The WIND Story
The late sixties witnessed a colourful and lively rock music scene in the Franconian region of Greater Nuremberg/Erlangen. At that time, Steve (Bernd) Leistner was already touring as soloist (vocals/guitar) and lead singer with the Nuremberg band “Faction”. He had enjoyed his first taste of success in the region, and in 1968 Faction won the “Nuremberg Beat Band City Championship”. “Bentox”, among them four original Wind members, had existed since 1964. They passed for Erlangen’s best band and were the recognized local heroes. In 1969 they got themselves into a so called East-Asia tour, which turned out to be a six-months troop-entertainment (with two shows daily at the very frontline) in the Vietnam war. In the end they were cheated out of their pay and even had to hawk their instruments and the equipment to pay for the flight back to Germany. This washout made a new start and the future quite difficult financially, and fighting for survival became their daily bread.
In spite of the Vietnam fiasco the band didn’t give up. They contacted several record companies about a contract. Miller International with their cheap label “Europa” snapped at the chance. Under the direction of producer Jochen Petersen, an LP with the anonymous fantasy name CORPORAL GANDER’S FIRE DOG BRIGADE was recorded and sold for a mere 5 DM (approx. 2.50 Euro). The band’s pay was a flat fee of 5,000 DM (approx. 2,550 Euro), and no copyrights. They changed their name into “Chromosom”, and soon after singer Franz Seeberger left the band. In 1970, after a concert with his new band “Flying Carpet”, they asked Steve Leistner to join them as lead singer and professional musician. Miller International intended to establish a new German rock label +PLUS+, with three groups (TOMORROW’S GIFT and IKARUS from Hamburg, apart from WIND) to begin with. The temptation to make his first own record was too great to resist for a young lad of only 19. He was not only a strong voiced singer and front man, but had a creative mind and contributed considerably to the band’s acquiring an independent profile and repertoire in next to no time. After the first rehearsals everybody knew that things were really getting going with this line-up. The chemistry was right and they agreed that they wanted to play own compositions only. On stage they intended to “roll up their sleeves” and give everything. “The band comes first, then nothing for a long time, then you, your wife, mother, dog or whatever” that was their maxim. In spite of self-made amplifiers and equipment, instruments that were pawned in parts, without an own sound technician (they mixed the sound themselves from on stage), they wanted to “blow” away any obstacle that got in the way to their “international breakthrough”. This marked the birth of the new group and the new name “WIND”.
The band members were:
Steve Leistner (13.01.1951)
Leadvocals, harmonica, flute, schlotteria, percussion
Thomas Leidenberger (09.09.1948)
guitars, vocals, leadvocal on “Now It’s Over”
Andreas Büeler (19.08.1948)
Lucian Büeler (19.08.1948)
organ, piano, vocals, percussion
Lucky Schmidt (18.08.1945)
drums, percussion, vibes, clarinet, piano on “Romance”
In January 1971 the first LP “SEASONS” was recorded in Dieter Dierks’ legendary 16-track studio in Cologne-Stommeln, produced by Jochen Petersen. They worked euphorically for two weeks, day and night, and eventually finished recording and mixing their debut album. The cover was done with the help of friends. Bernd Bär drew the front picture, photographer Bernd Böhner shot the photos for the backside cover at the local “holy mountain” Walberla.
On June 1st 1971, the new label +PLUS+ was presented to an international audience of insiders and the press at Hamburg “Musikhalle”, featuring the three groups. One day earlier WIND had done their first real professional gig at the Burg Herzberg festival. It had been a marvellous success, and after a sleepless night spent on the autobahn in an ancient Opel Blitz band bus and the great atmosphere and acoustics in the music hall on the following day WIND easily outperformed the Hamburg bands. The press, their own company and people from the music industry were enthused. Only two days later WIND performed at Hamburg City Park as the warmup act of CAN. The HAMBURGER ABENDBLATT wrote: “WIND blows CAN off the stage”. Full page reports and gigs in all hot music halls in Hamburg and Northern Germany followed, from Onkel Pö’s to the Ernst Merk Hall, with groups like East of Eden, Hardin and York and Roger Chapman’s Family. WIND even did the opening concert for the famous Hamburg FABRIK. HÖR ZU, Germany’s most popular TV-magazine at that time, praised the LP SEASONS to the skies:”…one of the few groups able to captivate their live-atmosphere on vinyl.” They commended their positive and natural performance, the lack of cheap (or rather expensive) show effects, the power of their live performance, their ability to communicate with the audience and the ingenuity and diversity of the WIND compositions.
