Week of July 11, 2004

Royal Servants

Detlev Nottrodt - Vocals, Guitar
Matthias Thurow - Guitar
Manfred Maier - Vocals
Reinhard Keyboards
Ronald Libal - Bass
Günter Klinger - Drums

LP: Royal Servants (Polydor 2371 251) 1970
CD: We (Garden Of Delights CD031) 1999

Royal Servants, the forerunners of the more widely known Eulenspygel, were formed by a couple of schoolboys from the town of Reichenbach in Swabia. Since 1964, they had been playing together as the Sounders, changing the name to Royal Servants in 1965. In the early years, they played beat like everybody else. The actual founders were Matthias "James" Thurow (8/25/1949, Tübingen) on guitar and Gerhard Schlotz (8/3/1948, died in 1997), on bass. The line-up was complete when Helmut Bescherer (9/25/1948) on drums and Klaus Schwagerick on rhythm guitar joined them. The first thing to do was buy the necessary instruments and a PA. So they had to work during the summer holidays to earn the money needed. Luckily, almost from the beginning the boys had a good rehearsal room in the house of Gerhard Schlotz's parents, who also helped them out with some money. No wonder that, with such favourable conditions and increasing enthusiasm, the first small successes were around the corner. At first, they were invited to play at minor events, then at the well-known Wednesday parties organized by the Ake Armbrust dancing school in the town of Esslingen. But they were also organizing more and more events themselves, with even a fan club being set up. With a membership card, gigs were only half price. Particularly outstanding were the beat parties at the Reichenbach cycling hall and in the Kronensaal in Hochdorf. But the band were also gigging in the entire area between Göppingen and Stuttgart. Most of their songs were cover versions of songs by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Kinks, Searchers and Beach Boys. Songs by The Move were too difficult, after all, they were still beginners. The following years saw some reshuffling of the line-up, which was about to finalise.

In 1967, the band bought an electronic organ, Gerhard Schlotz switched instruments and his school friend Ronald "Ronny" Libal (5/4/1948, Plochingen) replaced him on bass. The latter came from the Ambassadors, a band from a neighbouring town, which had also played beat since 1965 and was now breaking up. Gerhard Schlotz had been their guest musician for a short while in 1967. When Gerhard Schlotz, Klaus Schwagerick and Helmut Bescherer left the Royal Servants in 1968, in came drummer Wolfgang Zimmermann (2/16/1948) from the Buttons and, later that year, singer Manfred Maier from the Swallows as well as rhythm guitarist and organist Michael Scheibner, also ex-Buttons. When Wolfgang Zimmermann quit in early 1969, Alex Alecke took over the drums. It was with this line-up that, in May 1969, they recorded the single 'Burning Region'/'Help Me Please' (Juke Box JB1) at the Meilhaus studio in Munich. The lyrics were written by Ronald Libal, the music - by Matthias Thurow. The edition was 1,000 copies. The cover shows Michael Scheibner sitting in the foreground and, in the back from left to right, Alex Alecke, Matthias Thurow, Ronald Libal and Manfred Maier. Some time later, the Hardships, a band from the towns of Hochdorf and Stuttgart, broke up. Their only single 'The Work'/'Follow Me', which was released in 1969 as a private pressing in an edition of 100 copies, can be found on the sampler "Psychedelic Gems 4" (PGCD 04) where it comes as a bit of an oddity. Two members of the Hardships, Detlev Nottrodt (1/6/1946, Stuttgart) on guitar and organ and Günther Klinger, a talented drummer who died of leukaemia in 1983, joined the Royal Servants, replacing Michael Scheibner and Alex Alecke. This meant that the best musicians of two bands were now united in one. Their managers were first Heinz Herold, then Albert Kahle in the interim, and finally Fritz Hennefarth. Jobst von Weyenberg was in charge of the PA, followed by Hans Miller in early 1970. On 4/4/1970, they recorded their single, 'Still I Belong'/'The Blues Comin' My Way' (Royal Corporation RC1003) at an excellent studio in Stuttgart owned by famous orchestra leader Horst Jankowski, who died in 1997.

This time, probably over a thousand copies were pressed, but the exact number can no longer be established. The owner of the label was Heinz Herold who named it after the Royal Servants, his most important band at the time. This time, both sides were written by Detlev Nottrodt, a talented songwriter and musician. As for the cover, they tried to follow the example of the Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Electric Ladyland". On the back, from left to right, one can see Ronald Libal, Manfred Maier and Günther Klinger, bottom left is Detlev Nottrodt, bottom right - Matthias Thurow. But they shared the fate of those they wished to imitate: having gotten into a bit of trouble because of the naked lady pictured on the cover, they got scared of their own controversy. Having sold only a few copies, they withdrew the cover and replaced it with a new one. It shows Günther Klinger, Manfred Maier, Ronald Libal and Matthias Thurow in the back from left to right and Detlev Nottrodt in the front. What seems like nothing unusual today was deemed inappropriate at the time, and a bit too daring. But thanks to numerous letters written by their fans, the record eventually made it into the charts of Radio SWF3 where it stayed for six weeks and even got to No.3. Actually, these charts were not established on the grounds of sales figures but letters from listeners! That very year saw the release of yet another single, 'Work Part II'/'Someone To Be With Me' (Royal Corporation RC1004), their third, which was again written by Detlev Nottrodt and recorded at the Jankowski studio. It even got to No.2 on Radio SWF3. The cover shows, on the top from left to right, Matthias Thurow, Günther Klinger and Manfred Maier, down on the left - Detlev Nottrodt and on the right - Ronald Libal. 'Work Part II' is an underground reworking of the Hardships' song, "The Work". This time, however, a mishap occurred at the pressing plant where the A and B side labels were mixed up. Little yellow stickers helped to correct the mistake.

