Heute ha- ha- hab’ ich Geburtstag!

The title of this post happens to be the title of a song by German popsters Die Prinzen. For some reason, every year, on 1 June, I get this particular song stuck in my head. I have no idea why (unrelated fact: ‘Geburtstag’ is German for ‘birthday’. Interesting, that).

Anyhow, I am feeling frivolous today (for some reason), so have decided to write an entirely unnecessary post about German-language pop music. I think we need more of it, especially in the UK. Then we’d be better at speaking German, and it’d be the German we’d need to know. None of this crap about holidays and the environment. Isn’t it time we learned to express ourselves more meaningfully, through the medium of song? And now, allow me to present to you the meanings that really matter:*

1. Nena – 99 Luftballons. The one German-language song that everyone should know. It’s fucking ace! The music’s tops but the lyrics are fantastic. In fact, it’s a song that makes me want to cry. Except it would be inappropriate, although entirely typical behaviour for an outsider who fetishises German culture and life, and still half believes the Iron Curtain is a real object because that’s what she decided when she was four (to be fair, I also think this about the North and South Poles). The East Germans probably listen to 99 Luftballons and think “yeah, the Cold War was crap, but we were so much kinder to each other. You may have been spying on your neighbour, but he’d be the first to lend you a cup of sugar (which you could then send to the Staasi as ‘evidence’)”. The West Germans probably listen to it and think “yeah, the Cold War was crap, but at least we weren’t giving the Ossis shedloads of money just to piss about with and then letting one of them run the whole fucking country”. Both groups probably think “well, at least we’re now masters of the Eurozone AND we did it without getting rid of the cute Ampelmännchen with the hat on”. And then there’s me in tears, like a complete and utter wanker. David Hasselhof would understand.

2. Die Ärzte – Schrei nach Liebe. Full-on, shouty assault on neo-nazism by top comedy rockers with a serious side. Schrei nach Liebe starts by telling our nazi chums that their violence is just a muted cry for love, and that their jackboots yearn for tenderness, and that they never learned to express themselves, and that their parents never had enough time for them. Then it tells them that they’re arseholes. Repeatedly. That, surely, is the way to deal with these people.

3. Tic Tac Toe – Verpiss dich. Tic Tac Toe were a popular female rap trio who did lots of “issues-y” songs. A bit like a cut-price teutonic Salt ‘n Peppa (who were also a trio if you count DJ Spinderella, which you should considering she “does a hell of a job”). Tic Tac Toe rapped their way through songs on the importance of using a condom (Lech mich am ABC), the badness of drug addiction (Warum?) and the crapness of ex-boyfriends (Ich finde dich scheiße – now there’s one that never features in the ‘giving opinions’ section of the average GCSE spec). The best one was Verpiss dich, though, because it showed how in German you can rhyme “I miss you” with “piss off”. What other language allows you to be poetic about deep, conflicting emotions in such an accurate way?

4. Stefan Raab – Wadde hadde dudde da. This is the song that should have won Eurovision back in 2000, if only for the bit when the lights go out and Stefan’s still there in his light-up costume. Do you know what did win that year? That ‘Fly on the wings of love’ bollocks that later got made into a hit dance tune. A travesty if you ask me. I already knew Stefan’s work back in 2000 because he’d been a popular VJ during the 90s when I lived in Germany. He had a show called TV Total, which itself spawned many ridiculous songs. These included the classic Maschendrahtzaun, which offers a fine commentary on masculinity and chicken wire fences. Yes, Stefan. If you ever be King and you get a crown, it will surely be made of Maschendrahtzaun.

5. Guildo Horn – Guildo hat euch lieb. Another German Eurovision comedy curveball that totally deserved to win but didn’t. Unsurprisingly, Stefan was involved in this too, as writer and conductor. Somewhat more surprisingly Stefan returned to present the contest in Germany in 2011. He must really love Eurovision ’cause if I were him, I’d be dead bitter by now.

