Rock fans were in for a treat when German TV showed, over two weeks in August 2006, 12 hours of some of the greatest televisual archives in Europe. Among the acts Krautrock Nacht featured were Scorpions, Can,
Amon Duul II, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Klaus Schulz and The Rattles. Dave Thompson gives a rundown.

It’s a treasure that you scarcely dare dream about… 12 (count them) hours of non-stop, commercial and interruption free music, courtesy of some of the greatest televisual archives in Europe.

That is what German viewers received on August 6 and 13, as WDR TV surrendered its entire schedule to what it called Krautrock Nacht. And, when they say Krautrock, that’s what they mean. No British invaders, no American visitors, and scarcely more than a handful of performances aired any time after the mid-1970s. Truth in advertising could find no better advocate.

The six DVDs that absorbed this smorgasbord can scarcely be faulted. True, it was a little off-putting to discover that only three of the six have actual menus, to allow the impatient viewer to seek out certain favorites.


From Can (above)...

But all that really means is, you have to sit and watch the other three from start to finish. And, from the opening blast of Joy and the Hit Kids, 1969 pop par excellence, to the closing bars of Dieter Moebius’ "Born Neo," filmed in 2005, you may not actively enjoy every performance, but you’ve probably not seen… or even imagined… most of them. And that includes Jacques Perrot, performing Mozart’s 40th on cheeks, lips and knuckles.

Look at things from the point of view of your average Anglo-American Krautrock fan. Amon Duul II, Xhol Caravan, Organisation, Tangerine Dream, Guru Guru, Can, Kraftwerk, Popol Vuh, Birth Control… all present and correct. You want pop? Tiger B Smith, Wonderland, the Rattles, the Petards, the Rattles… all here. You want straightforward rock? Lucifer’s Friend, Atlantis, Frumpy, Grobschnitt, the Scorpions - "I’m Going Mad" opens their account here, before most non-German listeners had ever even heard of them.


to Kraftwerk.
 

Udo Lindenberg turns in a magnificent "Rudi Ratlos," to remind us just how heavily influenced by Alex Harvey he once was. Tangerine Dream unleash a "Ricochet II" that could be a stand-alone DVD in its own right, and anybody who thought that Can’s Can DVD collection was the last word in that band’s video history should probably get ready for a shock. "Mother Sky," "Hallelujah," "Vitamin C," "Dizzy Dizzy"… no less than eight performances appear here, all shot live in television studios that we all recognize from sundry other bands’ video collections (Beat Club, Disco, Musikladen), but which we rarely catch hosting their own native sons. 

In truth, the sheer size of the collection can get overwhelming… you may, for example, find yourself wondering whether it’s possible to hear too much of Kin Pin Meh, Tiger B Smith and Elster Silberfug; or asking why so many of the lesser-remembered bands of the era (Jane, Epitaph, Holderlin, Broselmasachine) resemble spin-offs from a Spinal Tap tribute band. 


Click on the cover for the
complete tracklist.

 

But you also have to congratulate the show’s producers for not taking the easy way out, and stuffing the package with the expected hits. Hence, the Rattles perform "You Can’t Have Sunshine Every Day," not "The Witch"; Kraftwerk giving us "Koln II," instead of "Autobahn" (although "Die Roboter" does turn up later) and Can rattling "Dead Lock," instead of hissing "I Want More" (although that would not have been a hardship, by any means). And so on. And have we yet mentioned Et Cetera, Witthusser and Westrupp, Passport, Klaus Schulz, Ton Steine Scherben, Kraan, Eloy, Achim Reichel, Gift, Hotzenplotz, Emergency, Diss Irae, Tritonusi, Karthago, Seeselberg, Ougenweite, Novalis, Michael Rother, Reuphus Zuphall… when was the last time you saw Randy Pie? 

Again, this is an astonishing collection, an unimaginable delight, the television treat of the year. Let’s see one of our national networks match it!

Note: Veteran music writer Dave Thompson is a regular contributor writing on hard-to-find rarities. Dave is the author of many well reviewed rock biographies, including the recent Virgin Books' Red Hot Chili Peppers biography, works on The Cure and Kurt Cobain. He wrote Cream: The World's First Supergroup which was published early last year. In the past, Dave has written for Live! Music Review and he is also a regular contributor to Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q magazines. Click here to buy Dave's e-books.

Click here for article by Dave Thompson:
Sounds Of The Sixties, Seventies and Eighties
Have You Got It Yet? - Syd Barrett's Beyond Rhyme And Reason
Apple Singles Collection
Reviews by Dave Thompson






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November 10, 2006