Tangerine Dream have had a very big influence on me personally and one of the major reasons why I myself started out on a journey as a musician and composer of instrumental music with synthesizers and other electronic instruments.
Some of the best listning experiences I have had are to the music of Tangerine Dream. Even though I find that too much music has been put out in the name of Tangerine Dream, it is always their music I return to.
I think my first encounter with Tangerine Dream was when I saw a concert broadcast on Swedish television sometime in the middle of the seventies. It was the Coventry Cathedral concert with music from the live album, Ricochet. I remember watching the concert on a small black and white television screen late at night, but even so, I was totally overwhelmed by that cosmic music and those strange motionless and silent musicians behind their electronic instruments. A very "far-out-in-an-alien-space" feeling, that I had never experienced before in music.
The first album I bought was Stratosfear, and I think that it is the one album that has taken the most rounds on my turntable. The vinyl record is totally worn out and the treble is something you'll have to imagine...
When I have chosen to spend a lot of time and energy on writing the story of Tangerine Dream - first in Danish and now in English - it is first of all for my own satisfaction; I have tried to make an overview of the band's very long and extensive career, which I didn't seem to find anywhere else in print.
This book should be seen as my personal understanding of the Tangerine Dream universe and their musical development. Even though I have tried to be as accurate as it has been possible for me, I will not claim to be 100% historically correct. It has been quite difficult too, since some of my sources seem to have different opinions on dates and so on. Also I am not English, so the language may not be absolute correct.
Even though Tangerine Dream have sold a lot of albums through the last 30 years (more than 7 million copies I am told!), often been high on sales lists and charts and been nominated for several Grammy Awards, the record companies have never had any big commercial interests in the band - Tangerine Dream have always focused on the music as opposed to focusing on the musicians in the band. This, of course, fits badly into the world of the idolised music business.
But despite all of this, Tangerine Dream have had a considerable influence and have always had an enthusiastic and loyal audience. Tangerine Dream have been a pioneers - both in a musical sense, as they have led the way for techno, ambient, dance and whatever it's called nowadays, but they have also played a major part in developing new instruments and improving different aspects of sound production as well. Pioneering work, which we all - and especially the music business - benefit from today and therefore, Tangerine Dream, deserve a higher degree of recognition than is the case.
Not very many people seem to know the story of Tangerine Dream - so here is an attempt to make up for that!
This is a beginner´s guide to the world of Tangerine Dream.
Kent Eskildsen - 1999
The history of Tangerine Dream starts with Edgar Froese, who since the end of the sixties has been and still is the leader of this band which has been a major exponent of electronic music and the development of electronic instruments.
Edgar Froese was born on 6th June 1944 in a small village called Tilsit (it has now changed its name to Sovjetsk) on the border of Lithuania, near the Baltic Sea. His home was influenced by traditional classical music and it has obviously left its mark on the young Edgar. He had a few piano lessons, but very quickly, Edgar Froese lost interest in the piano, and began to study art in Berlin. He was, first of all, working with painting and sculpturing. He managed five years at art school and Edgar got acquainted with the very active art environment in Berlin.
He became more and more attracted to music as means of expressing oneself and started playing the guitar. It was especially the English rock and pop music and bands like the Rolling Stones, which made the biggest impression:
Froese: "I was first of all attracted to their looks. Their faces were absolutely damaged. They were the absolute opposite of the Beatles!" (Cyclone Tour Program 1978/ Tangents).
Edgar Froese started his professional career in the music business in 1965, when he - inspired by British rock`n'roll - joined the band called The Ones. It was a traditional rock band with guitar, bass, drums, organ and vocals. The songs were mostly coverversions of big international hits made by foreign stars. The band played in small cafés and clubs, where 6-7 hours on stage was not unusual. They performed a lot in Berlin, but without gaining any big commercial success. The Ones managed to record a single in 1967, which included the tracks "Lady Greengrass" and "Love of mine".
In the summer of 1966, Edgar Froese was on a trip with a friend - a painter - to Cadaques near Barcelona in Spain. Here he met the surrealist painter, Salvador Dali, who made a serious impression on Edgar Froese. Froese learned the ways of surrealistic thinking and he developed the idea that he would try to make acoustic pictures - images of sound.
When Froese later came back to Berlin, he became very absorbed in avant-garde composers like Cage, Ligeti, Xenakis, Stockhausen and other experimenting artists. It was especially these composers' type of music that helped show the way for the young art student.
Edgar Froese returned to Spain the following year together with The Ones. They played a few times at Salvador Dali`s villa and participated in a TV-film about the famous and eccentric painter. The Ones also made about an hour of music that was used at one of Dali`s exhibitions. Later that year, they worked hard for about 4 months at Johnny Halliday`s club in Paris.
Froese: "We played soul numbers. We used to do Midnight Hour three times a night - It was the best number we had!"(Tangerine Dream ´70 -´80)
But the fame and the big money never came, and the group began to fall apart. Suddenly they were without a drummer and finally The Ones split up.
Tangerine Dream Mark - I-III
In his mind Edgar Froese had gradually drawn a clear picture of which musical direction he wanted to move towards, and finally in September 1967 he formed the band called Tangerine Dream. He teamed up with Volker Hombach (flute, harp and violin), Kurt Herkenberg (bass), Lanse Hapshash (drums), Charlie Prince from the Ones (vocal). Froese played the guitar.
