STEVE ROBERTS lNVESTIGATES ONE OF THE GENRE'S MOST COLLECTABLE BANDS.
Tangerine Dream was one of many German experimental groups that sprang up during the late Sixties. Most of these bands - Agitation Free, Guru Guru, Ash Ra Temple and Kraan - gained little recognition in the U.K.; Amon Duul enjoyed some success in the Seventies, as did Can, but only Tangerine Dream has survived. The band has lasted for 21 years, and despite their increasingly low profile, still remain a vastly influential force on. British music. Many synthesiser-based groups since the late Seventies owe them a debt, and while Kraftwerk's influence is rightly acknowledged, Tangerine Dream's contribution to electronic music remains unjustly ignored by the music press.
The band has seen numerous line-ups, but the lynch-pin has always been Edgar Froese. Before discovering music, he studied art and sculpture, but in the art school tradition, 1965 found him listening to the Rolling Stones and soul music, and playing lead guitar in a group called the Ones. With a line-up of organ, guitar, bass, drums and vocals, the Ones gigged around Berlin.
In 1966, the group issued their only single, "Lady Greengrass", which, as the title suggested, concerned dope. It was released on the Hamburg-based Starclub label and, in the U.K. at least, collectors will pay as much as 050 for a copy. Edgar co-wrote the B-side, "Love Of Mine", which reflected his liking for soul.
One of Froese's fellow students, a pupil of the late surrealist painter and sculptor Salvador Dali, invited Froese to Cadaques, an artistic resort near Barcelona. The Ones played a season at Cadaques, and in the summer of
1966, Froese met the painter. He was so impressed with his methods that he decided to apply some of his techniques to making music.
The Ones returned to Berlin, and Froese became increasingly interested in electronic music pioneered by the likes of Stockhausen, Xenakis and Milton Babbitt. Many experimental composers were attracted by the large cultural grants given in Berlin, and regularly performed there. Then Dali requested that the Ones perform music to accompany his Christ Statue, and they played twice in Dali's villa in 1967, and worked on a T.V. film with French producer J.C. Averty. There followed a period in Paris at Johnny Hallyday's club, and at the Locomotive near the Moulin Rouge. Here, soul numbers like "In The Midnight Hour" were performed - a world apart from what was to follow.
After returning to Berlin, the Ones split up, and Froese set about forming a new group. Absorbing influences such as the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix, he embarked upon a different direction. Taking the name Tangerine Dream from the "Sgt. Pepper" cut, "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds", Froese formed his new band in September 1967. Again on lead guitar, Edgar was joined by Volker Hombach (flute and violin), Kirk Herkenberg (bass) and drummer Lanse Hapshash, who took his name from London underground poster artists Hapshash and the Coloured Coat. Against a background of psychedelia and fashionable 'alternative' lifestyles, Tangerine Dream played at the Zodiac club, an underground venue rejoicing in two rooms - one painted black, the other white. The band played long sets to audiences of politically motivated students - songs were regarded as bourgeois - and the loud, aggressive music often climaxed with the destruction of equipment. Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" was often used as the starting point forextended improvisation. In September, the band made a prestigious appearance supporting Frank Zappa, Tim Buckley and Amon Duul at the Essen International Song Festival.
Though Hapshash was replaced by a Swedish drummer named Johannson, the band split in March 1969, just as it was gaining some recognition. Hombach left to become a cameraman for the German film director R.W. Fassbinder (for whom Froese later recorded the soundtrack to 'Kamikaze 1989', while the group would piay at his memorial concert in June 1983). Tangerine Dream reformed with new members, but eventually disbanded. In 1969, Froese met Steve Jolliffe in an electronic music studio, and recruited him for the group. But within a year, he left to join Steamhammer, taking his electric flute with him.
When Tangerine Dream had begun to record their debut album. "Electronic Meditation", in November 1969, Froese was joined by Konrad Schnitzler and Klaus Schulze. Taped in a rented factory using a two-track Revox, the collage of tape techniques and sound effects found few takers, though Rolf Kaiser's Ohr (Ear) Music record company in Berlin eventually signed the group, despite their lack of commercial appeal. The influence of Zappa and "Saucerful Of Secrets"-era Pink Floyd are clear; but the album remains the least accessible ever made by the band and should be avoided by those seeking an introduction to the music of Tangerine Dream. Nevertheless, the original gatefold German release is now worth £25.
