In the annals of European music, one concert stands out as preeminent still today, ranking as legendary in terms of crystallizing a transcendent moment in time for an era and its music. The two performances held on Friday DEC 13, 1974 at the Cathedrale Notre-Dame in Reims, France featured Nico & Tangerine Dream.
It was both a glorious event, and as it turned out a watershed moment in time that served to foreshadow the end of the second culture and its music that has come to pass today. This film made by Benoit Garel is a chronicle of that time in France, featuring some of the people involved who offer a retrospective look back at the mode of the music and how it all came to happen back then. It was broadcast on TV by France 3 on DEC 15, 2012.
While filmed in French it nonetheless offers up a visual collage of photos, posters, magazines, interviews, mixed media materials & film clips featuring the movers and shakers who were exploring new ideas and music at that time, and working to make it happen. Featured are original music agitators like Marc Blanc (of Ame Son), Marc Zermati (of New Rose/Sky Dog Records), Assaad Debs, the concert producer and manager who brought all the Krautrock bands, Tangerine Dream, Can, Kraftwerk, Agitation Free, Ashra to France, Jérome Laperrousaz, who directed the film Continental Circus featuring music by Gong, Tim Blake (of Gong/ Hawkwind), Gilles Yéprémian (Manager of Urban Sax) and others. They all offer their perspectives on the development of this new scene, such as Music Action Reims collective, Actuel?! Magazine and the Open Market record store to mention but a few. Most striking perhaps is the viewpoint and impact of Virgin Records in France as told by the very young and hip Richard Branson.
The film also contains video footage of Gong, Agitation Free, Henry Cow and most importantly, Tangerine Dream has several live segments as well as finally Nico from the Reims concert. The end of the film is haunting and emotionally powerful as a screen is set up in the Cathedrale Notre-Dame in Reims and several of the films contributors watch a Nico performance projected and that screen. Having seen Nico perform live several times in the US in small venues myself, I can hardly imagine the experience of seeing her Live, or on film, in that amazingly beautiful sacred space.
The movie overall does a good job of offering viewers an insight into the magic and electric energy that was in the air back then. At the end, it also offers a glimpse of the reality of those dreams and how that reality set the stage for the world to become as it is today. Due to the audience at Reims engaging in acts of desecration, urinating on the columns, smoking pot and vandalism, future concerts and music there were banned. The ultimate irony perhaps is that today several of the people involved in the original filming of the concert are now hindering the release and presentation of this new film. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
Nico tragically did not make it to the Millennium. Tangerine Dream (now only Edgar and hired guns) has turned into a mass merchandising company re-recording classic material , reissuing old recordings over and over again, as well recently recording a covers album featuring TD muzak-like versions of classic rock hits like Hotel California. The pioneering spirit of the past is now gone. The music is being cloned by 70 year olds and still consumed by their fans making it marginally marketable, but the cold hard reality is that this turn of events truly represents an abject sell-out of all they originally stood for and believed in creatively and philosophically. In the beginning, the experimental spirit and desire to go outside the box where no one had gone before were what made the music and the artists who created it then different. Dreams die hard, and Dreamer’s who have lost their way today may well bear a heavier cross than those in former days who never claimed to be anything more than what they were.