Archive for August, 2008

oh, zarah!

August 25, 2008

time to get back on track. and the in a way logical next post after karl gerhard is the great deep voice of zarah leander. i have to admit that first i did not want to post her – then realizing that this would be a somewhat arrogant move… arrogant in the sense that i try to give a glimpse of the connection between music, i.e. culture and society through a couple of related, maybe opposing posts. and zarah leander has been an artist that still raises questions about – the role of the artist in society, and yes, responsability.

she has been shunned for being the star in nazi germany: not only the biggest movie star, but also the biggest selling singer of these times. but as usual it is not that easy.

she always stayed a swedish citizen. she did not mingle socially with the big names of the third reich. she got a big amount of her money paid out in swedish kronen. she did not participate in, hmm, explicit propaganda. that might be some facts on the positive side. the reasoning by zarah leander for working in germany at the time went along the line that she was never a political person. well well… my problem with that argument is, that i believe that the political is always social – and the social is always political. there are varying degrees – and while nobody raises an eyebrow if today in a so-called democratic society an artist claims to be a non-political person, the situation changes for other forms of societies. of course that makes sense: different ways of social organisations do produce different responsabilities. the pressure of a dictatorial regime might demands a different citizenship. i write “might”, because i do not know how it is to live in a dictatorship. and i am very cautious. i do not want to pretend that i would have been a fighter for human rights under the nazis. i might would have been an opportunist. i might would have been a freedom fighter. i most probably would have made a lot of compromises.

so to a degree i find it futile to criticize zarah leander for being a star in the nazi-aera. what i do criticize is her unwillingness to explain afterwards. to explain to us how it could happen – to explain the times. and given the unbelieveable scope of destruction and death maybe some remorse would have been appropriated. but yes, for me, being born much later, explanation is what i need. and at least this responsability she could have acknowledged…

but then again i think we also have to consider that zarah leander was not only in germany a star – and that her career did not end after 1945. and of course that after the war people were not that hot for explanations of the past. and this has not been limited to germany. yes, verganheitsbewältigung…

for me zarah leander is therefore also interesting as a kind of stepping stone to think about not only the responsability of the citizen, but also of the responsability of the artist. the question is one that gets asked over and over again, has to be asked over and over again, and finds many different answers. and looking back in time – and looking back to very hard times, this question might get some sharper outlines. but then we should not make the mistake and believe that these outlines have been equally clear at the time: we see it in our times. it is obviously not that easy to take the “right” political stance for an artist. after all it is now, and history hasn’t made its judgement yet… and there are enough examples these days to show the problems of political action of artists with or outside their art. and there are many examples where our judgement seems to be blinded, too. i am just still not getting over the fact that seemingly nobody sees a problem in the fact that madonna played the lead in evita… i mean it is evita peron. it’s not, you know…mother theresa (but then i even less want to see a musical made about the life of mother theresa, thank you very much). and i still find it amazing how problematic it seems to be for artists (not only artists, though) to critcize politicians in our free and democratic world…

before i totally go off with rant, let’s go back to zarah leander. to a degree the problem i have with her is that i do not like her (a)political stance – but that i have to admit that her voice was absolutely stunning. which brings me to another problem: where is the line between artist and her / his work? a question i ask myself quite often, since liking the artist does for me not always fall together with liking the art. and the other way around, of course. so i do listen from time to time to zarah leander – but with a grain of salt, well, a little bit more then a grain, actually.

so have a listen for yourself now – goldene serie: zarah leander, a kind of best of with mostly her big hits from her movies, ripped from vinyl, including cover scan and tracklisting, you can get here.

and to round off that post nicely, i would like to point you into the direction of this overwhelming website. i guess paul seiler is the unbeaten specialist of all things zarah leander.

and i would like to point you into the direction of the webpage of tim fischer – he tours again with his first program (ha! which i saw back in the days!) zarah ohne kleid. a kind of bittersweet hommage to zarah leander. and yes, we get back to mister fischer in one of the following posts…

en karl gerhard-cavalcade

August 12, 2008

in a way i already started with mr. tucho (and yes, heinrich heine): i will post some music that is somewhat related to my interested not only in music, but also its social context. i do agree with cristian vogel that context is very important – and also for me a lot of fun. what is special with the upcoming music is that it also serves as a, well, nearly pretext to have a look at the lifes of the different artists. this has not so much to do with trying to explain the work of the artist through his / her biography, it has more to do with my interest of how to live, how art and living, and yes, how art and politics might be connected. well, i don’t think i will be able to give you any answers, but the nice thing is that the music is good, too. and maybe it will slowly, after some more posts, even make sense. and hopefully it will seduce some of you to do some research of your own – or to share some of your knowledge with me…

