A Bit of German Hospitality (Musikladen)

On November 29, 1978, The Cars continued promoting their debut album in Europe by scooting on over to Bremen, Germany, where they performed for the German television program, Musikladen. The concert was aired on June 7, 1979, and later released on DVD by Rhino Records on October 24, 2000 (just three weeks after Benjamin’s death).

[Included on that DVD is the final interview with all five band members, which offers some great insights into this performance as the guys reminisce about their first crazy year of fame. I will pull information from that source in this write up of the Musikladen concert, but I will post separately about the actual interview itself at a later date.]

musikladen2

Musikladen was sort of the ‘Midnight Special’ of Germany, running from December of 1972 to November of 1984. Around 90 episodes were aired, plus 59 billed as Musikladen extra (including this performance by The Cars) with most being made in the period between 1974 and 1979. All episodes were produced by Radio Bremen and directed by Michael Leckebusch.

The Cars take the German stage exactly one week after their Rock Goes to College performance, and only two days after playing in France. Interestingly, this show has a whole different feel to it than either of those two. Where the guys were facing antagonism in the UK, and the Paris concert was so elegant and rather formal, here in Germany the whole atmosphere seems more relaxed, and truly conducive to an intimate jam session. The venue appears quite cozy, with colorful but muted lighting. The platform is fairly low, and is small and uncluttered, snugging the band together. The audience is perched on their seats right up to the edge of the stage, and they are open and receptive throughout the show.

There are a few drawbacks here. Unfortunately, the tight space doesn’t allow for much variation in camera angles. I can live with this because I still feel like I get a good view of all that is going on during the show, and every member is well represented. It is especially wonderful to get to see more of David, since he is usually hidden toward the back; here he is included clearly in much of the footage.

As far as the technical stuff goes, there is a raster pattern (had to look that one up) that blemishes the screen from time to time, but it is so quickly tuned out of my brain that I never notice it anymore. The lighting definitely adds a warmth to the atmosphere, but combined with the limited camera range it sometimes creates shadows that take some getting used to. Again, easy to overcome. I am not picky about the nuances of sound quality so you’ll have to be your own judge in that area; I love it and think it sounds great.

There is SO much to this show that I can’t possibly review it all in one piece. I’m sure I’ll eventually do separate little posts to get out what I can’t keep inside, but here’s what I will tell you now: the thing I find unique about this live show is that every man seems to have his own story. Somehow, it’s not *all* about Benjamin this time (believe me, I’m as shocked as you are! LOL). Again, I think the cozy ambiance of the setting brings everyone in close and invites a connection with each member.

Ironically, the guys report being hungover and not feeling well the day they recorded this concert; a bit too much German hospitality in the form of trays of apple Schnapps. I would not have guessed that from watching this footage. They put on a fabulous show, playing almost flawlessly and really coming across like they were having a blast. I imagine that if I could have sat in Ric’s basement during a rehearsal session it would have been a lot like this performance.

Off the top, I kind of think that Greg is the star among stars imusikladen5n this show. He emits his usual adorable, talented nerdiness, but then goes far beyond that. Watching the footage of him working his insane instrument skills during “I’m In Touch With Your World” left my mouth hanging open the first time I saw it, and it continues to thrill. A little later he comes out from behind his synth lab and joins the guys on guitar for “Take What You Want” — it’s awesome! It’s particularly endearing because he doesn’t adopt any kind of guitar player mannerisms, instead his robotic-style movements and wide-eyed looks remind us that he’s still the same old Greg.

I feel like Elliot finally gets the opportunity to really shine here. The camera absolutely adores him as it zeroes in on his blistering solos, and he plays it up one side and down the other. You can see in every close-up that he is having the time of his life; that he is, without a doubt, doing what he lives for and loves with a crazy passion.  His interactions with Benjamin are classic, and he has fun with Greg, too, when Greg shows up on Elliot’s side of the stage.

As I mentioned before, I love that David doesn’t escape the camera. There are great shots of him doing his thing and driving the songs forward. In the interview footage, he recalls being passed out before the show, and having to be helped in and out of the venue. He played the show ‘in a complete daze’ and has no recollection of the actual gig itself. And yet when you watch him work his drums his arms move with power and energy and he never misses a beat. Truth be told, his performance here just steals my heart, knowing that he feels like trash but he continues to bang it out like a rock star. Of course, there are times when he looks like he’s ready to lean over and barf off to the side, but I didn’t really notice that until after I listened to the interview.

