Germans Who Rock In German

Germany may be much better known internationally for engineering and beer than music, but there is much more to the latter than the Scorpions

In some ways, this post is a bit of a remake of my previous thoughts on German rock music. Obviously, what I said last October remains true today. Other than the Scorpions, one of my favorite bands, and perhaps heavy metal formation¬†Accept, there aren’t any other German rock music artists I can think of, who have a significant following beyond German-speaking countries.

Undoubtedly, one of the key reasons is the fact that many German rock bands are singing in German. Some go further and sing in dialects spoken in their native regions. This may make it tough even for other Germans to understand their lyrics – not exactly a recipe for international fame!

Following is a song selection from German-singing rock bands, including some of my favorite acts from the Deutsch Rock genre. The caveat is most of these artists are “old guys,” who do not well represent what’s in the German charts these days, which I honestly don’t even know. But, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Old guys rock! ūüôā

Wolfgang Niedeckens BAP

Niedeckens BAP, formerly known simply as BAP, probably remains my favorite German rock band. They perform their songs in the dialect spoken in the town of Cologne, Niedecken’s home town. A huge fan of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen¬†(and friends with the Boss!), Niedecken is the mastermind of the band, which was founded in 1976. During its 40-plus-year history, BAP has seen various changes in its lineup. Niedecken remains the only original member. Here’s a clip of Halv Su Wild, the title song from BAP’s 17th studio album released in 2011.

Wolf Maahn

This singer-songwriter, actor and producer initially started his music career in 1976 as a founding member of the Food Band. Mixing soul, jazz, pop and rock, this band sang in English. Maahn’s “German language music career” kicked off in the early ’80s with the studio album Deserteure. He gained broad national popularity in the mid ’80s, starting with the 1984 record Irgendwo in Deutschland. The studio album included Fieber, one of his best known songs. Here’s a clip

Marius M√ľller-Westernhagen

Westernhagen started his professional career as a 14-year-old actor in 1962, before he became interested in music during the second half of the ’60s. He continued acting and music, though his early recording efforts were largely unsuccessful. That changed in 1978, when Westernhagen¬†released his fourth studio album Mit Pfefferminz Bin Ich Dein Prinz. The record’s title song remains one of his best known tunes. His latest, 19th studio album Alphatier¬†appeared in 2014. Westernhagen continues to be one of Germany’s most popular music artists. Here’s a clip of a killer live version of Pfefferminz.

Udo Lindenberg

In addition to being a rock musician, Lindenberg also is a writer and painter, making him one of the most versatile German music artists. He first hit the music scene in the early 1960s, when he was 15 years old and played as a drummer in bars in the German town of¬†D√ľsseldorf. In 1968, Lindenberg went to Hamburg and joined the City Preachers, Germany’s first folk-rock band. In 1969, he left and co-founded the jazz-rock formation¬†Free Orbit. They released an album in 1970, Lindenberg’s first studio recording. Only one year later, his enponymous solo album appeared. It would take another two years before Lindenberg achieved commercial breakthrough success with Alles Klar Auf Der Andrea Doria, his third solo album. He continues to record and perform to this day, still going strong at age 71. In 2008, Lindenberg had a major comeback with Stark Wie Zwei, his 35th studio release. Here’s a great clip of a live performance of Mein Ding, one of the tunes from his comeback release.

Herbert Grönemeyer

Gr√∂nemeyer is another long-time German multi-talent, who in addition to being a singer-songwriter is also a producer and actor. While some of his music is rock-oriented, overall, I would describe his style as pop. After his acting role in the acclaimed 1981 motion picture Das Boot, which also became an international success, Gr√∂nemeyer increasingly focused on music. His big national breakthrough as a music artist came in 1994 with his fifth studio album Bochum. One of my favorite¬†Gr√∂nemeyer tunes, Vollmond, is on 1988’s¬†√Ė,¬†his seventh studio release. Gr√∂nemeyer has since recorded seven additional studio records, the latest being Dauernd Jetzt, which appeared in Nov 2014. Here’s a clip of a live performance of Vollmond.¬†Gr√∂nemeyer’s voice sounds a bit strained, but it’s still cool.

Brings

Brings is another act from Cologne, singing their songs in the local dialect. They started out as a great rock band in the early ’90s before they drastically changed their style to pop/”Schlager” in the early 2000s. This change, which I find quite unfortunate from a music perspective,¬†brought the band new popularity. They’ve since become a mainstay during the Cologne Carnival, a longtime tradition of the city that culminates with a week-long street festival where people go out masqueraded. Here’s a clip of Nix F√∂r Lau from the band’s second studio album Kasalla, which appeared in 1992.

