TD’s first release on Virgin Records was the album Phaedra in 1974. The album marked the beginning of the group's international success, achieving six-figure sales in the UK and reaching number 15 in the UK Album Chart.
TD’s first release on Virgin Records was the album Phaedra in 1974. Recorded at The Manor at Shipton-on-Cherwell in Oxfordshire in the winter of 1973, it is the first Tangerine Dream album to feature their (now) classic sequencer-driven sound. A modular Moog synthesizer was bought from Peter Meisel, of Hansa Studios, who had in turn previously purchased it from the Rolling Stones' management. "A heap of cables and scrap iron. No one knew how to use the thing. When the first sounds emerged, we went crazy. Meisel, who knew that TD were interested in electronics, actually asked us "Can we produce hits with this thing?", and we said: "No, you'd better sell it to us". And that's how we got hold of our first Moog, which we paid for from the advance we got from Branson for the recording of the first TD Virgin release", recalled Edgar Froese.
The album marked the beginning of the group's international success, achieving six-figure sales in the UK and reaching number 15 in the UK Album Chart. The Rolling Stone magazine wrote: "it is an amazing record with the most effective results with the synthesizer and Mellotron to this day; it could become the most unusual record of the year".
The group's first concert in the UK took place at London's Victoria Palace Theatre on the 16th of June, 1974, the same month that Edgar Froese's first solo LP Aqua was released on the German label Brain Records. Edgar used a so-called Artificial Head System for binaural recordings, on which he included the sound of airplanes arriving at Berlin Tegel airport and the sound of the water pipes in his apartment. Listeners were advised to use stereo headphones. Dummyhead, also known as Kunstkopf, was developed at the Technical University in Berlin with the support of AKG and Sennheiser.
A three-week tour through Great Britain followed in the autumn of 1974, on which Tangerine Dream’s music was visually supported for the first time by a so-called "Video Synthesizer". The Melody Maker magazine ranked them among "the most promising bands in the world". The distinguishing feature of their concerts at the time was that they mainly consisted of improvisation.
In December 1974, Tangerine Dream performed at Reims Cathedral. Both the music and the cathedral, which offered an excellent backdrop with its Gothic architecture to the flowing, floating sequences, promised to turn this concert into an amazing event. Unfortunately the promoter let in three times as many people into the building as permitted, and as a result the ancient Catholic cathedral was left in chaos. People smoked marijuana and urinated in the corners. John Rockwell, wrote for the New York Times: "Reims Cathedral is hardly the first place that conservatives have claimed to be desecrated by the rock hordes. But at least nobody in New York has yet demanded a purification ceremony for Carnegie or Avery Fisher Hall. "
The upshot was that the Pope Paul VI sent out a bull of ex-communication, which banned Tangerine Dream from ever performing in a Catholic church anywhere in the future.
Michael Hoenig replaced Peter Baumann shortly before a tour which took the band to Australia and New Zealand in the spring of 1975, resulting in their first gold record. Peter had suddenly left the band in January 1975 on a road trip to Asia. He hadn't told anyone of his plans, and it took two weeks to find out whether he was actually dead or alive. Michael was familiar to the band as he was a pupil of the Berlin avant-garde composer Thomas Kessler. In 1971 he had joined Agitation Free in which Christopher Franke had also previously played. After the tour was finished, Peter suddenly showed up at a concert at London's Royal Albert Hall, and after a long conversation he rejoined the band.
In 1975 the album Rubycon was released, with the line-up Froese / Franke / Baumann. The critics' reactions were controversial; some labelled the album as unmelodic, while others recognized "undiscovered worlds" within the music. Edgar's second solo record Epsilon in Malaysian Pale was created reflecting the impressions made on him by a trip he'd made to the Malaysian jungle. This record was also released in 1975. David Bowie later called it the soundtrack to his life in Berlin.
