TANGERINE DREAM seem to have strange ideas about off-duty entertainment. The last time I was with them in Berlin they took me to a drag show – a very superior drag show, to be sure, none other than the excellent Grande Eugene which later went on to fill London's Roundhouse with paying customers for seemingly months on end. But a drag show nevertheless. And here am I in Paris, playing involuntary footsey with a guy who looks like a Fuller Brush salesman, crammed into the diminutive Crazy Horse
Saloon, while a half-naked blonde on stage sings about the pleasures of being a call girl: "They say the best things in life are free. What a pity the guy who said that hadn't heard about me."
Or perhaps the night, but was the promoters idea, some way of expressing his appreciation to a band who can sell out the 5,000-seater Palais des Sports for him, because Edgar Froese doesn't seem to be enjoying himself any more than I and though I'll admit it is kinda interesting, checking out how France is lagging behind in the race to enter the permissive age.
One thing they aren’t dragging their feet on, however, is in expressing their appreciation for the German electronic dreamers, for TD are très big in France right now, the French having overtaken the British as number one fans of the band.
When he suggested I join him on the weekend jaunt to Gay Paree, Virgin Records boss Richard Branson had muttered incoherently about just how big they were, expressions like " big as the Floyd " managing to surface out of the overall confused enthusiasm, and of course I took it with more than a pinch of salt. One always does. How was I to know it was untypically close to the truth?
So here we are gazing at a procession of pneumatically homogenised ladies (their sole concession to progress the uniformly hirsute bushes jutting out over the top of their G-strings), guzzling down champagne at a price per bottle that made our host turn white, and there has been absolutely no Dream-mania whatsoever, not even an autograph request when we go on to the rather dreary Nashville, allegedly the latest Parisian night haunt for the city's music people.
I express the view to Edgar that this is exactly the sort of place we would take care to avoid, were we back home in Berlin or London and he nods, glumly. But a moment later he is leading his lady, Monique, out on to the floor, to jog around with the rest of the dancers.
Flash forward to the Palais des Sports and halfway through the Dreamers' second set. The French are going absolutely bananas, but this is nothing to what happens when Edgar picks up his guitar and starts moving around the stage. Something is clearly happening to this band and, Mr Jones or no, I sure as fate don't know what it is.
Anther sample: I am sitting in my customary T-Dream eyes-closed poise, the better to appreciate the subtleties of envelope sharpens and sequencers and all that sophisticated electronic gear from Peter Baumann's brand new, customised synthesizer, which, he boasts, is the most advanced live synthesizer in the entire world, and suddenly I am aware of a strange movement that is rocking me back and forth. I open my eyes, and discover what is causing this uncalled for motion.
The whole goddam row is ROCKING AND TAPPING ITS FEET AND NODDING ITS HEADS LIKE THE FRONT ROW AT A HAWKWIND CONCERT! The seats are likely to burst their moorings.
At the end of the show the French clap and whistle and shout for more for ten minutes or more. I don't mean that brief roar which subsides into the shouts of the enthusiastic few while the majority just sit on their hands until the time when the band inevitably comes back for the inevitable encore. I mean a continual barrage of sound, that threatens to break the 129 dB record of the band's Fairfield Hall concert.
The next morning, after a tacky party thrown by Barclay Records to celebrate their French gold disc for "Ricochet," which encapsulates almost everything I don’t like about Parisian night-life in one, Valbonne-shaped package, I ask a decidedly bleary-eyed Edgar and his two Kameraden, what in hell is going on, because any moment now they’re gonna blow their cult-band status.
"It’s very simple," he said sipping a ten a.m. glass of pick-me-up Moet champagne. "We decide we want to have a bit more fun. Because it's OK, you know, you are working for a couple of years, just sitting there. It's all right, but you've already done it, it's gone. You want to combinate it again, the psychological part and the physical part. I felt very boring, you know, just using my hands. I've got some legs too. I've got a body down there, so what to do with that?
"So I could explain everything seriously and intellectually, and it sounds really good, you think perhaps this must be an enormously intelligent guy, but what it is in the end is that we are working in the rock field and we have lost a lot of the fun of it, and that's what we want to get back."
So T-Dream is now, officially, once more a rock and roll band?
"Yeah. You know, we decided a couple of years ago that we were very boring by playing really loud rock and roll music and that was right, completely right. There's no reason to cancel that meaning, no reason.
"But on the other hand, as well, as we were bored by playing rock music, then we now got very boring by just doing electronic noises and so on, so it comes the time to integrate it all again. We now have both, very honestly, both."
Christopher Franke: ”l think our change is a creation of the fact that we've reached a much bigger audience in the last two years and so you can realise that we must have really a different style of doing music on stage than on record. When you're listening at home it's a different atmosphere from playing to four or six thousand people. lt has to be completely different music.
"I don't think we could do music which we did yesterday on a record."
"Our records are changed as well," Edgar adds. "We think it's much more together, the last one. We've collected all the things we've been doing in the last couple of years, and I believe it's very honest. It really has nothing at all to do with giving a big kiss to the commercial business."
Privately, T-Dream have been talking for some time now about changing their stage presence, suggesting that the unspeaking, unannounced, twilight image was beginning to imprison them.
At the Palais, Peter Baumann had broken with tradition bv actually announcing a number, and there had been one moment when he took a “vocal," a shouted and screaming duet with Edgar's guitar, much use of tape-loop echo, with both of them on their feet, bathed in the baby-pink spotlight like veritable rock-n-rollers.
"It’s part of our future plans," said Edgar. "We've changed maybe 35 per cent, we’ve changed the music, but couldn’t do both, at the same time change the music and change the stage environment, but it will be the next step.
"It was good for the image to start like we did, just to keep everything down and let the people do mindwise what they want to do. Don't disturb them by show effects, by lighting, by talking to them and doing all this conventional stuff groups normally do when they work on stage.
"lt was really good, and we've made our name in some circumstances by that. But it also comes closely to the point where people might think we are totally arrogant, we are totally unfriendly, and we are definitely not. We want to have a communication."
Here he paused and fumbled for words. Edgar's English, though idiosyncratic in its phrasing, is fairly clear, but this word, communication, seemed to throw him a bit.
"Well, whatever communication is. It’s silly, you know, but if somebody would ask you in which way you want to communicate with the people, in which way can you? You can't jump down and shake hands, or try to start a conversation with them, or have five of them on stage and talk about their daily life. I mean, communication, what is it in the end?
"It's, what I think, just to show the people that you never could do a thing just by yourself, making them feel you definitely know them, and how to do that? And to integrate them much more in the wav you make them feel OK, I need you downstairs.
"That guy has paid some pounds, deutschmarks, dollars, whatever, you need him. Not - just to get your food as a musician but to have a correspondence. You wanna give out more than you just earn by the business moneywise. That's communication."
Despite their new populist stance, Tangerine Dream, always a hard band to pin down in any one place, are going to get even more elusive from now on. –KARL DALLAS.
Page 34–MELODY MAKER, December 4, 1976