Tag: Wolfgang Riechmann

The Electronic Legacy of VARIOUS ARTISTS

So come on, whose first album was a various artists compilation?

They were the biggest sellers for a decade and had dominated the UK album charts so much so that they were given their own!

In 1966, the Canadian budget household gadget firm K-Tel diversified into the territory of compilation albums with ‘25 Country Hits’; it was a surprise success and this comparatively new idea of collecting a number of artists onto an album based around a single theme was expanded further.

K-Tel negotiated directly with artists and labels for the rights to reproduce the original recordings, but where this was not possible, the company would contract “one or more of the original artists” to make a new recording for the compilation, under the premise that the general public generally could not tell the difference between a re-recording and the original.

However, UK budget label Pickwick Records via their Hallmark imprint went one step further in 1968 by producing compilations of the latest hits but as rush-recorded soundalike cover versions under the title ‘Top Of The Pops’ which had nothing to do whatsoever with the BBC TV show; it was all perfectly legal thanks to an oversight by the corporation on trademark.

Purchasers unknowingly got treated to unique interpretations of ‘Autobahn’ and ‘The Model’ by anonymous session musicians who quite obviously had only learnt the song ten minutes before entering the studio. Although demand for such records had dimmed by 1981, acts such as SOFT CELL were still unable to escape with ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ hilariously reduced to geezer pub rock! The singer was revealed to be one Martin Jay who a few years earlier had treated the world to his cloak and dagger take on ‘Are Friends Electric?’.

The albums from K-Tel attempted to cram as many songs as possible onto the 12 inch vinyl format. In order to accommodate this philosophy within its physical limitations, many of the tracks were usually faded out early or came in unusual and often clumsy edits, but even these versions were sought after by loyal fans, thus making the records they came from valued collector’s items.

The various artists compilation album changed forever in 1983 when Virgin and EMI joined forces to produce the ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ series which at the last count had reached ‘Now 106’ and spawned numerous spin-offs and even cable TV channels. In 1984, Sony BMG and Warner Music joined in the action with the ‘Hits’ series, but such was the domination in the UK of these types of albums that in 1989, they were given their own chart and excluded from the main one!

For electronic pop, ‘Machines’ released by Virgin Records in 1980 was one of the first attempts to gather music using synthesizers into one place, but the entry point for many new fans was 1981’s ‘Modern Dance’ on K-Tel. This well-thought out collection saw youngsters saving up their pocket money for their first record purchase or asking Santa to put it into their Christmas stocking, thanks to Radio1 DJ Peter Powell declaring that ‘Modern Dance’ was “The best of total danceability, the sounds of modern dance, on one LP!”.

As with greatest hits albums, what makes a great various artists compilation is a seamless listening experience where possible, or at least more killer than filler. However the continuous DJ mix was a particular irritant running through compilations for a period and rarely worked with classic material or recordings not specifically aimed at the clubland.

However, staying within theme on a compilation is VERY important and straying just slightly can spoil a whole concept, especially if it has been outlined in the title. Soul Jazz Records’ lushly packaged ‘Deutsche Elektronische Musik’ sets over two volumes contained a wide range of freeform experimental works from Germany, but occasionally forgot about the Trade Descriptions Act implications of its title. Meanwhile, ‘Reward’ by post-punk trip-poppers THE TEARDROP EXPLODES had a regular place on collections such as ‘Club For Heroes’, ‘New Romantic Classics’, ‘It’s Electric’ and ‘Our Friends Electric’ despite being brass dominated.

But the nadir came with ‘Synth Pop’, a 3CD collection by Sony Music in 2015 which totally missed the point by featuring AZTEC CAMERA and HAIRCUT 100!??! Now while the inclusion of IMAGINATION’s ‘Body Talk’ with its iconic Moog bassline could be justified, the set highlighted just how much the modern day definition of “synth pop” had become particularly blurred…

Now while some listeners just want endless hits on various artists compilations, others want to be informed and introduced to some lesser-known or rare songs. However, this latter approach can meet with mixed results.

For example, Cherry Red’s ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ and the Trevor Jackson’s ‘Metal Dance’ series were historically fascinating, but not always easy collections to listen to in one sitting. With some of the music close to being unlistenable, it could be akin to studying a hefty text book… highly educational but not always entirely fun!

So The Electricity Club takes a personal look at the electronic legacy of various artists via twenty notable compilation albums, each with valid reasons for their inclusion, presented in yearly and then alphabetical order within.

Yes, several songs reoccur over a number of these releases, but perhaps that is more an indication of their timeless nature. These were tunes that were dismissed by the press and wider public back in the day, but are now considered classic and part of the cultural heritage.


MACHINES (1980)

Having seen the future and signed THE HUMAN LEAGUE as well as OMD through their Dindisc subsidiary, Virgin Records had the foresight to issue a long playing showcase of acts that used synthesizers as their primary instrumentation. As well as their two great hopes, among the outsiders on board were TUBEWAY ARMY, FAD GADGET, SILICON TEENS and DALEK I LOVE YOU. While XTC’s B-side ‘The Somnambulist’ appeared to be incongruous, this was from the band’s synth experimentation period before going more acoustic on 1982’s ‘English Settlement’.

‘Machines’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Machines/master/59149


METHODS OF DANCE (1981)

This compilation had actually been the idea of David Sylvian, hence why it was named after the JAPAN song although their contribution would be ‘The Art Of Parties’. Virgin presented their embarrassment of riches including BEF, DEVO, DAF, SIMPLE MINDS and MAGAZINE while the primary selling point was a new special dub edit of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Do Or Die’ acting as a trailer to ‘Love & Dancing’. The cassette featured more tracks including John Foxx and the actual undanceable ‘Methods Of Dance’ song in place of ‘The Art Of Parties’!

‘Methods Of Dance’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Methods-Of-Dance/master/43926


MODERN DANCE (1981)

1981 was when the sound of electronic pop was virtually everywhere, so the release of ‘Modern Dance’ was perfect synthchronicity. Featuring superb singles from the stellar cast of OMD, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, HEAVEN 17, JAPAN, DEPECHE MODE, SIMPLE MINDS, VISAGE, LANDSCAPE, FASHION and THE CURE as well as synth trailblazers John Foxx and Gary Numan, an indicator of how supreme this compilation was came with the fact that its most obscure track ‘A World Without Love’ by little known combo THE NEWS was rather good!

‘Modern Dance’ was released by K-Tel Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Modern-Dance/release/504872


SOME BIZZARE ALBUM (1981)

Stevo Pearce’s compendium of new Futurist acts has gone into folklore, having launched the careers of DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE, THE THE and B-MOVIE. Several of acts who didn’t make it were also superb. THE FAST SET’s cover of Marc Bolan’s ‘King Of The Rumbling Spires’ was enjoyable electro-macabre while ‘Tidal Flow’ by ILLUSTRATION is one of the great lost songs of the era, the band themselves disappearing despite securing the services of Martin Hannett to produce their debut single ‘Danceable’, but it was never finished…

‘Some Bizzare Album’ was released by Some Bizzare

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Some-Bizzare-Album/master/2754


CLUB FOR HEROES (1992)

It took a few years for people to realise just how good the music from the New Romantic era was, so how better than to celebrate it than a compilation named after one of Steve Strange and Rusty Egan’s club nights. Featuring the all-star cast of DURAN DURAN, SPANDAU BALLET, ULTRAVOX, VISAGE, SOFT CELL and JAPAN, other acts who also got entry into the party were YAZOO, ABC, TALK TALK and CLASSIX NOUVEAUX while most welcome were ICEHOUSE with their eponymous single.

‘Club For Heroes’ was released by Telstar Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Club-For-Heroes/master/120444


IT’S ELECTRIC (1994)

Gathering nineteen “Classic Hits From An Electric Era” including the full length ‘Blue Monday’ from NEW ORDER, ‘It’s Electric’ was largely, a more purist synth collection than ‘Club For Heroes’. Alongside the usual suspects were A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, TEARS FOR FEARS, BRONSKI BEAT, KRAFTWERK, EURYTHMICS, BRONSKI BEAT and ERASURE. However, this collection featured the album version of ‘Tainted Love’ instead of the single, a mistake that would be repeated again and again even on SOFT CELL’s own compilations.

