Thursday, March 20, 2014

Let Us Explore The Pocket Calculators of Many Lands

Kraftwerk, the greatest, most visionary band that will never be voted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, are in the midst of an 8 show stand at Disney Concert Hall. And as it has been sold out for months (anyone in L.A. got an extra ticket? I'll do anything!  I'll even pay for it!), I must lamely content myself with this listening party of all the different language versions of their 1981 classic "Pocket Calculator." And I still am not tired of this song. 

5 Pocket Calculators

Kraftwerk- "Taschenrechner" (German)
Kraftwerk - "Dentaku" (Japanese)
Kraftwerk - "Mini Calculateur" (French)
Kraftwerk - "Pocket Calculator" (English)
bonus: Pizzicato Five - "Contact" (from 1995, a kind of live mashup of "Pocket Calculator" with Brigitte Bardot's "Contact")

No-one uses calculators anymore, but otherwise the album from whence this song comes, "Computer World," pretty much nails it.  We do all have computers, which seems obvious now, but sci-fi writers or futurists never spoke much about home computing or the internet. The future was supposed to be all about space travel.  I have a book from 1979 with predictions for the year 2000, and it's a lot of: moon colonies, Mars landings, etc. At least Isaac Asimov said that we'd be able to read newspapers headlines on TV, which was close. But the song "Computer Love" even predicted internet dating. Kraftwerk for the win.  And these retrospective shows they've been doing lately are their victory lap.

Those men-machines from Dusseldorf also did an unreleased Italian "Pocket Calculator" for TV:

 UPDATE: The Polish version!


David V. Matthews said...

Yo, Mr. Fab: I still use calculators at work and at home. I even still type in 5318008--get it?

Mr Fab said...

Ha, yes now that you mention it, I do recall the fun things one can do with an upside-down calculater.

Actually it was this NYTimes article that made the death-of-calculator claim:
I should know better than to trust them. Even if they do mention Krafwerk in the article.

RadioWizard said...

Wow...some more Kraftwerk...I've got "We Are The Robots" and "Autobahn" the full version. Great vocoder work on both. And these as well I suspect.

Anonymous said...

Any discussion of obscure Kraftwerk songs is incomplete without this:

sh said...

I turned the English version of this song into the ringtone for my first iPhone. I've cycled through some other ringtones since then, but perhaps it's time to put the original back.

mietek said...

for the detail obsessive i'll mention that they sung/played the Polish version as early as mid-1981 on their first ever tour in Poland. the 11-yearold yours truly saw it on TV.

neal t said...

great as they are that album was by far their best. Seems to be good portion of the show still. . Surprisingly at least on show i heard they didn't do Pocket Caculator. of all the great albums from that era it would of been one I would of guessed to have not dated well, but it is quite the opposite it sounds like it could of just come out.