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‘We Are Family’: Nina Hagen’s German reality TV show—yes, really
06:01 am


Nina Hagen

Nina Hagen
This show is SO fucking good, I really wish more of our readership could understand what they’re saying. In 2007 Nina Hagen did this reality TV show called We are Family! So lebt Deutschland (The second part translates as “This is how Germany lives”). It seems it was on the ProSieben cable network. I don’t know “how Germany lives” when the focus is on other subjects, but in Nina’s case it meant sending a camera crew out to LA and following her around for a while. They were able to generate three solid hours of programming, and it’s all up there on YouTube for all to see.

When this was filmed, Nina was 52 and her son Otis, then 16, was living with her. The announcer explains that Otis was raised in France and a few other places, and didn’t live with his mom until a few years ago. They’ve been in LA for four years. In the show, Nina takes Otis to take his driver’s exam, they go shopping, and they visit a nice house for sale with a realtor (Nina doesn’t think much of the house, apparently). The entire thing’s in German, and well, obviously Nina is a force of nature who transcends any attempt to boil her personality down to the weird confines of ANY reality show. She says whatever she wants, whenever she wants, often cackling with mischievous glee. She clearly so does not give a shit, it’s extremely refreshing. Obviously she is wearing the most garishly colorful outfit she can put together without making it seem like she gave it any thought whatsoever. In America the trend is to show “normal folks” or somewhat marginalized (i.e. desperate) C-list celebrities—it’s so awesome to see a reality show with someone who’s pretty intelligent, worldly, discerning, and so forth.

There’s a seven-minute “teaser” that just corresponds to the first seven minutes of the entire thing, which runs three hours. If you speak German or just can’t get enough of Nina no matter how little you understand—believe me, I get it—then you can enjoy both of those. Note that the long-form version has a small but irritating watermark in the middle of the frame, but you can still see everything just fine.
Nina Hagen
Nina inhaling deeply the alluring scent of cabbage
Otis seems like just about the most normal 16-year-old guy ever, which isn’t a dis; you just wouldn’t automatically assume that he was the son of the extravagantly extroverted genius who conceived and recorded Nunsexmonkrock. Otis is trilingual, it seems—his German is perfectly OK, but he does speak with an accent, it’s clearly not his go-to language. Most of what he says in the teaser is pretty innocuous, like Nina’s a great mom and they get along great, stuff like that. He doesn’t like those environmentally friendly detergents because they make his clothes smell weird.

For the shorter video, well, I’m far too lazy to translate the stupid announcer’s patter or Otis’ utterances (even if he seems very nice), so I reckon what people really want to see is what Nina says. So here is that, everything she says, in chronological order. I missed a couple things here and there, but that’s okay, and it’s loosely translated, like I gave a pretty close idea if not perfect. If you read this while watching the video it should sync up pretty sensibly. (Hint: the part where she talks about how amazing the cabbages smell, she says that when she’s smelling the cabbages.)

When you’re 18 years old you can destroy the environment as much as you want!

We’re like an old married couple, aren’t we? Ha!

How can you POSSIBLY live without an auto?!?

Why are they showing us this? I’ve lived in several heavenly places, I know what that looks like, more or less.

Right, left, straight ahead. Where are you, my little boy?

I love LA, here is where I feel the best, in California I can recharge my batteries, here I can make my ideas a reality the best, so I can bring them back to my home country. I belong here. I wouldn’t come here if I didn’t belong here. Hey, my colleagues at the German embassy are also here in Los Angeles. Ask them why they’re here and not in Paris. Because our karma, our destiny, positioned itself here.

Goodness, cabbage! Look Otis, have you ever seen anything like this? It makes my mouth water. You have to get me away from this container (slurps) because it smells so delicious! Cabbage! My god. (smells) [something about how sour it is] It’s delicious, what do you put it in?

Careful, careful, a sauerkraut-bomb.

God, the poor kid must be ashamed of his mom—because she’s so loud.

My son Otis is an absolutely honest guy, he’s up for anything. He knows what friendship means. And he’s still living with his mom—thank God.

My daughter somehow got away from her mother and brother very early, but we still have a very friendly and familial relationship, we talk on the phone every day, we’re always happy when she returns to LA, it’s always a great pleasure when she turns up in LA, and the two of them have a totally wonderful and special relationship, the two siblings. In spirit she is always here with us.

