Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "Kraftwerk Primer"
Start here, because everybody else did.
Yes, it's hard to believe today, but once upon a time this sound was revolutionary, surprising, something everybody talked about.
Today, it's the basis for what's now known as EDM, Kraftwerk is the acknowledged progenitor.
It was so weird to hear this coming out of the radio, and we did, back when stations were not so calcified, when they did not give listeners what they wanted, but what they needed to hear.
And there was a radio edit, but if you want to go on a trip, check out the almost twenty three minute, full side original.
It was in German, we could understand not a word other than "autobahn," which we knew was Germany's superhighway.
You could play this for ten year olds and they'd believe it was cut yesterday!
Of all the songs about trains, this sounds most like the ride, the hypnotic roll of the wheels, the trance travel puts you in.
The word "hypnotic" was created for stuff like this.
It makes you want to go on the journey, not only in your mind, but the real train. Just like we wanted to visit all the Southern California locales in the Zappa songs.
It's 6:37, and it's almost not long enough.
This is the opener on the "Trans-Europe Express" album.
It's funny that so much of today's hit music has no melody, yet the work of these Germans utilizing computer instruments features it!
Well, I'm not saying you will want to sing along, but the twinkling will enrapture you and you'll feel joyful and if you put this on on a Sunday afternoon you won't want to take it off.
This was a featured number when I saw the band at the Santa Monica Civic, on the "Computer World" tour. The presentation included actual showroom dummies.
This is the music the SNL Dieter skit was derived from. But when originally done by Kraftwerk it was not spoofable, it was cutting edge.
The apotheosis, the one Kraftwerk album you've got to know, the one that was a seamless adventure throughout, the one that hypnotized you and titillated and gratified you all at the same time. The tracks are short, and each one is a winner.
And why not start here, with the title/opening cut.
Now let me tell you, there were TWO versions of "Computer World," the one you're listening to and the original, "Computerwelt," in GERMAN! It's the same music, but with different language lyrics, a friend made me a cassette, back when stuff was rare and you reveled in uncovering and owning it.
"Business, numbers, money, people"
Could they be more PRESCIENT!
This was long before the Internet revolution, when only a few people had Apple IIs. The darkness of the music reflects a world where we're all known and Edward Snowden is in the headlines, this is the soundtrack of TODAY!
The single, back when KROQ meant something, when the station played a cut and it spread across this great nation of ours.
And if you only listen to this, you'll want to shoot yourself. Yes, there's something offensive at first, the repetition, the sounds, but in the context of the album you come to love it. The sounds of the calculator... Those were the revolution before PCs, by this time, in 1981, pocket calculators were cheap and everybody had one.
They count off in German and I knew what they were saying because I had a camp counselor who taught me the numbers in that language.
This is less accessible than what came before on the album, but when they count in multiple languages...it's strangely affecting.
COMPUTER WORLD 2
The first side ends with a reprise of the title track, in a more upbeat take, as if to invite us all into this new age that was going to change our lives...AND IT DID!
This is the one Coldplay ripped off, knowingly, they gave Kraftwerk credit, because some lyrical melodies are such hooks they're undeniable.
I don't think computers can fall in love, not yet, but we have utilized them to fall in love ourselves, and this is the soundtrack of all that hope when we tickle the keys.
Play this and you'll find the whole room nodding its collective head and asking...WHAT IS THIS?
The least accessible track on "Computer World," it's the one you come to after you burn the others out.
The people who programmed their own computers did beam themselves into the future!
IT'S MORE FUN TO COMPUTE
Such a dark song to illustrate fun. I'm including the entire "Computer World" album because not only is it so great, you should know it!
TOUR DE FRANCE
The 1983 song written for the famous bicycle race that begins with labored breathing so reminiscent of the two wheeled effort. Eventually the band put out a whole "Tour De France" album...
But really, this was the last memorable, original thing the band ever did. There was a final, long-delayed studio album "Electric Cafe" released in the waning days of 1986, but it was a disappointment.
Then Kraftwerk splintered, they remixed their music, their legend grew, but no new music was released.
Finally, they went on the road.
And now they're down to one.
And you can ask why you want to see something like this live, and I agree with you conceptually, but that July 30, 1981 Santa Monica Civic show was one of the best I've seen by ANY BAND!
It's all about conception, and then execution.
Rather than emote and try to reach out and grab us, the band was distant, which caused us to lean in and try to get closer.
This music is timeless.
It's the sound of our...FUTURE!