Tag Archives: Berlin

2020 ➤ Bowie on Kraftwerk and his tribute to Florian Schneider

Kraftwerk, Florian Schneider, Ralf Hütter, pop music, 1970s

Kraftwerk at Düsseldorf station, 1977: Florian Schneider at left. (Photo, Frähling)

➢ Extracts from some vintage interviews republished
yesterday at David Bowie’s website…

❏ You’ve no doubt heard the sad news regarding the passing of Kraftwerk founder, Florian Schneider, aged 73. A spokesperson said he “passed away from a short cancer disease just a few days after his 73rd birthday”, his birthday being April 7. Schneider formed Kraftwerk with Ralf Hütter in 1970 and remained a member until his departure in 2008. He is pictured bottom left in our photo at Düsseldorf Hbf station with the rest of the band.

In a Kraftwerk feature for MOJO magazine Ralf Hütter responded to the question “How important was David Bowie’s infatuation with you?” thus:

“That was very important for us, because it linked what we were doing with the rock mainstream. Bowie used to tell everyone that we were his favourite group, and in the mid-Seventies the rock press used to hang on every word from his mouth. We met him when he played Düsseldorf (April 8, 1976) on one of his first European tours. He was travelling by Mercedes, listening to nothing but Autobahn all the time.”

In 1978 Bowie recalled the meeting in an interview: “I like them as people very much, Florian in particular. Very dry. When I go to Düsseldorf they take me to cake shops, and we have huge pastries. They wear their suits. A bit like Gilbert and George… When I came over to Europe – because it was the first tour I ever did of Europe (1976), the last time – I got myself a Mercedes to drive myself around in, because I still wasn’t flying at that time, and Florian saw it. He said, “What a wonderful car” and I said, “Yes, it used to belong to some Iranian prince, and he was assassinated and the car went on the market, and I got it for the tour.” And Florian said, “Ja, car always lasts longer.” With him it all has that edge. His whole cold emotion/warm emotion, I responded to that. Folk music of the factories.”

Kraftwerk immortalised the Düsseldorf meeting on the title track of the band’s 1977 album, Trans-Europe Express, in its lyric:

From station to station, back to Düsseldorf City,
Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie…

David returned the compliment later the same year on the “Heroes” album, when he paid Florian the ultimate tribute by using his name for the title of V-2 Schneider.

❏ Bowie also spoke in some depth about Kraftwerk in an UNCUT interview several years back…

UNCUT: Many reasons have been suggested for moving to Berlin. Can you remember why the city appealed?

DB: Life in LA had left me with an overwhelming sense of foreboding. For many years Berlin had appealed to me as a sort of sanctuary. It was one of the few cities where I could move around in virtual anonymity… Since my teenage years I had obsessed on the angst-ridden, emotional work of the expressionists, both artists and film makers, and Berlin had been their spiritual home. This was the nub of Die Brücke movement, Max Rheinhardt, Brecht and where Metropolis and Caligari had originated. It was an art form that mirrored life not by event but by mood. This was where I felt my work was going. My attention had been swung back to Europe with the release of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn in 1974. The preponderance of electronic instruments convinced me that this was an area that I had to investigate a little further.

Much has been made of Kraftwerk’s influence on our Berlin albums. Most of it lazy analysis, I believe. Kraftwerk’s approach to music had in itself little place in my scheme. Theirs was a controlled, robotic, extremely measured series of compositions, almost a parody of minimalism. One had the feeling that Florian and Ralf were completely in charge of their environment, and that their compositions were well prepared and honed before entering the studio.

David Bowie, Station to Station, album sleeve , pop music

Bowie’s album Station to Station: it preceded Trans-Europe Express by a year

My work tended to expressionist mood pieces, the protagonist (myself) abandoning himself to the zeitgeist (a popular word at the time), with little or no control over his life. The music was spontaneous for the most part and created in the studio.

In substance too, we were poles apart. Kraftwerk’s percussion sound was produced electronically, rigid in tempo, unmoving. Ours was the mangled treatment of a powerfully emotive drummer, Dennis Davis. The tempo not only “moved” but also was expressed in more than “human” fashion. Kraftwerk supported that unyielding machine-like beat with all synthetic sound-generating sources. We used an R&B band. Since Station to Station the hybridization of R&B and electronics had been a goal of mine. Indeed, according to a Seventies interview with Brian Eno, this is what had drawn him to working with me.

One other lazy observation I would like to point up is the assumption that Station to Station was homage to Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express. In reality Station to Station preceded Trans-Europe Express by quite some time, ’76 and ’77 respectively. Btw, the title drives from the Stations of the Cross and not the railway system.

What I WAS passionate about in relation to Kraftwerk was their singular determination to stand apart from stereotypical American chord sequences and their wholehearted embrace of a European sensibility displayed through their music. This was their very important influence on me.

UNCUT: V-2 Schneider – a tribute to Florian?
DB: Of course.

So long Florian.


❏ ABOVE: Kraftwerk playing Autobahn in 1975 on the BBC science strand Tomorrow’s World to demonstrate their “Machinemusik”. This was their first UK appearance on British television.