Many sources claim that the name, Tangerine Dream, might originate from the album, "Sgt. Pepper" by the Beatles, where a passage of the song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" said something about "Tangerine Trees". I do not think that is true, but in 1967 the words Tangerine Dream pop up in titles and songs by other bands; a song called "Jelly jungle" by The Lemon Pipers and the album title "Tangerine Dream" by the band "Kaleidoscope". The founder of Kaleidoscope, Peter Daltrey, has some thought about this title:
Peter Daltrey: "I really can't remember where I got the name for our first album. It just came to me out of the Sixties consciousness; the colours, the dream of the time, the lyrics of other songs, the style of writing at that timebut mighty weird that we should come up with the same combination of two words as someone else in the world at that exact time!" (Private letter to Joe Shoult Jan 1999)
It has even been suggested that Tangerine Dream could be the name of some kind of drug like the acid called "Orange".
We are after all in the age of psycedelia.
A coincidence? Perhaps, but only a few people know the real answer and Edgar Froese will certainly not reveal it! He completely denies all of this; he says that it is an acronym, but will not reveal the meaning of the name "Tangerine Dream" and he refuses to explain the meaning of the band´s name any further!
The end of the sixties was ready for a change and ready to take a new musical direction. The revolt among the students at universities was slowly beginning to take form - especially in Berlin - and the music reflected the rebellion against conventions. Music should have a much more free form, be unpredictable and contain a lot of improvisation. Traditional songs were seen as bourgeois!
Franke: "Berlin was destroyed during the war, but afterwards we have with the Marshall-help got the culture financed - with the typical German hope. Berlin then began to be the melting point. It was the city, which was terribly destroyed and you can still see the scars from the war. There was nothing beautiful in this city that could satisfy the citizens. They could only concentrate on art". (Tangenten No. 2 - 1992)
It was a vigorous and rapidly growing environment/milieu. Experimentation was the standard rather than the exception in music and other art forms, but also in the ways people were living together. The hippie-movement was an expression of this and it reached its climax with "The Summer of Love" in 1968. People experimented with different kinds of drugs, meditation, foreign religions etc.
The element holding everything together was music. The psychedelic wave quickly gained a lot of supporters, more and more bands began using lights and other visual effects on stage. Out of this melting pot, a lot of pioneering German bands emerged. Bands like Amon Düül, Can, Ashra Temple, Agitation Free and Organisation (which later turned into Kraftwerk).
Everybody played a very free kind of music with traditional instruments, but began to use them in new ways. The electric amplification in itself meant new opportunities for creating new sounds. Effects like echo, delay, phaser and flanger were added and the key words were improvisation, sound and feeling rather than melody and structure.
In Berlin, Hans Roedelius (from Cluster) and Conrad Schnitzler - who later became one of the most important catalysis for the new experimental music in Germany - created the club, Zodiak. This club was host to a lot of different experiments with music, light and sound. It was decorated in the spirit of its time with one completely black room and one white. Another one of the "in" places in Berlin was the club, Quasimodo.
Tangerine Dream often played their improvised music at these places. Sometimes they became "events" which lasted about 5-6 hours, it was very loud and the band was known for starting out with Pink Floyd´s "Interstellar Overdrive" and improvised from there to unknown heights (?).
The band was not very stable in the early years and during the following years Tangerine Dream actually had three different crews and a lot of guest musicians passing in and out of the band.
In November 1969, Edgar Froese teamed up with Conrad Schnitzler (cello, violin and flute) and Klaus Schulze (drums), who had been studying and playing classic guitar at a younger age, but then turned to the drums in the band called Psy Free.
This collaboration lead to a lot of experimentation with sound effects and tape recorders apart from the use of more conventional and normal instruments. They used whatever would generate any kind of sound!
The group rented an old factory building and started recording on an old 2-track Revox tape recorder. A demo tape came out of this, and it was handed over to Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser, who had just founded his record company - Ohr Records. Kaiser was extremely enthusiastic about their music and offered to make an album with Tangerine Dream on the condition that they accepted his suggestion for a title and what the cover should look like. Of course, Tangerine Dream went along with this offer even though the title, Electronic Meditation, is rather misleading; not a single real electronic instrument is used on this album!
Klaus Schulze: "We recorded and toured Electronic Meditation. That for me is the primary electronic album. Edgar played the guitar, Schnitzler the organ and I the drums through loads of effects. We were making up our own sounds. I remember Conrad had this metal cup full of these bits of glass in which he stuck a microphone attached to each machine. I played a lot of different percussive sounds that where then altered by machines. It was just great to be in a band who where open to so much experimentation". (Interview with Mark Pendergast - December 1994/Tangents)
Tangerine Dream's first album, Electronic Meditation, then came out in 1970. In music (?) and sound it describes (maybe?) the journey of a brain through different states of mind from birth to death!
It was not a big commercial success, but with one album out, it meant that Tangerine Dream got more jobs as a live act.
Shortly before Electronic Meditation appeared in the stores, Klaus Schulze left the band to join Ashra Temple and later he sat out on his own vast solo-career. He was replaced by a young guy, who had the reputation of being one of Germany's best avant-garde jazz drummers. His name was Christopher Franke, born in April 1952. Franke had been studying at the Strasbourg Percussion Ensemble. At that time, he was very absorbed in the relationship between music and theatre. Christopher Franke or more often just called Chris Franke, played in the band Agitation Free in which the keyboard player Michael Hoenig also played. Agitation Free had its base in Berlin and it was also here that Christopher Franke met Edgar Froese.
