Welcome to the history of Germany pop music – Oh Yeah!
You have to hear this exhibition! 90 years of pop music in Germany:
The heart of the exhibition is the Main Road, which presents the cultural background to the top 15 eras of pop. If you have headphones and a good internet connection, plunge un to the colourful world of pop: listen to song tracks and video clips and take a journey back in time through your own past.
The Backstage area is accessible via the
See you later alligator!
photo: Focke Museum
Decade 1925 – 1945
video: Comedian Harmonists: Veronika, der Lenz ist da
VERONIKA, DER LENZ IST DA! DIE MÄDCHEN SINGEN TRALLALA! (Veronika, the Spring is here! The girls are singing Trallala!) resounded from gramophones in 1930 – the Comedian Harmonists were at the peak of their careers. Three years previously, the sextet had formed around Harry Frommermann and celebrated their musical breakthrough in Leipzig in 1930. After the Nazis came into power, the a cappella ensemble was gradually frozen out due to its “non-Aryan” members.
When the Nazis came into power, swing and jazz were prohibited as “un-German” music. The prohibition on swing reached broadcasting in 1935. While the Hitler Youth marched to drum beats, musical resistance was building in the cities. The youth of Frankfurt and Hamburg showed solidarity to jazz and joined forces as the illegal Swingjugend. Other cliques hiked instead of marching in order to get away from propaganda. They differentiated themselves from their archenemy, the Hitler Youth, by their clothes and secret badges. Groups such as the Edelweißpiraten in Cologne went partly underground. The Wild Cliques were followed, arrested and tortured by the Gestapo for their struggle for freedom and autonomy.
photo: Focke Museum
video: Josephine Baker, 1925
Kakadu, Kolibri Bar, Goldene Spinne or Esterhazy-Keller – in the Berlin nightclubs of the 20s, there was plenty of dancing to swing and Charleston music, often while drinking or on coke. Coke was the drug of choice for the jazz-loving upper class. For many, it was a sort of self-liberation – the old strict bourgeois Kaiserreich with its military, laced-up fashions was history. A new image of femininity appeared in the cities: the femme fatale, the emancipated vamp, wore Charleston dresses she could dance in, fascinators or feather boas, and drew on the tip of a cigarette like Marlene Dietrich. Nobody embodied the liberal and erotically-charged lifestyle of the golden 1920s better than the American dancer Josephine Baker.
Decade 1945 – 1960
Beautiful unspoilt world
Germany became football world champion in 1954, post-war reconstruction was in full swing and the D-Mark had purchasing power. The sorrow and destruction of the Second World War were repressed; people longed for an unspoilt world and easy entertainment. The film and music industry offered precisely that. The 50s were characterised by the sentimental regional and travel films full of natural idylls and happy people. Caterina Valente and Peter Alexander played in the successful TV show BOUNJOUR KATHRIN, the perfect couple and sang KOMM EIN BISSCHEN MIT NACH ITALIEN (Come with us to Italy for a while). The Dutch child star Heintje sang his way into the hearts of mothers and grandmothers all over Germany with MAMA, and Freddy Quinn looked abroad, into the distance with FREDDY UND DAS LIED DER SÜDSEE (Freddy and the song of the south sea).
video: Heintje: Mama
photo: Focke Museum
video: Lipsi dance in East Germany, 1959
Rock’n’roll and twist conquered West German dance floors and teen hearts in the 50s. The dance styles, which accentuated the hips, also became popular in East Germany. In order to counteract this Americanisation, officials invented the Lipsi without further ado. This dance in a 6/4 rhythm was invented in 1959 by the Leipzig dance teacher couple Christa and Helmut Seifert. René Dubianski composed the music to match, and the German Schlager star Helga Brauer sang the song HEUTE TANZEN ALLE JUNGEN LEUTE IM LIPSI-SCHRITT (Today Young People all Dance the Lipsi).
In October 1959, GI Elvis Presley landed in Bremerhaven. In Bad Nauheim in Hessen, the “King of Rock’n’Roll” reported for his military service. Rock’n’roll had already conquered West Germany with cinema films with Bill Halley and Elvis. The music industry rapidly discarded their reservations and German Elvises were called for: In the shape of Ted Herold and Peter Kraus, West Germany soon found its German-language artists. Via cinema films, campaigns in youth magazines and performances, they became, just like their role model Elvis Presley, idols for teenagers and film stars. Both of them still swing their hips on stage today.
Lender: Richard Weize, Bear Family Records
Decade 1960 – 1974
video: Joan Baez: Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind
Sung by Joan Baez in German, SAG MIR WO DIE BLUMEN SIND (Where have all the Flowers gone?) became an anthem of the German Love and Peace movement. Today’s German outdoor and festival culture had its origins in the peace movement of the 60s. First impressions spilled over from the USA in 1967 with the Monterey International Pop Festival. At Burg Herzberg and Burg Waldeck, Germany’s own festival traditions were founded. The Love-and-Peace-Festival on the island of Fehmarn became legendary as the location of Jimi Hendrix’s last concert in 1970.
