This was the GDR’s record label for popular music styles including rock ‘n roll, pop, jazz, Schlager (a distinctly German variation on easy listening), folk and instrumental. Amiga’s mandate was to foster the development of a distinctly East German music industry and given its monopoly position, it is not surprisingly that almost all of the country’s most popular performers (including Puhdys, Karat, Silly, Frank Schöbel) were represented on its roster.
In addition to artists from East Germany and other Eastern Bloc countries, however, Amiga also released a number of licensed recordings by Western artists from the 1960s onward. Releases such as this one were intended to indicate the GDR’s connection to the broader world and placate its youth’s desire to be part of this culture. Generally, these licensed reissues were extremely popular and limited in number which led to them being difficult to find in shops much beyond their original release dates.
The influence of Western popular culture on East Germany and its citizens has been extensively documented and nowhere was this more visible than in the area of pop music. The relative ease with which West German radio and television signals could be received inside the GDR meant that the population had more than a passing familiarity for and interest in pop music from beyond their state’s frontiers. To address this demand, Amiga began releasing limited editions of works by Western artists in the 1960s, a practice which continued right through to the 1980s. In theory, all these licensed releases had to be in harmony with the prevailing GDR cultural policies and should demonstrate a “humanist or socialist attitude” (Hansjürgen Schaefer in Wicke/Müller: Rockmusik und Politik. Berlin 1996). This was particularly true up to the early 1980s as licensed releases often included essays on their back covers which provided an ideological justification for why this work was appropriate for East German listeners. The tone of these texts is fascinating as they often combine a GDR approximation of Western-style promotional speak with passages that read more like excerpts from a speech by the Minister of Culture to the Central Committee.
My collection includes only a handful of Amiga albums, almost all of which were acquired because of my interest in seeing how the label justified releasing this material. These include Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Foreigner’s Records, A Collection of Beatles Oldies and Billy Bragg’s Talking With the Taxman About Poetry (which appeared as a self-titled release).
In addition to these licensed releases, my collection also includes the self-titled album by Perry Friedman, a Canadian folksinger who settled in the GDR in the 1950s and went on to have a lasting impact on the East German music scene.