about L’age D’or, ladomat 2000 and GOLD Musikverlag

15 years down – and still masses of plans to go! The Hamburg based record label L’Age D’Or (= The Golden Age) is celebrating its anniversary with a grand tour and the motto “Yubellado”. The German word “Jubel” means “cheering” and L’Age D’Or deserves plenty of that for having played an important role in changing pop music in Germany since 1988. The time has come to spread the word across the globe.

L’Age D’Or 2003 means pop that challenges and provokes its listeners – but is still pop in the sense that it’s accessible (even if it’s punk, rock, electro). The label as a taste-maker is what we have never ceased believing in. L’Age D’Or’s decisions are based neither on market research nor on televoting. Instead it’s a case of the people at Lado believing in the band. Dictatorship in ample supply, democracy in demand – pop fares well with this concept, otherwise it’s all just very mediocre, especially since new label dictatorships can emerge any time. If a label has survived for 15 years, it must have done a lot of things right, people obviously trust it.

L’Age D’Or has long become an institution in Hamburg’s music scene. When Carol von Rautenkranz and Pascal Fuhlbrügge founded L’Age D’Or, most of the German indie labels had died since the end of German New Wave or were only just beginning to gradually recuperate. Learning by doing meant starting off by organising concerts with Hamburg’s most exciting underground bands for a few years. And then, all very much in the spirit of DIY, releasing records featuring one’s own bands.

22 October 1988 is regarded as the label’s official founding date. Kolossale Jugend were playing that evening, though in the afternoon Carol and Pascal were still busy putting the name on a few white-label singles of “Kein Schulterklopfen”. Diedrich Diederichsen, one of Germany’s most renowned music journalists, had this to say about Kolossale Jugend’s upcoming debut album: “Today, the best record in the world comes from Hamburg.”

Die Sterne and Tocotronic became the most famous L’Age D’Or bands. Since they both came from Hamburg and both sang to rock music in German, the journalists invented the genre term “Hamburg School” for them (and Blumfeld, of course). And L’Age D’Or was seen as the Hamburg School label. There was an element of truth in that, because the Lado crew was all part of it.

And yet it’s not quite right: There have also been bands that didn’t come from Hamburg, who sang in English, French or didn’t sing at all, who didn’t play rock music. So there isn’t and has never really been a “L’Age D’Or sound”, and yet there is something that the bands all have in common, a certain je-ne-sais-quoi. Is it the attitude? Their provocative stance? You’d better look for contemplation elsewhere, an evening spent with L’Age D’Or is all about moving forwards.

L’Age D’Or moves within that vast area between top-ten albums and underground discoveries. A label that never stops being inquisitive: Lado’s promise to listen to each and every demo still counts – there could always be an artist on one of them who can propagate the L’Age D’Or. Someone who can propagate the L’Age D’Or in continuing, as Spillsbury would say, “at 180 dunno which direction yet”. As in the last 15 years. Wow!

Felix Bayer