The sleazy yet endearingly clumsy and dorky charms of the Musikladen go-go dancers and assorted Euro dance videos of the 70s and 80s
Curated by Cathleen Heard
Total Runtime: 0:30:14
"Der Musikladen" was a West German music show that aired from December 1972 to November 1984, a swift replacement for its very recently cancelled predecessor, "Beat Club" — premiering only four days after "Beat Club' signed off for good. At first, "Musikladen" took the elements that worked well in "Beat Club" — namely electrifying, rarely lip-synched performances — and revamped the vibe for a 70s audience with a much heavier dose of then-emerging video effects technology, the addition of a few pretty dancers accompanying the bands (more on this later), and much later, a shift towards heavily lip-synched performances. Over its nearly 12 year history, it showcased an impressive, diverse array of contemporary performers. Everyone from Pat Boone to Motörhead to Blondie to Ray Charles performed on the show, not to mention endless acts who (rightly or wrongly) vanished into obscurity or never attained popularity beyond Europe. Footage from "Musikladen" is often a wonderful document of classic groups of this era at their peak, invaluable records alongside segments from similar shows such as the UK's "Top of the Pops" or the more serious rock fan's "The Old Grey Whistle Test" and America's "The Midnight Special" or "Soul Train". If you are old enough to remember the "Closet Classics" feature during the early days of MTV, many of those clips came from "Beat Club" and "Musikladen" (ironic since MTV and the rise of the music video are among the trends that ultimately killed shows like "Musikladen").
With Musikladen's significant contribution to rock history in mind, I'm going to join a small cult of fans obsessing over the unheralded, low budget, kinda sleazy yet charmingly dorky and clumsy charms of the "Musikladen" go-go girls, who were cast initially as backup dancers, as well as the show's slavish commitment as the disco era dawned to enthusiastically abusing audiences with an increasing reliance on ever more complex, over the top but totally chintzy video effects, which were probably often used to spice up a dull performer, to distract from a pretty dancer's utter lack of skill or simply because it looked "neat". The combination of talentless Teutonic temptresses sexy shakin' it with gaudy visuals makes for a happy universe to visit.
As a longtime fan of dance-oriented U.S. shows of the 70s and 80s such as "Solid Gold", I've fallen into countless online rabbit holes discovering Euro TV dance troupe after Euro TV dance troupe that I missed out on growing up in the States. My assessment is this. While the "Top of the Pops" dance troupes Legs & Co and Pan's People as well as comedian Kenny Everett's sidekicks Hot Gossip had some real skill to bring to a disco hit, the "Musikladen" gals were barely synchronized, coordinated or even dressed. They resembled nothing so much as St. Pauli Girls who traded their dirndls for spandex hot pants and flimsy bikini tops for a night of drunkenly stumbling around the disco. There were no chorus lines, but you could usually see nipples. Due to their popularity, presumably with German dads, the "Musikladen" go-go dancers evolved quickly from background players to featured attractions — often performing to a recording of a current hit, no band appearance necessary.
In appreciation of "Musikladen", its go-go dancers and its hilarious production values, here are some choice clips with additional TV footage of the same era from across Europe.
"Musikladen" Opening Credits (1981)
The theme song is Mood Mosaic's "A Touch of Velvet - A Sting of Brass". This episode boasts such guests as new wavers The Tubes and Kim Wilde ("Kids in America"), Commander Cody, Hoyt Axton (singer-songwriter, the dad in Gremlins), Boney M (German disco project of producer Frank Farian, the man behind Milli Vanilli), Baccara (Spanish language disco duo), Dire Straits, and Pat Boone. The assets of the go-go girls are on display even in the credits by this time.
Michael Zager Band - "Let's All Chant" (1978)
Sleazy disco? Check. Thin costumes where you can make out nipples? Check. Dancers in cages? Check. Multiple images to disguise weak dancing and make it appear as though there are more than a couple dancers? Check.
Musikladen's "Telefonnummern" Feature (translation: phone book, date unknown)
I am not positive what's happening here, but it appears that the girls are sharing phone numbers, maybe for an all-request feature, to ABBA's "Ring Ring" while essentially topless and sometimes skating into frame in roller derby gear (still without tops).