Chris Franke saw them for the first time in a studio for experimental music: "They were making experiments with instruments and also with visuals, pictures and exhibitions" (Cyclone Tour Program 1978/Tangents)
Conrad Schnitzler, who since his days in Tangerine Dream has been very well recognised on the experimenting German music scene was later the same year replaced by Steve Schroyder, who played the organ.
Among other strange things, this new trio gave a concert in Kapfenberg in Austria. The concert was recorded for television and about 1,000 people watched and heard the concert where 6 amplified pinball machines (?) formed the basis of Tangerine Dream's improvisations...
"This album is dedicated to all people who feel obliged to space"
Together with two guest musicians, Roland Paulyck and Udo Dennebourg this new Tangerine Dream constellation made the album, Alpha Centauri. It was recorded at Dieter Dierk´s studio in Cologne. The standard of the album was very high of that time, and among other things, it had an eight-track multi-track recorder. The album, which was named after one of the nearest stars in our galaxy, came out on the label Ohr and turned out to be a little bit more successful than the previous album, Electronic Meditation. Besides Germany, it was also launched in France, USA and Japan.
The music was - as the title might imply - much more cosmic than their first release. This time, the music was about a space flight and the very calm and floating sounds should illustrate the vastness of space. It was still a very searching kind of music, but nothing near to the totally improvised music of Electronic Meditation. This time though, among the more traditional instruments, a real electronic instrument appeared on the album - a VCS 3 synthesizer! Other sound sources were used, as the coffee machine that Edgar Froese was given credit for on the cover...
In February 1971, Steve Schroyder left the band and once again, Tangerine Dream were on the lookout for a new band member. They finally decided on Peter Baumann, born in 1953. He had made a name of himself as an amateur musician in Berlin with the band Burning Touch, in which he mostly played the more traditional music. Baumann was in every way a self-taught person and had taught himself to play the organ.
With Froese, Franke and Baumann the most stable constellation of Tangerine Dream was a fact - at least according to the production of albums and putting out music.
"Largo In four movements"
In 1972, the double album, Zeit, came out, and this can be said to be Tangerine Dream's longest step away from the rock-orientated music. It has been called the longest Largo in the world (76 minutes) and in four movements, the album is also completely free of any rhythms and senses of pulse. Carpets of sound moving slowly in and out between each other sound colours changing all the time.
As guest musicians there were four cellists, Steve Schroeder on the organ and Florian Fricke from the band, Popol Vuh. Fricke was supposedly invited because he was one of the first people in Germany who had a big modular Moog synthesizer...
The music was also marked by another instrument, the Mellotron, which was an early kind of sampler that could play small tape loops with pre-recorded sounds. It was especially acknowledged for its very good strings and woodwinds, but it was a very difficult instrument to play and at first classical musicians were afraid that the Mellotron would eventually replace them:
Froese: "We put our headsets on one ear and then we were listening to the tone of the Mellotron while already started playing our stuff. Then by listening to the 440 Hz out of the oscillator, we were tuning the Mellotron against it. So it was the only way of doing it, and that had to be done about ten times during the gig of two and a half hour. Looking back to those days, that sort of adventurous fear, not knowing if you will overcome a good, a bad concert, out of tune concert, or whatever. Today everything, it's much better tuned, it's nearly perfect, but it's not having a wild ride through the jungle any more." (BBC Radio 2 - December 17th 1997)
Froese: "A couple of hours prior to the start of the gig [Albert Hall '75], someone came along and said "They [the Musicians' Union] are asking for a couple of thousand pounds, for you're using an orchestra. You are not using THEM, you are using your bloody keys, here. THAT's an orchestra". So there was a bit of a fight going on backstage and so we had to pay something, that night." (BBC Radio 2 - December 17th 1997)
Tangerine Dream were now seriously beginning to create the electronic sound that would be the band's trademark, and on 25th November 1972, Tangerine Dream gave their first concert with electronic instruments only. It took place at the broadcasting studio of WDR in Cologne and lasted for about 50 minutes.
It was almost a paradox though that Tangerine Dream almost at the same time put out a single called "Utima Thula - part I-II". With their use of guitar, bass, drums and keyboards it must have been the closest they have ever been to traditional rock. This says something about how the band was searching in different directions and rather limitless at the time.
Even if the single does not resemble their first albums it is quite important since it most certainly reflects rather well how bands like Tangerine Dream, and others with the same attitude to music, sounded when they performed their free kind of rock music in the late sixties and in the early seventies.
In December 1972, Tangerine Dream recorded what was to become the album, Atem. This time it was done without any help from guest musicians. The result was released at the beginning of 1973.
The music still had this "cosmic" atmosphere, but with a lot more dynamics and structure. Especially the vocal (!) track, "Wahn", stands out - even today. It sounds something like "Stockhausen meets Pink Floyd"...
