Did you ever look out the bus window at the apartment windows rushing by and wonder: "Who lives there and what are they thinking?"
There are 1.7 million stories in the Hansastadt, of which these are just the briefest fragments. 'Born', then, is a dream-journey, a collage of vagabond minds, sewn together by impossible gossamer threads of hope spun from the loom of imagination.
The album has therefore been mixed as a single constiguingenous and transformational intra-ear listening experience. Are you ready?
Then pop out your head out and be 'born'!
(Eating during playback is not permitted, as mastication and oral juice noises may interfere with the fidelity of this recording.)
Spazierklang was Peter Lau, a performance poet and model, and Andy Matthews, fellow model and founder/director of Anglo-Hamburg protest movement "Animals für Jobs". They joined together in 1979, originally as protest duo "die Männekinner", who released just one 1980 cassingle "Rorschasch Blot" and a flexi, "flexi", on their own 'fiq™' label. A support slot on the Stripes German tour was not successful, leading to fights with the band, the fans, hotel staff, local police and Nena's parents.
"There was paint and a lot of spiders and the kids who wanted to see New Wave pop just didn't get it", sighed Lau in a 1991interview with NDR channel 3sat: "I think we were ahead of our time, and they were behind theirs."
Spazierklang, an idea they had toyed with since 1982, came into being a year later with a secretive performance piece of the same name - Lau would walk around the Hansastadt's most popular touristic locations, whilst shouting historical facts and laughing. Matthews would hide from him. This experimental piece took place between 2am and 3am every night in the storm-drenched November of 1982. "We wanted to subvert the idea of tourism", said Matthews in an interview with fanzine 'Hydra Zine'.
Eventually, however, poverty and self-pity took their toll, and the duo decided to explore more commercial directions, inspired by the interational success of their heroes, Die Tödlische Doris and Fischer-Z. The latter, they erroneously believed to be the alter ego of a famous Altona-based female wrestling duo. This misjudgement led to Lau's legendary lost nipple incident at Hotel Luxor.
Taking advantage of the recent developments in home computer technology, the earnest pair bought an early Amstrad CPC and vowed to calculate a pathway to chart-topping success. After 23 months of further poverty and more extreme self-pity, they became tired, disillusioned and very good at playing "Roland goes square bashing".
Lau often defended their approach to what he called "the Pop Problem", challenging the contention that this period was unproductive.
"We wanted to subvert the idea of commercialism", he claimed in an interview with punk/psych 'Hartbeat' magazine, "And I think we achieved this, although on a very small scale."
Eventually they hit on the idea of revisiting the original Spazierklang piece, this time with less laughter and more ambient sounds and musical instrumentation blended in. Lau took a train to Ahrenshoop where he wrote continuously for three weeks, stopping only to argue. Matthews, who by now had become a moderately proficient musician and trainrobber, relocated to a remote island off the coast of West Africa where he recorded sounds of the sea, animals, and his own barking.
And so, by accident, the unique relationships between spoken word, music and a man thinking he's a dog, were born.
Once back in Hamburg, full of ideas and infections, the recording of Born was, by all accounts, an enjoyable process. Matthews: "there are many secret passages in a historical city such as Hamburg - one night, at the recording studio, we discovered that what we had assumed was an outdoor toilet was in fact a kilometer long tunnel leading to a wardrobe in the Astra Brauerie VIP lounge. We bought a bicycle and a trailer, and the year-long recording sessions became one happy blur."
Originally, the album was conceived as a song cycle, with a strong storyline, in the hope of attracting interest from Hollywood or Babelsberg. Reluctant at first, Lau sang many of his own compositions, having severely beaten the original singer around the face and elbows.
Early mixes were played to select music journalists and met with critical acclaim and astonishment. Spazierklang found themselves in the unexpected position of having a potential hit on their hands, and became uncomfortable. They erased Lau's vocal track and re-recorded it as spoken or shouted. They fired producer Falco, replacing him with 'local boy' Bert Kaempfert, a hero of Matthews', who had been dead for fifteen years. They rubbed quark cheese into the mixing desk, reducing it's capacity from 24 tracks to 23. Lau frightened the studio's lucky robin by living under the piano wrapped in a brown curtain and insisting everybody called him the "WurmKönig".
"We had decided to subvert the idea of subversion", Matthews told a policewoman when he was later arrested, whilst having his genitals tattooed with the silhouette of Udo Lindenberg's hotel room key. He was later released without charge and without any respect.
Convinced by industry insiders to invest heavily in production and packaging (the original LP came in a fur gatefold sleeve which, when opened, activated a perpetual motion train set inside), Spazierklang began to feel out of their depth, and spiralled out of control. Lau began to do drink and drugs (he believed the two were one and the same and so mainly drank drugs), and Matthews spent more and more time licking anarchist murals in the Hafenstraße, apparently mad. Disillusioned with Hamburg's embryonic 'Ironik-Disco' scene (with which they had become associated, due to a bootlegged instrumental version of "Drift"), and heavily in debt to printers, drug dealers, their own label and studio staff, Lau and Matthews secretly contrived to split SpazierKlang acrimoniously just before the scheduled release of 'born' in late 1985. The freshly-pressed LPs and CDs were mysteriously stolen from the RipOff distribution warehouse by "a guy in a three metre natjes costume on a bicycle with a trailer".
All copies were assumed destroyed.
In June 2015, a police dog named Sybile found the original 23 -track master tapes, floating on the Alster inside a disintegrating plastic fish. Forensic tests confirmed it had been on the water for 30 years, un-apprehended, because nobody wanted to get into trouble.
Peter Lau, who now lives in a submarine on Rethe, is now editor and assistant producer of 3sat's popular webcam show 'Alpanorama'. He expressed initial dismay at the thought of his only recorded work being re-released. At the 2015 Altonale, he attempted to publicly immolate himself in organic coconut oil, but the tub was switched by a performing monkey for one of peanut butter, which has a much higher point of combustion, and failed to ignite. Lau was found that night wandering Ottensen covered in peanut butter and pigeons, laughing. It was left to Matthews, now a Jesuit postman, to sponsor the tape restoration using state of the art technology, funded by the Kalternkirchen Kunst Kollectiv and his mother.
This recording is over thirty years old and has lived inside a wet plastic fish. The utmost care has been taken to ensure the accurate transcription of the original masters. Any dropouts, clicks and distortion are the dog's fault. Call Hamburg Wasserschutzpolizei +49 40 4286-65471 to visit the cutest police station in the world and meet Sybile and her puppies.
released December 5, 1985
Text, recitation: Peter Aloysius Lau
Sound, instrumentation: Andy Matthews
Recorded on location at Hamburg, St Leonards on Sea, Tenerife,
and at Ah!studios West, 1985
2016 32-bit Digital ReMaster by Rog Delgado at QWARM™
'Compooter' by Lina used by kind permission of the artist.
Ah! Records is officially the least successful record label of all time. Plagued for 30 years by bad luck, criminality, drug-
induced recklessness and vandalism, only founders Bill Easton & Andy Matthews' belief in the merits of these releases have ensured Ah!'s continuity. Currently a toilet on a houseboat in Portugal, the office of Ah! introduces these gems to a new generation via bandcamp. x...more