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2023 Albums Thing 218 - Kraftwerk “Trans-Europe Express”

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The French music critic Paul Alessandrini was drawn to Cologne because of the work of composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. Düsseldorf being close to Cologne, he also interacted with Kraftwerk who were in the process of developing a more sequenced electronic sound due to the availability of more sophisticated sequencing equipment. Alessandrini told Ralph Hütter and Florian Schneider that "the kind of music you do is like an electronic blues, railway stations and trains are very important in that universe, you should do a song about the Trans Europe Express”. They took up this idea. Kraftwerk’s famed Kling Klang Studio was at this time in Mintropstraße in Düsseldorf, next to Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof, the main railway station. Hütter and Schneider would go from the studio to stand beneath the railway arches and listen to the sound the trains made. They found that the rhythm of the trains was not suitable to dance to, so they changed it slightly and the idea for “Trans-Europe Express” was born.

“Trans-Europe Express”s best known moment would likely be the single “Showroom Dummies” but its best would be the title track and the opening “Europe Endless”, adding up to a synthetic train journey across Europe in around 17 minutes.

This albums influence spreads far and wide. After meeting with Kraftwerk and having his name used in the lyrics (“From station to station, Back to Düsseldorf City, Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie”) Bowie wrote the song “V-2 Schneider” in tribute to Florian for his album “Heroes”. At Ian Curtis’ insistence Joy Division would play “Trans-Europe Express” over the PA before they took the stage. Afrika Bambaata famously used part of “Trans-Europe Express” on his seminal Hip Hop release “Planet Rock”. Madonna sampled sections of “Metal On Metal” for her “Drowned World” tour. Siouxsie & the Banshees' covered "The Hall of Mirrors" on the “Through the Looking Glass” album and there are many more instances.

In 1977 this was music from the future, the very definition of the Futurism I’ve talked about previously. 

Trans-Europe Express - https://youtu.be/i_85fUIRlmU?si=n19zJ03DdrFNVcGW

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