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Tangerine Dream Vs. The Catholic Church: The Recording at Coventry Cathedral (1975)

Written By: 
Tana Yonas
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A sublime performance from the innovative kraut band just weeks after they’d been banned by the Vatican.

When Edgar Froese, Conrad Schnitzler, and Klaus Schulze came together as Tangerine Dream in the late 60’s, the first generation of Germans born after World War II were coming of age. The zeitgeist was a feverish desire to create art and music that both reestablished and redefined German culture and their shared humanity. Filmmakers, musicians and visual artists created underground psychedelic societies that resembled the counterculture movement that defined the 60’s globally. Tangerine Dream was born out of that moment in Berlin, and they played what would be called “krautrock.” What’s curious is krautrock was not a German word. It came from legendary British disc jockey John Peel.

In 1974 Tangerine Dream was invited to play the Reims cathedral in France, and they made the most of the unusual opportunity. 3,000 people were expected but 6,000 came; guests including Richard Branson packed in the main hall for what was considered one of the band’s best performances. Unsurprisingly, hippies and the Catholic Church were not particularly a great match. When bishops from the Vatican heard of the kissing and reefer smoking that took place in the pews of the holy site, they were furious and called for re-sanctification of the site. The band was eventually banned from performing at any Roman Catholic church. But when the Coventry Cathedral heard of the scandal, they extended an invitation for Tangerine Dream to perform there. The invitation came just a few weeks after the ban. Since the Coventry Cathedral belonged to The Church of England, it wasn’t beholden to the requests of the pope.

Further thickening the plot, the Nazis had destroyed Coventry Cathedral in a blitzkrieg during World War II. Understandably, the band was worried about their reception there. They needn’t have. The show sold out and Tangerine delivered one of the most memorable performances of their career.

Filmmaker Tony Palmer captured this performance, and the recording finally resurfaced on the web.

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