So it is that we limp past the eight year mark for this blog. Little did I think, all those years ago, that it would still be going after all this time. Well, it barely is – I used to post every day, then every weekday, then a few times a week, and then the fun of the lockdown meant I barely had any time to slow down and listen to music, let alone to write about it.
But I can’t really complain – I’m still here, eight years on, looking back at over two thousand posts of general music-related drivel. I was going to post something linking back to the first post, but I see now that it was about Pet Shop Boys‘ Winner, which I always thought was unfairly derided, but it was hardly one of their finest moments. So let’s do this instead, which definitely is – here’s Thursday:
Well, Sparks are back again already, with their ninety-fourth album, and what might be one of their highest-charting in the UK, A Steady Drip Drip Drip. Here’s Lawnmower. I wouldn’t want to remind them that they’re both in their seventies already, but don’t they look great?
April was the month when the lockdown really started to hit, and when the chart consequently slowed right down to a crawl. There really weren’t too many changes from March, apart from some fun re-entries from the likes of Moby and New Order. With so few changes, it’s probably worth just focusing on the albums this time, which on 11th April looked like this:
Like most people, I’ve found myself listening to a lot of Kraftwerk in recent times. One of the most mysterious parts of their oeuvre is the four-album series that appeared before they were really famous – Tone Float, Kraftwerk, Kraftwerk 2, and Ralf und Florian, some of which contain some great material. But what they really represent in many ways is the sound of Ralf Hütter und Florian Schneider honing their… err… kraft.
Some purists saw the 2009 Der Katalog (The Catalogue) box sets as somewhat revisionist, as the artwork changed, Electric Cafe got retitled back to Techno Pop and the track listings were tweaked, but the reality is that Kraftwerk‘s special form of perfektionism has never been completely fixed. There have always been tantalising glimpses at unfinished and alternative tracks, and so here we explore those.
Early version of Kometenmelodie 1, released on the Kohoutek- Kometenmelodie 7″ single in 1973.
Early version of Kometenmelodie 2, released on the Kohoutek- Kometenmelodie 7″ single in 1973.
The 1983 version which would have been the title track of what became Electric Cafe. Somehow a demo version escaped the Kling Klang kompound, and appears on several bootleg releases.
The Telephone Call
Depending on which you feel the definitive album version of this is, there is either an over-long 8-minute version (on Electric Cafe) or a shorter 7″ version (on Techno Pop).
Originally the b-side to The Telephone Call, this second part of the main track made it onto the 2009 reissue of Techno Pop.
Another 1983 version that has somehow circulated over the years.
A continuation of The Robots, released on the 1991 single.
Another continuation of The Robots, released on the 1991 single. An edit version also exists.
30-second jingle (and six four-second snippets) released on the Expo 2000 promo box set.
Expo 2000 (Kling Klang Mix 2002)
Early version with different drums, released on initial German pressings of the Expo 2000 single.
Tour de France 03 (Long Distance Version 2)
Extended version of Tour De France Étape 2, released on the Tour de France 03 CD single.
Alternative version, released on the KW3 promo version of Tour de France Soundtracks.
Longer version, released on the KW3 promo version of Tour de France Soundtracks.
It’s difficult to see some of these ever getting released again, unfortunately, but it would be nice to see them collected together as supplementary listening for a fascinating career.
Kraftwerk often described their live concerts as being a little like jazz, with improvisational moments woven into the hits, although you would often be hard pressed to notice. However, there are some exclusive early versions of tracks available on bootlegs that are worth hearing. The most widely available is probably Concert Classics (also released as Autobahn Tour and Live), where the third track, although listed as Morgenspaziergang (Part 1), is actually an otherwise unreleased piece called Kling Klang (not to be confused with the track on Kraftwerk 2 of the same name).
The Radio Bremen session from 1971 is also worth hearing if you’re searching for unreleased material, featuring five tracks of which only Ruckzuck was ever released, but most of this is barely recognisable as Kraftwerk, so may not be of huge interest to many.
Perhaps most notable of all is this bootleg from a concert in Croydon in 1975, which in addition to a number of other unreleased tracks pairs Mitternacht with a very early version of Showroom Dummies, finally released two years later and in very different form.
Their 1997 comeback tour saw the outing of three new tracks, with titles that haven’t entirely become clear yet. Tribal, or Nummweltverschmutzung, was one, and the other two were Lichthof and ZKM Song, although there’s no suggestion that any of those were official titles. This is probably the most listenable of all the bootlegs. It’s tempting to wonder whether these were just jams, or were intended to appear on an album one day? Maybe we’ll find out, if they ever get around to releasing it.
