Or: Die Kunst der deutschen Stimmungsmusik
As someone who’s amassed and “processed” several hundred tapes in recent years, I had the opportunity to take a good look at certain visual cues in the design of the products put out by record labels. I’ve also mentioned previously how awful Romanian pop music sounded to mine ears.
What I’ve not pointed out is the peculiar pattern in the pictorial artwork (“front covers”) showing photos of the performers — usually wearing traditional garb and almost always posing among trees under poor lighting conditions. A child might have easily had this as the very image of typical Romanians permanently imprinted into an impressionable mind.
The same could be said about the cliché presented by other regional “specialty records” — such as Italian grindcore, American CCM, South African boeremusiek, Japanese lolicore, or any cheesy euro house from the 90’s.
As for German party and schlager music, well… let’s just say they make no effort to shake off their gaudy stereotypes. In fact, they thrive on it; so much so that the cliché has become standard marketing fare for music that is as mind-numbingly entertaining while under the influence as it is unworthy of sober debate.
However, there are some interesting observations worth pointing out about not only the music — but the pictures on the sleeves of old party records and tapes.
Germans can party hard. There’s always cause to celebrate (“feiern”) — even if there isn’t. Any excuse to drink beer and smoke with reckless abandon is good enough.
Over time, cigarettes gave way to party streamers, blowers, balloons and silly hats. Beer and wine continued to flow freely — as did party records of the kind. Just about every record label got in on the act, each as silly as the next and liberally borrowing each other’s content.
Production values dropped like bombs over Düsseldorf.
Equally tacky were the photos on the sleeves. Instead of hiring a real designer, it was probably more cost-effective for the record company to simulate a party setting, then have the office staff wear party hats while sitting around a beer vat and act goofy with balloons.
And where there’s a party, there got to be girls! We need women! Let’s stick some pictures of hotties on the sleeves and your target demographic is as covered as the girls aren’t.
Hooray for boobies! Sex sells.
Hey, I appreciate the fine female form as much as the next red-blooded male but let’s be honest: Take a close look (or listen) to the titles of many of the tunes and you’d be quite shocked at how misogynistic they are. I love double entendres and general naughtiness but just don’t try pass it off as family-friendly “Stimmungsmusik”.
And when Sabine down at accounting those pesky female models started demanding to be treated as more than just eye candy, it wouldn’t surprise me if the record producers crashed the neighbour’s house party and took random photos of the revellers.
There are some releases I’ve heard which, in all honestly, sound like someone simply placed a tape recorder on a table near the stage of a public festival, covertly pressed the “record” button, and crudely edited the recordings once they got back into the studio (but not necessarily before the hangover wore off).
One could also be forgiven for thinking that when the likes of Arcade, Europa or Polydor came up with yet another compilation of inanity, they offset the cost for the cover band or licensing of original recordings by skimping on a capable artist who would’ve come up with a decent design. And occasionally, it seems, even that illustrator took the easy route.
When I stumbled across this particular record, I immediately recognised the artwork as being more than just a little inspired by an Asterix comic from the same year.
We’ll never know if it was an intended nod but one thing’s for sure: party records are no more than commercial fodder for the mass-market, as disposable as a case of Weizenbier.
And where beer flows, the camera’s shutter goes. Every snapshot can be sold, especially if it’s to different record labels who may not even be aware of each other’s existence.
It boggles the mind to imagine that records were actually made to be heard only a few times, perhaps intended to not outlast one private party — were it not for the fact that physical media has a habit of sticking around. It always turns up in some or other attic, much to the delight of basement archaeologists and fellow connoisseurs of poor taste.
Scans and images via hmvh.net, discogs.com, eBay.com