GDR Rock Music

GDR Rock Music

GDR until 1989

In response to the riots that followed a few rock ‘n’ roll concerts in the Federal Republic of Germany in the mid-1950s, rock ‘n’ roll was banned in the GDR; Rock music was seen on the one hand as a sign of the decadence of the West, and on the other as an expression of the western entertainment industry that was consistently guided by commercial interests. As a result, the GDR cut itself off from the general development of music and suppressed local rock music, in part by banning musicians from performing. Instead, the young audience was offered hits, disguised as “entertainment art” supposedly satisfying international standards. When the Beatles became famous in the GDR in the early 1960s, Beat music – used in German-speaking countries as a synonym for rock music until the end of the 1960s – was cautiously viewed as a new kind of enrichment for one’s own entertainment. In the long run, rock music could not be suppressed in the GDR either, western radio programs could be received almost nationwide and provided GDR citizens with information on musical matters. The term »underground« – in Western rock music a marketing term for music that did not fit into the chart of the hit parades – received a real meaning in the GDR, because while in cities like Leipzig, Dresden, Rostock or the eastern part of Berlin the rock scene was largely was under constant state observation, it could develop more freely outside of these cities. E. Honecker on the occasion of the 11th plenary session of the Central Committee of the SED in December of the same year its high point, but at the same time also a final point.

In 1964, on the occasion of the “Germany Meeting of Young People” in East Berlin, a special program with English beat music was broadcast, which later became a permanent radio facility as the “DT 64 Youth Studio”. From now on, an independent youth music culture was increasingly promoted by the state, on the one hand to create an embedding in the state culture and on the other hand to reduce the consumption of rock and pop music from the USA and Western Europe presented by western media. The GDR broadcasting should now contribute to a higher acceptance also of own developments; rock music was channeled for this purpose: German songs had to be played in a ratio of 60 to 40% compared to English-language ones. As a result, musicians (since 1973) had to prove their ability to special “committees for entertainment art” Training courses for rock musicians were set up at the music academies and the Amiga record label opened up to beat music; the label later released sporadically Licensed editions of records by western groups. Musicians who did not adhere to the state guidelines continued to be reprimanded (e.g. the Klaus Renft Combo). Most rock musicians responded with a willingness to adapt, some protested subtly or withdrawn in silence. The compulsion to present the largest part of the repertoire in German led to the clauses in the texts, which became messages to the fans. The high-quality craftsmanship turned out to be a reflection of western rock music: The Puhdys, City, Silly, Karat, Stern Combo Meißen, Panta Rhei, Bayon and others looked for and found their role models in the west. The Xth World Youth Festival in 1973 in East Berlin, where the GDR wanted to show itself openly, provided a forum for rock music. In addition, by the end of the 1970s at the latest, there were punk bands in the big cities that had nothing in common with “official” rock music, as did the so-called bluesers who had for years formed an alternative, essentially hedonistic youth culture scene in the GDR. Until 1989 the rock music of the GDR offered the image of a music tolerated by the state and regulated according to ideological standards on the one hand and that of a diverse, conspiratorial counterculture on the other.

Germany after 1990

Rock musicians from the western part of the country initially benefited from the opening of the inner-German border in 1989: Stars like Müller-Westernhagen and Lindenberg  - who had fought in vain for years to be able to tour the GDR – joined the big ones within a very short time Cities and displaced the GDR bands. For them, in turn, the structures of the GDR music market fell away almost overnight. For popular bands such as the Puhdys, however, new opportunities quickly opened up. Former groups like the Klaus Renft Combo or the blues rock band Engerling formed anew and found their audience. The Bertelsmann media group bought the Amiga label in 1994 and re-released numerous GDR rock recordings. Since the 1990s, German rock music has been shaped by bands such as Rammstein, Keimzeit, Tocotronic, Juli and Wir sind Helden. With Tokio Hotel and Rammstein, two groups were again able to cross commercial borders with other countries and celebrate great successes in France, Eastern Europe and the USA.

Analogous to rock music, the importance of German rock music for young people has decreased. Techno, dance music and hip-hop have taken their place, but in the new federal states also gothic rock with regular meetings in Leipzig, among other places.

GDR Rock Music

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