The Nazz – “Nazz Nazz” (1969)

December 31, 2009 at 11:13 am (Music, Reviews & Articles, Todd Rundgren)

A PopMatters review from the early 2000s, by Jason Thompson, concerning Todd Rundgren’s first major band… 

 

The early years of Todd Rundgren’s career were no less inconspicuous than everything else he’s done down through the years. As a guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist for Philadelphia’s Nazz, Rundgren cut his chops on both sides of the studio glass, whipping out ferocious rockers while at the same time mastering the machines that recorded his band’s work. And while the Nazz set themselves up as superstars from the beginning, they never actually achieved nationwide success.

Their first LP Nazz spawned the semi-hits “Open My Eyes” and “Hello, It’s Me”, a tune that would be come Todd’s signature piece after he re-recorded it for his Something/Anything? solo masterpiece. The group’s second release Nazz Nazz has been derided by some rock guides as being too stuck in the psychedelia of 1967 (the album was released in 1969). However, it’s a great mix of all sorts of styles and ultimately the best of the Nazz trilogy. Nazz III was actually the second half of Nazz Nazz, but at the time the rest of the group outvoted Rundgren who wanted to release a double album. That’s quite all right, as the bulk of III leaves a lot to be desired.

Nazz consisted of Rundgren on guitars, Carson Van Osten on bass, Thom Mooney on drums, and Stewkey Antoni on vocals and keyboards. Stewkey’s vocals weren’t always the strongest, but on this second album he actually put forth some real feeling behind the tunes, giving them the punch they needed. By this time, Todd had taught himself how to read music, so his songs were even more dynamic and complex. Thom Mooney always sounded as if he wanted to be Keith Moon with a little more restraint, and Carson Van Osten was a more than capable bassist.

Nazz Nazz kicks off with the furious “Forget All About It,” an absolutely breathtaking rock-fest complete with great harmony vocals and a scorching guitar solo by Todd. In the middle of the song, the band offers some advice to its audience. “If you haven’t got time to rest / Then take the record off now!”. It’s as if they were demanding full attention to their record and didn’t want their fans to just dance to it. They needn’t have worried. “Forget All About It” is the farthest thing away from a pop dance tune.

“Not Wrong Long” contains some searing organ work, and some venomous lyrics. “I can see by the look in your eyes / You may be wrong / But you’re tellin’ lies”. A bit of an egotistical title wrapped around a 20/20 hindsight breakup tune. “I may be wrong / But I’m not wrong long”. Terrific. The punch of this song is somewhat undermined by the unintentionally silly “Rain Rider.” “Some men sail the waters / Some men live on the land / I was born Apollo / With the reins in the grip of my hand.” Goofy. However, Todd saves the day a bit by singing the lines of the bridge, but all seems lost again when that chorus kicks in with the “Ride my chariot, baby!” getting lodged in the brain stem for a long time after.

“Gonna Cry Today” is one of Todd’s best and earliest heartbreak tunes. “You know as long as I can remember / Nobody ever / Got anybody back this way / But it sure doesn’t look like it makes a difference now / So I’m gonna cry today”. Again, an organ is used to great effect here, and Stewkey’s singing with Todd on backup is near perfect. This is great, because Stewkey most often had the most difficulty on the Nazz’s slower tunes. Here, “Gonna Cry Today” fits him like a glove.

From there, Todd dives into his own take on Sgt. Peppers and Magical Mystery Tour in under four minutes on “Meridian Leeward,” a song about a pig who is changed into a human. “I’m a human being now, but I used to be a pig / Till they shortened off my snout / And they made me wear a wig.” It’s whimsical and fun, with plenty of phased and flanged instruments popping in and out of the mix. And of course, they just had to take a swipe at cops. “You look like a cop / But you know you’re a pig”. Perhaps that joke was actually fresh back in 1968. In relation to the civil unrest the nation was going through at the time, it makes a bit more sense.

“Under the Ice” is Nazz Nazz‘s second hard rock tune. Another should have been hit with a guitar hook that sounds as familiar as your mom calling your name, “Under the Ice” is pure rock and roll. Harmony vocals add to the tense mix, and Thom’s drumming seems to want to topple the whole song over. If he ever sound like Moon the Loon, it’s right here in this tune. After that, is the British pop of “Hang on Paul” (written about Paul Fishkin, the manager of Woody’s Truck Stop, which had been Todd and Carson’s first band). The band put a strange warble throughout the tune on purpose, making it sound as if it was warped. It truly was in spirit, if nothing else.

Todd sings the entire rock-blues workout “Kiddie Boy.” Even at this point, his voice was strong and easily the better over Stewkey’s. “Kiddie Boy” features some ragtag horns and a great bunch of killer guitar lines from Todd. And the guitar just keeps getting better on the slinky “Featherbedding Lover.” “Ain’t it nice / To have somebody waitin’ at home.” The song may just as well have been called “Mattress Back,” but I doubt it would have been recorded if it was. Todd’s guitar work throughout sounds downright Hendrixian, especially at the solo. Good and meaty rock.

“Letters Don’t Count” opens with wine glasses being played. This is another great slow song that Stewkey handles effortlessly. It sounds just as new and fresh today as it probably did then. Though a bit wordy at times, “Letters Don’t Count” is a great song, filled with harmony vocals and pretty acoustic guitar by Todd. But forget all about that, and listen to the 11 minute-15 second fury of “A Beautiful Song,” which splits into various styles. Opening with more incredible guitar, and a horn section that sounds like early Chicago when they were actually interesting, “A Beautiful Song” continues its mutations and puts the cap on Nazz Nazz and sends it soundly to bed.

As I said before, this is the best album the Nazz released. Its variety of styles, great slow songs, and fantastic guitar work by Rundgren make it a must have for any Todd fan. The rest of the world will no doubt continue to not really know who the Nazz was, and probably won’t care. So be it. Nazz Nazz is one killer rock record from the late ’60s that still holds its own more than 30 years later. And that’s nothing to sneeze at. 

Jason Thompson

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Midnight Oil – “Scream in Blue: Live” (1992)

December 31, 2009 at 8:20 am (David Fricke, Music, Reviews & Articles)

July 1992 Rolling Stone review by longtime Oil champion David Fricke…

 

Never mind the Puget Sound, this is real guitar nirvana: crisp, catalytic agit-twang, pregnant with steely menace, shivering with skittish vibrato and erupting in enraged screams of ice-pick feedback. Midnight Oil is well known for its eco-political agenda, but Scream in Blue – culled from live performances dating back as far as 1982 – is the first Oils album devoted to the band’s sheer, stampeding force.

Eschewing greatest hits (“Beds Are Burning” excepted) for enduring show-time fireballs like “Sometimes,” from Diesel and Dust, and the prophetic “Powderworks,” from their 1978 debut album, the Oils damn the popcraft and turn up the rage. Vocalist Peter Garrett, a daunting presence even in sensitive-ballad gear, has to fight hard to ride the tide of the band’s Live at Leeds-ish attack, in particular the vigorous dogfighting guitars of Jim Moginie and Martin Rotsey. He barely gets a breath in edgewise amid the torrent of flinty power chords, Rob Hirst’s mulekick drumming and the brassy choral hurrahs in “Read About It.” “Only the Strong,” recorded at a 1982 show in Sydney during the band’s first flush of super-stardom in Australia, is an archetypal Oils stage raver, spiked with stop-start rhythms and spooky a cappella harmony breaks, while Moginie’s and Rotsey’s guitars echo Garrett’s vocal psychodrama with their own saw-toothed howls of indignation.

The orange-flame incandescence of these performances will be nothing new to anyone who’s been torched firsthand at an Oils gig. Recent converts swung over by the more refined agitation on Diesel and Dust and Blue Sky Mining may be taken aback by the clatter of the damn-near-atonal opening title track and the desperate hammering of “Progress” (recorded at the infamous 1990 lunchtime protest show at the foot of Exxon’s Manhattan HQ), but they’ll get over it. The noise is contagious, and the sense of purpose coursing through it has its own locomotive tug. The album actually ends with an unlisted, acoustic studio reprise of “Burnie,” from the 1981 LP Place Without a Postcard, but don’t be fooled by the throaty introspection in Garrett’s singing. The theme, as always, is No Surrender, the only difference is in the volume. 

David Fricke

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Serge Gainsbourg – “Histoire de Melody Nelson” (1971)

December 30, 2009 at 9:34 pm (Music, Reviews & Articles)

PopMatters review, by D.M. Edwards (May 15, 2009) of France’s infamous Serge Gainsbourg and his extremely controversial but classic 1971 concept album. A perfect 10-star rating…

 

Spirit of Ecstasy!  

Serge Gainsbourg was born in France to Russian parents. His classic album Histoire De Melody Nelson is an ode to the lure of virgin beauty, similar in focus to a work of another Russian, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. The record made little waves at the time of its original 1971 release, but fulfilled a creative promise Gainsbourg had made to Jane Birkin.

Gainsbourg’s reputation as pop music agent provocateur and effortless womanizer will be familiar to anyone who has heard any of his classic singles such as “Je t’aime,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” and “Soixant’neuf année érotique.” He and Birkin met on the set of the movie Slogan and initially didn’t hit it off. Gainsbourg was fresh from a break-up with Brigitte Bardot. Birkin, playing the role for which he had recommended another, detested what she thought was his sarcastic arrogance. After a frank meeting, a slight thaw began but her feelings did not turn toward affection until he asked her to dance and trod all over her feet. She realized that he wasn’t Mr. Cool but was actually shy and humorous. The story goes that they booked into his usual hotel room but he fell asleep and she slipped out, bought the 45 record they’d been dancing to, and left it between his upturned toes. Whether two tracks from Histoire De Melody Nelson (“Valse de Melody” and “Le Hotel Particular”) reference that particular incident, only Gainsbourg will know for sure. What is clear is that Gainsbourg promised Birkin this music and apparently pondered for two years before writing it in eight days.

There are several factors which together make this an album of extraordinarily masterful music. The use of some legendary UK session musicians is one integral piece. We all know the term “legend” is overused, and to some extent Vic Flick, Big Jim Sullivan, and Herbie Flowers remain invisible heroes. So, from their vast credits let’s consider just a few examples. As a member of the John Barry Seven (along with Melody Nelson drummer Douglas Wright) Flick’s guitar dominates the original James Bond theme. Similarly, it isn’t a stretch to say that Herbie Flowers’ bass playing makes Lou Reed’s “Walk On the Wild Side” and Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” Big Jim Sullivan played rhythm guitar on literally thousands of hit records, everything from the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” to Marianne Faithful’s “As Tears Go By” and still found time to give guitar lessons to Jimmy Page and Steve Howe. These are the guys who could play whatever was required, with no fuss or ego, and their individual skill and collaborative inspiration gives Histoire de Melody Nelson a safety net of total conviction.

But there’s more going on here than super-tight musicianship. There is the significant matter of the orchestral and choral elements, superbly and sparingly placed for stunning contrast and power. The man responsible, Jean-Claude Vannier, arranged much of Serge Gainsbourg’s music and also to be highly recommended is his own release L’Enfant Assassin des Mouches from these same sessions: a wordless psychedelic masterpiece inspired by something Gainsbourg wrote about a child killing flies. In 2006, Vannier and the session boys re-collaborated on several performances of Histoire de Melody Nelson with vocal help from Jarvis Cocker, Laetitia Sadler, and others.

Serge Gainsbourg was the missing ingredient in the recent concert performances, and without him all the arrangements and superb playing on this album would be for naught. His vocals on Melody Nelson evoke feverish, brooding lechery, but are also adroit and romantic. In short: this is the most consistently convincing work of his life, conveying fluctuating moods against a breadth of style with outbreaks of fuzz guitar, one or two bars of blues piano, briefly sweeping strings, light-headed pop bliss, funky eroticism, and a sense of impending doom.

Two extraordinary seven-minute tracks open and close the record. In a sense they are mirror images, but whereas “Melody” sets a mood of sexual obsession to suitably lustful groove, “Culte Cargo” is somehow mournful and haunted, with Gainsbourg sounding as if he’s condemned to be a worshipful slave to the rhythm of the memory of Melody. Both pieces are as close as we’ll ever get to hearing “Serge Runs the Voodoo Down” and together they make up half the album’s 28-minute running time. That might seem short change by today’s overextended standards, whereby artists with little to say nevertheless take 78 minutes to do so. But since this is the story of a brief unforgettable encounter, the economy is a perfect fit and I’m hard pushed to think of a half hour of more consistently thrilling listening. The tale itself is of life-changing accidents, “the spirit of ecstasy” and the joy and mental turmoil of love. Jane Birkin is on the cover dressed only in blue jeans holding a cuddly toy she would later place in Gainsbourg’s coffin; it makes my back ache just watching her dance in the accompanying videos. When her underrated voice occasionally punctuates the music, it conveys freshness and innocence as only she can. She responds perfectly to Gainsbourg’s questioning calls and her brief giggles and squeals are almost as perfect as the “Owwws!” on many a James Brown cut!

This is a first US release of Histoire de Melody Nelson, re-mastered from the original tapes, complete with a 40-page booklet containing an interview with Serge Gainsbourg and lyric translations. This is genre-defying music, but anyone with an interest in hearing a blueprint for trip hop or a master class in the depiction of desire in pop music, should be sure to listen to this mysterious, timeless, contradictory album. Je t’aime …me neither.

 D.M. Edwards

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President Obama’s Weekly Address (Dec. 24, 2009)

December 27, 2009 at 5:41 pm (Life & Politics)

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Kent Eskildsen – “Tangerine Dream: 30 Years of Dreaming” (1999)

December 26, 2009 at 1:18 am (Krautrock, Music, Reviews & Articles, Tangerine Dream)

30 Years of Dreaming was a small book put out in 1999 by Danish musician and TD fan Kent Eskildsen. It was then translated into English…


Tangerine Dream have had a very big influence on me personally and one of the major reasons why I myself started out on a journey as a musician and composer of instrumental music with synthesizers and other electronic instruments.

Some of the best listening experiences I have had are to the music of Tangerine Dream. Even though I find that too much music has been put out in the name of Tangerine Dream, it is always their music I return to.

I think my first encounter with Tangerine Dream was when I saw a concert broadcast on Swedish television sometime in the middle of the seventies. It was the Coventry Cathedral concert with music from the live album, Ricochet. I remember watching the concert on a small black and white television screen late at night, but even so, I was totally overwhelmed by that cosmic music and those strange motionless and silent musicians behind their electronic instruments. A very “far-out-in-an-alien-space” feeling, that I had never experienced before in music.

The first album I bought was Stratosfear, and I think that it is the one album that has taken the most rounds on my turntable. The vinyl record is totally worn out and the treble is something you’ll have to imagine…

When I have chosen to spend a lot of time and energy on writing the story of Tangerine Dream – first in Danish and now in English – it is first of all for my own satisfaction; I have tried to make an overview of the band’s very long and extensive career, which I didn’t seem to find anywhere else in print.

This book should be seen as my personal understanding of the Tangerine Dream universe and their musical development. Even though I have tried to be as accurate as it has been possible for me, I will not claim to be 100% historically correct. It has been quite difficult too, since some of my sources seem to have different opinions on dates and so on. Also I am not English, so the language may not be absolute correct.

Even though Tangerine Dream have sold a lot of albums through the last 30 years (more than 7 million copies I am told!), often been high on sales lists and charts and been nominated for several Grammy Awards, the record companies have never had any big commercial interests in the band – Tangerine Dream have always focused on the music as opposed to focusing on the musicians in the band. This, of course, fits badly into the world of the idolised music business.

But despite all of this, Tangerine Dream have had a considerable influence and have always had an enthusiastic and loyal audience. Tangerine Dream have been pioneers – both in a musical sense, as they have led the way for techno, ambient, dance and whatever it’s called nowadays, but they have also played a major part in developing new instruments and improving different aspects of sound production as well. Pioneering work, which we all – and especially the music business – benefit from today and therefore, Tangerine Dream, deserve a higher degree of recognition than is the case.

Not very many people seem to know the story of Tangerine Dream – so here is an attempt to make up for that.

This is a beginner´s guide to the world of Tangerine Dream.

Kent Eskildsen – 1999



The history of Tangerine Dream starts with Edgar Froese, who since the end of the sixties has been and still is the leader of this band which has been a major exponent of electronic music and the development of electronic instruments.

Edgar Froese was born on 6th June 1944 in a small village called Tilsit (it has now changed its name to Sovjetsk) on the border of Lithuania, near the Baltic Sea. His home was influenced by traditional classical music and it has obviously left its mark on the young Edgar. He had a few piano lessons, but very quickly, Edgar Froese lost interest in the piano, and began to study art in Berlin. He was, first of all, working with painting and sculpturing. He managed five years at art school and Edgar got acquainted with the very active art environment in Berlin.

He became more and more attracted to music as means of expressing oneself and started playing the guitar. It was especially the English rock and pop music and bands like the Rolling Stones, which made the biggest impression:

Froese: “I was first of all attracted to their looks. Their faces were absolutely damaged. They were the absolute opposite of the Beatles!” (Cyclone Tour Program 1978 / Tangents).

Edgar Froese started his professional career in the music business in 1965, when he – inspired by British rock`n’roll – joined the band called The Ones. It was a traditional rock band with guitar, bass, drums, organ and vocals. The songs were mostly coverversions of big international hits made by foreign stars. The band played in small cafés and clubs, where 6-7 hours on stage was not unusual. They performed a lot in Berlin, but without gaining any big commercial success. The Ones managed to record a single in 1967, which included the tracks “Lady Greengrass” and “Love of Mine.”

In the summer of 1966, Edgar Froese was on a trip with a friend – a painter – to Cadaques near Barcelona in Spain. Here he met the surrealist painter, Salvador Dali, who made a serious impression on Edgar Froese. Froese learned the ways of surrealistic thinking and he developed the idea that he would try to make acoustic pictures – images of sound.

When Froese later came back to Berlin, he became very absorbed in avant-garde composers like Cage, Ligeti, Xenakis, Stockhausen and other experimenting artists. It was especially these composers’ type of music that helped show the way for the young art student.

Edgar Froese returned to Spain the following year together with The Ones. They played a few times at Salvador Dali`s villa and participated in a TV-film about the famous and eccentric painter. The Ones also made about an hour of music that was used at one of Dali`s exhibitions. Later that year, they worked hard for about 4 months at Johnny Halliday`s club in Paris.

Froese: “We played soul numbers. We used to do “Midnight Hour” three times a night – It was the best number we had!”(Tangerine Dream ´70 – ´80)

But the fame and the big money never came, and the group began to fall apart. Suddenly they were without a drummer and finally The Ones split up.

In his mind Edgar Froese had gradually drawn a clear picture of which musical direction he wanted to move towards, and finally in September 1967 he formed the band called Tangerine Dream. He teamed up with Volker Hombach (flute, harp and violin), Kurt Herkenberg (bass), Lanse Hapshash (drums), Charlie Prince from the Ones (vocal). Froese played the guitar.

Many sources claim that the name, Tangerine Dream, might originate from the album, Sgt. Pepper by the Beatles, where a passage of the song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” said something about “tangerine trees.” I do not think that is true, but in 1967 the words Tangerine Dream pop up in titles and songs by other bands; a song called “Jelly Jungle” by The Lemon Pipers and the album title Tangerine Dream by the band “Kaleidoscope.” The founder of Kaleidoscope, Peter Daltrey, has some thought about this title:

Peter Daltrey: “I really can’t remember where I got the name for our first album. It just came to me out of the Sixties consciousness; the colours, the dream of the time, the lyrics of other songs, the style of writing at that time but mighty weird that we should come up with the same combination of two words as someone else in the world at that exact time!” (Private letter to Joe Shoult – Jan. 1999)

It has even been suggested that Tangerine Dream could be the name of some kind of drug like the acid called “Orange.”

We are after all in the age of psychedelia.

A coincidence? Perhaps, but only a few people know the real answer and Edgar Froese will certainly not reveal it! He completely denies all of this; he says that it is an acronym, but will not reveal the meaning of the name “Tangerine Dream” and he refuses to explain the meaning of the band´s name any further.

The end of the sixties was ready for a change and ready to take a new musical direction. The revolt among the students at universities was slowly beginning to take form – especially in Berlin – and the music reflected the rebellion against conventions. Music should have a much more free form, be unpredictable and contain a lot of improvisation. Traditional songs were seen as bourgeois.

Franke: “Berlin was destroyed during the war, but afterwards we have with the Marshall-help got the culture financed – with the typical German hope. Berlin then began to be the melting point. It was the city, which was terribly destroyed and you can still see the scars from the war. There was nothing beautiful in this city that could satisfy the citizens. They could only concentrate on art.” (Tangenten No. 2 – 1992)

It was a vigorous and rapidly growing environment/milieu. Experimentation was the standard rather than the exception in music and other art forms, but also in the ways people were living together. The hippie-movement was an expression of this and it reached its climax with “The Summer of Love” in 1968. People experimented with different kinds of drugs, meditation, foreign religions etc.

