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In the '80s, Silly were one of the most influential rock bands in what was then the GDR, the eastern part of Germany. They developed a unique style of musical inventiveness in combination with lyrics that had the ability to express issues between the lines -- an important feature for an artist to function in a dictatorship. Silly were founded at the end of the '70s by vocalist Tamara Danz, bassist Mathias Schramm, guitarist Thomas Fritzsching, keyboardists Ulrich Mann and Manfred Kusno, and drummer Michael Schafmeier. After having played before holiday audiences in a Romanian health resort (Tamara Danz's father was a diplomat in this country) in order to make some money, they decided to do their own thing. First released in 1980 in West Germany and then one year later in the GDR, the debut album Tanzt Keiner Boogie? was a hodgepodge of different approaches and styles. This was not so much the band's fault, but mostly due to weak production and inflicted limitations from all kinds of cultural bureaucrats.
Silly were aware of their debut's weaknesses and worked hard to overcome them. New keyboardist Rüdiger Barton replaced Ulrich Mann and Manfred Kusno and contributed fresh musical ideas. Furthermore, Silly were able to contract Werner Karma, one of the most talented lyricists in the GDR at that time, to write lyrics. Much time was spent in crafting new songs. The result, the album Mont Klamott (1983), was significantly better than their first release and soon gained landmark status in the GDR. As a consequence, Silly quickly became one of the top acts in the GDR rock scene. They continued their success with two other strong albums, Liebeswalzer (1985, with new drummer Herbert Junck replacing Schafmeier) and Bataillon d'Amour (1986). This album trilogy saw Silly in peak form -- the band had achieved a unity between honest, inventive rock music and lyrics that were able to convey messages to an audience overwhelmingly critical to the state the GDR society was in at that time. Furthermore, the powerful voice of Tamara Danz, who was sometimes labeled "Tina Turner of the East," showed an astonishing range of expression, which made her one of the best German rock singers of the era.
Soon after the release of Bataillon d'Amour, the bandmembers took a timeout to refresh their creative energies. During that time, a setback occurred when serious differences arose between the band and lyricist Werner Karma, and their partnership finally ended. In 1988, they made the acquaintance of the singer/songwriter Gerhard Gundermann, whose solo career was just taking off -- he agreed to contribute lyrics for the band. For the album Februar, released in the beginning of 1989, the band replaced bass player Mathias Schramm with Hans-Jürgen Reznicek and expanded the lineup with Uwe Hassbecker, an additional guitar player who also played violin. Apart from Gundermann, Tamara Danz also contributed some lyrics. After the political changes in East Germany in 1989-1990 and the disbanding of the state-owned record label Amiga, where they had released all of their albums, Silly first went into a sort of hiatus and then encountered various difficulties in finding a new record label for releasing their new songs -- most of these companies wanted to convert the band into a smooth commercial rock act and the band steadily refused to accept this. When the former Amiga label was reinstated in 1992 in a new organizational form, Silly signed with them again and released their sixth album, Hurensöhne, in 1993. Whereas this release still was a good effort and featured lively music, this one as well as their next album, Paradies (1996), could not quite achieve the outstanding quality of their '80s albums, but at least they reinforced Silly's status as one of the few surviving GDR bands and injected some fresh blood into the ailing German rock scene.
Shortly after the release of Paradies, Tamara Danz died from breast cancer on July 24, 1996 and thus left Silly without a lead singer. Danz had so uniquely shaped their style that while they never officially broke up, they ceased to record or perform for close to a decade. In 2005, after the death of drummer Herbert Junck, surviving members of Silly staged a tribute tour, with a handful of guest vocalists standing in for Danz; a live recording from this tour, Silly + Gaste, was released in 2006. Also in 2006, group members Ewe Hassbecker, Ritchie Barton, and Jäcki Reznicek announced they were re-forming Silly, with actress Anna Loos on vocals; after several successful concert tours, the band returned to the studio to record its first proper album since Danz's death, 2010's Alles Rot. With Silly once again a going concern, they cut a new album in 2013, Kopf an Kopf, which became a chart success in Germany. ~ Frank Eisenhuth
- East Berlin, Germany
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