In 1983, the musical world was taken with Nena, a German band whose one hit had an infectious synth bass line, changing tempos and mysterious lyrics about balloons accidentally causing World War III.
“99 Luftballons” and its English-translated counterpart, “99 Red Balloons,” was a monster smash for the pop group, hitting No. 2 on the U.S. Hot 100 behind Van Halen’s “Jump” — the highest position for a West German band since “Fly, Robin, Fly” by Silver Convention spent three weeks at No. 1 in 1975.
Named after the opera by Richard Wagner, Düsseldorf’s Rheingold were part of Die Neue Deutsche Welle movement which also included artists such as Nena, Peter Schilling and Alphaville. Between 1980 to 1984, Rheingold released three albums ‘Rheingold’, ‘R.’ and ‘Distanz’, all working with the legendary Conny Plank.
Led by Bodo Staiger, the band also featured his now-wife Brigitte Staiger on backing vocals and Lothar Manteuffel on keyboards. Singing primarily in Deutsch, they also differed from their electronically driven contemporaries by having a more melodic vocal style and a distinctive rhythm guitar template.
Rheingold never performed live so have almost become a forgotten band whenever the history of German pop is discussed.
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