The element holding everything together was music. The psychedelic wave quickly gained a lot of supporters, more and more bands began using lights and other visual effects on stage. Out of this melting pot, a lot of pioneering German bands emerged. Bands like Amon Düül, Can, Ashra Temple, Agitation Free and Organisation (which later turned into Kraftwerk).

Everybody played a very free kind of music with traditional instruments, but began to use them in new ways. The electric amplification in itself meant new opportunities for creating new sounds. Effects like echo, delay, phaser and flanger were added and the key words were improvisation, sound and feeling rather than melody and structure.

In Berlin, Hans Roedelius (from Cluster) and Conrad Schnitzler – who later became one of the most important catalysis for the new experimental music in Germany – created the club, Zodiak. This club was host to a lot of different experiments with music, light and sound. It was decorated in the spirit of its time with one completely black room and one white. Another one of the “in” places in Berlin was the club, Quasimodo.

Tangerine Dream often played their improvised music at these places. Sometimes they became “events” which lasted about 5-6 hours, it was very loud and the band was known for starting out with Pink Floyd´s “Interstellar Overdrive” and improvised from there to unknown heights (?).

The band was not very stable in the early years and during the following years Tangerine Dream actually had three different crews and a lot of guest musicians passing in and out of the band.

In November 1969, Edgar Froese teamed up with Conrad Schnitzler (cello, violin and flute) and Klaus Schulze (drums), who had been studying and playing classic guitar at a younger age, but then turned to the drums in the band called Psy Free.

This collaboration lead to a lot of experimentation with sound effects and tape recorders apart from the use of more conventional and normal instruments. They used whatever would generate any kind of sound.

The group rented an old factory building and started recording on an old 2-track Revox tape recorder. A demo tape came out of this, and it was handed over to Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser, who had just founded his record company – Ohr Records. Kaiser was extremely enthusiastic about their music and offered to make an album with Tangerine Dream on the condition that they accepted his suggestion for a title and what the cover should look like. Of course, Tangerine Dream went along with this offer even though the title, Electronic Meditation, is rather misleading; not a single real electronic instrument is used on this album!

Klaus Schulze: “We recorded and toured Electronic Meditation. That for me is the primary electronic album. Edgar played the guitar, Schnitzler the organ and I the drums through loads of effects. We were making up our own sounds. I remember Conrad had this metal cup full of these bits of glass in which he stuck a microphone attached to each machine. I played a lot of different percussive sounds that where then altered by machines. It was just great to be in a band who where open to so much experimentation.” (Interview with Mark Pendergast – December 1994 / Tangents)

Tangerine Dream’s first album, Electronic Meditation, then came out in 1970. In music (?) and sound it describes (maybe?) the journey of a brain through different states of mind from birth to death.

It was not a big commercial success, but with one album out, it meant that Tangerine Dream got more jobs as a live act.

Shortly before Electronic Meditation appeared in the stores, Klaus Schulze left the band to join Ash Ra Temple and later he sat out on his own vast solo-career. He was replaced by a young guy, who had the reputation of being one of Germany’s best avant-garde jazz drummers. His name was Christopher Franke, born in April 1952. Franke had been studying at the Strasbourg Percussion Ensemble. At that time, he was very absorbed in the relationship between music and theatre. Christopher Franke or more often just called Chris Franke, played in the band Agitation Free in which the keyboard player Michael Hoenig also played. Agitation Free had its base in Berlin and it was also here that Christopher Franke met Edgar Froese.

Chris Franke saw them for the first time in a studio for experimental music: “They were making experiments with instruments and also with visuals, pictures and exhibitions” (Cyclone Tour Program 1978 / Tangents)

Conrad Schnitzler, who since his days in Tangerine Dream has been very well recognised on the experimenting German music scene was later the same year replaced by Steve Schroyder, who played the organ.

Among other strange things, this new trio gave a concert in Kapfenberg in Austria. The concert was recorded for television and about 1,000 people watched and heard the concert where 6 amplified pinball machines (?) formed the basis of Tangerine Dream’s improvisations…

Together with two guest musicians, Roland Paulyck and Udo Dennebourg this new Tangerine Dream constellation made the album, Alpha Centauri. It was recorded at Dieter Dierk´s studio in Cologne. The standard of the album was very high of that time, and among other things, it had an eight-track multi-track recorder. The album, which was named after one of the nearest stars in our galaxy, came out on the label Ohr and turned out to be a little bit more successful than the previous album, Electronic Meditation. Besides Germany, it was also launched in France, USA and Japan.

The music was – as the title might imply – much more cosmic than their first release. This time, the music was about a space flight and the very calm and floating sounds should illustrate the vastness of space. It was still a very searching kind of music, but nothing near to the totally improvised music of Electronic Meditation. This time though, among the more traditional instruments, a real electronic instrument appeared on the album – a VCS 3 synthesizer! Other sound sources were used, as the coffee machine that Edgar Froese was given credit for on the cover…

In February 1971, Steve Schroyder left the band and once again, Tangerine Dream were on the lookout for a new band member. They finally decided on Peter Baumann, born in 1953. He had made a name of himself as an amateur musician in Berlin with the band Burning Touch, in which he mostly played the more traditional music. Baumann was in every way a self-taught person and had taught himself to play the organ.

With Froese, Franke and Baumann the most stable constellation of Tangerine Dream was a fact – at least according to the production of albums and putting out music.

Zeit

“Largo In four movements”

In 1972, the double album, Zeit, came out, and this can be said to be Tangerine Dream’s longest step away from rock-orientated music. It has been called the longest Largo in the world (76 minutes) and in four movements, the album is also completely free of any rhythms and senses of pulse. Carpets of sound moving slowly in and out between each other sound colours changing all the time.

As guest musicians there were four cellists, Steve Schroeder on the organ and Florian Fricke from the band, Popol Vuh. Fricke was supposedly invited because he was one of the first people in Germany who had a big modular Moog synthesizer…

The music was also marked by another instrument, the Mellotron, which was an early kind of sampler that could play small tape loops with pre-recorded sounds. It was especially acknowledged for its very good strings and woodwinds, but it was a very difficult instrument to play and at first classical musicians were afraid that the Mellotron would eventually replace them:

Froese: “We put our headsets on one ear and then we were listening to the tone of the Mellotron while already started playing our stuff. Then by listening to the 440 Hz out of the oscillator, we were tuning the Mellotron against it. So it was the only way of doing it, and that had to be done about ten times during the gig of two and a half hour. Looking back to those days, that sort of adventurous fear, not knowing if you will overcome a good, a bad concert, out of tune concert, or whatever. Today everything, it’s much better tuned, it’s nearly perfect, but it’s not having a wild ride through the jungle any more.” (BBC Radio 2 – December 17th 1997)

Froese: “A couple of hours prior to the start of the gig [Albert Hall ’75], someone came along and said “They [the Musicians’ Union] are asking for a couple of thousand pounds, for you’re using an orchestra. You are not using THEM, you are using your bloody keys, here. THAT’s an orchestra”. So there was a bit of a fight going on backstage and so we had to pay something, that night.” (BBC Radio 2 – December 17th 1997)

Tangerine Dream were now seriously beginning to create the electronic sound that would be the band’s trademark, and on 25th November 1972, Tangerine Dream gave their first concert with electronic instruments only. It took place at the broadcasting studio of WDR in Cologne and lasted for about 50 minutes.

It was almost a paradox though that Tangerine Dream almost at the same time put out a single called “Utima Thula Part I-II.” With their use of guitar, bass, drums and keyboards it must have been the closest they have ever been to traditional rock. This says something about how the band was searching in different directions and rather limitless at the time.

Even if the single does not resemble their first albums it is quite important since it most certainly reflects rather well how bands like Tangerine Dream, and others with the same attitude to music, sounded when they performed their free kind of rock music in the late sixties and in the early seventies.

Atem

In December 1972, Tangerine Dream recorded what was to become the album, Atem. This time it was done without any help from guest musicians. The result was released at the beginning of 1973.

The music still had this “cosmic” atmosphere, but with a lot more dynamics and structure. Especially the vocal (!) track, “Wahn,” stands out – even today. It sounds something like “Stockhausen meets Pink Floyd”…

The now deceased American, John Schaefer, who was a very active and passionate spokesman for every kind of new music, wrote about this phase in Tangerine Dream´s career:

“Here were three young German rock musicians (Klaus Schulze briefly among them) playing music that sounded as bizarre and self-indulgent to pop listeners as Eminent or Stockhausen sounded to much of the traditional classical audience. Often without any recognisable melodies or harmonies, the early Tangerine Dream recordings, such as the two-record set Zeit (Time), took the listener on a flight through a chemical wonderland. Spaced, occasionally abrasive, at times completely adrift from conventional musical forms…”(New Sounds – John Schaefer, 1987, Virgin)

Edgar Froese: “Atem was the beginning of an adventure. For the next few years, we were constantly improving and experimenting and, although it wasn’t perfect – we didn’t always make great music – it was a period which brought me richer experiences than any other” (Melody Maker – 8th October 1994)

Atem was the last album Tangerine Dream made with Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser for the record company Ohr. As it often happens in the music business, disagreements between the artists and the record company evolved. They parted, but only after a lawsuit, and Froese, Franke and Baumann were now looking for a new recording label.

Before the final break, Tangerine Dream played at a remarkable concert arranged by a magazine in Paris. Among others Tangerine Dream were playing together with Ash Ra Temple, Kraftwerk and Klaus Schulze, who have all gained a lot of recognition and almost cult-like status in their genre through the years.

With Atem, Tangerine Dream got some success abroad for the first time, when the English DJ, John Peel, chose Atem as The best album of the year! He often played it on his radio program and was thereby contributing to making Tangerine Dream popular in England.

It was especially the English who opened their eyes to that special kind of progressive rock music, which came from West Germany. The psychedelic wave – with Pink Floyd in front – had cleared the way for a new way of thinking in music.

There was a strong underground scene, which had also revealed itself as having a big commercial potential. As is well known, Mike Oldfield´s Tubular Bells was a very big success even though it was considered a strange album at the time with no traditional vocals or drums. The enormous success of Tubular Bells was forming the financial basis for this little new record company called Virgin Records. A record company, with the eccentric adventurer, Richard Branson, in the forefront, which has now evolved into becoming one of the world’s biggest multimedia companies and now also an airline company.

It was also Virgin Records who promoted Tangerine Dream on a global level for many years and – to some degree – still do.

Legend has it that “on sunny afternoon in August 1973, Richard Branson and Edgar Froese sat on the small wooden stairs in the hallway of Virgin Records store in Nottinghill Gate, London. Both were negotiating the first deal for Tangerine Dream in England. Branson only had a small office above the store. As they agreed upon the main points, Branson pulled out a demo cassette from a certain Oldfield, which he´d received. They gave the pre-prehistoric version of Tubular Bells a listenand the rest is history.” (TDIFC Newsletter # 13 Marts 1991)

Well, anyway it`s a good story.

Green Desert

In the summer of 1973, Peter Baumann took a longer journey to Kathmandu in Nepal and India, among other places. Froese and Franke were not restrained by that fact but took the opportunity to record some pieces at the Skyline Studio in Berlin.

The music which was to become Green Desert – was also made as a sort of demo to show their future record company what they could do. The music was still based on rock instruments like organ, drums and guitar, but it also introduced the sequencer, which was to become the trademark of Tangerine Dream.

There was enough material for a new album, but since Baumann had not been in on the recordings, they agreed to put them aside for a while.

I was not put out until 1986 – and only after Edgar Froese had recorded new voices in 1984, re-recorded some of the music and re-mixed all of it. In 1986 it was finally included in a box with six LPs called “In the beginning.” This box was released to mark the first well almost – 10 years of Tangerine Dream as a band.

Due to the very long time under way, it is therefore not exclusively the original material that can be found on the album, Green Desert.

The cover shown on this page is from the re-mastered Castle Communications version from 1996. The original cover from 1986 shows a deserted landscape with two large rocks in the foreground.

With the ears of today it sounds a little bit static and slow. It does not seem to reach the same intensity as the other albums from the seventies, but it has its good parts too; it is a little bit more melodic than the previous albums. Even Edgar Froese’s very lyrical and melodic way of playing the guitar gets a lot of free space to evolve during the 19 minutes of the title track.

Chris Franke makes vivid use of his drums and seems to improvise all the way through the album. This was, however, the last time he made that extensive use of a real drumkit on a Tangerine Dream record; legend has it that he sold his drums soon after these sessions.

Phaedra

When Baumann returned from his trip to Asia, Tangerine Dream were playing their latest demos for Virgin, and the record company, Virgin Records – owned by Richard Branson, signed a five year world-wide contract with the group. It was a contract that would later be extended to a total of ten golden years on Virgin. A new album went straight into the making, and at the end of 1973, Tangerine Dream left for England and Virgin’s recording studio – The Manor Studio in Oxfordshire. The production, which would be released as Phaedra, began on 20th November and lasted for about three weeks.

Tangerine Dream had received an advance from the forthcoming album sale and the money was straight away invested in a big Moog Modular synthesizer – one of the big monsters you often see the musicians pictured in front of.

The instruments, and the technologies as a whole, created a lot of problems while the recordings took place and almost everything went wrong. It would often take several hours just to get the instruments in tune and make a usable sound. On those first electronic machines there was nothing like memory to save the sound, the tuning and other parameters from session to session.

Edgar Froese: “We worked each day from 11 o’clock in the morning to 2 o’clock at night. By the eleventh day we barely had 6.5 minutes of music on tape. Technically everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The tape machine broke down, there were repeated mixing console failures and the speakers were damaged because of the unusually low frequencies of the bass notes. After 12 days of this we were completely knacked.”

“Fortunately, after a two-day break in the countryside a new start brought a breakthrough. “Mysterious Semblance” was recorded on 4th December, Peter and Chris were asleep after a long recording session, so I invited my wife Monique into the studio. I called in the studio engineer and recorded it in one take on a double-keyboard Mellotron while Monique turned the knobs on the phasing device. The piece is on the record exactly as it was recorded that day. And this practice was due to continue for the rest of the session.”

“For example, on the title track, Chris pressed the button to start the bubbling bass note. Unfortunately the bass pattern didn’t work the way it should have – after a few seconds, as you can hear on the album, the note drops in but out of tune. Chris then started tuning the bass sequence while running it. What he didn’t know was that I had told the engineer to press the recording button whenever music or some sounds could be heard. So what you hear in the beginning of Phaedra is a rehearsal! Even when I started playing the melody line, it was just a try – no one thought it would go on the record.” (Interview with Mark Pendergast – January 1994/ Tangents)

Even if almost no one knew about Tangerine Dream in England, Phaedra quickly became very popular: The band had not given any interviews to the music press and besides John Peel’s shows, nobody played their music on the radio. But Phaedra nevertheless managed to slip into Melody Maker‘s album-list and gained a high ranking. Later on, it received gold in several countries!

So this third release, Phaedra, from the trio Froese, Franke and Baumann, in many ways became a turning point in their careers.

Shortly after the recording of Phaedra, Edgar Froese began to work on his first solo-project – Aqua. This album was recorded between November 1973 and March 1974 and it was released on both Brain and Virgin Records by the end of 1974.

On Aqua, Edgar Froese did some experiments with artificial stereo as one of the pioneers in this field of recording; two microphones were put inside the ears of an artificial head and were supposed to hear – and record – as a human being would hear things. One side of the album is recorded with this new technique, which should help improve the stereo image and make a more realistic 3D-sound.

Froese was not completely alone on Aqua; Chris Franke made some of the sounds on a Moog synthesizer, which was an instrument he was beginning to master quite competently.

Chris Franke had spend hours and hours trying to figure out how this vast machine worked and along the way he discovered how it could be used to create different rhythm patterns sequences which was his trademark.

Oedipus Tyrannus

In April 1974, Tangerine Dream explained about their ways of working and the philosophy behind their music making in an interview. The interview was made by the English journalist, Karl Dallas, who later turned into being one of the group’s most regular critics regarding concert and album reviews.

Baumann: “It’s real teamwork. We get into the feeling of the situation and we start to choose the instruments and the special parts from harmony up to rhythm up to the colour of the sound to get close to the situation. When we’re in the right surroundings we can put more of ourselves into the music and thus have more feeling. And the equipment helps.”(Melody Maker – April 1974)

In the interview they told more about those first years with experimenting rock and how the electronic instruments helped breathe new life into the band. They had become very tired of playing loud rock music and everything was getting out of hand when Chris Franke sold his drums. They felt that they had to start from scratch with a simple tone and then re-discover sound and music from there – making new real sounds and not just imitate existing sounds.

Tangerine Dream’s next project was to make music for a theatreshow called Oedipus Tyrannus. This performance was produced by the English actor, Keith Michell, who was very fascinated by the cosmic sound of Phaedra.
The soundtrack was recorded at the CBS-studios in June and it was re-recorded at Virgin’s Manor studio in a version meant for release. But Tangerine Dream were not at all satisfied with the result, and hence the music was never released.

Some of the music was nevertheless released; some pieces from Oedipus Tyrannus were “recycled” on the later live album, Encore. In different places on the track “Desert Dream” the music from Oedipus Tyrannus seem to be put in between bits of live recordings from 1977.

While Tangerine Dream were working on Oedipus Tyrannus, the success of Phaedra was paving the way for a longer tour of some 20 concerts in England later that year.

On 13th December, Tangerine Dream gave a spectacular concert at the cathedral in Reims in France. The atmosphere in this gothic church enlightened by candles was the perfect background for the music of Tangerine Dream.

The music, which was performed by Froese, Franke and Baumann who sat almost motionless in the semi-darkness

in front of their electronic alters, created a mysterious religious mood.
A lot of people made a “pilgrimage” to this event and the cathedral with seats for approximately 2,000 people, had to make room for about 5.000 people that day! This of course did not go by unnoticed, and afterwards this old Catholic cathedral was left in a minor chaos!

Froese: “It was a terrible situation. People couldn’t move, they had to piss up against the walls. You can imagine the mess by the end of the concert.What’s more, we got the blame for it!” (Melody Maker – 8th October 1994)
The consequence was that the Pope, Paul VI, sent out a bull of ex-communication, which banned Tangerine Dream from ever performing in a Catholic church anywhere in the world in the future.

This sort of ban is not something that happens to you every day and of course it created a lot of publicity at that time. Both in private and on stage the band have always been very withdrawn and they have never been surrounded by any rock-star status, so here was finally something for the public eye to dig into.

The ban might be lifted now, but the event is something that often gets mentioned when someone in the media is doing a fast review of Tangerine Dream’s career.

The concert was by the way broadcast on the radio and the music played is very typical of Tangerine Dream at this point – a lot of improvisation – based on long floating soundscapes – played in the minor tone colours.

Rubycon

Already in January 1975, Tangerine Dream returned to the Manor studio to record their second album for Virgin Records. Among the “new” instruments used this time were a new Arp synthesizer, an Elka organ, a gong and a piano. Some of them were of course modified with electronic devices.

Both sides of the album contain one long piece of music, which was still a long way away from a traditional rock music concept. The sequencer parts and rhythms, which float in and out, are the dominant musical element. At the end there is a very grandiose part sounding like a choir, which can easily take your mind to scenes from Arthur C. Clarke’s and Stanley Kubrick`s fantastic science fiction movie 2001. In this “space odyssey,” it was Gyorgi Ligeti who created the cosmic music for the soundtrack, but it could just as easily have been Tangerine Dream.

The recordings for Rubycon progressed much faster than with Phaedra and without any great difficulties. The album was quickly released, already in March the same year. Monique Froese had made the cover and somewhere in the pictures you can find a picture of a young boy…

Froese: “When the band walked into the Manor for the second time, we were weighted down by the pressure of the success of Phaedra. There was a pressure to do it again but one has to point out that Simon Draper (The producer) and Richard Branson at Virgin did not pressure us to be commercial. The attitude was that Tangerine Dream could do whatever they wanted to on record, which was a very unusual practice for a record company.” (Interview with Mark Pendergast – January 1994 / Tangents)

Froese: “When we did Rubycon we talked much about if we wanted a commercial success or if we wanted to be progressive on our own terms. And honestly we decided that it was mostly ourselves it was all about. We wanted to develop the music we liked the most and to express ourselves personally.” (Tangenten No.6 – 1994)

Froese: “The recording of Rubycon was a very floating process. Unlike the Phaedra production there was never a break in the creative flow. The band had been on tour for most of the previous year and was now hot to spend a month working on some new music. Because of the commercial success of Phaedra, the sequencers could now be technically better equipped. At that time this branch of technology was fairly unknown and any technical alterations had to be custom-built. This was a very extensive undertaking and most of our earnings went into new equipment.”

