My Grandmother and The Rolling Stones
This is a story about my grandmother.
Growing up in East Germany we had limited travel opportunities and access to hard currency, but we had ‘Intershops’, small government owned stores offering western goods in exchange for Deutschmark. They had the vibe of an airport duty free where you could buy Toblerone, Levi’s and (at the time) records. You could also buy Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and Marlboro, but that wasn’t on my radar as a kid. My grandmother was allowed to travel to the West, so she had small amounts of Deutschmark and was able to shop there.
I think I was 10 when I read two articles about a band called The Rolling Stones. The first one in a local newspaper explaining the decadence of Rock ’n’ Roll as evident in the infamous Altamont concert, the other one in a West German magazine describing Brian Jones’ unique fashion sense and eccentric lifestyle. I might have heard that song ‘I can’t get no’, so The Rolling Stones sparked my interest and I would have loved to own a Stones record.
The nearest Intershop, an hour’s drive away, had one in stock – Brian Jones on the cover. To get it I needed Deutschmarks and to get Deutschmarks I needed my grandmother. With the determination of a 10 year old I asked grandma, but she refused to spend her valuable hard currency on a band she called ‘screamers’.
Christmas came, I did not give up, put Stones onto the wish list and with the support of my dad the pièce de résistance made it onto the gift table. And to add to the happiness, grandma seemed somewhat relieved when I put on “Ruby Tuesday” to which she remarked: ‘Not as bad as I thought’.
This was only the beginning of a beautiful friendship with popular music and grandmother, who, from her travels to the West, started bringing home records that I ended up sharing with my cousin.
Thank you Grandma for introducing me to the wonderful world of Rock ’n’ Roll!