For the Muse, the Mate, the Mover - alliteration, yeah!
Some stuff on music, how it connects to my life - and maybe the odd suggestion in how my favorite neighbor could understand this life. Not that she would need that, being much smarter than I am. But funnily enough it does help me to articulate things, to understand my life.
A few caveats:
This was written to alleviate a feeling that turned into an addiction. And to manage this into something more agreeable. The addiction emerged out of thin air during meeting a woman who had a longterm relationship I didn’t understand at all. Which, together with her being a most fascinating, lovable, deep, beautiful and smart woman was at least partly responsible for falling in love. Even if she would never read most of this stuff: I knew or felt that some autobiographical details I would somehow mysteriously connect with the feelings, music can evoke might be able to reduce my addiction by putting it into perspective. And in turn, I am - it's early on in the game - hoping it might provide me with a better understanding of her and her relationship. Even now, after a few hours working on this, I understand that her relationship is what other people call “Fernbeziehung”. With less hassle, focus on "quality time", and something outside the regular strains of work. Which, admittedly, can be beneficial or "easy to handle", if the work of both is creative. And of course, my “addiction” is not such a relationship. It's just that old romantic (maybe typically male?) one-sided idea (or illusion?) of falling into one another continuously and being it all. Which is often too consuming for the addressed. And I can not argue or defend that this “continuously” is much different from “always” or worse, from “bothering”. So I’ve clearly understood that there is a “Beziehung” so far off my understanding of love that I still can be “the favorite neighbor” to her. Which is all she wants anyway. Allow me: Time after time it will hurt less, though. And there is space to grow, to jointly work on projects, maybe. And indeed that is what I have always done with partners. This is where I saw love growing, and that love ain't always physical. Cause what will happen, if it's not about love?
This is some autobiographical snapshots of a life that’s not really inherently interesting to most people - apart from a few good friends and maybe some psychiatrists, if they like to understand, why this “bipolar 1” person is still alive and kicking after more than 35 years of initial diagnosis and literally hundreds of thousands of pills. No co-morbidity (that I know of), no COPD, no heart disease. Only some additional kilo due to Lithium (no mean feast: Longevity is 9 - 20 years less than average, compared to 8 -10 years for heavy smoking). Very recently I even found out that the ED is gone, thanks to those blue pills. Easy.
Dear dearest of all neighbor,
It all started with the forgotten Kulturtechnik you admire. And I was and still am very very excited you invited me to joint listenings. There are few things I want more than this. WithoutHowever, I thought that it would be good if I would step up and show you, where I'm coming from. Admittedly, the idea took off with your remark that one can sense through music (the Horses song) that we have a huge 15 years age difference, which made us grow up in different times (hmpff! yes… and cultures East and West, different parts of a formerly occupied country, different youth cultures, of course, too). So let this be it: The book of music I’d like to share. And worry you not: I don’t expect you to read it all. It would be cool if you could listen to the songs, maybe dipping into a couple of
... Liner Notes ...
... which accompany the songs and are the body of this only roughly sketched (sigh! Not too much) autobiography.
No stress! This is meant to be a present, with fun and some input you might enjoy to read (I try hard, at least…). Don’t feel obliged, though I already know that you don’t. It’s a debriefing as well, as with this I will spare you many thoughts and feelings I might otherwise pester you with after a joint listening activity. Because you and I know: I can be too much in terms of what I feel, think and say. And this is exactly what I don’t want. Maybe we can agree on this “moderato cantabile” - which can emerge even from strong memories, if they are “consumable” or handable in writing.
Also, I’m writing in English. Partly because 99% of the music is in this lingo, but partly, too, it’s easier for me to distance myself from the melancholy, the presence and sometimes Unmittelbarkeit leading to strong emotions. As you know, I tend to be sentimental - and that’s not a good thing if it bothers the reader. You.
About my “culture” and as a starting point there are a couple of things to say and I’d like to wrap them up briefly. I grew up in Frankfurt, the headquarter of the V-corps of the US-army, headed by General Colin Powell for most of my youth. On the road there were thousands of huge US-cars, Vaudevilles, Cadillacs, Buicks, Oldsmobiles - you get the pictures: all of them 5-6m long, all of them brought over by officers. We had more than 50.000 US-soldiers in town, accounting for roughly 10% of the city’s inhabitants. Also they brought their own military justice, there own Military police, with their own standing in public: When we, age 15-16 smoked pot on Frankfurts main cemetery, they thought we were US-soldiers and arrested us with machine guns at gunpoint. But that was a small downside. The upside was that if you had Army-friends, you could get into PX, the tax-free store to buy records or junk food, eat as much TexMex as you can at Chi-Chis for 6 USD, adding huge Margarita-pitchers for a Fiver. And when we went out at night, the US-clubs of course had the best music. Legend was the Funkadelic, with the soooo cool, slick, 6 foot 4 tall black guys wearing “sunglasses at night”. No rap or Grandmaster Flash. It was George Clinton or the funkies of KC Sunshine, Kool and the Gang, Earth Wind & Fire etc. - and wasn’t Clintons band even called Funkadelic? So the overall heavy emphasis on US-music (Wolfman Jack’s AFN was broadcasting from a field north of Frankfurt) didn’t mean Neil Diamond, or worse Barbara Streisand - it was “black” (ok, Dusty Springfield was with us, all the way, too) and what gave us the push were those elaborate Bläsersätze that blew you off your feet or rather: got your feet to move. I’m just pointing that out since British music had a hard time with us in Frankfurt - let’s say all beyond the Beatles. Albeit it must be said that me and my friends had a fascination for glam rock, for Marc Bolan, Suzie Quattro, Slade, even Sweet, and for Prog Rock by the likes of King Crimson, Magazine (de Bono!), Genesis, Yes and Queen. However, the main reason for that being that they were so much easier to copy than Earth, Wind & Fire, when you were a band of 14-year olds that got their shit together mainly to impress the girls. (In 1979, the summer before you were born we played Deep Purple’s “Child in Time” with a fantastic Korean guest singer. I wasn’t convinced that he already had his Stimmbruch. Maybe that was the reason his voice was so powerful). That’s just to set the scene.