“I had orchestral instruments recorded by the BBC for my Mellotron, at the time a very luxurious thing to do. One can hear an oboe on “Rubycon Part 2″ as well as numerous strings sections had horns. The biggest problem, however, was the inconstant power supply at the Manor. At the time there were electrical problems throughout the Oxford region and sometimes the power was cut off for two to three hours at a time. We had to interrupt recording sessions when this happened, to connect our synths to electrical generators. Chris` Moog often played completely random sequences because of the unstable electrical current driving the oscillators. It was a crazy situation. When we finished recording there were altogether 12 hours of music from which to mix the final master.” (Interview with Mark Pendergast – January 1994 / Tangents)

When Rubycon came out in March, Tangerine Dream were on a small tour in Australia, where the sales from Phaedra had given them a gold album. This tour turned out to be very difficult though and the reactions of the audiences were pretty mixed; there were airline strikes, which caused delays all the time and the band had to rent a private plane. At one point, the band had to cross Australia in a small eight-seat plane with some of their equipment.

Chris` Moog was damaged during the transport. It was impossible to repair it, and a lot of other general problems with the equipment made the concerts a rather mixed experience – both to the audience and to the band.

Seven concerts were nevertheless accomplished, but without Peter Baumann, who had dropped out of the band for a short while to do something completely different than making music. He was replaced by one of the old friends from Berlin, Michael Hoenig.

This was not the last time Hoenig would appear as a guest musician or stand-in for Peter Baumann, but he never became a regular member even though his playing-style fitted perfectly into the Tangerine Dream concept. Michael Hoenig has later made a solo career in synthesizer music. He has made a lot of soundtracks and produced albums with various artists. It can also be mentioned that he was in on Phillip Glass` album, Koyaanisquatsi, which is the minimalistic soundtrack to the very beautiful movie by the same name.

About getting new members of the band, Edgar Froese has said that in this particular period it was a very complicated affair to get new people to join Tangerine Dream. The technology was still on a very low level, much of it were home-made and you had to have an enormous insight and overview in order to be able to follow the technical aspects and at the same time have some mental reserves to play improvised music – with your soul! It might take years to get on the same level with new people, so the band were consciously determined to stick to the core members, i.e. Froese, Baumann and Franke. And this meant even if Peter Baumann had to do something else once in a while.

To many people, this trio is the real Tangerine Dream crew, and it may hold true in the very sense Edgar Froese mentions above; as very few before or after them, these three people were able to create improvised music on a very high level and with an almost telepathic precision.

As an example of the significance of this trio is the book which come with the four-album box from Virgin, Tangerine Dream ´70 -´80, it contains almost only pictures of Froese, Franke and Baumann. These three gentlemen however, only played together for about six years; the period from 1971-1977, but those years were also the years when Tangerine Dream had the biggest impact as something new and innovative.

On 2nd April 1975, Tangerine Dream gave a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London, which was completely sold out. I have heard some excerpts from the concert, which sounds like something in between the music from Phaedra and Rubycon – with a lot of space for long improvisations.

The concert was also attended by the German music critic, Manfred Gillig, who describes the event in the following way:

“On stage there are mountains of amplifiers, loudspeakers, synthesizers and organs between a pair of palms – all covered in s dim blue light. I am still tired. This can’t go well, I think. But then the three from Berlin are seated behind their mixers and ethereal sounds penetrates the Royal Albert Hall. Quadraphonic sound waves first from the left then from the right and then from behind, from above, the front – I relax. Unearthly noise – a chorus with hundreds of voices covers me and fills up this venerable house. Somewhere was the well-known monolith from 2001 floating. From all directions came drum sounds, floating around in the room for at last gather in the front and a procession of complicated rhythms moving slowly between each other. The drum sounds spreading up against the walls in the giant hall and above it all a helicopter flying with tapping rotor blades. Then the noise of a Mediterranean night; Grasshoppers and cicadas fills Royal Albert Hall with their singing. The surf at the beach, waves chorusing against the stones rolling on the beach. Is it the sea or the banks of Rubycon?” (Träume von synthetischen Mandarinen? – Sounds June 1975)

Later the same year, Tangerine Dream played a few more concerts in Germany and France – once again in Reims; this time not in the cathedral, but in the opera house!

On 4th October 1975, they began a longer tour in England. The first concert, where Tangerine Dream played in Coventry Cathedral, was filmed for the BBC by Tony Palmer. This 28-minute long TV film was shown on Swedish TV shortly afterwards, and I think that this was one of my first rendezvous with Tangerine Dream and their music.

This movie gives quite a good picture of how Tangerine Dream made use of visual elements as an important part of their show. It is not as much the pictures of the musicians on stage as it is the use of colours, candles, the architecture of the church together with the music that creates the special mood.

Well, there might be another reason why you do not see that much of the musicians; if you look closely, you will see that something is not right; what you see and what their fingers play are not synchronised – the music is taken from the album, Ricochet and put on to the pictures later – and even Ricochet is an album put together from many different live pieces and not just one concert.

The following year, it became one of Tangerine Dream’s trademarks to play at exotic venues rather than ordinary concerts at ordinary concert halls. Many churches, cathedrals and other historically interesting places have formed the visual background for the music.

Ricochet

In November 1975, a live album was released with the title Ricochet. It was recorded during the tour earlier the same year, in England and possible France. The title is not as cosmic as those on the previous albums: Ricochet is just named after an electronic game the band got obsessed with during these tours.

Ricochet is a very good live recording, but whether or not it is a real live album might be a good question; approximately 40 hours of music was recorded on the tour, so Tangerine Dream spent a lot of time finding the best pieces and putting them together to form a new piece. New material was also added – as the piano solo at the beginning of “Ricochet Part 2,” which was recorded on the piano in the living room at the Manor Studio a few days earlier! Several parts were recorded in a studio – like the drum part maybe? But all in all, the result is rather good and the music on the album is more melodic than the music on the previous albums.

It is also impressive that Tangerine Dream managed to get that much good music from the concerts down on tape at all, since they did not make any substantial use of a frontmixer, but did most of the mixing themselves on stage. To be able to hear what was coming out of the front speakers, it was necessary to turn up the volume and that might not always have been a pleasure to the audience; Tangerine Dream had gained the reputation of being one of the loudest bands around and at one point the sound pressure in front of the P.A. system was measured to be about 120 dB.

Many people consider Ricochet as one of the highlights of Tangerine Dream´s early career and I can only agree to that. I think that this album whether live or not captures many of the elements that is the quintessence of Tangerine Dream in this period; driving sequencers, melodic guitar, the mellotron lurking in the background, strange sounds, a cosmic atmosphere and on top of that, simple but very logic melodies or themes given sufficient time to be explored deeply.

Stratosfear

In the spring of 1976, Tangerine Dream played a few concerts in various places around Europe, and all through that summer, Peter Baumann recorded his first solo project, Romance 76. He felt that he had more and more difficulties finding his role in Tangerine Dream and he needed to go his own ways. He was passionate about his first solo album, and it gained a lot of appreciation and was even played on the radio a few times.

In August, Tangerine Dream went to the Audio studio in Berlin to record what would become the album, Stratosfear. It was released in October, and at the same time, the band went on a big tour throughout Europe to promote the album. More than 30 concerts in Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, England and Scotland were accomplished.

Stratosfear is much more ordinary in its sound and expression than the earlier albums. The tracks are shorter than before and they are much more melodic. The music has a higher degree of tonality and a lot of acoustic instruments like the grand piano, the chembalo and the mouth organ (!).

Edgar Froese made frequent use of his abilities on both the acoustic and the electric guitar. His very characteristic and melodic way of playing has later on become one of the trademarks of the band.

As so many times before, in these very early days of electronics, they had a lot of problems with their equipment while recording: Peter Baumann had a new sequencer, which it had taken a German company a year to build, but it was not completely ready and in the studio it did not work properly. When it was finally made to work, the multi-track recorders broke down and at one point, smoke was pouring out of the studio’s Dolby units and they could not record without them.

The three members of the band were very frustrated and besides the technical problems they where arguing about what music they should play and have on the album:

Froese: “When I appeared in the studio one day with a harmonica, the absurdity of the situation was revealed. It was supposed to be a joke, retort to the unpredictability of the technology., but after playing it during the beginning of “3 A.M.” everybody decided to leave it on. So much had happened during these sessions – master tapes at times disappeared from the studio, finished tracks were mysteriously erased and the mixing console finally went up in smoke. The events which occurred during the making of Stratosfear alone would fill an entire book!” (Interview with Mark Pendergast – January 1994 / Tangents)

If you could feel the same mood on the earlier albums as in the movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, then the cover of Stratosfear might be a clear reference to this movie; big Monolith-like objects floating in formation over a deserted and strange landscape! Once again a spectacular cover from the hands of Monique Froese.

Stratosfear is a classic, and in my opinion, also one of the absolutely best albums by Tangerine Dream. Even the band members themselves must have been rather satisfied with the result, because the title track has often been played at concerts and been re-recorded in different versions – the latest one on Tyranny of Beauty with the title, “Stratosfear 1995.”

Sorcerer

This was also the period where a new chapter in the career of Tangerine Dream would begin, when they were asked by the American film director William Friedkin (who made movies like The French Connection and Exorcist) to make the music for his movie. Friedkin was very enthusiastic about the music of Tangerine Dream and wished to use their music to make a frame around a re-making of Clouzots’ The Wages of Fear from 1953.

Tangerine Dream were handed the script and were given the opportunity to do whatever they wanted. Finally, it ended up with the rather unusual situation that the soundtrack was ready before the camera work began!
While working in the jungle, William Friedkin placed loudspeakers all over the place and played Tangerine Dream’s music to inspire and get the film crew into the right mood.

These very good and free conditions were perfect working conditions for Tangerine Dream and their electronic instruments.

Froese: “All our knowledge about improvising and creating very fast meant that when we sat down for the first time and started to compose the music for Friedkin – the first time I’ve ever composed – it was so easy! It was so easy because we just put down in a few words: a few discussions about forms and melody lines and prism structures and so on. We wrote it down, we made some scripts and then we taped the lot!” (New Musical Express – July 1977).

When the movie finally had its premiere, Tangerine Dream were a little bit disappointed by the result: according to the band, too many of the tracks were not used in their entirety and lost a little bit of the idea, but in several places – like at the beginning of the movie, where you see a helicopter passing over the South American rain forest – the music fits perfectly.

William Friedkin; “The music of Tangerine Dream was an early and major inspiration for the film Sorcerer. One day in the middle of a primeval forest in the Dominican Republic, about six month into shooting, a tape arrived from THE DREAM, containing ninety minutes of musical impressions. It is from this tape that the film has been scored. They just read the script and recorded the entire score. Yet somehow they were able to capture and enhance every nuance of each moment where their music is heard. The film and the score are inseparable.” (Sorcerer slevenotes – 1977)

The movie was never really a success, but when the soundtrack came out in the summer of 1977, it was nevertheless found to be on the English charts. This clearly opened some door to the film industry, where Tangerine Dream ended up being one of the most used bands for composing soundtracks.
For a long period of time the band made a good living out of making music for bigger and smaller movie productions. In the eighties you could almost talk about a mass production, until it got too much for Edgar Froese & co. They have now stopped that line of work – at least until further notice – well, apart from some minor soundtrack production now and then.

Encore

At the beginning of 1977, Peter Baumann was occupied with arranging his studio in Berlin and incorporating new equipment. It was left to Froese and Franke to plan the forthcoming tour in the United States.

The tour started on 29th March in Milwaukee, and ended on 26th April but was later extended with four concerts in July and August. The tour turned out to be a very big success and many concerts were sold out in only a few days. Some concerts had to be cancelled since some of the promoters went bankrupt when Emerson, Lake and Palmer called off a big tour with a 120-piece orchestra. The promoters – and Tangerine Dream – lost a lot of money.

A new P.A. system – specially designed for Tangerine Dream in England – was brought into use on that tour. It was designed by Martin Audio and was able to handle both the very deep bass and the very clear sound that a synthesizer can produce. Especially the lowest spectrum of a synthesizer sound can be very violent to a speaker system, but this new equipment could handle it and play loud – and it was played very LOUD!

For the concerts, Tangerine Dream had chosen to use the company “The Laserium Light Show” for the visual side of the tour. It was one of the first companies to incorporate lasers in their light show, which they have been doing since 1973. Sent through different kinds of prisms and modulated otherwise, a laser can create the most unbelievable and beautiful colours, figures and forms in three dimensions.

For many years, The Laserium was located at the Planetarium in London, and every day there were several shows; to the music of Pink Floyd, Jean Michel Jarre and Alan Parsons you could experience a “laserist” improvise – and it was different from show to show.

I myself have taken the journey below the star dome in the London Planetarium quite a few times, and it has been an extraordinary experience every time. If you remember the last part of Stanley Kubrick’s famous movie 2001, you will have an idea of what it was like…Sadly, the Laserium in London does not exist anymore! Miles from the New Musical Express wrote about his experience of the Laserium at the concert in Washington D.C:

“A nebulous cloud appeared on the screen behind the group. It floated, ever-changing, in an illusion of three dimensions, like an universe in creation. The intensity of the red laser light gave the projected image a degree of substance that a conventional light-show lack. It was as if flames were burning inside the cloud!” (NME 16/7 – 1977)

The tour was immortalised on the double album, Encore, which came out in October 1977. It made its way to a 55th placement on the English charts. The music is the well-known style from the past few years – four long pieces that each take up one side of the album. The album sounds very live-like and the presence of the audience is quite obvious, but a lot of re-mixing and pasting of music from different concerts and recordings from the performance, Oedipus Tyrannous, was done at the studio afterwards. Bootlegs of the concerts show a different picture; the concerts were much more heavy and raw than Encore seems to reflect.

It was Peter Baumann who did the mixing on the album and that would become his last assignment as a musician in Tangerine Dream; he left the group in November to concentrate on a solo career.

There had been a lot of controversy during the seven years the trio played and toured together, and the rumours had been whirling: Peter Baumann had left the band, he was being replaced by a computer, he had gone solo, he had re-entered the band, he had never left, and so on…

Shortly before the final break, and while the three musicians were still submitted to stay together in Tangerine Dream, both Baumann and Froese talked about the situation in the band in different interviews with Miles:

Baumann: “We want to be very cautious about what we are doing. We are not splitting up we are not married! It’s always the same with a group; you can have a common status when you start but I cannot imagine three people having over six years the same kind of development musically and personally – both very important. So it`s more than natural that we say we have to be aware of what we are doing, otherwise we will lose our identity.
Edgar is 8 or 9 years older than me. He is married. He has a child. I think these things really do matter to the kind of things you are playing. We had no discussion in the beginning – we had the same background – we just did it and we found this is what we wanted to do. The world has changed in the last seven years. We just thought we couldn’t and on with what we did in the beginning – it would be dishonest. The end was
Ricochet and the new beginning was Stratosfear. This is a time of changing!” (Miles – NME 16/7 – 1977)

Froese: “What I’ve found is that all the success of the last one and a half years was psychologically a bit much, you know? I’m 33 now and I’ve been connected professionally with music for about 13 or 14 years so it doesn’t get to me. I think I can handle money very carefully – I’ve got quite a lot of knowledge about it. But these two boys are ten years younger and they´ve got a high income. And you have to be fair. You have to help them a little bit to get everything the right way; Not buying big cars, liquor…success is something which could happen for one week or ten years, you know? It depends on an intelligent operation situation.” (Miles – NME 16/7 – 1977)

But their opinions on how the band should be run were too different and Peter Baumann finally left. They parted at a time when Tangerine Dream were at the peak of their creativity and also very popular. They were later to meet each other again on a more professional level many years later.

Baumann wanted to do something more popular and dance-like music – or something on “the edge-points of pop music,” as he called it himself – and for a few years he was still very active as a musician. It led to records in his own name with melodic electro-pop and he had a co-operation with the singer, Robert Palmer, among others.

Cyclone

At the end of the seventies, a lot of electronic music had already hit the charts. More and more bands had recieved recognition – both in Germany and in the rest of the world. Kraftwerk was gaining the status of a cult-band, Klaus Schulze had his breakthrough as a solo-artist, Jean Michel Jarre had a gigantic hit with his “Oxygene,” and David Bowie had left the business for a short while and was moving to Berlin…

Bowie was very attracted to this special kind of electronic music, which first and foremost came from and had its origins in Germany, and he had made a lot of contacts with the musicians, and one of them was Edgar Froese.

Bowie, who had been educated at art schools and had been studying art like Froese, was very fascinated by Froese´s original concept of “pictures of sound” and “timeless music.” They often met while David Bowie lived in Berlin and had long discussions about literature, art and not at least music. They even talked about making some music together:

Froese: “He got a flat in Berlin and every day or every second day we went out and had long conversations about art – techniques and the styles of painting. But the problem was that my time plan was different from his time plan…” (NME – July 1977)

It never got down to any musical cooperation between Froese and Bowie. Instead, David Bowie teamed up with Brian Eno in a studio in Berlin, where they made the great album Low. This is Bowie’s most electronic album and the sources of inspiration are quite obvious.

Well, Froese and Franke were looking for a replacement for Peter Baumann and they ended up with two old friends from Berlin.

Johannnes Schmoelling: “Franke and Froese decided to get two musicians in to replace Baumann. One was the flautist Steve Joliffe who was briefly in the group in 1969. He had been working with film music and animation in London and was happy to rejoin old friend Froese. The other was the drummer Klaus Krieger who had known Froese since 1962. He was a member of Berlin’s art and design circle and was always on intimate terms with the Dream. He had even played on one of Froese`s many solo projects, Ages, in 1978.” (NME – May 1978)

This new Tangerine Dream crew went into the studio at the beginning of 1978 to record the next album. It was the Audio Studio in Berlin that had to make room for a vast arsenal of old and new instruments. Among these were a new guitar-synthesizer from Roland – a GR 500 – and a wind-synthesizer – a Lyricon.

Shortly after the recording sessions, the album was released and it was called Cyclone. Edgar Froese had used the paintbrush himself and created a very beautiful cover – maybe a landscape after a violent storm?

Cyclone was an album very different from the earlier, more cosmic releases. With drums, guitars and vocals it was much more like a rock album and to many people, it was an unexpected release. The critics did not hold themselves back; a lot of the music press found Cyclone a terrible and redundant album, which betrayed the original idea of Tangerine Dream while others regarded the new style as some of the best the band had released to this date.

Well, the album seems to have regained some in recent years to most people, but I have always found it an excellent album. I still think that the light grandiosity and especially the strange woodwind improvisations by Steve Joliffe in the middle of “Bent Cold Sidewalk” still have much weight, and it is one of my favourite albums.

Froese: “I understood the criticism at that time, but it wasn’t anything new to us. As far back as I can recall some people have thought we’re geniuses and others have dismissed as a bunch of dumb knob-twiddlers. So what? I think it`s fair to respect all opinions.” (Melody Maker – 8 October 1994)

Maybe Tangerine Dream, or at least Edgar Froese, paid close attention to the critics, and since its release, none of the material has ever been present on their compilations! Edgar Froese seems to distance himself from this particular album. Anyhow, it was obvious that in no circumstances did Tangerine Dream want to be caught up in a certain style.

Cyclone was immediately followed up by a large tour around Europe – 32 concerts in one and a half months in England, France, Germany and Spain.
This time, they also toured with the Laserium and a very well equipped light show. It turned out to be a very successful tour, the concerts were almost sold out, and Tangerine Dream were well received – also in Germany where they have always had difficulties with obtaining any recognition.

The tour went well, but inside the band things were not at all that happy and the chemistry between the four musicians was not too good during the tour, so Edgar and Chris decided to try something else on the next album.

Force Majeure

Shortly after the Cyclone tour, Steve Joliffe left the band again, but already in August, the trio Froese, Franke and Krieger was working on a new album – Force Majeure. This time in the Hansa studio in Berlin.

Force Majeure was a long time in the making and was not released until the end of 1979. This time, as opposed to Cyclone, the new album recived high praise from the critics and quickly hit the charts in England. Here it achieved to become number 26 on the album chart.

The music was still rock-based with Froese´s guitar and Krieger´s drums in the foreground, but the music develops throughout the album and ends up with something that sounds like a subway ride in the London Underground breaking every speed limit! The album also contains one of the finest pieces of music Tangerine Dream have ever written – “Cloudburst Flight.” This piece was by the way used as the signature of the weather forecast on the Italian TV station RAI.

A big tour throughout Germany was scheduled to take place – after the success of the Cyclone tour – but it had to be cancelled because Force Majeure did not sell very well in Tangerine Dream´s native country.

