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Step back to 1972

October 2nd, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Favourite years are made of wildly different ingredients. The giddiness of falling in love or the trauma of a loved one”s death can create emotional memories so intense that a year or even an era can occupy a special place in the mind”s inventory of nostalgia. One of my very favourite years was 1972, the year I turned six, and it included a big event “” I started school “” but I recall it more fondly for how I felt: safe.

I have happy memories of watching TV shows with my mother and younger brother: Star Trek (known in Germany as Raumschiff Enterprise), the reruns of Daktari and the Australian harbour police series Riptide (known in Germany as S.O.S. Charterboat), a German show called Percy Stuart, and of course the Hitparade and Illja Richter”s Disco (“Licht aus “” womm “” Spot an”). Later that year, Channel 3 showed a few episodes of the US version of Sesame Street in the original English to test the waters “” the whole concept of edu-TV seemed to be a bit controversial at the time. I think watching Sesame Street in a language I”d not start to learn until I was ten might have spiked my interest in English.


Springwater – I Will Return.mp3
springwaterThe dirge-like guitar instrumental had been a UK hit in 1971; in early 1972 it made its impact on the German charts. I loved the song even if it made me melancholy, even then, with its sad guitar, funereal organ and martial drum beat. I suspect that I Will Return went on to inspired a whole lot of instrumentals for all manner of crime series on German TV (such as Tatort and Derrick), and set the scene for the career of guitarist Ricky King, who shall, I”m afraid, feature at a later stage in this series.



Sweet ““ Poppa Joe.mp3
poppa_joeWhile I was buying horrible Schlager singles under the direction of my grandmother, my mother bought cool stuff like Poppa Joe. It”s fair to say that Poppa Joe was my favourite record of the year. It was fun and the lyrics were sufficiently nonsensical to sing along to phonetic style. I think it might even have inspired some less than coordinated dancing (thank goodness video cameras weren”t invented yet). The song marked the end of Sweet”s career as the purveyors of bubblegum pop (Little Willy, Coco etc); within a year they”d rock much harder with songs such as Blockbuster and Ballroom Blitz. At the time I had no interest in the performers” identity (and the characters on the cover were not so impressive as to remember their collective name). So when the far superior Blockbuster and Ballroom Blitz came out, the songs registered, but not the group”s name or the association of those songs with the guys who sang Poppa Joe.


Middle of the Road ““ Soley Soley.mp3
Middle of the Road ““ Bottoms Up.mp3

motr_soleyI have said so before but will say it again: Middle of the Road were a fine pop act, regardless of how naff their song titles were. More than Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep, these two songs show why. Soley Soley was a hit in early 1972, the superior follow-up to Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum, a song I didn”t like much. Soley Soley was the Scottish group”s third and final UK top 10 hit. Their career continued to prosper in West Germany for a few more years. My mother bought the follow-up, Sacramento, but (rare among my mother”s records) I didn”t like that. It was the next single, later in 1972, that I really liked: Bottoms Up, with its bagpipe and tribal drums intro and the cheerful chorus.


Mouth & MacNeal ““ How Do You Do (English).mp3
The Windows ““ How Do You Do (German).mp3

mouth_macnealWhy would a Dutchman called Willem Duyn willingly choose to be called Mouth. Not “Big Mouth”, just Mouth. No such mystery in the case of his female partner: if your name was Sjoukje van”t Spijker, you too would consider the moniker Maggie MacNeal a very attractive alternative. How Do You Do was a hit in its English version by Mouth & MacNeal, but even bigger in the German version by the English/German duo The Windows, who appeared on the Hitparade and did look a bit like the Dutch originators of the song. Mouth & MacNeal would later record many of their songs in German, with some success. The song also became a Top 10 hit in the US, in a version by radio DJ Jim Connor. Parts of the melody later formed part of, or was plagiarised for, a German timber commercial which still sticks in my head: “Holz, das halt ein Leben lang.”


Danyel Gérard ““ Harlekin.mp3
HARLEKINReaders may recall how in 1971 Danyel Gérard”s Butterfly was the mammoth hit of that year. Gérard had enjoyed a long career in France before that, but made his breakthrough in Germany only thanks to Butterfly and his very cool folk-troubadour image, with the beard and floppy hat (and smoking in a TV studio) which were the result of a quite radical image make-over. I suppose Danyel Gérard was the first artist whom I expected to deliver a suitable follow-up record. Before him, songs just appeared; now I was actively anticipating an artist”s new release. Harlekin couldn”t compare to the phenomenon that was Butterfly. It tried to capture a similar vibe, with quiet verses and a long upbeat, clap-along chorus. It did reasonably well; Gérard certainly got exposure on the Hitparade (I seem to remember him singing Harlekin while sitting in the audience, but I might be wrong about that). But”¦it was no Butterfly.


