YNWA-Blog #6

In Cologne, everything revolves around vinyl

Our journey into the past continues. Today, we’re exploring music, as the film team shoots in the record store "Nunk Music" in Cologne's Belgian Quarter. Owner Uwe Schmandin has opened the store for us two hours ahead of official business hours.

“When you walk through a storm / Hold your head up high / And don’t be afraid of the dark / At the end of the storm / There’s a golden sky / And the sweet silver song of a lark / Walk on through the wind / Walk on through the rain / Though your dreams / Be tossed and blown / Walk on / Walk on / With hope in your hearts / and you’ll never walk alone / You’ll never walk alone”

It is one of the great cultural enigmas of the 20th century how this sad, beautiful piece found its way into soccer stadiums around the world. The melodramatic song was first performed on Broadway in New York in 1945 in the musical "Carousel.” It was composed and written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, the most prominent musical writers of their time, based on the play “Liliom” by Ferenc Molnár. In “Carousel,” a crowd of mourners wants to help a pregnant woman, who reminds us of Liliom's Julie, get over her husband's suicide. “Carousel” became one of the most successful musicals of the 20th century, which prompted many singers and entertainers to perform the song in their repertoires. Today we are searching for celebrity recordings in Cologne's “Nunk Music” record store as we hunt for long-forgotten treasures.

Journeying into the past is easy in Uwe Schmandin's shop: From Wagner to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones - there is (almost) nothing he doesn’t have or can’t find. The passionate vinyl record collector and his shop are the perfect setting for the opening scene of the movie. Król first encountered "You'll never walk alone" in the 1970s when he listened to "Fearless" on the album "Meddle" by the British rock band Pink Floyd. Obviously, the song had already made its way into the stadium at that time—the track features singing by Liverpool fans, which is initially quiet and then turns louder toward the end. The recording was probably made during a match of Liverpool FC and Everton FC: “When you listen closely, you can hear the fans chanting “Everton, Everton” after the song, and then a counter-chant starts,” says Król.

We find a number of surprising interpretations of “You'll never walk alone” that came out before the song became associated with soccer. Judy Garland, Mahalia Jackson, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley all recorded a version of "You'll never walk alone.” In a dusty crate, Joachim Król also uncovers the most famous version: the single by Gerry and the Pacemakers, which brought the song to the British charts in 1963 and from there to the Liverpool stadium. The scene has to be shot a few times: “It’s the hardest thing to act like you are looking for something that you found a long time ago,” grins Król.

Now that all the recordings have been found, it’s time to turn on the record player. Vinyl lovers say that starting a record has a ceremonial aspect—they find taking it out of the case, brushing it off, and lowering the needle to hear the rich sound much nicer than a CD or MP3. Joachim Król listens to each version of the song, first with headphones, then without. Since it is rare for a scene to wrap up on the first try, we hear “You'll never walk alone” many times. “I am getting a little tired of that song…,”Joachim Król finally says with a laugh when director André Schäfer calls for another repetition of the scene.