As always, my dear, you trigger me countless and catapult me through time and various dimensions. Just because I’m so madly close to you. Or imagine it to be. Or want to be. So now, I’d like to share stuff with you. As of today, sitting in my Tiny while you are in Portugal, I don’t know if I’ll ever gonna share it. But, there’s a convolut of things, thoughts and feelings emerging anyway that is there for you to grab. Pick and choose. What better can it be, when it focuses on music and takes the very sounds to remember events, days, happenings, love, rain, sun and all in between. It’s an opportunity for you to sneak peek into my past. Which is not only my past but the one of someone from a different generation, with many different locations and a rationale on life that wants to be shared. But it’s only an offer. I will never hassle you again as I did with the podcast idea.
You’ll have two CDs, one for the time before 2001, because as you said “we come from different times and have different approaches to music.” In my understanding, that sums up much of my “growing into music and with music” at a time you either a.) weren’t around, b.) lived in a different system and c.) grew up within the “peace dividend” which I totally missed due to the 90s being my “workaholic decade”.
Overall, it might well be that it is that “peace dividend” and its impact that attracts me to the Millenial generation and that ever after the first Breaking the Ice expedition (2003/4) has made me to love and work with people of your age group: After the Boomers harvesting the post-war wealth and growth, the GenX got left out: no jobs (Boomers where mentally and physically the first “fit” generation of the century, declaring there “50 is the new 30”), disillusioned by the boomers consumption attitude - not because of political reasons but rather because they didn’t have the means to establish their own consumption. So they went down the roads of an emerging either apolitical punk/skinhead/ska/popper movement or engaged politically towards a framework of eurocommunism or socialism. I did the latter, becoming a member of Sozialistische Jugend - Die Falken, running a local group together with Peter Feldmann, who would later become Lord Mayor of Frankfurt. Lots to add here (e.g. the cynics, but there’s always a part of society cynical enough to make a living through that), but I really don’t want to overstretch your time.
Key is: Millenials are great to work with, because they never suffered the dogmatic schizm the GenXers had to deal with. Most of them keep their minds open, have no time for cynicism and have an appreciative discussion culture. They manage to distance themselves from the Boomers, although of course they will inherit the fortunes the boomers accumulated. Also, they experienced the “peace dividend” of the 90s without any strings attached, no major drug abuse, the youth smoking rate dropped by 50%, they had harmless raves that ended in the wee hours, teeny bopper bands like Pulp, Happy Mondays and Stone Roses, no AIDS-problem, not even Acid Rain. Or, to put it differently: Kurt Cobain’s suicide didn’t shock them half as it shocked us, they happily danced to teen spirit.
On a personal note, the 90s were my “workaholic decade” in being a partner in a start-up management company with which we established 17 companies between Greifswald and Saarbrücken (including my own and after the Tonic Cinema second #fail, das Erste Digitale Direkt Archiv, edda.de for internet-distributed prosumer video content) and selling them at a Return of Invest of 150 (Invest was 500k) is testament that I had escaped the McJob-world of the GenXers and, in sociological terms, became a young upwardly-mobile person, or: Yuppie… (though you won’t find Dire Straits or Spandau Ballet here…). Small side note: My former CEO, Stefan Doeblin, who was responsible for the business strategy that led 16 cities to give away their tax-financed infrastructure for free, right now runs a large Permaculture/organic seed farm in Portugal…
This exercise is a kind of debriefing along some songs. It’s kept very limited: I have only selected one song per artist, it’s very random since I have unfortunately given away all my CDs and Vinyls - makes it easy for me so I restrict myself to the ones I have captured on my laptop. For the ones “past 2001” I’ll get some mp3 based on my spotify-lists.
Also, the routine here is that I’ll only listen to each song once and write while listening. That restricts the length of the text automatically. Although I might do some work then after, the result is a picture not complete, some blocks missing and not necessarily connecting the dots. So one might say that the hidden treasure lies within. Maybe. And maybe the reader/listener sometimes connects those herself.
Summer kisses winter tears. Julee Cruise from Blue Velvet sings that Elvis tune and giving it the eery Cruise feel. Blue Velvet, the favorite film of my then best friend Jesko. Who, full of youth and always up for a fight, unsuccessfully tried to cut off an ear, when on drugs. He was also the most impressive painter of us all, giving us an insight into his mind with Dali-esque painting showing the deserts of Dune under blood red suns. Or, as here, with Howard Roark in the opening scene of Ayn Rand's Fountainhead (yes, we had a phase when we read the unreadable)
However, he regularly succeeded in getting into fights with hooligans, in Frankfurt, in France, really all places. Summer kisses, this most brutal of all songs, part of that Wender-movie “Until the end…” the two of us are still to see, bleeds David Lynch on every note, dreams of yesterday. Twin peaks, Blue Velvet, Wild at heart. A violent triangle being the American Graffiti of GenX, a similar “the world is your oyster” setting destroyed some 5-10 years later. Not by the war in Vietnam, but by a powerful neo-liberal paradigm creating Yuppie-ism. Such as what I saw in DC in 1986, when I stayed with a World Bank bankers daughter, and we payed 100 USD to get into discoteque “The Bank”, one of those pseudo-classicistic buildings turned dance hall, to see hundreds of 10-Dollar-notes flying from the ceiling like maples leafs. And the yuppies grappling and shouting and screaming and jumping to catch the money, while they danced to “Money for nothing, chicks for free”. Summer kisses. Their “Work hard, play hard” shit. It leaves nothing.