Tocotronic

Founded in 1993, Tocotronic is an indie¬†rock band from the northern German town of Hamburg. Admittedly, I know very little about their music, but there is one tune I’ve liked from the first moment I heard it. It’s called Gegen Den Strich and was included on the band’s seventh studio album,¬†Pure Vernunft Darf Niemals Siegen (2005).¬†Tocotronic has since released four additional studio records, the most recent of which (Tocotronic, aka Rotes Album) appeared in 2015. Here’s a clip of¬†Gegen Den Strich. The sound reminds me a bit of The Church and their great 1988 album Starfish.

Spider Murphy Gang

Named after the gangster Spider Murphy in Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock, this band from the Bavarian town of Munich became known with classic rock & roll style songs performed in their native Bavarian dialect. The Spider Murphy Gang started out in 1977, covering top 40 rock & roll tunes from Presley, Chuck Berry and other classic rock & roll performers. In 1980, they recorded their German debut album Rock’n’Roll Schuah. The follow-up Dolce Vita brought them national acclaim, fueled by the tune Skandal Im Sperrbezirk, which became a staple of the so-called Neue Deutsche Welle (German New Wave). While the Spider Murphy Gang has had numerous changes in its lineup and hasn’t recorded any new music since 2002, they continue to perform and are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. Here’s a clip of an extended live performance of Schickeria, a tune from Dolce Vita.

Revolverheld

This rock band was founded in Hamburg in 2002. Initially, they were known as¬†Manga¬† before they changed their name to¬†Tsunamikiller in the autumn of 2004. Following the devastating tsunami in Thailand in December that year, the band changed its name to Revolverheld. Like Tocotronic, I’m not well familiar with their music. The tune I’d like to highlight is Freunde Bleiben from their eponymous debut album in 2005. Here’s a clip.

L.S.E.

Named after the first letters of each member’s last name, Rolf Lammers, Arno Steffen and Tommy Engel, L.S.E. is yet another band from Cologne, which was founded in 1992. Like BAP and Brings, they sing in the local dialect. During their active period between 1992 and 1996, the band recorded three studio albums. While they haven’t made any new music since 1996, L.S.E. haven’t officially dissolved and still perform occasionally. Following is a clip of the fantastic title song of their debut album¬†F√ľr Et H√§tz Un J√§jen D‚Äôr Kopp, which was released in 1992.

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube

The Power of Music Beyond Great Riffs and Grooves

One of the most beautiful things music can do is to lift us up when we feel down

This post is a bit different from what I usually write about, since it’s inspired by personal circumstances that just happened. Yesterday, my 15-year-old son was diagnosed with a chronic health condition. While no parent wants to hear their child is sick, my wife and I felt immense relief – we finally got an answer that helps explain his health symptoms, which for more than two years have prevented him from being a “normal” teenager.

The doctor also said something else – it’s fixable, though it may take time, and the journey to a complete cure may not be without challenges. One important aspect of what’s now ahead of us is to stay positive.

I’m convinced a positive attitude and hope can be very powerful forces to address a tough situation, whether it’s a chronic disease or another difficult challenge, even if the prospects are bleaker than in my son’s case. After all, it looks like that ultimately he’s going to be fine!

So what does all of the above have to do with a blog about music? Well, in addition to entertainment, I believe music can touch us in many different ways. Perhaps one of the most powerful things it can do is to build us up when we feel down. This made me think about songs I’ve heard over the decades I find very uplifting. Many of these tunes fall outside the realm of music I typically cover. Following are some that came to mind:

Christina Aguilera/Beautiful (written by Linda Perry; from Stripped, 2002)

Solomon Burke/A Change Is Gonna Come (written by Sam Cooke; from A Change Is Gonna Come, 1986)

Miley Cyrus/The Climb (written by Jessi Alexander & John Mabe; from Hannah Montana: The Movie, 2009)

Carole King/Beautiful (written by Carole King; from Tapestry, 1971)

Alicia Keys/Send Me An Angel (written by Alicia Keys; from Hope for Haiti Now, 2010)

Whitney Houston/One Moment in Time (written Albert Hammond & John Bettis; from 1988 Summer Olympics Album: One Moment in Time, 1988)

John Lennon/Imagine (written by John Lennon; from Imagine, 1971)

Ben E. King/Stand By Me (written by Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller; from Don’t Play That Song, 1962)

People Get Ready/The Impressions (written by Curtis Mayfield; from People Get Ready, 1965)

Lee Ann Womack/I Hope You Dance (written by Mark D. Sanders & Tia Sillers; from I Hope You Dance, 2000)

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube

Soft Rock Tunes for Valentine’s

Valentine’s Day is a good opportunity to write about some of my favorite rock ballads.

