By 1973, when he recorded his first album with a group of Munich’s most famous and renowned musicians, Ralf Nowy had already gathered plenty of experience in a range of music genres.
Born in Berlin on the 12th of April, 1940, Ralf Nowy discovered his love for music early on in his school years, and with a group of fellow students he founded his first rock’n roll band in 1958. However, making music in a band was not enough, and, wanting to learn music from scratch, he took up music studies at the Stern conservatory in Berlin after finishing school. During and after his studies he played the flute and the saxophone in various free-jazz bands and he also started composing. In 1963 he was awarded the prize of best soloist (flute and saxophone) at the Berlin Jazz Festival. Soon after he was asked to accept the position of musical director of the Forum Theatre in Berlin. Here he was able to give full expression to his diverse musical talents, particularly as composer.
Owing to his proficiency in classical music, which he had acquired during his studies, and his ingenious talent for arranging titles, he was appointed production manager of the Saarländischer Rundfunk dance orchestra in Saarbrücken in 1968. This position also included the task of program director. Word of his numerous talents got around among insiders, and many artists and music studios called upon his services. From 1970 on, Nowy worked as an independent composer, arranger and producer in Munich and Berlin. Around this time, he started to collaborate with the Olympics production company founded by Ralph Siegel in 1970. He also arranged and directed several music productions for Giorgio Moroder, who went on to become world famous, as well as artists who worked for Moroder. Apart from this he composed for famous artists such as Joy Fleming, Udo Jürgens, Su Kramer and the Claude Pinot Orchestra.
During his career Nowy created countless jingles for products such as Duplo, Tic-Tac and Pepsi, composed film music and directed the tour orchestras of Joy Fleming, Gitte Haenning and Shirley Bassey. It is impossible to list all the artists he worked for as an arranger. By way of example we should mention his arrangement of Sigi Schwab’s album Sigi Schwab plays Paul Simon along with several intros and the title The Final Waltz for the German heavy metal band Running Wild, for whom he had played the keyboard on three albums. It is just as impossible to list all the albums of other artists of various music genres where Ralf Nowy participated as guest musician. They comprise German pop artists, German rock bands from the early 1970’s, such as Drosselbart (LHC 27) or Improved Sound Limited on their album Catch a singing bird on the road (LHC 09), and the already mentioned German heavy metal band Running Wild. Apart from doing studio recordings, Ralf Nowy played his various instruments in many live gigs with a number of bands. The last studio recording he did was the saxophone solo for the title Rock’n Roll on the album Toxification with the rock band Toxic Taste, which is to be released soon.
Ralf Nowy was also very successful as a producer, e.g. for Nina Hagen (two golden records), Udo Jürgens, Juliane Werding, Joy Fleming, the Claude Pinot Orchestra and The Lords. In spite of his work for other artists, Ralf Nowy always dedicated time to release his own musical concepts. The album Lucifer’s Dream, now released on CD for the first time, was his first own production. Influenced by the emerging Krautrock scene, he founded his own super group, together with Paul Vincent, Keith Forsey (ex-Hallelujah) and others. The result was an album that is hard to compare to other albums of that time with regard to musical style. The various influences of the participating top musicians melted into a unique kind of music, comprising psychedelic rock, a touch of big band jazz as well as experimental and ethnic influences, brought to life by Al Gromer on the Sitar and an Indian tabla artist. This resulted in a highly complex and creative kind of music, with Paul Vincent’s effective guitar play deserving special mention. As a matter of interest, the album was one of the first albums done in the so called quadraphonic sound, giving a whole new listening experience as compared to the usual stereo sound to those who possessed the appropriate equipment.
Ralf Nowy remained involved in music up to his sudden death in April 2007.
Paul Vincent Gunia, came from West Germany, being born on 1st of December 1950 in Bergheim/Erft (near Cologne) and wound up in Munich at the end of the 1960’s. Missus Beastly was the first band of any note he toured with. In Munich he met Keith Forsey at a concert by Amon Düül II. They discovered their similar musical tastes and founded Hallelujah, which won international acclaim with their release Hallelujah Babe (Long Hair LHC 25). This album, recorded together with two English musicians in London, was unfortunately the only one recorded with these collaborators. Just like Ralf Nowy and Keith Forsey, Paul Vincent was a much valued studio musician, since he mastered many variations of rock. In the early 1970’s he and Udo Lindenberg formed part of the Klaus Doldinger Formation Motherhood, who also released an excellent album.
Between 1976 and 1980 Paul Vincent was guitarist, co-producer and arranger in Udo Lindenberg’s Panik Orchester, and from 1975 on he became the partner of the Swabian singer Wolle Kriwanek for many years. He composed and arranged for this band, and produced their albums. In addition, the two performed as the Wolle Kriwanek Band with other musicians. After Kriwanek’s death the band carried on under the name Vincent Rocks, and released several albums. Apart from supporting other artists, Paul Vincent also recorded his own albums: Makin’ our sweet music in 1973 (with Forsey, Unwin, Levay and Nowy), and Vincent’s fliegender Rock’n Roll Zirkus in 1975 and in 1981, Sternreiter.