‘It’s Electric’ was released by Dino Entertainment

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Its-Electric-Classic-Hits-From-An-Electric-Era/master/37974


DAWN OF ELECTRONICA (2000)

A tie-in with Uncut magazine celebrating “a music synonymous with futurism”, ‘Dawn Of Electronica’ included the album version of ‘From Here To Eternity by Giorgio Moroder and for the first time on CD, the Some Bizzare version of ‘Remembrance Day’ by B-MOVIE. With the likes of DAF, SUICIDE, ASSOCIATES, CABARET VOLTAIRE, PROPAGANDA, THE ART OF NOISE and YELLO alongside TUBEWAY ARMY, ULTRAVOX, JAPAN and SOFT CELL, this compilation was something a bit different compared to the ones that had come before.

‘Dawn Of Electronica’ was released by Demon Music Group

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Dawn-Of-Electronica-Uncut/release/577680


ELECTRIC DREAMS (2002)

Like ‘Teenage Kicks’ for punk and new wave, there are far too many compilations named ‘Electric Dreams’. This 2CD affair from Virgin Records comprised of thirty-eight “synth pop classics”. For once, this was a compilation documenting the different electronic pop phases including trailblazing analogue electro and the advent of digital sampling that actually worked. From ‘The Model’ and ‘Electricity’ to ‘Relax’ and ‘19’, with ‘We Are Glass’, ‘Yellow Pearl, ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ and ‘Absolute’ in between, this was one of the best releases of its type.

‘Electric Dreams’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Electric-Dreams/release/322736


THIS IS NOT THE 80s (2002)

Subtitled “A Nu-Wave Electro Compilation”, this modern collection brought out the electro in Electroclash with gloriously klanky drum machines in abundance. The undoubted star was Miss Kittin with four tracks including the mighty scene anthem ‘You & Us’ with Michael Amato aka THE HACKER; meanwhile the man himself and Anthony Rother each had three contributions in various guises. FPU, DOPPLEREFFEKT and ADULT. were among those helping to bring the sound of vintage electronic pop into the 21st Century for the club crowd.

‘This Is Not The 80s’ was released by Incredible / Sony Music

https://www.discogs.com/Various-This-Is-Not-The-80s-A-Nu-Wave-Electro-Compilation/master/375573


THIS IS TECH-POP (2002)

Compiled by Ministry Of Sound, ‘This Is Tech-Pop’ was a representative snapshot of electronic music at the start of the 21st Century. However the “Tech-Pop or Electroclash or Synth-Core or Neu-Electro” legend in the booklet highlighted the dance music’s daft obsession with categorisation. But the music from the likes of FISCHERSPOONER, TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS, FC KAHUNA, WALDORF, ZOOT WOMAN, LADYTRON, SOVIET, FELIX DA HOUSECAT, CIRC and GREEN VELVET was mostly excellent, although DJ mixing the tracks together clouded the listening experience.

‘This Is Tech-Pop’ was released by Ministry Of Sound

https://www.discogs.com/Various-This-Is-Tech-Pop/release/50649


ELECTRICITY 2 An Electronic Pop Sampler (2003)

‘Electricity 2’ came at a time when the only platform for UK and Irish synth acts seemed to be Ninthwave Records in the USA. It featured HEAVEN 17’s first new song for six years in the ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ influenced ‘Hands Up To Heaven’ as well as material by WHITE TOWN, SPRAY and EMPIRE STATE HUMAN. Among the highlights were ‘The Machines’ by MASQ which sounded like a bizarre Gaelic synthpop take on Gary Numan and the comical ‘Alan Cumming’ by TURD FERGUSON which satirically sent up ‘Frank Sinatra’ by MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER.

‘Electricity 2’ was released by Ninthwave Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Electricity-2-An-Electronic-Pop-Sampler/release/730718


ROBOPOP Volume 1 (2003)

Compiled by Wayne Clements of Essex duo MACONDO for his own Lucky Pierre imprint, ‘Robopop’ was possibly the closest thing to the ‘Some Bizzare’ album in the 21st Century. Heading the line-up were the-then newly configured CLIENT and MY ROBOT FRIEND while Mute stalwarts KOMPUTER contributed the previously unreleased ‘My Private Train’. The stand-outs though were machine funksters ALPINE STARS, irreverent retro-poppers BAXENDALE and VIC TWENTY featuring Piney Gir with a delicious synth cover of Lynsey de Paul’s ‘Sugar Me’.

‘Robopop Volume 1’ was released by Lucky Pierre Recordings

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Robopop-Volume-I/release/296881


RETRO:ACTIVE 5 (2006)

Compiled by Alex Hush, now of U2 and ERASURE remixers DAYBREAKERS, ‘Retro:Active 5’ pulled off the feat of gathering twelve classic 12 inch extended versions into a listenable programme. Longer takes of ‘I’ve Been Losing You’ by A-HA and ‘Pretty In Pink’ by THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS led the way with BLANCMANGE and DEAD OR ALIVE in support. But the biggest selling points were the ultra-rare ‘Love Cascade’ from LEISURE PROCESS and ‘More To Lose’ by SEONA DANCING, the synthpop duo fronted by Ricky Gervais.

‘Retro:Active 5’ was released by Hi-Bias Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-RetroActive5-Rare-Remixed/release/719639


ROBOPOP The Return (2006)

For ‘Robopop The Return’, Wayne Clements was joined by production duo MANHATTAN CLIQUE who co-released the compilation via their own Planet Clique label. Described as “Essential Electro Pop”, it was a much higher profile release than its predecessor with GOLDFRAPP, THE KNIFE, TIGA and DRAGONETTE all on board. Also present were THE MODERN relaunching themselves as MATINEE CLUB while HUSKI, FORMATIC, LORRAINE and SOHO DOLLS were among the worthy lesser-known inclusions. A bonus DJ mix by MANHATTAN CLIQUE also featured.

‘Robopop – The Return’ was released by Planet Clique / Lucky Pierre

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Manhattan-Clique-Robopop-The-Return/release/1410368


CHILLTRONICA A Definition No1 (2008)

Electronic music of a more downtempo disposition compiled by BLANK & JONES, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most exquisite tracks featured female vocalists with Sarah Nixey just pipping the highlight honours on her cover of JAPAN’s ‘Ghosts’ with INFANTJOY over Claudia Brücken guesting on the hosting trance DJ duo’s ‘Don’t Stop’. ‘Ghost Trains’, a solo tune by KINGS OF CONVENIENCE and RÖYKSOPP vocalist Erlend Øye was a livelier number that actually worked alongside chilled out tracks by THE GRID, BLISS, SPOOKY, MARCONI UNION and DEPECHE MODE.

‘Chilltronica – A Definition No1’ was released by Soundcolours

https://www.discogs.com/Blank-Jones-Chilltronica-A-Definition-No1/release/1714901


ELECTRI_CITY 1_2 Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf (2016)

Tying in with Rudi Esch’s book about the German city of Düsseldorf’s music heritage, ‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2’ gathered the more accessible elements of Deutsche Elektronische Musik, Kosmische and Neue Deutsche Welle. Featuring RIECHMANN, DAF, DER PLAN, DIE KRUPPS, LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, RHEINGOLD, HARMONIA, LA DÜSSELDORF, NEU! and pre-PROPAGANDA girl group TOPLINOS featuring a very young Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag, this two volume collection was like a journey of discovery with the benefit of a local tour guide.

‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2 – Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf’ was released by Grönland Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-ELECTRI_CITY-1_2/release/8919263


NEW ORDER Presents Be Music (2017)

Be Music was the moniker of NEW ORDER used to cover studio production work by all four members of the band. This boxed set gathered these varied recordings which involved either Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert and combinations thereof, with notable solo tracks from Marcel King, Paul Haig and Winston Tong alongside those of 52ND STREET, SECTION 25, THE BEAT CLUB, SHARK VEGAS and AD INFINITUM’s cover of ‘Telstar’ which many believed was NEW ORDER in disguise but actually only featured Hooky.

‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ was released by Factory Benelux

https://www.factorybenelux.com/new_order_presents_be_music_fbn60.html


ELECTRICAL LANGUAGE Independent British Synth Pop 78-84 (2019)

From the team that put together the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ series, the 4CD ‘Electrical Language – Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ did as it said on the tin and with a far more accessible template, was all the better for it. With THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD, THE NORMAL and FAD GADGET included to draw in the more cautious consumer, purchasers were treated to a plethora of wonderful lesser known acts like FIAT LUX, BOX OF TOYS, LORI & THE CHAMELEONS, PASSION POLKA, TESTCARD F, EDDIE & SUNSHINE and JUPITER RED. Meanwhile, the best novelty item was a Schaffel driven cover of Alvin Stardust’s ‘My Coo Ca Choo’ by BEASTS IN CAGES; half of the band went on to form HARD CORPS!

‘Electrical Language – Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ was released by Cherry Red Records

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/electrical-language-independent-british-synth-pop-78-84-various-artists-4cd-48pp-bookpack/


THE ELECTRICITY CLUB (2019)

Comprising of thirty-four tracks from 2009 to 2015, ‘The Electricity Club’ compilation has stood the test of time, scrutiny and repeated plays. With ERASURE heading the line-up alongside a MARSHEAUX remix of Katy Perry and acts such as MIRRORS, SIN COS TAN, VILE ELECTRODES, NIGHT CLUB, ARTHUR & MARTHA, KID MOXIE, MESH and ELECTRONIC CIRCUS. In hindsight, the weakest link comes surprisingly from one of the star attractions, coming as a result of the licencing compromises that often have to be made when the first and second choices get declined 😉

‘The Electricity Club’ was released by Amour Records / Minos EMI / Universal Music in collaboration with Undo Records

http://www.electricityclub.co.uk/the-electricity-club-2cd-compilation/


THE TEARS OF TECHNOLOGY (2020)

Compiled by Pete Wiggs and Bob Stanley of SAINT ETIENNE, what ‘The Tears Of Technology’ had was a heartfelt suite of music which captured the essence of its title. At its centre was OMD’s sub-eight minute adventure ‘Sealand’ alongside synthy diversions by THE TEARDROP EXPLODES and THE PALE FOUNTAINS, with the Merseyside connection extended to CARE and CHINA CRISIS. Scotland got also got a look in courtesy of Paul Haig and Thomas Leer. The rare ‘Direct Lines’ by Chris Payne’s ELECTRONIC CIRCUS found itself a place too.

‘The Tears Of Technology’ was released by Ace Records

https://acerecords.co.uk/bob-stanley-pete-wiggs-present-the-tears-of-technology-1


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd August 2020

TEC’s 25 SONGS OF THE BLITZ CLUB

The soundtrack of The Blitz Club was provided by its resident DJ Rusty Egan and its story is more than well documented.

This vibrant post-punk scene, whose flamboyant clientele were dubbed ‘Blitz Kids’ and ‘New Romantics’, became the catalyst for several bands including VISAGE, SPANDAU BALLET and CULTURE CLUB, as well as assorted fashion designers, visual artists and writers.

Rusty Egan told The Electricity Club: “I just played as much as I could fit in, it was not all disco. It was a bar and opened after work. I’d arrive 8.30–9.00pm and played all my faves till it was packed, then I got them dancing and at the end, I slowed down”.

The dancing style at The Blitz Club often involved the swaying of arms at a distance from the face like slow motion maraca shaking so as not to spoil any carefully hairsprayed styles. Meanwhile, feet movements were often impossible as the small dancefloor was often overcrowded!

With Steve Strange as doorman and fashion gatekeeper, the concept for what was initially a “Bowie Night” came together at Billy’s nightclub in Soho in Autumn 1978 in an effort to find something new and colourful to escape the oncoming drabness in the Winter Of Discontent. After a disagreement with the owners of Billy’s, the pair moved their venture to The Blitz Club.

Although Rusty Egan had been a soul boy and an active participant in punk through a stint rehearsing with THE CLASH and then as a member of THE RICH KIDS with Midge Ure, the two friends became fascinated with electronic dance music though the Giorgio Moroder produced ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer and KRAFTWERK’s ‘Trans Europe Express’ album which had been a surprise favourite in New York discos and whose title track referenced David Bowie.

“There was a couple of years of punk which Midge Ure and myself weren’t too impressed with in terms of the clubs and the environment in Thatcherite Britain, it was horrible in Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool!” recalled Egan, “So we were just trying basically to grasp the good in life, trying to be positive in a very negative time.”

Although Egan curated an eclectic playlist of available synth works supplemented with soundtracks and relatable art rock tunes, tracks were comparatively scarce in this new innovative electronic form.

So with studio time available following the split of THE RICH KIDS, Ure and Egan hit upon the idea of making their own electronic dance music for The Blitz Club, fronted by Steve Strange.

Ure came up with the name VISAGE for the project and presented the demo to his then employers at EMI Records, but it was rejected! Undeterred, the pair recruited Billy Currie from a then-in hiatus ULTRAVOX plus MAGAZINE’s Dave Formula, John McGeoch and Barry Adamson to record the first VISAGE album at the-then newly constructed Genetic Studios of Martin Rushent.

When Billy Currie toured with Gary Numan in 1979, he and fellow keyboardist Chris Payne composed what was to become ‘Fade To Grey’; it was included on the eventual ‘Visage’ album released by Polydor Records in 1980 and the rest is history, reaching No1 in West Germany!

VISAGE was the beauty of the synthesizer played with symphonic classical overtones fused to the electronic dance beat of Neu Europa and visually styled like a cross between the Edwardian dandies and Weimar Cabaret. Midge Ure remembered “it was a major part of my life and Steve was a major part of that period”.

The meeting of Ure and Currie in VISAGE led to the diminutive Glaswegian joining a relaunched ULTRAVOX who released the iconic ‘Vienna’ album in 1980. Co-produced by Conny Plank, the German always thought in terms of sound and on the title song, he imagined an old man at a piano in a desolate theatre who had been playing the same tune for forty years.

And when Billy Currie came to record his ivory parts, that was exactly the feel which Plank had engineered. It was to become a ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ for the New Romantic movement when it was released as a single, stalling at No2 despite being one of the best selling singles of 1981, gracing the UK charts at the same time as ‘Fade To Grey’.

Having started as a “Bowie Night”, the man himself became fascinated by this emergent cult with no name that he had inspired. In 1980, Jacqueline Bucknell, an assistant from his label RCA who was also a Blitz Kid, had taken Bowie down to The Blitz Club to cast extras to appear in a video for his new single ‘Ashes To Ashes’; among the chosen ones was Steve Strange.

Utilising Roland guitar synths and an ARP string machine with a final burst of ARP Odyssey, David Bowie saw ‘Ashes To Ashes’ as an epitaph for his artistic past as he lyrically revisited the Major Tom character from ‘Space Oddity’ over a decade on.

With this, The Blitz Club had now become a mainstream phenomenon as the BBC’s Nationwide programme sent an investigative team in, signalling a changing of the guard in popular culture with parallel scenes going on at The Rum Runner in Birmingham, The Warehouse in Leeds and Crocs in Rayleigh from which DURAN DURAN, SOFT CELL and DEPECHE MODE were to respectively gain their fledgling followings.

The perceived elitist exclusivity of The Blitz Club had partly become legend as a result of Steve Strange refusing entry to Mick Jagger for his sporting of blue jeans. Playing on this and adopting its electronic aesthetic to attract attention, five lads from Islington formed SPANDAU BALLET and initially only performed at special events which were by invitation only. Essentially becoming The Blitz Club’s house band, the quintet later scored worldwide success with a less radical sanitised pop soul sound.

