Introducing Deezer’s Shortcut Series: World Cup Special. As part of our efforts to explore and present ‘essential guides’ to musical themes, we’re taking some of the more competitive World Cup countries and exploring their key music through the tournament’s rich history. Our guide to albums, playlists and stand-out tracks should help you prepare for one of the biggest parties on the planet, kicking off in Sao Paulo on June 12.
We start with Germany, one of the most successful World Cup participants – winners of three World Cup tournaments and finalists four other times.
In contemporary music terms, their global dominance is perhaps less assured than their footballing dominance since the World Cup began in 1930. However, it is the world’s third largest music market, behind only the United States and Japan, and it prides itself on a strong domestic output. But how many of these artists, classic albums and tracks have you got in your collection?
Not the best year for them in the World Cup. Memorably, a disputed goal from England’s Geoff Hurst put the then West Germany team out of the running for the Jules Rimet trophy. But, on the other side of the Atlantic, a young Cologne-born model was establishing herself in music, acting and modelling. Nico was a force of nature, and her debut effort ‘Chelsea Girl’ came out in ’67, the same year her now famed collaboration with The Velvet Underground was released. ‘Chelsea Girl’ sets the scene for a solo career that would last for another five albums before her death in 1988, each of which chart the expansion of an enormously influential art-rock creator.
Eight years on from the pain of Wembley, the West German team had their own home victory to crow about (East Germany could even boast of participating for the first time ever, making it to the second round). Killing the hopes of the Johan Cruyff-led Netherlands team, feted during the tournament for their ’Total Football’ style, West Germany showcased their tenacity with a now legendary team featuring Berti Vogts, Franz Beckenbauer and man of the match Gerd Muller. Their last group game was in Dusseldorf, where later that same year something extraordinary happened in Germany’s musical history’ – Autobahn’ from Kraftwerk was released. Although it was their fourth studio album, it was the one which saw them pioneer a type of electronic music not heard before, and, after shaving 18 minutes out of the title track, broke out of Germany, eventually charting at number 25 in the US Billboard Hot 100. Widely considered the most influential electronic act of all time, we recommend you revisit this road-trip par excellence to trace the roots of so much music that has happened since.
If Argentina ’78 was a transitional year for the West German squad, going home at the second round stage after a defeat to Austria, Espana ’82 was something of return to form. They made it to the final in Madrid, coming a cropper to an Italian team which featured the oldest player to win a World Cup in goalkeeper Dino Zoff, the tournament’s top goalscorer in Paolo Rossi and one of the world’s finest midfielders in Marco Tardelli.
Elsewhere, German dominance was strong in ’82 – the Nueu Deutsche Welle, or New German Wave was hitting its peak in the music world, with post-punk /new wave acts from Germany making waves locally and internationally. In 1983 Nena released ’99 Luftbaloons’, a song where a bag of helium balloons are released and mistakenly identified by an East German Early Warning System as a NATO attack, resulting in nuclear war. It couldn’t have preyed on more topical Cold War-era fears if it tried, so the song’s re-versioning in English and release ex-Germany the following year resulted in a huge hit – a number 1 in the UK, with the original version charting at 2 in the US Billboard Hot 100. To this day, it remains one of the widest-known German pop songs around the world.
Italia ’90 was best remembered for the underdog; Cameroon emerged as everyone’s favourite newbies on the world stage and Ireland reached the last 16 in their first tournament, but nobody could stop West Germany from claiming their third World Cup title. Klinsmann, Rudi Voller and Lothar Matthaus helped the team towards a historic victory in an ill-tempered final in their last appearance in the World Cup before German reunification.
If any one song is synonymous with the era which saw fall of the Berlin wall and the subsequent reunification of Germany, it’s this German mega-hit from Scorpions. Released on their 1990 album ‘Crazy World’, it didn’t spread around the globe until the 1991 coup which collapsed the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, but it remains one of the best-selling singles by a German artist, shifting 14 million copies. It’s also one of the best ever pop songs to contain whistling, and that’s an indisputable fact.
Want to dig a little deeper? Check out the playlist below for even more fantastic German artists!