The Story of Tangerine Dream
Tangerine Dream is a German electronic music group founded in 1967 by Edgar Froese. The band has undergone many personnel changes over the years, with Froese being the only continuous member. Drummer and composer Klaus Schulze was briefly a member of an early lineup, but the most stable version of the group, during their influential mid-1970s period, was as a trio with Froese, Christopher Franke, and Peter Baumann. Early in the 1980s, Johannes Schmoelling replaced Baumann, and this lineup, too, was stable and extremely productive.
Tangerine Dream’s early “Pink Years” albums had a pivotal role in the development of krautrock. Their “Virgin Years” albums helped define what became known as the Berlin School of electronic music. These and later albums were influential in the development of electronic dance music, and also the genre known as New Age music, though the band themselves disliked the term. From the late 1990s into the 2000s, Tangerine Dream has also explored some styles of electronica.
Although the group has released numerous studio and live recordings, a substantial number of their fans were introduced to Tangerine Dream by their film soundtracks, which total over sixty and include Sorcerer, Thief, The Keep, Risky Business, Firestarter, Legend, Near Dark, Shy People, and Miracle Mile. They have recently composed the original score for the video game Grand Theft Auto V.
In the late 60s and early 70s, several short-lived incarnations of Tangerine Dream were formed by Froese teaming up with various musicians from West Berlin’s underground scene. A few of these collaborators included Steve Jolliffe, Klaus Schulze and Conrad Schnitzler.
The most notable of Froese’s collaborations ended up being his partnership with Christopher Franke. Franke joined Tangerine Dream in 1970 from the group Agitation Free to replace Schulze as the drummer. He is credited for the initial discovery of the sequencer technique, introduced on Phaedra, that came to define the band’s music. Franke left Tangerine Dream due to tiresome schedules, and creative differences with Froese, nearly two decades later in 1988.
Other long-term members of the group included Peter Baumann (1971–1977), who later went on to found the New Age label Private Music, to which the band was signed from 1988 to 1991; Johannes Schmoelling (1980–1985); Paul Haslinger (1986–1990); and, most recently Froese’s son Jerome Froese (1990–2006).
A number of other members were also part of Tangerine Dream for shorter periods of time. In contrast to session musicians, they also contributed to some compositions of the band during their stay. The most notable such members are Steve Schroyder (organist, 1971–72), Michael Hoenig (who replaced Baumann for a 1975 Australian tour and a London concert, included on Bootleg Box Set Vol. 1), Steve Jolliffe (wind instruments and vocals on Cyclone and the following tour; he was also part of a short-lived 1969 line-up), Klaus Krieger (drummer on Cyclone and Force Majeure) Ralf Wadephul (in collaboration with Edgar Froese recorded album Blue Dawn, but it was released only in 2006; also credited for one track on Optical Race (1988) and toured with the band in support of this album), and Linda Spa (saxophonist who appeared on numerous albums and concerts between 1990 and 1996, as well as 2005 onwards, and contributing one track on Goblins’ Club).
As of 2013 Tangerine Dream comprises Edgar Froese and Thorsten Quaeschning, who first collaborated in the composition of Jeanne d’Arc (2005) and has returned for many subsequent releases. For concerts and recordings, they are joined mainly by Linda Spa on saxophone and flute, Iris Camaa on drums and percussion, and Bernhard Beibl on guitar. In 2011, electric violinist Hoshiko Yamane was added to the lineup, and is featured on some of the most recent albums.
Origins: psychedelia and krautrock
Edgar Froese arrived in West Berlin in the mid-1960s to study art. His first band, the psychedelic rock-styled The Ones, was gradually dismantled after releasing only one single, and Froese turned to further experimentation, playing minor gigs with a variety of musicians. Most of these gigs were in the famous Zodiak Free Arts Lab, although Froese’s band was also invited to play for Salvador Dalí. Music was mixed with literature, painting, early forms of multimedia, and more. Only the most outlandish ideas attracted any attention, and Froese summed up this attitude with the phrase: “In the absurd often lies what is artistically possible.” As members of the group came and went, the direction of the music continued to be inspired by the Surrealists, and the group came to be called by the surreal-sounding name of Tangerine Dream, inspired by the line “tangerine trees and marmalade skies” from The Beatles’ track “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”.
Froese was fascinated by technology and skilled in using it to create music. He built custom-made instruments and, wherever he went, collected sounds with tape recorders for use in constructing musical works later. His early work with tape loops and other repeating sounds was the obvious precursor to the emerging technology of the sequencer, which Tangerine Dream quickly adopted upon its arrival.
