Sunday, July 14, 2013

Punk Poesie.The 70's too.


In which I travel to Corsica, do the wine harvest in France, play in the south of Italy get kicked out of the 1977 Documenta closing ceremony with Joseph Beuys and also out of one of the first German Punk bands.
       The sound of the Patti Smith group was like no other at the time, neither her band nor her voice, as well as what she sang. Just listen to the opening of Gloria on her first album Horses: “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” It was a call to be free, to express your desires, your fears and not feel guilty about it. It might be hard to imagine today, but there was nothing like this on the radio or in the record store. This is the time of bombastic and sentimental corporate rock with genius-musician-rock-star-gods, and bands like Yes, Genesis, Boston and others that did no longer express what we felt. Soon we found out that Patti Smith came from a scene that had developed around a former biker’s bar on Manhattan’s Bowery called CBGB’s, and included other ground breaking bands like Televison, whose lead singer’s name was Tom Verlaine, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, the Ramones and others.

2005 postcard of CB's entrance. By this time it had become its own museum.

Television 74. Richard Hell, Billy Fica, Richard Lloyd, Tom Verlaine. Richard Hell would start his own band soon and be replaced by Fred Smith.
        Just like Patti, Richard and Tom we also had devoured Rimbaud, Verlaine, Baudelaire and Lautreamont. We understood what these bands were doing. The Voidoids’ Blank Generation became the anthem that said we can all invent our selves. The British scene was ignited by what was happening in New York and exploded with bands like the Damned, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, the Slits, X Ray Specs and many others. Ultravox combined the electronics of Kraftwerk and Roxy Music with a punk sound. Fresh music was being made again and the excitement echoed the time when the Beatles, Stones and Kinks first hit the scene.

The author leaning against a trash can next to CBGB's. Winter 78. Collage with rolled up guitar string & plastic wrapper.

       In the summer of 76 I traveled to Corsica and France for 3 month and while I was reading Liberation to find work at the wine harvest in the Montpellier region, I learned that the first European Punk Rock Festival had happened at a bull-ring at Mont de Marsan, near by. The Damned were joined by French bands Bijou, Il Biaritz and Shakin’ Street.

       That fall I started playing more a electrically, working on song ideas and jamming with some people. Officially I was still a student,  and worked as a cab driver at night. In the spring and summer of 77 an ever changing group of us spend time in a small village in the south of Italy. One day a band played during a summer fest and when they took a break I asked them If I could play some songs. I started to play some Velvet Underground and was quickly joined by a drummer and a bass-player. People that had scattered around came back and started dancing. It was then that I decided that I would return to Hannover and start a band. If it wouldn’t work out in 6 month I would either go to Berlin, Paris, London or New York.

       On my way back from Italy I visited friends in Paris, who I met at the wine harvest the year before. They had become squaters in Menilmontant by now.  They showed me were to take my own apartment. In Paris I saw the early French punk band Metal Urbain. You might wonder how I traveled so much and for so long. It was all hitch hiking and sleeping outside or with people I met and the occasional train ride; plus I made good money at the wine harvest without spending any. This allowed me to buy a guitar in Paris.

       Back in Hannover I met Christian Henjes and Juergen Gleue at a show of The Vibrators, a London band with great songs and energy.  Christian and Juergen were eager to start a band too and eventually became known as the 39 Clocks, but before that happened we would have a small adventure together. Joseph Beuys had invited them to play at the closing ceremony of the 1977 Documenta in Kassel. Beuys was the most important post war German artist and the Documenta is one of the world's most important contemporary art event held every 5 years. We got a drummer and went. We set up in the sacred entrance hall of the Fridericianumen which was built in 1779. Without rehearsal or songs we just jammed away in a Velvet Underground kinda groove, three guitarist playing as fast and loud as they could and one drummer trying to keep up. It didn’t go over too well and we were put outside and played in front by the door until the plug was eventually pulled on us. There is a scene on that night’s national evening news showing Joseph Beuys closing the doors. You can hear us in the background in one of the first German punk performances at the biggest German art event. Ironically I would return to the same steps 30 years later on a visit to Germany, researching my MFA thesis.
Dieter Runge, Christian Henjes, Juergen Gleue, unknown drummer at 77 Documenta. Pic Udo Koehler.

