Alcatraz       Vampire State Building          



The British invasion, rhythm and blues, rock and pop and the fascination of Swinging London as well as the hippie movement spreading from San Francisco kindled the flame to make music in many pupils and apprentices and to set up a band. This happened in Hamburg, too. The first musical relations of later band founders often came about in school and/or at their residence. In spring 1969, ALCATRAZ was set up by the suburban groups of »Blues 'n' All« in which Ronny, Klaus and Jan had played, as well as the group »Smoke Stacks Lighting« in which Rüdiger had made his first musical experience. In autumn 1969, the group had many appearances in youth hostels and won the first prize in a competition of rock bands in Helmstedt, the only one which they had participated. The repertoire of the quartet consisted principally of titles of well-known bands as Ten Years After, Keef Hartley Band, Savoy Brown, Vanilla Fudge, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep etc. They had a few songs in the programme made by themselves.

 In the course of the time the group lost the interest in playing the titles of well-known bands. They changed their mind to compose own pieces which followed the sounds of jazz rock avant-gardists like Soft Machine, Collosseum or Tony William's Lifetime. They started the sustained, free improvisation – however, completely different as what one way used to at those times. It was often not made easy to the public to find access to the music of ALCATRAZ. The fact that the band didn't move on worn-out ways of rock attracted many fans magically, however. In spring 1970, the saxophonist/flautist Klaus Nagurski and the manager Willy Jahnke joined the band. In the following two years, the most eventful phase of the band began.

Willy Jahnke, twenty years old and full of thirst of action, knew all tricks of the show business: visits of reporters, plastering of complete cities with ALCATRAZ posters, "selling" of the group as Dutch band. Willy Jahnke had the difficult task to market the group who didn't compromise with promoters, the recording companies and the public as far there music was concerned. Therefore, anger with commercial promoters couldn't fail to materialise. The band was given the boot - in one occasion, during a going-on concert - or wasn't engaged again at least. The musicians of ALCATRAZ remained considerably unimpressed by such events. For them there was only one aim: their music. Everything the band liked musically was used without any question to make new pieces, for example, they mixed music fragments of Cannonball Adderley with influences of Deep Purple.

These mixtures seasoned with provoking announcements were hardly digestible by the average rock fan, nevertheless, Willy Jahnke provided the group with quite remarkable appearances using his organisational talent until mid-1972. In this time, ALCATRAZ played especially in rented big cinemas, in theaters, and in townhalls in north and west Germany and made short tours with Hardin & York, Ekseption, Pretty Things and naturally with then well-known German groups Birthcontrol, Jane, Neu, Wind or Ikarus. The good fees earned at that time were blown with the crew, with friends and guests in great rounds with partly up to 30 persons, in the favourite pubs of the group.

In fall 1971 Jahnke established contacts to the producer Jimmy Boyks, who then produced the first LP of "Vampire State Building". During the recording session at Faust studio in Wümme there was an incident on the second day which nobody wouldn't forget their whole life long. On this day, a big policy presence had surrounded the studio area on a former farm with reloaded MPs and dogs carried along, evidently in the expectation to seize a terrorist hideout. This incident couldn't prevent, however, to complete the recording successfully for the LP on the same day. In 1972, the recording company Philips launched the "Vampire State Building" with a beginning recording of 3,000 each. In the beginning it was difficult to be sold, but it developed to a very sought-after collector piece. In the course of investigations as to the publication of the album on CD the musicians discovered three additional recordings which were recorded in the Hamburg Windrose Dumot Studio according to Faust studio deadline after three months and on which the bonus track can be heard on the available CD.

In the spring of 1972, the manager Willy Jahnke had provided the band with another highly lucrative appearance, but the drummer Jan Rieck was drafted to the Federal Armed Forces. The dream of a professional band was over for the time being. Jan instituted a legal procedure against the Republic of Germany but couldn't prevent from joining the Army in the end. In the following time the band played in amateur status and changing teams whenever Jan could get leave from the Army. It was a fact that great wild time was over. After completion of his compulsory military service Jan Rieck got into the band as regular drummer and he looks after that concerts take place occasionally until the present. After the withdrawal of Ronny Wilson and Klaus Nagurski, Klaus, Rüdiger and Jan were committed to the old underground tradition. They played in changing teams inclusively two programmes in German-language until the 70s. At the end Rüdiger left the band which then made underground/fusion-oriented instrumental music on LP and on the stage with saxophonist Rainer Hansen and bass player Manfred Jakob as well as in trio with Klaus, Jan and bass player/percussionist Mike Kann under profi conditions for five years until 1984. Further publications of ALCATRAZ can be taken from the discography. Under the direction of Mike Kann and Jan Rieck ALCATRAZ has continuously been active with most different stylistic projects and changing co-musicians.


Manfred Steinheuer, April 2002


Following a text by Thomas Hockling and in arrangement with Marion Lück an ALCATRAZ

 




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