John Schaefer wrote about this phase in Tangerine Dream´s career:
"Here were three young German rock musicians (Klaus Schulze briefly among them) playing music that sounded as bizarre and self-indulgent to pop listeners as Eminent or Stockhausen sounded to much of the traditional classical audience. Often without any recognisable melodies or harmonies, the early Tangerine Dream recordings, such as the two-record set Zeit (Time), took the listener on a flight through a chemical wonderland. Spaced, occasionally abrasive, at times completely adrift from conventional musical forms..."(New Sounds - John Schaefer, 1987, Virgin)
Edgar Froese: "Atem was the beginning of an adventure. For the next few years, we were constantly improving and experimenting and, although it wasn't perfect - we didn't always make great music - it was a period which brought me richer experiences than any other" (Melody Maker - 8th October 1994)
Atem was the last album Tangerine Dream made with Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser for the record company Ohr. As it often happens in the music business, disagreements between the artists and the record company evolved. They parted, but only after a lawsuit, and Froese, Franke and Baumann were now looking for a new recording label.
Before the final break, Tangerine Dream played at a remarkable concert arranged by a magazine in Paris. Among others Tangerine Dream were playing together with Ashra Temple, Kraftwerk and Klaus Schulze, who have all gained a lot of recognition and almost cult-like status in their genre through the years.
With Atem, Tangerine Dream got some success abroad for the first time, when the English DJ, John Peel, chose Atem as The best album of the year! He often played it on his radio program and was thereby contributing to making Tangerine Dream popular in England.
It was especially the English who opened their eyes to that special kind of progressive rock music, which came from West Germany. The psychedelic wave - with Pink Floyd in front - had cleared the way for a new way of thinking in music.
There was a strong underground scene, which had also revealed itself as having a big commercial potential. As is well known, Mike Oldfield´s "Tubular Bells" was a very big success even though it was considered a strange album at the time with no traditional vocals or drums. The enormous success of "Tubular Bells" was forming the financial basis for this little new record company called Virgin Records. A record company, with the eccentric adventurer, Richard Branson, in the forefront, which has now evolved into becoming one of the world's biggest multimedia companies and now also an airline company.
It was also Virgin Records who promoted Tangerine Dream on a global level for many years and - to some degree - still do.
Legend has it that "on sunny afternoon in August 1973, Richard Branson and Edgar Froese sat on the small wooden stairs in the hallway of Virgin Records store in Nottinghill Gate, London. Both were negotiating the first deal for Tangerine Dream in England. Branson only had a small office above the store. As they agreed upon the main points, Branson pulled out a demo cassette from a certain Oldfield, which he´d received. They gave the pre-prehistoric version of Tubular Bells a listenand the rest is history." (TDIFC Newsletter # 13 Marts 1991)
Well, anyway it`s a good story .
In the summer of 1973, Peter Baumann took a longer journey to Kathmandu in Nepal and India, among other places. Froese and Franke were not restrained by that fact but took the opportunity to record some pieces at the Skyline Studio in Berlin.
The music which was to become Green Desert - was also made as a sort of demo to show their future record company what they could do. The music was still based on rock instruments like organ, drums and guitar, but it also introduced the sequencer, which was to become the trademark of Tangerine Dream.
There was enough material for a new album, but since Baumann had not been in on the recordings, they agreed to put them aside for a while.
I was not put out until 1986 - and only after Edgar Froese had recorded new voices in 1984, re-recorded some of the music and re-mixed all of it. In 1986 it was finally included in a box with six LPs called "In the beginning". This box was released to mark the first well almost - 10 years of Tangerine Dream as a band.
Due to the very long time under way, it is therefore not exclusively the original material that can be found on the album, Green Desert!
The cover shown on this page is from the re-mastered Castle Communications version from 1996 - The original cover from 1986 shows a deserted landscape with two large rocks in the foreground!
With the ears of today it sounds a little bit static and slow. It does not seem to reach the same intensity as the other albums from the seventies, but it has its good parts too; it is a little bit more melodic than the previous albums. Even Edgar Froese's very lyrical and melodic way of playing the guitar gets a lot of free space to evolve during the 19 minutes of the title track.
Chris Franke makes vivid use of his drums and seems to improvise all the way through the album This was, however, the last time he made that extensive use of a real drumkit on a Tangerine Dream record; legend has it that he sold his drums soon after these sessions.
When Baumann returned from his trip to Asia, Tangerine Dream were playing their latest demos for Virgin, and the record company, Virgin Records - owned by Richard Branson, signed a five year world-wide contract with the group. It was a contract that would later be extended to a total of ten golden years on Virgin. A new album went straight into the making, and at the end of 1973, Tangerine Dream left for England and Virgin's recording studio - The Manor Studio in Oxfordshire. The production, which would be released as Phaedra, began on 20th November and lasted for about three weeks.
Tangerine Dream had received an advance from the forthcoming album sale and the money was straight away invested in a big Moog Modular synthesizer - one of the big monsters you often see the musicians pictured in front of.
The instruments, and the technologies as a whole, created a lot of problems while the recordings took place and almost everything went wrong. It would often take several hours just to get the instruments in tune and make a usable sound. On those first electronic machines there was nothing like memory to save the sound, the tuning and other parameters from session to session.
Edgar Froese: "We worked each day from 11 o'clock in the morning to 2 o'clock at night. By the eleventh day we barely had 6.5 minutes of music on tape. Technically everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The tape machine broke down, there were repeated mixing console failures and the speakers were damaged because of the unusually low frequencies of the bass notes. After 12 days of this we were completely knacked."
