Cold War Yes, But 80s German Music Was Cool

Deustchland 83 was an engrossing and compelling drama with a cool 80’s soundtrack, but 1983 was not the only time the world listened to German pop music.

German music has been very influential since the 1970s, probably more so than any other European country other than the UK. A high profile example is Kraftwerk, whose fusion of art, beats and electronics has become a template copied by musicians everywhere.

The “Neue Deutsche Welle” had a separate influence on European and world music, being transformed from underground movement to mainstream phenomenon, ultimately remembered for acts like Nena and her anti-war song ’99 Luftballons’.

Synthesizers and stadium rock – German music led the way in defining the musical trends of the 80s.

Here is a selection of some of my favourite German pop music in the 1980s.

Peter Schilling – Major Tom

In the beginning, there was David Bowie’s 1969 hit “Space Oddity,” the tale of Major Tom, an astronaut left stranded in space. Bowie followed with “Ashes to Ashes,” a sequel of sorts in which Major Tom’s vices are exposed. In late 1983, German pop star Peter Schilling cemented Major Tom’s pop culture status with “Major Tom (Coming Home).” It was Schilling’s only U.S. hit, but what a great song, and now featured as the main theme for Deutschland 83.

Alphaville – Big in Japan

Originating from Münster in Germany, Alphaville (the name taken from the acclaimed 1965 film by French Nouvelle Vague director Jean-Luc Godard) achieved chart success in the 1980s with songs such as Big in Japan and Forever Young.

Propoganda – Duel

A synthpop group from Düsseldorf, Propoganda was formed in 1982 by Ralf Dörper, a member of the German industrial band Die Krupps.  They were one of the initial roster of acts signed to Trevor Horn’s infamous ZTT label, between 1984 and 1986, during which they released the critically-acclaimed album “A Secret Wish”.

Kraftwerk – The Model

While “The Model” was recorded in 1978, it was re-released in December 1981, reaching no. 1 in February 1982 and spending a total of 21 weeks in the top 75 of the UK Singles Chart. Electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk introduced an avant-garde element into the 1980s that didn’t stop with the critics and pundits. It connected with the charts, as well. An innovative animated video, “Musique Non Stop“ carried it to number one on the U.S. dance charts.

Trio – Da Da Da

From the small German town of Großenkneten, Trio are most noted for the song “Da da da, ich lieb dich nicht, du liebst mich nicht, aha aha aha” (commonlly known as “Da Da Da”) which was a hit in 30 countries worldwide in 1982.


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