I don’t recall Valentine’s Day being a big deal when I was growing up in Germany, though I believe nowadays it’s become pretty popular there as well, especially among young people. While I don’t celebrate the occasion to this day, I thought it would be fun to put together a list of great rock ballads.

I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing¬†(Aerosmith): For a band that had released many great songs since their eponymous 1973 album, such as¬†Dream On, Sweet Emotion and¬†Janie’s Got a Gun,¬†it is quite remarkable that it took 28 years until Aerosmith finally had a no. 1 single in September 1998.¬†I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing¬†was written by American songwriter, Dianne Warren. It probably did not hurt that the power ballad was part of the soundtrack of the 1998 motion picture Armageddon starring Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis and Liv Tyler, Steven Tyler’s daughter.

Still Loving You¬†(Scorpions): The Scorpions have released a number of catchy rock ballads throughout their long career. I think the best one,¬†Still Loving You, initially appeared on 1984’s¬†Love At First Sting, which also happens to my favorite Scorpions album. Written by Rudolf Schenker and Klaus Meine, the song was also released as a single in July 1984. It cracked the top 20 in various European ¬†charts and made it to no. 64 on the Billboard Hot 100. Given how much radio play the song received in Germany, I’m actually surprised it only climbed to no. 14 in the charts there.

Open Arms (Journey): There was possibly nobody else who could deliver a rock ballad quite like Steve Perry. Written by him and Jonathan Cain, this gem appeared in January 1982 and was the fourth single from Journey’s seventh studio album Escape. The song became the band’s biggest Billboard Top 100 hit, climbing all the way to no. 2 in February 1982 and staying there for six weeks.

Every Rose Has Its Thorn (Poison): This power ballad was included in Poison’s second studio album Open Up and Say…Ahh!, which appeared in May 1988. It was also released as a single in October that year and climbed in the Billboard Hot 100¬†until it reached the top spot in December 1988, remaining there for three weeks. Credited to all four members of Poison, Bret Michaels, C.C. DeVille, Bobby Dall and Rikki Rockett, it became the band’s only no. 1 hit in the U.S.

Waiting For a Girl Like You¬†(Foreigner): Written by Mick Jones and Lou Gramm, this tune is one of the defining 80’s power ballads. The song initially appeared on 4, Foreigner’s fourth and best studio album in July 1981, and was also released as a single in October that year. It was one of the record’s several major hits, reaching no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and holding that position for 10 weeks.

I’ll Be There For You (Bon Jovi): The tune was originally released in September 1988 on Bon Jovi’s fourth studio album New Jersey.¬†Written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, I’ll Be There for You was one of an impressive five top 10 singles the album yielded, reaching the no. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The guys look kind of hilarious in the clip – oh, well, it was the 80’s era of the hair bands!

Babe¬†(Styx): Babe was the lead single from Styx’s ninth studio album Cornerstone, released in October 1979. Written by Dennis DeYoung, the ballad became the band’s first and only no. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100.

Amanda¬†(Boston): Including its eponymous 1976 debut, Boston has only released six albums in its 41-year history. Guitarist, keyboardist, songwriter and producer Tom Scholz, who essentially is Boston, is known for absolute perfectionism when it comes to recording music. And he allows himself to take as much time as needed to meet his high standards.¬†Amanda was released in September 1986 as the first single from Third Stage, Boston’s third studio album. The song became the band’s most successful single, holding the no. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks. Incredibly, it even outperformed Boston’s signature song More Than a Feeling.

Heaven (Bryan Adams): Heaven came out during the peak of Bryan Adams’ popularity, initially appearing on the soundtrack of the 1983 motion picture A Night in Heaven. The song, which Adams co-wrote with Jim Vallance, was also included on¬†his fourth studio album Reckless, released in November 1984. It became the record’s third single and reached no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June 1985. It ended up being the most successful of the album’s six singles.

Can’t Fight This Feeling (REO Speedwagon): Initially appearing in November 1984 on REO Speedwagon’s 11th studio album Wheels Are Turnin’, the song was also released as the record’s second single in January 1985. Written by Kevin Cronin, Can’t Fight This Feeling became the band’s second no. 1 single after 1981’s Keep on Loving You. It hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1985 and remained there for three consecutive weeks.