Singer Tony Hadley said to The Electricity Club: “Our first album The ‘Journeys To Glory’ will always be one of my favourite Spandau albums, we were just young excited lads trying to make our mark on the world. There’s a rawness and energy on that album that is impossible to recreate. I love synthpop and still one of my favourite songs is SPANDAU BALLET’s first release ‘ To Cut A Long Story Short’.”

Not all enjoyed their visits to The Blitz Club; Billy MacKenzie notably highlighted the vapid nature of the scene in ASSOCIATES’ second hit single ‘Club Country’. But buoyed by its success, Steve Strange and Rusty Egan eventually vacated The Blitz Club and took over The Music Machine in 1982 and relaunched it as The Camden Palace, making it one of the UK’s first modern superclubs.

But the spirit of The Blitz Club still lives on and recently, there came the surprise announcement that Zaine Griff was to join Rusty Egan and ‘Fade To Grey’ co-writer Chris Payne to perform the songs of VISAGE in an audio-visual presentation at a number of events across Europe including W-Festival in Belgium.

Using Dave Rimmer’s 2003 book ‘New Romantics: The Look’ as an initial reference point and calling on the memories of Rusty Egan himself to verify whether he had actually played these songs in his DJ sets, here are The Electricity Club’s 25 Songs Of The Blitz Club to celebrate the flamboyant legacy of that Blitz Spirit.


ROXY MUSIC Both Ends Burning (1975)

Following-up the hit single ‘Love In The Drug’, ‘Both Ends Burning’ was ROXY MUSIC’s second ‘Siren’ call. With Bryan Ferry’s stylised but anguished vocals, it was a track which laid down the sophisticated art pop trail that JAPAN and DURAN DURAN would later be pursuing. Featuring a prominent coating of ARP Solina string machine sweetened by hypnotic bass and squawky sax, ‘Both Ends Burning’ is probably the most under rated single in the Roxy canon.

Available on the ROXY MUSIC album ‘The Best Of’ via Virgin Records

https://www.roxymusic.co.uk/


BRIAN ENO Kings Lead Hat (1977)

With a title that was an anagram of TALKING HEADS, the New York art school combo were the inspiration for the frantic metallic romp of ‘Kings Lead Hat’ which became a favourite at The Blitz Club. Brian Eno aped David Byrne in his vocal delivery, while he was later to produce three of the band’s albums as he moved further away from art rock as a solo artist. The song was later covered by ULTRAVOX in their live sets during the early phase their Midge Ure-fronted incarnation.

Available on the BRIAN ENO album ‘Before & After Science’ via Virgin Records

https://brian-eno.net/


KRAFTWERK Showroom Dummies (1977)

KRAFTWERK reacted as they generally did to negative criticism by writing a song. A response to a review that said their motionless persona at live performances was like ‘Showroom Dummies’, the sparse eerie atmosphere was punctuated by a tight and rigid electronic drum sound that was completely new and alien, something Rusty Egan was looking to emulate. Incidentally, the count-in of “eins zwei drei vier” was a deadpan Germanic parody of THE RAMONES!

Available on the KRAFTWERK album ‘Trans Europe Express’ via EMI Music

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


IGGY POP Nightclubbing (1977)

An Iggy Pop collaboration with David Bowie, the Vampiric glam of ‘Nightclubbing’ was the former James Osterberg’s commentary on what it was like hanging out with him every night. Utilising a simple piano melody and a cold Schaffel rhythm via the mechanical precision of a Roland drum machine, legend has it that Iggy insisted on keeping it, saying “it kicks ass, it’s better than a drummer”. Alongside ‘Lust For Life’, ‘Nightclubbing’ also featured in the soundtrack of ‘Trainspotting’.

Available on the IGGY POP album ‘The Idiot’ via Virgin Records

https://iggypop.com/


ULTRAVOX! Hiroshima Mon Amour (1977)

Utilising Warren Cann’s modified Roland TR77 rhythm machine, this was John Foxx moving ULTRAVOX! into the moody ambience pioneered by CLUSTER, away from the art rock of the self-titled first album and the punky interim single ‘Young Savage’. ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ had initially been premiered as a far spikier uptempo number for the B-side of ‘ROckWrok’. Incidentally, the ‘CC’ credited on saxophone is not Chris Cross, but a member of the art collective GLORIA MUNDI.

Available on the ULTRAVOX! album ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ via Island Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


LA DÜSSELDORF Viva (1978)

LA DÜSSELDORF’s second long player ‘Viva’ was their most successful album and the title track was a regular staple at The Blitz Club. An oddball slice of cosmic space rock sung in French and German by Klaus Dinger, proceedings were aided by the dual motorik thud of Hans Lampe and Thomas Dinger. Performed with the same group of musicians, ‘E-Musik’ by Dinger’s previous band NEU! had also been a favourite at The Blitz Club, influencing the intro of the ULTRAVOX B-side ‘Face To Face’.

Available on the LA DÜSSELDORF boxed set ‘Triple Album Collection’ via WEA Records

https://www.dingerland.de/


GIORGIO MORODER Chase (1978)

Commissioned by Alan Parker for the graphic prison drama ‘Midnight Express’, the noted director wanted some electronic accompaniment to the crucial chase scene of the film in the style of ‘I Feel Love’. The bassline from Giorgio Moroder’s own 1976 cover of ‘Knights In White Satin’ was reappropriated. The fruit of their labours was this Oscar winning Hi-NRG romp bursting with VANGELIS-like keyboard melodies, driven by an intense slamming and syncopated by popping pulses.

Available on the GIORGIO MORODER album ‘Midnight Express’ via Casablanca Records

https://www.giorgiomoroder.com/


THE NORMAL Warm Leatherette (1978)

Already a fan of German music and ‘Autobahn’ by KRAFTWERK in particular, Daniel Miller’s sense of experimentation and an adoption of punk’s DIY ethic led him to buying a Korg 700s synthesizer. Wanting to make a punk single with electronics, he wrote and recorded the stark JG Ballard influenced ‘Warm Leatherette’ as an independent single release on his own Mute Records. Meanwhile, The Blitz Kids came up with their own bizarre twisting and turning dance entering a human arch to accompany it…

Available on THE NORMAL single ‘Warm Leatherette’ via Mute Records

http://mute.com/category/the-normal


RIECHMANN Wunderbar (1978)

The late Wolfgang Riechmann is the forgotten man in the Düsseldorf axis having been in SPIRITS OF SOUND with Michael Rother and Wolfgang Flür; had his life not been tragically cut short, he certainly had the potential to become a revered and respected cult musical figure. The opening title track of his only album chimed like a Cold War spy drama before the beautifully almost oriental melodic piece imagined PINK FLOYD meeting CLUSTER over a delicate Schaffel beat.

Available on RIECHMANN album ‘Wunderbar’ via Bureau B

http://www.bureau-b.com/infotexte/Riechmann.Wunderbar.Bio.engl.pdf


VISAGE In The Year 2525 (1978 – released 1983)

ZAGER & EVANS’ pessimistic ditty was perfect fodder for the first VISAGE demo. Steered by Midge Ure using his freshly acquired Yamaha synths and punctuated by Rusty Egan’s incessant Roland drum machine and synthetic percussion, ‘In The Year 2525’ was perfectly resigned aural dystopia from its vocodered intro onwards. Steve Strange’s deadpan fronted the sombre tone perfectly but Ure’s vocal backing and counterpoints added that extra slice of musicality.

Available on the VISAGE album ‘The Face’ via Universal Records

http://www.visage.cc/


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA Firecracker (1978)

One of first Japanese bands to have a Top 20 hit single in the UK was YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA in 1980. ‘Firecracker’ was a cover of a 1959 composition by Martin Denny but actually released as ‘Computer Game (Theme From The Invader)’. Recorded in 1978, the parent self-titled album was noted for its use of the then brand new Roland MC8 Micro-Composer to control the synthesizers. The result was a clean, exotic pop sound that was unusual, even in the synthpop heartland of Europe.

