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Any Major Schlager Covers Vol. 2

March 12th, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments

 

In a 1979 interview with the Swiss-German pop magazine, Schlager singer Benny was asked whether recording German versions of foreign songs wasn’t a cop-out for producing good local music. Benny answered along the lines that German versions help listeners with no foreign language skills understand the original song.

But Benny was wrong: at the time the singer himself issued versions of Plastic Bertrand’s Ça Plane Pour Moi and Sham 69’s If The Kids Are Alright, and their lyrics failed to resemble the lyrics of the original. The interviewer had a point: good German tunes were thin on the ground, until the New German Wave hit a couple of years later.

In Any Major Schlager Covers Vol. 1 we looked at German covers of international hits, some of which were pretty good, and others were curious. This second mix repeats that exercise.

It kicks off with the most iconic of the lesser-known cover, a cover of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid by the most quintessential of square Schlager singers, the husband-and-wife duo Cindy & Bert. The Sabbath cover was released when they were still doing music part-time, seeing themselves as serious musicians. Soon Cindy & Bert became staples of clap-along Schlager songs, mostly on Fernweh themes of exotic locations and Spanish guitars in Malaga. Cindy & Bert competed in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, which Sweden’s ABBA won while the German pair finished rock bottom of the table.

Some Schlager singers successfully straddled the line between cultured chanson and banal Schlager. One of them was Greek-born and Germany-raised singer Vicky Leandros, whose father gave up his successful music career to mentor his daughter to stardom. His plan worked: Leandros created two of the great Eurovision classics, both in French representing Luxembourg (no Brexit in the Leandros household): L’amour est Bleu and Aprés Toi (better known in English as Love Is Blue and Then Came You; both featured on Any Major Eurovision). Here Leandros, who also did a fine cover of My Sweet Lord, reinterprets The Box Tops’ The Letter.

Likewise, the great Katja Ebstein was a credible singing artist who had success in Schlager (and in the Eurovision Song Contest, which she finished as runner-up three times). She featured in Vol. 1; here she covers Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now. In terms of vocals, I prefer Ebstein’s to those of Mitchell or Judy Collins.

Also part of the Schlager scene but transcending it was the sassy Juliane Werding, who as a 16-year-old landed a huge hit with an anti-drug version of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. Personal problems got in the way of her career which was marked by several comebacks.

The late Jürgen Marcus, on the other hand, was a Schlager singer of the intergenerational clap-along variety, though one always suspected that he could have been much better than that (as did he). His competent but unconvincing cover of the Bee Gees’ Massachussets gives little indication of that, though the arrangement is very nice. Perhaps he was better off singing those catchy Schlager hits.

Also going back to the canon of mid-1960s ballads is Thomas Fritsch’s version of Wichitia Lineman, which also is scored in good taste, with a nice piano solo. Fritsch was an acting star, starting his long career as a child, and never really had great success as a singer.

The weedy voice that croons the Eagles’ New Kid In Town on the old theme of seductive 17-year-olds is that of Frank Farian, who became the male and a female voice of Boney M., and later had Milli Vanilli lip-sync for him.

 

One act here comes from East-Germany, which was not exactly not a mine of pop jewels. So it seems quite fitting that ABBA would be covered by a choir ensemble, the eight-member Gerd Michaelis Chor. Their cover of Waterloo, recorded soon after ABBA won the Eurovision, does the right thing: play it straight, and accept that it won’t be superior to the original.

As a teenager Suzanne Doucet had her first hit with her German take on The Ronettes’ Be My Baby. The daughter of a well-known psychologist went on to become a prolific songwriter, producer and music entrepreneur, as well as an actress. Much of her career was devoted to new age music.

I take no responsibility for some pretty weird covers here. Rock & roll singer John Dattelbaum’s version of Dion’s Runaway is included for its WTF qualities. In it, the singer styles himself as Mädchenschreck (one who frightens off girls); his vocal performance confirms the validity of the title.

Gaby Baginsky recorded her German version of Paul McCartney’s Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey in 1972, a few years before she became a star with traditionally banal Schlager numbers. Incredibly, somebody thought it was a good idea to, firstly, cover that song, and, secondly, to issue her cover as a single. I recently learnt that I had once seen Baginsky in concert, as a support act. I had no memory of that in any way.

At least four acts here are very much not Schlager stars. Christopher & Michael were protest singers in the 1960s, so it seemed obvious that they would cover Barry McGuire’s Eve Of Destruction. The lyrics are certainly heartfelt, and issue a timely reminder that Germans should look at their own society before calling for “Death to Red Russia”. But some in the protest movement saw the twosome as a bit naïve and embarrassing. Joan Baez didn’t think so: she appeared alongside them during a famous protest in Frankfurt in 1966.

