As a young teen in the mid-Seventies, I became an avid reader of Creem, Circus and Hit Parader magazines. While I was reading all the articles about KISS and Queen first, I would eventually read the other articles about exotic bands from far away lands. I found the descriptions of their music fascinating, even though most of the references were also foreign to me at the time. It’s a shame that the internet did not existence back then because my music collection would have been so much richer at an earlier age.
So, when I got to high school, I discovered Rolling Stone magazine, which further broaden horizons on a multitude of levels and not just musically. After taking a year of high school Spanish, which I found uninspiring, I switched to my family’s tongue, German. The cool thing about being in that class, besides properly learning to speak my grandmother’s native language, was the fact that their were a bunch of great people who were all searching for new forms of music. This group, whom we name “Spielt Mit Meinen Ballen” (I know, very juvenile. It loosely translates to “play with my balls.” Actually, I don’t think we were very correct because we anglicized every word we could not find a translation. Why? I don’t know, but someone thought it was funny.), had a purpose, and that was to find new music. That’s where we all picked up the New York City and London punk bands, musical oddballs like Frank Zappa and the Residents and, of course, for a group report, Kraftwerk.
First off, we love Kraftwerk because it got us an A on our group report about German exports. But, as we collectively listened to their singles (“Autobahn” was our initiation.) and albums, we became more and more impressed with the juxtaposition of the sounds of the dying industrial world colliding violently with the technology age. It was strange yet comforting, cold and distance still warm and familiar, much like the changing economic shift that was taking place at the time. Where I grew up, the main city in the county was GM country and factories were spread throughout the city. But as we reached our high school years, the factories were slowly dying and people were being laid off. And, both punk and Kraftwerk spoke directly about this change.
Okay, I get it that most Americans are not the least bit familiar with Kraftwerk. That’s understandable since their only real hit was released in 1975, the aforementioned “Autobahn,” and it only reached number 24. All of their other songs peaked outside of the American Top 40. But, they were huge all other Europe and continue to be to this day. But, what is most important about Kraftwerk is their looming influence all over music. You see, Kraftwerk may have been the first group of musicians to fully embrace the analog versions of today’s digital technology. Their use of synthesizers and sequencers and computers predated the whole Eighties musical boom. The first place I noticed the band’s influence was on what we now call David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, as well as his production work on Iggy Pop’s two albums from the same time period. Then, we began to hear the influences in the late-Seventies on all the new wave synth bands, like Devo, Gary Numan and one of my favorite one-hit-wonders M (“Pop Muzik”). That was all happening just as Prince and the rest of Minneapolis discovered the synthesizer, changing popular music forever. As the synthesizer and other technology became more affordable, you began to hear its influence upon hip hop, especially with Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock,” that actually used a Kraftwerk sample. And, within a year, blues rock gods ZZ Top created their most successful sound by integrating synthesizers.
After that, Kraftwerk’s influence could be found everywhere. Industrial music, EDM, House music, raves, Suicide, New Order and Joy Division, The Human League, Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark, LCD Soundsystem, Art of Noise, Daft Punk, Björk, Depeche Mode, all pop and hip hop today have to bow at the alter of Kraftwerk, for without that group, none of their careers would have been possible. I could, though I will not, argue that Kraftwerk may be even more influential Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Black Sabbath and James Brown combined. At least, they should be honored in the same manner as those heavyweights.
So, I fully believe that Kraftwerk should be inducted into the RRHOF’s Class of 2020. As a matter of fact, with their profound influence on music, they should have been inducted immediately when they were first eligible in 1995. In an effort to bolster my case for Kraftwerk, please take the time to listen to these 20 songs, which I believe to best represent their career and influence. Plus, I just love these songs!
- “The Model” (The Man-Machine, 1978)
- “Computer Love” (Computer World, 1981)
- “Tour de France” (Tour de France, 2003)
- “Computer World” (Computer World, 1981)
- “Trans-Europe Express” (Trans-Europe Express, 1977)
- “Autobahn” (Autobahn, 1974)
- “The Man Machine” (The Man-Machine, 1978)
- “Space Lab” (The Man-Machine, 1978)
- “Radioactivity” (Radio-Activity, 1975)
- “Morgenspaziergang” (Autobahn, 1974)
- “The Robots” (The Man-Machine, 1978)
- “Pocket Calculator” (Computer World, 1981)
- “The Telephone Call” (Electric Café, 1986)
- “Radioland” (Radio-Activity, 1975)
- “Neon Lights” (The Man-Machine, 1978)
- “Ohm Sweet Ohm” (Radio-Activity, 1975)
- “Europe Endless” (Trans-Europe Express, 1977)
- “Klingklang” (Kraftwerk 2, 1972)
- “Numbers” (Trans-Europe Express, 1977)
- “It’s More Fun to Compute” (Computer World, 1981)
So, now I am up to three inductees. I want to reiterate that I can make a case for 15 of the 16 nominees, but I will cover seven more. I really think there should be ten inductees in the Class of 2020, just to get this stupid logjam broken! Sorry Colin Quinn, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.