The first Tangerine Dream album, Electronic Meditation, was a tape-collage Krautrock piece, using the technology of the time rather than the synthesized music they later became famous for. The line-up for the album was Froese, Klaus Schulze, and Conrad Schnitzler. Electronic Meditation was published by Ohr in 1970, and began the period known as the Pink Years (the Ohr logo was a pink ear). But starting with their second album, Alpha Centauri, the group has been a trio or occasionally duo of electronic instruments, commonly augmented by guitar from Froese (or, much later, other musicians as well), and occasionally also other instruments. Of these, drums from Christopher Franke and organ from Steve Schroyder (on Alpha Centauri) or Peter Baumann (on subsequent releases) feature prominently in the band’s music during the early 70s. They also started their heavy usage of the Mellotron during this period.
Rise to fame: the Virgin years
The band’s 1973 album Atem was named as Album of the Year by British DJ John Peel, and this attention helped Tangerine Dream to sign to the fledgling Virgin Records in the same year. Soon afterward they released the album Phaedra, an eerie soundscape that unexpectedly reached #15 in the United Kingdom album charts and became one of Virgin’s first bona-fide hits. Phaedra was one of the first commercial albums to feature sequencers and came to define much more than just the band’s own sound. The creation of the album’s title track was something of an accident; the band was experimenting in the studio with a recently acquired Moog synthesizer, and the tape happened to be rolling at the time. They kept the results and later added flute, bass-guitar and Mellotron performances. The cantankerous Moog, like many other early synthesizers, was so sensitive to changes in temperature that its oscillators would drift badly in tuning as the equipment warmed up, and this drift can easily be heard on the final recording. This album marked the beginning of the period known as the Virgin Years.
In the 1980s, along with other electronic music pioneers such as Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis, the band were early adopters of the new digital technology which revolutionized the sound of the synthesizer, although the group had been using digital equipment (in some shape or form) as early as the mid-seventies. Their technical competence and extensive experience in their early years with self-made instruments and unusual means of creating sounds meant that they were able to exploit this new technology to make music quite unlike anything heard before. To the modern listener, their albums of that period may not seem so exceptional, but only because the technology they adopted at that time is now used almost universally.
Tangerine Dream live
Tangerine Dream’s earliest concerts were visually simple by modern standards, with three men sitting motionless for hours alongside massive electronic boxes festooned with patch cords and a few flashing lights. Some concerts were even performed in complete darkness as happened during the performance at York Minster, 20 October 1975. As time went on and technology advanced, the concerts became much more elaborate, with visual effects, lighting, lasers, pyrotechnics, and projected images. By 1977 their North American tour featured full-scale Laserium effects.
Through the 1970s and 1980s the band toured extensively. The concerts generally included large amounts of unreleased and improvised material, and were consequently widely bootlegged. They were notorious for playing extremely loudly (reaching 134db in 1976) and for a long time. The band released recordings of a fair number of their concerts, and on some of these the band worked out material which would later form the backbone of their studio recordings (for example, Pergamon, which documents a concert given in East Berlin shortly after Johannes Schmoelling joined the group, contains themes that would appear later on Tangram). An excellent introduction is the seminal Ricochet album; this was recorded during a tour which included European cathedrals, with some later overdubbing.
Forays into vocals
Most of Tangerine Dream’s albums are entirely instrumental — two albums that prominently featured lyrics, Cyclone (1978) and Tyger (1987) were met with disapproval from some fans. While there have occasionally been a few vocals on the band’s other releases, such as the track “Kiew Mission” from 1981’s Exit and “The Harbor” from 1987’s Shy People, the group only recently returned to featuring vocals in a musical trilogy based on Dante’s Divine Comedy and their 2007 album Madcap’s Flaming Duty.
After their 1980 East Berlin gig, when they became one of the first major Western bands to perform in a Communist country, Tangerine Dream became very popular behind the Iron Curtain. They were one of the most popular bands in Poland in the early 1980s and even released a double live album of one of their performances there called Poland, recorded during their tour in the winter at the end of 1983. With Poland, the band moved to the Jive Electro label, marking the beginning of the Blue Years.
Throughout the 1980s Tangerine Dream composed scores for more than twenty films. This had been an interest of Froese’s since the late 1960s, when he scored an obscure Polish film, as well as appearing as an actor in several German underground films. He made the score for the experimental film “Never shoot the bathroom man,” directed by Jürgen Polland. Many of the group’s soundtracks were composed at least partially of reworked material from the band’s studio albums or work that was in progress for upcoming albums; see, for example, the resemblance between the track “Igneous” on their soundtrack for Thief and the track “Thru Metamorphic Rocks” on their studio release Force Majeure. Their first exposure on U.S. television came when a track for the then in-progress album Le Parc was used as the theme for the television program Street Hawk. Some of the more famous soundtracks have been Sorcerer, The Keep, Risky Business, Firestarter, Flashpoint, Near Dark, Shy People, and Legend. At their best, the soundtracks have been as musically successful as the regular studio albums, and many fans discovered them through their film or television work. A track from Phaedra was used in the Godfrey Ho film, “Thunder Ninja Kids: The Hunt for Devil Boxer.” Tangerine Dream have also composed the soundtrack score for the video game Grand Theft Auto V.
