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Ralf, Florian and Nicky

By music editor Nicky Liar

Posted August 02, 2012
kraftwerk the truth
Kraftwerk: Without bumping into Liar they would have been nothing. (Check bottom for credit)

A quick blast of Kraftwerk sends music editor Nicky Liar back to 70s Germany and a chance meeting on a train to Düsseldorf.

This review is for the Live German Import SACD of Kraftwerk's 2005 Minimum-Maximum album, which contains different versions to the UK release.

Both versions are very difficult to get hold of.

In fact a friend of mine sold a kidney for the UK version and I sold both of mine for this version.

I'm writing this review whilst hooked up to a dialysis machine but it's worth it.

All the favourites are here in stunning 5.1 audio quality.

It's almost like the group were in the studio with hundreds of fans cheering them on.

I must confess a personal interest in this performance as I became creatively involved with the band's founders, Florian Schneider and Ralf Hütter, after meeting them on a train to Düsseldorf in the very early 70s.

Despite never being credited or even mentioned in the history of Kraftwerk, I believe I had a real influence on their music.

At the time they were still fannying around with flutes and guitars and making rudimentary synthetic sounds set against a pre-programmed rhythm machine.

I was on a gap year from an electronics degree, touring Europe looking for hairy women.

So it was by chance that Florian tried to reserve my already reserved seat by placing a paper towel on it to be near Ralf.

On realising his mistake coupled with the threat of having a pineapple rammed down his throat followed by a good chinning, he found somewhere else to sit nearby.

Within half an hour and numerous bottles of lager we were all laughing about it and swapping stories.

Incidentally, I believe the track Ananas Symphonie (Pineapple Symphony) on the album Ralf and Florian was penned as a homage to our meeting.

Of course, it should have been called Ralf, Florian and Nicky but it clearly wasn't and I didn't receive a single pfennig.

I'm not bitter; I felt guilty at the time but now I'm glad I got my own back.

I let Ralf's tyres down on his bike.

He kept rattling on about the Tour de France and I was full of devilment due to the lager, schnapps and apfelkorn.

Anyway, I digress.

As Düsseldorf Station approached, Ralf and Florian invited me to their recording studio with promises of more lager and introductions to some of the hairiest women in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Although the studio was nothing more than a room with egg boxes nailed to the walls and some very basic equipment strewn on the floor, this was the forerunner to the now famous Kling Klang Studio.

I ended up staying a couple of months, helping set up some electro-musical experiments.

For example, my idea of inserting a tube fitted with an electrical coil and speaker up my anus and recording subsequent emanations was the precursor to the now trademark Kraftwerk Vocoder sound.

Florian kindly introduced me to a Swiss girl named Hirsute Hetta; she was a part time beer-hall yodeller and seller of propelling pencils.

The things this furry fräulein could do with her tongue could bring tears to the eyes of grown men.

I discovered this on a morning walk (MorgenspaziergangAutobahn B-side) when she jumped me, pressed me to an ornamental fountain and yodelled in my ear.

I was somewhat disorientated but managed to break free, whereupon she stripped off and gave chase.

Considering her unshaven state she was surprisingly aerodynamic, or hairodynamic if you will, and thus the inspiration for Track 12 – Aero Dynamik.

I also had an influence on one of their most famous hit songs, The Model.

They didn't have lyrics at the time so I told them about a beautiful girl from Leeds that was absolutely gorgeous until she started to speak.

I scribbled a few lines in English and showed it to the lads.

"She's a model and she's looking good,

She opens her gob and sounds like a cross between Geoff Boycott and a screaming fishwife."

Sadly it didn't translate into German at all well.

Ralf also said it didn't sound that good in English, but it didn't stop him using the first line.

My German was nowhere near as good as Ralf and Florian's near-fluent English; consequently I missed a lot of band discussions because I mixed up Urlaub and Arbeit (Work and Holiday).

It was a real shame as I had some radical ideas, including:

Spitting peas at an electric cello;

Swallowing a small microphone and recording its journey through the human body;

Gluing wasps to an electric harp; and

Electrocuting a violinist.

The last one wasn't really a musical idea.

I just didn't like violinists.

In time, we parted company and I continued my search for hairy women around Europe.

To this day I have had no acknowledgement for my part in Kraftwerk's success, but at least I can sleep at night.

Well, most nights.

There's still the odd one where I wake up screaming.

Picture credit

Top and thumb: Kraftwerk live in Kiev in 2008 by Andriy Makukha.

For licensing information click the above link.

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