Archive for the ‘rio reiser’ Category

the dream is over…

June 5, 2008

…but i will give everything for it to become reality.

ton steine scherben “der traum ist aus” 30.05.1983 live in offenbach

more music and politics from germany. so bap from the last post might have been my idols back in the days (and i can only repeat that the new record is really good – interesting to note that it has a very touching song about new york…), but there is actually a tradition in political popular music in germany. there would be a couple of names to drop, but there is especially one man which fits perfectly into the program of this blog.

back in the 1970s, the german radical left / squatter-scene had their jukebox musical heroes, their concerts being rallies, their songs the soundtrack to the resistance against the system. this band was called ton steine scherben. this was in the early to the mid 1970s in berlin… due to different reasons (depending on the source) they moved in the mid 1970s to a farm in the north of germany. yep, the same farm where a certain nina hagen (i’m still planning a post to finally deconstruct her) saw her first u.f.o. – under the influence of a certain substance developed in basel… at least that’s how the story goes. in this period the music of ton steine scherben got more complex – so did the lyrics. obviously they still did not make any money, and in the early 1980s they disbanded. and reformed again a couple of years ago…

the singer of this band, rio reiser continued to make music under his name. the music changed again: it became pop. maybe also under the influence of a certain annette humpe, who co-produced. the record was a huge success, and rio reiser suddenly a popstar. he recorded a couple of more records, which got (again) more and more complex and “difficult” and darker – and committed therefore something of a commercial suicide. in 1996, at the age of 46, rio reiser died.

but there is more: there is the gay aspect, too. although rio reiser is now celebrated as one of the most important composers / singers of germany’s rock history, people do tend to forget that he was gay – which is in this case interesting in a couple of ways. already ton steine scherben worked together with the radical gay theater group brühwarm – i believe they wrote the music to some of their pieces. i do not remember if rio reiser also appeared on stage (he also worked a couple of times as an actor – very successfully, even getting awards for his acting). but digging around in a couple of interviews another picture emerges: if these sources can be believed rio made his “official” (i.e. public) coming out in the mid 1980’s – stating that the radical left scene was not a good place to be gay. this comes not really as a surprise: the revolutionaries i met had a a rather classic view of how to lead their private life: “hey women, we are just planning the revolution. so you might go to the kitchen and do us some sandwiches. and yes, my socks really need a washing, too.” so being gay is a private past-time – not important if you want to change society… but also mainstream society just swallows gayness up: in a way it makes me sometimes rather melancholic hearing one of the many coversongs of one of rios reisers beautiful love songs: being sung by heterosexuals it sometimes seems like these songs are being de-gayed. i know, a strange feeling, but rio reiser was one of the few artists i could listen to and knew that when he sung about his love, he sung about him, his lover. for once i did not have to translate it into my desire, like with most songs…

another uneasyness regarding the status of rio reiser is that he is now being treated like an idol: if wolfgang niedecken of bap might can be compared to bruce springsteen, then rio reiser could be compared to john lennon. like lennon, reiser’s songs are now treated as the ultimate protest songs. but like lennons songs, the protest is always tied to an utopian outlook. the lyrics are not harsh, they are actually believing in a better world and rather upbeat. that brings the problem that – especially since both artists are death – these songs can easily be used for whatever. wolf maahn mentioned already many years ago that hearing john lennon at the shopping mall is…irritating. i guess it is the usual problem of what stays as the legacy. and with rio reiser what stays are the ballads. the more aggressive stuff (especially with ton steine scherben) is still not played on the radio. forgotten – or rarely mentioned are his clear political views, his call of a boycott of bavaria after one of the stupid and evil csu-ministers called for camps for aids patients (ironically that was the “cuban solution”), or his becoming a member of the ex-/post-communist party after the fall of the wall to protest the steamrolling of the people of east germany… all this seems to be something of an embarassement today (alhtough it was reason enough to boycott him at the time).

well, the good news is that his music is not forgotten – so i guess you just listen for yourself. thanks to his brother, a lot of unreleased material has been published – out of this posthumous released material come also my two favourite cd’s: rio reiser am piano I & II. just the man, his scratchy voice and the piano. old songs, new songs, coverversions from spanish bombs to over the rainbow. some silly, some serious. these recordings just show the wide range of influences and also that he definitly knew how to write songs…

so – if you want to have a listen i ripped for you rio reiser am piano I. you can get it here. and if you like it: there is more, a lot more. again you can just head over to der likedeeler. you’ll find i believe everything concerning ton steine scherben and rio reiser…yeah!

for more on rio reiser you can visit the official homepage. for a lot of material about ton steine scherben, rio reiser, and related i recommend the amazing archive over at riolyrics. since most material is in german, i picked for the more international reader an article in english, the obituary from 1996 by denis staunton (the guardian) with some more information.

and now…enjoy!