Daniel Boone ““ Beautiful Sunday.mp3
daniel_booneIn the 1971 instalment I celebrated my joyful rediscovery of Michael Holm”s Wie Der Sonnenschein, the chorus of which had been lodged in my ear without my knowing neither the song”s name or performer. A few years ago, Beautiful Sunday provided me with a similar time-shifting experience. I hadn”t heard the song for more than 30 years. Then I came across a Daniel Boone song which I quite liked in a glam rock sort of way. To investigate Boone”s stylings further, I downloaded Beautiful Sunday blind. In an instant, it beamed me back to 1972: the Bravo posters that covered my sister”s wall, the yellow tiles of our bathroom, the formica kitchen table, my brother and I building “houses” out of the sofa cushions”¦ Beautiful Sunday is the background soundtrack of my every-day life in 1972.


Vicky Leandros ““ Ich hab” die Liebe gesehen.mp3
LEANDROSOh, but I did buy that, and I can”t blame it on grandmother”s projecting her record-buying pleasures through me. I actually liked the song. Today, not so much. But for the scholar of the Schlager, it”s a good case study: the singer is young (good), virginal and relatively pretty (classic beauty was not a prerequisite for Schlager stardom), and it sounded foreign (excellent). The song has a Greek arrangement, to go with the singer”s ethnicity (perfect), the better to evoke the audience yearning for exotic locales (Deutschmark signs in the eyes!), even though the lyrics have nothing to do with Greece. The lyrics themselves are suitably banal (“I saw love in your eyes at first sight”¦ the world started to turn on its own as we looked at each other and found happiness [a revolution of scientific knowledge right there]”¦ I let you take my hands because it was so nice”¦ the dream of happiness became reality”¦ it was a day just like any other et bloody cetera), because anything more complicated would disturb the collective Schlager swoon. This is how a successful Schlager ballad had to be written.


Hot Butter – Popcorn.mp3
POPCORNAs the Olympic summer “72 slowly neared its end, I started school, and Hot Butter”s Popcorn, an instrumental featuring that new-fangled synthesizer thing, provided the soundtrack to that. As per tradition, I was given a Schultüte, a huge, brightly decorated cardboard cylinder filled with sweets. My younger brother was jealous, so he got a smaller one, too, the thunder-stealing fucker (I got nothing when he started school two years later). For some reason my mother thought it necessary to dress me in a collarless Beatles-style suit with velvet-covered buttons for the occasion. She was cool 98% of the time, but those 2% when she was not could kill me.

School was cool that first year. Our teacher was a hippie whom I remember as always wearing a denim kaftan. She taught us First Graders about sex, using the proper terminology, such as vagina and penis. At first we giggled, but after a while I think we got used to the idea that these things were not there only to have a wee-wee. And yet, I recall in Grade 2 or 3 discussing with my friends whether babies could be produced by kissing. I suppose some parents didn”t like the curricular approach of my first teacher; the next year she was gone (she lived in our area, and I saw her a few times after; she didn”t seem terribly excited at meeting a former pupil). My mother, a modern woman who approved of such teaching methods, confirmed that our teacher had not been universally appreciated. Happily, my next teacher was very kind; but she would not speak about sex in any way for my remaining three years at primary school.


Rex Gildo ““ Fiesta Mexicana.mp3
rex_gildoIf Schlager music ever hit a particular peak, it was in late 1972/early 1973 with Fiesta Mexicana, a rousing number that incorporated the genre”s standard devices of far-away places and romance, perched right at the top of the zenith. It”s the party Schlager song. Rex Gildo (which, you might have guessed, was not the singer”s real name) whips up the excitement with a succession of exclamations of the possibly nonsense word “hossa” and doesn”t let up on the fiesta. See, it”s his last night in Mexico “” a country which at the same time provided a hit for the Les Humphries Singers (see The Originals Vol. 26) “” and Rex is hosting a fiesta in the plaza with much tequila and guitars. Juanita and Pepe (because Mexicans are called Juanita and Pepe) are there as Rex says Addio to Mexico. He greets, as you do, with his sombrero and tells his girl, possibly the Carmensita he is kissing, that he loves her and promises that he will return to her in Mexico. Olé! As cliché infested as the lyrics and arrangement are, it is all great fun.

