Published on January 28th, 2013 | by Alan Cross0
Kraftwerk: The Most Influential Band in the World
Let’s take a poll of the most influential rock musicians ever.
Elvis? Definitely. Beatles? No question. Rolling Stones? Probably. Kraftwerk. Abso-f**kin’–lutely. The Guardian sums things up nicely.
Back in September 1975, a band played in Britain for the very first time. On stages from Croydon to Bath, from Southport to Yeovil, they wore smart suits and ties and played peculiar instruments. There was no clamour for tickets, no feverish press. This review of a half-full show in Newcastle was par for the course: “Spineless, emotionless sound with no variety, less taste… [and] damn little attempt to pull off anything experimental, artistically satisfying or new,” wrote Keith Ging in the Melody Maker. “For God’s sake,” he railed, “keep the robots out of music.”
Here in the 21st century, Kraftwerk‘s forthcoming gigs at Tate Modern are the hottest tickets around. Back in December, demand for them crashed the gallery’s website; angry fans who missed out stormed the venue, while thousands raged online. For eight nights in February, Ralf Hütter, Fritz Hilpert, Henning Schmitz and Falk Grieffenhagen will play each Kraftwerk album since 1974 in turn – from their fourth, Autobahn, to 2003’s Tour De France Soundtracks – with 3D film versions of their iconic visuals. They will wear neoprene neon suits and stand behind expensive technology. They did the same to rapturous reception in 2012 at New York’s Moma and at the Kunstammlung in their hometown, Düsseldorf, last month.
These are art-event spectaculars to which everyone wants entry because no other band since the Beatles has given so much to pop culture. Kraftwerk’s beats laid the foundations for club music: for hip-hop, synth-pop, techno and house. The sounds they invented have been sampled by hundreds of artists, from Madonna to R.E.M, from Missy Elliott to Fergie. Coldplay and Jay-Z have had hits with their elegant melodies and their image has influenced David Bowie, Daft Punk and Kanye West. We also now live in the kind of world their future-obsessed lyrics predicted: we find Computer Love online, models smile from time to time and Europe Endless exists.