After the recording of Force Majeure had taken place, Klaus Krieger left Tangerine Dream. Krieger had always had a very loose connection with the band – more like a session musician – and at the end of the day, Froese and Franke did not really want to work with real drums. Instead, there was room for another keyboard player as a replacement for Peter Baumann, as it had been the intention all along ever since Baumann left the band. This replacement was found in Johannes Schmoelling – aged 29. At the time, he was working as a sound engineer at the Hansa studio.

Froese: “Johannes was very professional in terms of music and studio work. He had a remarkable ability to concentrate and could work for long stretches of time. He had several years of experience as an audio technician at the famous Berlin Schaubüne Theatre of Peter Steins. I visited a performance there of Robert Wilson’s Death, Destruction and Detroit.Johannes had created all the sound collages one could hear throughout the play. I was so enthused by the five-hour performance that I asked Johannes afterwards if he wanted to join Tangerine Dream.” (Interview with Mark Pendergast – January 1994 / Tangents)

Well, apparently Johannes Schmoelling liked the idea, and for the following six years, he was a regular member of Tangerine Dream. Johannes Schmoelling was born in Lohne, Germany in 1950 and he began playing the piano at the age of eight. He later moved on to the pipe organ and played professionally in various churches before he graduated from college in 1978 with a degree in sound engineering.

Maybe he already had his debut on Force Majeure, where he may have been involved in the production when the band – towards the end of the track “Thru Metamorphic Rocks” – made a very expressive sound collage with sounds of running trains and so on. Well, maybe not in an interview in 1997 Edgar Froese told a journalist that this particular track actually got its strange and futuristic sound by accident:

Froese: “The reason is simply that “Metamorphic Rocks” had an accident in the mixing desk. So while we did the recording the tape ran, and all the instruments were locked in, and we played, and we improvised quite a lot all the time. Then all of a sudden something went wrong with the desk. So there were a lot of strange noises all of a sudden which appear within the track and are totally wrong, but which actually made sense in the music. We listened to it again and again and said ‘should we? shouldn’t we?’ Finally we said ‘okay, leave it the way it is.” (Interview with Ashley Franklin and Nick Willder on 29 October 1997 Soundscapes 16 November 1997)

Quichotte / Pergamon

The first big assignment for Johannes Schmoelling as a member of Tangerine Dream was a special concert in East Berlin. As one of the first western rock bands the band was invited to perform behind the “Iron Curtain.” But this only happened after years of negotiations with the East German authorities. When they finally agreed, it might have been because Tangerine Dream were a purely instrumental band with anonymous musicians, who did not appear as the usual western decadent rock stars. They were allowed to play on the other side of the Wall.

Froese: “…we could assure them not to use words in any way!” (TDIFC newsletter #7).
Actually, there were two concerts but both on the same day; they were held on 31st January 1980 in the afternoon and in the evening. The concerts were broadcast on the East German radio, but even so, the concerts were sold out and the tickets were traded at very high prices on the black market.

The official East German radiostation, GDR, had the rights to the music recorded at the concerts and one of the conditions was that it would not be released on any label in the western world for a period of 6 years. Excerpts from the concerts were then released with the title Quichotte on the East German record label, Amiga Records. This album was also given new life in the studio, but not to the same extent as the earlier live albums.

Several years later, Virgin records bought the rights to this music, Tangerine Dream did some re-mixing, and in 1986 it was released with the title, Pergamon.

As Tangerine Dream were beginning to prepare the recording of a new album, the music on these live releases was obviously a testground for the new material; you can hear much of the forthcoming Tangram in free form – if not improvised. It is not a bad album at all.

Tangram

When Schmoelling joined Tangerine Dream, the band took a new direction and the long improvisations with a very simple harmonic base, or even just a drone, were replaced by more complex harmonic structures and composed pieces.

Schmoelling: “Before I joined, I felt the music of Tangerine Dream was basically built on sequencer loops, more or less in one key, with little harmonic changes and long ongoing sessions of improvisation. When I joined we tried a mixture of more structured elements with more jazz-orientated chords, composed melodies and synthesizer solos close to rock.” (Interview with Mark Pendergast – January 1994 / Tangents)

The first result of the work of this new trio was the album, Tangram, which was recorded in Franke´s new studio, Polygon, in Berlin. It was recorded during the spring of 1980, and was released in May the same year.

Tangram is one piece of music split up by the two sides of the album and it is much more diverse and softer than previously. It is much more interesting and chord progressions form the framework around the melodic structures and synth or guitar solos. On side two is a very convincing solo which sounds like it has been played on some kind of guitar synthesizer, but in an interview Schmoelling revealed that he actually played it on a keyboard after practising a lot on how a real guitar player would perform his playing.

Again, the cover was made by Monique Froese with her beautiful and atmospheric photographs: on the front cover is some kind of strange red laser beam, which breaks out of the cover. On the inner sleeve, she has made a big Tangram figure of mirrors, which reflect the white snow in a winter dressed forest.

The cover shown on this page is not the original, but from a later issue. The first cover was all red with this strange laser light in the middle.

A Tangram is, by the way, a very old Chinese puzzle; a square is broken up in certain fragments and with those, it is possible to make a vast number of other forms and figures. A Tangram was used for telling stories. Why don`t you try it out yourself? Take a look at the last page of this book.

It is a very convincing and wholehearted album, and all the details have been carefully worked out, and Tangram is absolutely one of Tangerine Dream’s best albums. After its release, it could also be found on the English charts.

The album was released in October, and in November it was followed up by a longer tour in most of Western Europe, and that meant the countries south of Germany and as usual, Tangerine Dream did not come to Scandinavia and to this day they still have not played here.

Two concerts were also launched in the USA in late November 1980, and the tour in Europe was resumed again in January/February the following year.

Thief

1980 would also become the year when Tangerine Dream seriously established themselves in Hollywood and began their vast production of soundtracks.

Michael Mann had just ended the scoring of the movie, Thief. With James Caan in the leading rolo, the movie was about a shabby professional thief’s last attempt at doing something big, to make a name for himself in the business.

Michael Mann was looking for someone to make the soundtrack, and William Friedkin recommended Tangerine Dream. All parties involved took the assignment very seriously, and therefore some of the most modern equipment was brought into the project; a brand-new computer called GDS was used for synchronising the film to the music and the sound effects. The band was very enthusiastic about the project:

Edgar Froese: “It was a pleasure because we had a finished film to work from. When we did Sorcerer we created the music before a foot of film had been shot.

The exotic and shifting moods of Thief fitted in perfectly with the kind of music we played. Making the soundtrack allowed us to play around in the studio a bit and create a piece of music we thought would fit the picture like a glove. Yet would also stand on its own.” (Elektra/Asylum press-release – September 1981 / Tangents)

Johannes Schmoelling: “Thief was my first experience in composing music for a movie. We were very much influenced by the director in that he wanted the music to be very loud, like a drilling noise in the brain. So we created heavy guitar sounds combined with heavy sequencer rhythms. Contrasts were created by the use of lyric tunes like Beach Theme.” (Interview with Mark Pendergast – January 1994 / Tangents)

The critics were very enthusiastic when the movie came out in March 1981, and one review was better than the other. More and more frequently Tangerine Dream were contacted by film producers and directors, who wanted to make use of their music.

Tangerine Dream `70 – `80

1980 was also the year when Tangerine Dream could celebrate their first 10 years as recording artists. This event was celebrated by their record company, Virgin Records, with the release of a box containing four LPs.

The music consisted of excerpts from most of the albums that Tangerine Dream had put out up to that point. As an extra bonus, one side of the album had three solo-tracks by Froese, Franke and Baumann, respectively. None of these tracks had been released previously. This vinyl release was made in the absolute best pressing and had a very good sound quality.

Besides, the box contains a 28-page book; on a single page the history of the band is briefly summarised and the rest of the book is filled with pictures from the many tours, concerts and from the recording sessions.

This compilation of four albums was to become the first in a long line of compilations and re-issues to carry the name, Tangerine Dream, on the cover. In recent years all too many of this sort of compilations has been put out by various record companies just reissues of old material and nothing new.

Exit

The next task was to rebuild their studio and to get the latest technologies adapted to Tangerine Dream’s ways of working. A new Fairlight, which was one of the first real samplers on the market, was also brought in.

Froese: “We built everything around the MCI mixing console, because we needed to have all the instruments quite near. We didn’t use acoustic instruments at all and we didn’t need an engineer. We had everything around us, the same way as on stage.” (Elektra/Asylum press-release – September 1981/ Tangents)

Exit was recorded between June and July 1981 on equipment that seemed to be just “state of the art.” The soundscape, which Tangerine Dream achieved, was also of a high quality compared to the usual standard at the time.

Monique Froese had made a very futuristic cover for the album and both the titles and the music have a science-fiction-like atmosphere.

Exit, with the track, “Kiew Mission,” starts with someone reciting a message in Russian about peace and friendship on Earth, and it must be the closest thing to a clear and concrete political message the band have ever given.

For a while, Tangerine Dream were involved with the peace movement and had arranged for a few thousand copies of Exit to be shipped and distributed to different people in the Soviet Union:

Froese: “The words are directed at the people in Russia. It’s a very spiritual message we hope will ease the situation over here. If you are in Europe right now you would see that all people talk about the Third World War. As musicians we can use our music to say something about the positive side and hope our message gets through.” (Elektra/Asylum press-release – September 1981/ Tangents)

Shortly after the release of Exit, Tangerine Dream played at a very big disarmament demonstration in front of the Reichtag building in Berlin. About 100.000 people participated in the demonstration.

On the 15th of October, Tangerine Dream went on a tour, which first of all brought them to England, but also a few concerts were held in Germany before the year was over.

On 9th December, Tangerine Dream played a remarkable concert with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in Munich. It was on a so-called “Klassik Rock Nacht,” and it was transmitted live to 12 countries. One of the highlights was a 20-minute long version of the track, “Mojave Plan,” which was arranged for a symphonic orchestra and Tangerine Dream.

White Eagle

Froese, Franke and Schmoelling were working on a follow-up to Exit in January 1982, and as early as February, Tangerine Dream went on tour. For the second time, they played in Australia. They gave only a few concerts in almost a month.

In March, the album that was supposed to follow up on the success with Exit, came out and it was entitled, White Eagle. To many people the music was a mixed pleasure. The sound was very hard and synthetic – maybe the new digital instruments made their marks on the music a little too much. The melodic material was rather limited, and only a few of the tracks could come up to the standard of the previous album, Exit.

The cover, which is a little dull in my opinion was designed by Monique and Edgar Froese; It shows the Earth surrounded by a giant triangle. Could this be some kind of peace message again? And the title; The white Eagle of peace? Or something about USA?

One track though – the title track “White Eagle” – went on to become a kind of a minor hit for the band, when it was used as the signature tune of an episode of the German TV detective series Tatort. “Tatort” means “scene of the crime” in German.

The track was released on a single with the German title “Das Mädchen auf der Treppe” and it is the closest Tangerine Dream have ever been to having a hit single! Later, Tangerine Dream made more music for the same television series, but most of it has never been released.

In 1997, “White Eagle” was released once again on the TDI label in different versions and re-mixes on two different Limited Edition CD singles. This time it was also called “Maedchen on the stairs.”

At the beginning of 1997 a friend and I were asked to make a cover version of “White Eagle” – along with one of my all time favourite Tangerine Dream tracks, “Stratosfear” – for the compilation, Tangerine Ambience 2. It was hard work and quite difficult to match the original, but we learned a lot of how subtle a Tangerine Dream track could be put together. Along the way I even came to appreciate this album too even though I don`t think it is one of their strongest works.

Logos

“Recorded live at the Dominion – London 6/11 1982”

Later, in 1982, it was time again for another big European tour and this time it brought Tangerine Dream to Switzerland, Hungary, Belgium, Yugoslavia, England, Scotland, and Germany – both the East and West.

On the 6th of November, Froese, Franke and Schmoelling played a concert at the Dominion Theatre in London. This concert was recorded and later released as the album, Logos, the following spring.

The title track, “Logos Part 1 & 2,” takes up most of the two sides of this vinyl release and seems to be a return to the earlier improvised concerts, but like today’s concerts it is more likely a collection of themes put together with well prepared bridges. The rhythm and the sequencer are put a little bit in the background and more soft and melodic structures unfold.

The music is much better and more vivid on this live record than on the previous studio album, White Eagle. Logos has a lot more drive and it still stands out today as most of Tangerine Dreams live albums do.

The final track on the album, “Dominion,” which is an encore apparently, is exceptional in the sense that it is very grandiose – and almost cheerful.

In June 1983, Tangerine Dream were in Japan for the first time and as always when touring the band gave themselves plenty of time of to visit some of the cultural sites and other exotic places. History and art have always been some of Edgar Froese´s main interests apart from music and he always made certain the band members were able to get new inspiration wherever they were in the world.

Even if the band have had some commercial success in japan, only four concerts were performed and Tangerine Dream have never played on the Japanese islands since.

Hyperborea

“Consider your self” (Buddha)

Tangerine Dream’s next album, Hyperborea, which was recorded in August 1983, came to mark the end of long period of time on the Virgin label, and it was the last real studio recording Tangerine Dream made for Virgin Records.

The title, Hyperborea, refers to an old legend of a paradise or utopia supposed to be located a little bit further away than the North Wind.Something like the lost worlds of Lemuria or the more familiar Atlantis.
The cover by Monica Froese also looks something like an ice landscape with a golden disc in the sky. Hyperborea perhaps? The cover even has some kind of a bar code attached which to me evoke the associations of something you have just picked up in the supermarket there might be some deeper meaning by that?

As usual, a lot of new equipment was brought in and sampling was heavily used to make new sounds. Those new digital instruments and samplers were sounding a little rough, though, and sometimes it sounds a little too cold and hard.

The music seems to be very much inspired by ethnic music – Asian perhaps? Something sounding like a sitar is heard and tablas have a role in the rhythm throughout the album. All the ethnic sounds blend together with the well-known Dream sound, but in my opinion, the album as a whole does not reach any heights. Once again, you could say that the following live version of the music from this period – Poland – is much more solid and interesting.
Despite my opinion about Hyperborea, it managed to reach # 45 on the English album chart when it was released in November 1983.

Poland

“The Warsaw Concert”

In August 1983, Froese, Franke and Schmoelling performed at an open-air concert at the Lycabettus amphitheatre in Athens before a very enthusiastic audience. The music was a bit similar to what can be heard on live recordings like Logos and the forthcoming Poland – and these are long tracks with some degree of improvisation.

One of the concerts was, by the way, transmitted on Greek television and an interview was broadcast at the same time.

Shortly after Hyperborea was released in November 1983, Tangerine Dream played two memorable concerts in Poland. They took place at the Warsaw Ice Stadium on 10th December, and Froese, Franke and Schmoelling performed both an afternoon and an evening concert.

Well, at that time, Poland was not in any way particularly prepared for this kind of big rock show with the heavy “iron curtain” still there, and a well-equipped concert hall was not an option.

They were offered an ice-skating stadium instead, but the ice was only just covered for the day: Warsaw Ice Stadium had a temperature of about minus 5 degrees Celsius, and the three musicians had to play with woollen gloves on their hands. In the breaks – and there were a lot of those since the power supply failed several times – the musicians had their hands in hot water so that they would not loose the feeling with the keyboards completely. At the same time, a disaster was threatening the crowd; two meters of heavy snow on the roof was close to make the building collapse. Under these chaotic conditions, it must have been very difficult for the band to perform their music.

The next year – 1984 – was one of the very few years, when Tangerine Dream did not release a studio album, but instead the recordings of the two concerts in Warsaw were put out on a double album in November with the very original title – Poland. It was released by Tangerine Dream’s new record label, Jive Elektro.

Poland is a typical TD live album; very little noise from the crowd, and of course, the usual good sound quality, but most certainly, after a heavy re-mix and perhaps a lot of overdubbing with new parts and bridges made after the concert! All the stress the band must have endured through the concerts does not seem to have affected their ability to perform and the result on the album actually sounds quite warm…

Le Parc

“The World, indeed, is like a Dream and the Treasures of the World are an alluring Mirage. Like the apparent distances in a Picture, Things have no reality in themselves but are like heat Haze” (Buddha)”

Le Parc was recorded in January/February 1985 in Berlin, London and Vienna, respectively. This album contains nine short pieces and is the beginning of the end of the long improvised tracks – at least on the studio albums.

The music is a kind of rather light and modern pop. On all pieces there is a solid bass and rhythm. The sequencers with sampled drum sounds are obviously working overtime, but the arrangements are very light-hearted and catchy, so even if the rhythms are rather complex, they are discreetly put in the background.

On two of the tracks, “Yellowstone Park” and “Zen Garden,” there are wordless singing by Clare Torry and Katja Brauneis. Furthermore, Robert Kastler is contributing with very beautiful Roland Trumpets on one track.
Le Parc was released in May the same year, and the cover, which apparently is a close-up of some steel umbrellas, is as usual photographed and designed by Monique Froese.

Tangerine Dream did not give any concerts at all that year, and maybe this was because Johannes Schmoelling was getting a little tired of the routines of recording, touring and the stressing work with soundtracks, which constantly demanded Tangerine Dream’s presence in Hollywood:

Ever since the success of the soundtrack to the movie Thief, and until the beginning of the nineties, Tangerine Dream were, as already mentioned, a very sought-after band in the Mecca of the movie industry. At times, they had much more work than they could manage. There were long working sessions, which often lasted until early in the morning, and it required a very strong mentality. On the other hand, there was (and still is…right, Franke?) a lot of good money in this line of work, and along the way it helped establish the economic foundation of Tangerine Dream’s own studios; both Froese, Franke and Schmoelling had established private studios around the world on their own premises – and of course, with the best and most modern equipment that the music business had to offer. This was, however, a two-edged sword since they had to take on more and more commercial work just to pay for their new and expensive equipment.

Anyway, Schmoelling left Tangerine Dream at the end of 1985 to concentrate on his own career and his recording studio, the Riet Studio in Berlin. He and the Froeses still seem to be on friendly terms, and it has been announced that some of Johannes Schmoelling`s work will be available on Tangerine Dream’s own label, TDI Music, sometime in the near future.

Shortly after Schmoelling left the band, he was replaced by Paul Haslinger, an Austrian musician whom Edgar Froese had met in Vienna. Paul Haslinger had done some studies at the Academy of Music in Vienna. Actually he got a master degree at the academy for making a documentary list of all events associated with the last year of W.A. Mozart’s life.

Apart from being a brilliant keyboard player and guitarist, Paul Halinger also had a considerable knowledge of computers and music equipment.

Underwater Sunlight

“You can produce the sound of two Hands clapping. Now, how does one hand sound?” (Zen Question)”

Already in January 1986, the new trio began the recording of Underwater Sunlight. The album had two long pieces and perhaps some fans seem to spot a return to those classic improvised Tangerine Dream passages. The music, though, does not bear any resemblance to the improvised highlights of the earliest albums, but it is a rather well composed suite – a little along the same lines as Tangram.

The guitar was back in the soundscape again, but this time with a completely new and more modern sound than before: Paul Haslinger might be responsible for some of the guitar work on this album, but sometimes Edgar Froese´s very personal style is clearly heard; very melodic, a little bit of blues colour, in his own tempo and not very accurate, but always very beautiful – one of the characteristics of the Tangerine Dream sound.

Even if one of the first biggest influences on Froese was Jimi Hendrix, he mentions a more modern and quite different guitar player as a source of inspiration in an interview with John Diliberto – and that is, Eddie Van Halen:
Froese: “I don’t know if I should say this”, laughs Froese,”…but I like his guitar playing. I think he’s the best guitar player. Not because he is very fast, but because he’s the only guitar player in my opinion, who knows how to transform the dynamics of classical music into guitar playing.” (John Diliberto – Down Beat, October 1986)

The music on Underwater Sunlight is very airy – or one might say floating? Big broad accords fill the album and a lot of reverb and other sonic effects are used to create an atmosphere that reflects the title, Underwater Sunlight. Monique Froese`s cover could also remind you of an underwater photo of reflections in the surface.

The album became available in the shops in May but already in March, Paul Haslinger had his debut with Tangerine Dream as a live band when they started out on a longer tour.

Tangerine Dream played from 9th to 31st March, and gave 21 concerts in England, Scotland, Germany and France.

After a short brake, the tour was continued in North America, where Tangerine Dream started out with a performance on 31st May at the World Exhibition – “Expo 86” – in Vancouver, Canada, to finally end their world tour in Washington DC on 29th June – 25 concerts later.

Tyger

“Look at your fingers of your hands if you want to know how things that are different can be the same” (Mikhail Naimy)

Tangerine Dream’s next release, Tyger, once again came to mean a few changes for the band. Froese, Franke and Haslinger had a gap between sessions in the movie studios and wanted to do something new. Edgar Froese came up with the suggestion that they could use some of the English poet William Blake’s texts – even though the last album with vocals (Cyclone) had not been a big success.