After this, Schulze left to work with Ash Ra Temple, and then became a prolific and important figure in electronic music, releasing several solo albums on Virgin. He later formed his own I.C. (Innovative Communications) label and, more recently, has recorded for Virgin's new Venture label.
Early in 197 1, a young iazz drummer working with Agitation Free, Christoph Franke, met Froese and was impressed with the musical and visual experimentation of Tangerine Dream. After he joined, Schnitzler left to be replaced by organist Steve Schroyder. The line-up of Froese, Franke and Schroyder recorded "Alpha Centauri", which won accolades for its spacey, 'cosmic' sound. But this was a far cry from Pink Floyd and Hawkwind. The electronics, combined with instruments like flute and Froese's guitar, gave it a unique, almost classical feel. The LP sold 20,000 copies in Germany, a healthy sale for experimental music; and was later released by Polydor and Virgin. Copies on Ohr fetch £20.
After Schroyder left, a more permanent replacement was found in Peter Baumann, formerly with the Berlin-based Ants. This line-up was to remain fairly stable until 1977. The trio got to work on a third album and came up with "Zeit" ("Time"), a double LP, issued in 1972. It signalled the changing emphasis from conventional instruments to the use of synthesisers, but remains for some bleak and difficult music. Like its predecessor, cover artwork was by Edgar and his wife Monique, although this was the first (of several) to incorporate a photo of their son Jerome.
In early 1972, the group's first 45, "Ultima Thule" (Parts 1 and2) was issued on Ohr. It was a powerful, hard-hitting rock single, again about drugs, and bore no relation to the music on "Zeit". Because of the nature and length of their compositions, Tangerine Dream became the classic Seventies' album band, and this rare single - which has yet to appear on any U.K. LP - is now worth £40.
Another rarity appeared on the BASF label. The band played at the Ossiach Festival in June 1972, and music from the concert was recorded and issued as a double LP called "Ossiach Live". Only one T.D. cut, "Oscillator Planet Concert", appeared; significantly, it was the last time a conventional rock line-up was used. Expect to pay £25 for the LP.
"Atem", the next studio album, provided the important U.K. breakthrough. In November 1973, John Peel contacted the group, expressing his interest in the music. He had already been playing import copies of the band's work on his show, and had made "Atem" his album of the year, thus giving the group more exposure here than in their native Germany. The sparse percussion and gothic electronics made "Atem" an atmospheric and accomplished work, and while it gained a outlet on Polydor, the Ohr import attracts a £40 price tag among collectors.
Feeling unhappy with the 'cosmic' image manufactured by Ohr for all its artists, the group looked for another label when their contract expired. It was at this time in 1973 that Baumann left the group to visit Katmandu and the legendary 'lost' album was conceived. Froese and Franke booked a studio and recorded "Green Desert" using fairly basic equipment. By the time Baumann returned, the album was completed. However, having signed a new contract with Virgin, who were doubtless impressed with the import sales as well as the music, the group had a healthy advance with which to invest in the most advanced equipment of the day – a policy they still maintain today - and entered Tangerine Dream in London in June 1974 (left to right Petel Baumann, Christoph Franke and Edgar Froese). They cut an album in the U.K. that summer the Manor in Oxford to record "Phaedra". The "Green Desert" tapes were abandoned,and finally surfaced in 1986, when Jive reissued the Ohr albums and a remixed, reworked "Green Desert" in a boxed set called "In The Beginning".
Issued in the U.K. on 20th February, 1974,"Phaedra" was Virgin's first U.K. album release. Its eventual chart placing at 15 was impressive, considering the lack of radio exposure (excepting John Peel), and the complete absence of U.K. concerts or press interviews. The title came from Greek mythology; and it's fair to say that the album became an electronic music 'classic'. The Virgin advertising campaign described it as 'melting music', an apt description, complete with Dalinian overtones. Innovative use of sequencers and electronics made "Phaedra" a memorable Iistening experience, especially on headphones, and it went on to become the group's best selling album. Having already written and performed music for German TV. It was only a matter of time before the band's suitability for soundtrack recording was realised in the U.K.