Interjection: You cannot imagine just how strange this feels. Initially, there have been plenty of names in here. Some days ago, I deleted them all, since I didn't want to expose anyone. The few people who might at some stage read this, will recognise themselves and others anyway. And to anyone else, the names are not important, in fact: the Liner Notes are not important. However, for what was no reason at all, there was one person I didn't anonymize: Jesko. I hadn't been in touch with him since 1986, apart from that he briefly visited me in hospital 2006. Today (23. August) he called. Out of the blue. I had written above on Blue Velvet at the weekend before. He's the only name in here. Now rest assured that will remain this way.
What’s good? There is power. This frigging guitar slashes hard. I saw Lou Reed as the opening act to U2 in Belfast 1987 or 88. How ridiculous, to have him as an “opener”, compared to “Bono Vox” and that most pretentious of all bands. He was just getting back on his feet after a long polytoxicomanic addiction phase, and he certainly knows where that good comes from. Cause as every junkie and ex-junkie will tell you, even if you don’t ask: there’s nothing better, it’s just good. 2 or 3 years later I bumped into Laurie Anderson at the Barcelona airport, not knowing that they would marry some years later, after they both got heavily involved with buddism. God, what a guy, what good is a computerized nose? To me, he will remain to be one of 20ths century most important poets. More so than Patti Smith, more so even than Cohen. As far as I am concerned, there’s not many poets around. A poet is always a singer. He makes people sing the lines. What’s good? One of the most uplifting songs I know. And the ending does not give anything away. Life’s not fair at all. Why would it need to be?
Days. This is a song forever connected to what might have been my truest love. At an age when everything could have come together, I wasn’t 28 and she was 23. I loved this woman so much, so intensely, and in good and bad: we consumed each other so much in terms of time, body, spirit and presence. Definitely not everyones’ scheme of relationship. The love more or less started with a journey to Malta. We had a large, lavish (but cold, it was February) hotel room in the British Hotel in Valetta, with a terrace and a view of the old harbour. I played the song on repeat. It was one of those “self-composed” experiences where you write your own soundtrack in a situation you know that it will never come back. But you capture it with all your might, all your feelings, emotions and intellectual capacity you can mobilize.
Admittedly, I felt like a rockstar with that most beautiful of all women. Tall, short blonde hair, always with a very körperbetonter (say no more!) black Rolli, perfectly composed and of course one of the best-mannered girl I ever met, fully compliant to the social code of the upperest class. She grew up in Bad Homburg, in the street overlooking the posh Seedamm-Therme, next to the Quandt family. And like them and most people in that quarter with a history of old Nazi-power and money, but that’s another story. Yes, her body and mind indeed is my “Beuteschema”, she was that perfect Tomboy, with sensuous lips and her very fine and natural smell, her posture and broad shoulders (a swimmer, and black belt 10 Karate).
Almost 30 years later, when we met in Berlin in 2020, my then lover said “this is not a woman one let go”. She was correct, of course. I did because coupled with the closeness we had there was that rage in her I couldn’t deal with. One time I nearly got arrested on Frankfurt shopping mall Zeil, because she shouted when I had to hold her arms tight as she wanted to hit me. Another time (still those days when we had cars) she drove me so mental with her wants and back and fro that I jumped on the brake far too hard, forgetting that she didn’t have her seatbelt on. She hit the window with might, and, almost having fainted, opened the door and escaped into the night. Oh, there was drama.
But whenever there wasn’t we had most engaging and constructive discussions and learnt from one another - and her beauty didn’t hurt. Those days in Malta to me were crowned when I introduced her to an empty house, some unfinished building overlooking the sea in a most spectacular way. I had been there a few weeks before, just after we had met and I had already been smitten. Which is why I scribbled into the house a “Thekla loves Torsten loves Thekla” on a wall. She was so surprised when she saw it, she couldn’t believe it. I think the magic of the situation escaped her, but to me it was the perfect day. I took a shot through one of those unfinished windows onto the sea. Years later, I put this into a farewell-photoalbum for her. The connection broke off, but with strange developments and under very difficult circumstances we met in Düsseldorf again. And another 10 years later, I visited her in Mozambique. As she and her husband own a couple of houses in Berlin, I’ll see here sometimes. Days. More on that.
Calling all angels. The original, much better than the cover by KD Laing. But still: shiveringly esoteric, my Roland song. In 1982 just before Abitur I did a 8mm short with him in which he morphs into a puppet whilst putting a record on to a grammophone in the deep forest, mixing Terje Ripdal, a Norwegian Jazz guitarist and that German song from Big Science by Laurie Anderson. Roland died of Aids when I was in China in 1995, after his love had died of a lung pneumonia as a follow-up of their Finland trip. It was all so gruesome, but Roland was not only an “old soul” as we all knew, he looked as such, too: Even at the tender age of 14, he had Augenringe like Dumbledore (there was no Dumbledore than, I’m just using this as an example). He was the guy for the “natural drugs”. With him I had everything from Johanniskrautschnaps to Stechapfel/Atropin, Fliegenpils, Muskat, Magic mushrooms, Erdpfeifen (legendary, his were the best), and that Mescalin/Peyotl-cactus we stole from the Palmengarten. Yes, he was with me and Jesko when I got hung up on the worst mescaline trip ever, in the midst of my Abitur.
