Thursday, 8 September 2016

Ton Steine Scherben - Tarot-Inspired German Rock Legends

The 70’s/80’s rock/punk/folk band Ton Steine Scherben will no doubt be familiar to those of you who are German, or perhaps living in a German-speaking country. For me however, they were totally unknown until my musician friend, the incredible queer indie-punk Maybecyborgs, introduced me to the band - and I’m in love!

Earlier I wrote a blog about the Mike Batt tarot album that I randomly found at an Edinburgh vinyl music sale, inspired by the Major Arcana. This idea for writing an album is apparently not as uncommon as I first thought, however there are/were definitely some people doing it better than others (sorry, Mike), and Ton Steine Scherben were one of them. 


Originally a political anarchist folk band, they performed at fundraisers and supported great political movements in the 70’s. The band also boasted one of the very few openly gay, mainstream singers - the incredible Rio Reiser (very fucking cool indeed). 

Their 1981 album IV (sometimes referred to as the Black Album) is a gripping and sometimes bizarre album that combines post-punk, folk and pop into trippy and obscure themes inspired by the Major Arcana tarot cards. Have a listen to Jenseits von Eden (East of Eden) - their song inspired by the Wheel of Fortune card. Yes, it's a little dated in that 80's rock sense, but Rio Reiser's raw, passionate vocals are fantastic.


It’s even more fascinating to me that the band all took on new roles as songwriters and musicians - for example, their drummer Götzner wrote a song for the band for the first time, after they gave themselves over to pulling cards for making decisions for the album. What a random and creative approach!

Rio Reiser passed away in 1996, leaving behind some incredible music. I’ve heard that in Germany he’s pretty much a rock staple, perhaps even a bit cheesy to some people. I’ve been touched by his path in life - coming out as gay, becoming politicised, forming a band, supporting leftist political movements with his music and then becoming a tarot obsessive. In a nutshell, that has been my own path (albeit on a much more underground scale!), and I’m a little transfixed by this guy’s life and music. I hope he's doing a tarot reading for Freddie Mercury somewhere in another realm right now!

The good news for me is that I’m off to Germany next week, and finding a copy of this gorgeous double LP is at the very top of my to-do list. For now, a youtube playlist of the full album will have to do for us, my chickens!

If you have any interesting anecdotes about Ton Steine Scherben, or if you know of any tarot-inspired artists from any era (underground current musicians very welcome), please post them in the comments below or email me. I’d love to hear from you!

The Tarot Cat is a tarot-reading DIY musician based in Scotland. If you liked this post, please sign up to the blog by email (top right of the page) for more tarot-music revelations and interviews!

Kitty links : Book a Tarot Reading - Twitter 

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