Available on the YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA album ‘Yellow Magic Orchestra’ via Sony Music

http://www.ymo.org/


GINA X PERFORMANCE No GDM (1979)

Produced by Zeus B Held, ‘No GDM’ was written by androgynous art history student Gina Kikoine in honour of the “great dark man” Quentin Crisp and featured an array of ARP and Moog synths to signal the birth of a new European Underground. Unsurprisingly, the song gained heavy rotation at The Blitz Club. The nonchalant, detached vocal influence of GINA X PERFORMANCE went on to be heard in the music of LADYTRON, CLIENT and MISS KITTIN.

Available on the album ‘Nice Mover’ via LTM Recordings

http://www.ltmrecordings.com/gina_x.html


JAPAN Life In Tokyo (1979)

Working with Giorgio Moroder, David Sylvian submitted ‘European Son’ for the session in Los Angeles but it was rejected by the producer. Instead, the Italian offered several of his demos, of which, Sylvian picked the one he considered to be the worst so that he could stamp more of his own vision for the developing synthesized sound of JAPAN. Considered to be too avant-garde at its inception but ahead of its time, unbeknown to Moroder and Sylvian, they had just conceived DURAN DURAN!

Available on the JAPAN album ‘Assemblage’ via Sony BMG Records

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


THOMAS LEER & ROBERT RENTAL Day Breaks Night Heals (1979)

Originally released on THROBBING GRISTLE’s Industrial Records, ‘The Bridge’ album saw Scottish duo Thomas Leer and Robert Rental trading vocal and instrumental duties. With an air of FAD GADGET, ‘Day Breaks Night Heals’ showcased some of Leer’s pop sensibility that was later apparent in his Arista solo period and in ACT with Claudia Brücken, while Rental maintained a dark experimental presence in this slice of artful electronic blues. Robert Rental sadly passed away in 2000.

Available on the album ‘The Bridge’ via The Grey Area

http://mute.com/category/thomas-leer-and-robert-rental


SIMPLE MINDS Changeling (1979)

Manipulating their influences like SPARKS and MAGAZINE with a very European austere, Glasgow’s SIMPLE MINDS were “underground, pulsating through” thanks to the rhythmic interplay of Derek Forbes’ bass with Mick McNeil’s synths. Charlie Burchill was now thinking beyond the sound of a conventional electric guitar while the precision of under rated drummer Brian McGee locked the glue. That just left Jim Kerr to throw his bizarre shapes and pontificate over this dark avant disco.

Available on the SIMPLE MINDS album ‘Reel To Real Cacophony’ via Virgin Records

http://www.simpleminds.org.uk/


SPARKS Beat The Clock (1979)

Having graced the UK Top 20 again with the tremendous ‘No1 Song In Heaven’, SPARKS continued their Giorgio Moroder produced rejuvenation and had an even bigger hit with ‘Beat The Clock’. Percussively augmented by Keith Forsey who was later to produce Billy Idol, Russell Mael’s flamboyant falsetto more than suited the electronic disco sound while the programmed backing meant that Ron Mael could stoically maintain his image of doing nothing.

Available on the SPARKS album ‘No1 In Heaven’ via Lil Beethoven Records

https://allsparks.com/


TELEX Moscow Diskow (1979)

Belgian trio TELEX comprised of Marc Moulin, Dan Lacksman and Michel Moers, with the intention of “making something really European, different from rock, without guitar”. Opening their debut album ‘Looking for Saint Tropez’ which also contained their funeral robotic cover of ‘Rock Around The Clock’, ‘Moscow Diskow’ took the Trans-Siberian Express to Moscow, adding a funkier groove compared with KRAFTWERK’s ‘Trans Europe Express’ excursion for what was to become a cult international club favourite.

Available on the TELEX album ‘‘Looking For San-Tropez’ via EMI Music

https://www.facebook.com/TELEX-312492439327342/


THROBBING GRISTLE Hot On The Heels Of Love (1979)

From their third album ’20 Jazz Funk Greats’, the uncompromising THROBBING GRISTLE led by the late Genesis P-Orridge were neither jazzy or funky! Gloriously sequenced by Chris Carter via a Roland System-100M modular, ‘Hot On The Heels Of Love’ was mutant dystopian disco lento with a hypnotic rhythm punctuated by a synthetic whip-crack for that S&M twist as Cosey Fanni Tutti’s whispered vocals competed with pentatonic melodies and electronic drill noises!

Available on the THROBBING GRISTLE album ’20 Jazz Funk Greats’ via Industrial / Mute Records

https://twitter.com/ThrobbingGrstle


ZAINE GRIFF Ashes & Diamonds (1980)

Zaine Griff had a Bowie-esque poise was tailor made for The Blitz Club and Tony Visconti saw enough in him to produce his debut solo album ‘Ashes & Diamonds’. Featuring Hans Zimmer on synths, the title song was sitting just outside the Top 40 and earned a performance on Top Of The Pops but the episode was pulled thanks to a Musicians Union strike. Demonstrating the song’s longevity despite it not being a major hit, it was recently covered live by American alternative rockers MGMT.

Available on the ZAINE GRIFF album ‘Ashes & Diamonds / Figvres’ via MIG Music

https://www.zainegriff.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Being Boiled (1980)

‘Being Boiled’ was the first song Philip Oakey wrote with Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh for THE HUMAN LEAGUE, his bizarre lyrics being the result of a confusion between Buddhism and Hinduism while highlighting the plight of silk worms. Intended to reimagine FUNKADELIC’s funky overtones as synthetic horns, this brassier re-recorded version with fatter electronic beats was included on the ‘Holiday 80’ EP and the ‘Travelogue’ album, becoming a dance staple of The Blitz Club.

Available as a bonus track on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


SPACE Tender Force (1980)

Didier Marouani wrote the worldwide hit ‘Magic Fly’ but having left the band, Roland Romanelli and Jannick Top continued as SPACE. The rousing thrust of ‘Tender Force’ was, like ‘Magic Fly’, produced by Jean-Philippe Iliesco who later invited Rusty Egan to contribute a timbale heavy remix of this synth disco tune ; he was later to begin an ill-fated business relationship with Iliesco who was named by Midge Ure in his ‘If I Was’ autobiography as responsible for putting a wedge between him and Egan in VISAGE…

Available on the SPACE album ‘The Best Of’ via Nang Records

http://www.space.tm.fr


YELLO Bostich (1980)

Although now known as a duo, eccentric Swiss pioneers YELLO actually began as a trio of Dieter Meier, Boris Blank and Carlos Peron. Later remixed and extended, the military drum tattoo at the start of ‘Bostich’ was deceiving as an electronic throb quickly set in. This was perfect avant garde disco for The Blitz Club with a quirky range of vocal pitches from Meier while the track also included a style of speedy European rap later that was repeated on their only major UK hit ‘The Race’ in 1988.

Available on the YELLO album ‘Essential’ via Mercury Records

https://www.yello.com/


LANDSCAPE Einstein A Go-Go (1981)

Electronic pop music was often seen as pretentious, LANDSCAPE had their tongues firmly in their cheeks as evidenced by ‘Einstein A Go-Go’. “The song is a cautionary tale about the apocalyptic possibilities of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of theocratic dictators and religious extremists.” said the band’s Richard Burgess, “We talked about the track conceptually before we wrote it and our objective was to make a very simple, cartoon-like track with a strong hook that would belie the meaning of the lyrics!”

Available on LANDSCAPE album ‘From The Tea-Rooms Of Mars…’ via Sony Music

https://twitter.com/Landscape_band


SHOCK R.E.R.B. (1981)

Written as a B-side instrumental for The Blitz Club’s resident dance troupe SHOCK to work a routine to, ‘R.E.R.B.’ was constructed by Rusty Egan and Richard Burgess, hence the title. Burgess had been doing the linking interludes with a Fairlight on the first VISAGE album and brought in Roland System 700 modular driven by the Micro-composer while Egan triggered the brain of the synthesized drum system that Burgess had been working on with Dave Simmons for its punchy drum fills.

