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The Birth of Punk and New Wave in Germany

Today, Düsseldorf is mostly known for its exclusive fashion boutiques along the famous Königsallee. But 25 years ago, punk ruled the streets of this western German city, as a new exhibit there shows.


"Zurück zum Beton" shows the roots of punk in Düsseldorf.

Along with Hamburg and Berlin, Düsseldorf was a center for the early punk and New Wave scene in Germany between 1977 and 1982.

Bands such as KFC, Mittagspause, DAF, ZK or Fehlfarben came from Düsseldorf. Although these groups represented many different kinds of music, styles and attitudes, they had one thing in common: the urge to break out of the political and social molds of the late 1970s.

These bands wanted to oppose the sentimental images of hippies bent on improving the world.

A phenomenon of the times

Famous songs of the time included "Verschwende Deine Jugend" ("Waste Your Youth") by DAF or "Zurück zum Beton" ("Back to Concrete") by S.Y.P.H.

"Zurück zum Beton" is also the title of a new exhibit dealing with the early years of punk and New Wave at the Kunsthalle in Düsseldorf. The museum says a variety of original objects intend to show the multi-faceted aspects of the punk and New Wave phenomenon.

The exhibit is divided into still and moving images. One room is covered wall-to-wall with record covers, concert photos and posters. CD players blast out sounds by the legendary bands to accompany the visuals.

Another room shows non-stop slides and short documentary films.

The exhibit is rounded off by some hardware, including the drum set built out of junk used by the Einstürzende Neubauten. The children's keyboard "Casio VL Tone" – played by New Wave gurus Trio on their hit "Da Da Da" – is displayed, as well.

The crossover of music and art

Technical developments in the late 1970s played a central role in punk. New affordable copying and production methods, such as photocopiers, Super 8, Polaroid, and the first video cameras, double cassette decks and home studios were the tools for a self-organized counter culture. They marked the asthetics of the "brilliant dilettantes", as the stars called themselves at the time.

This did not go unnoticed by the art scene, which crossed punk bands at clubs such as the Ratinger Hof in Düsseldorf or SO 36 in Berlin.

Artists played in bands, designed record covers, documented many punk concerts, and organized exhibitions with band performances.

"Zurück zum Beton" wouldn't have worked without the help of music journalist Jürgen Teipel. Over the past three years, Teipel conversed with protagonists of the early punk and new wave generation, editing almost 1,000 hours’ worth of interviews into a type of documentary novel, Verschwende Deine Jugend.

His connections – and the participants’ willingness to cooperate - helped to put together a show whose representatives are now either in or approaching their forties.