Step back to 1974 – Part 2
And here is the second part of my recollections of 1974, the year I turned 8. As always, I’m at pains to emphasise that I am not endorsing all songs featured — they are here by virtue of their power to transport me back to the year, like a smell or a taste or the shade of a particular colour might.
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Deutsche Fußball Nationalmanschaft – Fußball ist unser Leben.mp3
In part 1 of 1974 I recalled how I discovered my love for reading. The second obsession that kicked off that year was that for football (or soccer, as my American friends call it). It was, as one may expect, sparked by the football World Cup in West Germany that year. Shortly before, my father had taken my brothers and me to my first football match, a play-off for a place in the third tier league. Our team won, but I was only dimly impressed. I missed the start of the World Cup, and West Germany’s first match too. One day I got bored of playing outside. In the empty lounge, the TV was on, showing Uruguay vs Holland. I think I liked the colours of the shirts, Uruguay’s light-blue and Holland’s orange. I watched the game and enjoyed it. And I watched more and more. By the time West Germany was preparing to play East Germany in their only ever senior encounter, I knew the whole West German team, and many players of the other teams. I read obsessively everything I could find about football, studied line-ups, match reports, number of spectators…everything. Later that year, my father took me to my first Bundesliga match (Hamburg beat VfB Stuttgart 1-0 with a Georg Volkert penalty), and every fortnight I went to see our local amateur team in the third tier of the German football pyramid.
The featured song was the West German side’s World Cup song, produced by Jack White, whom we last encountered in 1973 as the writer of many Schlager hits and part-time player with Bundesliga side Tennis Borussia Berlin. True to its genre, it is a pretty awful song. The sentiment of the title speaks to the ultimate philosophical challenge: “Football,” the dapperly track-suited Franz, Sepp, Wolfgang and other sons of Goethe, Schiller and Mann declare, “is our life”. Simple, really. The day after the final (which West Germany would have won 4-1 had the ref been any good), we went on our vacation to a new holiday village, appropriately named Damp 2000 in Schleswig-Holstein. Funny how the idea of the year 2000 was so distant and futuristic in the ’70s, a notion more recently amusingly lampooned by Conan O’Brien. Today you wouldn’t advertise a futuristic idea by invoking the year 2033, would you?
The Hues Corporation – Rock The Boat.mp3
A joyous, catchy song which I still unreservedly love. It goes down very well at parties, too. The band had originally wanted to be called The Children of Howard Hughes, with ironic intentions since Mr Hughes’ putative children were unlikely to sport Afros as big as the balloons Fifth Dimension enthused about in Up, Up And Away. The record company vetoed the name, so the group opted for the punning moniker Hues Corporation instead. Manifestly, they did not want to rock the boat (I am truly very sorry!).
Santabarbara – Charly.mp3
The obligatory annual Mediterranean summer hit as imported by holidaymakers returning to West Germany with the appearance of a boiled lobster. Mostly these would be Italian, but in the mid-’70s, Germans had a love affair with Spain — the previous year the revolting Viva España was the huge souvenir hit, one so terrible that I could not bring myself to include it in this series, notwithstanding its doubtless qualifications for it (that is, the songs included must be able to recreate for me the times of the year under review). Even in the face of so much questionable music I have presented in this series, how could I have justified to inflict such torture on my loyal readers? I have no such compunctions in relation to Charly, however. It is a nice little song, very much of its time. My sister, who had the single, told me it was about a bird. Which is nice.
Suzi Quatro – Too Big.mp3
Too Big is rather like the stepchild in Detroit-born Quatro’s string of hits from 1973/74. Everybody rightly remembers Can The Can, 48 Crash, Daytona Demon, The Wild One or Devil Gate Drive, all written and produced by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who also wrote The Sweet’s hits of the era (as well as hits for Mud, Smokie and Racey). But Too Big doesn’t get much of a mention. It was a fair hit in West Germany, though it reached only #14 in Britain. To me, Too Big was the song with which I first associated Quatro. I almost certainly had heard some of her songs before, but didn’t know the singer. My relationship with Quatro didn’t last long as she soon disappeared, making appearances on Happy Days, which we did not get in Germany. I recall knowing her 1975 song Your Mama Won’t Like Me, and then she disappeared for a few years before making a comeback as a MOR artist in the Smokie mould, even recording a feckless duet with that group’s lead singer, Chris Norman. By then, I was not interested.
George McCrae – Rock Your Baby.mp3
George McCrae gave me the gift of disco. I didn’t know it at the time, of course, because the term disco would not have any mainstream currency for another few years. But what a fantastic song to lose one’s disco virginity with. Rock Your Baby was insanely big in West Germany, topping the charts there for ten weeks, in autumn and winter. The song was written by Harry Casey und Richard Finch of K.C. and the Sunshine Band, who were originally going to record it themselves as an instrumental (no doubt inspired by Barry White’s Love Orchestra). When they decided to turn it into a vocal number, they realised that the song was out of Casey’s range. So they were going to give it to a female singer, opting for Gwen McCrae. As it happened, Gwen was late for the arranged meeting, but her husband George was at hand to persuade the writers that he could do the song falsetto style.
