KRAUTROCK……is the word that was used by English disc-jockeys (including John Peel, amongst others) to describe the peculiar music that started to arrive in the British Isles from the German undergound scene in the late 60s and early 70s. The music – by bands with names such as Faust, Can, Kraftwerk or Amon Düül II – was new, exciting, experimental and uncompromising – and, because it did not fit into any particular pigeon-hole, the term Krautrock was born. “Kraut” was the single word that represented the “typical” German, as far as the English were concerned: they were, simply, the “Krauts”.
The beat music which teenagers had been dancing to was already on the way out by 1967. The dancing was now being done in discotheques, which were springing up like mushrooms in the republic’s major cities, and it was being done to music played on singles by trendy disc-jockeys. Live music was as dead as a dodo, and beat music had died with it. One of the first DJs was a certain Gerhard Augustin, who was already playing new singles from Britain and the USA in the “Twen-Club” in Bremen in 1963 – mostly high-quality, danceable R&B and pop numbers. In 1965 Augustin had the idea of presenting this music, which was so popular with the teenagers, on television. This was the birth of Radio Bremen’s legendary “Beat Club”. Eventually, at the end of the 60s, Augustin became A&R director of the Liberty/United Artists record label, with responsibility for bands such as Can and Amon Düül II.
Krautrock was initially sparked into life against the background, in 1968, of a mood of revolution and an increasingly politicised youth culture. The beat bands were dying out in large numbers, and the few bands that survived were reorienting themselves as a result of the demise of the beat-boom, and searching for new directions and new sounds (or new sources of income). The German Bonds, for example, developed into Lucifer`s Friend. The wholesome Generals became Kollektiv. Ralf Hütter, for his part, had been playing organ with the Phantoms from Krefeld. At the end of the 60s he founded Organisation, and shortly thereafter he achieved international fame with the completely new soundscape of Kraftwerk (whose sale of over 70 million recordings worldwide is an accomplishment that demands respect!). Also, the talented jazz drummer Udo Lindenberg, who was still drumming and singing for the Mustangs until the mid-60s, was to be heard a couple of years later contributing his excellent drumming style to the wonderful LPs of Motherhood, amongst others.
As ever, many bands and artists were enthusiastically following Anglo-American examples such as Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, Cream, Vanilla Fudge, King Crimson, etc. Others were influenced more by the sound collages of Frank Zappa`s Mother Of Invention (who performed at the “Essener Songtagen” in 1968), early Pink Floyd or the Jimi Hendrix Experience – and also by particular chemical substances – and were increasingly developing an entirely independent musical direction; these were groups such as Ash Ra Tempel, Guru Guru or Xhol Caravan.
Xhol Caravan, from Wiesbaden, were originally called Soul Caravan. The band had made one fairly lacklustre LP, upon which they accompanied two black GIs who seemed to think they were Sam & Dave. After the two Americans had returned home, the rest of the band fell under the influence of Pink Floyd, Acid and Rolf Ulrich Kaiser (RUK), the egomaniacal inventor of himself who assumed the role of intergalactic postman in his incarnation as the “Cosmic Courier”, and who also delivered a huge amount of revolutionary music – albeit combined with a great deal of indigestible babble. In 1969, Xhol Caravan`s album “Electrip”, which was full of weird music and which came in an extraordinary Psychedelic sleeve, appeared, of all places, on the Berlin label “Hansa”, which otherwise specialised in insipid ‘Schlager’ music.
Can was a group whose development was, in every respect, both autonomous and unique. On the whole, their music was based on classical and modern composition techniques, on the avant-garde and free jazz, taking rock music as an influence, rather than vice versa. It was from this starting point that the music - or, rather, the concept – of Can originated. This is the sound of innovation.
The founder-members Irmin Schmidt, Holger Czukay and David Johnson conducted experiments with Professor Karlheinz Stockhausen, the self-proclaimed realisator of sound, with various, frequently electronic, forms of tonal expression, creating so-called ‘room-music’. The guitarist Michael Karoli had learned violin and banjo in his youth. The drummer Jaki Liebezeit came from a jazz background (having played with the Manfred Schoof Quintett, amongst others), and he played wonderful minimalist structures like a well-oiled clock mechanism. It was him, in particular, who made Can’s sound so unmistakable. Can even made instrumental music with singers. According to the Can concept, the vocalist was equal with the other instruments – whether it was Malcolm Mooney, who “read out” a letter from his American girlfriend on “You Doo Right”, or Kenji “Damo” Suzuki from Japan, who simply attached himself to Can in the street, in Munich in 1970, and drove off the majority of the audience at the gig in “Blow-Up” that evening with his vocal “Samurai Attacks”.
