40 years of German punk rock band Toten Hosen

Düsseldorf, Ratinger Strasse 10, early 1980s: The Ratinger Hof pub has been attracting artists and musicians from the Düsseldorf scene for years.

Artists like Joseph Beuys and Sigmar Polke were known to drop by from time to time. Punk bands rehearsed in the basement, while discussion groups, concerts, and theatrical stagings took place upstairs.

‘Normal’ Old Town visitors or tourists rarely wander into this neon-lit artists’ pub – perhaps it was too rough and rude, as were the bands playing on stage from pool tables .

The bar’s owner at the time, Carmen Knoebel, recalls: “We thought it was great to have the invigorating energy of the bands coming on stage without really being able to play their instruments,” she says in an interview. on the Toten Hosen website. .

She also liked the lyrics of the early songs, adding, “I think in German punk the lyrics were much more important than the music.”

A playground for German punk bands

The Ratinger Hof was both a playground and a springboard for different groups, who learned from each other by sharing the stage.

The group Zentralkomitee, abbreviated as ZK, was one of the bands banging on their instruments at the Ratinger Hof.

It was led by the young Campino, whose real name was Andreas Frege and who would later become the lead singer of Die Toten Hosen.

Fans would pogo dance to ZK; Campino had the charisma of an artist right from the start.

A memorable concert, remembers Carmen Knoebel, was played for children. The ZK band members wore clown costumes and they let the kids join them on stage, where they added their own punk flute sounds to the jam. It all ended in a food fight.

A completely destroyed pub

In the book “Die Toten Hosen: In the Beginning Was the Noise”, Campino recalls the ZK years: “Every second concert was total shit. When the concert was over, three men clapped, one shouted “asshole” and that was it.” The punk trio nevertheless released singles and an LP.

There were also some unforgettable off-stage moments. Trini Trimpop, who accompanied the group at the time and made concert recordings, remembers one evening in a pub in Kreuzberg: “When we got drunk with the bartender, we started playing football in the pub with a ball in leather in the middle of the night. morning there was nothing left but the pool table intact – no glasses, no mirrors, no bottles, no chairs,” he said in a radio broadcast by Medienforum Münster. The best part was that the bar owner was enthusiastic about the whole thing.

Dead Rabbits and Other Nicknames

December 1981 marks the end of ZK. A few months later, Campino, Andreas von Holst, Andreas Meurer, Michael Breitkopf, Walter Hartung and Trini Trimpop founded Die Toten Hosen.

After only a month of rehearsals, they gave their first concert in Bremen and were announced as “Die Toten Hasen” (The Dead Rabbits, instead of their real name, which literally translates to Dead Pants, but it’s also a German slang for “boring,” or “nothing is happening”).

The group has known many names throughout its career. Under the name Die Roten Rosen (The Red Roses), they covered old German hits, including Hildegard Knef’s “Für mich soll’s rote Rosen regnen” (For me it should be raining red roses).

In 1993 they starred as Das Katastrophenkommando (The Catastrophe Commando); in 1998 under the name Rheinpiraten (Rhine Pirates).

In 2000 they gave several concerts under the name Essen auf Rädern (Meals on Wheels).

They also starred as Die Jungs von der Opel-Gang (The Opel Gang Boys) – a tribute to the title of Hosen’s 1983 debut album, “Opel-Gang”.

Politically active to date

The Dusseldorf boys have repeatedly attracted media attention with their clear political positions, which are mainly directed against the far right.

In 1986, they played for the first time in front of a crowd of around 100,000 people, with Herbert Grönemeyer and Udo Lindenberg, among others, at the “WAA-hnsinns Festival”, organized against the Wackersdorf nuclear reprocessing plant.

With the album “Ein kleines bisschen Horrorschau” (A bit of a horror show) – based on the music from the stage version of “The Clockwork Orange” – they had their breakthrough in 1988.

They played concerts to sold-out venues, which got bigger and bigger – but they also did smaller gigs like surprise appearances in prisons.

In 1992, the anti-Nazi song “Sascha, ein aufrechter Deutscher” (Sascha, an upright German) was released in protest against xenophobia and racism. At the time, skinheads set fire to a home for asylum seekers in Rostock-Lichtenhagen with Molotov cocktails, to the cheers of onlookers.

To this day, Die Toten Hosen supports campaigns against poverty, environmental destruction and xenophobia and engages with various aid organisations.

One of the band’s most successful songs is “Tage wie diese” (Days Like This, 2012). The anthem became the soundtrack of the 2012 European Football Championship and embodies a kind of community ecstasy.

When the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party used the song as the party won the federal election in 2013, the band were not amused – they had already banned parties from using the song during the campaign electoral.

The misstep made such waves that newly re-elected Chancellor Angela Merkel personally apologized to Campino over the phone: “Dear Mr. Campino, I’m calling because we hijacked your song on election night. not become the next CDU anthem. But it’s such a beautiful song you wrote there!”

“Tage wie diese” is one of more than 500 songs Campino has written for the Toten Hosen, as well as a record 196 covers in their repertoire.

Their latest studio album, “Learning English Lesson 3”, only includes covers of English hits.

But now, to mark the band’s 40th anniversary, new German-language songs have been released on March 25. The single “Scheiss Wessis” is accompanied by a counterpart song by German rapper Marteria, “Scheiss Ossis”.

“Wessis” and “Ossis” are the slang words used for West and East Germans, and the derogatory distinctions still made 33 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall are mostly based on stereotypes. The new songs are therefore a joint campaign against prejudice among Germans.

A new best-of album with seven new songs was also released on May 27.

Now the band is launching their tour, “Alles aus Liebe: 40 Jahre die Toten Hosen” (All for Love: 40 Years of Die Toten Hosen). It starts on June 10 in Cologne.

This article was originally written in German.

Diana J. Carleton