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I Can Get Satisfaction

University of Freiburg Presents the Unique Collection of an Ardent Rolling Stones Fan

Freiburg, Mar 27, 2017

I Can Get Satisfaction

Photo: Max Orlich

Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie – also known as the Rolling Stones – are coming to Freiburg. Well, perhaps not in person, but in no less an impressive form. The Center for Popular Culture and Music (ZPKM) of the University of Freiburg is taking on a very comprehensive collection of memorabilia, including some quaint, individual pieces.

Rather good friends: Life-sized cardboard cut outs of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Photo: Max Orlich

Go back to Blackpool. It's 24 July 1964. Eighteen-year-old Reinhold Karpp is seeing the Rolling Stones, live, on stage, for the first time. "It stank horribly of urine, people were stepping on naked girls and people were (...) continually passed over our heads towards the front," Karpp later noted in his diary. "It was complete madness." And after only four songs, the concert at the Empress Ballroom was stopped because a riot had started.

Karpp's passion for the revolutionary music of the "Stones" was sparked then, despite, or perhaps precisely because of the concert's abrupt ending. His daughter Annette Karpp remembers that back then, her father was a pupil at a strict boarding school for boys on the northern German island of Spiekeroog. She says, "They had strict rules at the boarding school. My father was trying to escape them. For him, the Stones' music was the very epitome of freedom." From then on, Reinhold Karpp began to collect everything he could lay his hands on that had to do with the English rock band. "The collection was his sanctuary," says Annette Karpp, adding that was why he wanted the collection to remain an intact unit even after his death.

Given that, Reinhold Karpp's family decided after his death in 2012 to make the collection available to the University of Freiburg on permanent loan. The Rolling Stones will again and again grace the long halls of the Center for Popular Culture and Music (ZPKM) – in almost perfect form, printed on T-shirts, buttons, illustrated seat cushions or vinyl disks.

In the round – a fitting button for every occasion. Photo: Max Orlich

More than 130 concerts

During the course of his life, Reinhold Karpp went all over the world to see the Rolling Stones and attended 130 concerts in all. The long list of venues includes Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, New York and Toronto – and the cardboard box holding all the concert tickets is an interesting source for researchers. The family often went to the events, too. And, when in the year 2000, Mr. and Mrs. Karpp were carnival prince and princess for the community of Windhagen. In the procession, the motif for the float that carried the princely couple was that legendary Stones' logo – the tongue. "Rolling Stones passion Rhineland style is what it was," remembers Annette Karpp, who saw the band for the first time in concert in Cologne at the tender age of eight. "The 'Toten Hosen' were the warm-up band," she says.

Along with her two sisters, Sabine and Katharina, father Reinhold and mother Arleen, and lots of uncles, aunts and cousins, Annette Karpp went to a concert in June 2003 at the Festwiese in Leipzig. Back then at the "Licks Tour," the family celebrated 40 years of the Rolling Stones. The Rhineland natives were able to get the much sought after tickets because, among other things, long-time fan Karpp was part of a close-knit network, the members of which helped each other. Some even had the advantage of having personal contacts with Rolling Stones' management.

T-Shirts, baseball caps, books and a pinball machine

For nearly half a century, Karpp collected everything marked with anything to do with the Rolling Stones: baseball caps, t-shirts, books, magazines, even a pinball machine, and a music collection with more than 15 thousand recordings. "His main interest was always directed at the band's music, especially what was on vinyl," says Annette Karpp. Some objects that may seem curious at first glance are actually valuable articles of popular culture, says ZPKM Director Dr. Dr. Michael Fischer. He explains, "This represents more than the passion of a collector. It also reflects the differentiation what's popular and the strategies of music marketing." Fischer adds that from a cultural studies' standpoint, the collection is a rich resource. "Besides the music, we can also investigate social practices such as star and fan cultures or the different ways of appreciating popular music," explains Fischer.

A pinball machine, barstools and calendar – the three essential ingredients of any basement party room worth its salt. Photo: Max Orlich

A quiet fan

Yet Reinhold Karpp was never interested in meeting his idols personally. He believed that would have been too intrusive. He enjoyed them quietly, at home, but also at Stones' concerts. His sister, Dr. Ellen Sessar-Karpp looks back, "What always impressed me about Reinhold was that he was such a 'quiet fan.' He would stand really still at concerts and listen to every sound. He didn't miss a note."

Over time the collection got so big that it even got its own floor in the Karpp home – though this area was clearly separate from the family's apartment. A few gold records from the collection hang in the stairwell leading up to the attic where the collection was located. And an oversized Rolling Stones tongue by the door was a clue that something special was just behind it.

Judith Burggrabe


Touring the world with the Rolling Stones — Reinhold Karpp went to nearly 150 concerts of his favorite band during the course of his life. We’ve used the concert tickets to reconstruct his route. Source: Google Maps