Sportfreunde Stiller will always have a special place in my heart. During my first visit to Germany in 2009, their version of Udo Jürgens’ “Ich war noch niemals in New York” was everywhere we turned in Berlin. Everywhere. The track was in constant circulation. At the time, the band had only recently released an MTV Unplugged in New York album and the track was in heavy rotation to promote it. Jürgens even guests on the track during a later live performance of the song. It was the soundtrack of our vacation and it always makes me a little sentimental.
Which brings me to this month’s featured German language music recommendation: Sportfreunde Stiller!
Get to Know Sportfreunde Stiller
If you are not already familiar with Sportfreunde Stiller, either you are new to German language music or you have been living under a rock for the better part of nearly twenty years. The band was founded in 1995 by Peter Brugger (guitar and vocals), Flo Weber (drums), and Rüde Linhof (bass). Originally the group was known as Stiller as a tribute to Han Stiller, the trainer for soccer team SV Germering on the western outskirts of Munich. It was the club were Brugger and Weber played and had a long history.
By 1997, Linhof was out and Andi Erhard was in as his replacement. The band also adopted a new name when a band in Hamburg also called Stiller took issue. The trio was reborn as Sportfreunde Stiller.
The Music of Sportfreunde Stiller
With the new line-up, the group’s debut release was an EP titled Macht doch was Ihr wollt – Ich geh’ jetzt!. A second EP, Thonträger, followed in 1998. It wasn’t until 2000 that the band finally released their first full-length album. So wie einst Real Madrid was produced by veteran music producer Uwe Hoffmann. In addition to being a musician himself, Hoffmann is known for producing, among other bands, Die Ärzte. The debut album was no chart-topper but spent six weeks on the charts, peaking at number 46.
Nearly two years later to the day, Sportfreunde Stiller released Die gute Seite. This time around, the band saw significant chart success. Propelled by the popular single Ein Kompliment, the album broke into the top ten in both Germany and Austria. The album went gold in Austria and it was a platinum single in Germany.
Sportfreunde Stiller continues to release new albums, roughly, every two years. There was 2004’s Burli, 2006’s You Have to Win Zweikampf, and 2007’s La Bum. Fans eagerly awaited each album although there were never any huge hit singles until 2006. The release of You Have to Win Zweikampf saw two number one singles: “’54, ’74, ’90, 2006” (which sought to support Germany during the 2006 World Cup tournament) and “Pogo in Togo.”
Following the release of La Bum, the band took a bit of a break from the studio. But they returned in a big, big way in 2009. They released MTV Unplugged in New York which was, ironically, recorded at Munich‘s Bavaria Filmstudios. The performance featured guests like Udo Jürgens, Meret Becker, among others. It also spawned acoustic singles for “Ein Kompliment,” “Ich war noch niemals in New York,” and “Lass mich nie mehr los.”
The band have followed up the success of the Unplugged album with 2013’s New York, Rio, Rosenheim and 2016’s Sturm & Stille. The former spent 44 weeks on the German music charts and reached the second spot while the latter spent twelve weeks at number one. And it’s easy to understand why. The catchy single “Applaus, Applaus” was a big hit for the band.
Photo of Sportfreunde Stiller from the band’s website. This post contains affiliate links.