Many articles are already written about 40 Years of Punk – taking 1976 as the first time the scene reared it’s pretty ugly head in london. On a different hand: here is my text about how i was infected by punk in Germany at the end of 1976 – and how it changed my life.
My Mum’s Radio changed my life
I was nearly 14 when i came home from school past 1 pm early december 1976. My mum was listening to the local radio broadcast called “Kurier am Mittag” (roughly “Courier at noon”). Then the last topic came on: “Parents beware, nazi-rock is coming from the uk” – was the first line. And then the guitar intro of “Anarchy in the UK” started with Johnny sneering “Riaaght Noooooow!. I was hooked. This was finally something interesting again. I was already fed up with the music scene. While i started with glam but after “The Groover” Marc Bolan lost his midas touch – and i was too young to appreciate Roxy Music at that time. Then I tried Status Quo for a while, later discovered Bad Company and Bands before; Free and Mott the Hoople. But that was just ok.
New Sounds – new Problems
So here i stood, in the kitchen with my mum. And that was the first problem. We were a left wing family. So “Nazi-Rock” wasn’t happening. I knew from the biggest german teeny bopper magazin “Bravo” that the band used shock tactics, so i didn’t want to believe that the use of swastikas by vivienne westwood and worn by Siouxsie and Sid was more than just a symbol. It took a while to explain that this wasn’t “Nazi” at all (Skrewdriver weren’t on the map then).
The second problem was a personal one. I just tried to break down the opposition of my parents regarding hair length. But what to do now? Wearing longer hair to openly show of my victory against them and look like those fingerpicking guys with locks that the girls adored, but being potentially old-fashioned – or – cut it short to be called a mommy’s boy but knowing deep in my heart this is different? So I combined the worst of both worlds – the so-called “Prince Valiant-Cut”. (no, all visual evidence has been burned).
I was hooked
Anyway I was hooked. But where could I hear that sound again? Germany at that time was way behind everything that was popular in the UK or US. Records often would be released months after they left the charts abroad – so that the labels could add “Top Hit in England” on the sleeve. And the radio…. well, german public and private radio stations are a mess even today. Endless reruns of “Hits from the 70s, 80s, 90s and the best of today”. And in the seventies there were just a few hours a week when pop music was played.
But although the “Bravo” had listed the Anarchy record – even with a catalogue number, it was nearly impossible to order that 45. I tried it at my local radio store. The women wrote down “Sixth Pistols” – and i was too shy to insist on “Sex”. Ten months later I finally was able to order the french b/w release of Anarchy by mail order1).
Hunting for the new sound
Meanwhile the record shops started to put up “Punk” racks, but only put Pub Rock-Bands like Dr. Feelgood, Little Bob Story or even the first AC/DC records there. So my real first “Punk” releases were “New Rose”2) and The Clash Lp. My friends and me tried every shop in Hamburg to grab what was available as a german pressing: “My Generation” (GenX), “Everyone’s a Winner” (London), “White Riot”, Stiff 45s on Teldec. And when friends went to britain in summer, we gave them lists and our pocket money.
I stuck with the pistols until their split. I still have my ticket for the first show in hamburg on January 24th, 1978 – this would have been my first real gig on the eve of my 15th birthday – but they lasted six days too short.
Punk in Germany?
Punk in Germany really started in 1978 when the first punk fanzines appeared (i was co-founder of “Plastik” – one of the first in Hamburg and later started the “Orgienpost” (hence the URL of this Blog) with a different approach). And new bands started to play – not old hard rock combos on major labels that tried to jump on the bandwagon. But even with the later “Neue Deutsche Welle” with popular bands like DAF (“Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft”), Palais Schaumburg or Fehlfarben (the first two even slighty successful in the UK) – Punk and anything that came after it wasn’t really that big in germany.
Still the whole punk thing did change my life. It opened up my ears, brain and heart for new stuff: Post Punk, The Face, Mod, Fashion, SOUL, Hip Hop, Disco, Jazz, House, Philosophy, Dub Step… you name it. Comparing my approach at work or in private with the german majority that didn’t understand punk then and still don’t do now, it seems my mind is working differently, more dialetically – although i am not an musician or artist – just another employee like most others.
1) (with the first Only Ones 7″ plus the Buzzcocks and Drones EPs)
2) (german pressing – i sold that far too cheap and too early in Ladbroke Grove in the late 80s)