SPIEGEL SPEZIAL (2/1994): Pop & Politik. Photo: Spiegel.
Campino, singer of Die Toten Hosen, interviewed the then youth minister Angela Merkel for a special issue of the German news magazine DerSpiegel with the title “Pop & Politics” in 1994. The cover featured a collage which comprised of people like Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Bill Clinton playing a saxophone. Among them, Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols glared at the possible buyers in neighbourhood kiosks. In this issue the journalist and pop theorist Diedrich Diederichsen formulated ten theses for contemporary pop culture. Tony Parsons, one of the first journalists to write about British punk from 1976 onwards in the New Musical Express, pondered about the popularity of punk and its relation to mass culture in the 1990s. Punk as a media phenomenon and a lifestyle became part of mass culture and was a topic taken seriously by cultural critics. Continue reading →
Commercial radio stations Radio Luxembourg (French and English services) and Europe n°1 are the focal point of my PhD thesis (defended at the University of Luxembourg in November 2020.). They were popular institutions in Western Europe throughout the Long Sixties (1958-1974) working across media and broadcasting transnationally. My thesis Commercial Radio Stations and their Dispositif. Transnational and Intermedial Perspectives on Radio Luxembourg and Europe n°1 in the Long Sixties postulates the existence of an overarching dispositif of commercial radio stations that enabled them to operate on various dimensions and differentiated them from other broadcasters. Continue reading →
Nothing is more German than Kraftwerk, not even Germans themselves. Kraftwerk has long since risen to national myth, with significant help from English-speaking writers with a certain affinity for everything German. The obituaries that appeared after the recent death of founding member Florian Schneider resemble the usual pieces written about the group. All emphasize the numerous popular references to the band and the influence their sounds, beats and melodies have had on the music world: from David Bowie’s “Berlin Trilogy” and “V2 Schneider” (1977) to the Kraftwerk samples in the early hip hop and techno tracks of Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock” (1982) and Cybotron’s “Clear” (1983) and the work of Daft Punk and Coldplay. What they do not mention, however, is that Florian Schneider, together with his long-time partner Ralf Hütter, managed to create an image that would prove to be Germany’s most internationally successful pop export: the cold German.
Jeffrey H. Jackson and Stanley C. Pelkey open their collection, Music and History (subtitle ‘Bridging the Disciplines’, 2005) by asking: ‘Why haven’t historians and musicologists been talking to one another?’ They suggest that at the heart of this absence is a problem of communication, concerning the distinct methods, knowledge and skills employed in both disciplines: does one need to be able to read, play or even ‘appreciate’ music for instance in order to make sense of it historically? On the other hand, do musicologists need an understanding of historiography to write histories of music? The issue for scholars in both disciplines is the status of the musical object: how to account for music as music, without losing a sense of its historical specificity. Continue reading →
Ces dernières années, l’Antiquité classique s’est frayée un chemin dans tous les aspects des musiques pop et urbaines : les héros de l’Antiquité et l’architecture classique sont omniprésents dans les paroles, les clips ou sur scène. Ce sont notamment les chanteuses blanches qui se sont approprié des schémas hérités de l’histoire de l’art et du péplum : Katy Perry incarne Cléopâtre, Lady Gaga et Kylie Minogue se disputent Aphrodite… Dans un mouvement parallèle, on repère également de plus en plus fréquemment l’Antiquité dans la communication de chanteuses de couleur, où elle se charge souvent d’un message politique. C’est notamment le cas chez Solange Knowles avec son clip pour Don’t touch my hair, paru en octobre 2016 et à l’origine de mes réflexions sur la question (lire mon premier post sur la question ici).
In 1989, a survey of French cultural taste revealed that Serge Gainsbourg was both one of the most popular singers and yet a near outcast in his native country. When he died, two years later, President Mitterrand called him “our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire”, claiming he had “elevated chanson to the level of art”. But he might just as well have acknowledged Gainsbourg as the first artist to top the British charts with a single in a foreign language. With the hindsight of almost thirty years, one thing is, in any case, certain: sampled by Beck, De La Soul, Massive Attack and Fatboy Slim, remixed by Howie B. and David Holmes, translated by Mick Harvey and covered by Iggy Pop, Donna Summer, Portishead, Madeleine Peyroux, the Pet Shop Boys and Franz Ferdinand, “the man with the cabbage head” remains the Francophone songwriter whose contribution to the international appeal of French popular music has been the most significant in the post-war era. Continue reading →
The punk scene was in a deep existential crisis when post punk, new wave and goth music and fashion trends finally reached East Germany in the Orwellian year 1984. For the punk community in particular, the prevailing mood was indeed a dystopian one (Pehlemann, Papenfuβ, Mieβner, 2015). Punk was not dead (yet), but East German punk (no) future views increasingly contained a sense of pessimist fatalism, while goths escaped any kind of future scenario by playing already being dead. In any case, change was happening within the cultural underground which corresponded with a broader societal change and a spreading Endzeitstimmung (Wirsching, 2006) during the final phase of the Cold War. This ‘global’ existential fear, caused by political, societal and environmental crises, like nuclear threat, AIDS and environmental pollution (for example the ‘Waldsterben‘: dying forests) inspired both avant garde artists and participants in protest movements on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Call for Papers: Underground Adventures: Temporal Experimentation in Postwar Countercultures (24 – 25 March 2017, Berlin)
When the Berlin Techno scene emerged in the wake of the fall of the wall in 1989, party-goers often occupied urban relics: they danced in old factories and power stations, in the basements of decaying buildings, and in the obsolete infrastructure of the Cold War. Much like other countercultural movements since the 1950s, the ravers of late twentieth-century Berlin sought adventure in the interstitial, “underground” spaces of the everyday. While scholars have thoroughly addressed the spatial dimension of countercultural and underground movements – the construction of “heterotopias” (Foucault) – less attention has been paid to the creation of distinct temporal experiences – what might be termed the “heterochronies” of the underground. Continue reading →