5 thoughts on “I Need a Wallpaper Change

  1. And the birch gets what it deserves with an axe. Hildegard Knef seems to think that she is singing a moral song where the moral tips over into the absurd and ridiculous. The smoking and monitor watching woman at the end is not so much amused and seems to think that this is a light and funny song which suddenly turns into a moral preaching.
    Don’t start a fight with morality, Hildegard, morality can be mean and vindictive. But it was too late, too late.

    (Great voice, btw).

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  2. I became interested and read the chronology of her life on http://www.hildegardknef.de (unfortunately only in German). Quite a read, I learned a lot I didn’t know.

    Below is an interesting passage from DER SPIEGEL 42/1975, about 5 years after the song “Tapetenwechsel” was recorded. It’s a bit too long to translate it. Hildgard Knef had breast cancer and wrote a furious bestseller about her devastating experiences with the disease and her doctors, “Das Urteil”. She was befriended with a “spiritual healer”, so you can imagine that she wasn’t friendly with her doctors. The book was quite a scandal, but Knef was used to that. But it also was a huge success and even the translation, “The Verdict”, reached second place on some US bestseller list (source of that info: http://www.hildegardknef.de).

    What was scandalous about it? I haven’t read it, but it seems to be the tone of the book: cynical, accusatory and ruthlessly candid about things which weren’t usually mentioned in public.

    And that’s what the interview is about. The interviewer, Karin Struck, doesn’t like the way Knef talks about her disease, even calls it pornographic. And here Knef talks back, starts laughing. Nobody can teach her something about morality, especially not in Germany, 5 years after Auschwitz, Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. And she also talks about what it means for her, ridiculing her own body.

    I’m quoting this because it tells something about Knef’s attitude towards morality and handling gruesome experiences with ridicule. Something you can also sense in that song above.
    But it’s also a window into the seventies of the BRD, especially the overly shrill tone. You can easily see why she was adored by some and hated by others. At times she received murder threats.
    And it shows that German disrespect of rational medicine has quite a tradition. (BTW, in 1954 Hildegard Knef got the measels. As a result she became shortsighted, the vocal chords were affected and she kept lifelong nodules on her chords. But I don’t know whether that’s the reason for her having “no singing voice”.)

    STRUCK: Sie sagen nach der Brustamputation: Ich trauere nicht über den Verlust, und dann kommt diese Stelle, wo Sie von sich selbst reden wie ein Mann, der Sie von außen taxieren würde. Sie beschreiben sachlich Ihren Busen, wie er früher existiert hat: daß Sie einen kleinen Busen hatten, weit auseinanderliegend, von zuverlässig starken Muskeln gehalten, und dann heißt es: Schön war er, überlanger Rücken, breite Schultern, kräftiger Busen, schmale Hüften usw. bis hin zu dem Satz: Mit diesem Körper hatte sie den ersten Nachkriegsskandal provoziert. Nackt war sie auf der keuschen Nachkriegsleinwand erschienen. — Sie grinst. — Diese Stelle, diese Erinnerung in dem Kontext der Brustamputation, ist für mich pornographisch, schlimm.

    KNEF: Ich wußte gar nicht, daß Sie so prüde sind.

    STRUCK (bestürzt): Moment!

    KNEF (lachend): Das ist doch irre komisch. Der Wahnsinn liegt doch darin, daß Sie also fünf Jahre nachdem man Auschwitz, Dachau und Bergen-Belsen gefunden hat, da kam also plötzlich eine Truppe an die Regierung, die ereiferte sich nun über ein Mädchen, das von weitem fotografiert nackt auf der Leinwand erscheint!

    STRUCK: Jaja! Watschenfrau der nationalen Schuld.

    KNEF: — und verdrängte also durch diese Keuschheit ihre unglaubliche Schuld.

    STRUCK: Alles klar.

    KNEF: Ich wurde zur Watschenfrau dieser nationalen Schuld dank dieses idiotischen Melodramas … Gleichzeitig versuche ich an dieser Stelle im “Urteil” auch, für mich alleine mich zu distanzieren von dem Körper, um den Sprung zu schaffen, ich ziehe den Körper bewußt ins Lächerliche.

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  3. “I need a change”, said the birch, and then went to an airport where s/he talked to some beeches…

    That was written during the first wave of post-war cannabis use?

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  4. @Konstantin:
    Birches are regarded as pioneer species. They can grow almost everywhere and don’t need much soil. They grow fast and colonize open ground rapidly. That’s why they often form even-aged stands (German: “Birkenhain”). Their pollen can go far and causes allergy for many. But also their seeds can go far. You can sometimes see a young single birch grow inside a gutter or at the edge of a balkony, even in the middle of the town where no birches are near. So, maybe that’s what inspired the idea of a “wandering birch”, seeing a single birch growing at an odd place and asking how that could have happened…

    AFAIK the text was written by Knef herself. And she was a morphine addict for about 20 years. The doctors had given her strong doses of morphine because of her many, many surgeries (more than 60).

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