German girl group Die Sweetles owed as much to marketing as to music. The four
mop-topped Mädchen who promoted the group’s records were models, while the three actual singers were kept out of the public eye.
The behind-the-scenes singers of Die Sweetles were Peggy Peters, Charlotte Marian and Monika Grimm.
Peggy was born Christina Zakewski on 25 December 1946 in Berlin. After leaving school she worked as an air hostess before winning a talent contest with her childhood friend Drafi Deutscher (later a big star himself). As a result Christina was offered a recording contract, and as Peggy Peters released a string of singles. The first, Keine Schule mehr, issued in 1963, was a cover of French yé-yé girl Sheila’s massive hit L’école est finie.
It was followed by Nimm dich in acht vor bösen Buben and Ich setze alles auf einer Karte (which is best known for its B-side, Aus, a raucous approximation of British singer Lulu’s Shout) and Java Boy, all issued in 1964. After failing to score a hit, she was roped into the Sweetles project.
Monika had made a name for herself as a television actress, appearing as a singer in 1960’s Papas neue Freundin, and later in 1963’s Strandgeflüster and 1964’s Mitternachtszauber. She also made a number of recordings, including a German version of Paul Anka’s 1961 hit Kissin’ on the phone (which became Ein Kuss am Telefon).
Charlotte Marian was the stage name of session singer Charlotte Bischoff, born 16 February 1937 in Obernburg. She recorded a number of songs for Tempo, a label that specialised in cut-price versions of hits of the day (rather like the Top of the pops albums that were popular in Britain in the 1970s).
In 1962 she became the second wife of Christian Bruhn, one of Germany’s top songwriters of the 1960s. He composed songs for many stars of the day, including Marion, Manuela, France Gall, Conny Froboess, Rita Pavone, Wencke Myhre, Dorthe and Siw Malmkvist, and in the 1970s, for Katja Ebstein, who had become wife number three (of five) by that time.
Conceived by Bruhn in 1964 as a Beatles tribute group, Die Sweetles needed four singers for the concept to work. So, four singers it had, publicly at least. If Polydor had any notion of using the three singers as part of its promotional activities, the fact that Charlotte was five months pregnant at the time the group’s first single was released put paid to this idea. Instead, four models sporting mop-top wigs were drafted in to appear on the group’s picture sleeves and to mime during public appearances.
The tactic paid off and the group’s first single, Ich wünsch’ mir zum Geburtstag einen Beatle, became a top 40 hit in June 1964. The Christian Bruhn/Hans Bradtke-penned single has found lasting popularity amongst fans of German girl pop, and the B-side, Die Schule ist aus, is another three minutes of German garage gold.
A second single, Früher oder später, backed with Goodbye my summer-love, was issued several months later but failed to chart and a decision was taken not to pursue the group.
The three girls made another brief try together as Die Petras in 1965, releasing the single Mädchen träumen gern.
After that, Monika went back into acting, moving from television onto the big screen in Mordnacht in Manhattan, released in 1965. The following year she appeared in a further film, Um Nul Uhr schnappt die Falle zu, recorded a duet with opera singer René Kollo and took part in the Deutsche Schlager-Festspiele with Wer nimmt mich in seine Arme.
Charlotte returned to session singing with Tempo. Interestingly, in 1968 she adopted a French accent to record a cover of Der Computer Nr 3, a hit her husband Bruhn had composed for French star France Gall.
By this time, Peggy had met future husband Peter Rainford, with whom she went on to release a number of duets in the late 1960s. To underline her new start, she went blonde and used her married name, Tina Rainford.
She joined the New Seekers-styled group Wir in 1971 before going solo. In 1976 Drafi Deutscher produced Silverbird for his old friend. It gave the singer a top five hit and is still popular in Germany today. An English version also made the US country and western top 20. A further hit in Germany, Charly Boy, followed a year later, though the follow up, Fly away, pretty flamingo, failed.
With thanks to Christine of Spiked candy for additional research.
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