Gravity’s Angel. Yet another Angel song. But different. Relating to Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, implicating that he must have been a really ugly guy (not true!), but since he always knows what to say, he set the stage.
“The stranger that flew in my window” didn’t fly but just bent forwards over the small brick wall between our terraces in Valletta. He was nosy, wanted to know what that young guy was doing there with this sort of electric typewriter. It was January 1992, and I had one of those monstrous laptops with me. Not sure why, I must have thought I could maybe write something important. So I sat on the terrace, fascinated by the moonlight and how it corresponds with the backlight (that was still an 4,5kg machine with a LED-backlight monitor, of course). Not that I can remember any decent line of text I wrote, or that this would matter. That would soon change, but not because of me. The guy bending over the brick wall had questions. What was I doing, and why?
We got talking and it turned out that he was in Malta for some historic studies about the port. I later saw (and he told me) that he always left in the very early hours to catch the Matrosen when they were drunk. I did find that a bit odd for a historian. But I decided to invite him for an evening dinner a few days later. His name supposedly was John Anaxagoras. Wasn’t that a bit of a funny name? Wasn’t Anaxagoras the snake that eats itself? During the dinner we spoke further and somehow he mentioned that he had worked as a rocket engineer with Boeing. It daunted on me then. Now I knew who I was sharing the table and the hotel with: The most elusive and unknown writer of the 20th century, never (until then) being photographed or otherwise interviewed. All that was known of him was that he had worked as a rocket engineer for Boeing. Thomas Pynchon. The guy was gutted when I told him, he jumped up, the chair fell back - I remember it vividly as if in a car accident - and he stormed out of the restaurant. The next morning or maybe already in the night, John Anaxagoras had left the hotel.
All of me. Dee Dee is a queen that reigns since the 80s and still rocks the crowds, as I just experienced with her gig in Perugia in 2022. Just listen to the scat singing in the beginning. And how she introduces this into the “Why don’t you take all of me”. To me this is a song I heard so many times that one could think it carries part of my empathy, the self-inflicted and self-looking part. It’s got a fantastic bass solo, too. But the scat is of a different world, is it not? And please: Take all of me! :)
Rush. There was a couple in Frankfurt who were both dear friends of mine. Him I knew since early student days, as he shared flat with an even better friend I would later be best man for. With her, I worked on many PR-related jobs, as we were both freelance but better and faster than the agencies. Retrospectively, I probably had a sort of homo-philic relationship with him, so that all three of us got very close from time to time. Still, during those years, in the mid-90s, I was more concerned with “work hard, play hard”, venturing out, driving around in my golden Merc SL (the “bathtub”), and looking for a match. I had found it in her. Pity that she was dating him, and was madly in love with him. Until he pushed her away. So many times that she was too proud to return and we had a summer of love. Stupid me that I slept with two other women in parallel, both very smart and experienced. And both, what we called in a 90s-non-pc-world “stutenbissig”. Of course it was only a matter of time. Still, Freak Power, Galliano, and Pulp Fiction remain. And will be connected to her. Pulp Fiction it was.
Supreme. Is a song that transcends time. As you hear its underlying bassline is as consistent as the one of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. It’s got a text unparalleled in Pop to frame the hedonist 90s or the beginning 2000s. And as a matter of desperation it interweaves Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive”. I’m not sure where it sits, probably behind the 9/11 threshold, but it doesn’t really matter. I think I will place it to be the final song of the first record. The strong feeling: there’s no love in town. Williams is bipolar. And therefore might have an eye for that encompassing vision of bringing the ups and downs together?
I can see your house from here. A beauty of a song, visually telling as if your house sits on a hill, looking over to another one sitting on yet another hill. And you see it. Clearly. Undistorted. Metheney and Scofield, two guitar heroes in a joint action, looking and playing with a similar mind. Just listen to how they interpret the theme in each of their different ways of relating to their instrument: Scofield with his melodic jumps never playing a scale but rather repetitive formulas - insisting that a scale is made not like a staircase but one where steps are broken, missing or mislaid. Still gaining speed and handing over with returning to the theme and to Metheney who gently takes and varies Scofields broken staircases but adds the typical Metheny steps in there, the additional notes that turn the rough presbyterian make-over into a more angelic and definitely catholic outlook. Metheney has always been responsible for the sweet notes, the magical stuff, sometimes too magically destilled out of nowhere. Or another space that only he can access. And, in this other world it is the jazz guitar that’s ringing the bells.
I held her in my arms. I was with a girl but felt like I was with a boy. I can’t even remember if we were lovers, or if I wanted to. The ultimate “tomboy”-song for that tomboy-obsessed guy, later to be called hetero-flexible. Though some of my most disturbing memories connect me to the Violent Femmes. Therefore, this text will be a bit longer.
It was not the Femmes gig in 1986 in the CBGBs, where I went with my host Emma (she had picked me up in a church where I, broke, had slipped in, speaking to the priest who forwarded me to Emma), and her BF Simon, one of the first employees of MTV, who was funny in his own right, as he had around 100 different ties (the 80s slick ones, of course, and some leather) and spent each and every morning some endless 10 minutes to select one. No, not that quite impressive gig. But a few years later, Gordon Giano had overcome his heroine addiction and they did that “Blind leading the naked” record (Faith… still sounding like the Femmes but with lyrics that could have come from some Born Again Christians) that contains this song. It’s a good record, but I can only swallow the religious connotation through that addiction thing.