Enjoy and to those celebrating, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube

Christmas Rocks: Ho-Ho-Ho!

Following is a list of clips of some my favorite Christmas rock & pop songs. Hope you enjoy and Merry Christmas!

One of the things I liked to do during the Christmas holiday while I was growing up in Germany was to listen to my favorite radio station. At that time of the year, the DJs would frequently play song requests from listeners. Not surprisingly, Christmas pop and rock songs were pretty popular. Some of these tunes became seasonal anthems, such as Wham’s Last Christmas,¬†Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmas Time and Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas.

Sure, Christmas is big business, including in music, so one could be forgiven to be a bit cynical about music artists sand record companies all for a sudden discovering Jesus and Santa. While I fully recognize that, I still think there are some great Christmas rock and pop songs that have come out over the years – in fact, make that over the decades!

Below are clips of some of my favorite such tunes in no particular order: From John Lennon’s haunting Happy Xmas, to Chuck Berry’s rockin’ & rollin’ Run Rudolph Run, to Run-D.M.C.’s¬†cool rap Christmas in Hollis, to AC/DC’s hard-charging Mistress For Christmas, to a fantastic live version of Feliz Navidad with Jos√© Feliciano and Daryl Hall, to¬†the unforgettable James Brown and his funky Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto, Christmas¬†rock and pop tunes come in all styles:

Happy Xmas (War is Over) (John Lennon)

Run Rudolph Run (Chuck Berry)

Fairytale of New York (The Pogues)

Christmas in Hollis (Run-D.M.C.)

Mistress For Christmas (AC/DC)

Feliz Navidad (José Feliciano)

Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto (James Brown)

Wonderful Christmas Time (Paul McCartney)

(It’s Gonna Be) A Punk Rock Christmas (The Ravers)

Santa Claus is Coming to Town (Mary J. Blige, Jon Bon Jovi, Tracy Chapman, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, John Popper, Run-D.M.C. & Vanessa Williams)

My Top Five Albums for 2016

Following are my five new favorite albums released this year in no particular order.

To a fan of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, most of today’s music isn’t exactly a huge turn on, so bless the “old hands” for keeping the show going with new music!¬†Plus, every now and then, I also get excited by newer artists. Following are my five favorite new albums of 2016:

Blue & Lonesome (The Rolling Stones)

For a band like The Rolling Stones, which started out mostly playing blues covers, it’s actually quite remarkable that it took them more than 50 years to make an album like Blue & Lonesome. This collection of 12 vintage blues covers is the best music the Stones have released in many years. While the band knows these tunes in and out and reportedly has played them many times during warm-ups, it all sounds incredibly fresh. If I would have to name my most favorite release of the year, it would probably by this one.¬†For more on this fantastic album, see my previous post.

57th & 9th (Sting)

After taking a 13-year break from pop music, Sting roared back with a new album. To me, 57th & 9th sounds like it’s 1991 all over again, when the ex-Police frontman released The Soul Cages. ¬†Of the ten tracks, I think my favorites are the three tunes that have been released as singles so far: The catchy¬†I Can’t Stop Thinking About You, the thoughtful¬†50,000 and the rocker¬†Petrol Head. Sting is going to support the album with a big tour in 2017, which is planned to kick off Feb 1 in Vancouver, Canada; include more than 20 dates in the U.S., and finish in Colmar, France on Jul 31. This is a show I’d love to see! For more on the album, see my previous post.

Broken People (Muddy Magnolias)

Muddy Magnolias are “my new discovery” for 2016 I’m most excited about. This dynamo band was founded in 2014 by Jessy Wilson, an African American singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, New York; and Kallie North, a white pianist from Beaumont, TX. According to their web site, Wilson’s influences include¬†Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Lauren Hill, Mary J. Blige and The Notorious B.I.G., while North grew up listening to artists like¬†The Carpenters, Alison Krauss, James Taylor and the Eagles. Putting these two ladies together not only resulted in one of the coolest band names, but also in a remarkable debut album. Broken People is an amazing mix of different music styles that cannot be put in a single category – blues, country, folk, rock, R&D, soul…it’s all in there! When I listened to the opener for the first time, the title song, I immediately got goose bumps and went on listening to the entire album. The ten remaining tunes are outstanding as well.

