Daily Terror part 3: Emotion, hardness and drink

Click here for part 1 and part 2

vbdgfhbdfhThe end of 1984 was a personal low point for Pedder Teumer. Earlier that year, Daily Terror had been on their way up: their first two albums were selling in the thousands, and they were opening shows for mainstream punk acts such as Die Toten Hosen. Yet Pedder’s skinhead turn led to anonymous threats, cancelled gigs, and ultimately the breakup of Daily Terror.

As he later implied, unspecified problems in his private life hit him around the same time, further escalating his alcohol issues.Drinking himself into depression on New Years’ Eve, he wrote one of his bleakest lyrics in the early hours of 1st January 1985:  

A vacuum of illusions
You’ve long left your future behind
No glimmer of hope left inside you
In desperation you reach for the last beer

And everybody knows you’ve reached the end of the line
And they all wait for you to piss off already
Your halo no longer fools anyone
For every man dies alone

A decade later, he would still refer to Jeder stirbt für sich allein (every man dies alone) as his favourite, most personal Daily Terror song.

Yet as original guitarist Ebbi Hild remembers, Pedder was also a “stubborn, staunch and consequential person – he unconditionally followed through with everything he had begun”. Thus, by the end of January he had already managed to recruit a new line-up for Daily Terror, this time consisting of three long-haired brothers formerly known as the local rock band International. Pedder fronted this group of experienced musicians as its sole skinhead.

rsz_11986_daily_terror-1What might sound terrible on the paper proved to be a fortunate choice. A tight unit, the band soon started gigging, and by April a number of news songs were tested on a mini-tour through France.

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25 April 1985: live at the Bar L’Acropole in Dijon, France

The new line-up’s debut release, the 1985 mini-album Gefühl & Härte  – which roughly translates as ‘feeling and toughness’ or ‘emotion and hardness’ – combined Pedder’s abrasive singing style with a solemn, dramatic type of rock rarely heard in the skinhead scene.

The EP kicks off with the humming noises of an approaching bomber plane: ‘Dresden’ tells the story of a survivor of the city’s 1945 carpet bombing who remembers the fateful “night of terror” during which he lost his mother forty years earlier. With its slow, eerie pace, descending chorus, bomb whistle noises and quoting from Frederic Chopin’s ‘Funeral March’, Dresden’ masterfully captures the oppressive claustrophobia of its subject matter.

While there can be little doubt about the cynicism of mass killings in rich men’s wars, Pedder was now sending out mixed messages by singling out the Dresden bombing. In 1965, the German leftwing journalist and future Red Army Faction terrorist Ulrike Meinhof had written a poignant article on Dresden in Konkret magazine, exposing the bombing as a sordid war crime among many committed in World War II. Little did she know that the ‘historian’ whose estimate of up to 200,000 casualties she cited would later emerge as a holocaust denier: his name was David Irving.

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By the 1980s, it was well established that Irving had based his estimate on no more than hearsay and official Nazi propaganda. Nonetheless, Dresden had become a cause celebre for German nationalists and the far right and dubbed the ‘bomb holocaust of Dresden’ for obvious reasons . In fairness to Pedder, he never used this term, and his guesstimate of “forty thousand dead” claimed in the song was closer to the official figure (25,000) than it was to Irving’s “between a minimum of 100,000 and a maximum of 250,000” (or the revised number of “up to 100,000” asserted in the 1971 edition of his book, The Destruction of Dresden).

The same cannot be said for Force of Hate skinzine, whose editor went into overdrive when reviewing Gefühl & Härte: “Just imagine: 250,000 asphyxiated, slaughtered, burned in only two days – dead! The fact that for the first time ever, a German band has broken a major taboo by musical means is what impresses me most about Daily Terror’s latest” (FoH #4, 1986).

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The album’s other war song was ‘Bis zum bitteren Ende(Until the bitter end). Its melody was based on the classical piece Vltava by Bedřich Smetana, a 19th century Czech romantic nationalist composer. It told the story of a young man who enlists in the army seeking “freedom and fame”. As he dies in the battlefield, his “last call for freedom suffocates in a scream”. On the face of it an anti-war song, its tone is once again ambiguous: the pathos of Pedder’s delivery works against its supposed message. Is the soldier’s death futile or a heroic act of self-sacrifice? Pedder screams that “his oath remained unbroken, he loved his country”. Is that an ode to his patriotism or, rather, an indictment of those who sent him off to die? Most likely both.