Sweet – The Six Teens.mp3
Teenage Rampage, featured in Part 1, is a fairly simple rock song; The Six Teens is a bit more complex, musically and lyrically. In early 1974, they released the Sweet Fanny Adams album, their first without Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman as sole producers, and the first to feature the band’s name without the definitive article (though nobody told RCA’s single sleeves designing department). It yielded no hits. Their second album of 1974 was Desolation Boulevard, from which the Chinn/Chapman composition The Six Teens was the lead single. Sweet’s German fans stuck with the group with its more rock-oriented sound, but the mass market didn’t: The Six Teens brought to an end the group’s run of seven consecutive German #1s (that makes it 31 on top of the charts, plus another six for Fox On The Run in 1975). It also ended The Sweet’s run of six successive UK top 5 hits, though it did get to #9.
Michael Holm – Tränen lügen nicht.mp3
Internationally, this song is better known as Johnny Mathis’ hummable Christmas song When A Child Is Born. But that came a couple of years later. Before that, it was an Italian melody called Soleado, written by Ciro Dammico, which was given Spanish lyrics, and as Todo el tiempo del mundo became a hit for Manolo Otero. In Holm’s version, the Spanish sentiment of “I have all the time in the world to wait” becomes the observation that “tears don’t lie”. Holm had a line of hits that were borrowed from other languages such as the Sir Douglas Quintett’s Mendocino in 1970 and Kenny Rogers’ Lucille in 1977, Boney M’s El Lute in 1979, and of course Wie der Sonnenschein, featured in the post on 1971. The comedian Otto Waalkes reworked Holm’s song to rather amusing effect as Dänen lügen nicht (Danes don’t lie).
Abba – Hasta Mañana.mp3
An album track off the Waterloo album, this was a hit in Germany. And one can see why: its qualities conform to that of the German Schlager, with the tinkly intro, the cheesy chorus and the Mediterranean allusion of the title. Yet, the song shows the promise of tunesmithism which Bjorn and Benny would so comprehensively and lastingly fulfil. And Agnetha’s mournful vocals, doubtlessly delivered with that lovable frown between the brows, are quite lovely. See The Reaper’s artful deconstruction of Abba (which the author admits he doesn’t believe in himself). And then hurry and put on whichever version of Abba’s greatest hits you own, to dissuade yourself of The Reaper’s persuasive line of argument.
Costa Cordalis – Steig in das Boot Heute Nacht, Anna Lena.mp3
Konstantinos Cordalis was born in Greece and emigrated to West Germany as a 16-year-old in 1960. Five years later he had some success with a German version of the Elvis hit Crying In The Chapel. But it was in the 1970s that he became a big Schlagerstar, his deal being the guitar, flowing long black hair and extravagantly open shirt. My mother certainly thought he was sexy, and we thought he was pretty cool. This song is unadulterated rubbish, pretty much of the usual Schlager standard. Do not feel obliged to download it. Cordalis would have his biggest hit in 1977 with a song called Anita. After that his star slowly faded. In 1980s he became Greece’s long distance skiing champion and participated in the world championships in 1985. And in 2004 he won the German version of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.
Theme – Am laufenden Band.mp3
Theme – Die ARD Sportschau.mp3
Theme – Der Rosarote Panther
By 1974, I also became more discerning about the TV shows I’d watch. As mentioned in Part 1, in late1973 the German version of Looney Tunes was pulled, replaced with the Pink Panther cartoon, or Der Rosarote Panther (the not terribly good closing theme of which, “Wer hat an der Uhr gedreht?”, features here). I watched it, but seethed at the loss of the Roadrunner, Daffy, Bugs et al. My favourite TV show in 1974, by far, was called Arpad, der Zigeuner (Arpad the Gypsy), who was giving the officialdom of the 18th century Austro-Hungarian empire the heroic run-around — before our hero and his love, the beautiful Rilana, are killed… One day I’ll track down the DVD set.
I really enjoyed the various game shows. One was Dalli Dalli (a German colloquialism used to hurry someone on), presented by the leaping Hans Rosenthal, the only Jew on German TV at the time as far as I know, on which celebrity contestants played free association word games. Better still, in 1974 the heavily-accented Dutch entertainer Rudi Carell launched his Am laufenden Band, in which contestants had to exercise their wit in improvised sketches, memory tests and such like. It was very funny, at least to me at the time. And as a football fan, on early Saturday evenings Die Sportschau, which showed that day’s football highlights within an hour of matches being completed, was indispensable, as was the similar, late evening Aktuelle Sportstudio.