"Fortunately, after a two-day break in the countryside a new start brought a breakthrough. "Mysterious Semblance" was recorded on 4th December, Peter and Chris were asleep after a long recording session, so I invited my wife Monique into the studio. I called in the studio engineer and recorded it in one take on a double-keyboard Mellotron while Monique turned the knobs on the phasing device. The piece is on the record exactly as it was recorded that day. And this practice was due to continue for the rest of the session."
"For example, on the title track, Chris pressed the button to start the bubbling bass note. Unfortunately the bass pattern didn't work the way it should have - after a few seconds, as you can hear on the album, the note drops in but out of tune. Chris then started tuning the bass sequence while running it. What he didn't know was that I had told the engineer to press the recording button whenever music or some sounds could be heard. So what you hear in the beginning of Phaedra is a rehearsal! Even when I started playing the melody line, it was just a try - no one thought it would go on the record." (Interview with Mark Pendergast - January 1994/ Tangents)
Even if almost no one knew about Tangerine Dream in England, Phaedra quickly became very popular: The band had not given any interviews to the music press and besides John Peel's shows, nobody played their music on the radio. But Phaedra nevertheless managed to slip into Melody Maker's album-list and gained a high ranking. Later on, it received gold in several countries!
So this third release, Phaedra, from the trio Froese, Franke and Baumann, in many ways became a turning point in their careers.
Shortly after the recording of Phaedra, Edgar Froese began to work on his first solo-project - Aqua. This album was recorded between November 1973 and March 1974 and it was released on both Brain and Virgin Records by the end of 1974.
On Aqua, Edgar Froese did some experiments with artificial stereo as one of the pioneers in this field of recording; two microphones were put inside the ears of an artificial head and were supposed to hear - and record - as a human being would hear things. One side of the album is recorded with this new technique, which should help improve the stereo image and make a more realistic 3D-sound.
Froese was not completely alone on Aqua; Chris Franke made some of the sounds on a Moog synthesizer, which was an instrument he was beginning to master quite competently.
Chris Franke had spend hours and hours trying to figure out how this vast machine worked and along the way he discovered how it could be used to create different rhythm patterns sequences which was his trademark.
In April 1974, Tangerine Dream explained about their ways of working and the philosophy behind their music making in an interview. The interview was made by the English journalist, Karl Dallas, who later turned into being one of the group's most regular critics regarding concert and album reviews.
Baumann: "It's real teamwork. We get into the feeling of the situation and we start to choose the instruments and the special parts from harmony up to rhythm up to the colour of the sound to get close to the situation. When we're in the right surroundings we can put more of ourselves into the music and thus have more feeling. And the equipment helps."(Melody Maker - April 1974)
In the interview they told more about those first years with experimenting rock and how the electronic instruments helped breathe new life into the band. They had become very tired of playing loud rock music and everything was getting out of hand when Chris Franke sold his drums. They felt that they had to start from scratch with a simple tone and then re-discover sound and music from there - making new real sounds and not just imitate existing sounds.
Tangerine Dream's next project was to make music for a theatreshow called Oedipus Tyrannus. This performance was produced by the English actor, Keith Michell, who was very fascinated by the cosmic sound of Phaedra.
The soundtrack was recorded at the CBS-studios in June and it was re-recorded at Virgin's Manor studio in a version meant for release. But Tangerine Dream were not at all satisfied with the result, and hence the music was never released.
Some of the music was nevertheless released; some pieces from Oedipus Tyrannus were "recycled" on the later live album, Encore. In different places on the track "Desert Dream" the music from Oedipus Tyrannus seem to be put in between bits of liverecordings from 1977.
While Tangerine Dream were working on Oedipus Tyrannus, the success of Phaedra was paving the way for a longer tour of some 20 concerts in England later that year.
On 13th December, Tangerine Dream gave a spectacular concert at the cathedral in Reims in France. The atmosphere in this gothic church enlightened by candles was the perfect background for the music of Tangerine Dream.
The music, which was performed by Froese, Franke and Baumann who sat almost motionless in the semi-darkness in front of their electronic alters, created a mysterious religious mood.
A lot of people made a "pilgrimage" to this event and the cathedral with seats for approximately 2,000 people, had to make room for about 5.000 people that day! This of course did not go by unnoticed, and afterwards this old Catholic cathedral was left in a minor chaos!
Froese: "It was a terrible situation. People couldn't move, they had to piss up against the walls. You can imagine the mess by the end of the concert. What's more, we got the blame for it!" (Melody Maker - 8th October 1994)
The consequence was that the Pope, Paul VI, sent out a bull of ex-communication, which banned Tangerine Dream from ever performing in a Catholic church anywhere in the world in the future.
This sort of ban is not something that happens to you every day and of course it created a lot of publicity at that time. Both in private and on stage the band have always been very withdrawn and they have never been surrounded by any rock-star status, so here was finally something for the public eye to dig into.
The ban might be lifted now, but the event is something that often gets mentioned when someone in the media is doing a fast review of Tangerine Dream's career.
The concert was by the way broadcast on the radio and the music played is very typical of Tangerine Dream at this point - a lot of improvisation - based on long floating soundscapes - played in the minor tone colours.
Already in January 1975, Tangerine Dream returned to the Manor studio to record their second album for Virgin Records. Among the "new" instruments used this time were a new Arp synthesizer, an Elka organ, a gong and a piano. Some of them were of course modified with electronic devices.
