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Collectors Corner - Germany
'Collectors Corner - Germany' is
a beginners guide to Kraftwerk's German record releases, by IC
This 'Collectors Corner' feature looks at some of the odd/elusive/interesting items from Kraftwerk's homeland, Germany. It is not meant as any kind of definitive discography by any means, just a short guide to some of the more interesting releases.
Unsurprisingly, Germany has produced some of the rarest Kraftwerk items, some of which are valued in the 100+ UK Pounds region. The rarest? Probably the red vinyl pressing of the LP 'Die Mensch Maschine' (EMI-Electrola / Kling Klang 1C 058-32843) followed by the 'Club Selection' EP (7" - Philips 6853 001).
The red vinyl LP was a very limited edition, dating from 1978 and now sells for funny money prices and is much rarer than the French equivalent. The 'Club Selektion' EP is a very rare item, covered in detail in issue no. 5 of Aktivität fanzine. The picture sleeve features an excerpt from the front of the German LP sleeve for 'Autobahn' (i.e. the 'motorway scene'). The songs featured on side one are 'Mitternacht' and 'Morgenspaziergang' while side two features 'Kometenmelodie 1'. Now, even the most ardent fan of these three songs would have to concede that this makes for a pretty odd choice of single! As well as being released on 7", it has also been said that there is a cassette single version to be found (Philips 7461 001). I cannot give a reassurance on this as the source for this information has been responsible for some inaccuracies in a past issue of Aktivität (such as the inaccuracy concerning the Red Lipstique single) and such a release would certainly be a good seven years before cassette singles appeared as a recognised format.
'Kohoutek-Kometenmelodie' (Philips 6003 356) was Kraftwerk's first single release, only issued in West Germany I believe. It is actually an early draft for 'Kometenmelodie' (as I'm sure you will have guessed from the title!) In contrast to the later LP versions, part one features the 'fast' version with part two being the more sedate version; though not as solemn as the later part one! Both versions are noticeably different to the more polished LP versions which is what makes this release so unique. The single comes with a picture sleeve that features a blue/white photo of a comet along with a small pic. of Ralf and Florian (from the front of the West German sleeve for that LP) with bold yellow lettering displaying the titles.
Unfortunately, the early Kraftwerk single releases from this country come with rather flimsy paper picture sleeves which make them more susceptible to wear and tear and so makes finding mint condition copies even more difficult than normal. (Though the 'Club Selektion' EP comes in a nice, thick quality card sleeve.) Other interesting 7" releases include the original releases for 'Autobahn' (Philips 6003 438) and 'Kometenmelodie 2' (Philips 6003 466). Both come with excellent picture covers which makes their value soar, possibly because the more common UK and USA singles do not have picture covers. Also worth pointing out is that the actual edits of both of these songs are different from the UK 7" edits, most notably 'Autobahn' which is very different.
Another aspect of their appeal is that the choice of 'B' side is also at odds with the UK issues; the flip side of the 'Autobahn' single features 'Morgenspaziergang' while the flip of the 'Kometenmelodie 2' single is home to 'Mitternacht'. The picture sleeve for the Autobahn' single uses the same 'motorway scene' design as the WG sleeve of the LP though it has much larger graphics over it. The sleeve for the 'Kometenmelodie 2' single is quite unique and is red/white/grey and black coloured and features a star shaped comet illustration on the front while the rear features the covers of the four Kraftwerk LPs released in Germany up to that point in time.
One of the less well known 7" releases from this country dates from 1976 and couples both 'Autobahn' and 'Kometenmelodie 2' together (Vertigo 6147 012). It would appear to be part of a 'Classic Oldies' series, probably aimed at juke-box owners judging by the cut-out juke-box title card on the rear sleeve. The front of the sleeve is a very colourful, though very naff, 'Classic Oldies' design. The edits of both songs are the same as used on the earlier issues; i.e. different from the UK.
As well as the 'Die Mensch Maschine' LP, two other red vinyl records appeared in 1978 in West Germany. The first was a 7" of 'Die Roboter' a popular item with collectors. The second, was the 12" for 'Das Model' which seems to be a little easier to find than the 7" of 'Die Roboter', though still very rare.
Albums and CDs
On the LP front, 'Kraftwerk' (Philips 6305 058) and 'Kraftwerk 2' (Philips 6305 117) were the first two releases by Kraftwerk. (In the UK both of these LPs were issued as a double album called 'Kraftwerk' in a totally different sleeve.) 'Kraftwerk' comes with the orange coloured traffic cone on both front and back along with a large black and white pic. of a electricity generator in the middle while 'Kraftwerk 2' has the green coloured traffic cone both front and back while the middle features lots of pictures of Ralf, Florian and their instruments of the time. (This centre spread was the only similarity with the UK double LP.)
