Tago Mago

Tago Mago
Studio album by Can
Released February 1971
Recorded November 1970-February 1971 at Schloss Nörvenich, near Cologne, Germany
Genre Krautrock, psychedelic rock, experimental rock, ambient, musique concrete
Length 73:27
Label United Artists
Producer Can
Can chronology
Tago Mago
Ege Bamyasi
Alternative cover
40th anniversary edition

Tago Mago is the third album by the German krautrock band Can, and was originally released as a double LP in 1971 by United Artists. It was the band's second studio album and the first to feature Damo Suzuki after their previous vocalist, Malcolm Mooney, quit the band in 1970 to return to the United States.[1]

Tago Mago has been described as Can's most extreme record in terms of sound and structure.[2] The album has received much critical acclaim since its release and has been cited as an influence by various artists.

Recording and production

After Malcolm Mooney left Can in 1970 the remaining members were left without a vocalist.[3] Bassist Holger Czukay happened to meet Kenji "Damo" Suzuki when the latter was busking outside a cafe in Munich.[4] He introduced himself as a member of an experimental rock band and invited Suzuki to join them.[5] That evening, Suzuki performed with the band at the "Blow Up club" and subsequently became a member of Can.[6]

Tago Mago was recorded in 1971 by Czukay in Schloss Nörvenich, a castle near Cologne.[7] The band was allowed to stay there for a year without paying any rent by the owner, an art collector named Mr. Vohwinkel.[8]

Schloss Nörvenich

This was the first of Can's albums to be made from not only regularly recorded music, but combined "in-between-recordings", where Czukay secretly recorded the musicians jamming while waiting for various technical problems to be resolved.[5] Czukay would edit these long, disorganized jams into structured songs.[9] According to Czukay, the album was named after Isla de Tagomago, an island off the east coast of Ibiza.[10] Recording was completed in three months.[11]

It was originally released as a double LP in 1971 by United Artists. In September 2004, the album, along with the majority of Can's discography, was remastered and released as a hybrid SACD.[7] The rerelease includes a booklet with commentary on the album by Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream and David Stubbs, as well as previously unreleased photos of the band.

In 2011, for the 40th anniversary of its release, the 2004 remaster was released again with an extra disc of previously unreleased 1972 live performances.


The side-long track "Halleluhwah" was shortened from 18½ to 3½ minutes for the B-side of the single "Turtles Have Short Legs", a novelty song recorded during the Tago Mago sessions and released by Liberty Records in 1971.[12] A different, 5½-minute shortened version of "Halleluhwah" would later appear on the compilation Cannibalism in 1978 while the single's A-side remained out-of-print until its inclusion on 1992's Cannibalism 2.


Julian Cope wrote in Krautrocksampler that Tago Mago "sounds only like itself, like no-one before or after", and described the lyrics as delving "below into the Unconscious".[11] Tago Mago finds Can changing to a jazzier and more experimental sound than previous recordings, with longer instrumental interludes and fewer vocals; this shift was caused by the dramatic difference between Suzuki and the band's more dominant ex-singer Mooney.[13] On the album, Can took sonic inspiration from sources as diverse as jazz musicians such as Miles Davis and from electronic avant-garde music.[14] The album was also inspired by the occultist Aleister Crowley, which is reflected through the dark sound of the album as well as being named after Isla de Tagomago, an island which features in the Crowley legend.[15] Czukay reflects that the album was "an attempt in achieving a mystery musical world from light to darkness and return".[5] The group has referred to the album as their "magic record".[15] The tracks have been described as having an "air of mystery and forbidden secrets".[4] Tago Mago is divided into two LPs, the first of which is more conventional and structured and the second more experimental and free-form.[16]

