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Julian Cope on Faust and Jim Kerr, and the term “Krautrock”

So the Faust 1971-1974 LP/CD was released last week and today The Guardian published a good primer to the band (no doubt further pushing up the price).

Faust are confusing, purposefully so, partly because of the band’s development and discography. There are currently two line-ups that can legitimately lay claim to the name, while only three of the “famous” first five albums are vaguely traditional in form: The Faust Tapes was an assembly of outtakes, recordings and noises, none of which were originally named (or at least, they weren’t on the vinyl copy I own), while the never officially released fifth album was known informally as The Munich Album and now Punkt in this box set.

Moreover, Faust disappeared from 1975 to 1990. Unsurprisingly, a set of myths have grown up round the band, one of which surfaces in The Guardian article – the odd idea that Simple Minds are big fans.

Now, this could be because the journalist (or even the band) are having a little joke at the reader’s expense. Anyway, it’s not true (although I guess it could be, but it’s not an accepted truth), and a (again, purposeful?) corruption of a Julian Cope anecdote from his book Krautrocksampler. Luckily, I have a first edition (making it by far the most valuable book or record I own), and here it is:

A page of a book opened on a table.

From Julian Cope’s article on The Faust Tapes.

The relevant section:

Even better, The Faust Tapes was the social phenomenon of 1973, and it finally brought the true avant garde into everyone’s living room, for a short while at least. But most of all this LP revealed just which side of the fence everyone was really standing. In April 1980, Jim Kerr, leader of dinosaurs Simple Minds, gleefully told me how he and his mates had all chucked their copies of The Faust Tapes off the roof of a Glasgow tenement. Enough Said? I’m sure that’s the phrase.

The Guardian article elicits a few comments on the word Krautrock. I can understand this – Kraut is a boorish, offensive term that has largely, and thankfully, fallen out of use, although it was fairly common when I was at school. One of the commenters suggests GER (German Experimental Rock) instead, which I quite like for its cleverness, but not for the “rock” bit, which suggests AOR.

This music isn’t rock in the “canonical”, Anglo-American sense. However, Krautrock was, I think, generally co-opted by these (mainly) German musicians; perhaps as a joke at the British press’s invention of the term (which makes the rock bit ironically acceptable), or even as a re-appropriation. The first track on Faust IV is called Krautrock. Anyway, it’s the term I’ve used since I discovered this magnificent music back in the early 1990s.