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.
|Kohoutek-Kometenmelodie 1||Early version of Kometenmelodie 1, released on the Kohoutek-|
Kometenmelodie 7″ single in 1973.
|Kohoutek-Kometenmelodie 2||Early version of Kometenmelodie 2, released on the Kohoutek-|
Kometenmelodie 7″ single in 1973.
|Techno Pop||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).|
|House Phone||Originally the b-side to The Telephone Call, this second part of the main track made it onto the 2009 reissue of Techno Pop.|
|Sex Object||Another 1983 version that has somehow circulated over the years.|
|Robotnilk||A continuation of The Robots, released on the 1991 single.|
|Robotronik||Another continuation of The Robots, released on the 1991 single. An edit version also exists.|
|Expo Jingle||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.|
|Chrono||Alternative version, released on the KW3 promo version of Tour de France Soundtracks.|
|Régéneration||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.