SPRING 1971, GERMANY

Achim Reichel was part of The Rattles, a German pop/beat band who had a 1969 hit with “The Witch”. It’s an edgy late psychedelic single that’s worth checking out (if you like that kind of thing).

After going solo, Reichel immersed himself in exploring the magic of guitar effects, releasing a number of albums through the 1970s under the band name A.R. & Machines.

The first of these was called Die Grüne Reise (The Green Journey) and came out in (Northern Hemisphere) Spring 1971. It’s interesting stuff. Part cosmic krautrock improvisation, part avant-garde experimentation, some of which has a kind of Halloween spookiness to it. The guitar work is never less than interesting, however. Interesting enough that late last year I succumbed to the lavish boxed set covering Reichel’s complete catalogue.

Spring of 1971 was a good time for progressive rock in Germany. The first Ash Ra Tempel album appeared, featuring another talented and influential guitarist. This time it was Manuel Göttsching (who also notably appears on the Cosmic Couriers LPs). 

A copy of the original LP on the Ohr label being well beyond my means, the CD has had to suffice. Having said that, the 2011 re-issue of Ash Ra Tempel was remastered by the guitarist and sounds excellent. It’s a trippy album that, despite beginning dreamily on both sides, is not as soporifically spacey as might be imagined from the reputation Göttsching built as a pioneer of echo-laden soundscapes and long, pulsing instrumentals. Partially that is down to the contributions of Klaus Schulze on drums and synthesisers. Schulze’s early work is about as far from new age fluff as you can get. Two extended pieces, one per side, is what you get here, both offering propulsive space-jams and moments of drifting beauty.

The third release in this krautrock trilogy is the third LP by avant-rockers Amon Düül II. 

Tanz Der Lemminge (Dance of the Lemmings) shows how confident the band had become. A massive double album, it groups the pieces into suites, each with a title. The opening salvo consists of four tracks making up side one’s “Syntelman’s March Of The Roaring Seventies”, which, given it was very early in 1971 at the time of recording, demonstrates the impatience of the musicians to get on with the decade. 

Like their previous album—the storm front of Yeti—this is a big work. Like the previous year’s double LP it also includes an extended improvisation that fills side three: “The Marilyn Monroe-Memorial-Church”. Who said those chaps lacked a sense of humour? Actually, the track titles are a hoot; my favourite on Tanz is “Dehypnotized Toothpaste”. At this time Amon Düül II produced a particularly German style of psychedelic rock that is simultaneously trippy and muscular. 

A fourth from the same season of ’71 is Operation by Birthcontrol. Formed in 1968, the band made a kind of heavy prog that bears more resemblance to Spooky Tooth or early Deep Purple than to any of the bands discussed above. 

The album caused a considerable stir on release, not because of the music but due to the cover’s satirical swipe at Pope Paul VI and his vehement anti-abortion stance. Roman Catholics across Germany were outraged, or confused, or both. In Britain, hoping to avoid accusations of bad taste, they issued Operation with a different cover.

Oh dear. 

I was going to stop there, but perhaps we’ll move briskly on from that, um, artwork and drop one more Deutsche Schallplatte from March 1971 while mentioning another previously covered (like Yeti) at Vinyl Connection.

There is a tendency to shove all German indie music into the krautrock category irrespective of its style. Trips + Traume is a wonderfully trippy record of cosmic folk-rock, sung in Deutsch, that—despite the slightly alarming ‘bad trip’ cover—delivers a warm, friendly joint of lyrical and melodic music. There are lots of influences—singer-songwriter, German folk, acid folk, medieval acoustic—but it all drifts past so pleasantly you will think you understand the lyrics. 

Finally, a brief mention of Tangerine Dream’s second album, Alpha Centauri. This is a classic of early electronic music and has been lauded in these pages here.

Oddly, despite visiting the country half a dozen times and living there for a year, only two of these were actually purchased in Germany: Operation and the Witthüser and Westrupp, both from Zweitausendeins in Frankfurt. It is possible that a limited supply of Deutschmarks was to blame.

Tschüss, meine Freunde!

23 comments

  1. I’m particularly taken by that Reichel boxed set artwork.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Evoking a time and a state of mind, DD?

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      1. Probably the others are more evocative of past encounters of the fourth kind.
        The colours of the Reichel just seem right to me. Coolly sophisticated perhaps?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Nicely put. The whole package is beautifully and loving assembled. Got to love a CD box with a hardcover book. (Brings to mind that lavish box of ‘Kind of Blue’ I sprang for in a moment of madness a few years back).

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  2. chris delprete · · Reply

    Thanks again for an evocative piece of writing. That triumvirate of Amon Duul 2 records- Phallus Dei, Yeti and Danz are monstrously good and as you say quite muscular for the period and genre. Over the years I’ve secured vinyl copies of many records I couldn’t afford these days. My education came at the hands of a couple of ‘gentlemen’ who scared me into buying records at their specialty krautrock shop in Cathedral Arcade, Melbourne. I never left that shop empty handed. Can, Tangerine Dream, Jane, Amon Duul, Klaus Schulze, Cosmic Jokers…the list goes on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’re talking Pipé Records here, Chris? With Jeremy and the other guy whose name escapes me? I’m positive I’ve written about the tiny shop in the right-angle arcade, but can’t immediately recall which post.
      However this one might evoke something for you…

      OF FLEAS AND FAUST

      Liked by 1 person

  3. chris delprete · · Reply

    Pipe Imported Records, that’s the place. I was intimidated but always returned. The other gent who had my fearful respect was the guy in all leather at Batman Records.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Geoff the Biker! Yes!! Only met him (and the lovely Mel Mays) when they established Quality Records in Malvern after parting company with Mr Batman. You could always tell who was manning the stall by the pressense (or absence) of Geoff’s massive vintage Harley on the footpath.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s some lovely looking stuff, right there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The eyes have it, Aaron. 🙂

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      1. They really do, oh man, they really do.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    Oh dear. I do know a lot of these titles and projects Bruce, thanks to our good friend Anthony! The Green Journey for one, and the Ash Ra Temple. And the Amon Duul of course too. Have to be in the mood for it of course, but it’s a quirky pocket of the past to trudge through innit? Thanks for this write-up here, good stuff. Made me wonder for a moment if you were going to wax nostalgic about the spring of 71 there for a minute. Like “man those were the days kicking it in Germany back in 71!” Ha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bill, you have me bang to rights. The title was misleading in that it suggests a diary entry, an implication that only clicked when I started a companion post, “Autumn 1971, Australia”.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        Hey coming from the guy here of unlimited ambiguity with regards to titles. No bother! You got me hooked in and paid off just the same old friend!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ambiguity. Such an artistic word for ignorance. Thanks, my friend. 😎

          Liked by 1 person

          1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

            Ha ha ha! That’s the swamp in which I lurk. Has given me a bump on my back and a queer gait.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Immersion in Tom Waits can produce those symptoms too. 😉

              Liked by 1 person

            2. pinklightsabre · ·

              You know it! Lean me up against the dandelion tree

              Liked by 1 person

          2. Just to be clear, I meant my own shallowness, not yours!!

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  6. So many records so little time it seems, I have a long flight ahead of me and the box set can be streamed. Seems appropriate for a journey into quarantine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You too, eh? We’re in lockdown… again. Sigh. Extra time for listening is a good take, Neil.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. No I’m risking a trip to the Uk to see my mother. She has been quarantined for over a year now. I’ll probably get stuck in the uk.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah. That’s a tough one. My partner agonised over that one last year, in the end not taking the risk. But that was pre-vaccine. Good luck.

          Liked by 1 person

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