Why did you get Clorox? That isn’t one of the “green” ones.

He doesn’t give a shit! He wants to buy this detergent, I say it’s totally poisonous for the environment, the other supermarket has totally healthy ones.

So for a 16-year-old French-German-American young man, he’s not so interested…..



Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Happy birthday Nina Hagen!
07:04 am


Nina Hagen

Today we celebrate the 59th birthday of that great German singer Nina Hagen. Her cartoon-punkette-channeling-Marlene-Dietrich persona and the sort of high-bombast singing at which Germans seem to excel made her known in the English-speaking world for 1980s albums like the excellent NunSexMonkRock, Fearless and In Ekstase, but she was already known in her home of East Germany for tamer stuff. I can do no better at describing her early years—and the amazing story of how she got out of the GDR—than this DM post from 2011.

Since her ‘80s flirtation with English-language LPs, Hagen has made music primarily for European audiences. Here she is in a rare duet with that other incontestably Teutonic entertainer, Heino, performing a send-up of “Hi Lili, Hi Lo” from the 1953 Leslie Caron film Lili

WHY haven’t those two made albums together? I could listen to that. All. Day. Long.

Hagen remains 100% active, and it might surprise some readers to know that her last two albums have been gospel-tinged. She underwent a Protestant baptism in 2009, which informed Personal Jesus (yes, it includes a cover of the Depeche Mode song) and 2011s Volksbeat. Both are available for streaming.

We’ll end this birthday tribute to an admirably durable artist with an interesting A/B of her early and later years, via these two Rockpalast appearances, shot 21 years apart.

Nina Hagen Band, Rockpalast, 1978

Nina Hagen, Rockpalast, 1999

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Dandy’: Nick Cave, Blixa Bargeld and Nina Hagen make an art house film

Loosely based on Voltaire’s satire Candide, Peter Semple’s film Dandy hangs together around a selection of seemingly unconnected scenes featuring Nick Cave, Blixa Bargeld, Nina Hagen, Lene Lovich and Yello’s Dieter Meier. There’s no real story to speak of, rather:

...a floating dreamlike journey that meanders from Hamburg to Berlin, Madrid, New York and Tokyo to the Ganges river, the Himalayan mountains and on to Marrakesch and Cairo. It is a collage reflecting sensations that deal with religion, blues, art, the state of being lost … more of a wondering, a stumbling…

You can tell it’s an art house film as Mr. Cave is credited as “Nicholas Cave” here, and later explained his appearance in the movie:

“It was an experimental film by an Australian/German director called Peter Semple who paid us large sums of money to sit in front of his camera and lay with a gun or a guitar. Me and Blixa were both involved in it. We were very poor at the time.”

In a more considered response, reviewer Emanuel Levy wrote:

Dealing with self-estrangement and, yes, lack of communication and love, Dandy is pregnant with heavy symbolism and simplistic allegories. Its recurrent metaphors consist of close-ups of a dead fish and a butterfly captured in a wine goblet. Drawing all too obvious analogies between the animalistic and human worlds, the image of the real butterfly is crosscut with a human butterfly, veteran Japanese performer Kazuo Ohno, who dances a Pas de Deux with his son Yoshito to the exquisite rendition of “City Called Heaven” by opera singer Jessye Norman.

Unfortunately, the continuous flow of inventive images and sounds is too often interrupted by a superfluous and unnecessary narration about nuclear, violence and torture. And as could be expected of such a film, there are brief philosophical assertions about the meaning of life and death and the dialectical relationship between art and life.

It’s all strangely compelling, though (unfortunately) it never actually goes anywhere. You will find Nick Cave covering The Moody Blues (as well as playing Russian roulette and showing-off his gun-slinging skills),  Bargeld looking for directions and singing “Death is a Dandy on a Horse” (from which the film’s title comes), and an unaccompanied duet from Hagen and Lovitch.

A 1988 interview with Nick Cave, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Nina Hagen’s ‘Nunsexmonkrock’: The greatest (and weirdest) unsung masterpiece of the postpunk era
07:21 pm


Nina Hagen

Nina Hagen’s 1982 Nunsexmonkrock album is one of the single most ground-breaking and far-out things ever recorded and it deserves to be considered a great—perhaps the very greatest—unsung masterpiece of the postpunk era.

