Funkiest. White Boys. Ever.

Kraftwerk, “Numbers,” from their Minimum-Maximum DVD

Reclusive wunderkinds Kraftwerk (“power plant,” in German) have been making ill, steely beats since 1970, when Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, above, founded the concept group in Düsseldorf. (They’d met as students in the conservatory there, during the late ’60s.)

The lilting, loping 22 1/2-minute “Autobahn” was their first international hit, back in 1975. (Check out this rare British news clip, of the quirky techs playing the track live on mid-1970s synths and drum machines, to get a sense of their early sound, or this half of the original album release.)

Trans-Europe Express album coverBut my introduction to Kraftwerk came later in 1978, with 1977′s Trans-Europe Express, right. I was blown away by its elegant, retro artwork, and blissed out to the gothic, 13:35 clatterdrone of its unstoppable title track, particularly its neck-cracking “Metal on Metal” sequence. A lot of white intelligentsia were startled by “T.E.E.”‘s inspiration on Africa Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force’s classic “Planet Rock.”

But I watched brothers slip-and-slide to Kling Klang’s cling-clang, up and down Freeport High School’s hallways, all during the fall of my sophomore year, so the quartet’s Teutonic ghetto grip never really surprised me. You could say I grew up with it.

Plus, it paid dividends, deep into adulthood. A year ago, while briefly in Australia, I was watching performance footage of “The Man-Machine,” the title track to Kraftwerk’s 1978 work, from their live, 2005 Minimum-Maximum DVD. Suddenly, I heard it: This was the source for the spidery melodics and rubbery bass line of Fearless Four’s ’81 smash “Rockin’ It.”

Diehards, however, mostly need check out Kraftwerk’s live take on “Numbers,” from 1981′s Computer World, which, like Trans-Europe Express, I still own on vinyl. (Some will know “Numbers” best as the groove sampled for “Steam,” by Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls.) Seeing this YouTube, and the way they be-freaked the original track, sold me one DVD, and at least two tickets to their next NYC show. Check it out, then do likewise.

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6 comments ↓

#1 stsf on 11.24.08 at 3:49 pm

I like you, Harry, was raised on Kraftwerk. Huge influence on me, still to this day.

#2 hottnikz on 11.27.08 at 12:59 am

my favorite is numbers…

#3 harrio on 11.30.08 at 5:14 pm

computer love…smooth, breezy great-grandfather of downtempo/chillout

#4 @spazecraft on 04.08.09 at 9:28 am

were to herd, I actially use numbers to track kids the electric boogie, the robot & they learn how to count to 4 in 3 languages, german, Spanish & Japanese, all while the are dancing, they go crazy & love it!

thanks for the primer harry, RTing right now!
easy, sc1

#5 Norm on 04.08.09 at 11:38 am

Just know that the original band is NOT together anymore :-(

Norm

#6 perri on 07.25.09 at 6:47 pm

Trans Europe Express never leaves my mp3 player, playa!

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