Happy Sunday and welcome to another installment of The Sunday Six. Once again, I’d like to invite you to join me on a trip into the amazing world of music. This time, there’s a little twist. All six stops are tunes by artists from Germany, including three sung in German. I hope this won’t deter you from boarding the time machine.
Klaus Graf Quartett/Nature Boy
Let’s kick off today’s trip with contemporary jazz by German alto saxophonist Klaus Graf and his band who are known as Klaus Graf Quartett. If you’re a frequent traveler on The Sunday Six, the name may ring a bell. I included them in a previous installment in October 2021. Borrowing from that post, according to Graf’s website, he started playing the clarinet at the age of 10 but soon thereafter switched to the alto saxophone. Graf found his true love for jazz as a 15-year-old after he had joined a youth music school big band. Following his studies of the saxophone at Cologne University of Music, he mainly played as a sideman in various German and international jazz bands. In 2002, he founded his own quartet and released his debut album Changes in Life. Klaus Graf Quartett is one of various music projects of Graf who also teaches jazz saxophone at Nuremberg University of Music. Nature Boy is a track off his 2007 album titled Moving On. At that time, his band featured Olaf Polziehn (piano), Uli Glaszmann (bass) and Meinhard Obi Jenne (drums). Ah, what a smooth sound!
Our next stop is the first German-language tune: Das Model (the model) by electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk (power station). Admittedly, this type of music isn’t in my core wheelhouse, but given the group’s huge influence and significant popularity beyond Germany, I felt it was appropriate to include them. Kraftwerk were formed in Düsseldorf, West Germany in 1970 by Ralf Hütter (lead vocals, keyboards, various other instruments) and Florian Schneider (backing vocals, synthesizer, various other instruments). They began as part of West Germany’s experimental krautrock scene in the early 1970s before fully embracing electronic instrumentation, including synthesizers, drum machines and vocoders. Das Model is a track off Kraftwerk’s seventh studio album Die Mensch-Maschine (the man-machine), released in May 1978. At that time, the band’s line-up apart from Hütter and Schneider also included Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flür (both electronic drums). Kraftwerk still generates power to this day, with Hütter (now 76 years) remaining as the only original member. Schneider left in 2008 and passed away in April 2020 at the age of 73.
The Rattles/Come On And Sing
Time to pay a visit to the ’60s and, nope, it’s not Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand by The Beatles though it’s beat music, by The Rattles. They were formed in 1960 in Hamburg by Achim Reichel (vocals, guitar), Volker Reinhold (guitar, vocals), Herbert Hildebrandt (bass, vocals) and Dieter Sadlowsky (drums). In 1962, The Rattles on several occasions performed at the same venues in Hamburg as The Beatles, including the famous Star-Club. The band’s 1965 single La La La was their first to chart in Germany, reaching no. 19. The Witch, released in 1970, was their biggest hit, climbing to no. 4 in Germany, no. 8 in the UK and no. 20 in Austria. It even made the U.S. charts, reaching no. 79. The Rattles rattle to this day and still feature their original bassist Hildebrandt. They have various upcoming gigs in Germany in April, June and September. Here’s Come On And Sing, a tune they released in 1966 – not bad!
Niedeckens BAP/Mittlerweile Josephine
No post about German music artists can exclude my all-time favorite band singing in German, more precisely in Kölsch, the regional dialect spoken in the area of Cologne. Niedeckens BAP, formerly known as BAP, are a band around German singer-songwriter Wolfgang Niedecken, founded in Cologne in 1976. Since September 2014, following the departure of two longtime members, the band has performed as Niedeckens BAP. At the time, a seemingly somewhat frustrated Niedecken also declared the group would no longer have a standing line-up. That being said, the core members have remained the same since then: Ulrich Rode (lead guitar), Anne de Wolff (multi-instrumentalist), Werner Kopal (bass), Michael Nass (keyboards) and Sönke Reich (drums). Mittlerweile Josephine (now Josephine) is off the group’s 18th and most recent studio album Alles Fliesst (everything is groovy), which appeared in September 2020. In this ballad, Niedecken reminisces about one of his daughters, Josi, who has since become Josephine, a young woman. I love this tune!
Scorpions/Someone to Touch
Scorpions are among Germany’s bands who are also well known beyond their home country’s borders. This next tune takes us to September 1993 and the rock and pop metal band’s 12th studio album Face the Heat. At that time, Scorpions were in their 28th year since their founding by guitarist Rudolf Schenker in Hanover in 1965. The remaining lineup on the album featured Klaus Meine (lead vocals), Matthias Jabs (lead guitar), Ralph Rieckermann (bass) and Herman Rarebell (drums). After five non-charting albums, Scorpions broke through with Lovedrive in February 1979. They entered my radar screen with Love at First Sting, released in March 1984. Featuring multiple hits, such as Rock You Like a Hurricane, Still Loving You and Big City Nights, their ninth studio album became a major success in Germany (no. 6), as well as many other countries, including France (no. 4), Switzerland (no. 9), the UK (no. 17) and the U.S. (no. 6), among others. Someone to Touch, co-written by Schenker, Meine and Mark Hudson, is a track from the aforementioned Face the Heat. Scorpions continue to rock, with Schenker, Meine and Jabs remaining part of the present line-up.
And once again, it’s time to wrap things up. Our last stop on this trip is the year 1980 and the eponymous debut album by Ideal, a band from West Berlin that was part of what became known in Germany as Neue Deutsche Welle (German new wave). This music genre was a German version of punk and new wave that emerged during the second half of the ’70s. It reached peak popularity in the early ’80s when seemingly every day, new German music artists and bands seemed to pop up. Ideal were founded in the spring of 1980 by Annette Humpe (lead vocals, keyboards), Frank Jürgen Krüger (guitar, vocals), Ernst Ulrich Deuker (bass) and Hans-Joachim Behrendt (drums). After three years and three studio albums, Ideal called it quits. Here’s Blaue Augen (blue eyes), one of their best-known songs penned by Humpe. I always liked the tune’s cool grove, especially the bass part.
This post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist featuring the above tracks. As always, I hope there’s something that tickles your fancy.
Sources: Wikipedia; Klaus Graf website; YouTube; Spotify