Both sides of the album contain one long piece of music, which was still a long way away from a traditional rock music concept. The sequencer parts and rhythms, which float in and out, are the dominant musical element. At the end there is a very grandiose part sounding like a choir, which can easily take your mind to scenes from Arthur C. Clarke's and Stanley Kubrick`s fantastic science fiction movie "2001". In this "space odyssey", it was Gyorgi Ligeti who created the cosmic music for the soundtrack, but it could just as easily have been Tangerine Dream.
The recordings for Rubycon progressed much faster than with Phaedra and without any great difficulties. The album was quickly released, already in March the same year. Monique Froese had made the cover and somewhere in the pictures you can find a picture of a young boy...
Froese: "When the band walked into the Manor for the second time, we were weighted down by the pressure of the success of Phaedra. There was a pressure to do it again but one has to point out that Simon Draper (The producer) and Richard Branson at Virgin did not pressure us to be commercial. The attitude was that Tangerine Dream could do whatever they wanted to on record, which was a very unusual practice for a record company". (Interview with Mark Pendergast - January 1994/Tangents)
Froese: "When we did Rubycon we talked much about if we wanted a commercial success or if we wanted to be progressive on our own terms. And honestly we decided that it was mostly ourselves it was all about. We wanted to develop the music we liked the most and to express ourselves personally". (Tangenten No.6 - 1994)
Froese: "The recording of Rubycon was a very floating process. Unlike the Phaedra production there was never a break in the creative flow. The band had been on tour for most of the previous year and was now hot to spend a month working on some new music. Because of the commercial success of Phaedra, the sequencers could now be technically better equipped. At that time this branch of technology was fairly unknown and any technical alterations had to be custom-built. This was a very extensive undertaking and most of our earnings went into new equipment."
"I had orchestral instruments recorded by the BBC for my Mellotron, at the time a very luxurious thing to do. One can hear an oboe on "Rubycon Part 2" as well as numerous strings sections had horns. The biggest problem, however, was the inconstant power supply at the Manor. At the time there were electrical problems throughout the Oxford region and sometimes the power was cut off for two to three hours at a time. We had to interrupt recording sessions when this happened, to connect our synths to electrical generators. Chris` Moog often played completely random sequences because of the unstable electrical current driving the oscillators. It was a crazy situation. When we finished recording there were altogether 12 hours of music from which to mix the final master". (Interview with Mark Pendergast - January 1994/Tangents)
When Rubycon came out in March, Tangerine Dream were on a small tour in Australia, where the sales from Phaedra had given them a goldalbum. This tour turned out to be very difficult though and the reactions of the audiences were pretty mixed; there were airline strikes, which caused delays all the time and the band had to rent a private plane. At one point, the band had to cross Australia in a small eight-seat plane with some of their equipment.
Chris` Moog was damaged during the transport. It was impossible to repair it, and a lot of other general problems with the equipment made the concerts a rather mixed experience - both to the audience and to the band.
Seven concerts were nevertheless accomplished, but without Peter Baumann, who had dropped out of the band for a short while to do something completely different than making music. He was replaced by one of the old friends from Berlin, Michael Hoenig.
This was not the last time Hoenig would appear as a guest musician or stand-in for Peter Baumann, but he never became a regular member even though his playing-style fitted perfectly into the Tangerine Dream concept. Michael Hoenig has later made a solo career in synthesizer music. He has made a lot of soundtracks and produced albums with various artists. It can also be mentioned that he was in on Phillip Glass` album, "Koyaanisquatsi", which is the minimalistic soundtrack to the very beautiful movie by the same name.
About getting new members of the band, Edgar Froese has said that in this particular period it was a very complicated affair to get new people to join Tangerine Dream. The technology was still on a very low level, much of it were home-made and you had to have an enormous insight and overview in order to be able to follow the technical aspects and at the same time have some mental reserves to play improvised music - with your soul! It might take years to get on the same level with new people, so the band were consciously determined to stick to the core members, i.e. Froese, Baumann and Franke. And this meant even if Peter Baumann had to do something else once in a while!
To many people, this trio is the real Tangerine Dream crew, and it may hold true in the very sense Edgar Froese mentions above; as very few before or after them, these three people were able to create improvised music on a very high level and with an almost telepathic precision.
As an example of the significance of this trio is the book which come with the four-album box from Virgin, "Tangerine Dream ´70 -´80", it contains almost only pictures of Froese, Franke and Baumann. These three gentlemen however, only played together for about six years; the period from 1971-1977, but those years were also the years when Tangerine Dream had the biggest impact as something new and innovative.
On 2nd April 1975, Tangerine Dream gave a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London, which was completely sold out. I have heard some excerpts from the concert, which sounds like something in between the music from Phaedra and Rubycon - with a lot of space for long improvisations.
The concert was also attended by the German music critic, Manfred Gillig, who describes the event in the following way:
"On stage there are mountains of amplifiers, loudspeakers, synthesizers and organs between a pair of palms - all covered in s dim blue light. I am still tired. This can't go well, I think. But then the three from Berlin are seated behind their mixers and ethereal sounds penetrates the Royal Albert Hall. Quadraphonic sound waves first from the left then from the right and then from behind, from above, the front - I relax. Unearthly noise - a chorus with hundreds of voices covers me and fills up this venerable house. Somewhere was the well-known monolith from 2001 floating. From all directions came drum sounds, floating around in the room for at last gather in the front and a procession of complicated rhythms moving slowly between each other. The drum sounds spreading up against the walls in the giant hall and above it all a helicopter flying with tapping rotor blades - Then the noise of a Mediterranean night; Grasshoppers and cicadas fills Royal Albert Hall with their singing. The surf at the beach, waves chorusing against the stones rolling on the beach. Is it the sea or the banks of Rubycon?". (Träume von synthetischen Mandarinen? - Sounds June 1975)
Later the same year, Tangerine Dream played a few more concerts in Germany and France - once again in Reims; this time not in the cathedral, but in the opera house!
