The best songs from the ‘Deutschland 89’ trilogy – TV’s most underrated soundtrack

Rave it up Berlin-style with these Euro-bangers from telly's best German-language thriller

Music has been integral to the thrusting, thrilling, neon-lit ’80s power of the Deutschland trilogy, which returns with its concluding season, Deutschland 89, this week. “The music was a huge part of the show, and one of the reasons we located the first part of this trilogy in 1983”, co-showrunners Anna and Joerg Winger told the Guardian. “The show tracks the end of something, but the question was where did the end begin, and it felt like in 1983 the music was that kick off. It was a really colourful moment.”

Here, in no particular order, we pick some of the outright hits and some under the radar Euro bangers from the trilogy, guaranteed to get you through a nuclear winter. Ready? 4-3-2-1…

Peter Schilling – ‘Major Tom (Coming Home)’

When: Theme song

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The spirit of Bowie pervades any story you’re likely to hear about Cold War-era Germany. This banger, by German synth-pop hero Peter Schilling, boasts one of the most brilliantly ’80s videos you’re ever likely to see. The song pays homage to one of Bowie’s most famous creations, Major Tom, stranded, doomed, and estranged in space, with the added political tension of the times going on beneath. The perfect theme tune.

Eurythmics – ‘Sweet Dreams’

When: S1, Ep 1

Protagonist Martin Rauch stumbles into a West German supermarket for the first time. The shelves are packed with variety and bright colours, a direct contrast to the empty shelves, queues and beige of East Germany. It’s like being in a – you guessed it – sweet dream (Germans are nothing if not literal). This is one of the defining tunes of the ’80s. You can almost hear the power suits and heavy eye shadow.

Falco – ‘Der Kommissar’

When: S2, Ep 4

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It starts with a ‘Billie Jean’-esque drumbeat, so far so promising, but then comes a rap in the style of Blondie’s ‘Rapture’, only in… German? But somehow it still proves itself as catchy as Hell. Further investigation unearths a video which, one suspects, is supposed to be taken seriously, but is in fact Falco (of ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ fame) wearing a Miami Vice suit and pretending to run in front of a blue screen.

Fischer Z – ‘Berlin’

When: S1, Ep6

It’s as if Fischer-Z heard The Clash’s ‘London Calling’ a couple of years prior, waited for punk to die, and then released a song about another European capital in the same key, rhythm, and theme as the original. Nevertheless, it conveys the darkness of the time, and the fuckedupness of the walled-in, island city it was written about, as the camera slowly zooms out of a Stasi conference room.

Berluc – ‘No Bomb’

When: S1, Ep 8

At the end of season one, the Cold War looks to be heating up thanks to a misunderstanding about a training exercise codenamed Abel Archer, and Martin faces a race against time to calm both sides down. ‘No Bomb’, which you’ll probably find filed under ‘Krautrock’, is a ridiculously catchy snarling anti-war punk anthem from the other side of the Iron Curtain, stemming from East Berlin’s OstPunk scene.

David Bowie – ‘Modern Love’

When: S1, Ep 2

As any young man would when thrust into a bright affluent Western democracy, Martin puts himself about a bit once he grows accustomed to West Germany. This is the closing track of the second episode, and the third single from Bowie’s mega-hit album ‘Let’s Dance’, where the Thin White Duke got himself a tan, some shoulder pads, and Nile Rodgers on production duties. We repeat – you can’t have a story about Cold War Germany without Bowie.

Nena – ‘99 Luftballons’

When: S1, Ep 1

Martin returns home on leave from his original job as a border guard, and right into the middle of a family gathering, where everyone seems to know the words to this song… because it was everywhere. This anti-war parable became an international hit, the English language version reaching number one in the UK, Canada, and Australia. The rest of the world preferred the original German version however, and in the US, the English language version didn’t even chart.

Jonzun Crew – ‘Pack Jam’

When: S1, Ep 4

We thought you might be missing Daft Punk, so here’s a prototype, possibly with a few circuits missing, from 1983. With a not so subtle rip-off of Kraftwerk’s ‘Trans-Europe Express’, this track was familiar to 1980s German audiences as the soundtrack of the chart countdown on their version of ‘Top of the Pops’. In this episode, the video can be glimpsed on the living room TV of one of Martin’s seniors, General Edel.

Richard O’ Brien – ‘Science Fiction, Double Feature’

When: S2, Ep10

In the finale of season two, the CIA concoct a plan to smuggle two children – effectively kidnapped by the East German State – into West Berlin, returning them to their mother. Naturally, this is done under the guise of staging a performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show for their eastern counterparts as a cultural exchange. The opening song from the cult musical is a brilliant ode to the kitschy B-movies of the ’50s and ’60s.

R.E.M. – It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

When: S3, Ep 8

Music is scarcer in the third season, but this R.E.M. bop, included in a memorandum of ‘lyrically questionable songs’ not to be played on US radio after 9/11, rounds off the series nicely. It straddles the end of the ’80s and beginning of the ’90s, mentions former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, and refers to the end of the world a lot – which was very much on people’s minds. For the Deutschland Trilogy’ it really is the end of world.

‘Deutschland 89’ debuts March 5 on More4 at 9pm. The first two series are available via Walter Presents on All 4

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