Jaki Liebezeit died yesterday. Perhaps surprisingly, he was 78, born just before the Second World War, nine years ahead of David Bowie. When Can – for whom Liebezeit drummed – released Monster Movie he was already a not particularly rock’n’roll 31 years old.
Can weren’t rock’n’roll. Krautrock wasn’t rock’n’roll. Instead, they molded funk, jazz, Turkish (Can is the Turkish word for peace) African, experimental, classical and rock’n’roll music into something very European. That’s not to say it was a gruesome world music in a Peter Gabriel way (although Can did head down that road): at their best, Can were hard – repetitive, simple, direct and complex all at the same time. And driven by that incredible beat; again, both intricate and plain. Very funky, but not like funk.
Germanic, African, classical, high magic funk, as Julian Cope might say. Beyond genre.
Can could have been horrible.
Like so many of the Krautock ubermenschen and frauen, Liebezeit lived a materially modest life, largely anonymous in his Köln home, packing up his own gear at the end of a gig. This is not a cause for anger. Can were a collective (Can is also an acronym: communism, anarchism, nihlism), just as Neu, Faust and Cluster were. Anti-celebrities, not posing stars. Can weren’t Oasis.
I could post dozens of jawdropping, headnodding Leibezeit snippets, but here’s one of my favourites – Can live, extemporising Vitamin C, the first song I heard with that rhythm: