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The Story Of Triumvirat's Helmut Koellen

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presdoug View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote presdoug Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: The Story Of Triumvirat's Helmut Koellen
    Posted: December 01 2013 at 10:25
      The following is an article penned by me about the late prog musician Helmut Koellen. I have included everything I know about his life and death. Feel free to make comments or add additional info.

                 Helmut Koellen was born on March 2nd, 1950 in Cologne, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany.
   He had a fairly ordinary childhood.
                   In his teens, he started to play music in some groups in the Cologne area. In 1973, when his cousin, the keyboardist/composer/producer Jurgen Fritz needed a new guitar player/lead vocalist for his current progressive rock band Triumvirat, Koellen was picked. The former bassist/vocalist Hans Pape was leaving the band because he was getting married, and his wife to be did not want him to constantly face the rigors of touring.
                     Pape was in the midst of working on Triumvirat's sophomore effort, the album "Illusions On A Double Dimple", and had laid down most of the bass parts on what would be side one of the album.
                Helmut Koellen finished the record by providing the rest of the bass and six-string guitar, and most of the lead vocals, and it was released in March of 1974. He was evidently aided in the grasp of the English lyrics by study of them phonetically. Also released around this time were a couple of singles-"Dimplicity/Million Dollars" from the Illusions album, and a separate couple of songs- "Timothy/Dancer's Delight", with Koellen on vocals and guitar (bass and six-string)
                      Illusions was the first Triumvirat album to be released in North America and sold well there, reaching #55 on the US album chart, and in the fall of 1974, Triumvirat  with Helmut Koellen went on a tour of the United States  with Fleetwood Mac, which was pretty successful, as well, culminating  in a program for television on ABC's "In Concert", where the band played part of the first suite from the Illusions On A Double Dimple album, and it  was videotaped and aired coast to coast in the middle of January, 1975.
                          Next came the recording of the concept album "Spartacus" back in Germany, also with Helmut on lead vocals, bass and six-string guitar. The album, released in the spring of 1975, reached #27 on the US album chart, and the band toured there in 1975 with artists like Nektar, Supertramp, ELO, Caravan, Little Feat, and Pavlov's Dog. (there was also a concert in Calgary, Alberta, Canada) Also that year, Triumvirat toured with Grand Funk Railroad in Europe.
                        At the end of 1975, Helmut Koellen announced his intention to leave the band and start on a solo career. Also, he had to return to Germany to deal with some other things, including his draft status with the West German military there.
                          In 1976, Helmut then joined the German group "Jail", and helped record their only album called "You Can Help Me",by providing guitar and vocals for some of the songs on the album, and also on the group's single, "Julie". A close friend of his managed the group, and this was supposed to be "Helmut's band", though events would change all that. Jail were not as progressive as Triumvirat, but very special, nonetheless, uniting prog with a more mainstream sound.
            Koellen ended up returning to Triumvirat later, but this re-union did not last, for several reasons, one being that he felt some of the newer music to be out of his vocal range.
       
              In the fall of 1976, Koellen began work on what would be his only solo album, "You Won't See Me", named by his friends after the Beatles song that he does a cover of. Jurgen Fritz played keys, and produced the record with help from Conrad "Conny" Plank at "Conny's Studio", Wolperath, West Germany, and assistant engineer Jurgen Kramer was involved, as well. Matthias Holtmann played drums, and  "Passport" musician Dieter Petereit played bass.
                      You Won't See Me's music and lyrics are mainly by Helmut Koellen and Jurgen Fritz, with some assistance from Triumvirat drummer Hans Bathelt on one track. The album has Helmut doing all the lead vocals, and  most of the six-string guitar (Leslie electric, and also acoustic guitar) and some bass. His sister Elke Koellen (now Elke Schlimbach-Koenig) assisted in the backing vocals, along with Brigitte Witt. Sax player Charly Schlimbach was also involved, as well as  Jail guitarist Burkhard Lipps. There was also use of a string section arranged and conducted by Jurgen Fritz, and a brass section, as well. This solo album kind of merges progressive rock with a more mainstream style.
           Helmut Koellen was also an auto mechanic and race car driver, and had plans to continue with that in the future.
                 Sadly, plans for the post-Triumvirat projects of Helmut Koellen's would be cut short by his death on May 3rd, 1977, after coming home from a long day of recording. He was found dead in his enclosed garage, having succumbed to carbon monoxide gas within an hour of running the car engine while listening to his solo album tracks on his car's cassette deck, at the young age of 27.
                  To this day, even those closest to Helmut don't know for certain if the death was accidental, or suicide. It was a great loss for all concerned, but luckily, his solo album was released in October of 1977, all the same, in both Germany and South America by Harvest/EMI, and a promo single of the album's title track was also issued. The album was dedicated to Koellen's parents.
                        The project of the group Jail came to a complete halt, after Helmut's death. A tragic end for such a sincere, inspired, and devoted musician/singer/songwriter. At least we have his wonderful music as a lasting testament to his great talent.
                           In 1977, German group "Birth Control" recorded a song that was a tribute to Helmut Koellen called "We All Thought We Knew You", which appeared on their subsequent album "Increase".
                        In 2002, when the entire Triumvirat album back catalog was remastered and released on Compact Disc by EMI Cologne, there was talk of also releasing You Won't See Me as well, but the company were downsizing at the time, and let go the employee pushing for it's release. More recently, a seller on IOffer has put the album onto CD, but a legitimate CD release has yet to be seen.
                          I would like to dedicate this modest article to Helmut Koellen.