The band were now busy playing gigs in the area and even went on tour of Austria. In the Summer of 1970, they decided to release an LP and won over keyboard player Reinhard Hetzinger of the Speeders as guest musician. In the middle of the recording, singer Manfred Maier announced he had to quit the band for 'work' reasons. Their new singer Rainer "Mulo" Maulbetsch, who had been with Mulo & The Misfits and the Hardships before, was not able to acquaint himself so quickly with his new task, and so Detlev Nottrodt sang most of the songs. Anyway, it was he who had written them and, therefore, knew them best. In the meantime, the band had almost completely shifted from beat to long, musically demanding tracks with critical lyrics. There is a marked and odd-sounding contrast between these tracks and the much simpler pieces, e.g. on their singles. As for the vibraphone (some sort of amplified metallic xylophone), they engaged the best musician in the Stuttgart area, Peter Mayer, who had been playing with Detlev Nottrodt on several occasions before. The tracks were recorded in October 1970, again in the tried and tested Jankowski studio, and mixed shortly afterwards. The LP was released under the title of "We" (Elite Special PLPS 30130) in an edition of probably one or two thousand copies, and has meanwhile become a quite sought-after collectors' item. It includes the two tracks from the third single. The cover shows bottom from left to right: Ronald Libal, Detlev Nottrodt and Matthias Thurow, top left on the car is Manfred Maier and Günther Klinger on the right. It says on the back: "The playful name Royal Servants proves that the foundation of this band - by beat boys from Swabia - took place quite some time ago. With talent and perseverance, unaided, they made a name for themselves well beyond Southern Germany. Played on the radio, their singles, "Still I Belong" and "Work Part II", made not only fans prick up their ears but also well-known record companies. On this first LP, where they had all the free reign they wished for, they offer no sterile perfection but spontaneous improvisation and sounds, 'studio live', so to speak. The arranged tracks, as well as all the lyrics, attain a level of quality one simply wouldn't have dared to think an amateur pop band was capable of. As the music of the Servants (all songs were written by Detlev Nottrodt) is so varied, this mixture of progressive and melodious will surely earn them a lot of new fans. Here they could prove, assisted by good friends, how wide a range of musical expression they mastered. Even those who have seen them on stage will find completely new aspects here. Enough of tiresome cozying up. Now there's only one thing to do: put it on - listen to it!"

The present CD, which was taken from the master tapes, includes the four songs from the first two singles as bonus tracks. It is thus a collection of all the recordings ever released by the Royal Servants. Only "The Blues Comin' My Way" had to be taken from vinyl and was digitally de-crackled, since the master tape of this track is now lost. At the end of 1970, Reinhard Hetzinger, who had put in a brief appearance only, quit the band, and Karl-Heinz Groβhans (10/24/1950, Plochingen) of the Maroons replaced him on keyboards. Two other two members who joined the band in 1971 as permanent replacements were Cornelius Hauptmann (6/14/1951, Stuttgart) on flute and the aforementioned Mulo Maulbetsch. Meanwhile, the band were toying with the idea of writing their lyrics in German to render more easily understandable the critical content. At first, they were shying away from it, for in those days only the typical German Schlager had German lyrics, and they didn't want their music to be identified with that kind of popular sound. It was only when Ihre Kinder, with whom they were touring, took the first step that the group followed suit and, as a consequence, renamed itself Eulenspygel in 1971. Detlev Nottrodt recalls the last months before the renaming took place: "Meanwhile, our heroes were no longer blues-rock bands but rather groups like Jethro Tull, Yes and Van der Graaf Generator, art rockers that is. Shortly after the release of the LP, which was already a bit outmoded then and didn't reflect our latest developments - the line-up included - we were working on new tracks, but this time with German lyrics. So even before the renaming, Royal Servants were already gigging with Eulenspygel stuff." The Eulenspygel albums, too, have been released in the same series on CD, and there the band's history has been presented in full detail. The reference book, "The Crack In The Cosmic Egg", by Steven and Alan Freeman (Leicester 1996) has only a short entry on the band: "As Royal Servants, who featured a vocalist who sang in English, they reputedly played a mixture of psych-pop and longer progressive tracks."

Many thanks to Detlev Nottrodt and Ronald Libal and to all the others for their friendly help.
Taken from the liner notes to "We" (Garden Of Delights CD031) 1999

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