Tuesday, November 24, 2015


It might be hard for any kid these days to appreciate how certifiably out there early synth-based records seemed when they first appeared in the early seventies. They turned the ear of just about everybody, with little hint of the defensive us versus them attitude that rockers nowadays would probably exhibit. It was more "Weird! Bring it on!" That's how Kraftwerk's "Autobahn" crept onto the charts, even in the U.S. (#25 in 1975), which is kind of unbelievable given its drone like sparseness. 

How accepted was it? At the time I was a diehard guitar based rock fiend, nevertheless I distinctly remember driving down the freeway in my '61 Falcon station wagon when "Autobahn" came on my newly installed FM radio. I turned it up and imagined myself hauling ass on the Autobahn, the famed highway in Germany where there are no speed limits, never mind the fact that my beloved Falcon had a hard time going over 60 MPH. Just a few years later their LP The Man Machine was released, and that, coupled with Bowie and Iggy Pop's ersatz endorsement of the band (by way of Heroes and The Idiot) was all it took to whip up Kraftwerkmania with my group of friends. Despite the fact that we were in the thick of punk rock, a recreation of the cover photo of The Man Machine begged to be done, thus this hastily posed just for the fuck of it shot. It was 1978 and there were only a few shows a month worth going to, so it was no doubt taken on a slow night.

Here's a handful of miscellaneous very early synth type stuff. I was going to try to sort through all of this and find a coherent thread, but fuck it, finding the links to begin with was work enough. The first one down there, Dick Hyman's "The Minotaur" was the first electronic song to chart in the U.S. in 1969. Gershon Kingsley released his "Popcorn" in 1969, and it became a massive hit when it was covered by Hot Butter in 1971. (Don't miss the ten hour version of that below. That's right, ten fucking hours of "Popcorn".)  After that a couple versions of Kraftwerk's "Autobaun", the single edit and the 22 minute LP version. Then their "Trans Europe Express", from 1977, which commemorates their cavorting with Bowie and Iggy with name drops for each. After that "The Robots", from The Man Machine. Being the third in a trio of well received milestone LPs, consider it their Exile on Main St. Yeah, sure, that's the ticket. And you gotta have Africa Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force's "Planet Rock". (It's like the Scarface poster for hipster geeks.) The unlikely samples of "Trans Europe Express" (along with some Yellow Magic Orchestra) turned rap on it's head in 1982.

Lemmchen Primary School keepin' it real (video below)

Dick Hyman - The Minotaur (streaming) at YouTube
Gershon Kingsley - Popcorn mp3
at Beware of the Blog
Hot Butter - Popcorn (streaming)
at Youtube Ten hours long. Ten. Hours.
Kraftwerk - Autobahn (3:33) mp3
at ATumblr (?)
Kraftwerk - Autobahn (22:37)
(streaming) at YouTube
Kraftwerk - Trans Europe Express mp3
at Zero (?)
Kraftwerk - The Robots mp3
at Brain Magazine
Africa Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force - Planet Rock mp3
at ATumblr

The Action Packed Kraftwerk Good Time Video Hour
Kraftwerk - Köln II (live in TV studio) at YouTube 1971 Long hair! Overalls! Guitars! The horror!
Kraftwerk - Three more early videos at Beware of the Blog
Kraftwerk - Showroom Dummies at YouTube Rare footage of Kraftwerk dancing at 2:17
Kraftwerk - Radioactivity (French TV 1978) at YouTube
Kraftwerk - Live, Lattitude Festival UK 2013 at YouTube 
Lemmchen Primary School - The Robots at YouTube Cover by kids in cardboard robot costumes. Keeping the torch lit.

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