THIS WEEK I’M LISTENING TO...FARGO – The Early Years (Steamhammer / SPV)THIS WEEK I’M LISTENING TO...FARGO – The Early Years (Steamhammer / SPV)

Originally formed in Hannover in 1973, the German hard rock quartet Fargo released four albums between 1979 and 1982 (all of which have been pulled together in this very welcome four CD box set), and although Fargo hit the buffers in 1984 their legacy allowed the band to go on to reform some 32 years later.


The band was the brainchild of vocalist Peter Knorn, and, as is usually the way, a number of musicians came and went – including one Matthias Jabs (where is he now?) – until Crystal, an imprint of EMI-Electrola, offered a pen and the dotted line. Fargo had already issued a single ‘Coming Together’ in 1977 on Lava, a local label, but now the band – featuring singer/guitarist Peter Ladwig, guitarist Hanno Grossman, drummer Frank Tolle and with Knorn switching to bass – embarked on their debut album ‘Wishing Well’ which appeared in March 1979. A healthy slice of bluesy rock with the occasional work-out like closer ‘When The Show Is Over’, ‘Wishing Well’ is a worthy debut, maybe a tad unfocussed a times but played from the heart. ‘No Limit’ swiftly followed in February 1980 and followed the same path, and the fact that they later supported AC/DC on their ‘Back In Black’ tour for a couple of gigs when Whitesnake had to bow out shows where the band were at, musically: the beautifully elegiac ‘Soul Survivor’ could easily be a track off ‘Lovehunter’.


By the release of their third album, ‘Frontpage Lover’ in March 1981 the cracks were beginning to show. Tolle left the band and was replaced by Rudi Kaeding, and despite a couple of really strong offerings in the title track and the very Eighties’ ‘Tokyo’, with its Spinal Tap-like cover ‘Frontpage Lover’ displays elements of difficult-third-album syndrome. At the end of the ensuing tour Grossman left and was replaced by Tommy Newton, and ‘F’ appeared in the shops the following year. A much tougher album with a pugilistic production, ‘F’ – check out ‘Here We Are’ and the frenetic instrumental ‘Hard Attack’ – gave the band a sharper edge, but after the ‘F’ tour wrapped, Ladwig and Tolle left (again, in the latter’s case). A new-look Fargo recorded three new songs for their fifth album, but vocalist Pedro Schemm, guitarists Tommy Newton and John Lockton, bassist Peter Knorn and drummer Bernie van der Graaf’s efforts were in vain. The album was never completed, and with ex-Ted Nugent singer Charlie Huhn taking over front-and-centre Fargo slipped seamlessly into Victory.


Fargo: the 'Wishing Well' / 'No Limit' line-up - well, it is the Eighties! (photo (c) the band)

Nothing more was heard from Fargo until Knorn and Ladwig, ably assisted by guitarist Arndt Schultz and drummer Nikolas Fritz, rebooted the band with ‘Constellation’ in 2016. But that’s another story. ‘The Early Years’ is a glorious celebration of a band with a great story to tell. Enjoy! Vinyl lovers may wish to note that the four albums have also been re-issued as standalone LPs.

© John Tucker February 2024