OK, so this is definitely NQM (Not Quite Mainz) and decidely waaay off track, but it’s too good to just skim past.
Jan Liefers is a German actor with cult status.
Classic descriptions – minor roles in major films, major roles in minor films, television actor – don’t do him justice.
Think: the rapid-fire delivery (without the self-satisfaction) and eloquence of Billy Crystal, the wit of Woody Allen and the ironic, self-effacing nature of the young Michael Caine or the mature Albert Finney.(“OK, those of you with seats – share them with the folks who are standing in the true Socialist spirit…”)
That comes fairly close.
He’s best known for his role as a criminal pathologist in a prime time series that drip-feeds you an episode every 6 months or so and totally unknown for his lead role in a black comedy (“Bis zum Ellenbogen“) that attracted all of 5 punters (only 2 of whom laughed at all, 1 of whom continuously – and has the bruises to prove it…) at an art cinema in Mainz on the night we went.
He also had a childhood, adolescence and young adulthood in East Germany and – together with his (bloody good) band “Oblivion” – he revisits the “Soundtrack of my childhood”, playing the songs that your love of music indelibly stamps on your psyche.
You have to understand what it must be like to grow up in a numbingly stultifying dictatorship like the 40 odd years that East Germans had to endure:
Parents are intellectuals? You can’t study. That’s reserved for the workers
Want to study anyway? Join the army and we guarantee that you can. Except that you can’t trust us to keep our word.
Want to play music? We have to approve it. Except that we won’t.
Want a phone? Wait until we’ve bugged the line. 7 years.
Want to travel outside the country? How about Bulgaria?
Want to emigrate? Apply here. Oh, and by the way, you’re now unemployed. And unemployable.
It’s not as if Honecker and his evil crew had mass graves of opposition activists like in Chile or took radicals up in helicopters and dropped them off over the ocean like the Argentinean junta.
Just 1984 with a twist of Catch 22 for good measure.
For 40 odd years.
Jan Liefers says that he doesn’t miss it for a second.
That, I can believe.
But if you see his concert, you can perhaps just START to imagine what it was like.
And it’s not REALLY a concert. It’s more of an amalgam of personal experiences, political leanings, family Super 8 film clips as a light show and the music from East German bands that comprises the soundtrack of his childhood, underpinned by Muzak/Tin Pan Alley-like patriotic songs of the era and clips of the inane spoutings of political leaders.
Phenomenal just begins to describe it.
A couple of tracks (and I know he’ll be cool with that) from his album. I went into
fan boy boring old fart mode and got him to sign my copy. (THAT’s a keeper, for sure)
Als ich wie ein Vogel war – Jan Josef Liefers and Oblivion – Soundtrack meiner Kindheit
(Original by Renft)
Mein Herz soll ein Wasser sein – Jan Josef Liefers and Oblivion – Soundtrack meiner Kindheit
(Original by Lift)
Wenn ein Mensch lebt – Jan Josef Liefers and Oblivion – Soundtrack meiner Kindheit
(Original by Puhdys, melody shamelessly nicked from the Bee Gees’ “Spicks and Specks”, lyrics from the Byrds’/Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn” – Ecclesiates 3.1, actually.. and bits of the Beatles’ “All you need is love” at the end)
Forget the translation.
Just accept the universality of music.
It all looks the same, anyway