Anyway, the summer of 1986, I had been back from the US in April 1986 on what turned out to be a sort of turning point - cause just when I embarked the plane, Chernobyl went up in smoke. Had it been a day earlier, I had stayed in New York, selling newspapers at a news-store (Simon already got me a job on 23rd Street some decades later called “Silicon Alley”, near the Flatiron-Building, for 5 USD/hour). Instead of going on that rocky road from Tellerwäscher zum Millionär, I returned to Germany and my boring studies of Literature, Philosophy and Film. For now.
Because, and that is the real story of that Violent Femmes record: During the Belfast winter 1986, I got a visit from a girl from Frankfurt I had adored ever since I saw her in the early 80s, when she was working as a waitress in my local pub, the “Elfer”, adjacent to the “Batschkapp” which was quite simply the place to be those days. I saw “Ideal” there in 1981, and Nina Hagen, bathing in a tub of “Eselsmilch” or so she wanted us to believe. Plenty of gigs escape my memory due to all the drugs that went through my head and lungs. This was the place where Dany and Joschka (first names only, although the latter was a declared asshole even then) in the early 80s made their plans to get into the Green Party and built some “Real-Politik” thing out of them. Prophetically, as by then that Party was run by “fundamentalists” like Petra Kelly and the arch-enemy of Joschka, Jutta Ditfurth. In the back-room of the Elfer, these two and some other guys set around a huge table making history, while us, the “Batschkapp kids” of 13-15 years of age hung around, always happy to smoke some spliff with the old guys.
But I’m distracting. That girl waitressing in the Elfer had that juvenile sex written all over her. And as I always (and still am) attracted to some kind of “Unschuld” in the midst of chaos (no pun intended, my dear!), I was smitten. Her hair Platinblond, her body slim but with leather skirt and a simple t-shirt perfectly dressed, she was the epitomised waitress. And somehow, her voice was so very soft she could say whatever she wanted. Everybody adored her. Strangely enough, during the early 80s, she brought me the Äppler for free, which led to considerable irritation with my friends. Of course she had seen how I looked at her early on. And I wasn’t imagining how important she was to the Elfer: She became what undoubtedly (at least to me) was the most important figure on a painting that pictured her, serving some guests - admittedly that slim blond guy calling for the waitress looked pretty much like myself.
In 1984 or so, she had a book out with some poems. “Die Liebe ist eine schwarze Frucht”. It got reviews all over, she had a page in “Stern”. I was furious. Of desire. That was the year I started my university studies and she had already published? It was really high time I made a move. And so I did. It never led to a lot, at least not to what I wanted. She didn’t really want to be a lover, but took me as her brother (easy for her, she already had 3 or 4 of them…), but sort of moved in with me. I had that nice backyard house with only a two-room-flat on top of a Werkstatt. Great for being on your own. Great for flipping around for a while in 1985. Then we lost touch.
When I came back from the US in late April 1986, I broke (or “interrupted”, as I thought) my studies and went on to work in Belfast. I don’t remember how I got in touch, but I let her know that I’ll be in Belfast, and she followed a couple of months later, as she was “crazy about Connemara horses and the Irish mentality in general”. Never mind that there were few Connemara horses in Belfast and the troubles going high in 1987. As she studied film, she was most interested to get around Belfast and I brought her to places I deemed as interesting to her - protestant Sandy Row with its snooker clubs and master Alex Higgins hanging there; catholic Falls Road with that famous police station… only to see her handling her camera in an awkward way and shooting aimlessly around, blindly trying to capture some scenes without getting close of in focus. Was this art? Maybe. I found it pretentious (by then my fav word) and clueless. On top of that came her hunger pill addiction. She had to have them and apparently had some German precriptions that were of course useless in the UK. As it was some real MDMA Appetitzügler stuff. So it was me who was clueless. Even more so after she left for Frankfurt but without an address. I was baffled and didn’t know what to make of it. She left her diary. How could she leave that behind? Why? Did she expect I would read it? What was I supposed to do? And so, for the first time in my life I read someone’s diary. And I was shocked. She had worked for years and together with her younger sister as a high class prostitute. Noting in all details the preferences of customers and how much they charged, always adding some comment on the people. Whats worse: They mostly worked on top of Cookies (a club I had gone many times, too). I spare you the details most of which I forgot myself, but they were “not nice”. As it turned out (and I had suspected that before) she was obsessed with money and the thought of having lots of it. I thought, I would never see her again.
Funnily enough I bumped into her 1999 in Brighton. I bought some nails or screws for the flat and there she was: in all her glory, nervous as ever, buying some paint. In a wee corner shoppee in Brighton. She looked like one of those 50-something women who had kind of survived it all and got a rather rough and not healthy skin. I didn’t tell her.