This album, which was re-made in Berlin and Vienna in February 1987, is built up around four of William Blake’s poems and you can easily feel that Tangerine Dream are trying to illustrate them, with their picturesque soundscapes. Jocelyn B. Smith from New York, who sings on Tyger, is put up front in the mix and the music seems to be almost secondary to the singing at times. As a contrast to the rest of the album, the last track, “21st Century Common Man,” is a very good piece of instrumental sequencer music, which can easily lead your mind on to something like J. S. Bach.

Tyger was, by the way, produced with the support of some Steinberg software on the Atari computer.

The album was released in June, and even though it sold rather well, the band had their bad predictions confirmed; many fans did not like the album very much, and a lot of critics almost killed off Tyger completely! Froese & co. did not let themselves become influence by that fact – as so often before, Edgar expressed that Tangerine Dream first of all made music for themselves! Well, it might have had some consequences after all because a tour was not arranged to follow the album release was usually the case with all the previous album releases…

In 1987, Tangerine Dream also recorded a track for “The 1987 International Summer Special Olympic Games”. It was written by Jon Lyons and was called, “A Time for Heroes.” Apart from Tangerine Dream’s instrumental version, it also exists in a version performed by Meat Loaf and Brian May!

Chris Franke, who had performed with Edgar Froese and Tangerine Dream for more than 16 years, wanted to take a break from the routines of touring, album and soundtrack recordings. The work in the band had become too stressful, his private life was under pressure, and Franke simply needed a break from always having to be creative.

Froese: “We both felt it was time for us to move in different directions. It was a totally split. But I must say that Franke and I had always had a curious relationship. We didn’t have much to do with each other on a personal level. We worked together 17 years but, throughout all that time, we met privately on just one occasion!” (Melody Maker – 8 October 1994)

Franke: “In the beginning, there was never plan for me to leave Tangerine Dream. What we had was a plan for the whole band to do a long creative break to improve the whole system and organism known as Tangerine Dream. This included restoring my own organism mentally and physically…..The idea of a group break was pretty popular in Edgar’s mind. He was seriously considering it. But with so many business possibilities striking his office every day, he changed his mind at the last moment…So I started the break myself by just quietly backing off and not being much involved in the daily routine. Once I started, I became very much in love with my decision to take this brake. As a result I just started planning what I would do with it on my own…The ultimate decision about my departure came at the point when Edgar decided to tour again…”

“Now neither Edgar nor I have any regrets. It was a natural process. Everything was talked over and thought over. It was a grown-up decision. It was nothing out of the blue and definitely not like a fight…In our case, two organisms who are nine years of age apart just evolved and grew apart to seek their own separate futures. Edgar has found his future more and more. I have too. Edgar and I still see each other and help each other. I mean, it’s so very BORING because there was no spectacular event or a huge reason!” (Interview with Elana Mell Beach – Electronic Dreams/Dreams Word #14 & 15 – 1993)

Furthermore, the cooperation with their record company, Jive Records, was beginning to brake up so Tangerine Dream were also looking for a new label.

Livemiles

One last big concert and one more album were to be made, before Chris Franke left Tangerine Dream definitively in March 1987.

In 1987, Berlin was celebrating its 750-year anniversary as a city. It was marked by a lot of cultural activities in West Berlin. On 1st August, a big Rock Salute was arranged; it was a big open-air concert, where, among other bands, Tangerine Dream played before a quite impressive crowd of about 42,000 people. It was, however, very close to get cancelled; half an hour before Tangerine Dream were to go on stage, a very heavy rainstorm began and made the conditions quite chaotic both on and off stage. A lot of water on stage is not the best environment for a lot of electronic instruments and high voltage amplifiers, but the weather cleared up, and the concert was carried through.

The concert was broadcast on the radio, 22nd October the same year – after having been treated in one of Tangerine Dream’s recording studios of course.

This was to become Chris Franke´s last concert with his old band, before he began his extensive solo career – especially as a soundtrack composer. He has also created a new record label in the USA, Sonic Images, which has released a lot of productions from other artists and made some sample CD’s and he has also been a consultant for a computer system called WaveFrame/Audioframe.

A 27-minute long extract form this concert was released as one of two tracks on an album with the title, Livemiles, but lacking the rights to some of the music, which was played at the concert, Tangerine Dream had to do a lot of editing in the recordings.

The second track on Livemiles is a piece of a concert recorded in Albuquerque on 8th June while touring in America the year before, but this release is also heavily edited compared to the concert. Some of it is recorded at the sound check in the afternoon, some of it at the concert itself, and finally a little bit of it is from a later concert in New York. All these parts have been put together in the studio in order to make it appear as one whole piece.

The album made from this performance would also become Franke´s last release with the band. With Livemiles, Tangerine Dream had fulfilled their obligations with the record company, Jive, and for Chris Franke, it was a natural point in time to split up with Tangerine Dream.

The music on Livemiles was split into two very long pieces, but it was not the old improvised style, based on Franke´s sequencers. The music was rather a proclamation of the more pop-oriented style, which was beginning to emerge. The sampled drums, rhythm machines, and computers were allowed to dominate and it was a style that Tangerine Dream would adopt more and more in the following years.

As usual, the live album was well prepared and re-mixed in the studio after the recording had taken place. Later, Edgar Froese was asked about this by a fan in a radio interview on the program “Swingungen” (23/2 – 89); the fan had been at the concert in Berlin, but he could not recognise much of it on the album. Froese explained that due to legal obligations and contracts, it was not possible to release the whole concert. Some of the music had to be removed, and some of it had to be re-mixed beyond recognition.

As this remark suggests, there might have been some problems with the record company, but anyway, Livemiles was the last album that Tangerine Dream made for Jive Records.

Optical Race

“The visible creates work in form – the invisible defines its worth” (Lao Tse – Tao te King)

For a short while, Tangerine Dream was a duo without a record company, but a solution to this problem was soon to be found; Since Peter Baumann had left Tangerine Dream in 1977, he had, apart from his projects as a solo artist, started a new record label in the USA, which was first of all supposed to put out instrumental music. It was called Private Music and as the original idea of the label was compatible to what Tangerine Dreams had in mind, what would be more natural than old friends teaming up again on a professional level and accordingly, Tangerine Dream signed a contract with Private Music.

The first result of this new cooperation was Optical Race. It was recorded in April/May 1988, in Tangerine Dream’s studios in Berlin and Vienna. It was released in August by Private Music.

The music was of course composed and played by Edgar Froese and Paul Haslinger, but a single track was composed by a certain Ralf Wadephul. He was from Berlin, where he had been taking lessons to become “tonmeister” and made a living out of making music for small films and commercials. Ralph Wadephul also played keyboards in some smaller bands in Berlin. It was here that Edgar Froese got in touch with him and as Edgar liked his way of playing, contact was soon established:

Froese: “The Berlin keyboard scene is quite active, so finding him was easy. We are lucky that he worked on the same equipment that we do, and that he is on the same musical level that we are.” (Keyboard, November 1988)

This time, Optical Race was put together from ten short pieces and its character was somewhat mainstream – very melodic on a solid base of drum machines and sequencer rhythms still, however, unmistakably Tangerine-Dream-like. There are some very good tunes on Optical Race, but also some music that seems to lead to nowhere.

The music was produced on an Atari computer by the use of Steinberg software.

This time, Monique Froese had created a very elegant cover. It is a pictogram of a runner – in the same way as the pictures we all know from the world of sports. The title, Optical Race, refers to the growing degree of visualisation, which seems to fill up our modern society, and Edgar Froese often sees this as a kind of visual muzak.

With a new album, a new label, and a new man, Ralf Wadephul, on his way into the band, Tangerine Dream found the time to go on a major tour in the USA once again. This was the country, where Tangerine Dream had had their biggest successes through the years.

The tour began on 25th August in Chicago and ended in Vancouver on 28th September. 23 concerts were given throughout most of the USA and a small detour was taken to Canada, where Tangerine Dream played three concerts.

Lily on the Beach

“Lily got in from nowhere, stayed in the house for a lifetime and disappeared suddenly through the west window – Why couldn’t she go through the east? She didn’t know! Have a cop of coffee and relax” (Tangerine Dream)

The next release from Tangerine Dream was Lily on the Beach, which was in the shops in October 1989. Ralf Wadephul had left the band after only a year and again, Tangerine Dream were reduced to just being the Froese/Haslinger duo.

Lily on the Beach was made in the studios in Berlin and Vienna during July and August. It was composed on the computer sequencer program, Cubase. Cubase, which was among the first of its kind, has since developed into being some of the most used music software.

The two gentlemen, Froese and Haslinger were not alone on the recordings; Hubert Waldner plays the soprano sax and flute on one of the tracks, and Jerome Froese, Edgar’s son, was promoted from just being a model in the photographs to being allowed to play on one of his father’s albums. He plays a guitar solo on the track, “Radio City.”

The music is much more varied than on the previous album. Sometimes rather heavy and sometimes quite mellow in its expression. A lot more guitar was heard, which again was an instrument to be connected with Tangerine Dream, and the band had seriously discovered the use of the saxophone…

Lily on the Beach was not followed up by a tour, and Tangerine Dream did not give any concerts at all in 1989, but especially Paul Haslinger spent a lot of time (and money) on building and arranging Tangerine Dream’s new studio in Vienna, the Eastgate Studio.

Melrose

The Crows maintain, A single Crow could destroy Heaven, That is doubtless, but doesn’t move Heaven, for, Heaven implies precisely; Impossibility of Crows” (Franz Kafka)

Ever since Jerome Froese appeared, more or less hidden as a photographic motive on the first Tangerine Dream covers, he has presumable been fed with a lot of different musical inputs.

Of course, Jerome learned to master the keyboards, drums and guitar very quickly. As a teenager, he formed some traditional rock bands and was more inspired by the new wave and punk scene of the eighties than the kind of music that Tangerine Dream stand for, some of his all time favourite bands are the Cure and Van Halen!

In a radio interview, he once said that he found Tangerine Dream’s first albums both very interesting and meaningful, but he like their rock-orientated period around 1980 the most albums like Cyclone, Tangram and so on.

As Jerome Froese had learned the skills of making music, and of course had a big knowledge of what Tangerine Dream was all about, what could be more natural than him becoming a permanent member of the band?
Starting from Melrose, this family orchestra was then a reality. Father and son were playing and composing with their friends, while mother was photographing and designing covers…

Jerome´s first real move with Tangerine Dream was accordingly to be Melrose, which was recorded by Edgar Froese, Jerome Froese and Paul Haslinger in the summer of 1990.

Once again Hubert Waldner appeared as a guest musician on the title track, where he played the saxophone.

Melrose, which was released on Private Music in October the same year, contained much more mellow music than Lily on the Beach had done, but still, the usual rhythmical synth-pop/rock was typical for this period of time. Not many classic pieces – well, you might come to think of New Age, and Tangerine Dream have never wanted to be associated with New Age music…

The cover with the three bicycle riders in an American desert was this time photographed by Jim Rakete – a very highly recognised photographer in the business, who would also come to produce pictures for the covers up to this day. In the earlier days, Jim Rakete had also done some work for Peter Baumann´s solo work.

A music video was also produced in the desert, and some short excerpts from this video have appeared on Tangerine Dream’s two latest videos.
Another video was also made to promote the album and is said to have been shown on music television once. It is supposed to be some kind of western (?) and some stills are shown in the tour program from 1990.

Melrose was followed up by a brief tour in England from 25th October to 4th November 1990. The tour introduced Paul Griesbach on sax and flute and especially Linda Spa on saxophone, she would later become a more or less permanent member of Tangerine Dream.

Rockoon

“All that we see or seem is but a Dream within a Dream” (Edgar Allen Poe)
Paul Haslinger left the band in the spring of 1991 after spending five years with Edgar Froese. He now lives in the USA, where he – as apparently happens to be a tradition for ex-members of Tangerine Dream – is scoring a lot of soundtracks! Besides that, he has also been involved with the French ambient group, Lightwave. He was also working with Peter Baumann, but it never got down to recording. Paul Haslinger has also recorded some music in his own name put together in his own studio, The Assembly Room, and in 1996, he gave his first solo performance in the best Tangerine Dream tradition. This happened at the KLEM-festival in Holland in October – an event which I had the pleasure of watching.

Once again, Tangerine Dream were reduced to a duo and they had no contract with nor any obligations towards Private Music, so it was time to look for another record company.

Peter Baumann himself was also leaving this record label, which he played a major part create; he sold the biggest part of Private Music to BMG, which was their distributor. Shortly after that, he sold the rest and retired from the record company. Peter Baumann`s name still appears in the music business and sometimes he is producing albums with different artists.

Maybe due to legal reasons, the year 1991 turned out to be one of the very few years without any official studio albums or concerts.

Tangerine Dream were not put to rest though, but in the first months of 1992, a lot of time – and money – was used to renew their recording studios in Germany and Austria. The Cave in Berlin and the Eastgate in Vienna were thoroughly renovated and made up to date.

Apart from this, Edgar Froese, who is a very movie-interested person, was working on his own film project about the Dutch renaissance painter Hieronymus Bosch. Froese was supposed to do both the pictures and the music himself, but now, at the time of writing, it has not yet been published and maybe the work is still in progress.

1991 was also the year when the official Tangerine Dream International Fan Club, which was run from the Tangerine Dream headquarters in Berlin, had to put an end to its activities due to commercial complications; someone was misusing the address lists of members for their own commercial activities.

As a last favour to the members of the fan club, Edgar and Jerome Froese recorded a 28-minute long CD single; Quinoa. It was sent to all members exclusively, and as it was supposed to be made in just 1,000 copies. It soon became a collector’s item, but mysteriously enough, a few hundred copies of this rare single suddenly appeared. They came from some secret Tangerine Dream hiding place, and was sold by the band through VoicePrint on the Internet.

In 1992, for a short period of time, Tangerine Dream returned to their old record company, Virgin, which released the album, Rockoon.
Rockoon contains music recorded both in the Eastgate Studio and the Cave. Apart from father and son on keyboards and guitars, a few guest musicians contributed; Richi Wester, Enrico Fernandez and Zlatko Perica on sax, Macubaha (?) and guitar, respectively.

The music was very rock orientated and rhythmical (read: guitars, basses & drums!) and maybe the closest thing Tangerine Dream have ever been to plain rock`n’roll. Especially the guitar (and Jerome!) had been given a lot of space on this album.

With Rockoon just out and a new record deal signed with Miramar, Tangerine Dream were once again ready to tour the USA. On this tour in the spring of 1992, apart from the Froese family, Tangerine Dream also featured Zlatko Perica on guitar and Linda Spa on sax. She is by the way a former model and music scholar from Vienna.

220 Volt Live

“The best rules are barely known to men. The next best rules are cherished and extolled. The lesser are feared, and the least are scorned. Distrust cannot summon trust. The sage acts without words and people take all for granted.” (Tao Tse Tao Teh King)

How Tangerine Dream sounded in the USA in 1992 can be heard on the live album – 220 Volt Live. It was released on their new label Miramar at the beginning of 1993.

It was not the first time the band had been involved with this American label though; back in 1987 Tangerine Dream made the music for a video film about the spectacular Grand Canyon. It was a part of a series of nature films, which Miramar was behind. The Tangerine Dream soundtrack was also released with the title Canyon Dreams, and both video and soundtrack were received very well – the video even got nominated for a Grammy Award.

Well, the music on 220 Volt Live is some of the most heavy music the band has ever put out on record. The guitar player, Zlatko Perica, plays a very prominent part and the rest of Tangerine Dream almost seems to be his backing group. One long part with guitar was followed by another and this was on a solid background of firm sequencers and drum beats.

Seen with the Tangerine Dream standard, one of the encores of the concerts was a very raw version of the old Jimi Hendrix piece, “Purple Haze,” which also appears on 220 Volt Live. It was the first time Tangerine Dream had put out music, they had not written themselves.

With the track, “Purple Haze,” they even got nominated for a Grammy Award in 1994 in the category of the best rock-instrumental. They did not, however, actually win this prestigious prize.

Even if Tangerine Dream hated to be labelled as a New Age band and firmly denied to be making that kind of music, there was so much focus on the band in the States, that they got nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of the best New Age album in all the years from 1992 to 1995. They also had a single nomination in the category of the best Long-form Video in 1994. They did not, however, take home any of these awards…

Three Phase

(Past, Present, Future)

At the same time as 220 Volt Live was released on CD, Tangerine Dream’s first official concert video was put out. The cover artwork is almost the same as on 220 Volt Live. The video was called, Three Phase and was apparently found worthy of a Grammy Award nomination, which it did not win though.

This video contains a lot of material from the tour in the USA, but it also contains cuts from earlier stages in their career as well as computer graphics and many private pictures recorded by the band members while touring around the world.

Everything is heavily manipulated and runs through different video effect machines. Sometimes it feels like the pictures or frames are moving a little bit too slow like a movie on a computer screen and that tends to get rather boring.

For some cuts, like on a live version of Phaedra, computer animation has been used entirely, which reminds you of something from a small PC program, which might be recognised by some people as the game called Dazzle.

All in all, it is a very good and varied video, which is different from most other rock videos released during these years.

A shame though, that only a fraction of the 50 minutes the video lasts, is from the earlier days. A pity, since there must be an enormous amount of pictures and film stowed away somewhere in the old archives good enough to be put out in their own right.

Hopefully some of the existing footage from the earlier years will be released some day.

Turn of the Tides

In 1993, Edgar Froese wrote the surrealistic story, “The Coachman’s Tale,” which is a story taking place in a fantasy universe similar to the world of Tolkien. A piece of this story was used as the literary basis for the next album, Turn of the Tides.

The four musicians from the tour in the USA started the recordings in Berlin and Vienna in the autumn of 1993, and at the beginning of 1994 the result was ready for released.

Turn of the Tides openes with yet another cover version, i.e. M. Ravel`s orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky`s “Pictures of an Exhibition.” In Tangerine Dream’s version, it is arranged for horns – The Vienna Horn Ensemble – and trumpet, sax and keyboards. The music is used as the background for the sound of horses and a coach passing by (The Coachman?).

The rest of the album has a lot of variation and it moves through rather different styles – presented in the typical Tangerine Dream wrapping. Even if there is a lot of guitar on this album – especially a very nice Spanish guitar – the instrument is playing a more modest part in the picture of sound. On the other hand, Linda Spa’s sax has been given a lot more space.

“The Coachman’s Tale,” from which an extract is also printed on the cover seems to be a concept, which the titles seem to reflect, but to what extent the music fits the concept, Edgar Froese is the only one who knows the answer.

Tangents 1973-1983

Later in the year, in October 1994, a very interesting and well-made compilation was released; a great 5-CD box with the title, Tangents, and apart from many hours of music, it contains a booklet with more than 50 pages of a very thorough Tangerine Dream biography, written by Mark Pendergast. It is not illustrated with photographs of the band, but with beautiful landscapes and computer graphics.

Edgar Froese had made a deal with Virgin about re-releasing some of the best music from the ten years on the English label. Those ten years must be seen as the peak of Tangerine Dream’s career.

Edgar Froese did all the re-mixing himself, and a part of the music was actually re-recorded. Other tracks had new synthesizer parts overdubbed, but all has been done very faithfully to the originals and the results are remarkably good.

On the technical level, nothing seems to have been spared, conditions have been optimal and the result is an excellent sound quality. And who else than the old Tangerine Dream members have the experience to do it? That is why it is Ralph Wadephul, who has transferred analogue tapes to digital tapes in his own studios, and Johannes Schmoelling, who has done the digital pre-mastering in his Riet Studio.

The first three CD’s contain excerpts from the 13 albums that Tangerine Dream managed to record on the Virgin label – from the great success album, Phaedra, to the last on the label, Hyperborea. The fourth CD contains music from the soundtracks of this period and the fifth CD contains some music that has never been released before.

Edgar Froese had to admit that it was a much bigger task than he had imagined initially, but the result is good and it has breathed new life into even more than 20-year old recordings.

For those who are not yet familiar with Tangerine Dream, this compilation is a very good place to start; the best music of a very good sound quality.

In the wake of Tangents, Virgin started the re-release of the original 13 Virgin albums in re-mastered CD versions which they called the “Definitive Edition.”A new digital mastering system – Sony’s Super Bit Mapping – was used to transfer the master tapes onto CD.

It was supposed to result in a radical improvement of the sound quality and it seemed to have worked on most albums, but not all. Apart from this, a lot of “strange” errors appear on the new covers: credit has been given to Peter Baumann for being one of the composers on Tangram, but when that album was recorded, he had already left the band!

Another good example: on the back of the definitive edition of Exit, it says Exit – Tangerine Dream Live, but it is absolutely not live!

From all of this, it is evident that Tangerine Dream themselves did not have a lot to do with this “Definitive Edition” project.

