German Beatles? Nö, German Beefheart

The BBC has a short piece on Faust, who were supposed to be the German Beatles but turned into something more rich and strange:

However, a second stroke of fortune befell them when Richard Branson, young head of the fledgling Virgin Record label, decided he wanted a piece of the Krautrock action,signed up Faustand brought them to the UK. He released an album of their outtakes, The Faust Tapes, for the price of a single, in 1973 – its low price and (to ‘70s British rock fans) difficult content made it one of the most bought but least listened-to cult rock albums of the year.

The few who did get Faust, however, were highly influential – BBC radio DJ John Peel, critics like NME’s Ian MacDonald, future band members like Bill Drummond, Ian McCulloch, Julian Cope and Jim Kerr, all of whom found in Faust post-punk ideas before punk had ever happened. They had seen nothing like them, or their neo-Dadaist live act, which involved sofas, a pinball machine, power tools, TV sets and walls of tin cans.

Faust, however, hated English food, English studios and Branson himself – though today, an older and wiser Péron believes they behaved unreasonably towards him. Inevitably, Virgin dropped Faust. They disappeared in the 1980s altogether – one of their members, Rudolf Sosna (described by Péron as the “true genius” of the band) sadly died. However, in the 1990s, they re-emerged, finding appreciation and understanding from rock audiences schooled in Faust’s successors, such as the 80s German group Einstürzende Neubauten. Faust’s onstage arsenal was as bizarrely formidable as ever, including angle grinders and even a cement mixer.

The De-, Trans- and Re-funkulation of 'Kung Fu Fighting'

First, Carl Douglas' evergreen 1974 hit 'Kung Fu Fighting': 

And now, the near-simultaneous and deeply regrettable German ripoff 'Kung Fu Leute', from the hapless 'Kandy', who looks like he was dragged in off the street to read lyrics from a card:

Given Germany's role as self-appointed Sole Remaining Keeper of the Flame of Intellectual Property™, I can only hope Carl Douglas was handsomely compensated for the traumatic defunkification of his song. (Right?).

But wait! Deutschland redeems itself 30 years later when the German outfit the Mardi Gras Brass Band returns to the original English lyrics and turns KFF into a tuba-driven slow jam:

And now comes Erdmöbel with their own song about someone who remembers his lover by her 'kung fu fighting' ringtone. The video features two people with pure Nordic blood pretty faces kissing: 

But lest we forsake or fake the funk, let us conclude this musical journey with Cee Lo Green insanely buttshaking but way too short cover:

German Melody Thieves

Every time I whip out my favorite collection of German mainstream pop music, Schlager für Millionen, I can't help noticing that many of the songs have melodies which are directly copied, note for note, from American or British pop songs or traditional ballads. The brazen theft is never noted on the album info, and I'd imagine that the vast majority of German fans aren't aware they're listening to musical copies. Given that the German rights-enforcement agency is blocking thousands of Youtube videos in an attempt to ensure (what they consider) proper payment for artists, I'd also be interested to know whether the German Schlager stars at least licensed and paid for the music they used that was still under copyright when they stole the tune.

Just a few examples. First, Udo Lindenberg's 1983 hit Sonderzug nach Pankow:

which is a copy of the Glenn Miller Orchestra's Chattanooga Choo Choo. To be fair, Lindenberg never tried to conceal this fact, and his song itself is about trains. But still, he copied the music note-for-note from Glenn Miller.

And now the 'hymn' of the Cologne football team, FC Köln, being sung by thousands of fans.

How many know it's a note-for-note copy of this traditional Scottish ballad?

UPDATE: Thanks to commenter Christan Schorn, who reminded me of one of the most shameless thefts, Bert and Cindy's transformation of Black Sabbath's scorching 'Paranoid'...


into this abomination:

Double derivativeness points for the German text drawing from Conan Doyle's 'Hound of the Baskervilles'.

Depressed Dawg in da Haus

Hip-hop was created in the USA, but since then it's spread everywhere, like a gigantic sentient fungus with moist, throbbing, pinkish pedipalps. The biggest mainstream hip-hop band in Germany is the Fantastischen Vier (Fantastic 4). The Fantastic 4 are amusingly earnest. One of their MCs, Smudo, for example, is a socially-conscious vegetarian.