Spiral Dance. Circa 1978, I went through the Frankfurt Westend, where our drummer lived and where we spent a lot of time, smoking pot in the park or in empty school yards or (a bit later) in the shell building of those Deutsche Bank skyscrapers. Routinely, I checked the doors of cars, if they were open. There was always something to get out of them. A tape, some money, cigarettes. We quickly figured that convertibles were often open, as the owners didn’t want to have their roof slit. So here it was: A beautiful racing-green Peugeot 104 convertible, in all its glory. Open. With a tape that made me go wild. Jarrett and Co… Belonging. There are few jazz events on the level of Jan Ackermann meeting Keith Jarrett. Just listen to how the music spins out in this dance. It’s one of the most perfect spirals I have ever heard. With a fantastic theme. Listen to the drums and how they intone the song. Never mind the bass who gives it not only the rhythm but intros the rhythmic part of the tune and later finds its own voice, its own right to speak in what otherwise would be called a solo but here is embedded in the most perfect way. Probably the perfect Jarrett-Ackermann-Jazz-Song. It does not get better than this. And the ease they return to the tune. And after 4 minutes its all over. That is magick. And of course I’m curzed, having stolen that tape. I suffer from this, I really do.
Greetings to the New Brunette. Another song I share from out of that relationship with the woman I had such a magical time in Valletta. We went to see Billy Bragg in 92 or so. She stood before me the entire gig, deliberately on my shoes, so she could see better - she’s 1,78m or so, so it’s not that she had to do that. I figure its probably because she wanted me to hold her tight. Which I did. I felt so proud. She felt so anschmiegsam, we were sort of “officially happy”. It was a strong concert. Bragg on his own, no supporting band. And “Shirley” was about as strong as it can be. I still smile, living on ice-cream and she was my love.
I was born in the Record store. A strange band I don’t even know how I found them. But a band by the name of Benny Profane? The main character of Pynchons “V”? Bouncing up and down the Sea cost? As I refered to myself when living in Bangor near Belfast, with 4 addresses on Seacliff Road?
Hyper-Ballad. Björk, my alltime loveable music star - from Eat the menu to Vespertine and beyond. Here a ballad with a strong indication of what she is about - one of the (few) people that managed to turned her bipolar confusion into a creative outlet through the filter of want: talent can do. Showing that Rimbaud was wrong: it’s not about the metal that doesn’t have any stake in waking up as a trumpet. Not at all. The metal can come with inbuilt filters: talent, commitment, education, awareness, readiness, humor. Maybe sometimes provided by the mother, as in Björks case. Unforgettable: the Vespertine tour with a concert in the ENO near London’s Covent Garden, 2001. Salla and I drove there with our wee Austin convertible, english-white, the very London and South England Sussex car I had to have. She hated it, cause it sometimes stopped and she had to jump out to push. Sometimes in the middle of a roundabout. Or so she remembers until the very day. Still, we did marry with that car, had it parked pretentiously in front of the church we didn’t marry in (why would we marry in a church? When there was Finsbury Council Hall, with it’s all black lady staff? What a great ceremony, with Anselm and Susan as Trauzeugen, Kirsty the owner of a concept art gallery and the photographer she had organised. Later we had a reception in a turkish coffee shop, was it called “waterfall”? Mehmet was there, courtesy of Browserangel, our start-up that never took off, Will MacDonald and Anna, he the brother of Kevin “One Day in September” MacDonald and Andrew “Trainspotting” MacDonald fame, but a veritable programmer himself. Ian, my former boss with two new-born twins, Susan, a Berlin-weirdoo and colleague of Salla, who made a scene cause she didn’t know it was a wedding reception (Salla keeping it quiet, as usual). Bernhard, good friend of Salla who shortly after started with Google and has been ever since, probably now rolling in stock. I remember it to be a lively wee party, but Salla remembers that I fell asleep early, which is not so great, suppose. Could be. If I can’t contribute or am not challenged that does happen to the best of parties.
Sleep together. In the midst of my yuppie-times in Frankfurt I found Shirley Manson and this fantastic record by Garbage. It catapulted me back into the times of Tonja, ten years prior. It had the same promiscious feeling and flair. Not the one that I was living now, that was driven by opportunities, and without choice. Driven, quite literally, by the cars I sat in (say, the 600er Merc wasn’t as good as the 450er SL, simply because the former was far to statesman-like, boring, controlling, CEO-like - the golden SL was easier, because peeps could actually see who was sitting in there. And that wasn’t a 60-something belly-carrying guy pretending to be a couple of decades younger. That was indeed a 30-something, slim and cute, with ideas that could talk the girls drunk. So it was clear: driving through that small town Frankfurt actually is, you did curve around for half an hour and everybody saw you. You just needed to park and go into the cafés and there they sat: ripe to be picked. Of course the car helped, as I say. And it was a bit of a weird setting: The car, built in 1982 was already almost an oldtimer, the square SL-version, much sought-after because the slick-things built after just didn’t have that Badewannen-Feeling so wanted. What also helped: a good car-stereo with Garbage, Björk, Laurie Anderson and the likes. Oh, was I proud when my beloved Barbara joined me for a trip. Even when her friend Uwe took her, saying “oh fliegender Wechsel, from SL into my Porsche 928, what do you like better, Barbara”. She politely went quiet. Yep, undoubtedly, and I said that before: She had been my muse ever since I met her in 1985 Frankfurt (untouchable then, I held a 3 hour presentation about Vivre sa Vie that she and most students actually followed through to the end). She knew, Anna was about Barbara.
