Iconic Album Art: Reinhard Hippen

Reinhard Hippen was a resident of my German home town Mainz since he moved here from the North Sea shore in 1961. Hippen was still a teenager when his passion for political cabaret led him to Mainz, home of the Unterhaus theatre and Hanns Dieter Hüsch, the leading figure of German literary cabaret in the 20th century.

In the early 1960s, Hippen used his private collection of documents, music and lyrics to start the German Cabaret Archive (Deutsches Kabarettarchiv), an institution to support German-language cabaret and preserve its heritage that he was leading for more than 25 years. He was also co-founder of two of Germany's most important music festivals for political folk and chansons, the events on Burg Waldeck (Waldeck Castle) and the Open-Ohr Festival in Mainz, which got its name from a Reinhard Hippen idea.

On one of the Burg Waldeck festivals in the mid-1960s, Hippen met writer and producer Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser, probably the leading pioneer of German underground and political folk music. Hippen was a very talented graphic designer and started to work closely on Kaiser's various literary and music projects. When Kaiser organized the 1968 Internationale Essener Songtage, a five-day music event in the Ruhr area that is now recognized as the starting point for the German underground music movement (aka Krautrock), Hippen was in charge for the design of the all-important program leaflet.

The festival probably still is the most important German music event ever as it combined political folk and cabaret (organized by Reinhard Hippen) with international underground acts (The Fugs, David Peel, Frank Zappa & Mothers of Invention, Alexis Corner, Family or Tim Buckley) and upcoming German underground bands who were at the very start of their careers and hadn't been recorded when they played in Essen. Many of the German acts would later become the cornerstones of Krautrock: Amon Düül, Floh de Cologne, Guru Guru, Xhol Caravan and Tangerine Dream.

Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser set up his record label Ohr to record many of the Essen acts for the first time, and Reinhard Hippen was the designer of Ohr's first five album covers. The idea was to create a unique and distinctly German label and support the music's "weirdness" by special packaging of the album releases. So Hippen came up with the idea of using a broken down baby doll as the recurring theme of the Ohr design, with a small window that, when opened, would release a rubber balloon.

The five Hippen albums came in beautiful gatefold sleeves and first editions can be recognized by the hatch for the balloons which is missing on later reprints. But if you go hunting for these records now, don't expect the balloons to still be present; the best you can hope for are broken patches of what once was a balloon as the material will have disintegrated after 45 years. But then... doesn't this still work nicely with the dismembered baby doll parts?

Reinhard Hippen died in April 2010 at the age of 68 in Mainz.

The 5 Reinhold Hippen Albums:

Floh de Cologne - Fließbandbabys Beat-Show (OMM 56000, 1970)

Limbus 4 - Mandalas (OMM 56001, 1970)

Bernd Witthüser - Lieder von Vampiren, Nonnen und Toten (OMM 56002, 1970)

Embryo - Opal (OMM 56003, 1970)

Tangerine Dream - Electronic Meditation (OMM 56004, 1970)

Rames El Desouki

The Traveller Publishing

  • Image
  • Image
  • Image
  • Image
  • Image
    Blogger Comment
    Facebook Comment


Post a Comment