AGITATION FREE - Portrait of a Band

The Band is having a break

· The year 1974-1975

Agitation Free was about to split up due to a dispute concerning the direction the band was to go, when Gustl and I, stubborn as we were, decided against giving up. We were able to convince Lüül to continue working with us, at least on a temporary basis. Burghard and Höni were replaced by Harald Großkopf and Manfred Opitz, with Os Mundi's Klaus Henrichs adding a new instrument, the saxophone. Thus, a first step had been taken by finding a new, though pretty unstable line-up. We found an ally in Udo Arndt from the Berlin band Os Mundi, who later on was to co-produce Nina Hagen and Nena and who shared a flat with me in Berlin's Bayernallee. He was doing a kind of internship in the studios of the Evangelical Radio Service and would always invite us to do some recording as he had to get used to handling the equipment.

Udo Arndt in ERD-Tonstudio
Photo by Robert von Ravenstein

Regrettably, Lüül was in France whenever we had these sessions so that he never featured on any of these recordings even if he appeared on the photos taken at that time. Gustl and I, however, made the best out of that unfortunate situation.

The 1974/74 line-up, unfortunately without Gustl.
Photo: Robert von Ravenstein

It was an essential part of Agitation Free's tradition to venture into different musical worlds and to play together with many other musicians. The band would always try new projects, including arrays into "serious" music, but whenever we indulged in jazzrock or politically oriented rock music, our record company of that time refused publication of our efforts. Nevertheless, we carried out many of these projects, inviting, as usual, many friends to play with us as our guests and trying out new musical directions.

Many recordings have survived, testimony of a time full of fun with our friends, but they had to wait until now, 1999, to be released on CD. These friends included:

Manfred Opitz, then keyboarder with Metropolis
Klaus Henrichs, then saxophone player with Os Mundi
Harald Großkopf, former drummer with Wallenstein
Constatin "Bommi" Bommarius, then drummer with Karthago
The late Lou Blackburn, former trombone player with Duke Ellington and band leader of Mombasa
Christian "Bino" Brero, double-bass player with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, playing piano with us
Bernd Gruber, a church and jazz musician
Jochen Bauer, jazzrock drummer with many Berlin bands

Full of pride and conviction, we presented the tapes recorded at the above-mentioned studios to our record company and asked for them to be released. What a disappointment! We were told that the stuff was too commercial, wouldn't find a market etc. This led us to try different ways: we sent a tape to Kabul, Afghanistan, to Hartmut Geerken, then managing director of the local Goethe Institute, whom we had met before in Kairo, hoping that he might organise a tour for us. Our record company, Musical Factory/Phonogram, we thought, would then become interested and release a new album.

We were wrong again! Geerken replied by giving comments similar to the ones our record company had afforded us, adding the quite humiliating suggestion that we might be able to play at the Kabul Hilton Hotel. This meant that we had reached a point where apparently nobody understood our music any longer although we were using musical structures that were much more concrete than before whilst still processing this more "body-oriented" music in the same old Agitation Free style. - These ignorants were simply unable to realise that we wouldn't play like Klaus Doldinger but that we used our own, tested style of music.

Pessimism was spreading, and we decided, after all, to try our luck by making a fresh start with a new line-up and a different name (Lagoona). Meanwhile, Lüül was spending more time in France than in Berlin, which meant that the chapter Agitation Free was apparently closed. As a consequence, Lagoona only managed one tour through Denmark, never got a recording contract and wasn't even granted the benefit of a recording session for future release.
At that time, we were totally ignorant of what the future would hold for us.

We were so shocked by our lack of success that, by the end of 1975, we decided to put an end to Agitation Free and Lagoona altogether. The members of the band went their own separate ways, and, for sheer lack of money, I started to rent out the remaining sound equipment. This got me into contact with the Nina Hagen Band and Jim Rakete, but I couldn't know at the time that Nina Hagen's and Spliff's guitarist would bring Agitation Free back to life again 23 years later.

Moreover, particular incidents between 1975 and 1999 managed to keep at least the name of the band alive, but we had no idea of what this would eventually lead to.

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