Rex Gildo, a Bavarian known to his mother as Ludwig Franz Hirtreiter, had been a star of stage and screen for a decade before Fiesta Mexicana (one of his early hits was the German version of Speedy Gonzales, the fastest mouse in all of Mexico), which was the peak of his success. His career ambled on for several years, but by the 1980s it had fizzled out. He struggled with alcoholism and, it later turned out, was discreetly gay. After a final concert, outside a furniture store near Frankfurt on 26 October 1999, Gildo committed suicide by jumping out of his apartment window.


Wums Gesang ““ Ich wünsch mir “ne kleine Miezekatze.mp3
WUMTV presenter Wim Thoelke presented the Saturday night Aktuellen Sportstudio before hosting a succession of quiz shows, which doubled as fundraising efforts for the children”s charity Aktion Sorgenkind. A sidekick at one of them, Drei mal Neun, was a cartoon dog “” drawn by the popular German cartoonist Loriot “” called Wum. The interplay between Wim and Wum, the latter perched on a red ottoman and prone to call the quizmaster with a long-drawn out Thooooelke, was amusing enough to warrant the release of a single “sung” by the cartoon dog, about his desire for a pussycat (I don”t know if the double meaning was intentional), apparently voiced by Loriot himself. Although the single stayed at #1 in West Germany for nine weeks in late “72 and early “73 (with proceeds going to Aktion Sorgenkind), Wum never got his wish for a feline companion. But when Thoelke presented a new show called Der große Preis (a mixture of general knowledge and Mastermind which had contestants sitting in futuristic capsules) Wum tagged along to the new show and later got a female elephant sidekick, named Wendelin. The elephant was rubbish, and Wum”s comedy suffered as a result.


More Stepping Back

  1. walter
    October 2nd, 2009 at 13:54 | #1

    Is that you with the Schultüte, very cute !

    The Leandros song is originally Greek. Composed by the great Mikis Theodorakis as ‘O Kaimos’, it was first sung by Grigoris Bithikotsis in 1962. I’ll send it over.

    Nice reading (as always), thanks !

  2. October 2nd, 2009 at 19:33 | #2

    Thanks for the Soley, Soley & Wum & Wendelin memories, no thanks for Rex Gildo. Ever since you threatened to put it up earlier this week, I’ve had it in the back of my head. You can’t imagine how bad it feels to be unable to get rid of it, had to purge it by listening to Smoove for 3 hours non-stop.
    ..and thanks for bringing back the SOS Charterboat memory, I used to LOVE that show.
    Awaiting the next instalment with mixed feelings :)

  3. October 3rd, 2009 at 03:27 | #3

    Brilliant post Dude, as always you put those corny records in the right perspective! Keep it up!

  4. Pseudonimus
    October 5th, 2009 at 18:13 | #4

    I’ve always taught of “I Will Return” as an Apollo100 original…
    I have one question, if anyone can help… In the mid70’s there was one hit called (if i’m right) “Electric Flamenco” or something like that (maybe “Electronic Flamenco). Has anyone got idea what song was that and performer?… Thnx, anyway…

  5. October 5th, 2009 at 20:08 | #5

    The fact that I can REMEMBER those songs makes me feel kinda-old.

    The first single I ever bought was “Beatiful Sunday” by Daniel Boone.
    The 2nd one; “Hello-A” by Mouth & Mc Neal.
    The 3th one: “Block Buster” by The Sweet.
    And then I went on with T.Rex and Slade…

    My first LP was “Acceleration” by Middle of the Road.
    The 2nd one: “Crazy Horses” by The Osmonds,
    The 3th one” :”School’s out” by Alice Cooper…

    And we even had “Fiesta Mexicana” lying around in the house, but I can’t remember if my sister bought it, or if my mother did…

    How’s that, for similar taste?

  6. larry
    October 25th, 2009 at 09:18 | #6

    While Mouth and MacNeal had the US hit with “How Do You Do,” one of the several current pop stations in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, U.S.A. area played the Windows version in English. I actually have the single-it appeared on the Virgo label. I never saw a Windows lp.

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