Krautrock and Punk

Krautrock and Punk do not seem the obvious bedfellows, and when I do my research into punk in Carlisle this musical collaboration in the 80s are not obvious. The books that are out now delving into the early days of punk do not quote Krautrock as being one of the main influences in the UK in the 1970s; they often quote it as being home-grown, and dealing with social issues of the time; or the influences from across the Atlantic from the USA. Whether this is a social/political interpretation of today is another story, but I feel there is enough evidence to say that Krautrock influenced the early (London) punks from 1976 and therefore elsewhere in the UK including Carlisle.

How much of those German bands influenced local bands in and around Carlisle is perhaps not so evident compared to the rock guitar bands from London, but if we listen to Cumbrian bands like “The Dead” and “Kirsty and the Husbands”, we see evidence of the use of synthesizers or electronic keyboards, and there is at least a slight chain-of-events that can be traced back to European Krautrock from the 1975 or earlier.

My mate Fib has just played me Neu’s CD from 1975, especially the track “Hero” which has vocals that sound just like Johnny Rotten’s vocals on the early Sex Pistols tracks such as “I did You No Wrong”, The Bollocks album, as well as “No fun” his style is the style not so distant from Neu’s Hero’s track, in fact I had to give myself a nip to tell myself this was not Rotten singing. It has been documented in books that Lydon did listen to Neu and therefore Krautrock before he joined the Pistols, and it is clear (at least to me) that he used their style of singing in his own band.

Also if punk was influenced by the Pub-rock scene in and around London before 1976 then it is no stretch of the imagination to see the influence of the small local bands that were in contact with musicians; who came across from the continent via the underground music scene of the squats and communes, that were springing up in Germany and England. Feminism, Communism, Anarchism all belonged to some underground squat in the 1970s. And it is safe to say that those underground movements had its fair share of music connected to them.

Joe Strummer came from a diplomat family background therefore was involved within a political environment, and had lived in Europe; he must have known something about these German bands as he lived in London squats and toured the pub-rock venues in the mid 1970s. The Stranglers use of electric keyboards and long solos had a more European/Krautrock sound than most bands around at that time, as well as a French bass player who had his own musical European influences. One of the early gigs of the Pistols was in Paris, organized by McLaren who had been influenced by the student underground protests from the late 60s and the German underground scene was influenced by the French student protests.

The political underground theories of the 1970s were rife in “Commune 1 and 2” in Germany and experimental/rebellious music came directly from these communes. These German Communes had a political as well as a social element to them and they had contacts with the UK squats and communes. These influences came into London and influenced the squatters that eventually became the “Angry Brigade” a British equivalent of the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany. Music, politics and squatting went hand in hand.

The punk rock groups that came from the squats, pub rock scene and underground movements such as The Clash must have had some knowledge of what was going on in Germany at the time, and perhaps it is why one of the early tours of The Clash’s was in Germany. As they knew there was an audience that were politically sympathetic to what The clash were singing about.

What came after the 1st wave of punk is quite evident as Krautrock influenced the early bands that we know of The New Romantics and these British musicians who were listening to Krautrock in the early 70s used electronic music in the 80s.

Of course it is easier and cheaper to pick up an electric guitar in 1976 than it was to obtain a synthesizer! The rock scene at the time: the 3 minute song, 3 chord trick, lent itself to a rock and roll format, much more than to an experimental 8 minute piece of sounds and electrical frequencies of Krautrock; after all punk was against Prog-rock, even though most of the bands came from some sort of art school.

My point is to suggest that Krautrock had an influence on the early bands of punk that has not been propagated and perhaps should be looked at to give credit where credit is due.