Three Seminal Singles: Number 2

I grew up loving the sound of keyboards. When I was a child, this meant electric organs were it for me. Even though it was a few years old when I started listening to pop music, Question Mark & The Mysterians’ “96 Tears” was the first song I remember hearing that really grabbed my ears and wouldn’t let go. That cheesy Vox organ sound just makes me so happy.

The music that was contemporary when I started listening to pop music that also had keys naturally became favorites of mine. Steppenwolf was a group that featured organ playing so tracks like “Born To Be Wild” and especially “Magic Carpet Ride” were favorites that were always in my selection of 45s. One of the earliest albums I ever bought was a Steppenwolf album. I bought “Rest in Peace” as a cutout when I didn’t even know what that was! Another band on ABC/Dunhill records that had prominent keyboards was Three Dog Night. Their album “Naturally” was the literally first album I ever bought.

I remember liking synthesizers from the first time I became aware of them, but they were novelties in the Top 40 music I had access to. Things like Emerson, Lake & Palmer didn’t exist for me as a child. Ironically, Yes did because someone at Atlantic Records edited down “Roundabout” to a 7″ length and it went top 10! Other early synth hits I remember liking were “Joy” by Apollo 100. In 1974 a record came down the pike by the most unlikely circumstances and it rocked my eleven year old world to the core.

Vertigo | UK | 7" | 1974 | 6147 012

Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” remains the most unlikely popular single from my childhood. When I first encountered it, it was by far the most exotic sounding record I’d ever heard. For starters, it was sung in German! It featured almost entirely synthesized sounds. Certainly it featured the first vocoder I can remember hearing. The timbres and tones of the synthesizers used are warm and sonorous and deliver frequencies that I just love to hear. The purity of tone and lack of distortion also pleased my young ear.

Ostensibly, the sound is “futuristic” but for my money, the resulting song is genteel, if not downright pastoral. The record manages to impart to me a feeling of romance on the highway through a poetic restraint that the ham-fisted ode to highway escape from Bruce Springsteen a year later most definitely did not.

As usual, this was a record that I found absolutely thrilling, so of course my local radio station barely played this record even though weekly airings of Billboard’s American Top 40 radio show confirmed that the single sat solidly near that survey’s midpoint for a number of weeks. Unfortunately, I never saw the 7″ at the time. This would have been a period that any records were bought by me at the nearby K-Mart.

By 1978 I had “graduated” from Top 40 radio listening and had briefly entered the different world of FM Rock. WORJ-FM has a request night show and I called the DJ to request “Autobahn,” which I had not heard in years. He replied that he couldn’t play a whole side but would see what he could do. Within the hour, I was treated to a healthy chunk of the song that eventually segued into someone else’s request. What I heard at that time lasted 5-6 minutes! As an 11 year old, I had no idea that “Autobahn” was an entire album side!

Well, from that point on, I didn’t wait long before buying the “Autobahn” album. Finally hearing the whole composition was like winning the music lottery. I had no idea that the track was so monumental. The ridiculously edited 7″ seemed even more amazing that it had made its way from Düsseldorf all the way to my young ears in Orlando, Florida. Soon thereafter, I latched on to the awe-inspiring “Trans-Europe Express,” “The Man-Machine” and the first “new” Kraftwerk album, “Computerworld,” which I received as a high school graduation present.

Over the years I’ve collected many Kraftwerk records. I made sure to buy the 7″ illustrated above because it had a seismic impact on my developing musical tastes on its release. Listening to the record last year, I was planning on digitizing it to burn to CD, but the 35 year old single sounded pretty noisy. I then hit upon the idea that I would replicate the 7″ edit digitally from the CD version that I had. After all, the original was created with a razor blade from a who-knows-how-many-generations-down master tape. I thought that it should be easy with a DAW environment.

