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Made in Germany: Top Ten Iconic Pop and Rock Music Tunes

The label ‘Made in Germany’ is something people all over the world want when it comes to cars, machines, board games, beer, certain kinds of food and cuckoo clocks. What music is concerned, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and other big composers are being studied and listened to around the world. But what about Pop and Rock tunes?

In this area, things look a little different. Only few bands, such as the Scorpions, or to a certain extent Kraftwerk, Trio and Tangerine Dream managed to conquer the English speaking world. Alphaville, known for ‘Big in Japan’ and other hits even invaded pretty much the entire world with their depressive sounding stuff they called songs.

Also there are interesting German Pop and Rock tunes that should have made it, and some which are just interesting enough to listen to at least once. These are ten examples of more and less iconic Pop and Rock songs made in Germany.

Spliff ‘Sweet as Radio’ (1980)

Spliff was a band from Berlin, founded by Herwig Mitteregger, Bernhard Potschka und Manfred Praeker. At first they were the backing band for Punk-Rock singer Nina Hagen. Then they teamed up with a bunch of folks, including the American radio DJ Rik De Lisle, for a Rock opera entitled ‘Spliff Radio Show’. ‘Sweet as Radio’ is the intro tune. Later, the band behind the ‘opera’ recorded three albums sung mostly in German. This group was disbanded in 1985.

Trio Rio ‘New York, Rio, Tokyo’

Trio Rio was founded as a Latin Jazz group in 1983. It included Peter Fessler, a very gifted composer, guitarist and vocalist, Cläusel Quitschau and Klaus Mages. Later, they decided to become more commercial and enlarged the band. In 1986, Trio Rio released ‘New York – Rio – Tokyo’, a Pop-Funk tune which would become their only big hit. Their live performances, which also included the Hamburg-based percussion master Pablo Escayola, were breathtaking.

Scorpions ‘In Trance’

The Scorpions from Hanover are the most famous German band of them all. Their Hard Rock approach has found millions of fans around the globe. It has been 50 years since they first appeared on the horizon. Tunes like ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ and ‘Wind of Change’ have been played by radio stations like crazy. Singer Klaus Meine and his guys have sold more than 110 million records.

Anyone’s Daughter ‘Piktors Verwandlungen’

‘Anyone’s Daughter’ is a Deep Purple song title. Uwe Karpa and Matthias Ulmer used it when they founded their Progressive Rock band in Stuttgart in 1972. They teamed up with a few more guys and made it happen. By the 1980s, they delivered big shows all over Germany. On stage and on their 10 studio albums they sang both in English and German. Some of their compositions could have been mistaken for Yes or Genesis tunes. Their original guitarist Uwe Karpa is definitely a genius. So are the other guys. ‘Piktors Verwandlungen‘ is a story by Hermann Hesse they were so impressed by that they created this Rock symphony. Do not miss the guitar part at 05:15.

Schwoißfuaß ‘Oinr Isch Emmr dr Arsch’

In the late 1970-s, ‘Schwoißfuaß‘ was one of the first ‘Schwabenrock‘ bands (Rock’n’Roll from Swabia). Vocalist Alex Köberlein sang most tunes in the distinctive dialect from that region. Don’t worry, many northern Germans would not understand these lyrics either. This is a socio-critical Blues Rock song about respect and disrespect which went down well live. The translation for ‘Schwoißfuaß‘ in Swabian is ‘Sweaty Foot’.

BAP ‘Do Kanns Zaubere’

In 1981, people did not believe their ears, when the Folk Rock band BAP’s first big album made landfall. Singer and composer Wolfgang Niedecken and the guys were very gifted. Everything they sang, and all album and song titles, were in ‘Kölsch‘, the accent from the region around Cologne. As it turned out, that accent sounded a lot better in Rock’n’Roll than standard German. ‘Für Usszeschnigge!‘, that first record, contained ‘Verdamp Lang Her‘, their first big hit. But the example above is ‘Do Kannst Zaubere‘, a nice love song. These guys sound like a mixture of Cat Stevens and Bob Dylan in ‘Kölsch‘.

Kraftwerk ‘Autobahn’

Ralf Hütter und Florian Schneider founded Kraftwerk in Düsseldorf. In 1970, Techno sounds were unheard of, until they came along. Even the New York Times called them “the Beatles of danceable electronic music”. This tune, ‘Autobahn’, was their first hit.

Ulla Meinecke ‘Die Tänzerin’

In the 1980s, Ulla Meinecke from a small town in Hesse was one of the few famous female Rock and Folk stars in Germany. She wrote most of her songs herself. But one of her biggest successes turned out to be her German version of Paul Simon’s ’50 Ways to Leave Your Lover’. ‘Die Tänzerin‘ is an interesting, sort of bluesy ballad.

Ton Steine Scherben ‘Paul Panzer Blues’

Founded in Berlin in 1970, Ton Steine Scherben was one of the first German Rock and Blues bands. Rio Reiser and his guys came up with lyrics which appealed to the far left, including squatters in West Berlin and West Germany. Today, some of the songs sound more like satire, including this noteworthy example. The ‘Paul Panzer Blues’ is radical. Translating the lyrics would destroy them. Either we understand them or we don’t. One of the band’s co-founders, the late Ralph Möbius, a.k.a. Rio Reiser, was a Pop artist much later, until he suddenly died in 1996, at age 46.

Jane ‘Hangman’

Jane was another band of German Rock pioneers. Founded in Hanover in 1970, this group changed its members all the time. Werner Nadolny, Klaus Hess, Peter Panka, Werner Nadolny und Charly Maucher were the original members. Their tunes, including this one, might be hard to digest for people who are not really Rock’N’Rollers, including the author of these lines. But we have to concede that Jane found their own style and that they raised roofs during their live gigs.

Related article: Made in Germany: Top Ten Jazz and Fusion Tunes

Note: The Youtube links included were accessible on July 14th, 2019. This publication is not responsible for any legal implications connected to external uploads, including those on Youtube.