A girl's best friend is her guitar
Thanks to digital media the line between “rare” and “forget it” has become more like a chasm. The meaning of rarity has changed—it’s kind of funny to see something on YouTube marked “rare” —um, if it’s on YouTube for the whole world to watch at a click I’m not sure how it qualifies as “rare” anymore. It’s similar, though not precisely equivalent, for online marketplaces like discogs.com—if you can find an item with a simple search and buy it with a click, it’s far from inaccessible. It may be priced out of a given coveter’s reach in accordance with its scarcity, but that’s a far cry from having to crate-dig at record conventions in the forlorn hope that the Holy Grail just jumps in your hands someday.
But as if to thumb its nose at the age of ETEWAF, the 1979 Dutch film Cha Cha is practically impossible to see in its entirety. I’ve located exactly one NTSC VHS copy on GEMM, and I’m unaware of a US DVD (the Dutch have been more accommodating on that front). It’s on YouTube—in 15 parts!—but the first part has been yanked on copyright grounds, and 3 & 11 are just straight up missing. I suppose it’s cool that at least some of it can be seen.
The film stars Dutch rocker Herman Brood, who was quite well-known in Europe, but his biggest impact in the US was a lone Top-40 single that peaked at #35 in the autumn of 1979.
No photo, like me in my senior yearbook.
Brood was kind of the Amy Winehouse of his time, renowned as much for his unabashed drug abuse as for his music, and his addiction issues are likely to have led to his 2001 suicide. In Cha Cha, for which he has a writing credit, he plays a character with parallels to his own life—“Herman” in the film is a bank robber who decides to go legit, and his dubious “straight” career choice is singing in a New Wave band. In real life, Brood served time for dealing LSD before forming Herman Brood & His Wild Romance in 1976. From the ever-useful Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars:
One of Holland’s most outlandish musicians, Herman Brood was a drug-dealer turned rock phenomenon who found success with a variety of acts—his main priority being to stay in the papers as long as possible. And this didn’t stop at his death…
A distinctive art-school figure with his shock of black hair, pianist Brood joined the Moans, later to become rock-revival act Long Tall Ernie & the Shakers, before going on to sing with no lesser musicians than Van Morrison and John Mayall, until his dealing in LSD led to his imprisonment in 1968. Once back in the outside world, Brood’s subequent projects put him in the esteemed company of a post-Focus Jan Akkerman, and new-wave femme fatales Nina Hagen and Lene Lovich, with whom he starred in the 1979 movie Cha Cha. His main band were The Wild Romance, who found some commercial success, although even this was hampered by the singer’s wayward behavior with narcotics and prostitutes.
Brood was romantically involved with Hagen for a spell, And Hagen’s contemporary “Herrmann hieß er” (from Unbehagen) was an addiction song that was almost certainly about Brood. Cha Cha even featured a Hagen/Brood wedding scene. That never did happen in reality, though evidently it was a plan at one point. From the May 14, 1979 entry in Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter’s Guide to Underground Rock, 1970-1982:
Lene Lovich & Nina Hagen are reportedly in Amsterdam filming a movie in the making called Cha Cha with Dutch rock star Herman Brood. The film is about a bank robber who wants to go straight, and sees the easy path to that end is becoming a rock ‘n’ roll star. East Germany’s Nina Hagen shocked music fans with an announcement that she was not only leaving her band to go solo, but was also planning to marry Herman Brood.
While finding the film itself is a vexing matter, the soundtrack album is far more accessible. It’s quite good, full of spiky uptempo punk and post-punk, and in fact, it’s how I found out the film existed—I found the soundtrack LP for $5 (thank you, Hausfrau), and figured that was a reasonable price for a comp of Brood, Hagen, and Lovich tracks, peppered with a ton of Dutch and German bands I’d never heard of. Just be careful—Brood had a 1978 LP also called Cha Cha, which has no track overlap with the soundtrack album, and nothing in common with the film but the title.
Enjoy the trailer for the film, and if you should endeavor to procure a copy, happy hunting!
More after the jump…