AGITATION FREE - Portrait of a Band 

into the studio - "Malesch"

· The Year 1972

On Juli 6, 1972 we went back into the studio. We chose Audio-Tonstudio , it being the first 16-track studio in Berlin. We began without any overall concept and simply started improvising. A new piece was originated each day. Peter Michael Hamel played with us for two days. After the mixdown, we sorted through the collected acoustic impressions of our Middle Eastern tour tapes for appropriate passages to insert between the cuts on the LP. Then we discussed and decided on titles for each selection. The first piece was called " You Play For Us Today " (cf. story above of Middle East Airlines pilot!).

The next piece we called " Sahara City ", in reminiscense of the nightclub where we had so royally feasted on our first night in Egypt. Even today, listening to this piece with eyes closed, I am transported back to that place and time - to deep nights, a pleasant warmth, the stars and the pyramids. Unforgettable!

The third piece is called " A La Toul ", which means something like "straight ahead". The bustle of Cairo's streets, where it is actually impossible to proceed in a straight line, is reflected in this piece (an Egyptian "straight ahead" is really not so straight).

The fourth song is called " Puls " ("Pulse). Michael Hoenig experiment with a random tone generator and equipment manufactured by the company "Hofschneider, Berlin".

Höni mit 4 Synthi A

Michael Hoenig during the recording of "Puls" with 4 (!) EMS-Sythi A ´s
Photo most likely of Hans-Georg "Putti" Losse. For Info please click

" Chan el Chalili " is the next piece and is named after the famous bazaar, where we were able to practice the ancient art of haggling. " Malesch ", the sixth piece, is probably the most successfully realized. It pays homage to the Egyptian life-style. " Rücksturz " ("Stumbling Back"), the final selection, already sounds quite European and refers to our trip back home, which really was a stumble back into European culture.

Originally the LP was slated for release in September 1972, in plenty of time for the Christmas season. But nothing came of that. Finally it came out on December 1st. Nobody knew when and above all where it was available due to the somewhat miserable German distribution.

In the meantime a friend of ours and former teacher of mine, Alfred Bergmann , was preparing a radio play about Agitation Free for West Berlin's SFB -Sender Freies Berlin ("Radio Free Berlin"). "Bergi" had just purchased a house in Halen, near Osnabrück in West Germany; its peaceful surroundings made it an ideal recording location. So our roadies Uli Rathsack and Uli Popp packed up our gear, and we headed for the country (but without a banjo on our knee!). We lived and made music together for ten days. Wolfgang Wölfer , the director of the radio play, jammed with us at times. And I would be remiss if I didn't report that we were inebriated just about every single day. This state of excess loosened our inhibitions; otherwise repressed emotions and interpersonal feelings shot straight to the surface. The roots of several personal and band disputes became painfully obvious. This led to bitter infighting in the ranks of Agitation Free. Unfortunately the alchohol didn't help us solve our problems: it only exacerbated them.

I have to wonder in hindsight if it was more a recording session or an exercise in group therapy. Each one of us revealed personality traits that were hard to ignore when things settled down.

Alfred Bergmann , who had recorded everything, edited the tapes in Berlin with Wolfgang Wölfer and added Agitation Free selections.

It was broadcast on SFB on April 7th, 1973 as "Agitation Free, Porträt einer Musikgruppe " ("...Portrait of a Music Group"). Later other radio stations also broadcast the program.

We travelled to Munich on August 30th, 1972. The Olympic Games were in full swing. (My own athletic career has been confined to the rolling of my own cigarettes!) Our overnight accomodations were in a flat-roofed, factory-like school building, converted into a dormitory complete with German army bunks. We shared the facilities with members of the New Folksingers and Joy Unlimited . Fortunately, the performers had left their groupies, family members, and such (useless oxygen users! - Fame ) at home. We played in the Medienstrasse ("Media Way") on September 1, 1972. A second performance followed on September 9th in the Theatron . The line-up was Burghard Rausch , Lüül , Michael Hoenig , Peter Michael Hamel , and myself, Fame , as well as Wolfram Jacob from Os Mundi (known as " Nase ", or "the nose") on congas. We were scheduled for two further concerts, but they were cancelled following the terrorist attacks. Malesch

We remained in Munich for a few days, then returned home. There were no gigs in the three months that followed.

