Swept to Heaven: Robert Görl and the Voice Within

by coldwarnightlife

“Hear the crashing steel…”

Robert Görl’s story begins at The End. A chance meeting between black ice and his BMW brings the lyrics of “Warm Leatherette” to life, shorn of their Ballardian eroticism. He joins the car crash set in a German hospital, where doctors piece his shattered body back together like a jigsaw puzzle. The wheel of life makes another rotation, and Görl is reborn into a bed where he has nothing but time to reflect on his intentions and his desires. When he learns to move his limbs again, he will act on them.

“Feel the steering wheel…”

There are few living musicians as influential as Robert Görl. As one-half of Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft (DAF), he reshaped pop music in post-War Germany within the limitations of 8-step sequencers. Born by punk’s spirit and kegs at the Ratinger Hof, DAF rejected the rhythms and languages of the four occupying forces; particularly the American conventions of rock and rule by guitar. After early experiments and collaborations, DAF was stripped to two members, a drum kit, and Japanese synths. Gabi Delgado took the microphone, while Görl struck the skins with a sensitivity that belied the hard edge of DAF’s sound.

Together, they created a new genre. It is hard to imagine Front 242 in Belgium or Nitzer Ebb in England without DAF having cleared the path. Their heat was sometimes generated by friction, but DAF united as often as they split; returning to release the spirit that first inspired them. From their first days in a Philbeach Gardens flat to their domination of the German charts; from the Hi-NRG of “Brothers” to the sharp politics of “Der Sheriff” – Görl and Delgado never lost their touch, even if they were sometimes out of touch for long periods of time. They were the princes of the alternative dancefloor from the beginning until the end.

“A tear of petrol is in your eye…”

Not The End. That is where the story begins – remember? In Das Versteck der Stimme [in the English version, which is found on the reverse of the book, The Voice that Dwells Within], Görl takes us through his experiences with the assistance of Hanna Rollmann. The co-authors take a non-linear, impressionistic approach; rendering an account of Görl’s accident, recovery, and return to life with vivid and personal details. Cut through it are Görl’s recollections of his difficult childhood, unhappiness at school, and the transformative creation of DAF. There are fleeting glances and clothes abandoned; hopes expressed and disappointments delivered; and, through it all, the lure of freedom. It is not found in the neon signs of the West nor the touristy temples of the Far East. It is located, rather, in the simplest of touches and – in both directions – a sense of acceptance.

The book fills in many of the blanks left from interviews. The founding of DAF and the band’s emergence from the Ratinger Hof are coloured in with luminous detail. The excitement of making the magnificent “Mit Dir” and Night Full of Tension spills from the page. Görl’s time in Thailand, where he studied Buddhism and found connection with the daughter of a water-buffalo farmer, is finally laid out. His return to Germany and reunification with Gabi, just in time to take part in the Love Parade, sets the stage for the next volume. Written in a way that conveys Görl’s feelings at every step, it is a cinematic and compelling read that no fan of DAF or student of pop music should be without.

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