Pulling my jeans out of the laundry one summer day, I found this. I had carried Dieter Thomas Kuhn for nearly two weeks in my pants to remind me to do a bit of research. His mystical glower, page boy hair, mascara-scarred eyes, and unrepentant chest hair layered into a sequined vest reminded me of Bobby Conn*, whose song ‘Winners‘ is one of the triumphs of modern man.
And so it was my lucky day when Ms. Alina popped up on the Skype chat.
“So there are two tickets here to see Dieter Thomas Kuhn. Want to go?”
“But do you really want to see a schlager show?” I asked.
Schlager, loosely translated as ‘hits’, from the word schlagen or to hit or knock, is the pop music du jour in much of Germany inspiring loathing as much as delight. It is a divider of people. There’s not much middle ground on it, either you’re a lover or a hater. Alina tended toward the latter.
“Well, no one else entered the office raffle, so why not,” came the reply with smiley emoticon.
Here is Dieter Thomas Kuhn reenacting a scene from Das Boot, pretty much the entire movie.
I’ve done well to integrate here overall. While working full time, I’ve managed to learn an acceptable amount of German (though still considerably lacking), I march in the Karneval parade with the Social Democrats, I eat asparagus and ham at the appointed time of year, on occasion I wear my Birkenstocks with socks, and we throw our windows each morning to air the bedroom no matter how cold it is outside. But for some reason I could never quite get into schlager.
And it perplexed me. If there was something that inspired such strong emotions, there just had to be some redeeming qualities. But alas, I even wrote a blog that offended a few friends about the scourge of schlager that airs during Karneval time.
But seriously, anyone can admit, most of the songs are sticky peanut butter. The tunes weedle themselves into your noggin’ and stay there. This can either be the sign of a fatal cancer or a constant affirmation of life depending on your perspective.
Looking at the history of the music, a lot of it seems to romanticize other lands adopting the musical stylings of far off places and breeding them with a schlager stomp.
There are oldies, like maybe we can all take a little trip to Italy.*
There are the somewhat more recent sunsets over Barbados.
And then we can all peer into Russia in our backyard with Helen Fischer.
But it’s not just other places, it’s about romanticizing whatever you choose to focus on. It’s about you and your feelings. Remember those sunsets on the beach? They didn’t actually look like that, but as you look through those rosy old glasses, okay, maybe they did have a five piece electronic drum kit, perms and a slate of neon lights in the background.
The people at the Dieter Thomas Kuhn concert knew what they came for. And so did Dieter. People dressed up as if they’d raided my family’s Halloween box for anything that looked stereotypically hippie. He played the songs they knew and everyone wrapped up in that. Drank beers, arms slung over shoulders, reveling in every beat that was not a beat off from the last time they heard it. It was feel good. It was taking the unfamiliar and bringing it to a place where we all could reminisce about how great it was, even if we had no plans to go there, nor idea where it’s located.
We all just gathered around that little bonfire and warmed our feet and we didn’t worry if it was accurate, poetic or groundbreaking. We just balled it up, put it in our pocket and forgot about it until it came through the wash and then we couldn’t get it out of our damned heads.
And just to finish this up, here’s some steamy, softcore of Dieter where you really get what it’s all about.
*If you have a chance look up some more of these old ones, they’re actually really swell. Here I made you a watching list that I will continue adding to.