Keith Michell, artistic director of the Chichester Festival, had heard "Phaedra" and the group were invited to produce a soundtrack for the play "Oedipus Tyrannus".
In June 1974, a score was recorded in CBS studios, and the album was completed and mixed at the Manor Recording Studio. A concept LP was planned, using dialogue from the play and the soundtrack, but it was never released. Only one track, "Overture", surfaced, on Virgin's "V" double album sampler. Band members have since expressed their dislike for the way the music was used, and the project has been described as "disastrous". It now seems increasingly unlikely that the music will be released, although it would certainly be of great interest to fans of the "Phaedra" era Dream.
Following the success of "Phaedra", the group played their first U.K. gig at the Victoria Palace Theatre in June 1974, and finished off the year with a full tour. Performing in almost complete darkness, without acknowledging the audience, the group played long improvised sets. But the most infamous concert took place at Rheims Cathedral, when 6000 fans crowded into a building built for only 2000. The Pope banned any future shows, and had the building purified!
Though Froese has always maintained that Tangerine Dream's music was the collective result of its constituent members and not a one-man band, he released a solo album, "Aqua", in June 1974. The sleeve notes revealed that the album's recording process incorporated a 'revolutionary artificial head system', invented by Gunther Brunschen. However the system worked, it made impressive listening on headphones, but seemed similar in style to "Phaedra", only using water as the central theme.
While the band were touring Australia (with Michael Hoenig stepping in for Baumann), a new studio album, "Rubicon", was released. The gatefold sleeve featured striking Monique Froese photographs of single splashes of water, and managed to convey the spirit of the music. Froese worked through June and July on his second solo album, which was inspired by his journeys to Malaysia and Australia. The resulting '.Epsilon In Malaysian Pale" was simpler, and more melodic than its predecessor, and used the mellotron to great effect.
"Ricochet", the first Tangerine Dream live album, was edited down from 40 hours of tape, and took its title from a compulsive electronic game the band had become obsessed with on a French tour. It wasn't as successful as the previous two studio recordings, but still found a place in the Top 40.
The band's first major soundtrack album was for the film "Sorcerer", directed by William Freidkin, who'd had previous successes with "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist". Unfortunately, the film was a box office failure, despite some critical acclaim, but it marked the start of what was to become a productive and lucrative aspect of Dream's output.
In the summer of 1976, Virgin acquired the rights to some of the group's earlier recordings and issued "Alpha Centauri" and "Atem" as a double, and "Zeit", which had previously only been available in Germany.
"Stratosfear", the next studio album, heralded a different musical direction. Alongside the synthesisers were the more conventional sounds of guitar, piano, harpsichord and mouth organ. The result was more melodic than its predecessors, and the album reached No. 39 in the U.K. chart. Major tours followed in March and April 1977 throughout North America, and several months later, a live double LP, "Encore", was issued. This featured just four extended pieces.
Baumann finally left the group near the end of the year to pursue his own career. He had previously taken time off to record his first solo album, "Romance '7 6" , and had left the band before "Ricochet" in November 1975, but rejoined after the Australian tour. The major reason for the split was 'musical differences', mainly over improvisation and composition. Certainly, "Romance '76" seemed a carefully structured, melodic work, unlike the more traditional Baumann/Koek LP, which was only available through specialist importers on Jaguar Records. But it was "Trans Harmonic Nights", his second album for Virgin, which revealed his true potential. He then went on to produce albums for Cluster on the German Sky label, as well as the acclaimed "Jardin Au Fou" for Cluster's Hans Joachim Roedelius. Baumann then moved to New York, and his next solo offering, "Repeat Repeat", was co-produced by Robert Palmer, who had become ilterested in electronic music at this time. His 1984 offering, "Strangers In The Night", moved further towards commercially orientated music, and was used as the theme for the film "A Man Could Get Killed". Baumann went on to form his own Private Music label to encourage and produce new artists in the U.S. Helped along by the 'New Age' trend, Baumann is now successful enough to sign Tangerine Dream for new releases in North America!