"Paperhouse", the opening track, is one of the shorter songs on the album. Allmusic critic Ned Raggett depicted the song as "beginning with a low-key chime and beat, before amping up into a rumbling roll in the midsection, then calming down again before one last blast."[17] "Mushroom" is the following track, which Leone noted as having a darker sound than the previous song. "Oh Yeah" and "Halleluhwah" contain the elements that have been referred to as Can's "trademark" sound: "Damo Suzuki's vocals, which shift from soft mumbles to aggressive outbursts without warning; Jaki Liebezeit's manic drumming; Holger Czukay's production manipulations (e.g. the backwards vocals and opening sound effects on 'Oh Yeah')."[18] Both "Oh Yeah" and "Halleluhwah" use repetitive grooves.[19]

The second LP features Can's more avant-garde efforts, with Roni Sarig, author of The Secret History of Rock calling it "as close as it ever got to avant-garde noise music."[2] Featuring Holger Czukay’s tape and radio experiments, the tracks "Aumgn" and "Peking O" have led music critics to write that Tago Mago is Can's "most extreme record in terms of sound and structure."[2] "Aumgn" features keyboardist Irmin Schmidt chanting rather than Suzuki's vocals.[13] The closing track, "Bring Me Coffee or Tea", was described by Raggett as a "coda to a landmark record."[17]

Reception and influence

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
Pitchfork9.3/10 (2004)[21]
10/10 (2011; 40th Anniversary Edition)[22]

Tago Mago has been critically well received and is credited with pioneering various modern musical styles. Raggett called Tago Mago a "rarity of the early '70s, a double album without a wasted note".[17] In the book Kraftwerk: Man, Machine and Music, Pascal Bussy described the double LP as "hugely influential".[25] The album is listed in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die in which it stated, "Even after 30 years Tago Mago sounds refreshingly contemporary and gloriously extreme."[26] Many critics, particularly in the UK,[27] were eager to praise the album, and by the end of 1971 Can played their first show in the UK.[7]

Various artists have cited Tago Mago as an influence on their work. John Lydon of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd. called it "stunning" in his biography, Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs.[28] Bobby Gillespie of Jesus and Mary Chain and Primal Scream said "The music was like nothing I'd ever heard before, not American, not rock & roll but mysterious and European."[29] Mark Hollis of Talk Talk made reference to Tago Mago as "an extremely important album" and an inspiration to his own Laughing Stock.[30] Marc Bolan listed Suzuki's freeform lyricism as an inspiration.[31] Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke of Radiohead cite the album as an early influence.[32]

There have been attempts by several artists to play cover versions of songs from Tago Mago. The Flaming Lips album In a Priest Driven Ambulance contains a song called "Take Meta Mars", which was an attempt at covering the song "Mushroom". However, the band members had only heard the song once and didn't have a copy of it at the time, so the song is only similar-sounding and not a proper cover.[33] The Jesus and Mary Chain have covered the song more faithfully to the original; it was performed live and included on the CD version of Barbed Wire Kisses. British band The Fall recorded a song indebted to the Tago Mago track "Oh Yeah" entitled "I Am Damo Suzuki", named after the Can singer, on their seminal 1985 LP This Nation's Saving Grace. New York band The Mooney Suzuki were named after Can vocalists Malcolm Mooney and Damo Suzuki.

Remix versions of several Tago Mago tracks by various artists are included on the album Sacrilege.

Track listing

All tracks written by Holger Czukay, Michael Karoli, Jaki Liebezeit, Irmin Schmidt and Damo Suzuki.

Side one
1."Paperhouse"  7:28
2."Mushroom"  4:03
3."Oh Yeah"  7:23
Side two
1."Halleluhwah"  18:32
Side three
1."Aumgn"  17:37
Side four
1."Peking O"  11:37
2."Bring Me Coffee or Tea"  6:47
Total length:73:27

40th Anniversary Edition

Disc 1
1."Paperhouse"  7:29
2."Mushroom"  4:04
3."Oh Yeah"  7:23
4."Halleluhwah"  18:33
5."Aumgn"  17:37
6."Peking O"  11:38
7."Bring Me Coffee or Tea"  6:47
Total length:73:31
Disc 2
1."Mushroom (Live 1972)"  8:42
2."Spoon (Live 1972)"  29:55
3."Halleluhwah (Live 1972)"  9:12
Total length:47:49