since with mister tucho we are already in sweden, i propose you to listen into some songs by karl gerhard – seemingly the king of revue in the 20th century in sweden. there isn’t much information available on the net – a wikipedia entry in german, a wikipedia stub in english, and then there is this karl gerhard site. in swedish. which is also to a degree a drawback listening to his songs – i suspect understanding the lyrics would be more fun? especially since karl gerhard seemingly was an outspoken critic of the politics of his times – especially the 1930’s and 1940’s. maybe some swedish reader could give me some more details…

there is an interesting detail in his biography: in the early 1930’s he booked a young swedish singer for one of his revues by the name of zarah leander. yeah, it is all connected in strange ways….

but even not understanding swedish i do find it fun – hey, the sound of the swedish language is…eeerr, exotic to my ears, after all. if you would like an earfull yourself, i can propose you en karl gerhard-cavalcade, a recording from 1955, in a limited edition of 1000 (i have number 285), signed, nicely packaged, containing 2×10″ records with 19 songs. enjoy!

and thanks to youtube we can also enjoy karl gerhard’s really nice and slick visual style!

one year

August 8, 2008

gratulations to urbanology for its first birthday! thanks for the music and to another year! and he posted that really cool painting…

funny enough it is now also one year of blogging for yours truly, the sunbathinglizard. it has been interesting for me – this blog works as some kind of homework for me, pushing me to do work on different topics, to revisit, rediscover a lot of material. but i do discover a lot of new things along the way, too. yep, that all sounds terribly self-centered – but hey, that’s just the way i am.

this is also a good occassion to thank: many thanks to R in X, to N, to M&P, to M, to recordfinder mastah w, to N, to P, to J, to M, to dkb, everybody who left a comment (except two of them, yes, you too, dude) to the artists and writers that provide me with the soundtrack to my life and much needed food for brain, heart, and soul and especially to all of them who wrote me some really nice lines. yes, a pat on the shoulder is always nice. and of course many thanks to all the interesting music blogs and websites out there – well, have a look at my link list. you keep on inspiring me. and of course thanks to all the nice people at sfrp! huh – this is getting now rather cheesy – but it might be the closest i get to a thank you-speech anyway…

as for some statistics: quite a lot of posts, quite some visitors, nico is the most popular, metalheadz and talk talk still generate a lot of interest, electronic music is less popular, and i am still puzzled that quite some people downloaded boys town gang but only a handfull of people downloaded ten percent. hmmm…. then i might also mention that i do see the search strings that brings people here. one thing: so many people search “gianna nannini lesbian”. just that you know: yes, she is. in the eighties she kind of came out in a german music magazine. and no, i do not have any nude pics of hannah schygulla. and it still surprises me how many people type “high heels inserted” into a search engine… jeez… on the more interesting side: i am pleased that abdolvahab shahidi still interests some people. you are right! and i am also surprised how many people seem to know bessie von brühl.

so, to just have it said again: you can ask for re-ups and try a request. and yes, thank you’s are still welcome…

and what about the next year? of course more music. what exactly we will see. after all i had planned in the last months quite a different route – but that’s part of the fun for me. more text again. i feel it is time to get a little bit more…vocal. and yes, i have read quite a lot of interesting stuff lately. basically i will keep on with my focused drifting…

what else? yes, i do like presents. small and expensive, of course.

to finish this navel-gazing post i would like to propose some music. this blog started with jean genet – a year later i am still in the mood for sailors, for the dramatic. and i think jaques brel’s amsterdam fits here nicely for a couple of other reasons, too. this time in the version of david bowie. and yes, i have to admit i did not know this cover version until i stumbled across it a couple of months ago… on the flip side you’ll find sorrow from bowie’s lp pin-ups. the year? 1973. get it here. as always: enjoy!

request: kurt tucholsky

August 7, 2008

another request – and the place is very fitting: the german author kurt tucholsky was a great admirer of heinrich heine. and like heinrich heine kurt tucholsky was poetic, political, and witty, oscillating in his writings from the pure entertaining to the polemic to the lyrical. the century is now the 20th, but it was still – or again, dangerous to be a true moralist, to point out the cynicism of power, to worry about and criticize certain developements in society. consequently tucholsky’s books have been burned (together with books by heinrich heine and many other authors) by the nazis – but by then he already lived in sweden, where he also died in 1935. for more on kurt tucholsky: wikipedia is a good way to get started.