With Peter back in the band, Tangerine Dream performed all over Europe. This time they had better press from their home country and the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung called them the "trendsetters of future music". Musikexpress wrote: "as far as their concerts go, Tangerine Dream have found an effective, mythical form. The three musicians enter the darkened hall or church, remain silent on the stage, seat themselves behind several square meters of large synthesizer banks decorated with rows of control lights, push a few switches, turn a few knobs and start to release their strange sounds into the world. At the end they roll back the knobs, push the switches back in the opposite direction and leave the stage".
Ricochet was TD’s first live album, recorded during their '75 tour in France and England. The New Musical Express (NME) described it as "one of the most beautiful albums of the year".
1976 began with more concerts in France and their first shows in Spain, followed again by a tour through Britain that summer. Edgar Froese released his third solo LP Macula Transfer. The track titles are named after flight numbers such as Quantas 611 or OS 452. The band members began with the construction of their own studios in order to become more independent from the industry. Stratosfear was released in 1976. The pieces were getting shorter again, and had a maximum length of 11 minutes. The first signs appeared to show that Tangerine Dream were becoming more rhythmic, and especially the title track of the album. Peter Baumann: "Edgar and I were sitting in the control room at Audio Studios in Berlin. We had recorded some basic tracks, but something was missing. Christopher was sitting behind his gear fiddling around with some delay effect – Edgar and I looked at each other and immediately asked the engineer to press record – it fitted perfectly, even without Christopher knowing that what he was playing was being recorded. We always liked coincidental events and unplanned recordings like that."
Iggy Pop and David Bowie were working on their albums Heroes and The Idiot at Hansa Studios in Kreuzberg at that time, both sharing TD’s rehearsal room in Berlin-Tempelhof on a shift basis. Edgar, Chris and Peter rehearsed there till late at night and then Iggy and David would arrive in the early morning hours.
On the European tour in 1976, TD performed 31 live concerts where the band sat almost immobile behind their large banks of synthesizers. Edgar: "With our music the identification does not necessarily take place with the people who are causing it, it's a feedback which everyone has inside themselves. It allows the listeners to give free rein to their own thoughts".
In 1977, TD started their first USA tour playing 16 concerts. It was the premier of the Laserium Light Show, which featured spectacular lighting effects. In the same year, Tangerine Dream attracted the attention of William Friedkin, director of films like The French Connection and The Exorcist. During a stay in Germany he saw the band playing in a church in the Black Forest. Friedkin later recalled the experience: "There were only three guys and they were all electrified; Guitar, drums, and Edgar was playing a synthesizer. They played for well over three hours, close to four, with long stretches of musical tones, occasionally extremely rhythmic. It was very hallucinatory. The audience was dead quiet. It was really trance-like, everybody was really into it and so was I. They were really emotional and the sound was so loud that you could feel it throbbing within you. It was very exciting, long stretches of chords and heavy beats." TD was hired to compose the soundtrack for his remake of the classic film Wages of Fear, now titled Sorcerer, filmed in the Mexican province of Oaxaca. Their first Hollywood production with Friedkin was also the most unusual. The band received the script dispatched directly from America and composed the music, before the first scene was filmed. Six weeks later, they met Friedkin in a Parisian hotel, got hold of two loudspeakers and a tape recorder and played the director their demo compositions. He was enthusiastic about it and later filmed some scenes with the recorded music in the background. The score reached the Top 20 of the British Charts. Friedkin: "Had I heard of Tangerine Dream sooner I would have asked them to score The Exorcist."
After their next US tour in August 1977, Tangerine Dream released the double LP Encore. But at the end of the same year a further split in the band's line-up took place. Peter Baumann left the group after approximately six and a half years, citing artistic differences.
Peter Baumann´s first solo album Romance '76 was released in 1977 and received good reviews (Melody Maker: "excellent solo debut"). He started his own Paragon Studios in Berlin, from which he produced (among other artists) records by Cluster, Roedelius and Conrad Schnitzler. After the release of Trans Harmonic Nights he sold his Berlin studio, moved to the USA and founded his Private Music label a few years later, on which Tangerine Dream released five albums during the late 1980's.