I the spring of 1996, it was to become a very popular sport among fans on the Internet to find these misspellings on the re-releases, which were called “Definitive Errors”…

Tyranny of Beauty

“Is my body something other than a swarming sea of living cells who revolve to a hereditary habit of millions of years, around one hidden essential point?” (Gustav Meyrink)

The Froese family were working on the next album from July to September 1994 at the Eastgate Studio in Vienna, and this album was to be called Tyranny of Beauty. Linda Spa was now more or less a member of the band, while Zlatko Perica`s guitar was exchanged with two guests musicians – Mark Hornby and Gerald Gradwool.

Mark Hornby: “I was really impressed with their studio actually and it was a really good environment down there. And Monique, Edgar’s wife, is really nice. She’d start the day off really well with a full cooked breakfast, and it’s really relaxed. It`s great!

“She’s (Linda Spa) a hard worker actually. We finished not particularly late, but we`d sort of be finishing at twelve every night and I´d be going to sleep to the electronic click of Linda Spa’s metronome somewhere distantly down the corridor.

“…It was an education working with Edgar, because he’s a perfectionist and he’s also prepared to try anything guitar wise. You can just verbalise certain things to him and he won’t say no to anything, he’ll just say “Let’s try it.” So it`s quite positive from that point of view.

“…It`s a really nice family atmosphere down there. They make you fell very welcome. Edgar took us out every night to all these restaurants he knows. A lot of people you work for, the studio closes at night and you get the tube home and that’s it. It`s very anonymous. Whereas Edgar looks after you. Obviously you’re staying at his place but he doesn’t have to do that.” (Voyager # 11/12 vol. 2 – 1995)

The album came out in March 1995, and was heavily promoted by Miramar, who among other things, opened a page on their Internet homepage where you could download some samples of the music and watch small videos of the band.

One of the highlights on Tyranny of Beauty was a new version of perhaps the ultimate piece of music from the hands of Tangerine Dream – the title track from the album, Stratosfear.

Once again, Froese`s sources of inspiration were revealed, as the last track on Tyranny of Beauty is a version of a classical piece of music. This time, a very soft version of the “Largo” from “Xerxes” – which was originally written by the baroque composer, Georg Friederich Händel. The arrangement was made by Edgar Froese and Linda Spa plays the melody part on alto sax. The keyboards are very discreet and blend in very imperceptionally with the real strings – maybe they are not present at all – if that is the case, this may be Tangerine Dream’s first unplugged and acoustic recording…

This time the cover was designed by a new Tangerine Dream company, Tadream Vision, in Berlin. The photographs on the inside of the cover were of course made by Mrs. Froese.

Another new Tangerine Dream company, Tadream Technologies, did the mastering of the CD using their own DQC SYSTEM.

The album was supposed to be followed up by a tour – at least to the USA. Some dates and venues were made public, but the tour was postponed, and finally cancelled.

Tangerine Dream did, however, appear once at a more or less public concert in the States that year. It was on 12th July in Los Angeles, where Edgar and Jerome Froese, Linda Spa and Gerald Gradwool appeared at a large fashion show. It was arranged by one of the leading fashion magazines in USA, Xsess Living magazine, and it is said to have been a very good and rather heavy concert.

The Dream Mixes

“This album is dedicated to the two ladies who followed and supported our strange and often explain-able curves in life and music with wisdom and patience. Very special thanks to Monica and Anja”

In April 1995, Edgar and Jerome Froese were working alone on a new project: Ambient/dance mixes of their own music.

Despite what you might expect from such a project, it is a remarkably well-made album, where the music gets a much more raw, rhythmic and free form. You can easily recognise many of the typical elements and clichés from the modern dance music on the album, but they are used faithfully to the Tangerine Dream sound. A matter of taste, but maybe The Dream Mixes has got more vigour than many of the recent releases.

It has the real added sound effects, sampled exotic sounds and vocals. All the time, something new happens in the soundscape and many analogue-sounding keyboards help give the album a lot of variation.

Six of the tracks are re-mixes of titles from the previous three studio releases, and maybe they are more refreshing than the originals. The last four tracks are new and they lean very much towards the dance/techno style, which, Tangerine Dream obviously wanted to become associated with on this album.

The Dream Mixes, which was apparently put out in some sort of co-operation between Miramar and Virgin, was massively promoted in other places than the usual Tangerine Dream circles: It is no doubt meant for an audience you would normally find on the techno/ambient/dance scene.

The cover is also very atypical for a Tangerine Dream release, and is more in the style of a lot of the pop art, which decorates (?) CDs with dance music; a computer-made young girl – looking like someone from a ballroom in the fifties is dancing around in a psychedelic spot on a screaming yellow background. A cover, which has the character of planned coincidence.

At the beginning of 1996, another version of The Dream Mixes was released: this time, a double-CD with the same title containing more re-mixes and a new cover. The first of this double pack is identical with the original, but on the second album, The Club Dream Mixes, you find re-mixes of the re-mixes (!) and two completely new tracks.

This double CD is also the first music to be released on Tangerine Dream’s own label – TDI Music International. Over the years Edgar Froese has had a lot of very harsh comments about the music business and his connections with record labels have absolutely not been very stable! So in 1996 TDI was launched primarily in order to release and promote Tangerine Dream’s own music and gain full control over all means of production.

Later, the Dream Mixes project was followed by a video with the same title. This video came out in the middle of 1997 and is just a long music video mostly with excerpts from the bands tours and travels around the globe.

Goblins Club

From May to July 1996, Tangerine Dream were working in their Eastgate Studio in Vienna on recordings for the next album, Goblins Club. The idea for this album was conceived by Edgar Froese on a transatlantic flight from Amsterdam to Los Angeles:

Edgar Froese; “On this peaceful and spiritual air-plane flight, which followed the twilight all the way over the Atlantic, I was thinking about the people down on Earth and about how nobody seems to behave with humanity and charity. Maybe they behave more like goblins (monsters) and the Earth is their cave” (Kavan Press release – 1996).

Some of the music – the track “Towards the Evening Star” – was composed on this very same flight by Edgar and Jerome on portable computers at an altitude of about 10 km.

The music was not as hard and techno-like as the previous Dream Mixes, but was rather a return to the more mellow style on Turn of the Tides. Linda Spa and various other guest musicians appeared on the album together with the Vienna Boys Choir.

This time the photographs for the cover was once again taken by Jim Rakete – as well as the picture below from one of the many beautiful café’s in Vienna.
At the release of Goblins Club, a promotion video was also put out, which I have had the pleasure of watching. Edgar Froese has produced a short video for the piece “Towards the Evening Star”; a handful of dancers moving closely in front of the camera in a computer-animated landscape. Well, nothing else happens…

The same track was, by the way, re-mixed by one of the most popular ambient/techno-bands; the English duo, The Orb who were the first to borrow some original master tapes from Tangerine Dream in 1996, and were allowed make a re-mix. The result; a version of “Towards the Evening Star” came out in early 1997. Tangerine Dream were not very happy with this album, and for a good reason; it is almost impossible to recognise any music from the original, so you could ask why bother to do a re-mix and why not do something new instead?

1996 also saw the Olympic Games and a lot of music were played at the Games in Atlanta. Some of it made by the big names in electronic music – and also by Tangerine Dream, who were represented by some of their older music from albums like Poland and Le Parc.

The same year – exactly at midnight on 15th October – Tangerine Dream opened their official homepage on the Internet, and since then it has developed into becoming one of the nicest and most informative homepages in cyberspace from a band. A visit here is absolutely worthwhile.

Shepherd’s Bush Live 1996

The 30th November 1996, was the first opportunity in 6 years to see Tangerine Dream live in Europe. The band had just signed a record deal with Castle Communication and to promote their first release – Goblins Club – on their new label, a concert was arranged at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire Theatre in London.

Among fans, it turned out to be an international event, and fans came from all over the world. Some Danish friends and I took a few days off and left for London on a plane.

Well, how was it then to witness your first Tangerine Dream concert when you have followed the band´s career very closely for more than 20 years?
First of all, I have to say that it all took place in a very positive atmosphere – and that means both before the concert itself and afterwards. On the Internet, fans had arranged to meet before the show in a small pub near the Shepherd’s Bush Theatre. At the pub, everybody talked excitedly about our common interest, addresses were exchanged and so on.

At the entrance to the Shepherd’s Bush Theatre, there was according to tradition – a lot of different merchandise for sale, and among other things, you could buy Limited Edition CDs; for this one off concert, Tangerine Dream had released a CD in 2,000 numbered copies with the title Shepherd’s Bush. It was supposed to be sold at the concert exclusively, but it has since appeared elsewhere. The CD contains two tracks, and the first one is surprisingly enough a cover version of the classic Lennon & McCartney tune “Eleanor Rigby”! The second track, “Thief Yang and the Tangram Seal” is a very upbeat remake of pieces from Tangram and Thief.

The audience at the concert, almost 2.000 people, from very different age groups seemed to represent a broad span of people and not just the ordinary young rock-concert audience – found their seats and a little past eight o’clock, the big black curtain, which had hidden the stage until then, fell down and the concert began.

All of the first set was a mixture of older pieces mixed together with new bridges to form one long piece. The music was mostly from the eighties, but one of the highlights was a version of the classic Stratosfear in a version, which can also be found on Tyranny of Beauty with the title, “Stratosfear 1995.” This set was accompanied by a traditional light and laser show.

The second part of the show started out with a piano solo by Edgar Froese. He played/improvised through well-known Tangerine Dream themes, and later Linda Spa took over the piano and continued in a more classical style. The rest of the second set was mostly music from the recent albums in a very “Dream Mixes-like” style and very rhythmical. There was a lot of room for Linda Spa’s sax and the two guitar players, Mark Hornby and Gerald Gradwohl. Behind the musicians, film excerpts and animated computer graphics were shown on a big screen. Some of the excerpts were from the recent video – The Video Dream Mixes.

Another highlight at the concert was – judging from by the audience’s cheers – one of Edgar Froese´s classic guitar solos in the first encore, “Hamlet.”
The concert ended with yet two encores, which were “Thief Yang and the Tangram Seal” and “Eleanor Rigby” – both from the CD single, Shepherd’s Bush. Then Edgar Froese picked up a microphone, thanked the audience for coming and he then expressed his gratitude to John Peel; “Without John Peel, Tangerine Dream’s long lasting adventure in electronic music would have been impossible.”

After the concert, some of us had a chance to talk to the band. Then we went back to the hotel on the other side of London and had a few hours of sleep before leaving on an early plane back to Denmark.

For those who did not have the opportunity to go to London, there was supposed to be a direct transmission – both sound and moving pictures – on the Internet, but due to technical difficulties, the project didn’t work out as planned. The concert was nevertheless recorded, and a few days later, it was possible to hear a re-transmission via Real Audio – the sound quality, however, was not exactly Hi-Fi…

The concert at Shepherd’s Bush Theatre was to be the last one for Linda Spa as a member of Tangerine Dream, and the band (Edgar & Jerome that is!) proclaimed that in future, they would work with different musicians and guests from project to project instead of a regular band.

Tangerine Dream Tour 1997

Europe Tour – Hamburg 15th April

A few months later, in the spring of 1997, a new – and to many people throughout Europe – a long awaited opportunity arose to go to a Tangerine Dream concert in Europe. After a premiere in Vienna on 9th April, Tangerine Dream went on a long tour on the European continent and for the first time since 1981, they also toured through Germany.

Since the one-off concert in London the year before, Tangerine Dream had made some changes; Linda Spa, who had more or less been a regular member of the band, had left. Instead, two guest musicians were invited to join the band on the tour – the guitar player, Zlatko Perica, who had also been part of the latest tour in the USA and the percussionist, Emil Hachfeld, who had been studying music in Berlin.

Hachfeld played on a special set of drums build up around some Codo-drums, developed by Tangerine Dream themselves. The four musicians did not have any opportunities to rehearse together sufficiently so the tour was first of all prepared from a rehearsal tape made by Edgar and Jerome.

Tangerine Dream played in Hamburg on 15th April at the “Musikhalle,” which is an old theatre or concert hall of the same kind as Shepherd’s Bush. It was the closest to Denmark Tangerine Dream would come on this tour, so of course, we Danes rented a bus and went down there.

The audience found their seats while listening to strange sounds coming from the speakers; the sound of a jungle was mixed with classical music and pieces of new and old Tangerine Dream music and sound effects like running trains and things like that. This “pre-concert music” has later been released with the title, Ambient Monkeys.

The music was more or less the same as at Shepherd’s Bush in London, but with a few new things added. Some of the music from the soundtrack, Oasis, was played and of course there were new arrangements for guitar and drums instead of the sax.

The first set was again a vintage part with older music put together to form a 70-minute long piece and the second set had, like the second set at Shepherd’s Bush, mostly recent music in “Dream Mixes-like” arrangements – also put together to form one long piece. The first set was accompanied by a traditional, but nice, laser and light show, and in the second set, a film was continuously running on a big screen behind the band. The excerpts were mainly from the videos, Oasis and The Video Dream Mixes, but also computer-animated graphics were shown.

Both Zlatko and Hachfeld did a great job and they added the element of live-music to the concert – in contrast to the two Froese gentlemen who sat motionless behind their stacks of keyboards; with the use of keyboards, sequencers, synthesisers and other electronic instruments it can be very difficult to see who is playing what – if anything at all – and that tends to get a little boring at times.

Especially the drum solo that Emil Hachfeld started out with in the second set was very much appreciated according to the cheers from the crowd, but also Zlatko`s brilliant guitar playing throughout the concert helped make it a very good experience altogether.

The concert ended with a few encores and the last one was the Hendrix cover “Purple Haze”. Zlatko Perica was showing off. He is truly a great guitar player…

On Friday 18th April, the Tangerine Dream tour had reached Neu-Isenburg near Frankfurt, and this time, the concert was successfully transmitted over the Internet. The music could be heard live via Real Audio – of a very telephone-like sound quality, but this system will hopefully get better with time – and once in a while, a still picture was sent live from a camera at the concert.

All of the second set was recorded at a concert in Zabrze in Poland on 23rd April 1997. It was released on a CD with the title, Tournado even before Tangerine Dream had ended their tour! Tournado was to be the first live-release from the band without any major treatment of the original material. It was meant to sound exactly as it had sounded that evening in Poland, and that means no overdubs and things like that.

To many fans regrets only the second set was released and not the first “vintage” set that had been so very well received by the audience throughout the tour. As so many times before it might have something to do with a copyright issue; The music in the “vintage” set had originally been recorded on several different record labels and it would have been a hard job getting permission to put those tracks out together on the same CD.

Anyway, the music of the vintage set eventually got on CD the following year recorded on the second leg of the tour in England.

Valentine Wheels and much more TDI

In the autumn of 1997 they resumed their touring with 7 dates in England starting in Bristol on Wednesday 29th of October and ended in London, 6th of November. The tour went on like the previous tour in Germany almost the same music was played but they managed to record the vintage set at the Shepherds Bush Empire Theatre in London and released it in 1998 on the TDI label as Valentine Wheels.

Valentine Wheels was not the very first TDI release, but since the TDI label really hit the streets in 1998 as a real record company, Tangerine Dream have released a lot of material on their own label; new music, compilations, soundtracks and re-releases. You can find all the titles in the discography or you can find more information about them on the TDI homepage, but some of the special releases are worth mentioning:

Dream Dice: The biggest collection of Tangerine Dream music ever put out in one bunch. It was put out to promote the start of the company and as a way of presenting the first 12 CDs issued by the TDI label. It contained 12 CDs and a bonus CD with three tracks never before released. The CDs were; Ambient Monkeys, Atlantic Bridges, Atlantic Walls, Dream Encores, Dream Mixes One (DCD), Time SquareDream Mixes Two, The Hollywood Years Vol. One and Vol. Two, Oasis, Quinoa, Tournado, Transsiberia and the bonus CD.

Luminous Vision: Tangerine Dream issued the soundtrack for a computer-animated movie made by the Japanese video artist Yoichiro Kawaguchi. Since there was not actually any new music on the CD, it was only released in a package along with the video.

Topping Out Ceremony: On 2nd of September 1998 the grand Japanese multimedia company, Sony held a Topping Out Ceremony at their new center at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. The top of the Sony company was invited to this event besides a few other of the most important business partners. Tangerine Dream, Edgar and Jerome Froese that is, performed a very short concert (18 minutes) accompanied by dancers from the “Komische Oper.” The music was then given to the attendants on a CD as a memento of the event, but there are no plans to release the music officially.

Kent Eskildsen

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“Todd Rundgren Interviews Himself” (1974)

December 25, 2009 at 9:32 am (Music, Reviews & Articles, Todd Rundgren)

Todd Rundgren wrote this for Record magazine, March 1974, around the time that his double album Todd was released…


With the success of “Hello It’s Me” as well as his productions with Grand Funk, the New York Dolls and others, Todd Rundgren has become one of the most important figures on today’s pop scene. Recently Todd took time out to discuss his forthcoming album, Todd, and his plans for the future, with our New York correspondent Alan Betrock.

Todd was recorded mostly during July; actually July & August, 1973, and it was my usual hodgepodge approach to performance in the album. I did a lot of the tracks solely myself, and I guess on about half of them, there was a drummer, bassist, keyboardist etc… various combinations of personnel. There wasn’t any set backup band. I had some songs left over from my last album, but not any leftover tracks. If I don’t use a track on a particular album, it usually doesn’t have any relevance by the time the next LP comes around. I usually don’t have a specific concept that is fully realized when I start the album. It gets more realized as the record happens. I thought Todd was going to be a single album, but it just turned out to be too long, so I had to put it on two records. This was all decided before the plastic shortage. I don’t think. I’m going to have to compromise because of the energy shortage, but if I had known that there was going to be this shortage when I made the record, I would have made definite attempts not to exceed a single album’s worth of material.

I only once did an album by myself (Something/Anything), or at least a major part of it was myself. It was the only album where I had the attitude that I had to do it all. It was only because I was experimenting, not because I was establishing myself as a solo virtuoso artist. On this new album, it was just a case of hearing certain things, and if I couldn’t perform it, I’d get someone else to do it. You can only have so much technique, and I always hear things that exceed my technique.

The success of “Hello It’s Me” doesn’t bother me, but having to perform the song does bother me. Having to do anything bothers me when it’s not something I feel naturally inspired to do. I’m not really into singles; I don’t record records specifically to be singles. I may do it for somebody else, but I don’t do it for myself. If I do things that sound like singles, it’s just that that’s the way I think it should sound.

It probably seems to most people that I’m into ballads more, but I think that’s only because of the success of “Hello It’s Me.” And people also want to limit things. I don’t do what I consider to be a whole lot of ballads. I did one album that had a bunch of ballads on it, and that was the only one like that. There are some songs that people may think of as ballads that are not ballads to me — they’re pieces of music that have different ideas. Todd has the least number of ballads, I think, of all the albums I’ve done. It also has more guitar playing. It varies… I do what I feel inspired to do. If I don’t feel like playing that much rock ‘n roll, I don’t need another outlet — another band to play rock and roll. Being a producer in certain terms is just a job.

I’m starting to produce Grand Funk’s new album now. I went out to Flint and they played me some new material. We just make records together. For some reason they find me necessary to the production of their records, so we make ’em together. With the Dolls, it wasn’t just my producing. They had spent so long trying to get a recording situation together, and had so many people involved, it was like the whole of NYC was producing the Dolls. Everyone had to get in and have their hands on the knobs, and I don’t particularly dig that. The band was the most laid back, of all the people involved. I don’t look back at that album at all. Just like Bobby Zimmerman said: “Don’t Look Back.”

“Heavy Metal Kids” is, in certain terms, a takeoff of the NY scene. It’s always a satire. I mean how serious can you get? I wouldn’t die for any of it. I still like to present it the way I want to present it — the alternative would not be to die — it would be not to do it at all — rather than change it. It’s mostly all satire, I guess – it’s only as serious as you can get about it. But people are always looking for something — a clear cut thing — when I make the music, I’m trying to be open to influences at the time it’s being made — not just straight musical influences, but all kinds — social, emotional, cosmic and things like that — and this is all supposed to be reflected in the music. If people walk around all day and make judgment after judgment, it gets to be a drag after awhile. Sometimes you just like to wander around and not make any judgments — just let it exist.

The kind of music that I do is supposed to be the kind of music that other people aren’t doing — because I don’t feel any need to do it otherwise. As soon as somebody or something becomes popular, like let’s say “space-rock” was becoming the big thing, there’s all of a sudden loads of bands coming up to me saying “well, man, last week we were into glitter rock, and now we’re into space rock.” Whatever is hip or the happening formula, they just change into that. Some people can recognize it after it happens; my whole thing is trying to discover it before it happens. Just because I like to hear different things — if no one else is doing something new, I have to come up with them myself.

