A story recently surfaced about the perseverance of music lovers that I thought was worthy of sharing.
To me, it’s a story about the little guy winning the battle over hypocrisy and evil, for what it means to truly care about music.
The story, it was reported by the BBC, started back in 1969 in East Germany. Guenter Zetti was 18 at the time, living in the small town of Warren an der Meueritz in communist East Germany, where the young music fan defied the regime by illegally tuning in to Western stations, particularly the show “Hallo Twen.”
That show ran a weekly radio quiz that asked listeners to identify a piece of music. But this wasn’t a call-in show, and certainly they didn’t have the immediate gratification of e-mail back then. No, the contest required that the listener send a hand-written postcard to the station to identify the track.
Zetti entered the contest, or so he thought, but never heard from the station and simply thought he hadn’t won. In the meantime, the German Ministry for State Security, which has been described as one of the most effective and repressive intelligence and secret police agencies to ever have existed, was working on its primary task of spying on East German citizens. The “Stasi,” as the agency was known, warehoused millions and millions of documents on its people, which after German reunification in 1990, became available to its citizens.
Forty-four years after Zetti sent the postcard — 40 years after the radio show was cancelled — the music fan, who now lives in West Germany, was encouraged to look into his “Stasi file,” and when he did he was astounded to find a photocopy of the postcard, and found out that the confiscated original still existed. He sent for it, and it was sent back to him. Then Zetti, who had thought about framing the postcard as a personal artifact of his time in East Germany, decided to send it again to its original destination.
This time it reached the station, and despite the fact that the show had been off the air for more than four decades, the station tracked down the presenter of the original show, who decided that not only was Zetti’s answer correct, all these years later, but that he should, in fact, be declared winner of the contest, for which he received a copy of the album as a prize.
The track that Zetti had correctly identified was “Painter Man” by The Creation. The song reached the U.K. Top 40 and when it was later covered by Boney M in 1979, the track climbed to number 10 on the U.K. singles chart. The Creation’s song “Makin’ Time” was used in the Wes Anderson movie Rushmore.
Speaking of contests, The Marquee is giving away a pair of tickets every weekday on our Facebook fan page www.facebook.com/marqueemag, and you don’t have to go through the trouble of trying to sneak a postcard past the Stasi to enter.
See you at the shows.