and this request also fits quite well because it has been published in a series not of poesie und musik, but literatur und musik. on this record there are only two spoken passages, the rest are songs, most of them composed by hanns eisler. the interpreter is the german actor wolfgang reichmann, who was born just three years before tucholsky’s death. wolfgang reichmann himself died in 1991. he was primarly a “tv-actor”, but played also in many movies – the most know directors he worked under might be orson welles (the proces), and werner herzog.

and then it is a very good occassion to point you into the direction of the very interesting zero g sound-blog. not only did he post already interpretations of songs with lyrics by kurt tucholsky, together with quite a bit of information, but he just posted also some more works by the composer hanns eisler. AND he also just posted a record by brühwarm – a collaboration of the very gay theather group brühwarm with ton steine scherben / rio reiser. obviously highly recommended!

starting with kurt tucholsky i will post some more on artists of the 20th century. i have been listening and then also researching once more quite a bit of different biographies of artists that lived through these difficult times. and well, it is in many ways very interesting. somehow it also takes again the thread up of some music i posted earlier like sein and element of crime. music that refers to a heritage the nazis tried to eliminate… and it some ways it also fits with my more focused interest in gay history that has been due to a couple of books and texts sparked again. more about that later.

so – for now i propose you some songs with kurt tucholsky and wolfgang reichmann – ripped again from one of my many vinyls, including the cover scans. get it here! and enjoy!

request: ich kann nicht mehr die augen schliessen

August 7, 2008

here i posted the record with texts by francois villon and music by vollenweider, bardet, and valentini in the series of poesie und musik. for the background information on the artists you might refer to this earlier post.

and now it is time for more music by vollenweider, bardet, and valentini, but with texts by the german author from the 19th century heinrich heine. musically i do find this record more mature and relaxed then the villon record. musically, there are this time no references to the time of when the texts were written. and somehow this works better. therefore the record is “rounder”, less single songs and also the musicians must have felt that way: on the back of the cover there are only the playing times for each side given. so musically it is a pretty cool record. and then there are the words. and well, it has been a time that i’ve read heinrich heine. so it was a again a kind of eye opener, a strong reminder of how good heinrich heine the author is: really wicked stuff! really great – the selection done by the musicians is a very interesting one: cheeky stuff about the ladies, political commentary, and general musings with a lot of wit. and it all feels very fresh – in a way it is at the same time great to see how timeless his writings are and on the other hand also frightening how little seems to have changed…

so – i somehow hope that this record might incite some of you to get into heinrich heine – for more information search the net – there is quite a lot available. if you want to go straight to his texts, you’ll find them on the net, too. the complete heinrich heine in german you’ll find here. and thanks to the internet archive, once more, there are many english translations available online, too.

oh – but you might want to start with the record vollenweider, bardet, and valentini: poesie und musik, heinrich heine. ripped from vinyl as two mp3-files (side a/side b), including the scans of the front- and back-cover and the inlay with some more detailed information you can get here. enjoy!

reverse request: the red velvet tape

August 2, 2008

it’s alread a while ago that dkb fullfiled a request of mine: he ripped his maybe most elegant mix, the red velvet tape, for me. oscillating between house, pre-minimal and detroit with long tracks, hypnotizing, drawing you in, it always has been one of may favourites. and my copy of that tape was therefore in a rather sorry state… but now here you get it fully digitized.

and then dkb started something i was kind of planning: he started putting up my series of compilations favourites 2004. yeah, another trip down memory lane… of course they are still excellent! they were made for listening – the style varies: the respective title gives you an indication what kind of mood to expect. bergsee has been the most successfull – my personal favourites are chocolatecoveredsoul and your head on my chest . and yes, these two should be listened to in this order. one of these series i actually posted quite a while ago here.

but relistening now to these compilations i am amazed how much i actually still like all of them. with salz, that might be the darkest, i am proud of myself of the variety of musical styles that nevertheless fit together very well… and well, the dub of kiss the sky is fun, so is the latin flavoured les grandes moustaches – and spirals has a nice story i always will remember while listening to it… so – enough of my getting all excited about…myself. head over there and have a listen for yourself! Enjoy!


August 2, 2008

the mosque of saida zeinab, shia place of worshipping, women’s section, shokran gazilan, damascus, july 2008 – image by R in D