The remaining members Edgar Froese and Chris Franke recruited the English multi-instrumentalist Steve Joliffe (vocals, flute, piano, synthesizer), who had previously played with the Blues/Rock band Steamhammer, and Klaus Krüger (aka Klaus Krieger) from Berlin who played the drums. Cyclone was released in 1978, containing vocals as well as flute and drums. The attempt to create a new environment for TD's flowing synthesizer sounds was described by Edgar years later as "a failed experiment; this was the ultimate mistake in the miracle bag of all possibilities". The reviews of the tour, which took place in February/March 1978 were mixed, due to the unusual sound and the use of vocals. Steve Joliffe and Edgar argued more than once about what a concert should sound like. Steve left the band to pursue a solo career a short while later. Edgar's fourth solo album Ages also appeared in 1978. The album was recorded at Amber Studios in Berlin, and the drums and percussion were also played by Klaus Krüger.
Force Majeure, recorded at Hansa Studios, was released in 1979. Klaus had just came back from his world tour with Iggy Pop, and this time he used his drums more subtly, with more consideration. The album developed and took a further step toward the more melodic sound of the 1980s, with a heavier presence of guitars, drums and progressive rock elements. The highlight of this album is the title track, which is over 18 minutes long. The distortion on Thru Metamorphic Rocks was the result of the reverberator accidently modulating the signals in the mixing desk. When Edgar and Chris heard the result, they decided to keep it. Before Force Majeure was released, Klaus stopped playing for TD and joined Iggy Pop again as a drummer for his tour and his album New Values.
Edgar Froese and Christopher Franke started looking for another band member, someone who had a different musical background to them and who was preferably a trained pianist. They found organist Johannes Schmoelling, who began playing his local church organ at the age of twelve. Schmoelling had also studied at the Berlin University of the Arts. Following his sound-engineering master studies he began to work as a sound technician at the Schaubühne theatre in Berlin. He was recommended to Edgar by another sound engineer who, like Schmoelling, was working on Robert Wilson's Death, Destruction and Detroit. Edgar had always been a fan of Wilson´s work, and he was impressed by the sound set-up. With the new trio of Froese, Franke, Schmoelling a more constant line-up was formed.
On the 31st of January, 1980, Tangerine Dream became the first band from the west to play in the GDR. Their concert in the Palast der Republik was broadcast by East German national radio and for long time only available in the west as an import LP under the title Quichotte, or as the bootleg Staatsgrenze West. Virgin then released it officially in 1986 as Pergamon.
The first studio album of the new trio Tangram was released in 1980, but it did not receive good reviews at first. The New Musical Express considered it to be "synthesizer junk" and the Musikexpress was of the opinion that "the sound patterns are starting to exhaust themselves". Nonetheless it became one of TD´s best-selling records.
Johannes Schmoelling described the collaboration in an interview with the magazine Planet E in 1994 as follows: "We composed and worked on Tangram as a trio. I believe the secret as to why we made quite good stuff for six or seven years was perhaps exactly that, that we complemented each other, because everyone had his own area but nevertheless it fitted well together. We had always a creative exchange within Tangerine Dream and in this way everyone learned from each other. One could say that our music was a constructional compromise".
Schmoelling was under intense scrutiny from the audience during the live concerts on their extensive European tour in October/November 1980, with a total of 26 dates, 5 of which were in Germany. At that time, the band worked with pre-programmed sequences and harmonic schemes during live concerts. There were also tracks in which the pre-programmed sequence stopped and where the musicians had agreed to play improvisational sound collages for a few minutes. At the end of 1980, Virgin Records released the Tangerine Dream ‘70 – ‘80 box set. The Musikexpress praised it as the "proof of ten years of continuously flowing creativity by the group".