6. Der Wolf – Oh Shit Frau Schmidt. Was? Schon kurz vor acht? Das ist schon viel zu spät, was hab’ ich nur gemacht … You know that bit at the end of Love Story, when a dying Ali McGraw says “I used to know all the Mozart Kochel listings” (whatever they are)? Well, I used to know all the lyrics to Oh Shit Frau Schmidt. In your face, McGraw. In case you’re wondering, Oh Shit Frau Schmidt tells the tale of a boy who parties too hard and is late for class (was hab’ ich in der Erste? Mathe, oh shit! Eine Doppelstunde – und dazu noch bei Frau Schmidt!). Frau Schmidt is well cross with him, so he consoles himself later in the day by going to yet another party, where he ends up in bed with a girl who happens to be called Bianca Schmidt:

Diese Name, was fürn Zufall, ist das Schicksal, das ist mir jetzt egal

Denn Fräulein Schmidt ist im Bett optimal

Sie will noch mehr, ich fühl’ die Hand in meinem Schritt

“Wir dürfen nicht zu laut sein, meine Mutter kriegt das mit”

Kaum hat sie das gesagt, kriegt die Zimmertür ‘n Tritt

Rein kommt ihre Mutter, oh mein Gott das ist –

Even if your understanding of German is minimal, I suspect you’ve worked out who the mystery mother’s going to be. Obvious, and yet a total comedy classic. (Der Wolf had another hit with Sei dein eigner Held [‘Be your own hero’]. For some reason, whenever I write emails in German, I want to sign off with this particular phrase. Sadly, the people from whom I’m requesting text permissions never seem hugely impressed.)

7. Westernhagen – Johnny Walker. Classic ode to alcohol dependency. Good to listen to when getting completely off your face with no one else around (NB if you’re with people, you’re meant to sing along to crap like Zehn kleine Jägermeister by Die toten Hosen. This is why, if you move to Germany, you need to develop a drinking-alone habit. God knows, I did).

8. Herbert Grönemeyer – Männer. Imagine the Good Men Project, but as a German-language song from the mid-1980s. Yes, that’s it. Wann ist ein Mann ein Mann? asks Herbert. It’s hard to say. Apparently they’re hard on the outside but they cry in secret. Which is a bit sad really. But to be honest, they deserve it if their relationships between each other and the women in their lives are anything like those portrayed in Besser du gehst jetzt, another of Herb’s misguided classics.

9. Falco – Rock me Amadeus. Austrian popster Falco hits upon the brilliant idea of portraying Mozart as the super-cool pop star of his day. And okay, he got the idea from Peter Schaffer’s 1984 film Amadeus, but who cares. They’re both ace. And here’s a literary factette: the writer ETA Hoffmann was originally called Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann but changed the Wilhelm to Amadeus because he was such a big Mozart fan. This sounds fair enough until you consider that Hoffmann was fifteen when Mozart died. It’s a bit like if I changed my middle name to Kurt Cobain, only that wouldn’t be as bad as I’m not trying to be a grunge hero, whereas Hoffmann was trying (and failing) to be a great composer. Silly Ernst! I bet people really ripped the piss out of him at the time. Still, he did write some exceedingly good tales.

10. Die Sterne – Fickt das System. Speaking a foreign language offers you the chance to be a different person. For instance, I would never, ever buy a song in English called Fuck the System. I’d be scared that doing so would make me into a total twat. And yet I’ve not just bought the Fickt das System single; I bought the whole sodding EP (although to be fair, I’m not sure the single was an option back then). Anyhow, I love Die Sterne and their sharp, grumpy rantings about the ultimate crapness of modern life. I like all their stuff, but favourites include Das bisschen besser (my PhD write-up tune) and Universal Tellerwäscher (my phone ringtone). And then there’s Was hat dich bloß so ruiniert? (i.e. why are you such a miserable sod, you privileged middle-class knobhead? A genius track, directed, one presumes, at all Sterne fans, yet lapped up by all, including me).

Well, thus ends a very self-indulgent post. I’m off to open some objects which my children have, for some reason, wrapped up for me in brightly coloured paper. Then it’s off for a weekend away (alas Birmingham, not Berlin), so no more blogging till later.

So if you have read this far, bye for now. And remember – sei dein eigener Held!

* This entire post is from what I remember, not having lived in Germany since 1997. I’m counting on no one who actually knows anything about German-language pop reading it.


2 thoughts on “Heute ha- ha- hab’ ich Geburtstag!

  1. Danke schon für dies Musik! If only I’d been reading your blog the day my uni German teacher gave up looking for oral topics which spanned our “beginner’s” class (anyone from those who began with “hallo, ich heisse…” To me with an A* at GCSE in German) and asked us what German music we’d heard. The best I came up with was classical stuff I’d sung, ‘Schnappi, das kleine Krokodile” and Rammstein. My class mates now consider me insane, but the looks on their faces were worth it!
    Keep writing, this blog has made my summer!

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