Neue Deutsche Welle – German New Wave

written on 31/07/2020
by Bernd Eckhardt

My hometown at the epicenter of its development

What did I know about music? Not a lot! My family was more interested in sports, but I soon learned that my freestyle dancing to the rhythms of ABBA, Smokey, Stones and all the other ’70-tunes at teenage parties I was invited to, wasn’t too bad.

All German kids of around 14 years old went to dance school and so did I. The Saturday evening school discos (18-22h) were fantastic: disco lights, loud and famous international music, slow songs that made your heart explode when asking a girl if she would like to dance.

But besides the known rock stars, new music was played by bands from my hometown.

From Hagen? Not just one band, but several and they were already in the charts! A town of merely 200,000 inhabitants in the south-eastern corner of the huge industrial German coal and steel region, the ‘Ruhrgebiet’. Really nothing special; yet on the music front, we could easily compete with Berlin and Hamburg.

Hagen was a strong centre of the “Neue Deutsche Welle” (NDW) in Germany.

One of the most famous and, in fact, the first song I heard from a local band in 1980 was: ‘Hart wie Marmelade’, which can be translated as ‘Strong as jam’. It continues  as follows: ‘Ich bin hart, wie Marmelade, ich bin zääääähh, wie Himbeer Gelee’ = ‘I am strong like jam, I am tough like raspberry jelly’.

After that came, ’Hurra, Hurra die Schule brennt’ about some girl punks with blue lips and green hair who supposedly set fire to the school and animated the schoolkids who cheered: ‘Hooray, hooray the school is burning’. The song concludes with the firefighters having a hard time to extinguish the fire as the wind is changing direction: “Die Feuerwehr, hat es doppelt schwer, weil der Wind sich dreht”. Both songs were a big success in Hagen.

The band was called ‘Extrabreit’ = ‘Extra-broad’ (homepage). The name originates from an ‘Edding’, a marker pen for extra fat letters, as was the sound the band made: Bold, hard, short and quick.

These guys had the guts to call their first album ‘Ihre grössten Erfolge’ = ‘Their Greatest Hits’.

Seeing as they were so lucky as to be offered an album contract, they thought they may as well  immediately call it ‘Their Greatest Hits’ as they may not be given a second chance. Here the playlist.

Extrabreit, is still famous in Hagen, playing during the Campus Summer Party at the Hagen University or 2018 at Wacken:Open:Air. With the new Album planned for Nov 2020, they have also announced a new tour.

Another star from my hometown who is known worldwide is Nena Kerner, alias ‘Nena’, who started her music career 1979 with the band ‘Stripes’ and their best known song ‘Ecstasy’.

In 1982, she founded the band ‘Nena’ whilst living in Berlin. Her dad still had both feet on the ground in Hagen, ‘teaching’ me Latin and sports at school. Despite ’99 Luftballons’,  other outstanding Nena songs from the early years are: ‘Irgendwie Irgendwo Irgendwann / Somehow Somewhere Sometime’ or ‘Nur geträumt / Just dreamt’

Also well known and still playing in Hagen is ‘Grobschnitt’ = ‘Rough cut’ established in the 70’s before Extrabreit and The Stripes/Nena, and not really Neue Deutsche Welle (though certainly responsible for the avid development of bands in Hagen). Their shows lasted hours and were combined with theatrical and little pyrotechnical performances. Listen to ‘Solar Music’ (here a 14 minutes version), the piece could be played for up to an hour depending on the musicians’ endurance.

Photos 1-4: © Bernd Eckhardt

Photo 5: © Andreas Lawen