There I’ve said it.

I’ll take it even further: To my mind, it’s on the same level as PiL’s Metal Box, Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica or Brian Eno and David Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Or The Dreaming by Kate Bush. Make no mistake about it, artistically it is a monumentally important recording.

It’s also something you can buy used for a single penny on Amazon. There is no mention whatsoever of the album in Simon Reynolds’ definitive book Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984. The Allmusic review of Nunsexmonkrock is but a single sentence. The Quietus doesn’t give a shit about it, nor does The Wire. In fact, there is almost nothing of any substance written about the album online anywhere. Hardly any music blogs have ever deigned to even mention it. Google the title, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Crickets.

That doesn’t mean that Nunsexmonkrock doesn’t have its hard-core passionate admirers—there are dozens of Amazon reviews and almost all of them are five-star raves—but we’re talking about something that was obscure 30+ years ago when it came out. Even if you could easily pick it up at the local mall then—and for a while there, you could—no one did. I would imagine that most people who have discovered the charms of Nunsexmonkrock since it was first released have done so primarily because they saw it in a $1 bargain bin and it looked weird so they picked it up (every used copy of Nunsexmonkrock on vinyl is pristine, it’s virtually guaranteed).

Luckily for both of us, you don’t have to take my word for any of this, I can make my case for the epic holy/demonic genius of Nunsexmonkrock with the music itself—thanks YouTube—which is neither punk, nor rock, nor opera nor really anything even remotely recognizable as any previously known genre of music. Already a category of one, Nunsexmonkrock appears to have no obvious influences either. Reliable adjectives fall by the wayside when you are confronted with such an anarchic artistic anomaly. Because it’s so very much out on its own peculiar limb, it’s completely timeless (musically at least: lyrically Hagen makes a prophecy about Leonid Brezhnev, who up and died the year it came out). Nunsexmonkrock could have been recorded 32 years ago, yesterday, or a thousand years from now and it just wouldn’t matter.

It inhabits a territory so exotic and utterly unclassifiable that the creator herself would never again venture that far out. Nunsexmonkrock is a zany, oddball, sexy, freaky as fuck and totally revolutionary masterpiece of modern music. At the center of this evil maelstrom is Hagen’s multi-layered and gymnastically operatic vocals, a unique hybrid of Maria Callas, Zarah Leander, Yma Sumac and Mercedes McCambridge doing the voice of “Captain Howdy” in The Exorcist...

Rolling Stone called Nunsexmonkrock the “most unlistenable” album ever made. Au contraire. It’s an incredibly weird album, let there be no doubt about THAT, but once you’ve gotten over the initial shock, Nunsexmonkrock is as catchy as hell. “Most unlistenable”? Although that sounds like a dare I personally would be willing to take, it’s not even remotely true.

Nevertheless(!), let’s ease into it, shall we, and start off with what is probably Nunsexmonkrock‘s most accessible number, the unstoppable riff-driven rocker “Born in Xixax” that leads off side 2 of the album. This is the great Chris Spedding on guitar. Tell me this riff isn’t as good as “All Day and All of the Night” or “Jumping Jack Flash.”


“This is Radio Yerevan and this is the news…”

Okay, so if “Born in Xixax” is the most accessible way to ease into Nunsexmonkrock, then “Smack Jack,” which had a music video, is the probably the best-known number from the album. This extraordinarily frenzied anti-drug rant addressed a topic Hagen herself knew well about, as she had a high-profile romance with Dutch rocker Herman Brood, the Netherlands’ most famous junkie.

“Smack Jack” went to #7 in Norway in 1982, believe it or not.

A word about the players on the album. Aside from the aforementioned Chris Spedding, none other than David Letterman’s sidekick Paul Shaffer (a top session player of that era) was on keyboards. Another contributor was Paul Roessler, a synthesizer player who was once a member of the legendary Screamers. There was ace studio drummer Allan Schwartzberg (once of Mountain) and Karl Rucker, who played with Hagen for some time, on bass. With the studio pros providing a solid backbone, the weirdos—Roessler, Rucker and Hagen—had a canvas to run wild over.

