Miscellaneous Music Education

“Burning Down the Haus:” Punk Rock, Revolution and the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Oppression is a funny thing, but then again so are humans – the more your press and restrain a spirit, the stronger it grows.

East Berlin was no different.

Pirate Radio blossoms across the airwaves, ringing throughout the darkened corners of tenements and squats – The Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, The Clash, Buzzcocks, and Ian Drury burst through the wall with a blast of pure, unadulterated adrenaline.

It was a shockwave to the restricted, highly controlled world of the DDR, a select group of kids saw their break in the clouds to build a new reality from the ground – or rather, boots up.

Beyond adopting the leather, studs and ‘can-do’ d.i.y. spirit of the movement, these kids began to form bands – circulating outside contraband and inside underground paraphernalia within a loosely organized, but painfully tightknit community across the DDR far beyond East Berlin.

Tim Mohr chronicles the burgeoning punk movement within the DDR from the first girl to spike her hair to the fall of the wall and the birth of Krautrock through “Burning Down the Haus.”

More than glimpse behind the Iron Curtain, Mohr paints a moving portrait of rebellion and reinvention in life or death situations, a revelation spurred on by chains and spikes.

When I first read this post, I wasn’t in a really good place; I was struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to find the drive to keep pushing forward in a world that feels exceedingly futile. In many ways, this book helped me see beauty in the human experience again.

These kids were angry, and rightfully so, but they found hope for a better world within their anger.

They turned that anger into action, they turned life itself into an act of defiance.

These young punks weren’t just surviving the impossible, they made an active choice to live in the face of inscrutable danger.

Beyond the music, beyond the fashion, beyond the shows and squats that’s what stuck with me long after reading – and I hope it will stick with you too.

For those of you looking for an auditory companion to the listening experience, the “Too Much Future” compilation album of DDR punk from 1980-1989 is what I found most aligned with the reading.

Be forewarned, the material is explicit…but if you’re expecting kisses from grandma on a punk album, I can’t help you.

– Bodhi

By Bodhi

Human Dewey Decimal System for all things music and movies, purveyor of useless knowledge.