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Curious Germany Vol. 5

February 16th, 2012 No comments

In the fifth instalment of Curious Germany we have Françoise Hardy singing in German, a Schlager star getting groovy in London, a British rock singer going German, country star Lynn Anderson doing a German original, and retired football players singing about flags.

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Françoise Hardy – Ich bin nun mal ein Mädchen (1965).mp3
Françoise Hardy – Er war wie du (1965).mp3

I grew up in the 1970s, so my first celebrity crush was the lovely Agnetha from ABBA. Had I been born ten years earlier, that first celebrity crush probably would have been Françoise Hardy. What an absolutely beautiful woman she was, as even Any Minor Dude (now 17) agrees. Obviously a superstar in France, she had some hits in Germany as well, with covers of French hits as well as German originals with material that took a bit from chanson, a bit from what was called Beat music. As a former student of German, her command of German was excellent, with that lovely French inflection. She also recorded in English and Italian.

Ich bin nun mal ein Mädchen (I am a girl after all) was a version of her French 1964 hit Pourtant tu m’aimes, itself a cover of The Joys’ I Still Love Him. A cute song, it has cute lyrics. One verse goes: ‘I am a girl, after all, and you a man, and each one does things the other can’t understand, it’s true. You are looking at other girls even when I’m around, and I’m afraid you might forget about me soon, and yet you love me and I can’t be without you.”  The song was a minor hit in 1966. Er war wie Du was the b-side, a lilting song very much of its time.

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Heidi Brühl – Berlin (1969).mp3
Schlager singers, as a rule, were not cool. We’ve met some who dabbled with cool, such as Michael Holm, who was a Krautrocker with Daisy Chain before donning the Schlager singer’s suit, crooner Howard Carpendale who covered Daisy Chain for a b-side, and the usually über-square Cindy & Bert who made a German version of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid (all in Curious Germany Vol. 3). Heidi Brühl was not cool. She had been a popular child actress, making her screen debut in 1954 as a 12-year-old. As a 17-year-old she became a Schlager singer, selling a million copies of her 1960 hit Wir wollen niemals auseinandergeh’n, the runner-up in the Eurovision Song Contest that year.

In the late ’60s Heidi, now married to American actor Brett Halsey, wanted to be cool — understandably, since her first hit in three years in 1966 was a cover of The Ballad of the Green Berets. By now living in Rome, she went to London and recorded in English. Berlin, released in 1969, has that Swingin’ London sound which might have had a revival in an Austin Powers movie. Brühl’s Petula Clark covering Nico sound was not well received, and the excellent Berlin was relegated to the status of a b-side. In 1970 the singer moved to the USA, thereby putting a slow end to her Schlager career. Brühl died of breast cancer in 1991 at the age of 49.

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Barry Ryan – Zeit macht nur vor dem Teufel halt (1971).mp3
Best known for his crazy hit Eloise, Barry Ryan had a fairly decent career in West Germany, where he recorded his rather good Sanctus album in 1971. In 1972 he had a top 10 in West Germany hit with the catchy Zeit macht nur vor dem Teufel halt (Time stops only before the devil). The melody was written by his brother Paul Ryan, and used for Irish singer Dana’s song Today, and the lyrics by one Miriam Frances. The latter wrote the lyrics for other songs Ryan recorded in German, to less commercial attention, and also the English lyrics for his minor hit Sanctus Sanctus Hallelujah. Frances made a career of writing Schlager lyrics, as well as adapting German lyrics to English-language hits (such as Wann kommst Du and Willst du mit mir geh’n  by Daliah Lavi from the John Kongos songs Won’t You Join Me and Would You Follow Me, see HERE and HERE). Barry Ryan even appeared on the German-language only music show ZDF Hitparade with Zeit macht nur vor dem Teufel halt, to my knowledge the first time an international rock star appeared on the show (Video here).

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Lynn Anderson – Ich hab’ einen Boy in Germany (1968).mp3
A few years before she had a huge hit in West Germany with Rose Garden, Lynn Anderson recorded a pretty terrible number about having a boy in Germany, in the process linking Tennessee with Deutschland. Of course, the Fräuleins with whom Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash exchanged international fluids during their stints as GIs in Germany could have reciprocated by singing about having a boy in Tennessee. This was a German original, written by Herbert Falk and Helmut Flohr, neither one of whom ever set the world alight with their hitmaking potential. One might say that Ich hab’ einen Boy in Germany served as fertile manure for the Rose Garden.

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Fritz Walter und die Altinternationalen – Schwarz und Weiss (1973).mp3
In 1954, West-Germany’s football team sensationally won the World Cup, beating the virtually unbeatable Hungarian side 3-2. It is difficult to measure the social, political and even economic impact of that on West Germany. Just nine years earlier Germany had been structurally, socially, politically and morally devastated like no other European nation in modern history (ravaged and savaged by both the Allies and by the Nazis, it must be said). Now, being world champions, the refrain in West Germany was: “Wir sind wieder wer” (We are somebody again). The inspirational captain on that July day in 1954 – the same day, give or take a few hours, that Elvis Presley entered the Sun studios in Memphis to record his first single – was Fritz Walter.

Two decades later, with West Germany preparing to host the 1974 World Cup (which their team would win), Fritz got together a bunch of old internationals (the Altinternationalen), ranging from pre-war player Paul Janes to recently retired Uwe Seeler, to record a ditty titled Schwarz und Weiss – black and white, the colours of the German team – written by serial hitmaker Jack White. Rarely has a song sounded as comprehensively German as this. And not in a good way. The lyrics are infused with customary German subtlety: “Black and white are our colours, and our flag is black, red, gold. Today we want to beat our foe, we’ve never wanted to lose.” Ah yes, land of Goethe, Schiller and Mann.

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