The 1975 re-issues of the bands first two LPs, retaining the same catalogue numbers, gain interest from collectors due to the fact that they come in 'single' sleeves as opposed to the 'gatefold' originals, which along with their scarcity is the reason that very high prices are asked for them. Amongst the other collectable West German LPs are the three compilations of early material; 'Doppelalbum' (Philips 6623 057), 'Pop Lions-Autobahn' (Fontana 6443 348) and 'High Rail' (Fontana 9294 124). These three albums are covered in detail in the 'Compilation and On....' article originally printed in issue 2.
Most of Kraftwerk's West German LP releases are very different to the UK issues due to the fact that they are of course sung in the German language. The first LP that differed in this way was 'Trans-Europe Express' as the previous LPs with vocals ('Autobahn' and 'Radio-Activity') were the same in both the UK and WG. With 'Trans-Europe Express' however, all the songs (with vocals, that is) were sung in German and the sleeve design was also different from the UK. All of Kraftwerk's subsequent LPs have been issued in both German and English; 'Die Mensch Maschine', 'Computer Welt', 'Electric Cafe' and 'The Mix'.
For 'Electric Cafe', both the 'Deutsche Version' and English language editions were released in West Germany, with different catalogue numbers of course. The 'Die Mensch Maschine' LP has also been re-issued as part of the 'Fame' budget price series.
It has to be said that the West German versions of the LPs have benefited in the area of limited edition freebies; 'Ralf ünd Florian' came complete with a Kraftwerk 'musicomix' comic/poster insert initially; 'Radio-Aktivität' came with a free sheet of stickers while 'Trans-Europa Express' featured a large full colour poster of the band, perhaps as some kind of compensation for the black and white sleeve. The 'Ralf ünd Florian' LP has a very different sleeve design from the UK issue, the front anyway.
There have been CD releases of the following LPs and they tend to be well stocked by the large record chains though at a horrendous cost in the UK at any rate; 'Autobahn', 'Radio-Aktivität', 'Trans-Europe Express', 'Die Mensch Maschine', 'Computer Welt', 'Electric Cafe' and 'The Mix'. In fact it was actually a lot easier to get hold of the German releases of some of these titles as opposed to the original UK CD issues until EMI United Kingdom's re-issues in 1995!
The bands earlier albums have also appeared on CD format on the Germanofon label, though the legality and country of origin of these releases are equally dubious, and you should be aware that they are mastered from vinyl copies of the records.
On the 12" single front, there are some interesting items. The red vinyl 12" of 'Das Model', a very popular collectable, was detailed earlier. Particularly of interest is the 1981 release of 'Computer Welt' (Part One) (EMI-Electrola / Kling Klang 1C K062-46379 Z and a later re-issue 1C K062-46379 6) as a 12" single as it was a remixed version of the song, not released elsewhere. On the 'B' side there is 'Nummern' and 'Computer Welt' (Part Two). The picture sleeve is quite minimalistic, featuring a much simplified computerised version of the 'four heads' from the LP sleeve in black on a lurid green background. Both glossy and matt finish sleeves are available.
There is some confusion with the German 12" releases of 'Tour De France' however, which is worth clarifying here. The original German 12" single of 'Tour De France' featured a German language version on side one and the more familiar French language version on side two, both of these are the Long Versions (6' 30"). The catalogue number for this 12" is 1C K052-1652046. The picture sleeve is very similar to most other countries releases while the record label is easily recognised as it has a grey and black 'cogwheel' design motif.
Confusion sets in with the 1984 remix ; there appear to be TWO different 12" releases available. The first is the most confusing; it comes with the same picture sleeve, label design and catalogue number as per the 1983 release. However, it features the remixed 'Version' (at 6' 44") on both sides, German language on side one, French language on side two. For some reason, the Francois Kevorkian Remix is not on this single. As the record has exactly the same catalogue number, it is very difficult to determine whether the copy features the 1983 or 1984 mixes, unless you either play it first or look at the records matrix number on the vinyl. (In fact, it is suggested that this is a separate re-issue all of its own, from late 1983 - as at least one review in the German music media would indicate that this is in fact the case - IC.)
The more common 1984 release is much easier to spot; it is a three track 12" single, very similar to the UK one in that respect. It has a different catalogue number (1C K062-2003776) and the label design is black with white text. The sleeve features the amended track details on the rear and has 'REMIX' either printed or as a sticker on the front cover. Sadly, there is still a flaw; the record's tracks are identical to the UK issue; therefore, the 6' 47" Francois Kevorkian Remix is on side one, with the 6' 44" 'Version' and original 7" edit (3' 05") on side two. However, the 'Version' at 6' 44" is the French language one - it should actually be the German language 'Version Allemande' instead, this is what is printed on the sleeve and label. Whether all copies feature this mispress or not I do not know.
Promo copies exist for most releases, often with a press release sheet accompanying the record. Hopefully these will be documented in detail at a later date.
To round up, I would say that many of the West German releases are essential purchases if you are into collecting Kraftwerk produkt and maybe even if you are not interested in the collecting scene.
Updated: 16 : 5 : 2010