Dig In Deep (Bonnie Raitt)

You just cannot go wrong with Bonnie Raitt. This lady is the real deal – you get what you see! Plus, her slide guitar playing continues to amaze me. See this post¬†about a show at NJPAC in Newark I saw back in August.¬†Dig In Deep, Raitt’s¬†17th studio album, shines right from the get-go. The groove of the opener, Unintended Consequence of Love, reminds me a little bit of Love Letter, one of my favorite Raitt tunes from 1989’s Nick of Time. Need You Tonight is a pretty cool remake of the INXS Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 single from 1987. Other stand-outs are Gypsy In Me and The Ones We Couldn’t Be, a beautiful piano ballad written by Raitt.

Santana IV (Santana)

When I listened to Anywhere You Want to Go for the first time on the radio, I really thought for a moment, ‘wow, that’s a cool early Santana song,’ wondering why I hadn’t heard it before. At the time, I had no idea that Carlos Santana had reunited with most of the original Santana band from the late 1960s/early 1970s and released a new album. Santana IV picks up right where Santana III left off 45 years ago, presenting an electrifying fusion of¬†Afro-Cuban grooves, rock and jazz that made the band famous. In addition to the catchy¬†Anywhere You Want to Go, another gem is¬†Blues Magic¬†– Gregg Rolie’s vocals and Hammond B3 organ, together’s with Carlos’s guitar truly make for a magical experience. Freedom in Your Mind, with Ronald Isley of the legendary Isley Brothers on lead vocals and its cool groove, is another standout. Fillmore East is reminiscent of the instrumentals that were also common for the classic Santana band. I had a chance to see the Santana IV line-up together with Journey in Allentown, Pa. in April, an amazing show that predates the start of the blog – hence no separate post with a review!

A Little Homage to the Hammond Organ

The Hammond organ is one of my favorite instruments that was made for rock music.

The sound of a Hammond organ regularly gives me the goose bumps. I’ve always thought it’s one of greatest instruments that was made for rock music. So I did a bit of research on the web to inform this post.

It turns out this terrific electric organ was invented by Laurens Hammond and John Hanert and first manufactured all the way back in 1935. Obviously, rock music had not been born yet. Initially, the Hammond was used in churches and later on in jazz music. In the 1960s and 70s it found its way into R&B, rock and reggae. The rest is history.

Perhaps one of the coolest examples of how to make a Hammond an integral part of rock music is Deep Purple. Jon Lord was an absolute genius and possibly the best rock keyboarder ever. His fusion of rock with classical elements was pioneering. He also demonstrated how the Hammond could become an equal lead instrument to the electric guitar.

And while I’m on the subject, why not throw in a list of some my favorite rock songs featuring a Hammond in no particular order:

  • Gimme Some Lovin’¬†(The Spencer Davis Group)
  • Whipping Post¬†(The Allman Brothers Band)
  • Child in Time¬†(Deep Purple)
  • Light My Fire¬†(The Doors)
  • The House of the Rising Sun¬†(The Animals)
  • Jingo¬†(Santana)
  • A Whiter Shade of Pale¬†(Procol Harum)
  • With a Little Help From My Friends¬†(Joe Cocker)
  • Here I Go Again¬†(Whitesnake)
  • That’s the Way God Planned It¬†(Billy Preston)

BTW, the guy in the photo is the great Steve Winwood playing the legendary Hammond B3.

Some of My Favorite Rock Guitar Riffs

A list of some of my favorite rock guitar riffs.

This morning on my way to work I listened to Tush from ZZ Top, one of my favorite guitar riffs. When you can recognize a song after just a few notes, most of the times it means it’s good. This made me think about other rock riffs I like. And while it’s of course impossible to do great rock music justice in one list, following are 20 of my favorite riffs in no particular order:

  • Tush (ZZ Top)
  • Day Tripper (The Beatles)
  • (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones)
  • You Really Got Me (The Kinks)
  • My Generation (The Who)
  • Are You Gonna Go My Way (Lenny Kravitz)
  • Black Night (Deep Purple)
  • Highway to Hell (AC/DC)
  • Carry On Wayward Son (Kansas)
  • Oh, Pretty Woman (Roy Orbison)
  • Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
  • (Don’t Fear) The Reaper (Blue¬†√Ėyster Cult)
  • Whiskey, Beer & Wine (Buddy Guy)
  • Rebel Rebel (David Bowie)
  • Voodoo Chile¬†(Slight Return) (Jim Hendrix)
  • Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin)
  • Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll (Rainbow)
  • Rock You Like A Hurricane (Scorpions)
  • Whipping Post (The Allman Brothers Band)
  • Owner Of A Lonely Heart (Yes)