The Toten Hosen turn 40: these were their wildest years

They were born in the Düsseldorf punk scene in the late 70’s, and are one of the most famous German bands in the world. A journey through his most chaotic and creative years.

Düsseldorf, Ratinger Strasse 10, early 1980s. The bar “Ratinger Hof” has been a meeting place for artists and musicians from the Düsseldorf scene for years. From time to time, German artists such as Joseph Beuys and Sigmar Polke hang out, punk bands rehearsing in the basement, debates and concerts taking place upstairs, and independent theater opening.

“Normal” visitors to the city or tourists are attracted by the neon lights of the artists’ bar, where the atmosphere is direct and rough. Like its musical groups, which play on improvised stages with pool tables. The owner of the bar at the time, Carmen Knoebel recalls: “We thought it was great how fresh bands came on stage without really mastering their instruments,” she says on the Die Toten Hosen website. And she says that they also found the texts good: “I think that, in German punk, the texts were much more important than the music,” she adds.

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Among the bands that played at the Ratinger Hof was “Zentralkomitee”, which was abbreviated “ZK”. The young Campino, whose name was Andreas Frege, was the one who gathered the musicians around him and led the public to do pogos. From the beginning, Campino was the undisputed leader. ZK once performed, recalls Carmen Knoebel, at a children’s festival in clown costumes and let the children up on stage. The band allowed them to play some instruments and even throw candy at the musicians.

In the book “Die Toten Hosen. At first it was the noise” Campino recalls the ZK era: “Every second concert was total crap. When the concert ended, three people applauded, one shouted ‘idiots’ at us, period.” Despite that, the punk trio released a single and an LP.

Also next to the stage unforgettable moments multiplied, says Trini Trimpop, who back then accompanied the band and recorded the concerts. “Once we were drunk and we started playing ball in the bar at midnight. The next day, we saw that everything was destroyed: glass, mirrors, bottles, chairs,” he says. Best of all, he says, was that the bar owner played all the time with them.

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In December 1981, the end of ZK came. A few months later, Campino, Andreas von Holst, Andreas Meurer, Michael Breitkopf, Walter Hartung, and Trini Trimpop founded Die Toten Hosen. But at their first concert under that name the organizers advertised them as “Die Toten Hasen” (The Dead Hares).

The band went by various names throughout its career. Like “Die Roten Rosen” they sang popular songs, then, in 1993, they were “Der Katastrophenkommando”; in 1998, the “Rheinpiraten” (Pirates of the Rhine), and in 2000, “Essen auf Rädern” (Food on Wheels). Their first hit album, “Eisgekühlter Bommerlunder”, which was called “Opel-Gang”, was also another of the band’s nicknames: “Die Jungs von der Opelgang”.

In 1985, in order to perform in a very popular show at that time, they called themselves “Little Pepito and the Swinging Pesetas”, “Die Flinger Domspatzen”, “Ricky Curl and the Standing Ovations” and “Evil Kids”.

The boys from Düsseldorf have always attracted attention for their clear political messages, especially against the right. In 1986 they played for the first time in front of the general public, with renowned German singers such as Herbert Grönemeyer and Udo Lindenberg, at the WAA-hnsinns-Festival against the Wackersdorf nuclear reprocessing plant, in front of 100,000 people.

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