At this time it seemed, quite simply, that everything was possible and that anything could be made to happen. There was a growing enthusiasm for experimentation. Together with Friedrich Gulda, Paul and Limpe Fuchs of Anima tried out the most outrageous instruments (remember the “Fuchs-horn”?). The avant-garde journeys to the edge of the musical universe undertaken by Limbus 3 or 4 were, to some extent, anti-commercial out of necessity. Unlike other groups working in similar areas, they made their own life twice as difficult by refusing to use electronic sound machines such as the mellotron or the synthesiser. They preferred to spend their money on exotic instruments like the faray, the tsikadraha and the valiha. None of them ever really mastered these instruments, but they felt that the sound of their names alone was cool enough…
Checkpoint Charlie’s first album “Grüß Gott Mit Hellem Klang” (“Greetings with ringing tones”) sought to provoke with pornographic and blasphemous lyrics (Has anyone ever listened to it all the way through?). Ton Steine Scherben agitated with “Macht Kaputt Was Euch Kaputt Macht” (“Destroy that which is destroying you”), or by demanding free public transport, “Nulltarif”, on one of their records (Schwarzfahrerproduktion= “Fare-dodger production”, Berlin).
Artists such as Deuter, Peter Michael Hamel, Popol Vuh, etc. brought meditative, often oriental elements into Krautrock, and finally disappeared into seventh heaven or various other n-dimensional worlds at the end of the 70s, happily leaving an ever-expanding New Age society behind them.
Tangerine Dream called their first album “Electronic Meditation”; however, “Reise Durch Ein Brennendes Gehirn” (“Journey through a burning brain”), the title of one of the songs on the Ohr album, sounds anything but meditative. Rolf Ulrich Kaiser ’s Kosmische Kuriere (“Cosmic Couriers”) didn’t bother with meditation before whizzing off directly into the cosmos. Ash Ra Tempel were regarded as the ultimate acid band: they even recorded an LP in Switzerland, entitled “Seven Up”, with the arch-guru of LSD, Timothy Leary.
Embryo – an experimental jazz band centred around Christian Burchard – were already integrating ethnic influences from Arabia, India and other distant lands, long before the term ‘ethno-rock’ was invented. Later on, Embryo – together with a number of bands and artists with whom they were friends, such as Missus Beastly, Munju and Checkpoint Charlie – founded the autonomous left-wing record label April. The label’s name was subsequently changed to Schneeball (“Snowball”) for legal reasons.
At that time, even jazz managed to achieve a degree of freedom from its own restrictions, integrating structures from Progressive Rock. Wolfgang Dauner (& Et Cetera) revealed themselves to be true masters of this art, producing several outstanding albums between 1969 and 1973, and intoning spicey jazz-ragas with an animated Siggi Schwab on sitar and guitar. After 1973, it was back to straight jazz or, more often than not, bland jazz-rock – de-spiced, as it were…
A combination of perplexity and greed soon led to the setting up, by every major German record label, of sub-labels which were run by long-haired talent scouts and which had names like Pilz, Brain, Ohr, Kuckuck, Bacillus or Zebra. The senior-level decision-makers valued their new colleagues about as highly as yesterday’s newspapers: after a few years of carnival licence which seldom, if ever, produced the hoped-for returns, the freaks were unceremoniously thrown out. What they left behind, however, was a vast amount of extremely peculiar German music which was sometimes difficult to digest, but seldom boring: namely, Krautrock.
From the mid-70s onwards, Krautrock was gradually absorbed by jazz-rock or funk-rock, whilst punk and German new wave were already emerging as the new things on the horizon. A few upright avant-gardists bravely kept the flag flying: The Einstürzenden Neubauten sang in celebration of the half-man, rather than the whole one; and “Mani Neumaier”, that eccentric and lovable Krautrocker of the first generation, is still fishing the Elektrolurch (“the electric newt”) out of the pond today.
These days, Krautrock has developed into a firmly established term for a defined musical genre, especially outside Germany; it is a term which is consciously quoted by musicians with reference to the sources and influences of their own creative works. Krautrock acts such as Kraftwerk, Can, Faust or Amon Düül II have huge reputations abroad, and the influence that they exert on certain contemporary artists is enormous. David Bowie himself cited the music of groups such as Kraftwerk, Neu! And Harmonia, as well as Conny Plank (the producer who died in 1987) as being essential sources of inspiration to him.
