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Dirk Anger

Rock'n'Roll, German Edition: Rio Reiser

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This is gonna be a very long, esoteric post, so here's the TL,DR:
Rio Reiser Rocks! Check out the videos linked below!


I've often heard the opinion the we Germans "don't have rhythm" - meant as a slight against our general musical ability (most often expressed by German comedians, incidentally). If I were someone who gave a shit about such broad national stereptypes, my retort would be: "Oh yeah? Well, what about Bach, motherfucker? Or Mozart, or Beethoven, or Haydn, or Schubert, or Schumann, or Schumann (yes, there were two of them) or Wagner, or Orff, or Stockhausen, or even Fucking Zimmer?"

But, as the astute reader will most definitely have noticed, there's a catch: Where's the popular music? Hans Fucking Zimmer might qualify - after all he scores pretty much every other Hollywood movie these days, or so it seems. But Rock'n'Roll? Internationally, we've got Kraftwerk, the Scorpions (shudder!) and (God help me I actually like them) Rammstein - and a handful of metal bands for the nerds.

Not very much. Not for a people that are world-renowned (or so I'm told) for their deep poetics and philosophical thinking. Shouldn't songwriting come naturally to us? Well... kinda. As much as to any other language group, that is.


Native German speakers today number about 120 million - which is, culturally, enough for a fertile native market, but not nearly enough to affect the wider - English - mainstream at large (we're not quite as weird as Japan, thankyouverymuch). Where does that leave native German artists? Well, in a very sad state, that's where. A lot of the (domestically) most popular artists/bands are OK-ish. Die Ärzte, Seed, Xavier Naidoo, Die Fantastischen 4, Sportfreunde Stiller, Die Toten Hosen - they all mostly beat Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber (or whoever's popular these days), quality-wise. (Why yes, I'm old and have no clue whatsoever about popular music. How did you figure *that* out?)
Most of them, though? Utter muzak dreck we call Schlager. The less said about that, the better.


Nevertheless, there are exceptions. I've wrote way too much already, so let me cut this short:
This is about the Godfather of what they call German Rock'n'Roll.
The original band was called "Ton Steine Scherben". They started out in 1970, inspired by The Who and the Stones, at a time when *nobody* did Rock Music in that language. They were radically working-class and left-wing - so much so that one of their songs was suspected to be a semi-official RAF anthem. And they rocked.
Their lead singer and main songwriter was Rio Reiser. He was later (1986) best known for a (pretty good and actually pretty deep) dinky little pop song called "König von Deutschland".
He died on August 20th, 1996, of acute liver failure. He was a gay, deeply Lutheran, anarchist.

Rio Reiser was, simply put, the greatest songwriter in the German Tongue. He couldn't sing for shit, but the lyrics he wrote, the melodies he composed and the songs he sang are among the most beautiful waves of sound ever to caress my eardrums.

This is, I guess, where this post becomes an experiment. I'm providing no translations (those might come later) nor explanations. All I want from you, dear native speakers of languages that are not German - is an impression.
How does this shit make you feel?


Keine Macht für Niemand:


Jenseits von Eden:


Land in Sicht:


Der Traum ist aus:


Durch die Wüste:


Übers Meer:

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