English Songs in German, Part Three
In 1972, Juliane Werding topped the charts in West Germany with “On the Day that Conny Kramer Died,” a cautionary tale about drug use:
We lay dreaming in the grass
Our heads full of crazy ideas
Then he said, just for fun,
Let’s take a “trip”
The smoke tasted bitter
But Conny told me what he saw
A sea of light and colors
We had no idea
What would happen soon after…
As you can imagine, things go downhill from there. The melody is from The Band’s “The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down,” a Civil War story:
Virgil Caine is the name
and I served on the Danville train,
Til Stoneman‘s cavalry came
and tore up the tracks again.
In the winter of ’65,
we were hungry, just barely alive.
By May the tenth, Richmond had fell…
It sounds to me like Werding was more influenced by Joan Baez’s cover than the Band’s original version. In any case, “Conny Kramer” is the kind of sappy story song that begs for parody, and in 1987 the Golden Lemons, a punk band from Hamburg, recorded “On the Day that Thomas Anders Died.” Anders is a cheesy pop singer who was half of an ’80s group called Modern Talking (kind of a German Wham!) and he’s still very much alive, despite the Lemons’ fondest wishes:
When I saw him for the first time
I couldn’t yet understand it
There was something inside me, calling:
‘You must wring his neck’
My dog started howling
Whenever Thomas began to sing
And I’d always ask myself
Is that my hair dryer or is that man singing?
Then there’s this version attacking a rival soccer team (in terms so harsh that I’m not even going to translate them for you), and a recent movie set in the ’80s called “On the Day that Bobby Ewing died,” alluding to the death of a character on Dallas. It’s not every song that has this many different lives.