The Puhdys may seem an odd choice of music for the protagonist of Stealing the Future – a band that was quite happy to get into bed with the senile East German leadership in return for success and the right to tour in the West. They’ve been criticised for providing the state with plastic rock-music that had only the merest hint of the rebellion that rock’n’roll is supposedly proud of.
The Puhdys came to the public’s attention in a big way in 1973, when they played in the cult-film Paul und Paula. The songs in that film were written by Ulrich Plenzdorf (who also wrote the screenplay) and have a timeless, romantic wistfulness. Probably the most famous songs from the film are Geh Zu Ihr and Wenn Ein Mensch:
Geh Zu Ihr
Wenn Ein Mensch
The aging rockers continued producing music, with a reasonable following in the West (particularly since their hit Alt Wie Ein Baum), and, from the late 1970s, had permission to tour in the Netherlands and West Germany, bringing much needed hard currency back to the GDR.
Against the backdrop of the Reagan-Thatcher years, with the attendant cooling in relations between East and West, one of the best albums of the 1980s was produced: Das Buch. With a preponderance of synthesisers and ungainly lyrics, the album is unmistakably and unashamedly 80s. But listen more closely to the words, and you get an impression of the cares and worries of the time – everything from fancying a girl to worrying about the world burning up in an atomic inferno. The album hardly counts as high art, but it does have a refreshing honesty about the situation we were all – in both East and West – having to live with.
Here’s the full album, best enjoyed while sporting a permed hair-do and stone-washed jeans. Enjoy!
In Part II we’ll look at the relations between the blues scene and protest.