I love discovering and listening to pop music from countries that aren’t the US. Often, they are obviously influenced by American artists, while still retaining a unique flair from its national culture and background. Songs like “Ich sprenge alle ketten” are great examples of this. Ricky Shayne is a pop singer of French and Lebanese descent who sings songs primarily in German and found the bulk of his fame in the 60s. He was born in Egypt, but later moved to Italy to kick off an acting career, which eventually led to a career in pop music. His biggest hit single is this one, “Ich sprenge alle ketten”, which translates to “I break all the chains”, and this song was the one that blasted him to national fame and made him into somewhat of an icon for German pop music. He had a few other hit singles throughout this stage of his career, including a German version of theHubert Giraud-composed song “Mamy Blue”, which went to #7 in the German charts. Eventually, though, this peak of his fame would die out along with the 60s, although he released music all the way through the 80s and is still performing to this day.
Ricky Shayne’s style is commonly categorized as being of the schlager tradition of music, which I’m only learning about just now. Schlager was a response to American music and the recent penchant for artists and producers to rely on more lavish, complex arrangements and productions in recordings, set off by the industry boom of the mid-60s. In response, schlager harks back to the sonic styles of the early 60s, relying more on simple song structures, catchy melodies, and light, sentimental lyrics often about romance and relationships. It’s pretty much exactly the type of song that tends to win big in the Eurovision song contest (“Are You Sure” is actually a great example of such).
One of the most interesting facts about “Ich sprenge alle ketten” is that it was composed by Giorgio Moroder and Michael Holm, who wouldn’t come to be very well known until late in the following decade, with the burst of disco music. Although this song barely reaches the heights of their best-known productions, the airy pop sentiments laced throughout certainly anticipate better things to come. The song begins with a guitar strumming bit that perhaps signals back to the style of pop-rock music from The Beatles and The Kinks, ever so slightly implying the sources of its influences. Nonetheless, the rest of the song remains relatively straight-forward from this point, with a standard verse-chorus-verse structure, with simple, repetitive lyrics and sparse production to match. Ricky Shayne himself isn’t a particularly good singer, but it’s easy to see how his unusually raspy performance would appeal to young listeners looking for simple pop music with a pronounced edge.
Lyrically, the song is a kiss-off to naysayers who believe that the speaker and the one he loves do not belong together. The instantly catchy chorus goes “Ich sprenge alle ketten / Und sage ‘Nein, nein, nein, nein, nein’ / Ich weiss das Glück finde ich allein
bei dir”, which translates loosely to, “I break all the chains / And say ‘no, no, no, no, no’ / I know that happiness I only find with you”. Sounds like a pretty simple love song to me. And although Shayne doesn’t have a particularly good voice either, the upbeat, chant-along nature of this chorus makes this disadvantage a total non-factor, with priority given more to the fun pop nature of the tune. To some extent, it even sounds closer to the choruses of upbeat American R&B hits of the early 60s, from the likes of The Isley Brothers and such – or rather, the British interpretation of these songs, like that found in The Beatles’ cover of the Isleys’ “Twist and Shout”. The sound of The Kinks and The Yardbirds might be ever-so-slightly present in the sound of “Ich sprenge alle ketten”, but the sensibilities couldn’t be any further from these comparisons.
Overall, this is an okay song. I haven’t heard enough of Shayne’s other music to make the determination of whether or not his stardom deserved to reach a more international level, but judging from this single alone it really wouldn’t have surprised me if it hadn’t. Shayne’s untuned, gravelly vocals emitting lyrics about unconditional love really taps into the image of the bad boy rocker with a heart of gold over which listeners have always gone gaga. It’s as shallow as schlager can get, but for those looking for light, airy, surface-level European pop music, I can’t imagine how this wouldn’t fit the bill.
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