At the beginning of 1981 their second soundtrack album was released. Thief was Michael Mann’s feature film debut with James Caan in the leading role. Tangerine Dream had worked on the soundtrack in such a way that they picked out the scenes and then compiled the music sequences for the film independently in the studio. The record was hailed as "probably the best album they have ever made" by Melody Maker when it was released in the autumn of 1981 under the title of Exit. The record contains six tracks produced with state-of-the-art technology for those days, and it concerned itself with the subject of the threat of nuclear war, which was a constant potential danger during the late Cold War era.
Before Exit was released, Tangerine Dream had played a concert for peace (Friedenskonzert) at the Reichstag building in West-Berlin in front of about 100,000 people. In January and February 1981 the group performed a European tour with 17 concerts followed by a British tour in October 1981 with another 17 concerts.
The director James Glickenhaus tried to create a tougher counterpart to James Bond with the film Codename: The Soldier, starring Ken Wahl and Klaus Kinski, which came out in 1982. Tangerine Dream supplied the soundtrack to this film which, until now, has never been released as an album.
The title song for the German crime series Tatort - Das Mädchen auf der Treppe (The Girl on the Stairs), was released as a single in the same year, and this represents their biggest commercial success to date. It went into the Top 20 and the Music Express wrote: "Tangerine Dream actually reject the urge to have a hit or at best incorporate them into their ten or twenty minute flowing tracks". "This hit single success in summer '82 was an unexpected accident", said Edgar Froese. "We finished the single for the TV show in three hours."
The album White Eagle was released in 1982. The first side of this LP is taken up by the 20 minute track Mojave Plan, which describes a drive through the Mojave Desert. While the press in Europe criticized the work rather negatively as "a vacuum" (New Musical Express), on the other side of the Atlantic they described it as "music which is mentally, sensually and emotionally demanding" (Down Beat). In the same year, Edgar Froese wrote the soundtrack to the Wolf Gremm film Kamikaze 1989 starring Rainer Werner Fassbinder, inspired by the novel Murder on the 31st Floor by the Swedish writer Per Wahlöö. In June 1982 Fassbinder died suddenly, and it was this film which stood to represented his final cinematic work.
On their European tour, Tangerine Dream played in London's Dominion Theatre on the 6th of November, 1982. This appearance was recorded and released in 1983 under the name Logos Live.
A further solo work by Edgar was released in 1983. Musik Szene described the record Pinnacles as "a work which doesn't distinguish itself by its loudness, but rather by the intensity of its moods and atmospheres".
The Tangerine Dream album Hyperborea was released in the same year. On the 11th of June, 1983 the band played a 35-minute performance as part of the Fassbinder Homage in memory of the innovative director Rainer Werner Fassbinder in Frankfurt's Alte Oper.
In June 1983, TD played concerts in four Japanese cities. Back home in the studio, they composed the title tune for a further episode of the Tatort series. The music to the episode Miriam was released as the single Daydream. The soundtrack to the science-fiction film Wavelength, directed by Mike Gray, was released in 1983 and contains 16 tracks with a total length of barely 39 minutes. Another score was The Keep, directed by Michael Mann. An official soundtrack was finally released in 2020.
In the winter of 1983, Tangerine Dream went on a tour which led them again to the GDR and to Poland. The Polish tour will probably always be remembered by all those that were involved in it as an adventurous "expedition". Apart from power cuts and truck breakdowns, the band also had to contend with icy temperatures. Edgar, Christopher and Johannes played the concert in woollen gloves with cut-off fingertips in order to feel the keys due to the minus 5° Celsius temperature in the Warsaw National Stadium. The electronic instruments often failed in the cold and did not always provide the desired results. Roadies ran around with buckets of hot water so that the musicians could briefly warm up their hands. The concert was interrupted 5 times by power cuts in the stadium, while all the time a 2 metre-thick layer of snow covered the glass roof, which threatened to collapse. Excerpts of the 2 gigs at Warsaw were released on the album Poland - The Warsaw Concert.