To replace him, talented instrumentalist Jolliffe rejoined the group, and for the first time, a drummer, Klaus Kreiger, was recruited. The latter had previously worked on Froese's double album, "Ages", In January 1979, the quartet recorded "Cyclone", and for the first time, vocals and lyrics (performed and written by Jolliffe) were featured on a Tangerine Dream record. While this endeared the band to new rock audiences, reaction from some quarters was unfavourable. Interestingly enough, tracks from "Cyclone" rarely feature on compiiations of the band's work.
During August/September 1978, the nucleus of the group, Froese and Franke, recorded "Force Majeure", with Kreiger playing drums. This return to instrumental music was also a return to form, and the opening cut on Side Two, "Cloudburst Flight", became a popular live number. Initial copies of the album came on clear vinyi with a picture Iabel, now worth £7 to collectors, although the sound was not as clear. "Force Majeure" sold well, and reached No. 26 in the U.K. chart.
On 31st January, 1980, Tangerine Dream gained the distinction of being the first western band to play East Berlin. After lengthy negotiations, they played two shows - in the freezing cold - on the communist side of the Berlin Wall, at the Palast der Republick, and introduced a new member, Johannes Schmoelling. The concert was recorded by the National Broadcast system of the German Democratic Republic, and part of it was released as "Quichotte" on the East German Amiga label. Expensive imports found their way into the west, and the record was finally issued in West Germany in 1986. It was given a new title, "Pergamon", and a new Monique Froese sleeve replaced the grim original showing the Berlin Wall and a shot refugee.
The first studio album to feature the new trio was "Tangram", issued in May 1980. Though dismissed by some older fans as bland and unadventurous, others found the melodic material refreshing. The first side reappeared on the "Tangerine Dream '70180" 4-LP box set issued by Virgin to commemorate ten years of recording. Including a re-worked version of "Monolight" from "Encore", as well as new tracks from Froese, Baumann and Franke's excellent "Chimes And Chains", the box came with an illustrated booklet and all the discs were mastered by Nimbus.
Soundtrack work continued with Michael Mann's "Thief ", released in March 1980; though the film was re-titled "Violent Streets" in the U.K. The album sold well on both sides of the Atlantic, but U.S. copies are more desirable, in that they boast an extra cut.
Throughout the current decade, the band has been prolific in the film soundtrack field, and there are several albums currentiy available featuring movie scores. Some, like "The Keep", "Red Heat", "The Park Is Mine", "Forbidden", and "Vision Quest", still await a vinyl release. Of the ones available, "Firestarter" was particularly powerful, while "Flashpoint" gained healthy U.S. sales. But given the scarcity of these albums, many of which appear briefly on import, and then become deleted when the film completes its run, this is an area where prices are bound to rise in the future.
"Exit", the next studio album, opened with the powerful "Kiew Mission", which included a brief message for the Russian Peace Movement against nuclear power, delivered in Russian by an uncredited Berlin actress. The group have increasingly become involved in anti-nuclear peace concerts, but Froese insists the group is not overtly political, and merely wishes to play to fans on both sides of the Iron Curtain. A single, "Chronozon", was culled from the album but flopped, while initial copies of the LP came with a fullcolour poster.
In March 1982, "White Eagle" was issued, The soaring title track was later re-worked and retitled "Das Madchen Auf Der Treppe" (The Girl On The Stairs), and appeared with other material on the soundtrack for the German TV detective series, "Tatort". This was released on German Virgin, and imported into the U.K. Another outstanding live album, "Logos", was recorded at the Dominion, London, in November 1982, revealing a more structured approach to live performance. “Hyperborea", the last studio album for Virgin, incorporated oriental themes and reflected a more spiritual side to the music.
Froese continued to produce solo albums up to 1983's "Pinnacles", but then concentrated on Tangerine Dream's output. From his solo work, "Stuntman", originally issued with an inner sleeve, remains the most satisfying, containing melodic, even whimsical compositions. A compilation, "Solo 1974-1979",featuring remixes, re-recordings, and original solo work, was released in I 982.
