The history and music of Germany’s Krautrock era has more books written about it and recordings endlessly reissued than existed during its original golden age. Some of the era’s artists still produce music today, only a few are still creative. Most repeat formulas, pale imitations of their former selves. Labels cash in, and nostalgia rules the day, while quantity overwhelms quality. When it comes to Krautrock, we are awash in musical detritus, including posthumous accounts of how the German scene began. There are copious print and online writings about this band or that record by neo-journalists, but precious little historical insight, analysis or information about the original pioneers who served as catalyst. Amongst the missing, are The Cosmic Couriers.
That raises the question of what happened to Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser & Gille Lettmann. Some say they went crazy due to an overdose of drugs and their own hubris. Others say they became beggars on the street and then died. There are those who think they fell victim to artists, who when they got offers of big money from major record companies, then used legal means to escape their contracts which ultimately destroyed the very people who helped them establish a career, released their music and promoted them, when no one else would even listen to the music they made.
Back in the heady days of yore, inspired by Ian MacDonald’s and Karl Dallas’ original Melody Maker & NME articles on Krautrock, Eurock was created in 1971 as a radio program, the original US conduit which hit the airwaves and played music from the then emerging German scene. A short time later, it branched out to become the first English language magazine writing about it. Shortly thereafter, the original concept expanded to cover the entirety of European music, then ultimately the global music scene and its cultural impact.
This article tells a very particular story, presenting the words of The Cosmic Couriers translated from various original documents given to a correspondent friend of Eurock who was studying at the Goethe Institute in the Summer of 1973 visited the couple at their home in Germany and brought back gifts and a wealth of information from Rolf & Gille. Following that, we kept in touch via written personal correspondence over a couple of years until they vanished.
While combing through the entire Eurock Archives the last couple years I’ve unearthed a treasure trove of original documents, photos and personal correspondences from not only Rolf & Gille, but also many other artists, labels and producers from around the globe. Much of this material was not included in the previous Eurock productions – The Golden Age (CD-ROM) and Eurock – European Rock & the Second Culture (Book + eBook) – that featured real-time, written while the scene unfolded over the years articles, interviews & reviews covering the original German, European and International scene.
The writings offered here (translated from the German language) offer a fascinating sociological story about the people, music and newly evolving culture of those times, not only in Germany, but also worldwide. In retrospect, I personally feel that it was the best of times, and the worst of times. Whatever the case, it is crystal-clear that all that transpired surely led us to the world we live in now. It has become what we made it. About that ultimate result, I will let you draw your own conclusions.
It is a fact that life was very different way back then. After WW 2, a new German generation crawled its way out of the rubble of the Third Reich to encounter an establishment re-created on the foundation of an old social order. Their government involved in the Vietnam War, allowed the presence of American bases on German soil. Young people grew up in a shell-shocked environment. Many reacted against that, the Red Army Fraction/ Baader-Meinhof were tearing the country apart. Musically, spoon-fed on rock ‘n’ roll and dosed with LSD they forsake Schlager to create a brand new sound. Krautrock without doubt in the beginning was a psychic reflection, channeled into a sound track of their youth, which emerged from Germany’s national DNA.
With all this in mind, read this once upon a time story about a part of that new generation, who after overcoming their initial shock came to see the world from a more wide-eyed, playful perspective, and believed it was important to live life with an open and adventurous creative spirit. In Germany, and around the world, a new international consciousness came into being during that era, the times they were a changing, and forever altered in more ways than anyone could have ever imagined. The story of The Cosmic Couriers, Rolf & Gille, was in many ways a paradigm example of that. Little known now and ultimately written out of the cultural lexicon, sometimes dreams die hard, old memories simply fade away. Rolf & Gille are still alive, now living out of touch with the world today by choice. Their dreams live on only as words in the ether.
A New Sound is Starting From Germany
Gille Lettmann and Rolf-Ulrich-Kaiser (The Producers of the Cosmic Couriers) begin their new label Kosmische Musik (distributed in Germany by Metronome records) with 10 Quadraphonic recordings and the game TAROT. The name of the label, which includes the internationally known Ohr label, is Cosmic Music, the Sound of the Cosmic Couriers.The Cosmic Musicians play all styles of folk, rock & synthesizer music. They use all kinds of machines. Sound effects whistle, synthesizers hum, strong rhythms pulsate and warm melodies float.