In the present-day record-collectors’ market, Krautrock, in its original sound formats, is keenly sought after, and represents one of the most expensive collecting areas of all. Ever-diminishing numbers of releases attract the powerful, ever-increasing demands of an international body of eager-to-purchase collectors and fans. Certain titles have more or less stopped surfacing altogether: buried deep in Japanese collections, for example, they become permanently removed from the market. Prices beyond the 100 or 200 EURO mark are therefore by no means unusual for rare Krautrock LPs. Original Krautrock pressings are not just specimens of peculiar music from an exciting era; rather, they have become, primarily, interesting investments. So it’s a lucky person who can spot the Krautrock treasures in his record collection.
A Warm Welcome……to the third edition of the COSMIC PRICE GUIDE, which has been expanded and revised once again. The work that is presented here is concerned not so much with questions of musical analysis as with solid facts and information. In other words, it is a handbook that is designed to offer valuable assistance in day-to-day decision-making, be it in the record-collectors’ market, at the flea-market, or online. It catalogues vinyl Krautrock releases in the broadest sense: this means not only Krautrock in its more specific sense (1968-1974), but also its relevant predecessors and successors. In addition, “Krautrocky” interfaces to jazz, folk, avant-garde and electronic music are also taken into consideration.
PressingsWith only a handful of exceptions, all the titles were produced and released in Germany; therefore the focus is naturally on German first pressings. Nevertheless, foreign pressings are also covered, in cases where the release only occurred outside Germany, or where there are significant differences between the foreign and domestic pressings. Re-releases are only referred to if they differ considerably from the first release(s), or in order to illustrate what distinguishes the original pressing.
PricesThe prices quoted are to be taken as guiding prices in EUROS (€), and they apply to immaculate, good-as-new examples (mint condition). Even the tiniest blemishes can sometimes lead to significant reductions in price.
The following table, which brings different valuation systems into a single context, may be helpful in establishing the value of examples in varying degrees of preservation:
|M||Mint condition, as new|
|NM||Near Mint condition, almost as new (only in use in the USA)|
|EX||Excellent (only in use in the UK)|
|VG||Very Good, with traces of use, but still very well preserved|
|G||Good, with significant traces of use, but playable and still well preserved|
If ./. is entered in the price column, it means that it has not been possible to establish a reliable price, to date.
The prices represent an up-to-date picture based upon relevant catalogue lists, internet auctions and interviews with experts, and also upon my personal experience, over many years, as a collector and dealer of rare records.
The price levels vary considerably from country to country. As a general rule of thumb, it may be assumed that
the further a country is from the record’s geographical point of origin, the higher the price is likely to
be. So it is no surprise that, in countries such as the USA and Japan, comparatively high sums are paid for
Krautrock LPs from Germany.
Prices for records in the region that exceeds 250 EUROS should, of course, be carefully scrutinised, as these exceptional examples only ever appear on the market in isolation. In these cicumstances, there is always the possibility of fantasy prices being demanded – and paid – for particularly rare and outstandingly well-preserved titles.
Similarly, it is difficult to determine prices for the many private pressings – that is, pressings which were, for the most part, privately financed, and which did not appear on either a major or an independent label. In general, it is the very small and ever-diminishing number of copies which gives these titles their rarity value. However, this does not necessarily mean that these titles should fetch a particularly high price. There are often artistic reasons why these works never reached a wider public. In such cases, caution is advised, as regards fantasy prices.
TrendsVinyl is on the up-and-up, and Krautrock is very much in fashion. So it is no wonder that collectors, enthusiasts and speculators are pushing up the prices for top titles. There is a strong demand for authentic recordings from the era of Krautrock, and the sparsity of supply means that it will inevitably grow stronger. The best preserved top titles fetch the highest prices, but the degree of preservation is not the only factor in determining the value, which may also be strengthened by the inclusion of all accessories, such as posters, lyric-sheets, booklets or original stickers on the cover. For example, a normal first release of Can’s “Ege Bamyasi”, in mint condition, fetches 60-80 EUROS; but the price shoots up to 300-400 EUROS if the poster is included. Even the original sticker on the front cover, which refers to the accompanying poster, is itself worth at least an additional 50 EURO note. A coloured vinyl Frumpy “2”, with its foldable round cover, has shot up from 80 to 150-200 EUROS within the last three years. There is a particular demand for titles which are being hunted by various different groups of collectors. A first release of Agitation Free’s “Malesch” or “2nd” is equally sought after by Krautrock collectors, Vertigo Swirl collectors and collectors of progressive rock. The prices of such titles can only go in one direction, namely upwards.
CompletenessIn case I have overlooked or forgotten anything, or if a mistake has crept into any part of this work, I would be grateful for notification. I am always happy to receive supplementary information, corrections, or explanations of factual mysteries. They will of course be taken into consideration in the next edition.
Hamburg, September 2008