30 years of punk history: Die Toten Hosen | Music | DW | 13.04.2012
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Music

30 years of punk history: Die Toten Hosen

30 years ago, the Düsseldorf punk band gave their first concert. Legend has it that they were announced with the wrong band name, but these days everyone knows who they are, and their anniversary tour is almost sold out.

Die Toten Hosen belong to Düsseldorf just like its famous dark beer, called Alt, and the Rhine River that cuts through the city. The quintet and its charismatic frontman Campino are one of the city's trademarks.

At their first concert on April 10, 1982, the guys probably could have scarcely imagined what would become of them. Today they have sold millions of albums, scooped all sorts of industry awards to prove it, and they are considered role models for social activism.

Next door punkers

Campino, the band's lead singer

Charismatic lead singer Campino

During their anniversary tour, Die Toten Hosen - literally meaning The Dead Pants, but German slang for "boring" or "nothing going on" - are showing off their love of unusual concert venues. They have plans to appear in fans' living rooms and in prisons. Campino & co. aren't about to give up their unconventional side even as long-standing rock icons.

At home in Düsseldorf, though, they make nothing of their fame, and fans can see them all over the place - at soccer matches, concerts or even in bars around the corner.

"They've actually stayed true to themselves. They still have this punk rock stance," said music critic Philipp Holstein. "The longer I'm in Düsseldorf, the more I notice how important they are to the city but also to the country as a whole."

Die Toten Hosen have long been known for taking a stand, whether against right-wingers, nuclear power or posing naked for an anti-fur campaign. They've long had a love-hate relationship with fellow German rockers Die Ärzte, founded in Berlin also in 1982, but they treat their idols, including New York's Ramones, like gods.

A turning point

CD-Cover: Ein Kleines Bisschen Horrorschau

The band's breakthrough came in 1988 with "Ein kleines bisschen Horrorschau"

Their 1,000th concert took place 15 years ago and almost spelled the band's end. The death of a 16-year-old in the push and shove of the mob just in front of the stage led to heated discussion within the band.

"As dumb as it may sound, we're not the same band as before. We really lost a lot of naivety, and we're not doing stuff like stage diving anymore," said Campino a year after the tragedy.

But the band decided to keep going, despite a milder approach to stage shows. After 30 years together, their musical achievements are impressive. In 1988, they had their breakthrough with the album "Ein kleines bisschen Horrorschau" (A Little Bit of Horrorshow) and their hit song "Hier kommt Alex" (Here Comes Alex).

The simple melodies and easily understandable lyrics made them a success. With album titles like "Kauf mich!" (Buy me!) and "Opium fürs Volk" (Opium for the Masses), they conquered the charts again and again, pulling in new generations of listeners.

It is not unusual to see parents together with their kids at the band's concerts. Also worth noting: they enjoy an unusual level of popularity in Argentina, where they've been about as well-known as in Germany for two decades, and not just when they play "Guantanamera."

To the grave together

Die Toten Hosen posing off stage together

Friends both on and off-stage

Looking back on so many career high points leaves even the charismatic Campino a bit speechless.

"I have to admit that about 90 percent of the experiences I've had in my life that I'd call really cool or great have involved the band," the 49-year-old says.

On May 4, the band is putting out its 13th album, four years after their last release. Some suspect it might be their last - after all, Campino is celebrating his 50th birthday in June. But no matter how long the guys hang on as a band, one thing is already clear: they will go to the grave together. They have already reserved 17 spots in a Düsseldorf cemetery for the band members and their closest associates.

Author: Dagmar Dahmen / gsw
Editor: Rick Fulker

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