Friday, October 30, 2009

Die Toten Hosen: Carnival in Rio (Punk Was)

"(Ronnie) Biggs is a fool, a buffoon....if you're going to worship a train robber, why not the one who got the money?"
Johnny Rotten

For decades Die Toten Hosen have ruled the charts of their native Germany by mixing the swagger of glam rock, the aggro of '77 punk and and the sing-along choruses of schlager (a central and Northern European easy listening genre whose name sounds like a portmanteau of schmaltz and lager for good reason). Outside Deutschland, the band, whose name means "The Dead Pants", are best known for the 1991 album Learning English: Lesson 1, in which they covered punk classics by the likes of the Ramones, the Vibrators and MRML favourite Wreckless Eric, each with a guest from the original version. It's an impressive achievement, though no more musically memorable than their albums of schlager songs and Christmas carols done under the pseudonym Die Roten Rosen.

The key to this seemingly backward-looking exercise is in the sole original,"Carnival in Rio". The special guest on this track (and on the two B-sides: the Sex Pistols' '"Everybody is Innocent" and Eddy Grant via the Clash's "Police on My Back") is notorious lowlife and Great Train Robber, Ronnie Biggs. To say Biggs comes off as like your disheveled, creepy old uncle, is sort of an insult to the disheveled, creepy old uncles of the world.

Fortunately, Biggs is used here as a punk prop (watch singer Campino give up on trying to get Biggs to sing at the 34 second mark) just as he was with the very late period Sex Pistols. While Malcolm McLaren used him to hide the fact that the Sex Pistols were dead, Die Toten Hosen use him, and a shit-load of curses, to disguise their song's surprisingly sweet sentiment. "Carnival in Rio (Punk Was)"is where the band lays their guts on the line. The song is both a tribute to their forefathers and a paean to punk's indomitable spirit of defiant optimism, exemplified by those shouts of, "It'll all be coming back!" at the end. Amen. Punk never dies, fuckers.

Carnival in Rio (Punk Was)
CD single

Support the band!


  1. This was great, even if I was hoping you'd stay with the J-punk a little longer...

  2. You're right,Carnival is the only reason for listen to English Lessons,but a really great one... thanks

  3. io
    Glad you enjoyed the DTH and I will return to J-Punk (though I'm still pretty ignorant of it's in and out's). I want to post a bit more SK and, if I can ever find the artwork, that High-Low's song "Too Late To Die". The actual theme I'm running on is international punk, so after this we're off to Australia.

    I wanted to love that album when I read about it but instead I only liked it (except of course for CIR, which I ignored on first listen). It seems tribute albums of all types have a hard time breaking the 'okay' level.

  4. Why is there a picture of Die Mimmi's at the bottom?

  5. Anon
    Is that who that is? I was wondering why the band looked wrong (and with a woman). I'd blame Google Image Search but its a poor worker who blames his tools rather than fix his mistakes.

  6. Nice one.
    One of my fav's from DTH.
    cheers & Happy Halloween my friend.

  7. Mark
    It's a highlight alright, I still might post some more stuff (the Xmas single, the Sham 69 single).

    Hope you had a good All Hallow's Eve.


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