Available on the SHOCK single ‘R.E.R.B.’ via Blitz Club Records

https://twitter.com/DJRustyEgan


SOFT CELL Memorabilia (1981)

Produced by Daniel Miller, one of the first SOFT CELL recordings on signing to Phonogram was the seminal ‘Memorabilia’. While not a hit, it was critically acclaimed and become a favourite at The Blitz Club. Dave Ball’s deep Roland Synthe-Bass and klanky Korg Rhythm KR55 provided a distinctive danceable backbone to accompany Marc Almond’s souvenir collecting metaphors about sexual promiscuity. After this, SOFT CELL were signed by Rusty Egan to Metropolis Music for publishing.

Available on SOFT CELL album ‘Keychains & Snowstorms: The Singles’ via Universal Music

https://www.softcell.co.uk/


Approved by Rusty Egan, The Electricity Club presents the ‘Blitz Spirit’ playlist capturing the era plus a few tracks from just after at: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0y4GXXotg4BFPZ6qMklwdx


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Rusty Egan
13th April 2020

ELECTRI_CITY 1_2

Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf

German music has been compiled before, but it has often been a hit and miss affair.

electri_city2Soul Jazz Records’ lushly packaged ‘Deutsche Elektronische Musik’ sets over two volumes contained a wide range of freeform experimental works from Der Bundesrepublik, but occasionally forgot about the Trade Descriptions Act implications of its title.

Released to coincide with ‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’, the English translation of the acclaimed book by Rudi Esch about the city’s music heritage, ‘ELECTRI_CITY 2’ gathers together the more accessible elements of Deutsche Elektronische Musik, Kosmische and Neue Deutsche Welle.

Think of it as a direct journey of discovery, but with the benefit of a local tour guide as well. Issued by Grönland Records who handled the NEU! and HARMONIA remasters, the 2CD deluxe edition  ‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2’ adds the first volume that came out in 2015 alongside the original German language book.

NEU! and DAF will probably be the best known acts of those included; produced by the legendary Conny Plank, both are more than well represented on ‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2’. But with the proto-synthpop of ‘Isi’ and the proto-punk of ‘Hero’ from the former, alongside the electro-body controversies of ‘Der Mussolini’ and ‘Kebabträume’ from the latter, there are also many other acts who are worthy graduates of the school.

One of the most welcome inclusions is that of the under rated Neue Deutsche Welle trio RHEINGOLD. Both ‘3Klangsdimensionen’ and ‘Fluß’ are almost up there with great international crossover hits like PETER SCHILLING’s ‘Major Tom’. But often, the German language was a barrier to wider recognition and apart from DAF, most of the material gathered here does not really break the lyric bank. Those of Klaus Dinger from NEU! in particular are amusingly close to ranting gibberish, especially on the two brilliant offerings from his more synth driven combo LA DÜSSELDORF.

Electri_city-cover-JPGMissing though are KRAFTWERK; but with Ralf Hütter’s well-known defensiveness of the Kling Klang legacy, representation instead comes from former percussionist Wolfgang Flür and his autobiographical party piece ‘I Was A Robot’.

There is also a special hidden cover of ‘Ruckzuck’ from THE TECHNOCRATS, a side project of Ralf Dörper, best known as a member of PROPAGANDA and DIE KRUPPS. Anyone getting as far as even listening to this set of compilations will probably have at least one KRAFTWERK album in their collection, so their absence is not really noticed.

As Andy McCluskey put it: “Whilst KRAFTWERK cement their position in the pantheon of the museums and the books, LA DÜSSELDORF and NEU! were very important. They also did something that was beautiful and different”. Of course, British acts like OMD championed the cause of Elektronische Musik aus Düsseldorf, eventually distilling the form into synthpop and even selling it back to Das Vaterland; in acknowledgement of that, a mysterious collective called MAKROSOFT cover ‘Electricity’ in a deadpan apocalyptic fashion.

Further evidence of cultural exchange comes with the 1976 HARMONIA & ENO collaboration ‘Luneberg Heath’, the effects of which were to later have a profound effect on DAVID BOWIE’s Berlin Trilogy of ‘Low’, ‘Heroes’ and ‘Lodger’. But the biggest surprise to many will be ‘Darling Don’t Leave Me’, a lost duet between DAF drummer Robert Görl and EURYTHMICS’ Annie Lennox which is a gloriously wiggly synthpop pleasure.

Diversity was one of the beauties of The Düsseldorf School Of Electronic Music and harder, edgier sounds emerged alongside more esoteric instrumental pieces. ‘Wahre Arbeit Wahrer Lohn’ and ‘Zwei Herzen, Ein Rhythmus’ from DIE KRUPPS show how much of a debt is owed to them by the Industrial music scene.

Meanwhile LIAISONS DANGEREUSES led by Beate Bartel (MANIA D, EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN, MALARIA!) and Chrislo Haas (DAF, DER PLAN) took Teutonic precision into the underground dance clubs with hypnotic numbers like ‘Etre Assis Ou Danser’ and ‘Los Ninos Del Parque’. However, those in the hunt for something even angrier will probably appreciate the more challenging platitudes of BELFEGORE.

With ‘Flammende Herzen’, NEU! guitarist Michael Rother opened his solo account to become Germany’s answer to Mike Oldfield while on ‘Karussell’, he also proved he could sound like a one-man ULTRAVOX. A former band mate of Rother’s, RIECHMANN is undoubtedly the great lost talent of the era; the lunar synth passages of ‘Abendlicht’ and the delicate melodic schaffel of ‘Wunderbar’ showcased his potential towards the musical magnificence that was never able to be fulfilled due to his tragic passing.

Of course, a vibrant art scene centred around Düsseldorf and provided a sympathetic environment for many to flourish. DER PLAN, TEJA and DIE LEMMINGE are good examples of that more experimental approach. PYROLATOR’s ‘Max’ in particular comes over like a Rhein-Ruhr version of THE NORMAL while ‘Mustafa’ by TOPOLINOS, a pre-PROPAGANDA girl group featuring Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag, is a jaunty, enjoyable piece of Middle Eastern flavoured avant pop that was not really a true indicator of what was to come.

All-in-all, ‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2’ is as Rudi Esch puts it “an intelligent and sophisticated roller coaster ride through one of the most integral chapters of recent German music history”. A fine collection of cathartic expressionism, the 29 tracks on offer provide a fine entry point into a fascinating post-war attitude that resulted in a highly influential musical aesthetic.

CD1
01 LA DÜSSELDORF Düsseldorf
02 RIECHMANN Wunderbar
03 HARMONIA & ENO Luneburg Heath
04 DER PLAN Wir Werden Immer Mehr
05 DAF Der Mussolini
06 NEU! Hero
07 TEJA Säuren Ätzen
08 DIE KRUPPS Wahre Arbeit Wahrer Lohn
09 LIAISONS DANGEREUSES Los Ninos Del Parque
10 WOLFGANG FLÜR I Was A Robot
11 RHEINGOLD 3Klangsdimensionen 2010
12 MICHAEL ROTHER Flammende Herzen
13 MAKROSOFT Electricity

CD2
01 RIECHMANN Abendlicht
02 NEU! Isi
03 RHEINGOLD Fluss
04 ROBERT GÖRL featuring ANNIE LENNOX Darling Don’t Leave Me
05 DIE KRUPPS Zwei Herzen, Ein Rhythmus
06 TEJA SCHMITZ Studieren
07 DAF Kebabträume
08 PYROLATOR Max
09 LA DÜSSELDORF La Düsseldorf
10 BELFEGORE Mensch Oder Gott
11 DER PLAN Gummitwist
12 LIAISONS DANGEREUSES Etre Assis Ou Danser
13 TOPOLINOS Mustafa
14 DIE LEMMINGE Himmel
15 MICHAEL ROTHER Karussell
16 THE TECHNOCRATS Ruckzuck (Hidden Track)


‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2’ is released by Grönland Records as a deluxe 2CD edition. Each compendium is also available separately as a CD, double vinyl LP and download

https://groenland.com/en/artist/electri_city/

ELECTRI_CITY The Dusseldorf School Of Electronic Music‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’ by Rudi Esch is published by Omnibus Press on 26th August 2016.