(I might find that one page Kleinanzeigen directed at Barbara I brought into the Auftritt, the local weekly, comparable to Tipp or Zitty. Need to see if it does something to the story or not)
Starman. Bowie’s kiddie song, a fantastic way to show that there’s magic to reach for everyone. I went to Würzburg Film Festival in 1989 together with Veronika. She was tall, slender, with a long square face. Admirable, I had already fancied her at University even before I went to Belfast. When I got back, I somehow got hold of her in the mensa, and talked her into joining me to go to Würzburg. There was a Godard retrospective scheduled, and the master himself might even come. He didn’t, but Veronika and I had a - at least in the beginning - remarkable and I must say hypersexualised time. I couldn’t really let her go, it was so intense, and so was it for her. Although it got difficult after two days and nights or so. She couldn’t deal with me, partly because I had found a mantra within that Starman song, repeating the chorus over and over, with variations of “there’s a starman waiting in the sky, but he’s afraid to blow our mind”. To me, this turned into one of the most important lines in history. I repeated it, under the shower, in bed, during the festival. By then, I didn’t really know what hypersexuality entailed. I just enjoyed it. In “real life” her partner was Thomas, a promising young scholar from NYC, nicely equipped with the MacArthur 500k USD “Genius grant”, later becoming a professor in Princeton. When I met him after Würzburg, I was already visibly carrying the manic torch, and I believe that somehow he realized that, while I had the fantastic but misguided experience of having met my match, when I referred to him as being “another champignon”. We played my favorite “lead from here to anywhere game”, and I had him on an equal level, building ever higher towers. When he ended the evening with saying “Mein lieber Schwan”, I carried this like a trophy.
Marcia Baila. This will ever be connected with a multitude of events, but they all culminate in Paris. I have to wrap it up, but provide context: I related to a group of people during my (brief) university time in 1984-86. I had written for a slightly weird “Medieninformationsdienst, MID” which is were I met my student love. I had so much fun spending time with that group: My partner - when our relationship went up in smoke, she took on her middle name as first name, fell in love with a woman and wrote the seminal “Einführung in die Feministische Literaturtheorie”. BTW it happened more than once that my former partners decided to become Lesbians - probably not a very favourable thing to say. Then there was who I declared to be (in the mid 90s) my muse and her best friend (who accused me that I was afraid of her due to her big boobs); A very friendly student who only did 1 or 2 years of study, too, but who looked like Jean-Paul Belmondo, while my muse was my muse because of her resemblance to Anna Karina; another woman with a chip on her shoulder even bigger than big boob girl, in that she saw machismo and male suppression mechanisms just everywhere.
So here comes the treatment
There must be an angel. It’s 1986 or 87. We are sitting in my Citroen, driving from Bangor to Belfast. There’s Stevie, Fat, Skin and Anna. There isn’t Artie and Rosie, the two oldest Magee’s. Still, I’m feeling outrightly happy, there’s a multitude of angels, the song gets to me - I always had a sweet spot for those angelic choire things. And then I completely loose: I announce to Anna (whose 16 at the time) that would marry her, when she’s 23. Admittedly, she’s shocked. Im 23 which makes me a lifetime older, my buddy then is her brother Stevie who’s a year older than me, and we spliff around with Fat (David) and Skin (John). But not Anna. Though she drinks like a fish. Which I can’t. Never forget all those rounds that build up in front of me, cause I just can’t drink fast enough. And especially not that Dünnbier they drink. Anyway, the rest of the journey is sort of quiet. I’ve made a real fool out of myself. With the loveliest family I knew in Belfast. But it kind of didn’t matter, and a couple of years later, I visited on the occasion of Anna’s wedding (intercultural, she married the son of Queen’s Councillor). And it was there that I even met my wife-to-be Salla in the kitchen of Anna’s mother Anne. And there she stood, forlorn, innocent, playful like Momo fighting the grey men. My angel.
Blessed Relief. A difficult song that sounds easy, the notation was in the “Real Book”, an inofficial
Strawberry Fields Forever. That’s the one many Beatles songs I chose for this compilation. Not because it’s a strike of genius (of course it is, but there are more competent people to testify), but because it turned Sevenoakes south of London into my “Beatles place”. Later, the “Imagine Strawberry Fields” Lennon commemoration medal in Central Park did the same for me and many other people.
Blaue Augen. Mentioned Ideal, seeing them live in 1981 in Batschkapp. Pogo’ing round and round, that amazing guitarist and that even more sexy Anette Humpe. Funnily enough, I bumped into her again in 2019, when I shared office with some screenwriters in the office rooms of Henselmann-Towers at Berlin Strausberger Platz. She lives in one of those large flats on the beginning of what used to be called Stalinallee. There had always been a strong connection between Berlin and Frankfurt “Sponti”- and Hausbesetzer-Szene. The taz was founded in Frankfurt and moved to Berlin later. That was the time when I hung around at Karl-Marx-Buchhandlung in Bockenheim, trying to follow some rather complex discussions between Dany, Joschka, maybe Matthias Beltz, Horx, Schmid and others (yes, all men). And a bit earlier, my band Pseudonym rehearsed in the taz rooms next to Pflasterstrand and the fantastic indy-cinema Chapter Two (hat tip to Felix Neunzerling, who sat it up singlehandedly), later Orfeo, even later Orfeos Erben (but this and Antje is a story for another song). My most vivid memory of the rehearsals at taz are that we played on literally hundreds of “Nullnummern”, the first “dummy”-taz never on sale. They sell for a few hundred Euros these days. How could we have known?
Interjection: Sometimes I believe that my personal obsession with time travel, from Back to the Future to Twelve Monkeys (the sequel with Barbara Sukowa) and countless other Science-Fiction movies or books (Ray Bradbury’s “Illustrated Man” comes to mind) stems from all those “missed opportunities” one could have envisaged given a certain “mindfulness” and appreciation of one’s surroundings. Which is why I now try to re-synthesize those times by writing/remembering and equally giving them a voice through the songs that contain them.