Well it was technically simple. It’s just that it entailed listening and re-listening to highlighted sections of the pair of wave forms countless times to match the correct edit points on the 7″ with their analogs on the LP version. Several hours later I was rewarded with the elusive 7″ edit of “Autobahn” that I had first heard 35 years earlier in high-quality CD form. It wasn’t counting the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin, but it began to approach that. That’s part of why I call myself the Post-Punk Monk. It’s the least that I can do for this music which has enriched me so.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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8 Responses to Three Seminal Singles: Number 2

  1. ronkanefiles says:

    I think the first time I ever read about German rock music was a reviewer in a give-away paper (“The Phonograph Record Magazine”, a rag printed by United Artists records) was complaining that This “new” (German) music was all “Maschine Muzak” – an odd sentiment from a label that had two of the biggies signed for the U.S. (Amon Duul II and Can). I think the first German artist record I found was a $1 copy of the US version of the debut LP by Neu! My older brother lived in Germany, as he was in the USAF. I knew that Neu! came from Kraftwerk – so I asked for Kraftwerk records. I was sent an orig German “Ralf & Florian”, so that’s the one that kicked my butt; “Autobahn” was (to me) merely the commercial follow-up to “Ralf & Florian”. Where the legit CD of “Ralf & Florian”?

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      @ronkanefiles – How lucky you were to have had at least a map to this wonderful new music. My mind boggles at Neu as a “gateway drug” to Kraftwerk! Damn! I only just heard the incredible La Düsseldorf!!! Had I heard it at the time, R+F would have done it for me too. But since I was operating in a vacuum, I had no knowledge of that album until 1980 or so. Ralf teases that he may be re-mastering the first few albums perhaps. One day. But don’t get your hopes up for “Tone Float!” Which I’ve still not heard yet. Hell, I wouldn’t have heard Kraftwerk 1 & 2 had it not been for you [foolishly] selling them off to me prior to your year in the UK. Well, maybe I would have sprung for the ubiquitous Germanofon pirate copies when they started turning up in the mid 90s. Actually, I do have the Germanofon of Kraftwerk 1. As I recall, it sounds excellent. Maybe they remastered it from the same fine JPN ’79 re-issues you sold to me, which may be the best those albums ever sounded, until Ralf gets off of his lazy rear end!

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  2. djShelf says:

    Hang on there, Monk – you just enthralled me with that story about how you painstakingly recreated the 7 inch edit of “Autobahn” and you’re not going to share that with us? Do a brother a favor and shoot me an MP3 – please!

    Just discovered your blog tonight, by the way – brilliant.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      @djShelf – Thanks for the compliment. This won’t ever be an MP3 blog. Only words will ever be on offer here. If you read it, hopefully you might find out about something new and interesting along the way. By all means check out Ron Kane FIles. I’ve known Ron for a long time and he is a record collecting god amongst men. I’d take a bullet for the guy! I frequently post what would be blogposts of my own in his comment section. Realization of that finally tipped my hand to finally blog this summer under my PPM moniker.

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  3. VersionCrazy says:

    Well done for doing the edit job, I have no doubt it turned out well… That was the UK edit you did? (since that is the pressing illustrated) You know that the US single edit is completely different I guess – the UK one is a real cut and paste job, compared to the other edits that are more like truncated extracts, so even more kudos due!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      VersionCrazy – Yes, that was the UK 7 edit since it was all I was able to buy mail order in the early 90s. I now can check to see that the US edit was a very different 3:27; almost a half a minute longer. I had thought that the edit that I had was even more abrupt than my 30 year old memories. I see now that I have another record to buy! But my edit did turn out well! It was the first such project that I had undertaken. Japan’s “The Art Of Parties” UK 7″ mix was the second. Since it was edited from a seven minute 12″ version instead of a 22 minute album side, it was a slightly less tedious undertaking!

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  4. VersionCrazy says:

    Bizarre – ‘Art of Parties’ is one I have had a go at making an edit of myself! But it wasn’t possible to authentically recreate the 7″ as it actually is, there are extra guitar squeals on the fade-out that are more isolated on the 12″ version, alas. Bring on the day when the 7″ edit finally surfaces in digital form.

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