As for Ric… Well, I always have such a hard time connecting with Ric. He still sort of paces around like usual, appearing to monitor the guys like a nervous middle manager, but in these close quarters it comes across more social than menacing. He does seem more unclenched and loose in this concert, chewing gum and mouthing the words to Benjamin’s lead in “Bye Bye Love.” Oddly, the thing that my 13yo daughter found enchanting was that he pulled out a pink guitar for MyBFG. I guess that will do it.

germanyOf course I have to save Benjamin for last. My man is oozing with rock star attitude throughout this entire show. He’s got the shoulder shimmies and the rock-and-roll kick; the bad-ass pick grab and the aggressive bass moves. Don’t even get me started on what he is wearing. He melts the audience with his smooth voice as he introduces songs and thanks them for their attention, and then he ignites them with his edgy vocals and pouty lips. (Well, the audience appears to be mostly men so maybe they don’t spontaneously combust like I do? LOL) All the while, he, too, seems more relaxed than in the other two concerts, like he’s really enjoying himself, being silly with his formal bows and his “I’m thanking you all” comments. We definitely get a strong glimpse into his personality in this show.

[Miscellaneous tidbit: at about 13:00 minutes in the camera shows a bit of  the audience and there is a female photographer that looks entirely stunned by what she’s seeing. Me: “Yep, that’s Benjamin, baby. You’ll never get over it.”]

Okay, your turn to watch it. As always, I’ll give you the set list first. The longest of the three recorded European shows, the band played the following songs:

  1. Good Times Roll
  2. Bye Bye Love
  3. Nightspots
  4. I’m In Touch With Your World
  5. My Best Friend’s Girl
  6. Candy-O
  7. You’re All I’ve Got Tonight
  8. Take What You Want
  9. Since I Held You
  10. Don’t Cha Stop
  11. Just What I Needed

Such a terrific line up! Here’s a newly found link to the show in its entirety. Enjoy!

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5 thoughts on “A Bit of German Hospitality (Musikladen)

  1. Thank you for posting the link and your thoughts. It’s always helpful to read your take first because you point out the little things to watch out for! I agree with all your views. Great to see more of David. I feel like he often gets forgotten being hidden back behind the drum kit. And I think he is actually very entertaining. I agree Elliot FINALLY gets a lengthy solo that he absolutely deserves in “Take what you want”. In fact I was not even aware of that song until seeing this video. What a great song that is! I hate the lighting in this performance because it contorts Benjamin’s face for most of the show and I live to see his close ups and face clearly for the entire performance (no need to cut to Ric guys- get the HOT bass player please and the cute lead guitarist) To your point, I like the more relaxed playful vibe they have going on at this show and love the long set list, playful looks between Elliot and Benjamin, happy the audience seems to really like their music and is giving them a lot of positive energy. But the sound is not as good as the UK and France shows and overall I thought the tension in those shows produced an edgier sound. Like I said before, a pissed off Ben resulted in an edgy, powerful vocal and performance. (although I feel badly they were treated so disrespectfully in the UK). I also love the Vox in all these shows. You can really hear Ben’s bass very well with the Vox. I love each show here separately for its own merits though. So much to see and take in.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As usual we are on the same page, Nicole! I do love your observation about the edgier tone to the other two European shows; you are spot on. Can’t decide which I like better, though: tense, aggressive Benj or relaxed, happy Benj. I’ll take both, thank you very much! The Vox is gorgeous and gets a great sound, but the MusicMan Stingray is my favorite bass. No matter what he is playing I go crazy watching his hands work. They are mesmerizing!

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  2. I read in a bass player magazine that Ben loved the Vox bass because it seem to pack an extra “punch” that some of his other basses didn’t seem to have. He also mentioned that he loved the way it sounded after seeing Bill Wyman from the Rolling Stones play one in the 60s. (Rolling Stone Brian Jones also was a user of Vox guitars and received one of their very first Teardrop shaped guitars which he can be seen playing in the Stones appearance on the 1964 T.A.M.I. show.) Thanks for the great write up on The Cars Musikladen gig.

    Liked by 1 person

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