There aren’t many recorded songs that can’t, in 2019, be identified very quickly. The internet has largely replaced the process of asking friends and record shop owners to pass along the name of artists and titles. Taping songs off the radio and hoping to catch their details in time to scribble them down in a cassette insert has been replaced by neatly labeled Spotify playlists. And yet, despite all of this, Reddit has discovered what must be the last mystery song to ever exist: A track recorded off of a German radio station in the early ‘80s whose creators are somehow unknown.
This summer, a full version of the song was unearthed and uploaded to YouTube by Gabriel da Silva Vieira. It’s pretty good—a straightforward pop rock song with a catchy chorus—but, really, not all that remarkable on its own. What makes the track interesting is that a dedicated group of internet detectives haven’t been able to figure out who recorded the thing since it was first brought to Reddit’s attention back in 2007. Initially posted by a woman named Lydia—originally under the screen name “Anton Riedel”—the song was brought to the internet in order to crowdsource an investigation into its origins. According to a post rounding up the basic facts of the search, Lydia originally said her brother taped it off “a German radio show between the years of 1982-1984" and “nothing much is known about the song’s origins.” Its actual “lyrics, country of origin, band, and title are speculated on, but largely remain a mystery.”
The search is so intense that r/TheMysteriousSong was created to help share leads and join forces to figure everything out and archive artifacts like the original mix tape’s track list (both Corey Hart and Ray Parker Jr. are included on it, naturally). Mostly, what Reddit’s found is confined to a bunch of stuff the song isn’t. As the FAQ post notes, any information generated by “Shazam, Spotify, YouTube’s algorithm, and similar software yield false results” both because the song is so obscure and because it had at one point been uploaded by “someone by the name of Nicholas” who tried “taking credit for it.”
A Rolling Stone article about the song by David Browne lists Lydia’s brother as “Darius S” and sees him explain that he thinks he maybe recorded the tune from a broadcast by German public radio station NDR 1, but doesn’t have many other clues. Even Paul Baskerville, a DJ who worked at NDR 1 at the time (and still does), doesn’t recognize it, only adding that it could belong to a forgotten German group or one of the many “underground Eastern [European] rock bands” who sent tapes to the station.
With little else to go on, the internet has continued its search by doing stuff like contacting a ton of German radio stations, analyzing the audio in depth, and endlessly trying to transcribe the most accurate version of its lyrics. The search will likely continue forever, breakthroughs coming from unexpected sources while the poor folks determined to crack the case wait, staring at their ceilings, listening to an unknown singer sing unknown words over an unknown instrumental in a cold, grey 1980s-style purgatory.
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