When you consider the huge part that Kraftwerk played in the development of electronic music, it is perhaps surprising how few remixes they have to their name – just N of their tracks have been remixed by others. In a way, there’s something rather beautiful about the preservation of their artistic vision in this way, but it’s also something of a shame that we can’t hear a few more reinterpretations, especially given how good the ones we did get are.
François Kevorkian 7″ Remix (German) François Kevorkian 7″ Remix (English) François Kevorkian 12″ Remix (English)
Radioactivität / Radioactivity
William Orbit 7″ Remix (German) William Orbit 12″ Remix (German) William Orbit 7″ Remix (English) William Orbit 12″ Remix (English) William Orbit Hardcore Mix (English)
François Kevorkian & Rob Rives
François K + Rob Rives Mix
DJ Rolando Mix
Underground Resistance Mix UR Infiltrated Mix UR Thought 3 Mix
Alex Gopher & Étienne De Crécy
Alex Gopher / Étienne De Crécy Dynamik Mix
François K Aero Mix François K Aero Mix Instrumental
Intelligent Design Mix
King of the Mountains Mix
There you have it – just eighteen remixes plus a handful of variations, of seven tracks, by eleven other artists. Some of the early ones don’t even stray far from the originals. But they’re pretty much uniformly fantastic, and do form a key part of Kraftwerk‘s wonderful discography – so I hope that one day we can see them all collected together. The Remix, anyone?
With the start of the lockdown, March was a quiet month, with Pet Shop Boys solidifying their grasp on the upper reaches of the charts. Hotspot held onto the top of the album chart for the whole month, and Monkey business, Will-o-the-wisp, Musik, Dreamland, and Happy people all performed well on the single chart. Opportunities (Let’s make lots of money) even poked its head onto the Catalogue Singles chart briefly.
The Beloved continued to perform well too, with Where it Is following at number 2 for the whole month, a firm grip onto the top end of the Catalogue Singles with Forever Dancing and If Only, and Grin even grabbing the number one spot on the singles chart for a couple of weeks.
Other than that, things were really very quiet, with Depeche Mode and Air throwing occasional re-entries into the lower reaches of the Catalogue Singles, Albums, and Artists charts, and the odd new entry here and there. Here are the singles from 21st March:
Pet Shop Boys – Will-o-the-wisp
The Beloved – Grin
Frances Barber & Pet Shop Boys – Musik (Original Cast Recording) – EP
For me and I suspect many others, the right way to listen to Kraftwerk is in German. I don’t think I learned about the German versions until fairly late on, but they are definitely much more rewarding. It probably helps if you speak German, but the “Sekt / Korrrrrrrekt” line in Das Modell is definitely unparalleled by anything in the English version. But then I came across this hilarious performance the other day. Apart from seeing Karl Bartos corpsing and the late great Florian Schneider giving the hosts bunny rabbit ears at the very end, it also features a version of Pocket Calculator in Italian, which I had never come across before:
That got me thinking – which tracks actually got translated, and into which languages? So here’s a handy cut-out and keep guide!
放射能 / Houshanou (Japanese) 
The Hall of Mirrors
Maneken (Croatian)  Les Mannequins (French) Manichini (Italian)  Os Manequins (Portuguese)  Manechine (Romanian) 
Trans Europa Express
Trans Europe Express
Das Modell 
Die Mensch Maschine
The Man Machine
Mini Calculateur (French) Mini Calcolatore (Italian)  Dentaku (Japanese) Minikalkulator (Polish)  Калькулятор (Russian) 
Tour de France (German)
Tour de France (French)
Musique Non Stop
Musique Non Stop
Der Telefon Anruf
The Telephone Call
Techno Pop (German)
Techno Pop (English)
Techno Pop (Spanish)
Sex Object (English)
Sex Object (Spanish) 
Original album version was bilingual (in both German and English), but single versions and the version on The Mix were separate.
These are not available as studio recordings, but have been played live according to this site, and some appear on bootlegs.
The Model and Computer World have significant differences in vocal delivery between the English and German versions.
Sadly, it appears the Italian version of Pocket Calculator was never officially released, although the version used for the television performance above appears to be a studio recording. This site lists some live versions as Piccolo Calcolatore instead.
This seems to sometimes be listed as Objecto Sexual, but the original sleeve shows Sex Object.
Unless I’ve missed a few, hopefully everything that isn’t listed there is bilingual, an instrumental, or just generally the same in all languages.
If you haven’t come across these before, I hope you might find this list an interesting diversion – if you have only ever experienced Kraftwerk in English, you have a lot still to learn!
Thanks to the websites linked above for their help with my research!