The Germans gave us many things in the early 1970s, the BMW 2002 (still a very cool car, although terrible on Forza 4), the miniature plastic toy boats that I used to play with growing up (manufactured in West Germany), Gerd Müller (the leading goal scorer during the 1970 Mexico City World Cup), and – last but not least – Krautrock!
Following WWII, the German music scene was mildly lost with American jazz, folk, and rock exuding major influence over what was heard in the 1950s & 60s. But, as the globally drug-induced political awakening of the 1960s began taking hold in Europe (manifesting itself specifically into the student riots of 1968) a flock of educated and dedicated activists began pushing for a more experimental homegrown music scene to fill the post-war “cultural vacuum” and ultimately inspired homegrown rock festivals (the Internationalen Essener Songtage 1968) and schools (the Zodiak Free Arts Lab). By the end of the 1970s, German rock had been firmly established as its own distinct phenomenon.
It is important to note that the term Krautrock mainly describes German rock music as it is perceived from outside of Germany. This generally isolates the music from any patterns of influence and obfuscates internal musical pathways that may have lead to its development, hence the terms inclusion of broadly diverse styles such as Kraftwerk and their sister band Neu!’s proto-electronica, and the “hard-rock” of the Scorpions.
While we have all heard the work of Kraftwerk, Neu!, and the Scorpions, not many have heard the band that perhaps embodied the Rhineland’s changing musical landscape more than any other.
In the mid-early 60s, “Germany’s first folk-rock band”, The City Preachers, was formed by an Irishman. By 1968, the Irish leader John O’Brien-Docker had left and the remaining Germans decided “to persue a new creative direction,” and, keeping with the spirit of the times, the band would fuse “rock, blues, classical, folk and psychedelia.” The band renamed itself Frumpy in 1970 and Ingra Rumpf became its frontwoman. Almost immediately the band was hailed as “the best German rock act of the year” and Rumpf was acclaimed as the “greatest individual vocal talent” in Germany, pushing the musical envelope with her “smokey/demonic” warbling. The band, known for its classically inspired, heavy prog-rock keyboards disbanded in mid 1972 only to reform immediately as a new supergroup named Atlantis.
Atlantis‘ first album was released a few months later for which Rumpf was voted “Best Female Rock Singer of 1973”. The folk-turned-prog rockers by 1974 were considered one of the top bands in Germany and began a tour of the United States with Aerosmith and Lynyrd Skynyrd. In 1976 the band officially broke up to pursue other interests, yet by then the landscape had shifted and a new, distinctly German musical identity had been fashioned. Krautrock’s global influence had already begun.