Schlager: Groovy 60s German Sounds - Articles - Soundblab

Schlager: Groovy 60s German Sounds

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

Before Krautrock, so received wisdom tells us, Germany was something of a musical wasteland. There were the internationally respected and influential electronic experiments of Stockhausen, of course, but in terms of a home-grown music scene to rival the revolutionary sounds coming out of Britain and America? Forget it. After all, this was a divided country still dragging itself out of the shadow of war, and while political unrest fermented among the nation's young during the 60s, it found little or no expression in popular music.

The music which ruled Germany's airwaves, especially away from the American Forces Network which played US and UK rock and pop, is commonly known as schlager, which actually translates as 'hit', a term which went all the way back to one critics description of the 1867 premiere of Johann Strauss's Beautiful Blue Danube waltz. Although by no means a phenomena limited just to Germany, schlager enjoyed huge popularity in the country before the ascent of rock.

Schlager, as you can probably guess, was unashamedly commercial and crowd-pleasing. It also proved to be surprisingly adaptable and resilient. When Beatles-style pop and psychedelia were embraced by young Germans, schlager's proponents adapted their sound to incorporate UK/US pop and soul styles, psychedelic signifiers and sometimes English language lyrics.

As with the vogue in 60s Japan for eleki (instrumentals in the style of The Shadows) and group sounds, what were once viewed as rather clumsy facsimiles of UK and US pop have been revisited in recent years by music enthusiasts searching for something obscure and odd. And a lot of 60s schlager is undoubtedly odd, a strange forgotten sound-world were cheesy easy listening muzak morphs haphazardly into psychedelic freak-beat or garage band thrash.

Now rediscovered and newly appreciated, there are plenty of schlager compilations out there, including the excellent In-Kraut series and Beat Frauleins. Having suffered death by uncoolness during the 80s and 90s, schlager is once again embraced by young Germans, although these days with an added dose of ironic detachment. Krautrock, on the other hand, means little to your average German, being a UK-coined term for a disparate collection of groups who proved influential on UK and US music. It's a label which Germans largely ignore or actively dislike. After all, how would American music fans feel if a whole swathe of 70s US music was labeled Yankrock? How would the British feel if a load of 90s UK music was bundled together as... No wait, that did happen.

Anyway, here are a few great example of what happened when schlager met its cooler cousin.

Comments (4)

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Another great historic piece.

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Cheers! There's so much great music from all round the world to be discovered.

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What are you? Andy Kershaw? Nice article btw.

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Why would I be Andy Kershaw?

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