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FLASHLIGHTS, OR HOW BOB DYLAN SENT US AN ANGEL
Marian Gold on Alphaville’s very first TV appearance on the ZdF TV show “Flashlights”.
If you want to step into the limelight for the first time in your life with a few decent songs, and suddenly the world that previously ignored you is spinning like a carousel gone mad, then a prime-time TV date doesn’t stand out that much in all the confusion. And as this date becomes more and more prominent among all those radio interviews, clothes shopping sessions, pages of contract blahblah, third-class hotel rooms and sanctimonious tartuffs, who wouldn’t have lent you a euro a few months ago, you start to worry. None of us had the faintest idea of all the promotional gimmicks it takes to catch the eye and interest of the public in a sea of competing cheap-Jacks. Landing this gig was a unique opportunity that we couldn’t afford to blow. Did we have stage fright? Yes, we did. During the rehearsals, the three and a half meters from the Japanese wooden chair, where I was condemned to sit by stage directions, to the microphone at the edge of the stage felt like a tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon. And what did we have to offer anyway besides our Norwegian jumpers, which we hated, our iron Eastwestfalian stubbornness, which had led up to this point despite all our self-doubt, and an inexplicably precise intuition for the right decisions? That we were in fact brilliant songwriters with a major hit in our luggage we didn’t know at the time … however, we suspected it.
So there we were, sitting in the dressing room of the ZdF Broadcasting Centre in Mainz, eagerly awaiting our very first television appearance. At some point we were ordered into make-up one after the other and when I finally wanted to go back to our dressing room, all festively painted, I promptly got lost in the maze of corridors in the building.
And suddenly, like an apparition from another world, Joan Baez stood right before me. What I haven’t mentioned yet – the evening’s programme consisted of her, Gazebo, Udo Lindenberg and us greenhorns, a pretty bizarre line-up from today’s perspective, but back then we had other problems, mainly to do with our pullovers, which were miserably itchy. Joan, who at best might have heard of Gazebo, was still able to categorise me correctly. Looking at my woollen outfit, she spread her arms and said in her broadest American accent: “Oh, how sweet, you must be from this German newcomer band. I heard your song during the rehearsal, I really like it.” And with these words she hugged me and gave me a friendly kiss. – What can I say? Joan was an idol to me, a legend of US country and folk music, a veritable political activist, companion to Bob Dylan and a bright star in the rock’n’roll sky of my sleepless nights. Could it be that I had just felt on my cheek the lips that had no doubt already graced sainted Bob on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean? I felt completely flattened and this happiness gave me angel wings as I crossed the Grand Canyon an hour later together with Frank, Bernard and “Big In Japan”.