Instead we produced another radio play with our friend Bergi on September 26th and 27th, 1972, " Eine Krähe hackt der anderen " ("One Crow Chops the Other"). Also during this period we established the Berlin Musician's Initiative (BMI for short) with musician Michael Duwe , the band Os Mundi, and Ute Kannenberg (former Schlager -singer "Tanja Berg"). We got the whole thing off to a good start. At the founding ceremony in, I think, December 1972, Dietmar Burmeister approached us. He had occasionally played drums for Ash Ra Tempel and now asked us if Agitation Free could use a percussionist or a second drummer.

· The Year 1973

With the exception of our drummer, Burghard Rausch , we all liked the idea very much. But for the time being we continued with just Burghard on drums: in the Fabrik club in Hamburg, West Germany on January 7th, 1973, and during further recording for the radio play "Agitation Free, Portrait of a Music Group" between January 8th and 12th at SFB radio in Berlin. But Burmeister did join us for a gig at the opening of the Berlin club Dampfmaschine ("Steam Machine") on March 8th and 9th.

A big problem that arose around this time was when we discovered that Joshi had started doing hard drugs. I shudder when I recall what he was going through back then. Joshi promised us on everything sacred and holy that he would quit before the upcoming tour of France. Of course he didn't, and was still high the day before our departure. Uneasily we departed for Paris. Driving away from Aachen, West Germany, Joshi threw his syringe out of the car window. Everything went well...until Paris.

Assad Debs cordially received us and introduced us to his parents. He had secured a garage in which we could park our car, and an inexpensive but comfortable hotel. The next day Joshi didn't feel well. The Valoron drops he was taking were apparently ineffective, and he had his first withdrawal pains. We told Assaad only that Joshi was ill. Assad's parents made quite a fuss over him. No, no, he didn't want a doctor - Joshi insisted that he would be feeling better very soon. Shortly before the concert he disappeared. We had to go and find him; during all this we ran into the German photographer Irm Siering (who later contributed the cover photo of our second LP). It had been impossible for Joshi to find the junk he craved. But with lots of talk and moral support we managed to get him back on his feet.

Fame und Joshi vor dem Konzert

Joshi in withdrawal shortly before the concert; nevertheless, "keep smiling".
Irm Siering . For Infos please click

At the concert in the Opera Comique with Nico , he could barely stand up; he used his Marshall amp for support, sweat beading his brow. Though he played terribly, the audience was enthusiastic. It was an unqualified success. Everybody, including Assad and Irm, was happy. Up until the next concert Joshi was fairly okay.

We played live on the " Pop Club " radio show in the ORTF Building and later received numerous telephone inquiries; people wanted to know, what we were all about.


Agitation Free beim ORTF, Paris

Waiting in the ORTF Building, Joshi is okay again.
Photo by
Irm Siering . For Infos please click

We met Pierre Latesse , who asked if we would be interested in doing a television show a few days later. We were enthusiastic. On the same day we gave a concert in the Salle Napoleon , then had two days off (which we spent at Irm 's). Then further concerts in the French countryside. On March 27th we taped the TV show, " Rock en Stock ". That evening we visited the Pop-Club , and exchanged hellos with the German experimental pop band Can . Joshi stole a Can groupie using his secret weapon: patchouli oil. He was slowly becoming his old self again. After that, "Mr. Patchouli" moved in with Irm . On March 30th we gave a free concert at the University of Vincennes near Paris, on January 31st and February 1st played some shows in the vicinity, and then returned home via Paris.

We kept busy after that. On April 10th we returned to France for a single TV show near Paris on April 11th. After that it was straight back home, in order to save on overnight expenses. We had hardly arrived in Berlin when we discovered that our friend Assad had again cooked up some live work for us in France. So on May 8, 1973, we played in the Berlin discotheque " Sound " to raise money for our return the next day to the land of croissants and Pernod.

A press-clipping from this period.

In the meantime Joshi had started shooting up again. On the morning of our departure for France, May 9th, he was supposed to pick up his detox medication before meeting up with us; but, who didn't turn up that morning? Joshi. We were furious. We were all at Lüül 's, telephoning like mad, but Joshi could not be found. That afternoon he called and said he'd have the medication within the next half hour. So we gave him an ultimatum: either be at Lüül's within an hour, or we'll leave without you! An hour later he still hadn't appeared. We thought over the situation (being lead guitarist-less, we should have actually just cancelled the tour). But then the brothers Stephan and Frank Diez occurred to us: both great players, and either one able to handle our music with a flick of the wrist. So we called them up. Frank couldn't make it, but Stephan, with whom we had often played and who knew our material, had both the time and the inclination. Then we called Joshi: "sorry pal, we'll see you when we're back." Joshi's Mercedes being no longer available, we borrowed a car from Michael Hoenig's mother. Finally we were off.

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