I have written before about Jürgen Zeltinger, an overweight, balding, openly gay punk singer often seen in a kaftan who delivered his lyrics in Kölsch, the dialect specific to Cologne. I’ve also posted his cover of the Ramones’ Rockaway Beach before, but include it here because it is so good.

Marius Müller-Westernhagen was better known as an actor before he became a well-known, often quotable rock singer. His voice was not very good, but his lyrics had punch, often of the satirical variety. And then it wasn’t always clear whether he meant it or not, as it was with his song Dicke (“fat people”), which lyrically more than borrowed from Randy Newman’s Short People. Here Müller-Westernhagen adapts Paul McCartney’s sincere but artless Give Ireland Back To The Irish to a call to give Bavaria back to the Bavarians, for the good of West-Germany. For US readers, it’s a bit like telling Texas to secede for the greater good of the USA — except many secession-minded Bavarians would agree with Marius.

Finally, there is The Hunters doing a German cover of the Sweet’s Fox On The Run. The Hunters were already active as an English-language rock band: The Scorpions.

As a bonus track, I offer you the first German rap record, a cover of Rapper’s Delight performed by a trio of German TV music show presenters: Frank Laufenberg, the superbly-named Manfred Sexauer, and Thomas Gottschalk as G.L.S.-United. It is a total disaster as the trio recall their musical influences: other than Gottschalk mentioning “disco, from time to time” and Sexauer remembering Little Richard, they have no black influences. But they rap…

 

As always, CD-R length, home-eisbeined covers, PW in comments.

1. Cindy & Bert – Der Hund von Baskerville (1970 – Paranoid)
2. Gus Ferlin – Es steht ein Haus im Westen (1966 – House Of The Rising Sun)
3. Inga – The Beat Goes On (1967 – The Beat Goes On)
4. Lisa Bauer – Song vom Hilfsarbeiter (1971 – Son Of A Preacherman)
5. Peter Horton – Mrs Robinson (1971 – Mrs Robinson)
6. Christopher & Michael – Wir sind am Ende (1965 – Eve Of Destruction)
7. Jürgen Marcus – Warum kann ich deine Liebe nicht vergessen? (1971 – Massachusetts)
8. Thomas Fritsch – Draht in der Sonne (1969 – Wichita Lineman)
9. Howard Carpendale – Heiss wie Feuer (1971 – Ring Of Fire)
10. Bernd Spier – Memphis Tennessee (1964 – Memphis, Tennessee)
11. John Dattelbaum – Mädchenschreck (1961 – Runaway)
12. Suzanne Doucet – Sei mein Baby (1964 – Be My Baby)
13. Die Five Tops – Frag doch nur dein Herz (1965 – Trains And Boats And Planes)
14. Marion Maerz – Warten und hoffen (1971 – Wishing And Hoping)
15. Vicky Leandros – Er hat mir geschrieben (1971 – The Letter)
16. Anita Traversi – Es ist so schön verliebt zu sein (1965 – As Tears Go By)
17. Katja Ebstein – Beide Seiten (1973 – Both Sides Now)
18. Drafi Deutscher – Weil ich Dich liebe (1970 – Wigwam [by Bob Dylan])
19. Frank Farian – Sie war erst 17 (1977 – New Kid In Town)
20. Gerd Michaelis Chor – Waterloo (1974 – Waterloo)
21. Juliane Werding – Da staunste, was (1977 – Howzat)
22. The Hunters (Scorpions) – Fuchs geh’ voran (1975 – Fox On The Run)
23. Zeltinger Band – Müngersdorfer Stadion (1979 – Rockaway Beach)
24. Benny – Bin wieder frei (1978 – Ça Plane Pour Moi)
25. Marius Müller-Westernhagen – Gebt Bayern zurück an die Bayern (1972 – Give Ireland Back To The Irish)
26. Gaby Baginsky – Von Calais nach Dover (1972 – Admiral Halsey)
Bonus:  G.L.S.-United – Rapper’s Deutsch (1980 – Rapper’s Delight)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    March 12th, 2020 at 08:27 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. JeM
    March 13th, 2020 at 13:31 | #2

    Bordering on the impressive – and ranging to the obscure and horrific … some of this is real good indeed, others are cringeworthy.

    Yet, all in all – childhood memories and never before heard “gems”.

    Honestly … how do you find stuff like Lisa Bauers Song vom Hilfsarbeiter or John Dattelbaums Mädchenschreck …

  3. Pim
    April 5th, 2020 at 18:35 | #3

    What JeM says. You really overdid yourself with this entry. Vol. 1 pales in comparison.

  4. Pim
    April 6th, 2020 at 19:12 | #4

    @Pim

    Overdid = outdid of course. Silly me.

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