Pieces like the nearly 16 minute “Red Morningbird” achieved cult status at the Northern German Broadcasting Station NDR. Although WIND had been around for only a short time, their fan community had grown rapidly all over Germany. Whether in small clubs or on big festivals (British-German-Rock-Meeting on 18.09.1971 in Hamburg with WIND and FAMILY as main acts; in 1972 at the 2nd British-Rock-Meeting on the Rhine island near Germersheim, the German Woodstock, after PINK FLOYD with an audience of one hundred thousand enthusiastic fans)- the band enthralled audiences with their music and their individuality “Bravo Boy” Tommy (guit./voc.), the Swiss twin brothers Andi Büeler (bass/voc.) and Lucian Büeler (Hammond organ/voc.), freaky Lucky Schmidt (drums/piano/vibraphone) and front man Steve Leistner with his strong presence made for an exciting mixture with a distinctive sound and polyphonic singing. Airs and graces were foreign to them. In no time WIND became one of Germany’s top-ten rock bands on stage (BRAVO) and “the insiders’ tip” (FLASH) Nevertheless, record company Miller Int. kept selling off their LPs at discount prices, this time on the label +PLUS+ at a so called mid-price of 12.80 DM instead of the usual 22.00 DM. Prices for LPs were fixed back then, and therefore these LPs were rarely sold in the record shops nationwide, but predominantly in supermarkets and petrol stations, where true fans wouldn’t usually buy records.
Moreover, sales and distribution were focussed on Northern Germany and the countryside surrounding the record company, which was seated in Quickborn near Hamburg. The band had to buy a considerable number of records to be able to offer the album nationwide at concerts and in record shops they knew. Nevertheless, according to Miller International, the album SEASONS sold approx. 30,000 times, which was considered a great sales success for German bands even back then. In 1972, Miller International produced WIND’s second album “Morning” with Dieter Dierks in Stommeln, but there was no future for the label +PLUS+. To make sure the band would still have a perspective they agreed on cancelling the contract by paying the band costs of 20,000 DM. They had to reject a contract offer from the British label ISLAND, since only CBS was willing to pay for the band costs and a vital (repayable) advance payment to the band of another 15,000 DM. In the summer of 1972 “Morning” was released on CBS. From a musical point of view the band displayed new facets.
They showed their “soft” side, with a lot of flair for fine melodies. The music seemed matured and more complex, and the press commented: “Intricate musical trends surround one another like the romantic breeze of a summer evening” (POP); “Masterpiece of German popproduction” and “Record of the Year 1972” (Hamburger Abendblatt). Unfortunately, the appreciation wasn’t mirrored by CBS’ LP-sales. The financial plight hadn’t changed much, in spite of countless (poorly paid) gigs. “At times we had to survive on a mere 60 DM a month, without the support of our girls things would have gone really bad. The bailiff frequently visited the rehearsal room”. Once the new manager Jonas Porst (formerly manager of IHRE KINDER and AERA) pulled out and took away the WEM-PA he had provided, including the van and the booking, WIND had to start from scratch economically. For personal, but mostly financial reasons, the band decided to close down and on 23.12.1972 celebrated a final “Christmas concert” in Erlangen’s City Hall. In 1973 a single record entitled JOSEPHINE was released on CBS. Their last farewell performance together was on the TV-show “HITS A GOGO”, after that the five split up for good. Steve: “SEASONS is my favourite record. It was our first work, full of passion and pressure. We were able to really let go of all the pieces and feelings that had built up over many years. Rough and ready, edgy and earthy, but on the highest musical and sound technical level. After the recordings and the final mixing were done we felt like young gods and somehow immortal.” WIND the legend lives on! Steve Leistner continued as a musician. In 1985 he founded his own label Trick Music (www.trick-music.de) and has since been producing Klaus Kreuzeder’s musical projects (“the saxophone player in a wheelchair” – AERA, SAX AS SAX CAN, BIG BANG ORCHESTER, BEST OF K.K.) in the studio and on tour. Lucian Büeler is working successfully as a voice coach and music producer. His twin brother Andreas runs the cabaret theatre “Fifty-Fifty” with an attached café in Erlangen. Lucky Schmidt still performs live, playing drums, percussion and piano at the highest stage, and Thomas Leidenberger has staid true to his guitar.
Steve Leistner, October 2009
Translation: Dr. Martina Häusler