On 4th October 1975, they began a longer tour in England. The first concert, where Tangerine Dream played in Coventry Cathedral, was filmed for the BBC by Tony Palmer. This 28-minute long TV film was shown on Swedish TV shortly afterwards, and I think that this was one of my first rendezvous with Tangerine Dream and their music.
This movie gives quite a good picture of how Tangerine Dream made use of visual elements as an important part of their show. It is not as much the pictures of the musicians on stage as it is the use of colours, candles, the architecture of the church together with the music that creates the special mood.
Well, there might be another reason why you do not see that much of the musicians; if you look closely, you will see that something is not right; what you see and what their fingers play are not synchronised - the music is taken from the album, Ricochet and put on to the pictures later - and even Ricochet is an album put together from many different live pieces and not just one concert.
The following year, it became one of Tangerine Dream's trademarks to play at exotic venues rather than ordinary concerts at ordinary concert halls. Many churches, cathedrals and other historically interesting places have formed the visual background for the music.
In November 1975, a live album was released with the title Ricochet. It was recorded during the tour earlier the same year, in England and possible France. The title is not as cosmic as those on the previous albums: Ricochet is just named after an electronic game the band got obsessed with during these tours!
Ricochet is a very good live recording, but whether or not it is a real live album might be a good question; approximately 40 hours of music was recorded on the tour, so Tangerine Dream spent a lot of time finding the best pieces and putting them together to form a new piece. New material was also added - as the piano solo at the beginning of "Ricochet part 2", which was recorded on the piano in the living room at the Manor Studio a few days earlier! Several parts were recorded in a studio - like the drum part maybe? - But all in all, the result is rather good and the music on the album is more melodic than the music on the previous albums.
It is also impressive that Tangerine Dream managed to get that much good music from the concerts down on tape at all, since they did not make any substantial use of a frontmixer, but did most of the mixing themselves on stage. To be able to hear what was coming out of the front speakers, it was necessary to turn up the volume and that might not always have been a pleasure to the audience; Tangerine Dream had gained the reputation of being one of the loudest bands around and at one point the sound pressure in front of the P.A. system was measured to be about 120 dB!
Many people consider Ricochet as one of the highlights of Tangerine Dream´s early career and I can only agree to that. I think that this album whether live or not captures many of the elements that is the quintessence of Tangerine Dream in this period; driving sequencers, melodic guitar, the mellotron lurking in the background, strange sounds, a cosmic atmosphere and on top of that, simple but very logic melodies or themes given sufficient time to be explored deeply.
In the spring of 1976, Tangerine Dream played a few concerts in various places around Europe, and all through that summer, Peter Baumann recorded his first solo project, "Romance 76". He felt that he had more and more difficulties finding his role in Tangerine Dream and he needed to go his own ways. He was passionate about his first solo album, and it gained a lot of appreciation and was even played on the radio a few times.
In August, Tangerine Dream went to the Audio studio in Berlin to record what would become the album, Stratosfear. It was released in October, and at the same time, the band went on a big tour throughout Europe to promote the album. More than 30 concerts in Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, England and Scotland were accomplished.
Stratosfear is much more ordinary in its sound and expression than the earlier albums. The tracks are shorter than before and they are much more melodic. The music has a higher degree of tonality and a lot of acoustic instruments like the grand piano, the chembalo and the mouth organ (!). Edgar Froese made frequent use of his abilities on both the acoustic and the electric guitar. His very characteristic and melodic way of playing has later on become one of the trademarks of the band.
As so many times before, in these very early days of electronics, they had a lot of problems with their equipment while recording: Peter Baumann had a new sequencer, which it had taken a German company a year to build, but it was not completely ready and in the studio it did not work properly. When it was finally made to work, the multi-track recorders broke down and at one point, smoke was pouring out of the studio's Dolby units and they could not record without them.
The three members of the band were very frustrated and besides the technical problems they where arguing about what music they should play and have on the album:
Froese: "When I appeared in the studio one day with a harmonica, the absurdity of the situation was revealed. It was supposed to be a joke, retort to the unpredictability of the technology., but after playing it during the beginning of "3 A.M." everybody decided to leave it on. So much had happened during these sessions - master tapes at times disappeared from the studio, finished tracks were mysteriously erased and the mixing console finally went up in smoke. The events which occurred during the making of Stratosfear alone would fill an entire book!". (Interview with Mark Pendergast - January 1994/ Tangents)
If you could feel the same mood on the earlier albums as in the movie, "2001" A Space Odyssey", then the cover of Stratosfear might be a clear reference to this movie; big Monolith-like objects floating in formation over a deserted and strange landscape! Once again a spectacular cover from the hands of Monique Froese.
