We couldn't stand the word "rock", Gabi Delgado recalled not too long ago the beginnings of the band German American Friendship, called DAF for the sake of simplicity. Back in the late 1970s, rock was the music of others, English and Americans and the establishment for a young generation of Germans. For the musician, born 1958 in Cordoba, Spain, as Gabriel Delgado-López, the idea of rock was also an imposition: a dusty culture that had to be challenged and smashed.
Delgado moved to Germany with his family in 1966. They came as guest workers and remained long outsiders in the FRG, he said. After working in Remscheid and Dortmund, the family ended up in Wuppertal at the end of the 1970s. Düsseldorf was close and offered tempting adventures. Inspired by a new London phenomenon called punk, young savages came together in the Rhine metropolis to revolt with art and rioting.
It was a time when bands came together faster than you could open a beer bottle, because the message from Punk was also that virtuosity was overestimated and what a philistine was. It didn't matter if someone was mastering an instrument, that's not the point. However, Gabi Delgado was concerned with avoiding rock instruments because the goal was to find a new and unique sound, he said. Added to this was the desire for provocation.
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Back in Düsseldorf, like-minded people came together in a pub called Ratinger Hof, where new bands and galleries were launched almost every long night. On one of these nights Delgado-López met the drummer Robert Görl, with whom he founded the band German American Friendship in 1978 – the name was light years away from all clichés of rock. In the early days, DAF also included Kurt Dahlke, Wolfgang Spelmans, Michael Kemner and Chrislo Haas.
In the early days, the very idea that something new was being tried made the band perform in full stores from the start, long before they even ventured to recordings. However, communication with each other was as complicated as in other bands, which also meant that Delgado had left the band before the debut album "A Product of German American Friendship" was released in 1979 – but was then quickly back on board.
He wanted beats that sounded like thundering punches
At that time this young music was called "Neue Deutsche Welle" and was produced in Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and Düsseldorf – and had its creative origins in punk and new wave. However, the sound of punk was ultimately stale and bands like The Clash or the Sex Pistols were just more rock bands. The freedom of the new, however, promised electronic music.
This in turn had a tradition in Düsseldorf, where bands like Kraftwerk and NEU! had revolutionized pop music at the beginning of the 1970s when they were looking for a way that was to lead as far as possible from everything that was established. The result was sounds that had also impressed Gabi Delgado, but were far too subtle for him. He wanted beats that sounded like thundering punches.
Back then DAF producer Conny Plank came to the aid, the classics like Kraftwerk's album "Autobahn" or the debut of NEU! had looked after. Plank, Delgado later said, actually invented the DAF sound, which ultimately only consisted of drums, electronics and vocals. The visual style and lyrics of DAF were also bold provocations. Delgado and Görl, the others had fallen by the wayside at some point, didn't look like rockers, but like militant bouncers of a sex club, dressed in black leather, with jagged hair.
The force of the words was provided by Delgado, the personally gentle but extroverted singer, whose texts came out like slogans from propaganda posters: "Dance the Mussolini", "Waste your youth", "Absolute body control". It did help, of course, that the Munich-born drummer and composer Robert Görl had received classical music training – and that Delgado's gaudy slogans could be equipped with appropriately compelling melodies. This led to misunderstandings, especially for the hit single "Der Mussolini" (1981): "Dance the Mussolini! Dance the Adolf Hitler! Dance the Jesus Christ!" – but whoever saw it as more than a pure challenge of German society and its taboos had not understood it.
While Germany was still disturbed and irritated by this new sound, the English were immediately enthusiastic. No wonder that DAF moved to London in 1980, where they immediately got a record deal. In particular, the three albums "Alles ist Gut", "Gold Und Liebe" and "Für Immer", which DAF released in the early 1980s, are considered classics of modern electronic music. They served as a blueprint for bands like Depeche Mode or later Rammstein.
But like in so many bands, DAF also had regular bickering behind the scenes. Görl and Delgado have parted time and again over the past few decades, only to find each other again at regular intervals and go on tour together.
Gabi Delgado released solo albums that were less noticed in between, and had recently moved back to Spain. From there, he noted not too long ago: "The Germans have now found their own sound and thus a musical identity. Fortunately, it has nothing to do with rock."
Gabi Delgado-López died last Sunday at the age of 61.