❏ ABOVE: View the long-haired radicals in Kraftwerk reinventing German music from “Stunde null” in the BBC Four documentary Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany.

➢ Florian Schneider: the enigma whose codes broke open pop music – Alexis Petridis in The Guardian – “Schneider had kept such a low profile after leaving Kraftwerk that rumours of his death had circulated before, only to be revealed as erroneous.”

➢ How Florian Schneider and Kraftwerk influenced five decades of music – Mark Savage at BBC News

➢ How Kraftwerk’s synth wizard Florian Schneider rewired the world – Rob Sheffield at Rolling Stone – “It’s all electric energy, anyway,” Schneider said, summing up a sonic philosophy that upended the Seventies rock ideal, and influenced everyone from Depeche Mode to Derrick May.

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➤ The Blitz Kids WATN? No 37, Judith Frankland — Aufwiedersehen Geordieland, pet

Judith Frankland, fashion,The Woman Who Likes To Say Hello,fashion,Blitz Kids,Ashes to Ashes,

The Great Escape, 2011: Judith Frankland prepares to break out from Newcastle at dawn this morning within the 20kg baggage allowance. Photograph by Joanne Lodge

❚ MOST OF BRITAIN MAY BE SWELTERING in a historic autumn heatwave. Yet Judith Frankland, the ex-Blitz Kid fashion designer, flew out of Tyneside this morning to establish her business in Germany swathed in vital garments she couldn’t pack within the 20kg baggage allowance. “This is my idea for getting as many clothes onboard as possible,” she said. “I’m wearing three topcoats: first a black full-length fake-fur, then stuffing myself inside a black lightweight down to the ankles, then the grey mountain-goat shortie. On top, loads of jewels of course, and in the pockets loads more bling. Down below, I’m in leather biker’s pants, heavy and warm, plus Harley Davidson boots.”

Biker leathers, darling??? “No of course I’m not going bikey, don’t be daft! They are simply so warm and cost only 50p brand new in a car-boot sale. I know I’m going to get beeped at security for my jewellery — changing planes last time at Schiphol, my steel-tipped stilettos set off the alarm. But if they stop me, I’ll be prepared for them, like Maria von Trapp. I’m going to say I’m anorexic and feeling the cold.”

This is how an upstart style princess prepares herself for Berlin, plus new-look hair, cut last night and freshly rinsed pink. She means business. A modest container is already being shipped by Voovit, bringing Judith’s sewing machines, her dramatically retro promotional collection for The Woman Who Likes To Say Hello shown this year in Newcastle upon Tyne, plus a ton more bling (she does have a way with black baubles and gilded chain). Yes, this is the great adventure to build a new life for one of the wild children of the Swinging 80s whose best break came the month she graduated from Ravensbourne art college when David Bowie dropped in at the Blitz Club and chose to put her and her clothes in his landmark video for Ashes to Ashes. [And which Shapersofthe80s displays as the picture heading this website. The New Romantics were utterly in thrall to Bowie.]

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Having taken the temperature of Berlin on an exploratory trip this July, Judith has been scouting the smart district of Prenzlauer Berg for a workshop-cum-living quarters, with another eye on up-market boutiques through which to retail in the short-term.

Judith says: “My main plan is to create high fashion for women who love clothes that are beautiful but avant-garde and might even be called art. I’ve left England to seek fresh inspiration and shall be presenting my outfits next season in Paris in order to re-establish links with buyers who don’t visit London — from Japan and the Far East, for example.”

Judi’s lesson learnt in July: in Berlin an umbrella is no protection from the elements. Photograph by Shapersofthe80s

It is eight years since Judith’s previous bespoke design business blew up in her face. She has described on her blog at The Swelle Life how the American backer behind her Paris-based atelier suddenly got cold feet and hot-footed it back to the States, leaving Judith as the designer holding the baby. This more or less coincided with her mother’s health failing, whereupon Judith returned to Tyneside to care for her.

In Berlin, Judith has not been short of advice from friends made during her ten-year spell in Milan in the 90s designing and hosting nightclubs. Several friends are now relocated to Berlin, including photographer and videographer Sandro Martini. The Dutch costumier Eppo Dekker, who has a boutique called Prêt-à-Couture in Friedrichshain, has also been helping Judith make contacts in the city. Immediate plans include designing stage-wear for the underground performer Antal Nemeth.

“Meanwhile,” Judith says, “this weekend I’m heading down to a vintage Zupermarket run by the Sameheads brothers — they say rich ladies bring in their sparkly clothes for sale and nobody goes away unhappy.”

London’s Cafe Royal, 1980: Judith’s graduation show from Ravensbourne college of art caused a sensation with a glamorous evocation of the 50s in black and white taffeta, brocade, velvet and satin. Its climax was this black wedding dress worn by Sheila Ming, gloriously crowned by Stephen Jones’s veiled head-dress made of stiffened lace on a metal frame. Blitz club host Steve Strange was later to wear it in David Bowie’s video for Ashes to Ashes. Photographed © by Niall McInerney

Judith’s 1980 degree collection shot for Viz: these taffeta and satin outfits in medieval romantic mood were dubbed “Balenciaga hears the Sound of Music”. Photographed © by Adrian Bradbury

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