I'm trying to keep myself amused during my Co-vid confinement,and also combat a spell of apathy about blogging.....so......having watched three and a half seasons of "Ren and Stimpy"(the greatest TV show ever made!?),my mind is sufficiently out-there/damaged to ask Dr. Stoopid what Krautrock really is shall we?
Dr. Stoopid says:
"Basically, Krautrock was a low grade version of 'Prog Rock', but for people who couldn't play musical instruments.....and specifically for anyone who lived in West Germany who couldn't play a musical instrument;even more specifically,anyone who lived in West Germany who couldn't play a musical instrument between 1969 and 1975.
The main Krautrockers,who actually 'Rocked',and these fellows were in a minority, were Ash Ra Tempel,Amon Düül II.....but NOT Amon Düül I,who were psychedelic hippy primitivists......and Guru Guru. These chaps were the rock element of it all,preferring Jimi Hendrix-style freak outs to wanting to be Pink Floyd at the UFO in 1967. Of course, no real musical talent is needed to play an impression of Jimi Hendrix,who was an innovator on the six strings rather than a fantastic technician.
The large majority of German hippies wanted to be Pink Floyd,who weren't too hot on the musician front themselves. The Syd Barratt Live era from 1966 to 68 was a huge inspiration on the 'Freak Out' front,where the boundaries of Rock traditionalism were completely broken down into free-form freak rock. Then the next era of Pink Floyd,post Syd, was even more influential on the nascent Kraut Rockers.They used syths,and floaty effects.The Space Rock era Floyd.
Being Outsiders, the Krautrockers were, by default, given free reign artistically,because they thought nobody beyond our mates are gonna be interested in this shit? Surely? Never mind buy the records?
How wrong were they?
They didn't count on the endless ingenuity of 'The Record Collector' to create a market to inflate the prices,creedence and obcurity of any second rate genre to boost their kudos in this musical version of Trainspotting.In this world, Obscurity and rarity ruled over musical excellence or innovation. The same thing happened to Soul music in the cess-pits of north western England in the seventies with 'Northern Soul'.....which was really the 'Crap Soul' that nobody bought.These things were rare for a reason,and for the vast majority of Krautrock it was the same.
Naturally there was some genuinely great and innovative music to be dug up, like Neu!,Can,Cluster and,maybe, Faust,but, com'on,most were poor facsimiles of Anglo-prog.There was even a Krautrock band who wasn't even German; the Canterbury style bunch of Brits called Nektar,who incidentally could actually play their instruments.
The best stuff to come out of the Krautrock era was the electronic stuff,which should really be referred to, not as rock,but Das Kosmiche Musik, or, space rock with out the rock bit.Again this didn't require any great musical expertise,but ownership of a vast bank of modular synthesisers, and a couple of Terry Riley LP's.We're talking Popol Vuh, Cluster,and Tangerine Dream here fella's.....and it is only Fella's who listen to this stuff.The ladies are less inclined to listen to anything that may enhance their stature in the tribe,and go for mostly stuff they actually like.
It's debatable whether Tangerine Dream should actually be associated with the rest of Krautrock/Kosmiche musik,as they seemed to exist apart from all that,and would have made the charts in the UK no matter what. As for Kraftwerk,they binned off Krautrock altogether to nobley try and invent some futuristic Pop that also charted in the UK. CAN also existed in that hinterland of accessibility that overlapped Roxy Music territory minus the songs.
For me, there was only one Kraut act that sounded like nothing else that went before,and that was ,of course, Neu!.This was one of those 'What The Fuck Was That' moments that are all too rare in the rock'n'roll era.
Doesn't that drummer play the same pattern on all of the tracks?...er...Yes. Where were the fills,the paradiddles,the 7/5 time signatures? This was NOT Prog!
Probably the greatest influence Krautrock had was not the music, it was the inclusivity of the musicianship.Wait a minute I can play Bass like Holgar Czukay,play drums like Klaus Dinger,and guitar like that bloke from Guru Guru, said the impressionable youth of 1973,having just pilfered the 'European Rock' section of the local record store.
The Euro Rock section was still there in 1978 when i first bought into the Krautrock legend,after endlessly hearing my Post-Punk hero's name-dropping CAN and Neu.Sadly "Tago-Mago" wasn't there, so I got the terrible "Soon Over Babaluma",which was, let's face it...Shit.Although,there will certainly be comments alluding to the opposite. Luckily I fell upon an original pressing of "Neu 1",on Brain Records, in a subterranean hippy record store in Leicester called "The Very Bazaar",from which i spent most of my dole money in in the early eighties. The Euro-Rock section was in Revolver in Leicester market place,which was renouned for its genre spanning sections;the other notorious section in Revolver was the "New Wave" section,where you could find anything from The Drones to The Door and The Window residing there.
When David Bowie was looking for Idea's, as he was inclined to do,often mistaking 'looking' for 'Stealing',he was pointed in the direction of The Motorik section(as in the Neu/Motorik Beat) of the Krautrock genre by fellow 'Ideas' harvester,and fellow non-musician,Brian Eno,or 'Eno', as his mother calls him (Eno,yer dinner's ready!).So...er... Eno,with sidekicks Bowie and Pop (iggy),would hang-out with Harmonia,Cluster,Conny Plank,and the Dingers casually usurping their style for a series of rather unremarkable albums to enhance Bowies legend,including the terminally awful "The Idiot" by Iggy Pop...who wants us to know he,or David's read some Dostoevsky.Luckily,as no-one had heard of Neu or Harmonia in the Anglo-Saxon arena,or even in Germany for that matter;this watered down Motorik influenced Kosmiche Pop was attributed to the Great David,who to his credit would often drop these groups names subtly,to the deaf ears of the Anglo-American public.
Most of it is,like every other genre,over-rated and dross, valued for its obscurity over content. Leave a copy of the admittedly rather good,"Golem" by Sand on your coffee table,and you'll score many obscurity points with the envious eyes that your geek friend Eamonn would cast upon it...That's the Eamonn who changed his name to Aemonn Düül in tribute to his favourite Band.Then of course, there was his quieter namesake, Aemonn Düül Too,who was Aemonn Düül One's shadow world. If these people don't exist there is a need to invent them.
So to close this contentious article on German musik at the start of the seventies,its a Geek tradition to have a Top Five list innit?
1. Neu - "Neu!"
2. CAN - "Ege Bamyasi"
3. Cluster - "Zukerzeit"
4. Harmonia - "Musik Von Harmonia"
5. Guru Guru - "UFO"
All pretty obvious selections,but Obscurity in itself is not a guide izzit?
I assume you've all got these albums? Si I'll provide a download of Sand's "Golem" album......which you've probably all got as well,but its more obscure than my Top Five,and is therefore more 'Krautrock as a result.
Ok, Yeah Jaki Liebzeit was an incredible drummer,and NO, Einsturzende Neubauten was not a Krautrock band,even if they did steal banging metal junk and using engines from Faust.That's immitation not innovation.And no Ash Ra (Tempel) didn't invent Trance."
Sand – "Golem" (1974)
2.The Old Loggerhead 8:20
3.May Rain 4:30
4.On The Corner 4:30