The most 'gangsta' rapper in Germany is, naturally, not white. His name is Anis Mohamed Youssef Ferchichi, otherwise known as Bushido. Bushido's rhymes cover reassuringly familiar territory: fucking bitches, buying expensive shit, getting beatings from drunken parents and rival gangs, drug excesses, beating up faggots (Schwuchtel), etc., etc. The cherry on top is Bushido's alleged links to organized crime, rumors of which which he carefully cultivates. Runner-up position goes to Sido, a white German named Paul Würdig, whose stage name stands for the German abbreviation for 'Super-Intelligent Drug Victim'. His solo breakthrough came in 2002 with the sentimental lullaby Arschficksong, or 'Ass-fuck Song'. The cherry on top for Sido is that his civilian name, Würdig, means 'Dignified'. 

And then there are rappers who rap about how much they despise society and how depressed and helpless they are. Normally we associate rappers with unrealistically high self-esteem, but Germany wouldn't be Germany if it didn't produce rappers who drop knowledge like this (g):

Ein Opfer der Gesellschaft, ein Opfer deiner Eltern. Die andern werden größer und stärker, du wirst nur älter.

A victim of society, victim of your parents. The others get bigger and stronger, you just get older.

The composer of these lines was Jakob Wich, alias NMSZ ('Nemesis'), a rapper with the Düsseldorf outfit Antilopengang, most of whose members were formerly associated with a scene called the Anti-Everything Crusade, or Anti-Alles Aktion (g). I don't know how this rhyme continues, but I'm not all that eager to find out. I'm still American enough to have a deeply-ingrained aversion to, well, whining about how fucked-up everything is. Whining, however accurate, doesn't add to humankind's reserves of wisdom, inspiration, creativity, resolve, compassion, or beauty.

Given the proudly untreated depression and learned helplessness which emanates from just those two lines, it should come as no surprise that, tragically, NMSZ killed himself earlier this year. Here's another one of his songs, for the curious: 

Can Live Session Free For Download

Over at Aquarium Drunkard, there's a download available of a 1975 concert by CAN about which they make the following remarks:

There are those among us who will shudder when I say this, but let’s face facts: Can was a jam band. Indeed, jamming was at the heart of pretty much everything the legendary krautrockers did. Rather than a group centered around a songwriter, Can was a collective of improvisers whose primary modus operandi in the studio was — not unlike Miles Davis’ and Teo Macero’s approach in the 1970s — to play freely as the tape rolled, and then, later, edit the best bits together. This mix of spontaneous interplay and after-the-fact composition is one of the keys to the success of their well-nigh unparalleled run of LPs form the late 60s to the mid 70s.

Heino's Hideous Handicap

Rumors have circulated about Heino, the German pop star whom Lonely Planet once immortally dubbed a 'tranquilized albino Ken doll', for many a year. The reason? He is never seen in public without dark sunglasses. Some say it's because his eyes are an eerie reddish rat-eye color, or because he's abnormally photosensitive, or because he's German. But I believe this album cover, found at a blog post called Worst Album Covers of All Time, has solved the mystery:

Mommy, why didn't you open the door to let me give you these? Why did I have to break through a basement window and poison Fido?
Heino, the albino baker's apprentice turned German Schlager legend, has strabismus, also known as heterotropia! Now personally, I can't see why this should have driven the man to don dark glasses. I happen to find strabismus extremely attractive in women (please lift the restraining order, Condi! I've learned my lesson!). But I suppose EMI Germany's crack mid-70s market research gurus soon concluded that Heino was just a bit too Marty Feldmanian to inspire swooning fits among the frumpy Hausfraus who remain his target audience. By the way, the single is called "Dear Mother...A Bouquet that Never Wilts." I'm not sure whether he's giving his mother this or comparing her to one, but either way, I should call my mother.

One other thing. Why is it that posts that promise you the "Worst Album Covers of All Time" routinely include some of the best album covers of all time? Case in point:

Is it just me, or did everyone sweat more in the 1970s?