Angie Bee - "Plastic Doll" (1980)
The Swiss exploitation actress Monica Zanchi (Sister Emanuelle, Emanuelle & the Last Cannibals, Very Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind) took a stab at a Eurodisco career under the pseudonym Angie Bee. In a trashily perfect pairing, Angie Bee girlishly flirts, pouts and squeak-sings about being a plastic doll while the "Musikladen" go-go dancers shimmy in the background wearing what amounts to topless semi-S&M gear.
Jimmy "Bo" Horne - "Let Me Be Your Lover" (1978)
Sampled by the Stereo MCs on their 1992 hit "Connected", Jimmy "Bo" Horne's "Let Me Be Your Lover" was released by TK Records, the Florida disco label that was also home to KC & The Sunshine Band and Betty Wright ("Clean Up Woman"). The video effects are extra psychedelic, and the usual trickery to give the appearance of more dancers through duplicating images is in full effect.
Ferdy Lancee - "Rock 'n' Roll Heart" (1977)
Ferdy Lancee, who kinda resembles a Dutch Peter Frampton, performs in front of a psychedelic tropical backdrop with the girls wearing the same topless semi-S&M outfits that later appeared in "Plastic Doll". There's also an odd intro by the girls in little besides feather boas.
Theo Vaness - "As Long As It's Love" (1979)
Typical glitz as the "Musikladen" dancers accompany Theo Vaness' performance of his Eurodisco gay pride anthem "As Long As It's Love".
Juan Pardo - "No Me Hables" (1981)
There's a spinning neon star background, and the dancer on the left repeatedly stares at her feet. That couldn't have been part of the choreography.
The Twins - "Not the Loving Kind" (1983)
In this clip from the new wave era, the "Musikladen" go-go dancers don full spandex bodysuits and fail at a robot chorus line to German synth pop outfit The Twins' "Not the Loving Kind". Based on the effects in this one, they may be going for an outer space effect or just think the glowing graph paper backdrop is futuristic.
Patto - "Black & White" (1984)
This is the jewel in the "Musikladen" crown, if you will. This is from one of the last episodes before the show was cancelled. The dancers make an exceptionally poor showing performing to what is essentially a ham-fisted West German rap take on "Ebony & Ivory" (see lyrics below). The dance moves are especially awkward, but everyone looks so perky in their very 1984 workout gear. So at ease is one of the dancers (far right) that she has a slow motion nip slip over the course of the video and never adjusts herself.
Some "Black & White" lyrics:
Penguins, zebras, panda bears
are black and white like you and me.
We can all learn from the animals
how life is meant to be!
“We shall overcome” is a song
we all should sing.
Hey let’s remember JFL and Martin Luther King!
Bizzy & Co - "Take a Chance" (Italian TV, 1982)
The most bonkers clip in this collection is very much in the same vein as "Musikladen", but is actually from Italian TV. Things that exist in this video: a girl in a hot tub full of money throwing more money around, the gaudiest collection of video effects you've ever seen including a glowing dollar sign background, elements of a casino theme including flashing neon jokers, a synth accordion, non-sequitur appearances of "average folk" saying hello in their 80s finest (ruffles and bad perms abound), a random musician playing an animal horn, and much more. This was song used to promote a soap opera, and this clip appears to be part of the opening credits to another show.
Moon Ray - "Comanchero" (1985)
This is a neon-bright computer generated music video for an Italo-Disco track that features an endless stream of cartoon Native Americans on horseback in a psychedelia meets arcade game twist on American Southwest art. This footage is interspersed with scenes of the female singer engulfed in flames.
Barbarella - "We Cheer You Up (Join The Pin Up Club)" (The Pin Up Club, Dutch TV, 1989)
To close this collection out, we have an all female pop trio from the Netherlands, Barbarella, singing the theme to the Dutch TV show "The Pin Up Club". This is by far has the cheapest production values, the dumbest video effects, and the most boobs. There's also a belly dancer with a snake and a dancer doing a mini-striptease at the 2 minute mark.