Today we’re going to talk about Joachim “Total BAMF” Neumann, who in 1963 was an East German university student who was determined to get over to the West. He had a family, a long-term girlfriend named Christa Gruhl, and plenty of friends - but none of that mattered when freedom was only a wall away.
So we’re going to start of this tale by saying that he DID make it over to the West - very easily, actually. In 1963 he borrowed his Swiss friend’s passport and simply went through customs with it. He faked his Swiss accent by not talking at all, and acting like an angry tourist who hated Germany (so, basically, any Swiss person), and communicated through an upturned nose, grunts, and arrogant scoffs. The border guards had no reason to believe he WASN’T Swiss, and let him through.
This was amongst the first instances of someone ‘Swissing their way to freedom’.
Cool. So Neumann was in the West! Freedom! Capitalism! Coca-Cola! 60’s fashion! What else could a person want?
Well he realized that he had left behind like, everyone he loved, and devised a plan to get THEM over as well, that didn’t involve Swiss grunts and borrowed passports. So if you can’t go through it, and you can’t go over it, what’s the next step?
Go under it, of course!
He assembled a team of other West German university students who wanted to breach through the wall, and they decided they’d just fuckin’ dig right under it. Neumann was a civil engineer student, because of course he was, and led the expedition with more than a dozen others.
While their classmates played Ultimate Frisbee and cried over final exams, or whatever West German university students did back then, Neumann and his buddies slept in an abandoned bakery in week-long shifts, using buckets of water to wash off the dirt and grime.
The tunnel itself was later called “Tunnel 57,” because this is the Hunger Games, was 11 metres deep underground, with just enough room for a single person to crawl through on their hands and knees. In fact, the students didn’t even know if, when they broke ground on the other side, they’d be in the East. They just bullshitted it, for the most part.
We’re dealing with University students, remember. They don’t know any other way.
Digging took five months, and when they emerged on the other side, they had actually broken ground in an old outhouse in East Germany, meaning that not only had they bullshitted the entire thing, but upon receiving the final grade it was a 100% mark with extra credit thrown on top.
On 3 October 1964 the tunnel was ready for passengers. They told their friends, relatives, loved ones, everyone - the password was “Tokyo”, and it was your passport to the other side.
Neumann’s girlfriend Christa was in prison during all of this, arrested for trying to flee earlier through other means, but she had been released early on the day of the tunnel’s opening and was able to make it through the next day.
The second night of the tunnel’s operation, nearby border guards noticed something wasn’t quite right, and soon the operation was discovered. In the following discovery, there was a small shoot-out between a few diggers and guards, and one border guard ended up dying. The tunnel was destroyed, but not before 57 East Germans ended up on the other side to freedom - the tunnel’s namesake.
Neumann and his girlfriend reunited, were later married, and remain so today! One of the diggers became an astronaut, and another continued to smuggle people across the border for decades.
57 people escaped through the tunnel in two nights - over 1/5th of the total amount of escapees who left via tunnels in over 30 years of the wall’s history.
In the photo above, a woman crawls through Tunnel 57 on her way to West Berlin, photographed by Hans-Joachim Tileman
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel grew up three blocks apart. They met at school in Forest Hills, Queens, New York in 1953 where they learned to harmonise and performed together under the name Tom & Jerry. Their partnership dissolved when they began college, but their shared interest in folk music and the growing counterculture movement lead to them reuniting in 1963 to perform Simon’s compositions around their hometown of Queens.
Simon wrote “The Sound of Silence” over a period of months in his bathroom, where he enjoyed the echo from the tiles and would turn off the lights to better concentrate. In September 1963, Simon & Garfunkel performed their new song at a Greenwich Village club, gaining the attention of producer Tom Wilson who worked with Bob Dylan. A studio audition and contract with Columbia Records followed.
“The Sound of Silence” was recorded March 10 1964 at Columbia Studios in New York City for inclusion on their debut album, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, released October 1964. Performances to promote the album went poorly. The opening lyric “Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to speak with you again…” cracked the audience up. The album flopped. Its dismal sales of 3,000 copies led to the duo once again disbanding. Paul Simon returned to a solo career in England and Art Garfunkel to his studies at Columbia University. Simon toured the small folk clubs of England and continued writing. He met Kathy Chitty, who became the object of his affection and inspiration for “Kathy’s Song” and “America”.
Then from obscurity, a murmur, a flicker of light.
In spring 1965 “The Sound of Silence” began to attract late night airplay at a radio station in Boston, Massachusetts. Popularity ignited overnight amongst the students of Harvard and Tufts University and the song made its way down the East Coast all the way to Florida for the spring break. Alerted to the growing airplay, Tom Wilson, remixed the track, overdubbing electric instruments with the same musicians who backed Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” on June 15, 1965. Simon & Garfunkel were not informed of the remix and the single was released in September 1965.
Simon was horrified when he heard it. However, he reunited again with Garfunkel that winter in New York, leaving Chitty and his friends in England behind. They hastily recorded their second album in three weeks during December 1965 at CBS studios in Nashville and Los Angeles, which Columbia titled ‘Sounds of Silence’ in an attempt to capitalise on the song’s success. Many of it’s tracks were re-recordings from ‘The Paul Simon Songbook’ which had been released in England summer 1965.
The original issue sleeve had the artist and title set in Cooper Black italic capitals. In spite of its immediate success, the client made the logo 20% bigger and added song titles for later issues.
The album cover image was shot by Guy Webster at Franklin Canyon Park, Los Angeles. Webster listened to it before meeting them and was stunned. After the shoot, he invited them back to his dad’s house in nearby Beverley Hills as he knew they would hit it off over thier shared love of literature and especially Dickens. The duo performed “The Sound of Silence” for him in the living room.
"The Sound of Silence” hit No. 1 on January 1 1966.
“George Harrison is the reluctant Beatle. He did not expect fame. When it came, he was bewildered. He is the most affable of the four - instantly friendly, talkative and frank.” - Melody Maker, 7 November 1964 [x]
“What annoys us is that people treat us sometimes as if we are just things and not human beings.” - George Harrison, Rave, June 1964 [x]
George Harrison during the taping of Shindig, Granville Studios, Fulham, London, 3 October 1964
Photo: Leslie Bryce/The Beatles Book
“In Paris in January 1964, prior to The Beatles’ first wild visit to America, a reported asked George how he liked being mobbed and screamed at by fans and he replied: ‘I wouldn’t do all this if I didn’t like it. I wouldn’t do anything I didn’t want to, would I?’ But within a couple of years of tht remark George became the first casualty of Beatlemania. Not being as thick-skinned as the others, he was more vulnerable to the extraordinary pressures that Beatlemania brought with it. His mind if not his body took a battering as the crowds grew larger and seemed to be closing in on him. The group’s lifestyle on the road became increasingly restricted. George wasn’t a natural born showman like Paul. He was not cut out for celebrity. He loved his music but he found fame an awesomely heavy burden to cope with. I watched his personality change visibly as security around the group tightened, particularly when he went on the big concert tours of America, Europe and Asia. Cooped up for their own safety in heavily guarded hotel suites and transported to and from the stadium and convention centre venues in the discomfort of various trucks, vans, buses and armoured vehicles, The Beatles led an anything but glamorous life at the height of Beatlemania. Afraid that sooner or later over-enthusiastic crowds at airports, hotels or concert venues would get out of control, George used to say: ‘One of these days when the fans crush forward to get at us somebody is going to get killed.’” - Tony Barrow, The Beatles Book, 2002 [x]