Book launch events featuring Q&A sessions with Rudi Esch and special guests to be announced include: London Rough Trade East (10th September), Brighton Hotel Pelirocco (11th September), Liverpool Cavern (9th November), Birmingham and Midland Institute (12th November), Manchester Palace Hotel (13th November)

Please check https://www.facebook.com/Electri.city.Esch/ for details

This year’s ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE takes place at Düsseldorf CCD on 14th – 15th October 2016

http://www.electricity-conference.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ELECTRICITY.Conference/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
17th August 2016, updated 1st July 2017

ELECTRI_CITY_Conference: An Interview with Rudi Esch

Electronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf

ELECTRI_CITY_MAPMention Liverpool and the first thought is Merseybeat; Washington could be considered the Go-Go capital of the world, while Detroit is the home of Motown. And of course Nashville is the centre of Country Music. 

Folk icon Richard Thompson once joked: “In Heaven, the English greet you at the door, the French do the cooking, the Italians provide the entertainment, and the Germans organise everything. In Hell, the French greet you at the door, the English do the cooking, the Italians organize everything, and the Germans provide the entertainment!”

Yet paradoxically, Germany has provided worldwide entertainment by setting the blueprint for modern electronic music. And if you want to name its spiritual birthplace, then look no further than Düsseldorf…

ELECTRI_CITY_BookRudi Esch’s German language book ‘Electri_City – Elektronische_Musik_Aus_Düsseldorf’ documents the city’s innovative and inspiring music scene.

“Düsseldorf is the capital of electronic music” says Esch, bassist with industrial trailblazers DIE KRUPPS who also hail from the Rhineland city.

In the book, he gives an account of how the Düsseldorf electronic scene developed from 1970 to 1986 and spawned acts like LA DÜSSELDORF, DER PLAN, LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, RIECHMANN, RHEINGOLD, PROPAGANDA, DAF, NEU! and KRAFTWERK. DAVID BOWIE, IGGY POP and BRIAN ENO were among those listening.

The music became so influential that artists and producers throughout the world rethought their approaches and developed their own variations on the electronic theme. As KRAFTWERK’s Ralf Hütter put it later: “From all over the world comes inspiration. We have been very lucky, because the music we envisioned, the ideas we had of The Man Machine and electro music, have become reality and technology has developed in our direction…and electro is everywhere”

DusseldorfTo further celebrate Düsseldorf’s contribution to the world, Esch has unveiled the ELECTRI_CITY_Conference to be held from Thursday 29th to Saturday 31st October 2015.

Held in association with Düsseldorf Congress Sport & Event, the event will take place at three locations:  CCD Congress Center, NRW-Forum and Zentrum für Aktion, Kultur und Kommunikation (ZAKK) in Düsseldorf.

The three day programme will feature lectures, discussions, concerts and DJ sets. Those taking part will include academic specialists, musicians and creative artists who were themselves part of Düsseldorf scene. There will also be international guests whose music was influenced by bands from the scene such as Rusty Egan, Peter Hook, Stephen Mallinder, Daniel Miller, Andy McCluskey and Martyn Ware while there will be live performances from HEAVEN 17, MICHAEL ROTHER, WRANGLER, VILE ELECTRODES and METROLAND.

The Electricity Club had the pleasure of chatting to Rudi Esch about the ELECTRI_CITY_Conference…

KruppsPropagandaKraftwerkWhat inspired you to conceive an event dedicated to the Düsseldorf music scene?

It’s partly based on the success of my book that got released eight months ago. It got overwhelming reviews and explored a different angle on my hometown. It discussed the art and music scene of the late 60s, 70s to the mid-80s with the people who created it, who built the hype. The book stands as a foundation to this legacy of the city – the ELECTRI_CITY.

The initial kick for me was attending Uwe Schüttes’ conference ‘Industrielle Volksmusik for the Twenty-First Century’ at Aston University in Birmingham. I went with Rusty Egan and we were both excited to find the first ever international academic conference on KRAFTWERK. I thought: “I have to take this to my homeland”.

What are the aims of the ELECTRI_CITY_Conference?

The ELECTRI_CITY_Conference will honour the global importance of Düsseldorf’s pop-cultural heritage. The three-day event will include lectures, panels, discussions, concerts and DJ sets. We will have a meeting point for international guests to discuss electronic music at its birthplace. We talk about the connections and interactions between experimental electronic music and synthpop, techno or electronica. Our aim will be to have a combination of an old fashioned auditorium with lectures and a mini-fair that will attract everyone from passionate music lovers to artists, to hardware manufacturers. We are just thrilled that the city of Düsseldorf is nowadays ready to host an event like this.

RUDI ESCH_thenHow did you realise as a youngster that Germany, and in particular Düsseldorf, was developing an artistic identity of its own, outside of the American influenced music that was prevalent in the country at the time?

I know today that Düsseldorf was highly influential on me and my upbringing. Without DUS, I probably would never have thought of forming a band.

As a youngster, you don’t have a feeling for the characteristic features of a city. Only by travelling to other places do you learn about your hometown. When touring with DIE KRUPPS, I was surprised about the reactions we got in Europe outside of Germany – you don’t get this at home.

For a long time we liked travelling to the UK, Scandinavia and Belgium more than playing in Germany. Nobody understood our music at home. America came as a big surprise as they were really into our music and knew about NEU! and KRAFTWERK, as well as everything Krautrock. They were and are aware of Düsseldorf, especially because of the art academy: Beuys, Lüpertz, Richter and Paik are big names – and always KRAFTWERK.

KRAFTWERK SOUNDS 78How significant was The Cold War and the presence of NATO armed forces in acting as a political and artistic driving force among the German student population?

The Cold War represented a hard cut in German culture and the post-war generation had been occupied with themselves up until the time of the Wirtschaftswunder. Light music, operettas and musicals were popular amongst the general public. The Americans brought their leitkultur of blues based rock ’n’ roll. People listened to AFN and BFBS, and they huddled around the radio to listen to the British Top Twenty on Radio Luxembourg on a Saturday. The British also created public radio stations following the blueprint of the BBC.

But they also failed to remove some of the brown structures within higher education. This created the clash between the old ideas of the professors and the new ideas of the students, resulting in the student uprisings in the sixties. Without a doubt, students got some of the more liberal ideas from listening to the radio stations of the occupying forces and this in turn led to a cultural revolution later which laid the ground to the experimentation with new sounds in the end. The people involved in the student riots – like in Paris ’68 – were all born after WW2. They were in deep protest to their Nazi parents and didn’t accept the Allies musical dominance anymore. People like Rother and Hütter were looking for a German sound aside the Rhythm ‘n’ Blues patterns. They said they were looking for a Volksmusik for the Twenty First Century.

RUDI ESCH_todayBerlin is also noted for its recent artistic heritage. Can you recall any rivalry with what would have been West Berlin between 1970 to 1986, or was Düsseldorf’s much noted antagonism with neighbours Cologne more prominent? 😉

I’m not sure one could call it rivalry. We were so occupied with doing our own thing that we didn’t really go out and look what was going on in other cities. One of the reasons, besides the Art Academy, was the liberal attitude in Düsseldorf that enabled musicians and artists to concentrate on creating these new sounds.

In Düsseldorf, the art scene was integrated into daily life, unlike in other cities like Hamburg for example, and the general attitude towards people was more open. It just wasn’t possible to deviate from the norm in Berlin in those days without running the risk of getting a bloody nose! Düsseldorf gave people the freedom to express themselves, and the bourgeois were used to seeing all sorts of colourful birds in the town.

Musically, it was a perfect co-existence of the ‘Berliner Schule’ and the ‘Düsseldorf School’. Bands like TANGERINE DREAM created something with more pathos and classical attempts than the bands from DUS. Here, you always were looking for something minimalistic, modern, reduced and hypnotic.

The city spawned many acts like LA DÜSSELDORF, RIECHMANN, DER PLAN, LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, RHEINGOLD, PROPAGANDA, DAF, NEU! and KRAFTWERK. You are a member of DIE KRUPPS; but who were your own particular favourites and why?
ELECTRI_CITY_la dusseldorf-cards

I always loved DAF. They were a great band and had a huge impact in the early eighties. I loved DIE KRUPPS before I joined them 😉

With all the other bands, it is difficult because I know the people and it’s not easy to just only concentrate on the music. I had a band with Klaus Dinger before I joined DIE KRUPPS and I remember that I didn’t like his bands too much at the time.

