Der Stand der Dinge

31 Mar
to be continued…


5 Jan
When Bear Family Records issued four volumes of their Krautrock compilations – detailed overviews of the adventurous music from 1970s West Germany – some people may have wondered what went on over in East Germany, on the other side of the Iron Curtain. So it wasn’t a big surprise when material for additional two volumes landed on our desk, focusing on the adventurous sounds in Socialist Germany from 1970 to 1982.

Every performing musician in East Germany had to pass an examination in front of an official committee before he got the chance to play or record, so there weren’t many »brilliant dilettantees« who left a lasting impression. But all those trained musicians still saw no limits in their experiments once they sensed that officials had no understanding of that »youth music thing« and that you had free reign if you didn’t directly upset them. As a result these four discs are filled with elements of blues, classical music, folk, jazz, beat and pop – sometimes all within one single song.

The booklets in these sets are filled to the brim with artist pictures, record covers, posters and other memorabilia and documents. Most of the tracks were recorded for the state radio at the legendary studios in East Berlin’s Nalepastraße. A few recordings were featured on the Amiga label’s regular compilation albums, but many of these tunes never saw an official release. The detailed liner notes give an interesting background to the artists and the changing times in East Germany’s music scene.

As an additional design element a series of illustrations depicting socialist architecture from the late 70s were used, but there was a problem – only four designs were used for East German stamps. And the compiler pointed out that it probably wasn’t wise to illustrate the biography of a band from Leipzig with a picture of Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. Good point.

So we contacted people, got hold of (long terminated) telephone numbers, friends asked other friends, and on the day before Volume 1 was supposed to go to the printer – we finally got a date. In a shady boxing club in (former) East Berlin, within spitting distance of the Soviet War Memorial, we finally met him: comrade Uwe, known as »The Finger« in art circles. And between tall tales and spy stories (»Did I tell you the one about Bono phoning me at six in the morning?«) he pulled out three more designs from the »Socialist Architecture« series from behind a broken sofa. And better still: one even showed the Funkhaus Nalepastrasse, and – just in time – made it onto the artwork of »Ost-Kraut Vol. 1«.

The two volumes of »Ost-Kraut« are now available from Bear Family or at your favourite record shop around the corner.

»Ost-Kraut! – Progressives aus den DDR-Archiven« (East Kraut! – Progressives from the GDR Archives) brings together the crème de la crème of the rock scene of the GDR and the then socialist foreign countries with recordings for AMIGA and the Deutsche Rundfunkarchiv (DRA). The two sets were stylishly compiled by journalist and East German rock connoisseur Marcus Heumann. The history of progressive rock in the GDR is vividly reflected in the accompanying books with numerous illustrations, photos and biographies of the bands and musicians.
This small series is intended to be a document of what happened off-mainstream by means of well-known tunes and some rarities from the German Broadcasting Archive that have never been released on record before.

Tales From Noise (Part 3: Watchtower)

28 Nov

Apart from the usual heavy or metal acts there were a few more intrinsic bands on the Noise Records label – the most famous of course Celtic Frost from Switzerland, who mixed opera singers, gothic concepts and glam rock with their Trash Metal sound (and who were initially signed as a laugh because the Noise boss thought their demo tape was the “the worst music I ever listened to”…).

And then there was Watchtower. In summer 1989 we were approached by label manager Birgit Nielsen to design a »metal cover that doesn’t look like a metal cover«. And no, there would be no band photo on the front – because »the boys look like Depeche Mode«.

So while the band was recording at Skytrack Studios across the street, we churned out sketches and cover dummies for an album probably to be called »Control And Resistance«.

Like these:

The final choice was a Weimar-style illustration of a tower combined with the angry dog from one of the early try-outs.

Next a big artwork was created.

1989 was the time of the multiple choice products – a new album was usually released as a vinyl pressing, a compact disc and a cassette. It was decided to show a different part of the artwork on the various formats, and the background was criticised as being »too arty«, so it was replaced by a picture of the local butcher’s cutting board. And yes, there were a couple of band photos in the end, taken in Berlin by Martin Becker.

NOISE 0140 was released in October 1989. A reissue is currently available from Cherry Red.

Observations On The Crimson King

31 Oct
King Crimson 1969
King Crimson 1971

King Crimson 1972
King Crimson 1973
King Crimson 1974
King Crimson 1980s
King Crimson 1990s
King Crimson Today…

News from DC

26 Aug
It’s real…

From the sketchbook

17 May

News from the wondering boy

30 Mar
Covers for a new 5-CD set…

Finally: The Alabama Box

5 Jan

Another BE-Sharp box of 1950s & 1960s Oddball Labels

Following The Texas Box, The Michigan Box and The Florida Box comes The Alabama Box – another fabulous collection of rare rockabilly, wild instrumentals and rockers, featuring hundreds of Alabama acts from independent labels like REED RECORDS, JUDD, LOYAL, SANDY, TUNE RECORDS and many more. The stunning hardcover book presents the original 7“ labels, information about the artists, producers and record companies, and collector’s guides (including current values) for every song.

The box includes 8 CDs in jewel-cases, jam-packed with 238 tracks, remastered from the best available sources, plus a big 12 x 12“ hardcover book with 136 pages in glorious colour.

If you’re looking for prime greasy, primitive, stompin’, rockin’ goodies – then you’ve got ten hours of the finest ahead of you!

The box is currently available from Bear Family   and JPC.







Greater American Saturday Night: Bobby Bare and Shel Silverstein Celebrated On Bear Family Box — The Second Disc

12 Aug

What do you get when you combine one of country’s most underrated outlaws and one of the 20th century’s most beloved poets? A new box set from Bear Family will answer that question across eight incredible discs. Bobby Bare Sings Shel Silverstein Plus collects more than 100 tunes the unlikely duo collaborated on during Bare’s…

via Greater American Saturday Night: Bobby Bare and Shel Silverstein Celebrated On Bear Family Box — The Second Disc


A Package From Bobby

27 Apr