I’m standing on a street corner in downtown Dusseldorf, listening to two jolly German musicologists called Michael Wenzel and Sven-Andre Dreyer explaining the genesis of electronic music. It all feels rather comical, like a surreal Monty Python sketch, but although it’s bordering on the absurd it’s absolutely fascinating nonetheless. Sven and Michael are telling me how it all began here in Dusseldorf. Right here, in fact, in the building in front of us. Today that building is a smart apartment block, but 50 years ago it was a club called Creamcheese, and it was here that a local band called Kraftwerk played their first gig, a gig that changed the course of modern music.
Today Kraftwerk are widely – and quite rightly – regarded as the most influential musicians of modern times. A group that pioneered the use of electronic instruments, and created a brand new sound that fed a myriad of other genres. The list of bands who’ve sampled them reads like an A-Z of popular music. Their “Robot Pop” inspired everyone from David Bowie to Daft Punk, from the Pet Shop Boys to Coldplay. Their influence has been so universal, it’s almost become invisible – virtually every new release is infused with an echo of their style. And, as Sven and Michael explain, it all started here, in this grungy, glitzy city on the west bank of the River Rhine.
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