Nowadays I know how great NEU! is and I think LA DÜSSELDORF did a lot for this town. I loved LIAISONS DANGEREUSES ‘Los Niños Del Parque’ and I had a soft spot for RHEINGOLD. I wasn’t a fan of KRAFTWERK at all – that changed and only shows how stupid I was as a youngster!

RIECHMANN_dusseldorfRIECHMANN is the tragic, lost figure from the scene. What do you think he might have gone on to achieve?

Wolfgang Riechmann was so talented and was so influential on VISAGE and ULTRAVOX for example, I like to think that he would have come up with more great electronic music.

‘Wunderbar’ showcases his talent perfectly and I think he would have been a German JOHN FOXX if he hadn’t been stabbed in Düsseldorf-Altstadt in 1978.

As influential as the Düsseldorf scene was, it was not necessarily very song based. How significant do you think the British acts, who took that sound to create ‘synthpop’, have been in allowing the city’s cultural contribution to be recognised internationally?

Whooa – I think it helped a lot that OMD, HEAVEN 17, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and all the synthpop bands always referred to KRAFTWERK, or nowadays to NEU! Without the recognition in the outer world, you’re nobody at home. We learned this the hard way. Only after DIE KRUPPS had a record shelf with their name on in New York’s Tower Records did we start getting free drinks in Altstadt 😉

ELECTRI_CITY_KRAFTWERKWho do you think have been the most ‘German’ of all the British acts who owe a debt Düsseldorf?

To me the GARY NUMAN from the late 70s is somehow very close to ‘The Man-Machine’. Or is it just me?? I also think the early Vince Clarke DEPECHE MODE are close to KRAFTWERK in presenting themselves. I know OMD are closely connected to ‘Radioactivity’ and you can hear this in their sound and way of production. Martyn Ware told me the cover of ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ is a direct response to the Capitol ‘Trans Europe Express’ cover.

The Foxx fronted ULTRAVOX! took their name with an exclamation mark at first only because of NEU! and on and on and on … but the most German of the British acts would be ULTRAVOX, because of the three albums they produced at Conny Plank’s studio.

The ELECTRI_CITY_Conference has Andy McCluskey, Peter Hook, Rusty Egan, Martyn Ware and Stephen Mallinder as special guests from the UK. What will be their contribution to the event’s three day programme?

From 29th to 31st October 2015, our music tradition will be avidly debated with people knowing our history better than we do, and we meet at its place of origin 😉

We have lectures by Stephen Mallinder and Martyn Ware, panel talks with Daniel Miller and Michael Rother, concerts by Rother, HEAVEN 17, METROLAND and WRANGLER plus DJ sets by Rusty Egan and Daniel Miller. We will have Q&As with Peter Hook and Andy McCluskey. You can see: it’s always the bass player!!

ELECTRI_CITY_Conference-rustyAre there are more plans to be announced?

We are working on some more surprises and The Electricity Club will be the first to announce these … we got something in the pipeline that would be highly attractive to all TEC subscribers. As you are co-hosting Rusty Egan’s appearance, you can be the one to break the news *laughs*

Your ‘Electri_City’ book has been very well received in Germany. How is the English translation coming along and when will it be published?

I will start working on the English translation after the ELECTRI_CITY_Conference as Omnibus Press is putting out the book in July or October next year. I am so happy to have a professional publishing house that specialises in music. I can’t wait to present the English edition in 2016 – “Es wird immer weiter gehen – Musik als Träger von Ideen”


The ELECTRI_CITY_Conference takes place from Thursday 29th to Saturday 31st October 2015 at various locations in Düsseldorf and features live performances from HEAVEN 17, EMOTIKON, MICHAEL ROTHER, WRANGLER, METROLAND, VILE ELECTRODES and LEN SANDER

For more information in English on the ELECTRI_CITY_Conference, programme schedule, locations and tickets, please visit: http://www.electricity-conference.com/en/

https://www.facebook.com/ELECTRICITY.Conference

ELECTRI_CITY_Conference-02The English edition of ‘Electri_City – Elektronische_Musik_Aus_Düsseldorf’ is due for publication in 2016

The ‘Electri_City – Elektronische_Musik_Aus_Düsseldorf’ compilation is released by Grönland Records as a CD, vinyl LP and download

https://www.facebook.com/Electri.city.Esch

http://www.d-cse.de/en


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
3rd September 2015

Lost Albums: RIECHMANN Wunderbar

The story of WOLFGANG RIECHMANN is tragic and had his life not been cut short, he certainly had the potential to become a revered and respected cult musical figure like his German contemporaries Michael Rother from NEU! and Manuel Göttsching of ASHRA.

With regards his only solo album ‘Wunderbar’, the resonant melancholy of its content becomes even more poignant once it is learnt that RIECHMANN was murdered in Düsseldorf just weeks before its release by Sky Records in August 1978. The victim of a random knife attack, he tragically died two days later.

RIECHMANN is the forgotten man in the Düsseldorf axis which spawned NEU! and KRAFTWERK. Indeed, he was even in a band called SPIRITS OF SOUND with Michael Rother and Wolfgang Flür before each separately joined KRAFTWERK at stages of Kling Klang’s development.

In 1976, he became a member of Düsseldorf rockers STREETMARK whose first album ‘Nordland’ was produced by the legendary Conny Plank. Despite recording an album ‘Eileen’ with them, in Autumn 1977 RIECHMANN headed down to Star-Studios in Hamburg to make his first solo record.

With his multi-instrumental virtuoso ability, he recorded a beautiful collection of instrumentals using an electric violin, guitars and a Röhrophon-studio vibraphone plus various synths; these included an ARP 2600, an ARP Odyssey and a corresponding ARP sequencer. STREETMARK’s Hans Schweiß added live drums as required but otherwise, this was a true independent work.

The opening ‘Wunderbar’ title track chimes with a Cold War spy drama intro before the melodic, almost oriental piece becomes PINK FLOYD meets CLUSTER over a delicate schaffel beat. Swimmy Jarre-like string machine washes float over ‘Abendlicht’ and in particular, ‘Silberland’. The latter is a lengthy piece not dissimilar to a downtempo ambient rendition of KRAFTWERK’s ‘Metropolis’. They were coincidentally both conceived around the same time!

The influence of the Berlin axis such as KLAUS SCHULZE and TANGERINE DREAM looms on the trancey pulses of ‘Weltweit’ but clocks in seven at rather than twenty minutes, while ‘Himmelblau’ heads back to Düsseldorf, driven by a light Motorik beat. In a nod to the manic NEU! drummer, ‘Himmelblau’ even reprises the style of ranty vocal gibberish that was the preserve of Klaus Dinger circa LA DÜSSELDORF. The shimmering synth textures and the hypnotic rhythms lift the listener to a blue heaven as suggested in translation.

A mightily sweeping tune, it’s up there with La D’s epic ‘Rheinita’, Rother’s dreamy ‘Flammende Herzen’ or even RFWK’s ‘Ohm Sweet Ohm’ in the history of great melodic Kosmische musik. The six track album ironically closes with a short unsettling mood piece ‘Traumzeit’, a WENDY CARLOS type tribute that chillingly recalls ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and the film’s ultraviolence with which RIECHMANN sadly met his end.

‘Wunderbar’ is an elegant and ultimately fragile collection with a fine balance of electronic technology and real instrumentation where none of the elements are overdone.

Perhaps ahead of his time, on the cover RIECHMANN sported an iceman look that GARY NUMAN used six years later for ‘Berserker’. Who knows what could have happened had he lived and how much more brilliantly brooding music there might have been to come.


‘Wunderbar’ is available as a download via Bureau B under license from Sky Records GMBH

http://www.wolfgangriechmann.de/

http://www.bureau-b.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
18th November 2012, updated 21st May 2016