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Special exhibition at the Museum of Communication Frankfurt, August 17th, 2017 to February 25th, 2018

and th Museum of Communication Berlin, March 15th to September 16th, 2018





by Focke Museum, Bremen
concept | idea: Museum of Communication, Bern

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

It brings you to the fans’ worlds and brings old memories vividly back to life.

See you later alligator!

Decade 1925 – 1945

Comedian Harmonists

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.

In 1927 Harry Frommermann (1906-1975) placed an ad in the local newspaper “Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger“ entitled “Musiker für Ensemble gesucht” (Musicians wanted for an ensemble. Their first meeting took place at his home and the six musicians became the Comedian Harmonists.

Wild Cliques

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.

Mechanical suitcase grammophones had been around since the 1920s – they were in high demand amongst “swing boys” and “swing girls”. By the end of the 1930s, many young people were able to afford a second-hand Hotkoffer, or “hot case”. An electrical supply wasn’t needed: the grammophone was wound up with a crank handle. Swing could be listened to easily in parks and at outdoor pools. Suitcase grammophones can be regarded as the predecessors of 1970s and 1980s ghetto blasters.

Golden Twenties

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.

Charleston dress, batiste

Ankles on display, low-waist and no corset – this is how the confident, self-sufficient “new woman“ shocked in her Charleston dress. The generous legroom was perfect for dancing. In the late 1920s, this became a popular part of lifestyle for young German women.

Lender: Focke-Museum

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).

Heintje’s (*1955) civil name is Hendrik Nikolaas Theodoor Simons. The child star landed his first hit single in 1967 with MAMA, which became one of Germany’s most sold singles the following year. The German music charts saw Heintje release a number one hit three consecutive times and he sold over 40 million records. The film industry quickly discovered him. He first played minor roles in the cult films “Die Lümmel von der ersten Bank“ and then later main roles, written with him in mind. He could never escape his image as a child star.


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).

How to dance the Lipsi:

The basic figure is danced as follows (for the man, the lady vice-versa):

  1. Step to the left with the left foot
  2. Tap the right foot to the left
  3. Step to the right with the right foot
  4. Tap the left foot to the right
  5. Step to the left with the left foot
  6. Step to the left with the right foot

Elvis Mania

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.

With nearly one billion records sold, Elvis is the most successful solo artist of all time. By the time of his death in 1977 at the age of 42 in Memphis, Tennessee, this exceptional artist had achieved 105 golden records. These are highly sought-after amongst his fans and achieve top prices at auctions.

Lender: Richard Weize, Bear Family Records

Decade 1960 – 1974

Open Air

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.

In East Germany, the alternative music scene also gathered at the beginning of the 70s at open-air parties, sometimes lasting for several days, such at the concerts of the Jazzwerkstatt Peitz. In 1982, the East German government prohibited the open-air concerts.

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

Objects belonging to the Beatles were treated like relics by their fans. There were no limits to the star cult – a brick used by Paul McCartney to hold open his garden gate was pinched and carried around London for eight hours.

Decade 1976 – 1990

photo: Focke Museum

In the year 1979 a device revolutionised listening to music like nothing before – the Walkman! From one day to the next, this personal soundtrack enriched everyday life. The songs on the mixed tapes were carefully recorded from the radio. For every mood, there was a cassette stored away in the carrousel. Even the warning messages from the Federal Environment Agency that claimed every fourth youth would impair their hearing couldn’t diminish the Walkman’s success. The market leader Sony alone sold around 335 million units until 2004.


Only Dreamed

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.

The idea of anonymising the musicians on stage and the design of their album covers made Kraftwerk world stars: In 1997, the New York Times called them “the Beatles of Electronic Dance Music”.

Decade 1990 – 2000

photo: Focke Museum

In 1991, the song ICH WÄR’ SO GERNE MILLIONÄR played on all radio stations across Germany that had just been unified. Hailing from Leipzig, Die Prinzen were an overnight sensation on the German pop scene. Their repertoire also includes pivotal songs. In 2001, Die Prinzen released DEUTSCHLAND. The song was a “controversial description of the situation in our home country”, according to Krumbiegel. At the Bambi Awards in 2001, the band wore specially made suits with imprinted text passages.

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

“One World One Future“ was the motto of the 1988 Loveparade. Around 800,000 ravers danced to the beats of the DJs performing on parade floats. Platform shoes – like the ones worn by Miss Love Parade – were a “must-have” accessory amongst the techno followers. The radio station “Fritz“ from Berlin organised a poll to select a Miss and Mister Love Parade.

Lender: Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschlands

Udo Lindenberg: Sonderzug nach Pankow (1983)

Udo Lindenberg had been requesting permission to perform in East Germany for eight years. On October 25th 1983, he appeared for the first time in the Palace of the Republic – but in front of a selected audience. Hundreds of real Udo fans were waiting outside the people’s palace. They chanted “We want in!” and only police force was able to stop them from storming the hall. The whole concert was overseen by around 1600 Stasi employees. Informers were also present among the monitoring contigent for the West German musician, and conveyed Lindenberg’s every step to the secret police in advance. Nonetheless, the rocker, who was popular in East Germany, managed to escape his guards briefly and appear in front of his fans.

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.