Finally, there are ‘Establishment and ‘Meineid (Perjury). In the latter song, Pedder is a football hooligan facing a few weeks in jail. The theme of class justice is fleshed out in a few succinct lines:

Dressed in black robes they look you up and down
Your testimony doesn’t interest them in the least
You embody a different world
Your cell is already reserved

Perjury shall be your oath
What good is a warrior for justice nowadays?

A little masterpiece in my humble view, Gefühl & Härte further confused the band’s older punk fans both musically and lyrically. Karl Ulrich Walterbach, the ex-anarchist who produced the mini-album on his Berlin based AGR label, remembers Pedder thus: “I thought Daily Terror were ideologically shady by that point. Pedder was too strongly linked with the skinhead and football hooligan scenes. To be honest, he gave me the creeps – even though he always pretended to agree with me”.

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By 1985, all manner of people with very tenuous links to the skinhead cult had begun to copy the image. That was especially the case on the terraces, where far-right hooligan firms such as Dortmund’s Borussenfront and kids who had only recently been heavy metal fans donned a ‘skinhead’ look. However, it’s important to note that the actual German skinhead scene, the first generation hard core, was fairly small in those days. Gigs were rare, and skins involved in the music scene all knew each other.

After the Hanover ‘chaos days’ of 1983 and 84, which had cemented the uneasy relationship between skins and punks into permanent hostility, the motto was ‘all skinheads united and strong’. Aside from exceptions such as the Hamburg redskins who published the KB84/Reason Why zine and similar crews in Berlin, most skinheads heeded that slogan. Their attitudes ranged from apolitical and centrist to rightwing nationalist, patriotism of various shades and degrees providing a common ground of sorts.

Having completed his transition, Pedder immersed himself in the skinhead scene, warts and all. He quickly became good mates with all manner of folk – from the apolitical SpringtOifel to the likes of Endstufe, an Oi band whose main lyricist Jens had clear fascist sympathies.

1985-recording
Recording the ‘Gefühl & Härte’ mini-LP in 1985

Pedder’s own views during this period are hard to gauge. He had certainly switched from ‘anarchist’ to ‘patriot’ like most punks who had gone skinhead, but – according at least to some people who knew him at the time – probably retained some of his earlier leftist sentiments. Some of these, especially concerning the withdrawal of Allied and Soviet occupying forces from Germany, were more compatible with his new scene than others. Consequently, he foregrounded them in songs and public statements.

In 2013, the German punk veteran and co-organiser of the original Hanover ‘chaos days’, Karl Nagel, would write in a blog entry that he later deleted,

Pedder Teumer denied until the end that he had ever been a ‘nazi’. Well, he never was one. But the mobs he hung out with at Braunschweig FC matches and at Daily Terror gigs were chuck full of ‘patriots’ and Nazis … Those were Pedder’s friends at the time, and when he got shitfaced with them, he would blare out many a German slogan or even raise his stiff right arm. Which he later passionately denied, of course.

And so it happened that a royally shitfaced Pedder Teumer was caught in a compromising pose in August 1985:
rsz_11985_dortmund
As an aside, legend has it that the gentleman next to Pedder, a bloke nicknamed ‘Schweinebacke’ (literally ‘pig’s cheek’, but used to mean everything from ‘fat bastard’ to ‘dimwit’) was later jailed for six years for beating up a pensioner, who suffered a fatal heart attack as a result, in Dortmund’s BVB football stadium. Charming fella.

The full picture:
1985-dortmund-psycho-delle-schweinebacke-pedderIronically, the drunken salute occurred outside the Dortmund venue where Daily Terror had just played a benefit gig for children with severe disabilities and birth defects.

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August 1985: Daily Terror gig for disabled children’s charity, Aktion Sorgenkind

Click here for Daily Terror part 4: On a forlorn mission

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