I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Beat-Club


by Steve DeMartino
Jan. 28, 2013

If you've ever sat bleary-eyed through a wasted day with your face bolted to VH1 or some other musically-themed channel you could burn hours and hours watching, you've probably seen Beat-Club. You probably didn't know it was Beat-Club, and even if you did, I bet you had no idea what Beat-Club was. I know I had seen Beat-Club long before I was introduced to the clips in today's Live Music Show and I didn't know what Beat-Club was. So what is Beat-Club?

Beat-Club was a music show that was created in 1965, broadcast out of Bremen, Germany on what you could call Germany's equivalent of PBS: the Erstes Deutches Fernsehen. It showcased popular music at the time -- a first in Germany -- and featured a laundry list of famous American and British acts during its 7 years of existence. Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones all recorded sets on Beat-Club. I know you'll be excited to hear that the last show aired in December of 1972 and featured everyone's favorite family band: The Osmonds. With bonus performances from Donny and Jimmy!

So, who cares? I've seen that Black Sabbath performance of Iron Man before. It's good, but what makes it different from any other music variety show performance of the time? If there wasn't someone introducing the acts in German, you'd never tell the difference between a Beat-Club performance and one from The Ed Sullivan Show or Soul Train. Well, maybe not Soul Train, but you get my point. Beat-Club, as a marker of its time and place, is fascinating precisely because of that similarity. It represents a shifting mentality in Germany through the 1960s. A mentality that embraced progressive thinking and a kind of collective awareness. One that wanted to forget the past and forge a better future.

OK, that's a pretty bold statement to make about some silly German music program with weird green-screen effects and a taste for fisheye. Still, when you consider what the political climate was like in Germany in the late 1960s, it doesn't seem that far-fetched. In 1968, West Germany was engulfed by student protests against what they considered authoritarianism in the German government. A little more than two decades removed from World War 2, the general sentiment of the movement was 'out with the old, in with the new'. These were young intellectuals, eager to seek out subcultures that would support their progressive views. Beat-Club was there to deliver. It may not have had any direct impact on the political machine in motion, but what it did impact was the German music scene.

It's no coincidence that the same year the German student movement began, Germany held its first rock festival, the Internationale Essener Songtage, which included a performance by Frank Zappa's band, The Mothers of Invention, among a large lineup of mostly German performers. The German bands pioneered a new sound, one that combined the progressive rock and psychedelia they were now being exposed to with electronic instrumentation. In the way that the younger generation of Germans took cues from American and British counterculture in the 1960s, they had also embraced the music that came from that counterculture. Beat-Club was happy to deliver it to them.

So, you're still not sure why you should care about Beat-Club? I don't know. Just shut up and enjoy the music, man.

 

Steve DeMartino is an ancient demon awakened from eternal slumber by careless archaeologists. He plans to someday enslave the human race, maybe when it gets a little warmer outside. Likes: tea parties, death metal. Dislikes: Tea Parties, butt rock.