Aaah… Austria. Its banquet of cultural ubiquity and rich history provides a tapestry of feasts to the yearning and hedonistic alike. Austria. A majestic bastion of art-deco wonder, imperial symbolism and contemporary whimsy. Austria. Playground to the rich and famous, birthplace of cleavage and schnitzel, home of Mozart, Strauss, Schwarzenegger and… surf rock?! Yes, that’s right kids! Wax up that Malibu, throw on the baggies and stock up the Woody because you and your best gal are off to… Vienna!
Straight out of the Gasthaus clubs and pubs of 1960s Vienna comes twisted, trash surf maulsters The Beatfires! Born and bred in the gothic city, The Beatfires first appeared in the tiny, fledgling freakbeat scene as The Swinging Gents, but by 1963 had well and truly settled on The Beatfires as a more genre-appropriate name. Plodding their way through a string of unsuccessful attempts at starring in local band contests, the band eventually decided that to make it work, a new approach needed to be implemented. Finally, in 1966, an overnight recording session yielded what would in time be considered an Austrian freakbeat classic. ‘Alles im Leben Geht Vorbei/Interpol’ -released by local label Rex Roval– took the clubs by storm and proved an instant hit among the increasingly frustrated post-WWII youth, even being labelled an early beacon for the radical counterculture of the late 1960s.
Whilst yes, it is most certainly true that a mere hint at the existence of a trash rock scene in bleak old 1960’s Vienna can often come as a firm but disciplined slap to all that we thought we knew about music, the fact remains that in a post-war Central European context, the freakbeat scene was as vital and socially pivotal a scene as the Haight-Ashbury movement or, dare I say, the punk explosion of the mid to late 1970s. Gasp!
And now, kiddies, for your listening enjoyment, all you need do to experience this once covert scene, is swing by your local groove shack -my dad said that’s what record stores were called in the sixties???- and pick yourself up a copy of Schnitzelbeat released by Vienna’s Konkord Records. Schnitzelbeat Volumes 1 & 2 contain not just killer tunes to shut up anybody who thinks the Pulp Fiction soundtrack is the last bastion of surf rock supremacy, but an education. If you’re still not convinced, let’s just reel off some of the way out and boss recordings that Schitzelbeat has to offer:
and of course, don’t forget our old friends, The Beatfires.
*You can find The Beatfires and other killer Vienna freakbeat artists on the Konkord page on bandcamp.