Kraftwerk’s first gig took place 50 years ago this week…
With a lineup featuring Pink Floyd, Canned Heat, Deep Purple and Traffic, the 1970 edition of the Aachen Open Air Pop Festival, at the Hauptstadion in Aachen, Germany was always likely to attract a certain long-haired demographic.
But for those that sought to shun the mainstream acts on show, Saturday 11 July saw a performance from a brand new Düsseldorf-based pop combo, with a penchant for all things electronic: Kraftwerk.
The group, which at the time comprised the late Florian Schneider and Ralf Hütter, with additional percussion from Klaus Dinger (and Andreas Hohmann), hit the studio the same month to commence work on their debut, self-titled album, Kraftwerk, which was released on 1 December the same year.
While no recording of the group performing at the Aachen festival exists (the main image above comes from a Rockpalast show later that year – see below), it’s likely that Kraftwerk were continuing in the same mould as they had in their previous incarnation as Organisation; sometimes called Ralf Hütter’s Organisation.
In fact, Kraftwerk’s emergence came just a month on from the release of Organisation’s one and only long player, Tone Float, a largely psychedelic, proto-krautrock affair (dabbled with jazz flute stylings from Schneider), and featuring additional musicians Basil Hammoudi, Butch Hauf, and Fred Monicks.
Poor record sales led to the disbanding of the group, with Hammoudi, Hauf, and Monicks turning down the opportunity to go on tour, leaving Schneider and Hütter to “rush into making industrial music, abandoning all our other activities from before ” as the latter explained in Pascal Bussy’s Kraftwerk: Man, Machine and Music.
“It was a total rupture for us. Neither then or now did we think about the future, or about some strategy. Why would we think about the future?”
By July, those experimental leanings had evolved into Kraftwerk – its name taken from a ‘symbol’ of the re-emerging postwar Germany, the power station – and their inaugural performance in front of some 30,000 Aachen hippies.
And electronic music would never be the same again.
Commenting in 2017 on how music has changed since Kraftwerk’s formative years, Hütter told The Guardian, “Basically nothing has changed. It’s still all about composition. And for the last 50 years, it has always been like this. There have always been speakers all around – radio speakers, televisions.
“A little more now, but then again it’s about the intensity. All the rest is just noise.”
Check out this mesmerising performance of Kraftwerk live on Germany’s Rockpalast, recorded in Soest in winter 1970, around 100 kilometres east of Düsseldorf, in front of a largely bewildered audience.
As one comment on YouTube puts it – with more than a nod to Back to The Future – “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet, but your kids are gonna love it!” 🙂
[Concert posters taken from concerts.fandom.com. RIP Florian Schneider]