Dance Music of the Third Reich…

Aha, somebody has been featuring ‘Charlie and His Orchestra’ on television or radio I thought, judging by the sudden increase in sales for Tomahawk Film’s album of the same name…but whom I wondered..? I had recently sent a review copy up to a BBC contact of mine who I know is thinking about producing something on the phenomenon that is Third Reich military music… but this was too early in his creative process to have actually been aired!

Then I got a confirming e-mail from a customer ordering one of our Charlie CDs in which he exclaimed that he was somewhat surprised to see BBC 4 including the subject of Nazi music in a Swing documentary at the week-end!! Happily, I was able to respond that this is not something new, for ’Auntie’ has recently included some of the Reich’s finest music in its programming output, not least on BBC Radio Two a short while ago, when some of our archival material got a very welcome & rather popular airing:

The late Malcolm Laycock, (who presented a really superb late night swing & jazz show on Sunday evenings, of which I was a great fan), contacted us here at Tomahawk a few years ago after we had released 4 further albums of Third Reich civilian music to say he was interested in acquiring those titles for his own collection: Lale Andersen, Wilhelm Strienz and Zarah Leander.. but particularly our Dance Music of the Third Reich which featured the music of Barnabas von Géczy, who was incidentally, Adolf Hitler’s favourite civilian band-leader.

He also asked if it would be possibly to air a track or two from this latter album on his Sunday show, if we were agreeable? Agreeable!…with an audience measured in the many millions, what a wonderful shop-window for Tomahawk’s Archival CDs… and to play to such a knowledgeable & learned audience as those that regularly listened in to his wonderful late night Radio Two Show…

But what of this particular album of German Dance Music that Malcolm was so keen to acquire? Well there were a total of 93,857 professional musicians under contract across Germany when the Third Reich came into existence in 1933 and by war’s outbreak in 1939 this number had grown to a staggering 172,443, thanks to Propagandaminister Joseph Goebbels realising the power that music and radio had on a population; and  within a year of the Nazis coming to power, he had personally taken charge of this vital propaganda tool for the German government, which eventually led to some 5 million German homes receiving state radio broadcasts across the Reich..!

Goebbels skilfully & successfully balanced the world of entertainment with the field of politics and by 1938 light entertainment music, (Unterhaltungsmusik), accounted for nearly two thirds of all music output across the Third Reich and German radio was very popular for its willingness to play the latest dance records… and by war’s outbreak in 1939, the number of listeners had risen to 10 million!

In fact the demand for Unterhaltungsmusik grew so much that Goebbels actually ordered more of it to be played and broadcast to the ever growing radio audience… and so it was that this very talented Hungarian musician, Barnabas von Géczy (1897-1971), already an accomplished band-leader & violinist in 1930s’ Berlin, took a starring role in this wonderful musical renaissance that was taking place across the Third Reich.

As the personal favourite of Adolf Hitler, Barnabas soon became a Nazi favourite across the Reich, leading his own talented orchestra & dance-band and by 1941, over 50 million listeners were tuning in to his highly popular broadcasts. So Tomahawk Films were delighted when, after many months of searching, we located a 78rpm schellack record collection of Barnabas von Géczy’s most popular music in Dachau… and even more delighted when, one dark winters’ night some months later, we heard the lively & joyous ‘Kautschuk’ happily bursting forth from our radio, courtesy of Malcolm’s fabulous show on BBC Radio Two…

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

Nazi Propaganda Swing from Charlie & His Orchestra..!

Just one of the many enjoyable aspects of producing Tomahawk Film’s digital re-mastered archival music CDs is that, thanks to our searches in Germany, aided by our friends & colleagues on the continent, is that we never know from one day, or one month, to the next just what wonderful material will emerge from hiding..and what new titles we can produce as a result..!

When Tomahawk first became a professional  restorer of period audio archival material some 25 years ago, it was the military side of the Third Reich that we concentrated on, but after many years in the Dubmaster studio with archival engineer Simon ‘Woody’ Wood, I found that I was really becoming captivated by the wonderful civilian music that also emanated from this period… and once we had produced our Wunschkonzert fuer die Wehrmacht series, we realised our audiences were too..!

From the Music of Lale Andersen to Wilhelm Strienz, from Dance Music of the Third Reichto the Songs of Mimi Thoma, we were certainly widening our net… however it was perhaps the Nazi Propaganda Radio Swing, Blues & Jazz classics from the famous Lutz Templin Orchestra, (better known as ’Charlie and His Orchestra’) that really caught our further historical attention & interest and I am very proud of the CD that came out of another fantastic editing & re-mastering session with Woody:

Perhaps one of the lesser know theatres of World War Two was the ‘Battle of the Airwaves’ and the leading exponents were the radio producers of the Reich’s Propaganda Ministry in Berlin, whose short-wave radio broadcasts from Reichsender Berlin took many forms; and whilst Lord Haw-Haw remains the most infamous voice heard on these Nazi air-waves, the Lutz Templin Orchestra aka ‘Charlie and his Orchestra’ was, broadcasting to the outside world, perhaps one of the most widely listened to!

Working directly to Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, a team of top composers & lyricists set about parodying well-known American Jazz, Blues & Swing classics of the day and specifically penned, first anti-British & anti-Semitic lyrics, thence anti-American & Soviet broadsides, which Propaganda Ministry linguists would then translate into English for broadcast.

Whilst ‘Charlie’ in the title was believed to be famous German crooner Karl Schwedler, (who was allowed to travel throughout occupied France, Holland & neutral Sweden, to collect examples of the latest Anglo-American music, banned in Nazi Germany), it was band co-leader Lutz Templin who was the driving force behind the parodies’ musical  arrangements.

Though the band line-up changed regularly between 1940 & 1945 as many of its professional German musicians, (drafted into the Wehrmacht & Waffen-SS Musikkorps), were replaced by Belgian & Dutch musicians from the Occupied countries, Templin’s continued influence could be felt as the band performed in Berlin; then as the Allied bombing of Germany intensified it relocated to perform & continue broadcasting on short-wave radio, (Kurzwellensender), in Stuttgart from the Summer of 1943.

As the war raged on, so the skits parodied different events & countries involved in the war effort, but the songs never lost their distinctive feel of 1940’s war-time radio and this superb 16-track collection of clever English lyrics, ranging from the funny to the vitriolic, offers some stunning Nazi Propaganda Swing classics including: I Double-Dare You, Miss BBCBye ‘Bye Empire and Black-out Blues..

In addition there is, at Goebbels’ insistence, two poignant Lale Andersen English lyrics vocals on Under an Umbrella & Lili Marleen, which were specifically aimed at capitalizing on the home-sickness many Allied servicemen posted overseas would already be feeling…!

I hope you’ll derive as much fun from listening to this very rare and hugely engaging collection of Nazi Propaganda music as I did in re-mastering & producing it… it’s certainly full of wonderfully entertaining tracks that should hopefully, (as they say in theatrical circles), ‘delight & amaze you…’

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013