I once heard a quote, “a person does not truly die until the last person who knew them, to speak their name, also dies.” I find much beauty and poignancy in such an observation. It is one that gives context and comfort during those periods when context and comfort are not in abundance. It is within this context that I write a small piece on 3rd May, each year, for my parents. During the final years of their lives, I took regular photographs of my parents so I could share them with their grandchildren, great-grandchild and wider family. Stored securely on a memory stick on this day I take that memory stick out, select a photograph and write a little something. Initially on closed social media platforms like FaceBook and more lately on open media like this from last year. This photograph was taken a couple of weeks before Mum’s health deteriorated rapidly over a very short period of time.
They had a routine, which generally consisted of them living separate lives during the day with occasional chats as one of them would make a pot of tea or meal. Dad, in the front room with his latest model building project. Mum, in the back room, reading and watching the latest soap. Pet dog seeking attention from either one of them. Each evening they would share their meal, cuddle up, natter and watch TV.
In my final year with them, I got the opportunity to hug them, share stories, tell them how much I loved them, explain to them how proud I am to be their son. As a family, to express in their later years that it was an honour to care for them. This became the foundation for coming to terms with not having them physically in our lives. It’s the small stories that become important. My dad asking for, “gingersnap biscuits to be put in his pocket when we put him in his box.” My mum reminding us, “make sure your dad gets his meals” during last days she was able to communicate. The search for my mum false teeth after she passed away and then to find her gnashers many months afterwards in the back of my car without any rational reason why they should have been there. I’m also happy to report that nothing gives me more satisfaction than hearing their grandchildren and great-grandchildren share these small anecdotes.
Sometimes you’ve just got to acknowledge you are late getting to a party. The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972 – 83 is just an excellent concept and most importantly backed up with some truly exhilarating music. The narrative goes, “for the first time since it was recorded in East Berlin over 30 years ago, the music of Martin Zeichnete can finally be heard. A disciple of the Kosmische Muzik of the likes of Kraftwerk, Can and Neu! that was drifting across the Wall from the West, Martin’s idea of using the motorik, hypnotic beat of krautrock in the training of athletes was taken and exploited by the DDR’s Olympic Committee.”
My introduction, I have several memories that are managed over the years to blend together into a romantic melting pot of musical discovery. It is difficult to separate truth from fiction now, but the timing is pretty much self-evident. I know it was during a period of school exams, so I’m guessing it was around 1976 when my ears first discovered what I would get to know as Krautrock. That genre of experimental music, which had emerged in Germany in the late 1960s drawing influence from psychedelic rock, the avant-garde, electronic music, funk, minimalism, jazz improvisation, and world music styles.
I know some of the punk bands I was starting to listen too had referenced the likes of Kraftwerk, Neu and Can. My music teacher, Mr Bell had given me a copy of one of Kraftwerk’s early albums, which I still have to this day. Maybe, I’d subconsciously developed a liking for Krautrock as I listened to John Peel show on my radio while preparing for exams.
How my admiration for Krautrock developed I guess I will leave to my fond memories, no matter how clouded they increasingly become. Today, I’m happy to just stay behind the illusion of the Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972 – 83. I did start to do some research, but you know what? As we continue to consume ourselves a little piece of escapism, which transports us back in time to a period where things seemed a little bit simpler, black and white, may not be an altogether bad thing now and again.