If I learned anything from playing youth soccer, it was that Mitch Reiter was the best goaltender in the league. The fact that we kept losing by scores of 6-0 and 8-0 only meant that he was playing on the team with the WORST DEFENSEMAN in the history of youth soccer. Yes it was me. You wanna rub it in some more?
One time several of our team members were riding with the coach to an away game, and he popped an 8-track cartridge into the car stereo. “You guys ever hear of Kraftwerk?” he asked us.
Not me. It’s not like this music was ever played on the Top 40 stations I listened to – for all I knew, the coach probably meant something involving wood carving, silversmithing, macrame and other forms of “craft work.”
With that in mind, we all got to hear the first side of Kraftwerk’s album “Autobahn.” All 22 minutes of it. That’s right – one song was 22 minutes long. All the way from Albany to wherever we were going to lose our next game at.
Everybody else in the car was bored stiff.
I, however, was intrigued. I knew five-minute songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody” existed, as well as even longer songs like “Hey Jude” and “American Pie,” but this song went for a third of an hour – and the only lyrics I could figure out, were something involving “The fun, fun, fun, of the Autobahn.”
It really wasn’t until I went to college, when someone else had a copy of that album and let me borrow it. At that point, I discovered that Craft Work was really a German electronic group called Kraftwerk. And those lyrics I thought were about the fun fun fun of the Autobahn? They were actually a mondegreen of “Wir fahr’n fahr’n fahr’n auf der Autobahn,” or, in English, “We are driving on the Autobahn.”
And I listened to the Autobahn album. About 10 or 15 times.
And I was amazed. This was some pretty heady stuff, and this was from the same group whose songs “Numbers” and “Computer Love” were getting MONSTER airplay in every dance club.
I duped a copy of his LP onto my 8-track tape recording device (yes, I actually had a gizmo that could record onto blank 8-track tapes), and I could hear Autobahn as often as I wanted. The 22-minute track fit nicely onto a 24-minute 8-track tape. Of course, that meant I had three other channels for other music, but hey that happens.
Over time, I purchased Autobahn on various media, including LP, cassette and CD. I purchased several other Kraftwerk albums, including Computer World and The Mix, but I always enjoyed listening to what was, at that time, early German electronic experimental music – all about the joys of driving on one of the world’s fastest highways.
Here’s a rare video clip of Kraftwerk performing Autobahn on the old television variety show “Midnight Special.”
So I’m going to add “Autobahn” to the growing list of music I want to take to the afterlife. As long as that journey resembles a German highway…
There’s an excellent BBC documentary called Synth Britannia (that may be still available on You Tube in ten parts or so if the copyright police haven’t nabbed it) that covers the era of the synthesizer in Brit pop and new wave. The event that all of the early players point their fingers to as starting the revolution was a Kraftwerk tour of the UK in the 70s; rather than pick up guitars and join the punk rock swarm a few picked up electronics magazines and learned how to build crude synthesizers. It’s amazing to me that they were all basically working class experimenters in places like Liverpool and Birmingham who couldn’t afford real gear, they had to build their own until the money started coming in.
An online music magazine I’ve been reading called The Quietus in it’s “about” page claims to only be interested in music as far back as 1974: to paraphrase, “when modern music began.” I.e., the release of Autobahn.
Tim, thank you for the info on the documentary… I will seek that out.
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