I was rather pleased when my previous posting generated a large number of excellent comments – that’s not always the case. However, I was less pleased when many of them suggested (shock-horror!) that I might be wrong.
Many complained about my views on modern German music. Let me explain where I am coming from. As far as I am concerned rock (and I use the term in the widest possible sense) started in 1962, peaked in 1967/8 and had fizzled out by 1987. Very little of it was German.
A good example of this is provided by a programme called “Pop goes the Sixties” which occasionally gets repeated on the British channel Yesterday. Recorded at the very end of the 1960s, it is a joint Anglo-German production even down to the presenters. While featuring plenty of British artists such as The Who, The Kinks and Sandie Shaw, it manages time for but one, single, solitary German (Horst Jankowski, in case you should be wondering).
And after 1969? All I can think of are: Frank Farian, Giorgio Moroder and Kraftwerk. Sure, there may have been others (Tangerine Dream and the Krautrock scene got a mention) but they weren’t massively successful. I am not even sure they were particularly influential but I am happy to be corrected.
That’s up to 1987, where my knowledge fizzles out. And that seems to be about where the German rock that people were talking about starts.
Which makes sense. In his comment, Brian Micklethwait suggested that there are two types of knowledge: implicit knowledge, favoured by the British, and explicit knowledge, favoured by the Germans. A few years ago, at a railway conference in Cologne, I encountered a rather good example of this. German Railways had decided to spruce up their stations. So, what was the first thing they did? Spend a year working out what a station was. Of course, they did. What else would you do?
So, it comes as no surprise that the Germans were no good at pop music in the 1960s – no one had written the manual.
Talking about something other than music. I was kind of pleased when one commenter suggested that German car makers weren’t nearly as cutting edge as I’d thought. This all fits into the idea of Germans thinking first, writing second and acting third.
Unfortunately, that leaves the mystery of how they invented the car (and, one might add, the A4 rocket and Me262) in the first place. Perhaps it required a lot of the explicit knowledge that science supplies.