Stratosfear is a classic, and in my opinion, also one of the absolutely best albums by Tangerine Dream. Even the band members themselves must have been rather satisfied with the result, because the title track has often been played at concerts and been re-recorded in different versions - the latest one on Tyranny of Beauty with the title, "Stratosfear 1995".
This was also the period where a new chapter in the career of Tangerine Dream would begin, when they were asked by the American film director William Friedkin (who made movies like "The French Connection" and "Exorcist") to make the music for his movie. Friedkin was very enthusiastic about the music of Tangerine Dream and wished to use their music to make a frame around a re-making of Clouzots, "The Wages of Fear" from 1953.
Tangerine Dream were handed the script and were given the opportunity to do whatever they wanted. Finally, it ended up with the rather unusual situation that the soundtrack was ready before the camera work began!
While working in the jungle, William Friedkin placed loudspeakers all over the place and played Tangerine Dream's music to inspire and get the film crew into the right mood.
These very good and free conditions were perfect working conditions for Tangerine Dream and their electronic instruments.
Froese: "All our knowledge about improvising and creating very fast meant that when we sat down for the first time and started to compose the music for Friedkin - the first time I've ever composed - it was so easy! It was so easy because we just put down in a few words: a few discussions about forms and melody lines and prism structures and so on. We wrote it down, we made some scripts and then we taped the lot!" (New Musical Express - July 1977).
When the movie finally had its premiere, Tangerine Dream were a little bit disappointed by the result: according to the band, too many of the tracks were not used in their entirety and lost a little bit of the idea, but in several places - like at the beginning of the movie, where you see a helicopter passing over the South American rain forest - the music fits perfectly.
William Friedkin; "The music of Tangerine Dream was an early and major inspiration for the film Sorcerer. One day in the middle of a primeval forest in the Dominican Republic, about six month into shooting, a tape arrived from THE DREAM, containing ninety minutes of musical impressions. It is from this tape that the film has been scored. They just read the script and recorded the entire score. Yet somehow they were able to capture and enhance every nuance of each moment where their music is heard. The film and the score are inseparable." (Sorcerer Slevenotes - 1977)
The movie was never really a success, but when the soundtrack came out in the summer of 1977, it was nevertheless found to be on the English charts! This clearly opened some door to the film industry, where Tangerine Dream ended up being one of the most used bands for composing soundtracks.
For a long period of time the band made a good living out of making music for bigger and smaller movie productions. In the eighties you could almost talk about a mass production, until it got too much for Edgar Froese & Co. They have now stopped that line of work - at least until further notice - well, apart from some minor soundtrack production now and then.
At the beginning of 1977, Peter Baumann was occupied with arranging his studio in Berlin and incorporating new equipment. It was left to Froese and Franke to plan the forthcoming tour in the United States.
The tour started on 29th March in Milwaukee, and ended on 26th April but was later extended with four concerts in July and August. The tour turned out to be a very big success and many concerts were sold out in only a few days. Some concerts had to be cancelled since some of the promoters went bankrupt when Emerson, Lake and Palmer called off a big tour with a 120-piece orchestra. The promoters - and Tangerine Dream - lost a lot of money.
A new P.A. system - specially designed for Tangerine Dream in England - was brought into use on that tour. It was designed by Martin Audio and was able to handle both the very deep bass and the very clear sound that a synthesizer can produce. Especially the lowest spectrum of a synthesizer sound can be very violent to a speaker system, but this new equipment could handle it and play loud - and it was played very LOUD!
For the concerts, Tangerine Dream had chosen to use the company "The Laserium Light Show" for the visual side of the tour. It was one of the first companies to incorporate lasers in their light show, which they have been doing since 1973. Sent through different kinds of prisms and modulated otherwise, a laser can create the most unbelievable and beautiful colours, figures and forms in three dimensions.
For many years, The Laserium was located at the Planetarium in London, and every day there were several shows; to the music of Pink Floyd, Jean Michel Jarre and Alan Parsons you could experience a "laserist" improvise - and it was different from show to show.
I myself have taken the journey below the star dome in the London Planetarium quite a few times, and it has been an extraordinary experience every time. If you remember the last part of Stanley Kubrick's famous movie "2001", you will have an idea of what it was like...Sadly, the Laserium in London does not exist anymore! Miles from the New Musical Express wrote about his experience of the Laserium at the concert in Washington D.C:
"A nebulous cloud appeared on the screen behind the group. It floated, ever-changing, in an illusion of three dimensions, like an universe in creation. The intensity of the red laser light gave the projected image a degree of substance that a conventional light-show lack. It was as if flames were burning inside the cloud!" (NME 16/7 - 1977)
The tour was immortalised on the double album, Encore, which came out in October 1977. It made its way to a 55th placement on the English charts. The music is the well-known style from the past few years - four long pieces that each take up one side of the album. The album sounds very live-like and the presence of the audience is quite obvious, but a lot of re-mixing and pasting of music from different concerts and recordings from the performance, Oedipus Tyrannous, was done at the studio afterwards. Bootlegs of the concerts show a different picture; the concerts were much more heavy and raw than Encore seems to reflect!
It was Peter Baumann who did the mixing on the album and that would become his last assignment as a musician in Tangerine Dream; he left the group in November to concentrate on a solo career.
There had been a lot of controversy during the seven years the trio played and toured together, and the rumours had been whirling: Peter Baumann had left the band, he was being replaced by a computer, he had gone solo, he had re-entered the band, he had never left, and so on...