But Nunsexmonkrock is also, I think quite obviously, a producer’s album and Mike Thorne was the George Martin figure who was absolutely necessary to pull this grandiose, multi-tracked, borderline insane vision together. (EVERY song on the album, it should be noted, makes “I Am The Walrus” seem as simple as a folk song.) Thorne, who has produced so many classic albums that it’s ridiculous, would appear to be the key creative element, other than the diva herself, who contributed the most to Nunsexmonkrock‘s singularly evil, acid-drenched sound. The person twiddling the knobs on this sucker had an intimate acquaintance with either acid or nitrous oxide and how this music sounded on it, I’d wager a finger on that. The album redefines psychedelic. Has anything come along in all of the intervening years that is this ferociously tripped out? I don’t think so, not even the Butthole Surfers come close, if you ask me.

Here’s the evidence: “Antiworld.” This song, which actually leads the album off, is much more of a jump into freezing cold water than starting off with “Born in Xixax,” like we did above, I think you might agree…

Holy fuck. That sure is something, ain’t it?

More Nina Hagen after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Punk pussy power: Nina Hagen ‘masturbates’ on Austrian TV, 1979
07:44 am


Nina Hagen

On August 9 1979, German punk diva Nina Hagen caused what was dubbed “the scandal of the year” on the Austrian youth culture TV talkshow Club2 when she demonstrated several optimal positions for female masturbation.

The (fully-clothed, sorry!) action takes place towards the very end, just after the hour and 28-minute mark, when she gets into a heated argument about female orgasms with one of the guests. I don’t speak German, but it’s pretty clear for all to see who loses the debate and it’s not Nina!

The guy sitting next to her is Ferdinand Karmelk, the father of her daughter, German actress Cosma Hagen. The duo perform a sort of unplugged version of NunSexMonkRock‘s “Future is Now,” here.

The host of the show was was obliged to step down over the incident.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Pre-punk Nina Hagen in East Germany, 1974

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Pre-punk Nina Hagen in East Germany, 1974
07:11 pm


Nina Hagen

Although she’s celebrated as “the mother of punk,” the musical fruits of Nina Hagen’s early career sounded much closer to the tuba-led Bavarian oompah music of Heino than the scratchy, three chord thrash of The Slits. Which is not to say that the young Nina Hagen wasn’t the very embodiment of punk rock rebellion in Communist East Germany before anyone had ever heard of the Sex Pistols, because that is exactly what she was…

Raised by her mother, well-known film and TV actress Eva-Maria Hagen and her stepfather, dissident singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann (who was a big influence on her political views and a big nuisance to the GDR), Hagen began singing professionally at a young age. Backed by her group, Automobil, her 1974 single, “Du Hast den Farbfilm Vergessen” (“You forgot the color film”) became a huge hit in the GDR and made Hagen a big star. The seemingly innocent-sounding lyrics (a girlfriend berating her boyfriend for not bringing color film on their vacation) were a subtle dig mocking the sterile, gray, Communist state. The fluffy-sounding ditty became one the most popular songs of 1974 and the double meaning of the comical lyrics was apparently well-understood by both the general population and the Politbüro elites.

In 1976, Wolf Biermann was stripped of his citizenship and refused re-admittance into the GDR after he’d played a TV concert in Cologne. When her mother left to join her husband, Nina claimed to be Biermann’s biological daughter. However, the thing that probably got her visa stamped stat was her threat to the authorities that she would become “the next Wolf Biermann.”

Four days later she was living in the West. I wonder how many people were thrown OUT of East Germany? That’s punk!

Below, 18-year-old Nina Hagen (and Automobil) singing “Du Hast den Farbfilm Vergessen” (“You forgot the color film”). There is a version with subtitles here.

After the jump, more early Nina Hagen videos…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Nina Hagen’s cover version of ‘Ziggy Stardust’
07:40 pm


Nina Hagen

A young Nina Hagen doing a punky—some might call it demonic—live cover version of “Ziggy Stadust” around the time of her Unbehagen album in 1980. I like the Bauhaus cover, too, but I like her version even better. It’s great to see how NIna Hagen has managed to retain such a devoted cult following for all these years. She works hard at it, that’s for sure. She deserves it.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Don Rickles And Nina Hagen On Merv Griffin

RicklesHagen.  Two great tastes that taste great together.  “Individual God Identity?”  VD humor?  Oh, mid-eighties daytime television, I so miss your zany spontaneity!

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment