(original should be here but was down when I last looked)

Die Ärzte: Biography

The long and eventful story of Die Ärzte (The Doctors) begins in 1980 in Berlin, when Dirk "Bela B." Felsenheimer, an interior designer's apprentice, met high schooler Jan "Farin Urlaub" ("Go On Holiday") Vetter in a punk club in Berlin called Ballhaus Spandau. Jan stepped in on guitar in Dirk's band Soilent Grün (Soylent Green), but the band broke up early in '82. Jan and Dirk then formed Die Ärzte along with bassist Hans "Sahnie" ("Creamy") Runge, lured away from the band Frau Suurbier, and their first songs, including Zum Bäcker ("At the Baker's") and Vollmilch ("Whole Milk") appeared on the punk sampler Ein Vollrausch in Stereo ("A Binge in Stereo"); four more early numbers were included on the EP Zu schön um wahr zu sein ("Too Good to be True"). Some as yet unreleased songs answer to such fearsome names as Jack der Schlitzer ("Jack the Ripper") and Eva Braun.

Die Ärzte came remarkably close to achieving their self-imposed goal of capturing the hearts of millions of girls in 1984, with their victory at the Berlin Senatsrockwettbewerb (a rock contest), and the subsequent release of the mini-LP Uns geht's prima ("We're Doing Great"). CBS (Columbia) signed the young savages and at the end of 1984 released the (later blacklisted) LP Debil ("Moronic") and the single Paul. By the start of 1986 the Doctors had collected a respectable circle of fans. Ths clearly went straight to bassist Sahnie's head; he seemed to play more for the groupies than for the music, and started hallucinating in public of PR gigs in limos and talent shows. This was too much for Bela and Farin. Sahnie got kicked out of the band, once again giving him ample time to follow a course in business studies.

"Die Ärzte" were accepted as a duo in 1986, employing bassist Hagen Liebing from local band The Nirvana Devils for live performances. The Bundeszentrale für jugendgefährdende Schriften (Federal Centre for Media Harmful to Young Persons, a government agency responsible for "indexing" or blacklisting said "harmful" material) stepped into the lives of Die Ärzte in 1987 and blacklisted Geschwisterliebe ("Brotherly/Sisterly Love", a song about incest), Claudia hat 'nen Schäferhund ("Claudia Has a Sheepdog", another song about dubious sexual practices), and Schlaflied ("Sleep Song", a rather gruesome lullaby). Die Ärzte were banned from performing these songs, but managed to evade the ban at concerts by playing the music and letting the crowd sing the lyrics.

During their "Wahrheit" ("Truth") tour the band decided to split, and they played their final concert on the island of Sylt. Bela and Farin revealed in 1993 that creativity problems had also influenced the decision. The resulting three-LP live album climbed to Number 1 in the German charts. From 1988 to 1993, Bela and Farin dabbled in the bands King Kong and Depp Jones, with no success, and decided to make a new start with ex-Rainbirds/Depp Jones bassist Rodrigo Gonzalez.

Since then Die Ärzte were consistently topping their own success from the 80s in sales of records, concert tickets and especially merchandise, and yet never sold out to consumerism. They gave concerts in small clubs under false names (revealing their true identity in advance only to their fan club members); sold exclusive LPs at concerts (in 1995 the EP 1,2,3,4 Bullenstaat ("Cop State")); and were on stage for a gruelling three hours and 43 minutes in the E-Werk in Cologne, for the last concert of the "Attacke Royal" tour in 1998. The second live album of their career (2 CDs / 6 10" LPs) was a cross-section of shows of Die Ärzte's 1993-1998 era and, in contrast to 1988, there was no end in sight for their albums.

Though the trio never managed any more singles as successful as Männer sind Schweine ("Men are Pigs") from 1998, in Germany the album Runter mit den Spendierhosen, Unsichtbarer!, with its spiffy light blue cover, entered the charts at number 1. (The title means roughly "Stop your generosity, invisible ones!", but evokes the image of trousers being pulled down.) The Berliners threaded together death metal, ska, rock 'n' roll and other genres into one braid. On 8 September 2001, 13 years after their first "last concert", Die Ärzte sang their second swan song, again in Westerland on Sylt. But shortly afterwards the three were seen again on a reading tour, reciting passages from the first authorised biography, Ein überdimensionales Meerschwein frisst die Erde auf ("A Colossal Guinea Pig Devours the Earth").