Erich Honecker's Rock and Roll Years

Henning Wehn investigates 'Ostrock' - the rock and pop music scene in the old East Germany.

During the Cold War, we were given the impression that life behind the Iron Curtain was unrelentingly grim and that communist youth suffered from a lack of fashionable clothing and an earnest adherence to the socialist dream.

But this was not always the case and despite the fact that Erich Honecker believed 'beat music' was being used by the enemy to send East German Youth into 'overdrive', he had only limited success in placing controls on a thriving rock and pop music scene in the GDR.

It is true that his musicians had to perform in front of a committee to obtain a licence to perform, that there was only one - state controlled - record company and that if you fell foul of those in power, your music 'ceased to exist'. But East German youngsters were listening to Western music being played on radio stations on the other side of the Wall and so Erich Honecker ultimately failed to control the musical tastes of the GDR teenager.

In 'Erich Honecker's Rock and Roll Years', German comedian Henning Wehn goes to Berlin in search of a scene unknown to him when he was growing up in West Germany. He talks to Ostrock musicians and fans and uncovers a story that involves, the Stasi, disappearing musicians, lyrics with hidden meanings and music that was 'Western' in all but name.

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30 minutes

Last on

Tue 17 Jan 2017 01:30

Piers Plowright's Pick

Piers Plowright's Pick
Legendary radio maker Piers Plowright recommends Erich Honecker's Rock and Roll Years:

"German stand-up comedian Henning Wehn presents in delightfully idiosyncratic English portrait of ‘Ostrock’, East Germany’s largely unknown rock’n’roll scene before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.

"The story, part tragedy, part comedy, is told through interview (some delightfully unexpected like the German critic who’s learnt his English by following Leeds United), musical excerpts, and street and record shop conversations.

"This is one of those programmes that is quite straightforward in form but a revelation in content. Full of excellent one-liners and thoroughly refreshing in presentation and treatment."

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