Apart from his work as a musician (live or in the studio for Freddy Mercury, Sting, Eric Burdon, Meat Loaf, Gianna Nannini and Peter Maffay) Gunia also works as composer, arranger and music producer. His range comprises rock up to classical music and gospel. In addition, he has composed for various German TV series and films (Tatort, Doppelter Einsatz, etc.), published Das Rockguitar Buch in 1993 and writes columns for the music magazine Soundcheck. In 2001 he was awarded the German TV award in the category “best film music” for the music of the TV movie Der Schrei des Schmetterlings (ZDF/ARTE). On his label “Luxusmusik” Gunia markets his own records along with those of other artists.
Keith Forsey was born on the 1st of January in 1948 in London, and played the drums for Klaus Doldinger, Amon Düül II and Udo Lindenberg in the early 1970’s. Later he worked for Donna Summer and the disco producer Giorgio Moroder. In the 1970’s he was one of the busiest drummers in Germany and helped de-fine the legendary Disco-Munich-Sound. Influenced by Moroder, Forsey began working as a producer in 1977. He is considered one of the pioneers in the field of the production of mass-market pop and disco music of the late 1970’s and the 1980’s. His first world hit was the single Hey Little Girl for the Australian Band Icehouse, followed by Billy Idol’s debut album in 1982. In addition, he produced, among others, Simple Minds and Psychedelic Furs as well as soundtracks for movies such as Flashdance, where he not only produced the title song, but also wrote the lyrics, for which he won an Oscar in 1984. Further soundtracks included Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters and The Breakfast Club, to name a few. In the 1990’s he produced the soundtrack of the blockbuster American Pie, as well as the music for several episodes for famous TV shows, such as Futurama, Ally Mc Beal, Scrubs and others. His reappearance in 2005, when he produced Billy Idol’s successful comeback album, attracted particular media attention.
Gary Unwin also wound up in Munich in the early 1970’s, coming originally from London. He freelanced as a studio musician and it was during this work in the studio that he met Paul Vincent Gunia and Ralf Nowy. So it did not come as a surprise that Gary Unwin played the bass on Ralf Nowy’s first album. Unwin also played with Gunia and Forsey on Paul Vincent Gunia’s first album Making Our Own Sweet Music.
Later on, Unwin also excelled in the Disco-Munich-Sound scene, and was responsible for the production of several releases by “Automatic Lover”, “Cosmic Curves”, and “S.O.S.”. Like Forsey, Unwin was a member of the groups Space Disco Mach 1 and Munich Machine. He also took part in nearly all Silver convention albums and other Disco-Munich-Sound releases. For a comprehensive list of his participations, please see www.discogs.com/artist/Gary+Unwin.
Silvester Levay was born on the 16th of May in 1945 in Subotica, the Vojvodina, Serbia. He discovered his love for music early on and started his training in a music school at the age of eight. In 1972 he came to Munich, where he met the famous lyrics writer and author Michael Kunze, who he still works with today. It was Michael Kunze who introduced Levay to Ralf Nowy, who also worked with Kunze. Levay not only displayed an extraordinary talent on the piano, but was a highly gifted composer. In Munich he worked with Udo Jürgens and Katja Ebstein, to mention a few. Between 1977 and 1980 he composed and produced for Elton John, Donna Summer and others. He directs and orchestrates his pieces himself and is proficient on several instruments, such as the piano, saxophone, clarinet, German flute and organ. Levay was also one of the pioneers of the Disco-Munich-Sound. The title Fly Robin Fly (Silver Convention), which he produced, made it to the top of the US charts. From 1980 on he lived in Hollywood, where he composed sound tracks for more than 40 movies. He became famous for the soundtracks of films such as Hot Shots, Bambi and the Airwolf TV series. He gave lectures on film music composition at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California. Since the 1990’s Levay has dedicated himself to a completely new genre, namely the musical. Elisabeth, Mozart, Rebecca and Marie Antoinette were all very successful. Levay received several awards for his musical production. In 1975 he was awarded a Grammy for Fly Robin Fly, and in 2002 he was awarded the Golden Tuning Fork and the Goldene Europa. In 2008, he was awarded the medal of honour of the city of Vienna.
Al Gromer Khan, born in Bavaria in 1946 under the name of Alois Gromer, is currently one of the main protagonists in ambient music. Around 1970 he was associated with Amon Düül II and participated in several titles with the band. At that time he also played the sitar in productions by Florian Fricke, as well as Popol Vuh and Deuter. Since the mid 1970’s he has occupied himself with meditative forms of music – long before this kind of music came to be accepted by the rest of the world under the name of New Age. Apart from numerous other musical study tours, the multi-instrumentalist completed extensive studies in “classical” Indian meditative music. Since finishing his studies (in 1975) Al Gromer has been proudly called Al Gromer Khan. The sitar has remained his main instrument until today. However, for Gromer even the “electronic” parts of his musical activity belong to the thousand year old tradition. Since 1970 he has released 13 albums in his own
Translation: Dr. Martina Häusler