Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Excitement of Kraftwerk

I get a call from the A&R guy at Phonogram in Germany. He has this electronic group called KRAFTWERK and believes their new album has worldwide potential. He has heard that I’m keen on Tangerine Dream and like this type of electronic music. It would be a great help to him if we released the new album AUTOBAHN in the UK. We agree that the two guys in the group, Florian and Ralf, would come to London, play us the new music and discuss the possibility of a UK release and support.

A week later Florian and Ralf arrive. They are quiet, shy and seemed to be a couple of neat guys. I invite my number one assistant Nigel Grainge to join in the listening session. Nigel was and is one of the great music men and I valued his opinion.

We put the reel-to-reel tape on our Revox and sit back to listen. I can’t believe what I’m hearing; it is just bloody fantastic. I’m more excited by what I’m hearing than anything I have heard since arriving in the UK. I try not to let my excitement show, thinking if I’m right and this is as good as I think we don’t want to appear too excited so that it costs us a bigger royalty. The first track of over 20 minutes comes to an end and I excuse myself to go to the toilet, hoping Nigel will do the same and we can compare impressions. He does.

Out in the corridor I can’t contain my enthusiasm and say to Nigel. “I think this is absolutely bloody fantastic; what do you think?” Nigel is equally raving about how good he thinks this is. So we go back, hear the full album and much to the relief of Florian and Ralf agree to release the album in the UK and ensure it has back up marketing support. Naturally our German company are ecstatic at our decision.

We have a presentation of new releases at our annual company sales conference at Crick, near Rugby. I decide to make AUTOBAHN my major push and presentation to the retail sales team and the promotion staff.

I’m on stage in front of this group of people who are important in selling our music to retailers, radio and TV throughout the UK. I rave on enthusiastically about the sales potential of Kraftwerk and Autobahn. I play the first 20-minute plus track. Throughout the playing there is much shuffling of feet and bodies and I sense Autobahn not being received well. At the conclusion of the playing I again enthusiastically promote the wonderful music and the high sales potential. I receive a less than polite spattering of applause and know that besides Nigel no one here thinks Autobahn has a chance in hell of being a success. It is just as well we also presented THIN LIZZY’S "NIGHT LIFE"; this probably gave the staff some hope that I was not completely crazy!

Not too long later, having left Phonogram and now Marketing Manager at Decca Records UK, it was with great satisfaction that my faith in Kraftwerk and Autobahn was proven correct, as the album became a huge seller in the UK and worldwide.


  1. Great story. I saw them last year at the Town Hall and they were still great. Ralf was still in it I believe. Even when I first heard them in the 80s (computer world) they were still years ahead of their time.

  2. Autobahn was such an exciting and break through work that you guys probably heard it many times loudly through our Barnes home and I have no doubt it would have had some impact on your musical taste in future years.

  3. Hypnotic, trance-like. Kraftwek are v. cool and were way ahead of the groove. Still hold up today. Love 'em.

    Wir fah'rn auf der Autobahn...