Rockpalast was a WDR (Cologne) show produced between 1974 and 1986, and revived again in 1995. The show was originally produced by Peter Rüchel and directed by Christan Wagner, and was famous for staging gigs with the leading bands of the day. The three concerts preceding Epitaph's first Rockpalast appearance were with Todd Rundgren's Utopia, Leo Kottke, and Ry Cooder. Epitaph first hit the Rockpalast stage on February 2nd 1997, and were followed that year by artists like Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Chicago, Harry Chapin, Tom Waits, Tom Petty, Rory Gallagher, Little Feat and Roger McGuinn's Thunderbird. Although two of the founder members, Cliff Jackson and Jim McGillivray, were Brits, and the lyrics were English, Epitaph was definitely a German band. As such it was quite amazing that Epitaph made it onto what was in effect Germany's answer to The Old Grey Whistle Test.
Epitaph's second Rockpalast gig was preceded by such bands as Earth, Wind & Fire, the J. Geils Band, Patti Smith and Johnny Winter. Followed by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Nils Lofgren, Mitch Ryder, Roger Chapman and The Short List, Epitaph's second appearance was only surpassed by a much later show, Peter Sommer's legendary 2004 KRAUT-Rockpalast, a three-day celebration of German stars that included Karthago, Guru Guru, Jane, Amon Düül2, Birth Control, and of course Epitaph.
Rockpalast 1: 2nd February 1977
At the time of this first Rockpalast appearance in 1977, the band was between albums. This was after Outside the Law, and the post-USA split. Cliff had finally returned from his road trip to Kathmandu, by way of Afghanistan (learning more about the country than Bush and Blair ever would), and he needed to get back to work.
Although he managed to get the original line-up (Jackson, McGillivray, Kolbe, Walz) back together, events got in the way of things, with Jim McGillivray leaving after another of the robust disagreements that characterised this period of the band.
Within days of Jim's departure came a phone call from Rockpalast, and Fritz Randow (formerly with Eloy) was pulled in to do drums.
With just two weeks for Fritz to become the new Epitaph drummer, the band hired a studio and practised daily. Whereas Jim had a truly massive drum kit, Fritz had a very small, Phil Collins style kit, with a bass drum about the size of Jim's stand tom.
With such a kit, Fritz lacked Jim's wall-to-wall sound, but he played well and also fitted in well in the fluorescent green former school in Graue that was home to the band at the time.
The Rockpalast gig also turned out to be a bit of a lifesaver for Epitaph, because the fee was 2,500 Deutschmarks - a small fortune for a brilliant, yet poverty-stricken rock band.
Looking back, there is a distinct lack of anecdotes about this first appearance, although Cliff remembers that "it was recorded in the studio with a small audience of about 30 people. Because of the cameras, the audience was about 30 to 40 metres away and it was very hard to play like that."
Going to Chicago was actually written for the 1974 Status Quo tour. When the news came through that Epitaph was going to support Quo on their tour, the guys decided it might be good to finish off their set with a boogie number "so we could really kick Quo's ass". The song was written in just five minutes, but remains an all-time favourite with Epitaph fans. The Epitaph set went down well with the audiences, but understandably not quite so well with Quo, who were, after all, the headliners.
It is interesting to note that this is the only recording of She's Burning, as it was never included on an album.
Who Do You Love was born out of an after-gig jam session, and sees Cliff playing what was possible the first European voice box solo. The voice box was one of the few articles that survived the Billingsgate Meltdown.
This, their first Rockpalast gig, should have been 15 minutes longer, but the producers had managed to get hold of the first live footage of some tracks from Fleetwood Mac's famous Rumours album.
"I was a bit annoyed at first, because you get to do Rockpalast, and then they chop a bit out. But I guess it was pretty cool to have something iconic like Rumours spliced in to the end of our gig" remembers Bernie.
Rockpalast 2: 3rd September 1979
In 1979 Epitaph was on the Brain Tour, organised by the Metronom record company.
The tour included Uli Roth (who had split from the Scorpions to form his own band the year before), Accept, Epitaph and a couple of other bands, all on the Brain label.
One night when they were playing in Essen, the band came off stage to find Rockpalast supremo Peter Rüchel waiting in the wings. He was actually there to book Uli Roth, who was going on next, but Epitaph had played so well that night that Peter turned to Cliff and asked, "Want to do Rockpalast again?"
Just prior to the Rockpalast recording, Epitaph had been on tour for six days, and Cliff had been singing all the lead vocals. The night they arrived, Cliff had lost his voice completely. He went to the hospital, where the casualty department was full of accidents and unsuccessful suicides, so Cliff was quite embarrassed to admit he there due to voice loss. But for a rock musician, the night before a Rockpalast gig, this really was an emergency.
Epitaph had been supporting Joe Cocker at the Dortmund Westfalenhalle, which Heinz Glass found quite ironic. "You sound more like Joe Cocker than he does," said Heinz as he accompanied a despondent Cliff to hospital.
"They gave me something to drink, and my voice nearly held out. I made it through to almost the end of the concert before it started going again," recollects Cliff.