Recent times: going independent
The group has had recording contracts with Ohr, Virgin, Jive Electro, Private Music, and Miramar, and many of the minor soundtracks were released on Varese Sarabande. In 1996, the band founded their own record label, TDI, and more recently, Eastgate. Subsequent albums are today generally not available in normal retail channels but are sold by mail-order or through online channels. The same applies to their Miramar releases, the rights to which the band has bought back. Meanwhile, their Ohr and Jive Electro catalogs (known as the “Pink” and “Blue” Years) are currently owned by Esoteric Recordings.
Edgar Froese also released a number of solo recordings which are similar in style to Tangerine Dream’s work. Jerome Froese released a number of singles as TDJ Rome that are similar to his work within the Dream Mixes series; in 2005 he released his first solo album Neptunes. Jerome is presently on hiatus from Tangerine Dream to concentrate on his solo career. He has recently finished his second solo album Shiver Me Timbers which was released on 29 October 2007.
To celebrate their 40th anniversary (1967–2007), Tangerine Dream announced their only UK concert at London Astoria on 20 April 2007. Tangerine Dream also played a totally free open air concert in Eberswalde on 1 July 2007 and at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt on Main on 7 October 2007. 2008 saw the band in Eindhoven Netherlands playing at E-Day (an electronic music festival); later in the year they also played the Night of the Prog Festival in Loreley, Germany, as well as concerts at the Kentish Town Forum, in London on 1 November, at the Picture House, Edinburgh on 2 November, and their first live concert in the USA for over a decade, at the UCLA Royce Hall, Los Angeles on 7 November.
In 2009 the group announced that they would play a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London, on 1 April 2010, titled the Zeitgeist concert, 35 years after their milestone concert there on 2 April 1975. The entire concert was released as a 3-CD live album on 7 July 2010.
Tangerine Dream embarked in spring/summer 2012 on a tour of Europe, Canada & USA called The Electric Mandarine Tour 2012. The 1st leg was a 5-date European tour, beginning in 10 April in Budapest (Hungary) via Padua (Italy), Milano (Italy), Zurich (Switzerland) and ending in 10 May in Berlin (Germany). The 2nd leg was a North-American tour which started with the Jazz Festival in Montréal (Canada) on 30 June, followed by a concert on July 4 at the Bluesfest in Ottawa (Canada) and continued as a 10-date US journey beginning in July in Boston, then New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and California.
Tangerine Dream began as a surreal rock band, with each of the members contributing different musical influences and styles. Edgar Froese’s guitar style was inspired by Jimi Hendrix, while Chris Franke contributed the more avant garde elements of Karlheinz Stockhausen and Terry Riley. Yes-like progressive rock influence was brought in by Steve Joliffe on Cyclone. The sample-based sound collages of Johannes Schmoelling drew their inspiration from a number of sources; one instance is Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians on, for example, parts of Logos Live, and the track Love on a Real Train from the Risky Business soundtrack.
Classical music has had some influence on the sound of Tangerine Dream over the years. György Ligeti, Johann Sebastian Bach, Maurice Ravel, and Arcangelo Corelli are clearly visible as dominant influences in the early albums. A Baroque sensibility sometimes informs the more coordinated sequencer patterns, which has its most direct expression in the La Follia section that comes at the very end of the title track of Force Majeure. In live performances, the piano solos often directly quoted from Romantic classical works for piano, such as the Beethoven and Mozart snippets in much of the late ’70s- early ’80s stage shows. In the bootleg recording of the Mannheim Mozartsaal concert of 1976 (Tangerine Tree volume 13), the first part of the first piece also clearly quotes from Franz Liszt’s Totentanz. The first phrase is played on a harpsichord synthesizer patch, and is answered by the second half of the phrase in a flute voicing on a Mellotron. During the 90s, many releases included recordings of classical compositions: Pictures at an Exhibition (on Turn of the Tides), Largo (from Xerxes) (on Tyranny of Beauty), Symphony in A Minor (by J. S. Bach), and Concerto in A Major / Adagio (by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) (both on Ambient Monkeys).
Since the 90s, Tangerine Dream have also recorded cover versions of Jimi Hendrix’ Purple Haze (first on 220 Volt Live) and The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby, Back in the U.S.S.R., Tomorrow Never Knows, and Norwegian Wood.
An infrequently recurring non-musical influence on Tangerine Dream, and Edgar Froese in particular, have been 12th-19th century poets. This was first evident on the 1981 album Exit, the track title “Pilots of the Purple Twilight” being a quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem Locksley Hall. Six years later, the album Tyger featured poems from William Blake set to music; and around the turn of the millennium, Edgar Froese started working on a musical trilogy based on Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, completed in 2006. Most recently, the 2007 album Madcap’s Flaming Duty features more poems set to music, some again from Blake but also e.g. Walt Whitman.
Pink Floyd were also an influence on Edgar Froese and Tangerine Dream, the band in its very early psychedelic rock band phase playing improvisations based on Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive. Madcap’s Flaming Duty is dedicated to the memory of the late Syd Barrett. The title refers to Barrett’s solo release, “The Madcap Laughs”.
The band’s influence can be felt in ambient artists such as Deepspace, The Future Sound of London, David Kristian, and Global Communication, as well as rock, pop, and dance artists such as Radiohead, Porcupine Tree, M83, DJ Shadow, Ulrich Schnauss, Cut Copy, and Kasabian. The band also clearly influenced 1990s and 2000s Trance music, where lush soundscapes and synth pads are used along with repetitive synth sequences, much like in their 1975 releases Rubycon and Ricochet, as well as some of their music from the early 1980s. The group have also been sampled countless times, more recently by Recoil on the album SubHuman, by Sasha on Involver, and on several Houzan Suzuki albums.
Edgar Froese’s death
Edgar Froese died suddenly in Vienna on 20 January 2015 from a pulmonary embolism. On 6 April 2015, the group’s remaining members (Thorsten, Ulrich, and Hoshiko) and Froese’s widow Bianca Acquaye, pledged to continue working together in an effort to fulfill Edgar’s vision for the group. However, ex-member Jerome Froese announced in his Facebook time line that in his opinion Tangerine Dream will not exist without his father.
Tangerine Dream played their first show following Froese’s death on June 9, 2016 in Szczecin, Poland.
In popular culture
- Kaleidoscope’s first album (from November 1967) was titled Tangerine Dream. However, this may be a coincidence, since Tangerine Dream had only existed for two months when this album was released.
- Steven Wilson, of Porcupine Tree, stated that Tangerine Dream was one of his influences to make his music, and often cites Zeit as his all-time favorite album.
- Japanese electronic musician Susumu Hirasawa dedicated his song “Island Door (Paranesian Circle)” (トビラ島（パラネシアン・サークル） Tobira Shima (Paraneshian Circle) to Tangerine Dream. At 13 minutes, it is Hirasawa’s longest composition.
- In science fiction author Alastair Reynolds’s Revelation Space universe, one of the gas giant planets in the Epsilon Eridani system is named Tangerine Dream.
- The Japanese band Do As Infinity’s debut single “Tangerine Dream” was named after the band.
- Till Lindemann, vocalist of Rammstein, stated that Tangerine Dream was one of his influences to make his music.
- In an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force a character named Romulox mentions the band Tangerine Dream.
- At the end of Tenacious D’s track “City Hall,” lead singer Jack Black references the group (“Malibu nights, tangerine dreams”).
- British rock and roll band, Kasabian recently paid tribute to Tangerine Dream describing them as one of their “spiritual influences”.
- In the 1983 movie Valley Girl, the character of Randy (played by Nicolas Cage) can be seen wearing a Tangerine Dream concert shirt during the “I Melt With You” montage scene when sitting in the mall food court with Julie (Deborah Foreman).
- In Rob Reiner’s 1984 mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, several copies of Tangerine Dream’s 1980 album Tangram can briefly be seen in the record store in which members of Spinal Tap make an ill-fated signing appearance.
- The video game Grand Theft Auto IV contains the Tangerine Dream track “Remote Viewing” as one of the songs played on the in-game radio station The Journey.
- During the summer of 1982 the Polish broadcaster Telewizja Polska used a part of Tangerine Dream’s “Ricochet” as background of the weather forecast shown at the end of the major release of their then-information program “Dziennik Telewizyjny”.
- The track “Love On A Real Train” is used in films Risky Business, The Squid and the Whale, Louder Than Bombs and at the end of season 1, episode 5 of Mr. Robot.
- In 2016, Netflix’s original show Stranger Things used three Tangerine Dream tracks in its soundtrack. “Green Desert” from Green Desert (1986) in episode five, “Exit” from Exit (1981) in episode six and “Horizon” from Poland (1984) in episode eight.
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