I’m definitely lagged out now, being that Todd was recorded, and reflects where I was last July. I don’t know what the impact of the music will be now. It’s still probably a year or two ahead of where most people are at — at least.

The reason why I do any particular song in any particular way is just because there’s a whole idea. And what you try to do as effectively as possible is render that idea musically so that someone listening can understand that idea — some music is done so vaguely that the interpretation of it is left completely up to the person listening — but sometimes you’re trying to say something specifically in the most effective way possible. In doing that, you try to use recognizable styles — essences of recognizable performances. For instance, Jimi Hendrix. “Number One Lowest Common Denominator” is just about sex, and it seemed to me one of the most obvious musical inferences you could make along those lines, was to recreate in certain terms that Jimi Hendrix sound. Because to me that influence represented, from a guitar player’s point of view, that central attitude most effectively. I don’t listen to a song and then sit down and copy it. The guitar playing was obviously influenced — the whole thing really — the phasing, the trippy effects; in certain terms the song is a satire too. It’s really a pretty funny song as far as I’m concerned.

The last song on the album (“Sons of 1984”) was recorded live in Central Park and Griffith Park. We went in and taught the audience the lyrics and they sang it. I guess I was a little surprised that it really worked out. I thought the problems would be hideous. The microphones were hung out over the audience, and in Griffith Park, they were actually hanging out of trees. It was fed into a remote 16-track machine. It was a funny experiment. We were considering doing. a whole record that way, as part of our touring show. Teach the audience a song, then record it, and you have a whole album’s worth of these songs from different cities, with the audience singing on them. It would be really strange. But as it is now, on “Sons of 1984,” we have Central Park on one side, and Griffith Park on the other.

I’ve been offered a lot of production work, most of which I don’t want to do. Either because it’s with somebody that doesn’t need me, or with somebody I just don’t want to work with. But I am considering a couple of things.

Describing my new album is really a hard thing to do. It’s really impossible to render an accurate idea of where the album is at musically and lyrically just by trying to describe isolated moments of it. The only difference about this album I guess, from the others I’ve made, is in terms of lyrics. My lyrical attitude is a lot more unified, and different from what I used to write about. In the past, I usually wrote about boy-girl relationships, which at this point doesn’t interest me. I have very little to say about that — that might disappoint a few people, but they have all those old songs to listen to, if they want. The whole record (Todd) is about states of consciousness. The Wizard album marked a beginning of new forms of communication — basing my musical ideas on responses other than just purely physical or material. In the Wizard album I was just discovering a different language. In the new album, it is more of a discourse in this new language — telling what I’ve discovered with this new attitude — that is, out of directing my attention to things other than material – to other states on consciousness. It’s very hard to describe even that aspect of it. It’s more apparent if you listen to the record, than if I try to describe it — or use terms like “cosmic” or “astral.” It all has very little relevance in a conversational context.

Right now I’m working on an album with Utopia, which expresses other ideas. It’s a separate group that I’m a member of, where we do music written by all the members of the band — M. Frog; Moogy Klingman; John Siegler; Kevin Ellman; Ralph Shuckett; and me — six in all. The first original concept of Utopia seemed to be a little too far out for everybody, and we took it out on the road for about two weeks to mixed reaction, so we just decided it was a waste of energy. I had a lot of things to do at the time, and was having a change of attitude, so I decided to take it off the road for awhile. Now we’ve toured very successfully, with a change of personnel and show concept, and we’re touring again in March. I do a solo set first, which sometimes involves the use of pre-recorded tapes. Some people don’t get used to it too easily, but to me it’s like television — it’s really like a big TV show – then in the second half I come out with the whole band.

One of the things about the musical direction I’m moving in is to experience fewer and fewer limitations in terms of who you are and what you have to do. Things are becoming less and less stylized in any one direction. I also recorded a type of eclectic music in the past, but at the same time I was still writing within the “song style” — songs 3 – 4 minutes long, six on a side, etc. I was very involved in perfecting that style, and I just got fed up with that. Then I did the Wizard album where the song ideas ranged from 15 seconds to 10 minutes. A further refinement of that idea is represented in Todd, and the refinement is that I’m breaking down all these barriers — removing the six spirals – just saying there are no limitations as to what is sung about or what the music sounds like, or how long it is… or whether it is even music at all.

Todd Rundgren

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Led Zeppelin – “Led Zeppelin” (1969)

December 24, 2009 at 7:55 pm (Music, Reviews & Articles)

A March 1969 Oz magazine review of Zeppelin’s debut album, written by Felix Dennis…


Very occasionally a long-playing record is released that defies immediate classification or description, simply because it’s so obviously a turning point in rock music that only time proves capable of shifting it into eventual perspective. (Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home, The Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday, Disraeli Gears, Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? and Sgt. Pepper). This Led Zeppelin album is like that.

Before joining the now sadly defunct Yardbirds Jim Page was acknowledged as one of the best session musicians on either side of the Atlantic. Here it’s clear why. Few rock musicians in the world could hope to parallel the degree of technical assurance and gutsy emotion he displays throughout these nine tracks. Exactly eighty-four seconds after the beginning of ‘Good Times Bad Times’, the first cut, side one, Page does things with an electric guitar that might feebly be described as bewildering. From then on it only gets better.

Lead vocalist Robert Plant is a blue-eyed soul merchant, Farlowe when he isn’t being Winwood, living proof of the YouDon’tHaveToBeBlackToSingTheBlues theory, formerly with Birmingham based group, The Band of Joy, as is the Zeppelin’s drummer John Bonham. Bonham’s technique is interesting. It’s nice to be able to listen to a drummer whose use of the bass pedal and cymbals is intelligent without being studied and contrived and at the other end of the stick, powerful without deteriorating into frenzied, feverish thrashing.

John Paul Jones plays bass and organ for Led Zeppelin. It’s enough to say that of both instruments he is an experienced, resourceful master.

This album makes you feel good. It makes you feel good to hear a band with so much to say and the conspicuous ability to say it as they feel it; to translate what’s in their heads to music. It makes you feel good to hear Bonham and Jones working together, creating those deep, surging, undercurrents of rhythm as Page again and again molests the more vulnerable areas of his Telecaster. Good to listen to Plant with his ugly, angry vocals, bellowing to his woman that he’s leaving her – right after the next fuck. Good to dig completely spontaneous but so, so beautiful breaks is ‘How Many More Times’, or Jones running amok on his Hammond keyboard in Willie Dixon’s ‘You Shook Me’ and to sway, entranced with Page’s droning, mantra-like bow guitar in ‘Dazed and Confused’.

It makes you feel good because it is good; and in places much more than that.

Of course, as a result of this album we’ll lose the group to the States, and almost certainly within the month the MM letters page will headline – ‘Is Page BETTER Than God?!!’ – and then the BBC will begin negotiations on a feature film… but there’s more to it than that. There is a phrase nobody uses anymore, (not since we de-freaked our hair, handed back granny her beads, quietly disposing of kaftans and joss sticks to jumble collections). That phrase exactly sums up Led Zeppelin’s debut album. Remember Good Vibrations?

Felix Dennis

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AC/DC – “Can I Sit Next to You Girl” (Live – 1974)

December 24, 2009 at 9:28 am (Music)

This track, recorded for The Last Picture Show (presumably an Australian TV show?) is an early version of AC/DC, with original singer Dave Evans, who recorded one single with the band before Bon Scott came in, took over & made AC/DC legends. Evans has a good voice, but it’s strange to hear someone other than Bon or Brian (or someone with a more “normal”-sounding voice) singing for them.
Also look for original bassist Rob Bailey and drummer Peter Clack.

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Thomas Blackwell – “Sgt. Pepper Sets the Stage: The Album as a Work of Art” (2009)

December 23, 2009 at 11:34 am (Music, Reviews & Articles, The Beatles)

Nov. 23, 2009 article from the PopMatters website about the most famous album of all time and its impact on music and the world at large…


For the first time on a Beatles record, every song seemed connected in some way, however small. It didn’t feel right to listen to just one song at a time; it felt right to listen to the whole album, front to back, every song.

Part 1: Prelude to Pepper

The most popular group in the history of popular music made many masterpieces. George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr created artistic works of untold musical, technological and cultural significance during their eight short years together as The Beatles. Help!, Rubber Soul, Revolver, numerous others. But one album in particular caused more commotion than any one of their other long-players. It was an album that introduced relatively new ideas to the group’s immense audience in the form of an overall “concept,” intended to give the songs a unified, cohesive feel. This album was Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, thirty-nine minutes and thirteen songs performed and packaged in the most outlandish and unthinkable way at the time. When the album was released on 1 June, 1967, in the midst of the “Summer of Love,” the world stood up and took notice, for better or worse (MacDonald, 1994).

Sgt. Pepper ushered in a turning point for the public perception of pop music. While other groups had released albums in 1966 utilizing a single, loose concept to frame the songs on the album, The Beatles brought this concept to the forefront of Western popular culture (MacDonald, 1994). By creating a concept for their album that allowed them to transcend their “moptop” image, the Beatles hoped to have their new studio creation tour for them (Martin & Pearson, 1994). The Sgt. Pepper concept would change the way the “pop album” was viewed by critics and listeners alike. The album would go on to influence countless artists, and was virtually responsible for the birth of the progressive rock genre, inspiring future groups of musicians to craft albums around different themes, stories or other guidelines (Moore, 1997).

Sgt. Pepper was something never before seen in music in 1967. The artwork and packaging alone was enough to make the record buyer consider taking a ‘trip’ with the Beatles, but the music on the vinyl record was something else entirely. For the first time on a Beatles record, every song seemed connected in some way, however small. It didn’t feel right to listen to just one song at a time; it felt right to listen to the whole album, front to back, every song.

Prelude to Pepper

By 1966, the group was not faring so well. The intense pace of their schedule and the rigors of Beatlemania had taken their toll on the band. Following a tour of the United States concluding on 29 August with a show at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, the group privately decided to stop performing live (Spitz, 2005). The group was already headed in the psychedelic direction of Pepper on 1966’s Revolver. Recorded throughout 1966, the album featured the group’s first uses of different studio techniques that would play an integral role in the recording of Sgt. Pepper (Martin et al., 1994).

The group, particularly Lennon and McCartney, also began experimenting with the sounds of avant-garde music, especially tape loops, reversed tapes and altered sounds achieved by altering the playback speed of the tapes. Inspired by avant-garde composers such as John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, The Beatles included heavy use of tape loops on Revolver (Spitz, 2005).

Utilizing new techniques and effects, the group began searching for ways to alter the sounds of conventional musical instruments. Studio engineer Geoff Emerick would play a vital role in the group’s discovery and application of new sounds. (Kehew et al., 2006). The sonic innovations and genre crossovers achieved by the group and the studio staff during the recording of Revolver set the tone for the rampant experimentalism that would take place during sessions for Sgt. Pepper.

Old Sounds, New Sounds

In terms of sonic diversity and experimentation with different forms and styles of music, The Beatles were already well versed. The group had experimented with eastern music, soul music and even classical (Greg Kot, personal interview by the author, 23 February 2009).

The Beatles had also been listening to a variety of different music throughout 1966 that would come to influence their psychedelic direction. McCartney would later recall in a 2004 interview: “But we were just doing our own thing. It wasn’t that we set out to make groundbreaking albums. The reason those records were so musically diverse was that we all had very diverse tastes” (McCartney, p.247, 2004).

The music of the underground scene, groups such as Pink Floyd, The Mothers of Invention, and AMM, and modern classical and experimental composers, such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage, no doubt had a subtle influence on The Beatles’ recording sessions during this period (Heylin, 2007). Harrison’s introduction to Indian music and religion in 1965 had inspired him to purchase his own sitar and take lessons (Womack, 2007), and he was also growing personally, with a different outlook on life influenced by Indian culture and music (Spitz, 2005).

Lennon and McCartney both claimed the Beach Boys’ seminal 1966 album Pet Sounds as a great influence going into the studio to make Sgt. Pepper. According to MacDonald, McCartney himself confessed, “the Beatles would need to surpass anything they had done to equal it” (p.172, 1994). The Beach Boys weren’t the only artists from across the Atlantic the Fab Four were paying attention to; according to author and journalist Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune, The Beatles “were always listening” and were especially influenced by several of their American peers. They were also investigating other important albums released by American groups in 1966, including 5D by The Byrds, the debut album by Los Angeles psychedelic band Love and Bob Dylan’s masterpiece Blonde on Blonde (Greg Kot, personal interview by the author, 23 February 2009).

Part 2: Return to the Studio

It was time apart that rejuvenated The Beatles creatively. For once, having the freedom to pursue individual goals took precedence over doing things for the good of the group. Ringo spent time with his family. Paul wrote a film score, working with George Martin. John ventured to Spain to film his role in Richard Lester’s World War II film How I Won the War. George journeyed to India with his wife to study Eastern religion and learn sitar (Womack, 2007).

When the four Beatles entered EMI’s Studio Two at Abbey Road on 24November, 1966 to begin recording their new album, they came armed with ideas, a slew of influences, and a raging desire to experiment. The first song recorded was a Lennon composition entitled “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Lennon was dissatisfied with the initial version laid to tape, so the group returned to the song in early December, recording a new backing track. Because there were two different takes Lennon wanted to use to create the final take, both of different speed and key, studio engineer Geoff Emerick decided to simply “splice,” or connect, the tapes together, correcting their speed to bring them to nearly the same pitch (MacDonald, 1994). Overall, “over forty-five hours” in the studio had gone into work on “Strawberry Fields” (Spitz, p.655, 2005).

With its many studio effects and “swimming” sound, the song sounded unlike anything the Beatles had recorded at that point in their career (MacDonald, p.174, 1994). Geoff Emerick’s final edit of the song (with the two ‘final’ versions edited together at about 1:00) has two distinct sounds. The first minute of the song is noticeably higher in pitch, while the song grows increasingly disorienting following the edit, when the pitch becomes noticeably lower transforming Lennon’s voice into a druggy, warped version of its usual self. The instrumentation of the second part consists of densely layered percussion, a jarring departure from Ringo’s sparse backing on the first minute of the song (MacDonald, 1994).

“Strawberry Fields” did in fact serve as what Martin proclaimed to be the “agenda of the whole album” (Heylin, p.117, 2007). Soon after its completion, the group was hard at work on McCartney’s first contribution to the project, coincidentally, another song about childhood landmarks from Liverpool, “Penny Lane” (Spitz, 2005).

“Penny Lane” was McCartney’s response to “Strawberry Fields Forever,” evoking the same childhood imagery and imagination. “Penny Lane” was a more upbeat and traditional sounding tune, yet was revolutionary in much the same way as “Strawberry Fields.” McCartney’s taste in classical music played a role in the creation of the song, where after viewing a performance of Bach’s “Second Brandenburg Concerto” on television, McCartney decided to write a similar melodic line for piccolo trumpet, a smaller, higher pitched trumpet, for his own song (MacDonald, 1994). According to Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey, Martin scored a beautiful “arrangement for flutes, trumpets, piccolo, and flugelhorn…oboes, cor anglais (English horn), and bowed double bass” (p.144, 2006) giving it a jovial and upbeat feel, while bell chimes sound out in response to McCartney’s line about a fireman “keeping his fire engine clean” (“Penny Lane”).  The pianos were tracked at different speeds by Lennon and McCartney, a trick which altered their overtones, thus producing a unique thick, multi-layered piano sound for the song (MacDonald, 1994).

Although “Strawberry Fields” would be released as a single by the Beatles’ label, Parlophone, in February 1967 (MacDonald, 1994), four months prior to the release of Sgt. Pepper, George Martin claimed the song “set the agenda for the whole album” (Heylin, p.117, 2007). Martin later regretted telling Beatles manager Brian Epstein about the songs: “These songs would, I told him, make a fantastic double-A-sided disc – better even than our other double-A-sided triumphs, ‘Day Tripper’/‘We Can Work it Out,’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’/Yellow Submarine.’ It was the biggest mistake of my professional life” (Martin et al., p.26, 1994). While these two tracks technically mark the beginning of the group’s new studio-based career, they were not included on the album due to EMI policy at the time (Spitz, 2005). Instead of performing take after take of the same finished song in an attempt to get the right version for the album, the Beatles would now use the studio time at their disposal to construct songs layer by layer, and literally build them up with each subsequent overdub.

“Penny Lane” was followed by the recording of McCartney’s charming ode to vaudeville music, “When I’m Sixty-Four” (Martin et al., 1994). McCartney’s lyrics for the song tie into the first proposed concept of an album of “Northern Songs,” featuring songs that were “progressive” yet used the sounds of the past (in this case, a chorus of clarinets) to touch upon the group’s upbringing in Liverpool (Heylin, p.116, 2007). According to Spitz, Emerick and Martin even sped up the tape while recording Paul’s vocal, in order to obtain his desired effect of sounding “younger…a teenager again” (p.668, 2005).

The “concept” was a principal device in keeping the album separate from the rest of the group’s discography. According to Clinton Heylin, the group, McCartney in particular, preferred to have a concept or theme for the sole purpose of making Sgt. Pepper “stand out from what came before” (p.116, 2007). McCartney said in a 1967 interview:

“We realized for the first time that someday someone would actually be holding a thing they’d call ‘The Beatles’ new LP’ and that normally it would just be a collection of songs with a nice picture on the cover, nothing more. So the idea was to do a complete thing that you could make what you liked of; just a little magic presentation.” [1967] (Heylin, p.116, 2007)

McCartney initially devised an embryonic idea for a concept album while traveling around France in September 1966. In order to ‘escape’ his famous image so he could enjoy his trip, McCartney donned a disguise to remain incognito (Spitz, p.643, 2005). According to Spitz, the disguise led McCartney to an idea: “if he could disguise himself on vacation and travel about unnoticed, then why not all the Beatles?” (p.643, 2005) McCartney would later explain the concept: “‘I thought, Let’s not be ourselves. Let’s develop alter-egos so we’re not having to project an image which we know’” (quoted in Spitz, p.643, 2005). Later, during a flight from Africa to London, Evans and McCartney were discussing band names, according to Spitz, “mimicking the variety of groups that were just coming into vogue: The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Lothar and the Hand People” (p. 643, 2005). Evans then picked up miniature salt and pepper packages and gave McCartney the idea that would spur the entire concept for the record: “‘Salt and Pepper’” (p. 643, 2005). McCartney, in an effort to create one of his own “West Coast” band names, “threw the words together: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Aspinall et al., p. 241, 2000).

Different songs recorded during the sessions would serve as launching points for new conceptual ideas for the album. “With a Little Help From My Friends” was one such song, along with the title track, which introduced another concept to the project. The two songs open the album by giving the listener the feeling of being at a live concert by a musical group. George Martin claimed the Beatles and the production team “‘had to start with the song that gave the illusion of a concept’” (quoted in Heylin, p.175, 2007). Ironically, to create this atmosphere of a live concert Martin used a portion of audience applause taken from a recording of the Beatles’ own recording of a 1965 show at the Hollywood Bowl (Heylin, 2007).

The title track then segues into “With a Little Help From My Friends,” carrying on the live performance concept by introducing Ringo as the bandleader of Sgt. Pepper’s band, Billy Shears. This idea was proposed by cover photographer Peter Blake (Heylin, 2007). Starr himself admitted after the album was released that “‘the original concept of ‘Pepper’ was that it was gonna be like a stage show…We did it for the first couple of tracks and then it faded into an album’” (quoted in Heylin, p.171, 2007). A reprise of the title track occurs at the end of the album preceding “A Day in the Life,” with the Lonely Hearts Club Band reappearing to bid the audience farewell (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967).

Ringo’s vocal style is particularly well suited to the upbeat instrumentation of jangly guitars and piano. The song is a commentary on love and friendship, with the other three Beatles offering encouraging backing vocals that seem to support Ringo/Billy Shears as he takes the lead (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967).

“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” follows, plunging Sgt. Pepper’s band into a vivid dream world, complete with psychedelic imagery of “plasticine porters with looking glass ties” and girls “with kaleidoscope eyes” (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967). The song is impressive sonically, with heavily treated instruments complimenting Lennon’s Technicolor imagery in his lyrics, which he admitted were heavily influenced by Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” (Heylin, 2007). McCartney performed the song’s distinctive keyboard introduction not on a harpsichord, as the sound would suggest, but on an electric organ heavily altered by electronic effects in an attempt to achieve the chiming bell tones of a Celeste (Hertsgaard, 1995).

