anyone with an interest in the electronic music culture. This edition also includes large format booklets and expanded artwork:
Autobahn (1974) Radio-Activity (1975) Trans-Europe Express (1977) The Man Machine (1978) Computer World (1981) Techno Pop (1986) The Mix (1991) Tour de France (2003)
So, if you’re tempted, then follow the trail here to find out more. Or, maybe you can hang on until the 40th anniversary of Autobahn comes around?
Holy cow! What a goldmine! Someone wonderful uploaded all the 70s issues of Synapse Magazine for your reading pleasure. Seriously, if you’re an electronic music buff, be prepared to spend days soaking it all up!
January/February 1979: Read this issue in its entirety here.
Summer 1979: Read this issue in its entirety here.
Here’s a nice Kraftwerk cover mix by DJ Food which is “The first in a mix series featuring cover versions, sample-heavy tracks or songs that obviously owe a debt to the Dusseldorf quartet. Each mix is laced with spoken word, interviews or info about Kraftwerk, too.”
01: Michael Bailey - Solid Steel intro
02: Fearless 4 - Rockin’ It
03: Pelding - It’s More Fun to Compute
04: Trouble Funk - Trouble Funk Express
05: Makoto Inoue - Europe Endless / Neon lights
06: The Divine Comedy - Radioactivity
07: Senor Coconut - Trans Europe Express
08: Senor Coconut - The Man Machine
09: Souxsie & the Banshees - Hall Of Mirrors
10: Senor Coconut - The Robots
11: Balanescu Quartet -The Robots
12: Tafkafb - Waltz Mit Der Robot
13: Apoptygma Berzerk - Ohm Sweet Ohm
14: Frenchbloke & Son - Neon Love (Cha Cha Cha)
15: Jason Moran - Planet Rock
16: Tremelo Beer Gut - Das Model
17: Big Black - The Model
18: Rammstein - Das Model
19: Ride - The Model
20: Frenchbloke & Son - Sexy Model
21: Buffalo Daughter - Autobahn
22: Dark Side of the Autobahn
23: Rot Front Trikont - The Robots
24: Senor Coconut - Showroom Dummies
25: Girls On Top - I Want To Dance With Numbers
26: Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force - Planet Rock (Elecktric Music Classic Mix)
27: Coptic Rain -The Robots
28: Erasure - Blue Savannah (Der Deutsche mix)
29: DMX Krew - Showroom Dummies
30: Melt Banana - Showroom Dummies
31: Aqua Vista - The Model
32: Senor Coconut - Home Computer
33: Senor Coconut - Tour De France
34: Elakelaiset Poro - Reindeer/Robots
Kraftwerk fans in the New York area have much to be happy about with the announcement about MOMA’s lavish celebration of the band’s unique art form. They also might want to jump on these tickets the minute they go on sale next Wednesday!
New York, NY, February 15, 2012—The Museum of Modern Art presents its first time-based artist retrospective with Kraftwerk–Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, performed live on eight consecutive evenings from April 10 through 17, by Kraftwerk, the avant-garde electronic music pioneers. Each evening will consist of a live performance, in the Museum’s Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium, of works from one of the group’s eight albums, created over four decades, followed by a selection of original compositions from their catalogue adapted specifically for this exhibition’s format, to showcase both Kraftwerk’s historical contributions and contemporary influences on sound and image culture. Kraftwerk–Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 is organized by Klaus Biesenbach, Chief Curator at Large at MoMA and Director of MoMA PS1, with the assistance of Eliza Ryan, Curatorial Assistant, MoMA PS1.
The elaborate staging of the performances will combine sound and 3D images to present more than 40 years of musical and technological innovation, with new improvisations and 3D projections. The albums will be performed in chronological order: Autobahn (1974), Radio-Activity (1975), Trans Europe Express (1977), The Man-Machine (1978), Computer World (1981), Techno Pop (1986), The Mix (1991), and Tour de France (2003).
Tickets are $25.00 and will go on sale to the public on Wednesday, February 22, at 12:00 p.m., only at MoMAKraftwerkTickets.showclix.com. Space is limited. There is a two-ticket limit per person for the series, with each individual order limited to one transaction. Tickets will be distributed exclusively via will call, with photo ID required.
“Kraftwerk is an influential force not only in music, but also in visual culture,” says Mr. Biesenbach. “Through their experimentation with how images and sound are shaped by the latest recording and visualization tools, they have continuously anticipated the impact of technology on everyday life, and have captured the human condition in an era of rapidly changing mobility and telecommunication. Today, they remain vital to contemporary practice through their intersection of popular culture, mass media, and artistic production. In Kraftwerk’s practice, all of the components—melodic music and ambient sound, elaborate stage sets, live performance and performance by robots, their trademark videos and logo-like still imagery, all conceived and realized by the artists themselves—coalesce as one work of art.”
Performance Schedule as follows:
Tuesday, April 10, 8:30 p.m. Autobahn (1974)
Wednesday, April 11, 8:30 p.m. Radio-Activity (1975)
Thursday, April 12, 8:30 p.m. Trans Europe Express (1977)
Friday, April 13, 10:00 p.m. The Man-Machine (1978)
Saturday April 14, 8:30 p.m. Computer World (1981)
Sunday, April 15, 8:30 p.m. Techno Pop (1986)
Monday, April 16, 8:30 p.m. The Mix (1991)
Tuesday, April 17, 10:00 p.m. Tour de France (2003)
As part of Kraftwerk–Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, a presentation of Kraftwerk’s historical audio and visual material will be on view in the new MoMA PS1 Performance Dome at MoMA PS1, from April 10-May 14, 2012.
Below, a performance of “Autobahn” on German television in 1974. Note that they were using Mini-moogs and drum pads then, not the “remixing” with laptops bullshit they do now…
Remember that amazing Kraftwerk sweater by Mishka I posted about a few weeks back? Well, the same company also produced these Wire 154 and Eraserhead lambswool sweaters. Neither which is available anymore. I think it’s high time for Mishka to start making these fine garments again. I’d certainly buy the Wire one.