Luke Haines has released music under several names and as a part of several bands including The Auteurs, The Black Arts, Black Box Recorder, The Deverell Twins, The North Sea Scrolls, The Servants, and the One Album Wonder that is the subject of this piece, Baader Meinhof. Baader Meinhof were named after the West German terrorist group who actually went by the name the Rote Armee Fraktion.
As a child in the 1980s, I remember the Weather Underground’s heist of a Brink’s truck, the MOVE firebombing, and stories about Carlos “The Jackal.” The first (and second to last) car that I owned was a still-boxy black BMW adorned with a bumper sticker informing anyone stuck behind me in gridlock “Ich gehöre nicht zur Baader-Meinhof Gruppe.” I only know about ten words of German but own an un-subtitled copy of the documentary Starbuck Holger Meins (I get the gist). My interest in Leftist urban terrorism is such that even if a completely generic whoa-oh band were to title a song “Deutscher Herbst,” I’d probably listen to it less critically than I would were it instead titled something like “England Skies.”
How much better, then, that Baader Meinhof seemed to find inspiration in a weird and wonderful non-album Felt song, “Space Blues.” That song should’ve been the (space) blueprint for a new pop subgenre. After it’s release, however, Martin Duffy and Rose McDowall (Strawberry Switchblade) left the Felt fold to form Church of Raism (as in Gilles de Rais) with Robert Young (Primal Scream) and James Havoc. Their sole album hadn’t married Fender Rhodes and viola to softly sung lyrics, however, instead opting to trade in good ol’ fashioned Satanic New Age.
Something resembling “Space Blues” only arrived in 1995, after Luke Haines took a break from The Auteurs and released “Baader Meinhof / Meet Me At the Airport.” Driven by tablas, handclaps, and cryptic lyrics aboutterrorism, it had a hallucinatory atmosphere quite out of step with British Top 40 then populated by the not-so-easy-listening likes of Céline Dion, East 17, Oasis, and Take That and instead sounding rather like Felt’s penultimate single.
A self-titled Baader Meinhof concept album followed in 1996. In its 31 minute running time it managed to be more thought provoking than any traditional concept album of the sort packaged in a gatefold sleeve, decorated with Roger Deanart, and concerned with extraterrestrials or dragons (even though I often like those too). Befitting the subject matter the album is simultaneously mesmerizing, intoxicating, and disorienting. Although Haines has released a trove of great music, Baader Meinhof is probably my favorite (a statement easier to make when not listening to any Auteurs albums).
After the US invaded Iraq in 2003, I played a song off of the album in an anti-war DJ set. Favoring simplistic, didactic, shouty political punk and earnest, acoustic protest folk, my partner turned to me quizically and asked, “Are you sure this is political?” It’s not exactly The Clash or The Pop Group but grab a copy and decide for yourself.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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