Beat Beat Beat
The Beatles and many other groups quickly became famous via Hamburg’s Star Club. In 1964, the Fab Four completed their first successful USA tour, while Ray Charles and Fats Domino came to Germany in turn. While young people felt that beat music was liberating, their parents saw a decline in moral standards in the typical Beatles-style hair and loud music. Based on the model of English and American bands, beat bands were founded all over Germany – in the West, the Lords, the Yankees or the Rattles and, in the East, the Butlers or the Sputniks. In East Germany, beat music soon caught the attention of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) and was prohibited. On the 31st of October 1965, young people fought in vain against the stage ban of their bands during the Leipziger Beatdemo. A total of around 267 demonstrators were arrested – beat music was silenced in East Germany.
photo: Focke Museum
video: The Beatles: We Can Work It Out
Decade 1976 – 1990
photo: Focke Museum
video: Nena: 99 Luftballons
The German New Wave (NDW) emerged from 1976 onwards and reached its commercial peak at the beginning of the 80s. Inspired by rock’n’roll, punk, ska and new wave, groups such as IDEAL, Abwärts, The Wirtschaftswunder and Der Plan created their own sound, with jerky rhythms and underlying synthesisers. Early marketing campaigns with the bands DAF, Fehlfarben and EXTRABReit met with wide public resonance. NDW songs were played on the radio and the German chart shows. Nena and Trio broke through internationally with 99 LUFTBALLONS (99 Red Balloons) and DA DA DA and their respective videos.
East German Punk
Between 1980 and 1983, an impressive punk scene arose in East Germany. The East German regime saw the punks as a decadent subculture with Western origins and crushed the movement in 1983. The punks, however, defied state repressions and continued to develop underground. Via contacts at the West German label Aggressive Rockproduktionen, the groups Schleim-Keim and Zwitschermaschine released East Germany’s first punk album. State repression intensified until 1986. Leading punks were arrested or forced to leave the country. Indications of liberalisation first appeared a year later: the official youth radio station DT64 played punk songs from 1987 onwards and reported on the scene. In 1988, the punk bands Die Skeptiker and Sandow were among the awards winners at the IX. Werkstattwoche Jugendtanzmusik (Workshop Week for Youth Dance Music).
West German Punk
Thanks to English bands such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash, punk became known in Germany at the end of the 70s and shaped other styles. During the German Autumn (1977), the anti-nuclear movement and the violent protests against the western runway at Frankfurt Airport, the first punk bands singing solely in German were founded. Autonomous centres and squats provided homes for the punks. The Ratinger Hof pub in Düsseldorf was a hotbed for the punk scene. In this environment, ZK and Soilent Grün were founded – the predecessor bands of the Toten Hosen and Die Ärzte. The Stuttgart band Chaos Z characterised a hard-core punk style with political lyrics. In contrast, the Bremen band the Mimmi’s created the first fun punk band with a former member of the punk band ZK, Klaus Fabian.
Synthesis of the Arts
Inspired by the sound experiments of the electronic composer Karlheinz Stockhausen and Minimal Music from the USA, electronic music, computers and synthesisers became an integral part of pop music. Two students from Stockhausen founded a pioneering music band in 1968 called Can. Using distorted voices and electronically produced songs, they broke open normal song structures and lengths. Kraftwerk had a similar method of working: synthesisers instead of guitars, coolness instead of emotionality, electronic sounds and beats.
video: Kraftwerk: The Man-Machine
Decade 1990 – 2000
photo: Focke Museum
video: Die Prinzen: Ich wär’ so gerne Millionär
It’s just the 90s
Not many decades were as musically varied as the 90s. Techno, German rap, Eurodance and German Schlager pop music were all in the charts at the same time. The Leipzig a cappella group Die Prinzen stormed into the top ten with KÜSSEN VERBOTEN (KISSING FORBIDDEN); the band members became stars in both eastern and western Germany. Thanks to Guildo Horn’s GUILDO HAT EUCH LIEB (GUILDO LOVES YOU), slapstick Schlager music had a revival. The Schlager star Jürgen Drews crowned himself “King of Mallorca” and fired up tipsy holiday makers in El Arenal with EIN BETT IM KORNFELD (A BED IN THE CORNFIELD). At the same time, Eurodance was born: a mixture of rap, singing and techno. The group Mr. President got people dancing in village and city discos alike with COCO JAMBO.
“Friede, Freude, Eierkuchen“ (which means as much as “love, peace and harmony” or more literally translated “peace, joy, pancakes”) – under this motto, 150 young techno fans followed a VW bus with oversized speakers. DJ Dr. Motte brought the first Loveparade into being in Berlin in summer 1989. Ten years later, the Loveparade was the biggest party in the world and a huge media spectacle, with 1.5 million ravers. The crème de la crème of the techno scene performed. From 2007 to 2010, the Loveparade moved through the Ruhr metropolitan area. Catastrophe struck on the 24th of July in Duisburg: In a tunnel ramp, overcrowding led to panic among the visitors. 21 people died and 500 were injured. The erstwhile festival of love ended in tragedy.
photo: Focke Museum
video: Loveparade 1989
video: Udo Lindenberg: Sonderzug nach Pankow (1983)
Rock for Peace
From 1982 until 1987, the central council of the Free German Youth (FDJ) staged the Rock für den Frieden (Rock for peace) music festival in the Palace of the Republic. The festival was part of the official peace policies of East Germany. It was the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED)’s answer to the peace movement Schwerter zu Pflugscharen (Swords to plowshares), which was organised by independent disarmament initiatives. Leading representatives of the East German rock scene performed annually in the Palace of the Republic – Puhdys, Karat, City, Silly Express – and brought joy to thousands of fans. In 1987, 20,000 visitors saw 65 bands. The West German band BAP caused a scandal: the evening before their concert in January 1984, the band from Cologne left because they were not permitted to play their song DESHALV SPILL MER HER (That’s why we’re playing here). Subsequently, no West German bands were invited for some time.
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