“Getting Better” finds the group returning to the supportive themes of friendship visited in “With a Little Help From My Friends,” with Lennon’s background vocals seemingly encouraging or even provoking McCartney (Hertsgaard, 1995). The song is an anthem for the sixties, a time of new ideas and new beginnings; McCartney likely referring to the end of the Beatles’ touring days (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967).
The group also would play with texture by adding tape loops to songs. Small clips of sound were used to change the feeling of songs or bring them to a close. Harrison’s raga “Within You Without You” utilized a brief clip of laughter culled from a tape out of the EMI studio archives entitled “Volume 6: Applause and Laughter,” inserted at his insistence to lighten the serious mood of the piece (Lewisohn, 2003). “Volume 35: Animals and Bees” and “Volume 57: Foxhunt” were also used to add dogs, roosters and various farm animals to “Good Morning Good Morning” (Lewisohn, 2003).

One of the most critical uses of tape effects during the sessions would take place during the recording of Lennon’s “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” According to Spitz, Lennon desired a “fairground sound” to go with lyrics he had written based on a 19th century circus poster he had purchased from an antique shop, and called upon Martin to assist in the creation of such an atmosphere for the recording (pp.668-669, 2005). Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick then set about using tapes to simulate the sounds of an old-fashioned steam organ, due to prohibitive costs of renting and programming one for the session (Spitz, 2005). Emerick once again played the innovator; after retrieving tapes of marches played on steam organs, he cut them into small pieces, tossed them in the air, and reassembled them in a random order, overdubbing them onto the existing rhythm track to achieve the desired effect (Lewisohn, 2003).

The Beatles used their newfound artistic license to write in a more abstract manner, wrapping personal thoughts and feelings in lyrical sheets of realistic imagery. Lennon’s commentary on suburban life, “Good Morning, Good Morning,” was inspired by a television commercial for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, and he decided to analyze his supposedly comfortable life in his Weybridge mansion in an “ironic” and “sarcastic” way he never had thought about before, according to Martin and Pearson (pp. 71-73, 1994). “She’s Leaving Home” had an exclusively classical sound, utilizing a string section as the sole instrumentation, but for the lyrics, McCartney turned to the local newspaper for inspiration, using an actual story that had run in the Daily Mail on February 27, 1967 (Heylin, 2007). The story was about a family whose daughter “had run away,” and Lennon and McCartney arranged the vocals to represent both sides of the incident (p.162, 2007). Lennon’s “A Day in the Life” would also reference a story from the local newspaper, this time about a wealthy heir to the Guinness fortune who had died in a car crash (Spitz, 2005).

Perhaps the ultimate musical statement of the Beatles’ career was made in Lennon and McCartney’s powerful song that was chosen to close the album, “A Day in the Life.” Emerick later recalled the group came into the studio with only small parts of the song written and ready to record; the group wanted to “get it down on tape and then finish it later” (Emerick et al., p.146, 2006). The song took shape as the group worked out the arrangement in the studio, with little accidents or unintentional additions often remaining in the song after one Beatle would express a liking for the mistake. (Emerick et al., p.149, 2006).

The most stunning feature of the song was the orchestra recorded for the middle section. The idea for the orchestra came from Lennon, who, according to Emerick, desired “some kind of sound that would start out really tiny and then gradually expand to become huge and all-engulfing” (p.152, 2006). After a discussion, it was decided to hire the orchestra and have them improvise by playing from the lowest notes to the highest notes in their respective instruments’ ranges, which would create a swirling, cacophonous buildup of sound (Emerick et al., 2006). Because of the attitudes present in working orchestra musicians at the time, a very prestigious job in the music industry, the Beatles decided to turn the session into a party, encouraging a loose atmosphere in an attempt to persuade the orchestra (musicians who do not typically improvise) to play at random to achieve the chaotic sound envisioned for the middle section and the ending (Emerick et al. 2006).

Five different improvisations were ultimately edited into the final track, giving the illusion of over 200 orchestral instruments playing at once (Spitz, 2005). Following the orchestral spiral, copied and inserted at the end of the song, the Beatles, assistant Evans and George Martin then recorded a massive “E” chord, played simultaneously by all participants on three grand pianos and allowed to sustain for slightly over one minute, which would serve as the final note in their new studio creation (Spitz, 2005).

As a final eccentric detail for their new opus, the Beatles decided to end the album with additional sonic madness collected on the run out groove, the final groove of a vinyl record where it would normally stop playing and the needle would retract, or the listener would have to take the needle off to stop the record. A 15-kilocycle whistle, which is a frequency so high-pitched only dogs can hear it, was inserted just before the nonsense (p.253, 2003). On subsequent stereo and compact disc versions of the album, the runout groove noise and the 15 kilocycle tone are only heard briefly before fading out, bringing the album to a bizarre but utterly unique finale (Emerick et al., 2006).

After months of recording, the band finally completed work on the album in April 1967. Martin and the group then had another important task to be done before the album’s release: sequencing the songs. Martin was tasked with giving the songs an appropriate running order. He did know he had to pair the opening title track before “With a Little Help From My Friends,” as the former mentioned the “Billy Shears” character, bandleader for the Lonely Hearts Club Band, who sings “With a Little Help From My Friends” (Martin et al., 1994). Martin had also determined from the outset that the piano chord ending “A Day in the Life” would have to close the album, because the chord “was so final that it was obvious nothing else could follow it.”

This prompted Martin to place the reprise of the title track second to last, coming before “A Day in the Life” (p.148, 1994). Smaller details also determined Martin’s placement of the songs. The laughing at the end of “Within You Without You” prompted Martin to follow it with McCartney’s “jokey” “When I’m Sixty-Four” (Martin et al., 1994). A tape loop of a chicken squawking at the end of “Good Morning, Good Morning” coincidentally had a pitch similar to a noise made by George Harrison tuning his guitar at the very beginning of the title track reprise, giving Martin the idea to blend the two together (Martin et al., 1994). He would later admit the album seemed to fall together much by itself, “When it came to compiling the album, I tried to edit it together in a very tight format, and in a funny kind of way when I was editing it it almost grew by itself; it took on a life of its own” (p.150, 1994).

According to Kehew and Ryan’s comprehensive account of the Beatles’ recording practices, “Recording the Beatles,” an estimated 700 hours of work went into the recording of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, with the band spending 45 days between January and April of 1967 in the studio (Kehew et al., 2006). The album was produced at a total cost of about £25,000, an unbelievable amount for the recording of the average pop album in 1967, according to producer George Martin (p.168, 1994).

Part 3: Out of the Studio, Into the Record Shop

Hype, speculation and marketing played prominent roles in the success of Sgt. Pepper in the summer of 1967. The Beatles had been in the studio for close to seven months, and it had been nine months since their final performance in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in August 1966 (Hertsgaard, 1995). The world was curious; their interest was piqued: What had they been up to? More importantly, was it any good?

The rampant studio experimentation of the past seven months had birthed a musical document as peculiar as its unorthodox artwork. The Beatles had managed to tap into the creative well the advances made on Revolver had only hinted at; the effects used somewhat sparsely on Revolver now encrusted entire songs.

Sgt. Pepper was a creature of anticipation on the part of the Beatles’ audience. According to author and journalist Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune, the passage of time would serve as a major factor in the album’s success and almost universal critical acclaim, but contemporarily “the key was the hype that preceded it” (Greg Kot, personal interview by the author, 23 February 2009). No one had never spent so much time in the studio before Sgt. Pepper recording sessions and, according to Kot, the viewpoint instilled into the collective mind of the record-buying public was simple: “they spent 9 months in the studio, so it must be good” (Greg Kot, personal interview by the author, 23 February 2009).

The album’s sound and presentation introduced the wider public to the psychedelic sounds and moods of 1967’s counterculture. According to Hertsgaard, the album’s release was “a huge cultural event,” one that mirrored the changes rapidly taking place in popular culture (p.213, 1995). The cover, its design, and the outfits the group wore, and the addition of lyrics printed on the back of the record sleeve all confirm this notion.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band received almost universally positive reviews upon its release, with many reviewers acknowledging the group’s unique new musical direction. William Mann in The Times (London) was so moved by the musical leap in sound that he described “With a Little Help From My Friends” as being “…the only track that would have been conceivable in pop songs five years ago” (p.96, 1967). Mann also described the songs as setting an example for other musicians: “Any of these songs is more genuinely creative than anything currently to be heard on pop radio stations, but in relationship to what other groups have been doing lately Sgt. Pepper is chiefly significant as constructive criticism, a sort of pop music master class examining trends and correcting or tidying up inconsistencies and undisciplined work, here and there suggesting a line worth following” (p.96, 1967).

Christopher Porterfield for Time called the Beatles “messengers from beyond rock n roll,” hailing them for “leading an evolution in which the best of current post-rock sounds are becoming something that pop music has never been before: an art form” (p.103, 1967). Journalist Derek Jewell of The Sunday Times wrote equally praising words about the album, calling it “a tremendous advance even in the increasingly adventurous progress of the Beatles,” and pointing out that different emotions played significant roles in the album’s lyrics and music, calling the tone of the album “humorous, sympathetic, skeptical and often self-mocking. Musically, it is always stimulating” (Martin et al., p.153, 1994). Jewell’s review, perhaps most importantly, asked a fundamental question about the content,  “The Beatles are now producing performances, not music for frugging to. Will the kids follow?” (Martin et al., p.153, 1994).

“The kids” did indeed follow the fab four into the unknown. The album sold 250,000 copies in its first week on sale in the United Kingdom, eventually selling 500,000 copies in the UK by the end of June and going on to stay at the top of the charts for 27 weeks. Sgt. Pepper also sold 2,500,000 copies in the United States by the end of August 1967, having been at number one on the charts since its release (Martin et al., 1994).

One review, however, was extremely negative, so much that it caused an uproar in both the music and journalistic worlds. Richard Goldstein’s review of the record for the New York Times scathingly attacked what Goldstein referred to as “the obsession with production,” and he derided the album for “a surprising shoddiness in composition…” (p.98, 1967). Goldstein also described certain musical flourishes on the album, such as the orchestral buildup in “A Day in the Life,” as resembling “a drug-induced ‘rush’” (p.100, 1967). Goldstein’s review did mention “A Day in the Life” in an otherwise positive light, calling it “a deadly earnest excursion in emotive music,” later referring to it as “one of the most important Lennon-McCartney compositions,” and “a historic Pop event” (p.99, 1967).

The review was so controversial, Goldstein’s publisher issued a rebuttal, and other journalists attacked his position, including influential critic Robert Christgau, who wrote an article challenging the position for Esquire in December 1967, proclaiming, “I attribute his review to a failure of nerve,” also pointing out that Goldstein’s review had received “…the largest response to a music review in its [The New York Times’] history” (pp. 116-17, 1967).

Influence:

The grand scale of The Beatles’ achievement with Sgt. Pepper also reflected in the way it impacted their peers in the world of pop music. In the wake of Pepper, other groups made adventurous records, armed with the latest studio effects and heavy doses of “chemical inspiration,” hoping to trump The Beatles (Heylin, 2007).

The Rolling Stones spent much of 1967 in between court appearances and ingesting gargantuan quantities of LSD while recording Their Satanic Majesties’ Request, a psychedelic response to Sgt. Pepper (Heylin, 2007). Upon its release in December 1967, Satanic Majesties was immediately written off in John Landau’s review in Rolling Stone magazine: “Their Satanic Majesties’ Request, despite moments of unquestionable brilliance, put the status of the Rolling Stones in jeopardy” (Landau, 1968, 10 February). The album had a cover photograph depicting all five members draped in psychedelic garb, looking like wizards out of some twisted fairy tale; the image was eerily similar to the Sgt. Pepper cover. The songs seemed to have some vague concept involving a concert or stage performance, and the album featured a song serving as an introduction, “Sing this Altogether,” with a reprise at the end of side one entitled “Sing this Altogether (See What Happens)” and even a grand finale, “On with the Show” closing out the album (Their Satanic Majesties’ Request, 1967).

The conceptual side of Sgt. Pepper also moved many bands that would come to popularity in the years after the Beatles’ demise as a group. Many groups adapted the idea of a “concept album” and crafted all varieties of stories around an entire album or double album’s worth of music. The Moody Blues were perhaps the first group post-Sgt. Pepper to do so, with their Days of Future Passed album, also released later in 1967. This album featured the Moodies playing with the London Festival Orchestra as a backing group, with lyrics and an overall concept centering on the times of day (Moore, 1997). The Who would release the incredibly successful Tommy double album in 1969, which was billed as a “rock opera” by Who leader Pete Townshend and focused on the life and times of a pinball-playing “deaf, dumb and blind” boy (Moore, 1997; Tommy, 1969). Concept albums drove the progressive rock movement of the 1970s with strong influence from classical and jazz music.

Bands like Yes, Genesis, Rush and Jethro Tull released albums with strong central concepts, often involving characters and a storyline told through the lyrics (Moore, 1997). The unique organization of the songs on Sgt. Pepper would go on to strongly influence these concept albums. After the release of Sgt. Pepper it became common for albums to be structured according to how the songs fit together sonically, with an album requiring certain landmarks that would make the album more accessible and listenable as a complete recording. Sequential details such as the presence of a loud or stimulating energetic opening song and a compelling, epic closer became a sort of unspoken industry standard when sequencing albums (Moore, 1997).

Many critics today agree that the Beatles, along with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and famed producer Phil Spector, would refine the technique of using “the studio as an instrument” during the recording of Sgt. Pepper, drawing attention to the craftsmanship going into the recording of the songs more than the actual quality of the songwriting itself (Greg Kot, personal interview by the author, 23 February 2009). This detailed approach to music making is still very much in vogue today and has been since 1967 through the expansive works of bands such as the Flaming Lips, Nine Inch Nails, My Bloody Valentine, and Spiritualized, as well as the production techniques of Brian Eno (Greg Kot, personal interview by the author, 23 February 2009). The album was universally recognized as being sonically groundbreaking, eventually winning a Grammy award for Best-Engineered Record of 1967 (Martin et al., 1994).

The conceptual side of Sgt. Pepper has also enjoyed an influential status among critics and musicians. The creation of alter egos and toying with personae not only gave the Beatles much-needed freedom to experiment musically, but has also driven other bands to uncharted territory. The concept of stepping outside everyday life and becoming someone else entirely had great influence on the Glam Rock of Kiss and David Bowie. In 2000, The Smashing Pumpkins released a sprawling concept album dealing with the life and times of a rock band in much the same way as Sgt. Pepper and “his band.” According to Kot, this album’s ambitious concept was “a definite tip of the hat to Sgt. Pepper” (Greg Kot, personal interview by the author, 23 February 2009).

Sgt. Pepper brought attention to the entire album as a work of art, instead of simply focusing on each individual release of singles for radio play. The album’s massive success and lack of radio-ready singles would help persuade other artists and businessmen in the music industry to place more focus on albums. George Martin, one of the men who played an instrumental role in the direction of the musical masterminds behind Sgt. Pepper, believed the album’s diverse influences came together to create “the first example of a new sort of music, a classical/rock crossover music…” (p.137, 1994). Martin also admitted that he viewed the album as “contemporary art” at the time of its release, mainly due to the variety of influence “from jazz, folk music, rock n roll, rhythm and blues…” (p.137, 1994). The sheer number of different, and often disparate, musical influences made the album stand out from everything that preceded it in pop music. Western classical coexisted with Indian classical, rock n roll with traditional music hall songs, jazz with avant-garde, all within the boundaries of single songs. The album’s diversity would herald a new, all-inclusive aesthetic for pop albums that would follow.

Afterward:

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was a cultural entity unlike anything seen before it. As an album, it had several effects that were wide-ranging and in some cases which have persisted in the years since its release. The use of innovative recording techniques and technology set precedents for the music industry still being followed in recording studios today. The level of detail and dedication to the craftsmanship of the album has influenced countless producers, engineers and musicians in all genres of music.  The “hype” marketing strategy has been used ever since by record labels to generate publicity and album sales, not only for established and successful artists, but also new musicians who haven’t yet emerged in the industry.

Yet modern critics remain divided between love and hate for Sgt. Pepper. Chicago Sun-Times music critic Jim DeRogatis and Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot both revealed in interviews conducted for this project that they personally dislike the album. According to DeRogatis, “Revolver broke more ground,” and the studio-heavy psychedelic direction the group began to pursue on that album was driven to overkill by the Beatles by the time they entered the studio to begin work on Sgt. Pepper just a few months after its release (Jim DeRogatis, personal interview by the author, 5 March 2009). DeRogatis maintains the album has sustained its level of popularity due to “baby boomer nostalgia that posits Pepper as a key cultural cornerstone,” and that the album today “has much more to do with hype than with music” (Jim DeRogatis, personal interview by the author, 5 March 2009). According to both Kot and DeRogatis, the common thread among the album’s detractors is that the album’s popularity and “groundbreaking” label is simply due to the fact that the album was recorded by the Beatles (Kot and DeRogatis personal interviews by the author).

While many still remain divided on its impact, the Beatles themselves would be able to move on into further uncharted territory in their remaining three years as a group. While the psychedelic party continued on the album’s follow-up, the uneven Magical Mystery Tour double EP, released in December 1967, the group ultimately abandoned many of the studio embellishments that characterized Sgt. Pepper for a mostly stripped down, back-to-basics approach on 1968’s The Beatles.

The album was at the time and remains today a unique artistic document. It is representative of the time during which it was created, yet also foreshadowed a musical future filled with endless possibilities, limited only by the technology in a recording studio and the creativity and ingenuity of the human mind. Sgt. Pepper, in its entirely unique way, wholly altered the perception of the pop album and the idea of how far a musical work of art could reach.

Reference List

Aspinall, N., Harrison, G., Lennon, J., Martin, G., McCartney, P., Starkey, R., Taylor, D. The Beatles Anthology. Chronicle Books. San Francisco, CA, 2000.

The Beatles. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Vinyl Record. EMI/Parlophone #, 1967.

The Beatles. “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Magical Mystery Tour. Vinyl Record. EMI/Parlophone, #, 1967.

Christgau, R. (1967, December). Secular Music. Esquire Magazine. From Read The Beatles: Classic and New Writings on the Beatles, Their Legacy, and Why They Still Matter. J. S. Sawyers, ed. Penguin Books. New York, 2006. pp. 115-119.

Emerick, G. and Massey, H. Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles. Gotham Books. New York, 2006.

Goldstein, R. (1967, June 18). We Still Need the Beatles, but… [Review of the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.] New York Times. From Read The Beatles: Classic and New Writings on the Beatles, Their Legacy, and Why They Still Matter. J. S. Sawyers, ed. Penguin Books. New York, 2006. pp. 97-101.

Hertsgaard, M. A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles. Delta Publishing. New York, 1995.

Heylin, C. The Act You’ve Known for all These Years: The Life, and Afterlife, of Sgt. Pepper. Canongate. Edinburgh, 2007.

Kehew, B. and K. Ryan. Recording the Beatles. Curvebender Publishing. Houston, TX, 2006.

Landau, J. (1968, February 10) Satanic Majesties’ a Bust: New Album Puts Stones’ Status in Jeopardy. Rolling Stone [online]. Retrieved February 15, 2009 from http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/keithrichards/articles/story/5934013/satanic_majesties_a_bust.

Lewisohn, M. The Complete Beatles Chronicle. Hamlyn. London, 2003.

MacDonald, I. Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties. Henry Holt and Company. New York, 1994.

Mann, W. (1967, May 29). The Beatles Revive Hopes of Progress in Pop Music [Review of the album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”] The Times (London). From Read The Beatles: Classic and New Writings on the Beatles, Their Legacy, and Why They Still Matter. J. S. Sawyers, ed. Penguin Books. New York, 2006. pp. 92-96.

Martin, G. with Pearson, W. With a Little Help From My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper. Little, Brown and Company. New York, 1994.

McCartney, P. (2004, July). McCartney: My Life in the Shadow of the Beatles. Interview of Paul McCartney by Jon Wilde. From Read The Beatles: Classic and New Writings on the Beatles, Their Legacy, and Why They Still Matter. J. S. Sawyers, ed. Penguin Books. New York, 2006. pp. 243-253.

Moore, A. F. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, 1997.

Read The Beatles: Classic and New Writings on the Beatles, Their Legacy, and Why They Still Matter. J. S. Sawyers, ed. Penguin Books. New York, 2006.

Porterfield, C. (1967, September 22). Pop Music: The Messengers. Time. From Read The Beatles: Classic and New Writings on the Beatles, Their Legacy, and Why They Still Matter. J. S. Sawyers, ed. Penguin Books. New York, 2006. pp. 102-114.

The Rolling Stones. Their Satanic Majesties’ Request. Record Label #, 1967.

Spitz, B. The Beatles: The Biography. Back Bay Books. New York, 2005.

The Who. Tommy. Record label #, 1969.

Womack, K. Long and Winding Roads: The Evolving Artistry of the Beatles. Continuum. New York, 2007.

Thomas Blackwell

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Johnny Mathis – “Blue Christmas” (1958)

December 23, 2009 at 10:43 am (Music)

This song is dedicated to someone who I, unfortunately, won’t be spending this Christmas with… 😦

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