Wallenstein morphs into the Symphonic Rock Orchestra, combining classical with rock. Witthüser & Westrupp (the Magic Band) sing cosmic fairy tales. Ash Ra Tempel, Mythos, Klaus Schulze & Tangerine Dream produce electronic rock, Popol Vuh creates Sacred Music.
The Starry Eyed Girl & the Cosmic Courier have established two companies, the Berlin recording company Ohr Musik Produktion GmbH and the Berlin publishing company Cosmic News Musik Verlag GmbH. The heads of several music companies and journalists from all around the world came the last few months to the Quadro Studio of Dieter Dierks near Cologne. They listened to the new Quadro Sounds from Space, flying off into a new dimension of music, time and space. The US magazine Rolling Stone sent a special correspondent. He headlined his report – “Germany’s New Sound of Cosmic Music”.
The World is Young
The Starry Eyed Girl produces a new style of music, “The Principal in Silk and Satin” (in Jasmin, a leading German woman’s magazine) for young people: 50% of the population in Western industrial society today is under 30 years old. For example, Federal Republic of Germany: 30 million people under 30. They are turned on by new ideas; melodies form their fantasies and communication.
The Producers of the Cosmic Couriers start their own: “Pop Music Combine in the Beatles Dimension” with music: “Through music your people can be reached directly, music is the most intuitive communication medium existing. Music forms our dreams. Every one of us has the possibility to develop our own creativity. Above all: Through Music, We expand, Into a more beautiful world.” (Jasmin)
The Birth of Cosmic Music
In 1970, the record producer Peter Meisel and rock critic Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser (who has published 10 books) founded Ohr Music Produktion GmbH in Berlin. They selected the best and most adventurous new musicians on the scene and produced their albums.
By 1972, the record sales of German rock had increased dramatically. The whole industry changed, catching up with this new trend. Within three years, Ohr Musik Produktion had established three record labels – Ohr (Ear), Pilz (Mushroom) & Die Kosmischen Kuriere (The Cosmic Couriers) and released 60 albums.
May 18, 1973, The Starry Eyed Girl Gille and Cosmic Courier Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser bought the shares of Peter Meisel and prepared the start of a new sound. The magazine Jasmin estimated the price at over 500,000 DM.
Cosmic Music is the music of the Sci-Fi Dimension, produced in the most modern electro-acoustic medium – Quadraphonic. Behind closed doors in his studio Dieter Dirks mixed down 15 new Quadro albums in a new way, so that they have the ability to play in both Stereo and Monaural mediums, producing even better than normal quality.
“With Stereo, we listened, with Quadro we swim in the sounds. Our melodies soar through the spheres; our rhythms pulsate through the star spangled worlds of Sci-Fi. Our Quadro sound offers endless possibilities for new listening adventures in the future. Take up your Quadro Headphones & Fly!”
Star Sounds ~ Discover the Galaxy of Cosmic Music
Skylab calling Terra: We are living in the new age. TV Broadcasts from space Live. The Saturn rocket is on the way into space carrying supplies to create a laboratory in the heavens. Somewhere, far from our earth, the astronauts climb from their spaceship into the galaxy. Weightless they glide to Skylab. They go about their tasks, repairing in space. When Skylab’s TV camera pivots further outward, millions of stars sparkle before our eyes. In boundless fantasy, we imagine what goes on in distant galaxies.
Do other beings live there? Do space vessels chase about at the speed of light? Have their pilots already visited Terra, our planet?
“We want you to prepare the Earth for our landing.” The American scientist Dr. Andrija Puharich claims to have received this message through electromagnetic waves from the envoys of planet Hoova, a planet 6000 times larger than our Earth, according to the description received. This is referenced in Puharich’s authorized biography of Uri Geller. They first landed on the Planet Earth 6000 years ago, during the time of Pharaoh Imhotep, in Egypt: “We can do nearly everything through you. We can be visible & invisible.”
That is our world. We discover the sound of Solar System, the Milky Way, the Universe. We play music broadcasting our adventures out into the cosmos. We are Cosmic Couriers.
With the Cosmic Jokers, we travel into the fantasy worlds of Galactic Supermarket, to the Planeten Sit-In. Sternenmädchen Gille steers her space ship through the flashing worlds of Science Fiction, visiting the Magicians. She calls her spacecraft Zeitschiff.
