Wednesday, 21 March 2018

La Düsseldorf albums (1976-1986) - in memoriam Klaus Dinger, ten years gone

A decade ago today, one of my favourite musicians of all time passed away after a heart attack.  Klaus Dinger's last recordings wouldn't start to see the light of day for another five years, but when they did, they were great - and will definitely feature here at some point, ideally when fully released.  For today, here's the complete discography of arguably his greatest post-NEU! band (although I have almost equal affection for la! NEU? and Die Engel Des Herrn).  So Tanz auf der Zukunft mit Mir to the "sound of the 80s" (Bowie, circa 1978).

La Düsseldorf - s/t (1976)
Keeping the double-drummer lineup he'd unveiled on NEU 75 - brother Thomas, and Hans Lampe - Dinger pulled back a bit on the proto-punk thrash of that album's second side.  He refined it into something more celebratory and glamourous, befitting the "mirror glass and stainless steel" of his home city, turning the first side of this debut album into a hymn to Düsseldorf.  On the second side, the first of his great instrumentals would become La Düsseldorf's first successful single in Germany, and the more reflective and searching Time was a taste of things to come.

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Viva (1978)
Is this the crowning jewel in Klaus Dinger's discography?  The man himself certainly seemed to think so, returning to its tracks for most of his live releases, and even reworking the full album in his final years, with the results still to emerge.  The multi-lingual title track was a celebration of not just Düsseldorf, but all of humanity, although the humourous side of La Düsseldorf swiftly brought things back down to earth, celebrating themselves in the punkish White Overalls.

Another beautiful instrumental single, Rheinita, gives an oasis of calm before Geld's rage against injustice and greed, setting the stage for the main event.  In the original 20-minute Cha Cha 2000, Dinger not just expresses utopian hope for the future, but creates the song of his career.  If Dinger was still alive today, he'd no doubt still be re-recording it every few years, holding on to the same heartfelt sentiments.  We need better leaders, who love us and don't tweet us.

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Individuellos (1980)
The NEU 2 of La Düsseldorf, aka the one that suffers by comparison to the others due to the needs-must recycling of its material.  In this case, it was in tragic circumstances, as the suicide of pianist Andreas Schnell interrupted the making of the album and Dinger filled out the running time by recasting main track Menschen a few more times.

For all that, I have a deep affection for Individuellos.  It follows the Viva pattern at its outset (track 1 - humanity is great; track 2 - and so are La Düsseldorf) and then lets the Menschen melody run on, taking in deeply personal memories of Dinger's recently-deceased grandmother (that's her voice on answerphone) and the 'Lieber Honig' of his life Anita (that's the same 1971 recordings of them in a rowing boat that NEU! used, near the end of this album).  The Dinger brothers humour might get a bit ridiculous in Dampfriemen and Tintarella Di (although musically pointing the way to Für Mich), but the album ends on a respectful note, dedicated to Schnell whose piano is upfront on Das Yvonnchen.

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Neondian / La Düsseldorf 4 / Mon Amour (1985)
Had its own post at the beginning of this year.  Post includes the 1983 single Ich Liebe Dich/Koksnodel.

Blue / La Düsseldorf 5 / Five Pearls And A Hammer (rec. 1984-86, rel. 1999)
In the aftermath of the Neondian release debacle, Dinger still owed one album, and after an abortive NEU! reunion submitted this album in early '87 to Virgin Records Germany, who'd taken over his Teldec contract.  They rejected it and dropped Dinger, and he started from scratch to form the band who'd become Die Engel Des Herrn.  The final La Düsseldorf album - although in reality, it was a solo album by Dinger other than the last track - was therefore shelved until the late 90s, when it was given an archival release by Captain Trip.

The album was now titled Blue, with its original name Five Pearls And A Hammer referring to the album's sequence.  First up is a gorgeous reverb guitar and rhythm track, over which Dinger contrasts his own idyllic life with the Geneva arms control summit between Reagan and Gorbachev.  On the cover picture of Blue are Mari Paas (mentioned in Arms Control Blues), Dinger's partner from the mid-70s through the 90s, with her daughter Yvi, and it's the latter who sings the cutely out-of-tune vocal on the track Blue.

After Lilienthal, a stunningly gorgeous instrumental which alone justifies getting hold of this album, are a couple of short tracks - the slight Touch You Tonight, and the poignant Für Omi, another tribute to his grandmother.  Five pearls, and a hammer - the hammer being the 18-minute rocked up version of Neondian's America, recorded during those sessions.  The track cuts in and ends in mid-flow, as if taken from an even longer recording, and fizzles with chaotic energy, thunder-and-lightning guitars and drums, and barely comprehensible vocals with whispered overdubs.  If the world wasn't ready for this in 1987 - or at least, so thought the record label - it certainly needs it now.

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4 comments:

  1. As soon as I heard Hallogallo I knew that something had been missing before that point. A great man and one of the motorik driving forces!

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    1. Yes! I remember getting NEU! 1st (Germanofon bootleg, which cost me a fortune back then) and immediately thinking that this was rock music perfected, distilled down to its absolute essence. I only wished it could've been at least twice as long - I remember putting it on repeat for hours and hours whilst cramming for my high school exams.

      Then along came La Düsseldorf, and rock had been perfected yet again.... cha cha Klaus!

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  2. Lovely multi-post, Alan, thanks - always a treat every day SGTG..x

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  3. ¡Maravilloso! Great post as usual. ..

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