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Sep 30, 2010

The Rolling Stones in the Waldbühne in Berlin


Rohleder's new home in Berlin
Die Neue Zürcher Zeitung has a feature about Alexandra Rohleder. You've heard of her? You didn't? But it's the usual story. She can't trust here eyes. My God, the place is cheap. Isn't a digit missing? And it's in Berlin, Germany. Near the Olympic Stadium, where Hitler opened the Olympic Games of 1936 (we mention this, because it plays an important role in Carl Sagan's novel Contact---the opening is the first TV broadcast in the planet's history, aliens pick up on it, and contact is made).

The usual story. You can get the property for a song. But...if you want to rebuild, there should be grass on the roof, and timber on the walls, since it's also close to one of Le Corbusier's signature buildings. And the existing structure, sorry, we'll have to destroy it. But we can get this young architect. It's the habitual interplay between "we have no money" and "no money spared," that we know so well from our own attempts at home improvement.

Olympic stadium in Berlin

Now, located next to these structures (Olympic Stadium, Corbusier building, Rohleder's dwelling), we have the Berliner Waldbühne, also built by Hitler. It was a wooden structure, an amphitheater built into the woods. Very pretty, with room for an audience of 25,000 people. Good acoustics.

Come 1965. Come the Rolling Stones, and their first concert in Berlin. They are scheduled for the Waldbühne, the largest venue short of the Olympia Stadium itself, where the acoustics would be impossible. 

Now, you need to understand Berlin during the age of The Wall. Berlin was split into an western section (a geographical western island in a communist sea), and the eastern section (separated from us by the wall, but united with the rest of communist Eastern Germany). The wall had been built 4 years before, and there were still all sorts of communal arrangements for the city, including the fast transit system, possibly the first fast transit system in the world, built during the late 19th century. It's called S-Bahn ("S" for "schnell" = fast), and in those days, it was owned and operated by the East (the communists).

Berlin's S-Bahn
Now, you also need to understand that in 1965, 20 years after the war, Germany was still relatively poor, and adolescents typically would not own cars, perhaps not even scooters. Also, Berlin is one of the largest cities in the world geographically, and your scooter would simply not get you to the Waldbühne in time. So you use the S-Bahn.

It's 1965, the concert will start in 2 hours, and you climb onto the communist S-Bahn. And you are not the only one. In fact, there are 25,000 more of you.

So, we get on the S-Bahn, and we are in a good mood. Very good mood. Somehow, people have already started to probe the sturdiness of the S-Bahn accommodations. The seats are wooden, and very solid. And yet, it's amazing what 25,000 adolescents can do when the animal spirits rise.

The planks on the seats come loose. More planks come loose (we're on the way to the Waldbühne now). Other items that had defined the interior of the S-Bahn for 70 years also come loose, all this while we are practicing our understanding of Rolling Stones' songs ("I can't get no satisfaction"---notice the double negation). Upon arrival at the station (the Waldbühne has its own S-Bahn station), not much is left of the interior of our car, or any other car in service.

We enter the Waldbühne, and Mick Jagger comes on the stage. He is in a good mood, his band is in a good mood, and we are in a good mood. The Waldbühne, remember, was a wooden structure, and we had just practiced on such structures. The spirits rise, and while the Stones get going, we get going as well. 

The Rolling Stones at the Waldbühne

Two hours later, nothing is left of the Waldbühne. Nothing. It was rebuilt 30 years later, after the re-unification, in concrete.

I am not making this up.

The Waldbühne rebuilt after reunification

PS: here's a brief period clip from the local TV news:

2 comments:

Glenn said...

Great story. But someone, somewhere must have taken a photo of the deconstruction. Find that photo.

Michael M. said...

...well, we did not have cellphone...