Remembering Florian Schneider: Kraftwerk’s five best songs
Kraftwerk co-founder, Florian Schneider, has passed away at aged 73.
The band, pioneers of electronic music, have played an integral part in the development of modern music and changed everything for the better. Schneider, who founded Kraftwerk with Ralf Hütter in 1970, was born on April 7, 1947, in Öhningen, Germany. He would go on to study at the Academy of Arts in Remscheid where he met his Kraftwerk partner in 1968.
Heavily influenced by David Bowie, the duo would on to forge their own brand of electronic improvised music with prolific effect. Having originally focused primarily on the flute as his main instrument, Schneider’s desire to push the boundaries of his sonic exploration would see him focus heavily on the development of sound design throughout his career.
“He is a sound perfectionist, so, if the sound isn’t up to a certain standard, he doesn’t want to do it,” Hütter said of his bandmate. “With electronic music, there’s no necessity ever to leave the studio. You could keep making records and sending them out. Why put so much energy into travel, spending time in airports, in waiting halls, in backstage areas, being like an animal, just for two hours of a concert? But now, with the Kling Klang studio on tour with us, we work in the afternoon, we do soundchecks, we compose, we put down new ideas and computer graphics. There’s always so much to do, and we do make progress.”
One of the biggest bands of a generation to push forward the electronic instrumentation, Kraftwerk began life as part of West Germany’s experimental krautrock movement but soon transitioned their sound into the area of synth-pop, post-punk, hip-hop and techno.
Schneider would release ten full studio albums with Kraftwerk, maintaining a vital role in the creativity of the band up until his departure in November 2008.
Here at Far Out we are celebrating the wonderful career of Schneider by looking at his five best songs which truly represent why Kraftwerk became so beloved and how they walked so everybody else could run.
‘The Model’ (1978)
‘The Model’, originally released in 1978 and included on band’s seventh studio album The Man Machine, would be forced to wait another four years until the track would recieve the plaudits that it deserved when, somewhat bizarrely, it found a second lease of life and topping the UK charts.
The second rise of the song arrived after it was included on the B-side of the ‘Computer Love’ in 1981, a track which reached no. 36 in the UK charts. Then radio DJs strangely opted to give airtime to the B-side rather than ‘Computer Love’, which led to EMI re-issue the single in 1981 apparently against the band’s wishes with ‘The Model’ as the A-side with it reaching number one in February 1982.
‘Tour de France’ (1983)
Kraftwerk had brought electronic music to the masses in the 1970s and, by the ’80s, they began to evolve the genre even further as ‘Tour de France’ is a shining example of.
The use of sampling sounds associated with cycling created this mindblowing sensation which is so ahead of its time, it is also an ode to the sport which Ralf Hütter dearly loved. Earlier in the year of the track’s release, Hütter had fallen off his bike and suffered a fractured skull as a result which led to the track being created.
‘Autobahn’ is the title track taken from the German pioneers’ fourth studio album in 1974 and marked a poignant moment in their careers as it signalled the first time the band had sung lyrics feature in their material.
The blissful track manages to re-create that euphoric sensation of driving on a motorway away from all the worries in the world. Ralf Hütter is on record as describing it as a “sound painting” which strangely is the perfect way to summarise the 22-minute voyage the track takes you on.
‘Trans Europe Express’ (1977)
To complete the hat-trick of transport-related Kraftwerk songs in this list we couldn’t ignore ‘Trans Europe Express’ which was the title track from their sixth studio album in 1977 which, unsurprisingly, is a number about the Trans Europe Express rail system.
The track references David Bowie’s Station to Station record as well as meeting him and Iggy Pop. Kraftwerk was influencing the Berlin-dwelling Bowie so much so that his 1977 album ‘Heroes’ would contain a tribute called ‘V-2 Schneider’ in celebration of Florian.
After the last few choices which originated from the somewhat mundane topic of rail travel, even if they are transformed into otherworldly topics that transport you to a faraway mind space, attempt to imagine what Kraftwerk are capable of when the topic is ‘space’.
The track wasn’t even picked up as a single from 1978’s The Man-Machine but it has taken on a life of its own and become one of the fan favourites. ‘Spacelab’ was named after the reusable laboratory being developed by Nasa at the time. In 1978, the whole concept of space represented another world of possibility, which is exactly what Kraftwerk did with their music by proving there is another way of doing things.