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Friday, February 29, 2008


posted by on February 29 at 11:11 AM

I’ve heard that word describe music for a long time, but never really investigated what the hell it meant.


I know that in the 70, a time when major record labels would release double album compilations of their latest artist and potential hit songs, Warner Brothers released a double album called SCHLAGERS! I just assumed the title had something to do with the singer-songwriter/proto-fm rock that was on the album which included artist like Joni MItchell, Petula Clark, Gordon Lightfoot, Herbie Hancock, Arlo Guthrie, Randy Newman….

But then I’ve also heard it describe pop music that comes from European countries that is slightly based on folk songs or vaudville styles, and western (English language) pop music translated into whatever countries original language. An example would be an Everly Brothers song translated into Finnish.

The biggest champion of this style in the past, before turning to crazy metal bands and transexual dance music, was the ever-poular Eurovision Song Contest, in which European countries vie for the prize by presenting a song that A: represents its country by being in an official language of that country, and B: sung live.

There are English language Schlagers, I believe, that have been hits in the UK. One huge hit-making schlager machine was, of course, ABBA. There songs like, “Thank You For THe Music” and “Fernando”, based on old stage song styles in the former and folk songs in the later, were huge hits world wide.

But here’s a couple of other interesting schlager songs of note.

Brotherhood Of Man had their first hit “United We Stand” in the UK and US in 1970, but really hit the big time with their Eurovision winner of 1976, “Save Your Kisses For Me”. I believe this may be the ultimate british schlager.

Here they are with their choreography, bell-bottoms, “winks” and everything performing the song on the Eurovision broadcast that year.

The last line is nearly so sachrine as to give you a tooth-ache!

And then there’s Kelly Marie, who I’ve written about before, before she went disco and pop in the late 70’s and 80’s her show-tune style of belting out crap lyrics over vaudvillian pop tropes. Here’s one of her big hits “Who’s That Lady With My Man”.

Once again, crap-tastic choreography, AND the killer last line, which adds the twist-of-the-knife aspect to the song.

Also notice the use of clarinet (kind of klezmer-ish)in the verses and the traditional folk-song, sing-song chorus, which would be incredibly easy for anyone in another country to learn. Hence these songs being huge hits in other European countries.

So there you go, in case you ever wondered what the term Schlager meant.

And just in case you want to impress your friends with your crap taste in music….

Brotherhood Of Man - Save Your Kisses For Me
Kelly Marie - Who’s That Lady With My Man

PS. Kelly Marie has a really amazing, extensive website!

PPS. I love these songs (I know, sad.)

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Around this time of year it starts dominating my pop-culture conversations. I am absolutely in love with it, in a wide-eyed bewildered sort of way. You should check out Bulgaria's entry for this year- if Europe's tastes are anything like mine (and they aren't, I think mine are possibly too absurd) it'll be Sofia 2009.

Also, a German TA of mine once gave me a CD of schalger music. It also continues to bewilder me to this day. (I do kind of love it, though.)

Posted by Abby | February 29, 2008 2:30 PM

i actually can't believe it's going to happen in belgrade this year! i hope there's not a genocidal war before it happens.

only 2 1/2 months to go!

Posted by terry Miller | February 29, 2008 2:50 PM

Me too. Hopefully trying to fight about Kosovo again can wait until after Eurovision.

I'm so excited! Now is one of my favorite times...when all the insane music videos show up on Youtube. I'm still getting mileage out of Switzerland from last year.

Posted by Abby | February 29, 2008 4:24 PM

oh abby! have you seen ireland's?

it's sung by a turkey and is called "irelane douze pointe!"

it is fawk-ing cuh-razy!

Posted by terry Miller | February 29, 2008 5:03 PM

Those are both great, but neither one is Schlager. Schlager is German "mom" music, ultra-light, emotional vocal pop for old ladies -- stuff that makes Barry Manilow look like black metal. It is folk-based, but it's the folk music of Heidi and the beer cellar. The prototypical Schlager artist is Heino.

Posted by Fnarf | February 29, 2008 6:00 PM

I love Ireland's except for that I can't look at it. I have a thing about grotesque-looking puppets like that. But it's a brilliantly odd entry. Estonia is great too (and perhaps a bit more schalger-sounding, Fnarf?)

I see a single line about Eurovision and that's immediately what I'm drawn to. It's somewhat of an obsession.

Posted by Abby | February 29, 2008 6:15 PM

@5 yeah, i say that in the post, it's just been popping up in blog post on other sites lately as a descriptive. so i thought i'd put up some english stuff that represents it fairly well.

in fact i read an article about kelly marie somewhere that called her a "schlager singer". dunno.

and besides, how can you not be swayed by crap like "save your kisses for me". brilliant!

Posted by terry Miller | February 29, 2008 6:21 PM

Oh, I'm swayed, all right. It's lovely!

Posted by Fnarf | February 29, 2008 9:23 PM

Eurovision!!! My god, I'm totally obsessed already.
Love the mention of all the Eastern European songs for Ireland.
For Iceland a weird song with rubber-clad ladies was in the running for ages, unfortunately it didn't make it.
Belgium could be sending a saccharine sweet piano-ballad. Or we could go for something folkie and weird. Or R&B. It's always an adventure....
The UK decides which song will get null points in Belgrade tonight ;-)

Posted by Piglet | March 1, 2008 1:12 AM

Iceland's is at least classic terrible Eurodisco, so I'm glad for that, but it doesn't stand out as much as it could.

I love the UK's entries every year. They're so bad they're brilliantly car-crash.

Posted by Abby | March 1, 2008 6:27 PM

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