The line up for this second gig was Harvey Janssen on bass, Fritz Randow on drums, Heinz Glass on guitar, Michael Karch on Hammond organ, and Cliff Jackson doing vocals and lead guitar. Fritz later went on to do three albums with Saxon, as well as playing with Victory, and Eloy again. Harvey left the band in 1981 to concentrate on monitor mixing, working with bands like Giana Nannini, Westernhagen, and Heinz-Rudolf Kunze. He did all the major German festivals, as well as Peter Maffay's Tabaluga shows. Harvey lost his fight with the Big C in 2011.
Michael Karch left the band soon after See You in Alaska was released. He later went to work for Polygram's Hannover mastering studios, who in turn sent him off to China to teach them audio mastering. He later ran his own studio, but was last heard of as an extremely successful Internet provider.
Return to Reality had just come out, and the band was working on the new album which was going to be See You in Alaska, and some of the tracks from this Rockpalast gig hadn't been recorded by then.
When I Lose Your Love has got vocals on it here, but the album just has the instrumental version - and still nobody can remember why.
Rockpalast 3: 22nd December 2004
On three days in December 2004, Peter Sommer brought all the old bands together in Bonn for Remember the Past - a Kraut-Rockpalast. Epitaph appeared on day two of this three-day extravaganza, delighting old fans and new with their tight, two-lead-guitar sound.
By this time Epitaph had broken up again, gone through several incarnations - including Kingdom and Domain - and reformed for The Reunion Concert (with Jim McGillivray on Drums) in January 2000.
By the time the decision was made to go on the road again, Jim was tied up with other projects, so Achim Poret came back in as drummer.
Still touring and recording in 2011, Epitaph now consists of Cliff Jackson and Heinz Glass on guitars, Bernie Kolbe on bass, and Achim Poret on drums.
Was it just fortuitous, or was it brilliant strategy on the part of Peter Sommer, that had Epitaph and Jane on the same bill that night in Bonn? However it came about, it gave us the opportunity of seeing Jane-guitarist and ex-Epitaph man, Klaus Walz, join the band on stage for a three-guitar rendition of Going to Chicago.
So Epitaph ended up playing Going to Chicago at all of its three Rockpalast gigs. Viewers of this DVD now have the chance to enjoy all three, and that, as Cliff Jackson says, is "pretty cool, really".
Here we have a real bonus, two numbers from a 1972 Beat Club show.
Beat Club was produced by Radio Bremen, and was the first German TV programme to showcase English language bands. Running from 1965 to 1972, it was the brainchild of Mike Leckebusch and Gerd Augustin, and the first German TV music show to be developed specifically for young people.
This recording features the original line-up of Epitaph with Cliff Jackson, Jim McGillivray, Bernie Kolbe and Klaus Walz.
Hendrix had played Beat Club a couple of years before and shocked the staid German cameramen, whose union threatened to strike if these young rock musicians did not play quietly.
This was in the days when cameramen still wore white coats, and only the chosen few were allowed in the control room. Television was holy in those days, and there were only three channels.
"We turned up in our normal gear, blue jeans and jackets, which was what we also wore on stage" remembers Cliff, "but they had a blue screen - so we had to go out and buy new clothes. You can't record blue jeans against a blue screen."
The blue screen was there so they could put in psychedelic effects for the broadcast.
"They wanted us to play Visions, but Visions has a Mellotron keyboard on it, and we didn't have one - so the band ended up doing Early Morning and Little Maggie."
Little Maggie was actually a test run for the cameras, without blue screen, but now it can finally be seen here on this DVD.
The guitar police will be interested to see that Cliff is playing his white 1959 Gibson Les Paul Custom (which must be worth a fortune today). Klaus was happier with his 1966 Guild Starfire. Cliff remains unusually quiet about the fate of his Les Paul, while Klaus's Starfire was famously smashed by the American airline that took Epitaph on its second trip to the States. They refused to pay compensation. Bernie on the other hand still owns and plays his 1970 Fender Precision bass.
Enjoy time travelling through the history of Epitaph, and what is considered by many to be the best English language rock ever made in Germany. And they're still at it today.
Alistair A. Tarwid
EPITAPH - WDR Studio-L Köln 02.02.1977
01 She's Burning 02 Woman 03 Tequila Shuffle 04 Crossroads 05 Outside The Law 06 Fresh Air 07 Who Do You Love 08 Going To Chicago 09 Stop, Look And Listen
EPITAPH - WDR Studio-L Köln 03.09.1979
01 Tonight 02 When I Lose Your Love 03 Return To Reality 04 Strangers 05 On The Road 06 Hold On 07 Mick's Boogie 08 Spread Your Wings 09 Going To Chiacgo
KRAUTROCKpalast, Mittwoch, 22. Dezember 2004, Harmonie, Bonn
01. Moving To The Country 02. Woman 03. Crossroads 04. Big City 05. Fresh Air 06. Bad Feeling 07. Reflections 08. Stop, Look And Listen 09. Tequila Shuffle 10. Going To Chicago