Does that make sense? I don’t know. I do know that I hate the expression of “Makes sense”. Maybe I figure that there are many steps between “making” and “sense”, and the progress should be carefully described if (in a professional context) not monitored.
Child in time. The ultimate hard rock classic cheesy, as far as I am concerned. Hard Rock is certainly no friend of mine, but I have to pack it in here. We played it live on the 21. June 1979 at an Umsonst & Draußen “Tatzelrock”-Kinderrock-Festival in Frankfurt Grüneburgpark. To us, it was the climax of that festival, we had what felt as a lot (4 or 5) opening acts before us, it was a hot, blue sky, around 4pm, all those 3-4.000 people were totally grooved in, enjoying the perfect day (it was one for us, sort of). Admittedly, half of them were stoned out of their head, as the festival coincided with an “official” Smoke-In at the park, and of course the dopeheads were happy to hear some live music. But still, I believe that all and sundry appreciated those 14-15 year olds trying their best with this rather challenging song. The Korean guest singer scored all the high notes. Admittedly, the lead guitar player didn’t quite give the Richie Blackmore. But I had my song after that. Eight minute long with a six minute self-composed solo. And yes, it wasn’t free floating but *very* composed. But wild. I have it on tape. Let me know if you wanna hear it. But only, if we smoke a spliff before… (no joke, I would with you)
1977. I immediately fell in love with the two Wilson sisters, their vibrato-guitar and their Charlie's angel (Farah Fawcett-Major) haircut. What a brilliant, galloping, simple yet activating riff, coupled with a text about the nasty and perverted record-industry, trying to hunt the sisters down and cage them in. We listened to this for hundreds of times. And other than today, we had to catch it with the radio as part of “Werner Reinckes Internationale Hitparade”. That bloody Werner of course must have had an order to talk into the intros and outros of the songs so that the recordings weren’t really mint quality, but what would a 14-year old living in social housing with a housewife mother and a studying father do? Well, I did carry out advert leaflets, making a walloping 40 Deutschmark/week, much needed for buying my electric guitar. You simply couldn’t buy all those songs… I was happy enough to have a radio with a built-in tape recorder, so I caught the songs with Werner on it.
Radiohead's masterpiece that guides me through the decades. Or centuries. While I got my hands on "OK Computer" some time in 1998 in Brighton, it was this piece that had its most lasting impression on me. During that time, me and my partner and later wife had a flat in Frankfurt while she already lived in Brighton. I usually flew in on Thursday evening and out on Sunday evening. Ridiculous, but feeling very important, it was this very song or record that kind of leveled me at the time. It worked like an antidote against the yuppie-life I had been living for years. It reminded me of Belfast, the music, guitar, the beauty of chaos and disorder. In a way, this memory came into present and opened the space again. Having seen them live a few times, starting with 2001 in Victoria Park and then a couple of times in Berlin, this song accompanies me since the 1990s. It's an amazingly foresight piece - in particular the "rain"-sequence and of course the guitarwork. Even now, 25 years after recording, the song (as well as only "Exit Music") sounds like a bouquet of freshly cut flowers smells. Adding a look through an onion glass to get the edginess it has and which prevails.
Intersection (and maybe the flow into the second part) -
Born in the 60s, my life is all about the advent of post-modernism. I lived with it, and in way died with it, too. Post-modernism died with the twin-towers coming down. Because it was a dream. Of freedom, of sexual ambiguity, even of the peace dividend (although post-modernism of course was older than 1989), of sponti-ism and flat-squatting, of taz and Pflasterstrand, of rebelling with Foucault, Derrida, Lacan, Deleuze, Rorty (the new criticism in reality was post-modern, even if Habermas claimed it for the Frankfurter Schule) and of course Benjamin - rebelling against the power-brokers of the likes of Horkheimer/Adorno, Habermas, Popper and their elitist critical reasoning. Still, maybe surprising but certainly not helpful, we now know that this dream and this rebellion in fact was a byproduct of neoliberalism that entered main stage in 1974 with giving up Bretton Woods. Giving up the gold standard for the sake of strengthening the central banks indeed was the death knell of modernism - that by then inflated idea of where we would agree would be a boring rationalism that had all the elements of a social democratic “getting better”, from Le Corbusier to workers rights. Which, Le Corbusier's depressing and de-humanizing architecture of the banlieues in Lyon and Paris is testament, never worked and never fulfilled that promise. Maybe it is so easy: Allowing governments to print money at their will destroyed the base for modernity. Which is of course what Nixon's mastermind Milton Friedman had in mind. And in parallel, it unleashed the other dream, including the Scenarios and "Limits to Growth" by the Club of Rome.
The dream of post-modernism became almost manically real after 1989, when the world seemed to be an oyster for, well, the world. Of course it wasn’t meant to last. Only the Maxim Billers and Claudius Seidls, the Tempo, I-D, Face, Q and Wired writers and magazines got fat and wealthy, if they lived according to the rentier capitalism required to do so. The Y2K-scare was the first and almost innocent marker. Admittedly I had worked with telco-techies who were convinced that it wouldn’t be possible to have the additional digit programmed in time. For our Brighton-flat, I bought some 20 5-liter boxes of water in December 99. And felt like a prepper. Well and ok: we somehow got away. A couple of months later during the Hanover CeBIT fair one of those techies told me that it’s to do with the new millenium and possible “change-markers” would be introduced at that beginning. And that was 2001 and not 2000. I looked at him in estrangement and thought what kind of a weirdo he was.