Can aside, Germans have the reputation of being stiff and methodical and, well—thoroughly unfunky. In spite of this, in 2007 and 2008, a small Hamburg-based label called Showup Records that boasts of excavating “dramatic, funkified rare-groove gems” released two compilations dedicated to showcasing some of the best German funk you’re likely to find anywhere. The two records were published under the title German Funk Fieber, and they contained all manner of “infectious rare grooves & Krauty Schlager wonders” from the years 1969 to 1978 (vol. 1, vol. 2).
It becomes clear upon listening to these comps that Germany had its own kind of Wrecking Crew situation, a roster of expert studio musicians who could play damn near anything, as well as Doc Severinson types serving as bandleaders for TV and radio “orchestras,” and it was figures such as these who were responsible for introducing the new trends of American funk to German audiences. For instance, guitarist Sigi Schwab, here listed as “Siegfried,” was purportedly featured on 15,000 recordings during his lifetime, and Roland Kovac’s ORF Big Band was in the employ of the Austrian state-run television station. Similarly, James Last of his eponymous orchestra is said to have sold 200 million albums.
Another key finding is that East Germany, known at the time as the German Democratic Republic, was no stranger to the funk, and are responsible for a good share of the compositions heard here. Lift and Panta Rhei, for instance, were active in the GDR. Interestingly, one of the more tendentious songs here, Joy Fleming’s reworking of Aretha’s “Respect” into an anti-greed ditty called “Geld,” was recorded in West Germany.
Manfred Krug, who pops up on Vol. 2, was also an East German, and he was also an actor who would later become renowned for an excellent TV series called Liebling Kreuzberg—he sadly passed away in 2016.
Among the interesting covers here are Veit Marvos’ version of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Family Affair”; Malcolm’s Locks’ rendition of Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up”; and Howard Carpendale’s “Du Hast Mich,” which is a cover of “Glory Be,” a 1970 hit by a Haight-Ashbury-ish combo named Daisy Clan, which was also from Germany.
Enjoy these comps—in times like these we need all the funk we can get.