  1. "Music". Malcolm Mooney. Retrieved 2014-08-05.
  2. 1 2 3 Sarig, Roni (1998). The Secret History of Rock: The Most Influential Bands You'Ve Never Heard. Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 125. ISBN 0-8230-7669-5.
  3. Stubbs, David. "CAN - Tago Mago". CAN remastered - Tago Mago (CD liner notes). September 2004.
  4. 1 2 DeRogatis, Jim. "Then I Saw Mushroom Head: The Story of Can". Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  5. 1 2 3 Czukay, Holger. "A Short History of The Can - Discography". Perfect Sound Forever. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  6. Smith, Gary. "CAN Biography". Spoon Records. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  7. 1 2 3 Mute Records. "Biography". Mute Records. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  8. Kampmann, Wolf (1998). CAN Box: Book. Medium Music Books. p. 141. ISBN 3-933642-01-9.
  9. Cope, p. 57
  10. Damon Krukowski (1998). "Can interview". Ptolemaic Terrascope. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
  11. 1 2 Cope, p. 55
  12. Metzger, Richard. "'Turtles Have Short Legs': Can's Idea of a Krautrock Novelty Song?". Dangerous Minds. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  13. 1 2 Cope, p. 56
  14. Manning, Peter D. (2003). Electronic and Computer Music. Oxford University Press, Incorporated. p. 174. ISBN 0-19-517085-7.
  15. 1 2 DeRogatis, Jim (2003). Turn On Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock. Hal Leonard. p. 273. ISBN 0-634-05548-8.
  16. Thompson, Dave (2000). Alternative Rock: The Best Musicians and Recordings. Backbeat Books. p. 60. ISBN 0-87930-607-6.
  17. 1 2 3 4 Raggett, Ned. "Tago Mago". Allmusic Guide. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  18. McGlinchey, Joe. "Tago Mago". Ground & Sky. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  19. Unterberger, Ritchie (1998). Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' Roll: Psychederic Unknowns, Mad Geniuses, Punk Pioneers, Lo-Fi Mavericks, and More. Backbeat Books. p. 170. ISBN 0-87930-534-7.
  20. "Tago Mago [40th Anniversary Edition] - Can". Metacritic.
  21. Leone, Dominique (10 November 2004). "Album Review: Can: Monster Movie / Soundtracks / Tago Mago / Ege Bamyasi". Pitchfork Media. Archived from the original on 9 December 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
  22. Wolk, Douglas (9 December 2011). "Can: Tago Mago [40th Anniversary Edition] | Album Reviews | Pitchfork". pitchfork.com. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  23. Ramsay, J T. (7 January 2005). "Can - Tago Mago / Ege Bamyasi". Stylus. Archived from the original on 9 December 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
  24. Cavanagh, David. "CAN - TAGO MAGO R1971 - Review - Uncut.co.uk". uncut.co.uk. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  25. Bussy, Pascal (2004). Kraftwerk: Man, Machine and Music. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 22. ISBN 0-946719-70-5.
  26. Shade, Chris (2005). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Quintet Publishing Limited. p. 235. ISBN 978-0-7333-2120-7.
  27. Thompson, Dave (2000). Eurock: European Rock and the Second Culture. Eurorock. p. 33. ISBN 0-9723098-0-2.
  28. Lydon, John (1995). Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs. Picador. p. 81. ISBN 0-312-11883-X.
  29. Gillespie, Bobby. "CAN - Tago Mago". CAN remastered - Tago Mago (CD liner notes). September 2004.
  30. Stubbs, David (February 1998). "Talking Liberties". Vox.
  31. Bolan, Marc. Interview by Russell Harty. London Weekend Television. 23 Jul. 1972
  32. Griffiths, Dai (2004). OK Computer (3313 series). Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 43–44. ISBN 0-8264-1663-2.
  33. Coyne, Wayne (1990). Album notes for In a Priest Driven Ambulance by The Flaming Lips, [CD booklet]. Restless Records.

Further reading

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