Both charts in October was dominated by the return of The Future Sound of London, with Cascade 2020 holding the top spot on the album chart for the whole month, and the single Cascade finally knocking Pet Shop Boys‘ West End girls off the top of the singles half way through the month.
There was some back catalogue drama on the albums meanwhile, as demonstrated by this top ten from October 24th:
July was a quiet month for the chart for stowaways. Pet Shop Boys sat on top of both the Singles and Catalogue Singles charts for the whole month with their recent lockdown version of West End girls, while recent single I don’t wanna and the My beautiful laundrette soundtrack hovered near the top of the Singles. After a quiet start on the album charts, Sparks‘ latest A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip finally re-entered at number 2 at the start of the month, and jumped to the top spot the following week, while various of their older albums hovered around too.
June still saw Pet Shop Boys dominating, with Hotspot still at the top of the albums, and now My beautiful laundrette at the top of the albums. Kraftwerk continued to float around all of the charts, and we finally saw the long-awaited return of The Grid, with their new remix of Floatation.
One of the greatest things about Kraftwerk is that even their bootlegs have taken on a degree of mystique. Their latest, Soest Live, has just reappeared with lovely artwork, and is available here. If you prefer not to give your money away for bootlegs, you can also watch the whole thing below, in its glorious experimental pre-Autobahn fame. Why not join in with the audience and jiggle around a bit while you watch?
May saw Pet Shop Boys dominating the charts, with I don’t wanna climbing to the top of the singles and Hotspot holding onto the albums for the whole month. Meanwhile, Florian Schneider‘s untimely death saw Kraftwerk turning up all over the single and album charts.
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 profusion of recent untimely deaths in the music world, I feel bad for picking that of Florian Schneider out in particular, but then, it is Florian Schneider. Many better writers than me have written tributes to the founding member of Kraftwerk who passed away yesterday, so I’ll leave it to the wonderful music that he left for us. Here’s what is, for me, the definitive version of Computer Love: in German, and from The Mix: