Bye Bye, Luebben City, Hello Blues

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I browsed the "Mixed Goods and Revolution Accessories" store in the Manteuffel Strasse in Berlin a couple of weeks ago. An inspiring joint! The entire interior is encrusted with thousands of items: black parkas, sweaters and jackets hang from the ceiling like cloth stalactites, stands holding revolutionary propaganda are tucked into the chaos at seemingly random intervals, and the proper shelves host haphazard piles of books in many different languages. One of them was Bye bye, Luebben City: Bluesfreaks, Tramps und Hippies in der DDR. DDR = East Germany, otherwise the title is helpfully already in English for you.

I came very close to buying the book, but opted instead for a grimy pamphlet entitled Kommunistische Erziehung (Communist education), stapled together in the 1970s by some sort of collective of West Berlinbourgeois radicals. I figured it might, er, have historical value one day. Although judging by the fact that it only cost 4 euros 30 years after its original publication, that theory may need a little re-working. At any rate, I'll be posting translated excerpts of it soon.

Perhaps feeling pangs of guilt for not having bought the book, I decided to buy the accompanying CD, which features 16 crucial cuts from the 1970s/80s East German rock/blues underground. The only group I'd ever heard of before was the Klaus Renft Combo (mainly on the strength of Anna Funder's unforgettable evocation of Herr Renft in Stasiland (g)). Most of cuts are pretty good. You can tell that lots of the musicians benefited from thorough German musical education, which can sometimes be a handicap, but isn't here. The various bands turn in entirely respectable blue-collar rock anthems, blues, power ballads, as well as the odd mildly psychedelic navel-gazer. The Renft Combo's Caesar's Blues is scorching. But the standout has to be the track "Blues" by Panta Rhei ("everything flows" in Greek). Download it here (large .mp3). The owner of that awesomely smoldering, sultry alt (like Dusty Springfield, but somehow more authentic) is Veronika Fischer (g) one of the icons of the East German rock scene. Known affection as Vroni, she's released 20 albums in her own name, and is still on tour (g). Apparently she turned toward straightforward, bouncy pop sometime in the late '70s. You can see plenty of YouTube samples of the latter here. Not really my sort of thing, but pleasant enough as it goes.

Anyone want to let me know which records by her are worth checking out?

7 thoughts on “Bye Bye, Luebben City, Hello Blues

  1. > Manteuffel Strasse in Berlin […a]n inspiring joint!

    Here‘s another one, not too far away. (btw: it’s the revolutionary joint where a get my Bundeswehr surplus, as is customary in my pacifist hood) There are many more *right* around the corner, but I’m in a fix–later, alligator. GWW: Wiedervorlage! Elephant man is my second name. A story about the Manteuffel Straße’s Milchbar will be included, point of honour. Two unmentionables couldn’t take it anymore, you know, some gay lingering where he shouldn’t linger, in ethnisch befreiten Zonen anyway. After they did him in they owners cleaned the pavement, soon afterwards it was as if nothing ever happened. I’m treading over that pavement regularly, and I’m pissed, every time again. Yet, the Milchbar’s patrons spend 99% of their time enjoying themselves, it just gets rough occasionally, lamentably seldom with tourist attendance–course the math! As a bonus, you’ll get some extra stories on blood and glory in my block, plus a relation on the funny ways the firemen have in my street, conditions being, well, challenging. Sometime this year. For those who can’t wait, here’s prof Schiffauer giving some background on related basics.

    PS: here‘s a Spiegel story on the things some zones do inspire–yet, a crucial detail is missing for reasons of journalistic correctness. The story’s hero knows which side his bread will be buttered on, eventually–won’t be this one. So do the Spiegel’s authors, more often than not.

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  2. > journalistic correctness

    …journalistic responsibility, sorry, I tend to blow things out of all proportions. Heck, essentially it boils down to this: kids in the Thomas Morus primary school–and elsewhere in schland and adjacent zones–will have kids wanting to slurp some ice, eventually, while, say, Mr Savaris’ present gay patrons mostly won’t. Can’t blame neither gays nor businessmen doing the math, it’s a tragedy, things happen.

    Thank God we have responsible men women politically active autonomous entities watching our steps and minding our business. And we have attentive bloggers picking the cherries along the way we’re going. Doesn’t get better. Dammit, we won’t get the Grimme Award for nothing! Particularly not for fouling the host’s nest. GWW: Nestbeschmutzer. (i.e. diversophobes) So, let Ms Fischer set the motto–take us away, Vroni!

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  3. Andrew,

    Okay, let’s try this again.

    For those of you who are also interested in what other Americans are doing and blogging about around the world — and yes, there’s IS a link to Andrew’s fine blog there — then you might like to read this:

    Other Blogospheres, Other Worlds.

    *

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