While Froese was still under contract to Virgin for solo albums, Tangerine Dream's contract expired and they signed with Jive Electro, releasing a double live album of one of their Warsaw concerts in 1984. "Poland" featured 80 minutes of new material, and 7" and 12" singles of "Warsaw In The Sun" were released , along with a shaped picture disc of a map of Poland. The Japanese CD release omits the lengthy "Tangent" in order to squeeze the recording onto a single CD. Despite the release of a limited edition double LP picture disc, the album peaked disappointingly at No. 94, and subsequent releases have fared even worse.
"Le Parc", the first studio album for Jive Electro, was panned by the critics, and even the band themselves were rumoured to be unhappy with the finished record. But it did contain interesting use of sound sampling, as well as a fine vocal from Clare Torry (famous for her contribution to "Dark Side Of The Moon") on "Yellowstone Park".
In November 1985, Virgin issued a triple LP compilation called "Dream Sequence", and this serves as the best introduction for those unfamiliar with the band's music. Only an unsatisfactory edit of "Phaedra" mars the album. In contrast is "The Collection", issued on Castle Communications. This compiles tracks from the early Ohr albums, but the inclusion of a 1984 remix of a 1973 track, "White Clouds", makes this a misleading and pointless release.
Fed up with lengthy tours, Johannes Schmoelling left to pursue solo projects, and has so far produced two albums, "Wuivend Riet" and o'Zoo Of Tranquility". His replacement was 23-year-old Paul Haslinger, a classically trained musician, and any doubts about the future were dispelled by the new studio LP, "Underwater Sunlight". In my opinion, the album was an impressive and underrated work, particularly the track "Song Of The Whale Part 11". A 12" singie issued in the U.S. on the Relativity labe1, was imported into the U.K., but a misprint on the iabel
mistakenly identified the first track as "Dolphin Dance", when it was in fact "Ride On The Ray". Most interestingly, the single included one new track, "Dolphin Smile", making it currently valued at £5.
Seemingly inspired by William Blake's poetry, "Tyger" was recorded in February 1987, and released four months later. It received a hostile backlash from some fans, who disliked the presence of Jocelyn Bernadette Smith's vocals, and who regarded the highly melodic nature of the album as further evidence of the band's decline into commercialism. Nevertheless, there was much to admire. The band's production was outstanding, as were the vocal and instrumental performances, and "Tyger" remains another undervalued album. The CD boasted an extra cut, "21st Century Common Man (Parts 1 & 2)".
April 1988 saw the release of yet another live album, "Live Miles". With a running time of over 57 minutes, this featured excerpts from performances in Albuquerque (New Mexico) in 1986 and West Berlin in 1987. But the album received so little promotion that some fans weren't even aware of its existence until much later.
After 17 years with the band, Chris Franke decided to take a 'creative break'and concentrate on solo projects, and was replaced by Ralf Wadephal, a computer and keyboard specialist in time for the recording of the band's latest LP, "Optical Race". Recorded during April and May 1988, the emphasis was again on melody, though vocals weren't used this time round. The album still has yet to be released in the U,K. due to the expiry of the Jive contract, but Peter Baumann's hivate Music label issued it in the States last August. After an extensive North American tour, it is likely that Tangerine Dream will play a string of European dates this year, and hopefully, Britain will be included.
Because the band's very name inspires an image deeply entrenched in the indulgences of the Seventies, their releases are very often ignored by the music press. Yet, for more than 20 years, Tangerine Dream have followed their own unique path, ignored the whims of musical fashion, and have survived, prospered and provided their loyal fans throughout the worid with influential and stimulating music. With the boom in compact disc sales, it is likely that many more will discover the band's magic.
From RECORD COLLECTOR. MAY 1989 No. 117, pages 71-76.
Apart from some uncorrected typos, I'd like to point out three grave errors:
1. The "Baumann/Koek" album has nothing to do with Peter Baumann.
2. The author of this article confuses "Quichotte" with the bootleg "Staatsgrenze West"
3. Cloudburst Flight was not played live, untill very recently