I have a weakness for ’70s junkshop pop compilations. Even the not-so-good ones hold a certain fascination. (Reissue-centric RPM Records puts out the creme-de-la-creme of these, with glam comp Velvet Tinmine being the gold standard.) What I like about them is the bands and artists weren’t trying to make art. They were aiming for the charts but, more often than not, never made it past the first single. Why not? Sometimes it was typical record company machinations and they got lost in the shuffle. Sometimes the music was just too strange for the mainstream. Sometimes it was just too good.
I’m not sure Disco Deutschland (Buy it) even qualifies as junkshop pop. It’s more in the "Popular, just not here" as many of the boogie anthems found here were big hits… in Germany. The compilation, put out by the fine folks at Marina, shows us that disco was a worldwide phenomenon and Germans swapped lederhosen for leisure suits in the late ’70s. I was hoping there would be more "weird" stuff on here, more of a Krautrock influence, but most of it is indiscernible from the hundreds of other interchangeable disco records that bubbled up in the Bee Gee’s wake.
But there are a couple of gems here. Musically, Amanda Lear‘s 1979 single "Fashion Pack" is by-the-books (right down to the "woo woo" disco call) but the lyrics sound like a Michael Musto Village Voice Column, taking the listener on a tour of Studio 54, dropping references to Warhol, Bianca and Women’s Wear Daily. Of course, the song was surely autobiographical — Lear was a model who, among other things, dated Brian Jones, starred on Roxy Music cover art and was Salvador Dali’s "muse" before making her own hit records. "Fashion Pack" was a smash across Europe but never made a dent in America outside of NYC clubs. Not that I knew any of this before hearing this CD, but it’s made me curious enough to want to hear more. Is it just me or does her voice remind you of Al Stewart?
But Supermax is what I was hoping all of Disco Deutschland would be like. "Love Machine" is one of those records that is either awfully awesome or awesomely awful. Behold: the general Teutonic groove; the broken and spoken English lyrics ("If you need a two days lover") make it all creepy; a little too "rock and a little too slow for actual dancing, falling more into "make out music"; and to gild the lily, the "Ahooga"s that kick in around the five minute mark. To quote the song, Really Sweet. Austrian (close enough, I guess) Kurt Hauenstein, who looks a lot like Lemmy, is the man behind it all and he continues to tour as Supermax to this day. Catch ’em next time you’re in Vienna.
Read more about Disco Deutschland here. But not just yet because after the jump… video!
Amanda Lear got a lot of TV mileage out of "Fashion Pack." Here’s a version from 1980 where she sports a lovely vinyl hat:
And again in 1983, much scarier. This could’ve been in The Apple:
And here’s Supermax’s "Love Machine":