If you had asked me, twenty five years ago, who Florian Schneider was, I would have shrugged and told you I had no idea.
If you then went on to tell me that you were from the future (bear with me) and that the fifty year old me was really quite saddened to hear that he had died, I would probably have called the (time) police.
But such is life and death; for this week I was indeed saddened to hear of the passing of somebody who can truly be described as a musical innovator.
For Florian was a founder member of Kraftwerk, the German minimalist electro band. Moreover, he’s the one from the band that you recognise.
Describing Kraftwerk as a band doesn’t seem right somehow.
Pioneers. That’s better. For that’s what they were.
There are few artistes that you can confidently say changed the way music is produced, listened to and appreciated, but Kraftwerk unquestionably fall into that bracket.
I first encountered them, as I imagine so many others did, when this single went to #1 in the UK charts back in 1982:
At the time, I remember being baffled that this weird sounding thing had knocked Shaky’s Oh Julie off the number one spot. Back in the days when singles didn’t just go straight in at #1, it lumbered its’ way up the charts in a fashion that just doesn’t happen now (I guess: I can’t remember when I last checked in on The Charts,but that seemed to be how it was happening last time I looked). It spent just one week at the peak, replaced by The Jam’s Town Called Malice.
The even weirder thing about The Model was that the week before it hit the top slot, it had gone down from #2 to #3. This sort of resurrection simply never happened; once a record had hit its peak, that was it, done and dusted. Off down the charts you pop. (It was kept off #1 the first time around by Bucks Fizz’s The Land of Make Believe.)
But something about this Germanic foursome’s record buying public refused to give in.
I’m not sure when things finally clicked and I ‘got’ Kraftwerk. I guess it was sometime on the 1990s, or possibly even the early 2000s. I suspect it may have been when I finally got my hands on a copy of the NME 40th anniversary album Ruby Trax – where contemporary acts of the day were invited to record a cover version of a song which had been a #1 single – heard Ride cover The Model, and thought a) That sounds nothing like Ride; b) that’s really great but is it really that different from the original? and c) What have I been missing all these years?
I do know that I was desperate to see them on their 2005 Minimum/Maximum tour, but didn’t manage to get there for some reason or other. Probably financial, as I would think tickets for a Kraftwerk gig were prohibitavly, and justifiably, expensive.
So here, to mark Florian’s passing is footage from that tour. Clear some me-time in your diary and watch this, two hours of minimalistic magic (m)electronica: