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?