       Soon after this I was asked to join a band looking for a second guitarist. Rotz Kotz played lots of Ramones songs, which nobody really new yet and we played some wild shows, mostly in youth centers. We had a small dedicated following , who came to our shows punked-out and ready to pogo, while 80 percent of the audience just stood in front of us with their mouths open and a finger in each ear.
Prickle Pit, Zelta Zonk, Lenny Ducati, 1977.

Lenny Ducati, Prickle Pit of Rotz Kotz, 1977.

       I learned lots of songs in a short time and how to play fast and precise, but not precise enough as I would find out. We checked the times of our songs with a stopwatch and practiced until we played faster than The Ramones in their 76 London show of which we had a tape. Usually our shows ended with the lead singer crawling around the stage, sometimes sticking his head into the bass drum Iggy style and all of the drum kit and PA scattered all over the stage. We probably played the first punk show at the UJZ Kornstrasse (see last blog), where I almost got electrocuted when somebody spilled a ½ litre glass of beer over my head.

Rotz Kotz at one of their first gigs
Lenny Ducati in action

Rotz Kotz in a toilet. Lenny with 62 Tele. Big bucks today.

       Our last gig together was in dance hall in the country where it almost came to a fight between our contingent and the country folks. I got kicked out of the band for playing some wrong chords…in a punk band, propelling me into my my next adventure. Later Rotz Kotz became one of the big bands of the German scene and made several 7”s and LP’s, but by that time I had crossed the Atlantic on a $99 one way ticket via Laker Airlines.

German wanted poster ca 1977

       The above poster hung in every post office in the country and the RAF's logo was a red star with a machine gun.

Red Army Faktion logo.

       We did not agree with the RAF's arrogant disregard of human life and replaced the gun with a guitar in this act of detournement.

Rotz Kotz poster 1977.

       Punk allowed you to reinvent yourself; to choose a new name, was part of it. Richard Hell, Tom Verlaine, Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, Poly Styrene.
       Rotz Kotz were Prickel Pitt (upper left, vocals), Lenny Ducati (upper right, guit, voc), Zelta Zonk (lower left, guit, voc) and Piee Gee (drums). The pictures were taken in a deliberate way to reproduce the wanted poster effect.

       I don't remember who designed this poster, but it was quite elaborate compared to the posters I made later on in New York, and also cost a bit of money. So, we would use it for all of our gigs, just filling in date and place in the space left and right of the star. Once I was gone, the band kept using it and just crossed out my name, like I had been caught. I had to crack up when I eventually discovered this on my thesis research trip to Germany in 2007.

       Eventually quite few of my friends and communards became very active in the German new music scene. Hollow Skai started the fanzine No Fun, then No Fun Records and became one of the eminent mover/shaker, chronicler and critic of the German New Wave. No Fun’s Hansa Plast’s first LP produced the biggest independently German album at the time. Mattus Simons became first, bass player, then lead singer of Der Moderne Mann, Tiny Trash wrote a song “If Live Gets Boring Risk It” and today moderates her weekly show Happy/Sad on Berlin’s Radio Eins. Hans Keller played with the Hamburg band Geisterfahrer and would later join me in NADA and European Sons in NY.

 Ott/Skai, Wir waren Helden fuer einen Tag, Hamburg 1983
A compilation of German fanzines 1977-81. Here you can read my letters from New York
Hollow Skai, Alles Nur Getraeumt, Innsbruck, 2009. A critical homage to the Neue Deutsche Welle.
Juergen Teipel, Verschwende Deine Jugend, Frankfurt, 2001. A docu-novel about German Punk and New Wave.
Comte de Lautreamont, Les chants de Maldoror, New York 1966
Isidore Ducasse/Lautreamont, Poesies, London, 1978
Isidore Ducasse, as Comte de Lautreamont, only wrote one book, which was first almost unnoticed and then became a major influence on the Surrealists, the Lettrists and the SI.

 And finally here is the fantastic late Poly Styrene with X Ray Spex doing their best known song 'My Bondage Up Yours'. For your pleasure. A compilation of Hannover punk from 1978 to 84 lead off by the famous Baerchen und die Milchbubies, and

Der Moderne Man Der Sandman/Baggersee. 7" cover
...yeah, with special pleasure, here the clip of this energetic German Neue Welle Funk. The opening scene is from a 60's TV show that was supposed to help kids go to bed. Der Moderne Man turns it into a nightmare. Of course we can't leave out Blank Generation.

Tiny Trash & Die Neue Welt doing 'If Live Gets Boring Risk It' during their lgendary only gig. Prickle Pit from Rotz Kotz on drums.

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