Starry Eyed Girl calling you: I am flying around in my Time Ship. This is my space ship Enterprise. Discover the new magicians with me. Fly in my ship to the time of Tutenkh-amen, the master of aesthetics, and Leonardo da Vinci, the discoverer of boundless fantasy. Let Cagliostro, the eternal charlatan, and Ludwig van Beethoven, the magician of tone color enchant you. Visit Werner van Braun, the architect of man’s first journeys into space.
Starry Eyed Girl calling you: Forget the common concept of the magician as a trick artist. My friends are the Couriers of unlimited possibilities, Geniuses of ideas and Cosmic envoys from another world. Like Albert Einstein, to whom formulas revealed themselves in a dream.
Bettina von Brentano, also a Starry Eyed Girl, wrote to the poet Goethe in 1810 about the composer Ludwig van Beethoven: “I can confirm to you that I believe in a divine magic, which is the element of intellectual nature; Beethoven practices this magic in his art; everything he can teach you is pure magic.”
Our music is called Cosmic Music. It is played by Cosmic Composers. The Cosmic Jokers, Wallenstein, Ash Ra Tempel, Mythos, Klaus Schulze, Sternenmädchen, the Tarot Band, Jerry Rainbow, Popol Vuh, Rosi and many others. Their songs tell thrilling stories, contain stellar melodies and dip into the cosmic space of Science Fiction soundscapes. We say Sci-Fi. That is our abbreviation for Science Fiction without horror, which is instead full of adventure and joy.
Cosmic Music is the sound of the Starship-Enterprise-Generation and children of the most fantastic composer of all time, Ludwig van Beethoven. It contains sounds from unknown worlds, incomprehensible, fantastic and extraterrestrial, acoustic signals for flights into the galaxy. New telepathic codes of Cosmic Music are stored in newly discovered electronic frequencies, transmitted through flashing light, magic colors and the sound of electrons.
Galaxy Sounds (Course the Sun)
Sternenmädchen calling you: Close your eyes. Put on the Quadraphonic headphones, you can hear the telepathic signals of the new sound. You will see movies of the galaxy, hovering over the new sounds of beauty. The sun shines into your life. Fly along and experience a more beautiful world with us.
Think of Skylab once again. In the original tone of the TV broadcast, celestial sounds are heard; the humming of the planets, the flashing of falling stars, whistling of solar winds. In the Quad studios near Cologne, we re-create those sounds.
There we record celestial sounds, with Dieter Dierks in the cockpit mixing 40 quadraphonic channels of music from space. It is here that the galaxy sound originates, which also offers multi-layers of stereo and monaural sound. The music offers a brand new listening experience created especially by us for you to enjoy.
The Cosmic Composers are in the studio, the headphones glowing. Today the Cosmic Jokers are playing – Harald & Jürgen of Wallenstein, Manuel & Rosi from Ash Ra Temple, Klaus Schulze, Dieter & the Starry Eyed Girl. All instruments are tuned in – organ, piano, synthesizer, guitars. Each musician is inspired, follows no rules, creating all styles- rock, folk, classic and electronic.
Most of all they compose and play electronically. When we got our first synthesizer, we forgot the world around us for an entire day. At first, we were amazed that the sound machines, they played themselves. We turned on the oscillators, which produced continuous tonal pulsations, then the filters that changed the pulsations rhythmically or melodically.
Now the rockets take off, and airplanes land. No one needs lessons for electronics. Anyone could play the Sound machines. All that is needed is a curiosity about Fantasy.
Starry Eyed Girl calling you: My fashions are Cosmic Sternenmode. They display the colors of the cosmos filled with Stars, Suns, Comets & Galaxies that radiate joy like our music. Fashion and music belong together. They make the world more beautiful, inspire fantasy and joy in people.
We are Cosmic Couriers. We live in a new age. We create Cosmic Music. We created our own cosmic Tarot game and everyone can play. We live in the new age. Everyone has fantasies. Anyone can play along. We show everyone the beauty we have discovered ourselves. We are waiting for your discoveries.
Silver Channels (Course the Cosmos)
We recently had another visitor in the Quad Studio. Some days later Dieter Liffers writes in the publication Show:
“They work without considering it work, on an optimistic, quadraphonic sound, on colorful fashions, on fascinating toys for big and small, on a revolutionary, positive horoscope system, on peaceful comic strips with space appeal.
I personally cannot escape the strong attraction of their willful ideas. You should simply listen, see and be amazed, just like I did.”
Fly with Us, Climb into our Time Ship.
Read More @ The Mythos of Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser
[Translation: Kevin Wilson]
[Photos: Marcel Fugere, Eurock Archives]