An introduction to music research
An introduction to music research

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An introduction to music research

4.8 Ton Steine Scherben

The protest song also played a prominent cultural role in the politics of West Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As Timothy Brown states: “radical music and radical politics were mutually constitutive [in West Germany]. Not only did rock music both generate and mirror the ideas and slogans of the movement…but it mirrored, in its modes of cultural production, larger themes of the protest movements that rocked West German society in the sixties and seventies” (2009, p. 2).

As Brown’s research reveals, a significant group in this regard were Ton Steine Scherben (usually translated as Clay, Stone, Shards—a nod in part to The Rolling Stones). They had their origins in the radical street theatre of the 1960s, and in an earlier incarnation had written a Singspiel depicting the conflicts of everyday life. It featured a song that became the group’s first single, “Macht kaputt was euch kaputt macht” (Destroy that which destroys you) which speaks of the frustration of a man caught in a world of impersonal forces (Brown 2009, p. 8). It also expresses a deeply political scepticism of contemporary consumer culture, and in that sense connects with the radical politics of the left—which in West Germany at this time were even manifested in terrorist activities by groups such as the Red Army Faction (often known at the time as ‘The Baader-Meinhof Gang’).

Activity 21

Listen to this extract from “Macht kaputt was euch kaputt macht” to get a sense of the musical style.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: Audio 5 
Audio 5 
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If you’d like to read the German lyrics for “Macht kaputt was euch kaputt macht,” you can do so here.

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