Edited by presdoug - September 02 2014 at 16:22
"and what music unites, man should not take apart"--Helmut Koellen                               
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Post Options Post Options   Quote cstack3 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 01 2013 at 16:22
Doug, you are a super fan!  Did you get any new information from that fellow on FB?  

Cheers and best, Chuck 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote presdoug Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 01 2013 at 16:43
Hi Chuck, and thanks!  yes, i chatted with him on facebook, and he gave me some new info.I am awaiting a response from him on my last HK inquiry. He was the manager of Jail.
             He also knew Helmut's sister Elke, who he said was "not into the Helmut Koellen mystery thing" and that "she stays out of it". Hasn't seen her since 1977, and he hasn't been in touch with Triumvirat members Jurgen Fritz, Hans Pape or Hans Bathelt "in ages".
            He mentioned that there was a project afoot between him and Helmut, which was cut short by Koellen's death. He also said that Helmut was "very, very special".
                    He gave me the facebook address of Jail guitarist Burkhard Lipps, who i messaged, but did not respond.













Edited by presdoug - May 30 2014 at 16:00
"and what music unites, man should not take apart"--Helmut Koellen                               
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Post Options Post Options   Quote verslibre Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 01 2013 at 17:44
Only 27?! That is awful. Spartacus is one of the best albums to come out of Germany. What could have been...?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote cstack3 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 01 2013 at 19:30
Originally posted by presdoug

Hi Chuck, and thanks!  yes, i chatted with him on facebook, and he gave me some new info.I am awaiting a response from him on my last HK inquiry. He was the manager of Jail.
             He also knew Helmut's sister Elke, who he said was "not into the Helmut Koellen mystery thing" and that "she stays out of it". When i told him i sent her a letter that was returned unopened, he said "Elke is like that". Hasn't seen her since 1977, and he hasn't been in touch with Triumvirat members Jurgen Fritz, Hans Pape or Hans Bathelt "in ages".
            He mentioned that there was a project afoot between him and Helmut, which was cut short by Koellen's death. He also said that Helmut was "very, very special".
                    He gave me the facebook address of Jail guitarist Burkhard Lipps, who i messaged, but did not respond.

Brilliant!!  I knew that we'd find someone out there, some day, who knew more about Helmut!  

Indeed, Helmut was very, very special!  His gifts shine through his solo work!  

It is fans like you who keep musicians working at their kraft, Doug!  Keep up the good work! 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote presdoug Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 01 2013 at 19:39
^bless you, Chuck, thanks.
"and what music unites, man should not take apart"--Helmut Koellen                               
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The Bearded Bard Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2013 at 12:56
Thanks for sharing, Doug! A very interesting read.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote HolyMoly Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 04 2013 at 08:46
Helmut deserves to be remembered.  Nice one, Doug.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote presdoug Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 04 2013 at 21:31
^^thanks, guys.
"and what music unites, man should not take apart"--Helmut Koellen                               
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 05 2013 at 15:25
Great article Doug!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Slartibartfast Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 05 2013 at 20:38
Nice, I didn't know anything about his biography.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote presdoug Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 15 2014 at 11:07
Originally posted by cstack3

Originally posted by presdoug

Hi Chuck, and thanks!  yes, i chatted with him on facebook, and he gave me some new info.I am awaiting a response from him on my last HK inquiry. He was the manager of Jail.
             He also knew Helmut's sister Elke, who he said was "not into the Helmut Koellen mystery thing" and that "she stays out of it".  Hasn't seen her since 1977, and he hasn't been in touch with Triumvirat members Jurgen Fritz, Hans Pape or Hans Bathelt "in ages".
            He mentioned that there was a project afoot between him and Helmut, which was cut short by Koellen's death. He also said that Helmut was "very, very special".
                    He gave me the facebook address of Jail guitarist Burkhard Lipps, who i messaged, but did not respond.

Brilliant!!  I knew that we'd find someone out there, some day, who knew more about Helmut!  

Indeed, Helmut was very, very special!  His gifts shine through his solo work!  

It is fans like you who keep musicians working at their kraft, Doug!  Keep up the good work! 
I am pleased to say that I am now facebook friends with both Burkhard Lipps and Helmut's sister Elke Schlimbach-Koenig, as well as Barry Palmer.Thumbs Up


Edited by presdoug - June 28 2014 at 15:34
"and what music unites, man should not take apart"--Helmut Koellen                               
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Post Options Post Options   Quote SquonkHunter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 29 2014 at 22:59
Originally posted by verslibre

Only 27?! That is awful. Spartacus is one of the best albums to come out of Germany. What could have been...?


I knew about his death but I didn't know he joined The 27 Club. How strange.
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