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Fame at last for ageing folk-rocker

Published on 19/04/2004

22 April 2004

HAMBURG – She is a short, chubby and 40-ish former taxi driver from rural southern Germany who is virtually unknown in the world of popular music.

Unable to latch on to a recording contract, she has brought out four CDs at her own expense and sells them at gigs in pubs and community halls where she plays to audiences as small as 25 or 30.

Now, in the absence of professional management and a public-relations staff, she has done something really crazy.

Barbara Clear, obscure 39-year-old folk-rocker, has spent her life’s savings to rent Munich’s 11,000-seat Olympia Hall arena for a one-time, one-woman appearance later this month singing rehashes of songs sung 30 years ago by Janis Joplin and Led Zeppelin and the Eagles.

And the craziest part of it all is that it looks as though her gambit may pay off and she just might be able to sell each and every ticket to the 24 Aprilconcert.

The Olympia Hall has seen the likes of the Rolling Stones, which is, of course, precisely why Clear decided that was where she wanted to appear on stage.

“Every big singer or rock group that ever came to Germany has appeared at the Munich Olympia Hall,” explains the brown-eyed guitarist-songwriter, a chunky amber pendant dangling over a suede lace-up poncho that wafts over hip-hugging jeans.

“I decided that’s where I have to appear too,” she says with soul-searching hazel eyes fixed on the interviewer as if challenging him to question her logic.

It is hard to question that logic when she points out that more that the Munich concert is more than 60 percent sold out. That is 6,000 tickets at about EUR 12 a pop. That is about EUR 70,000 – which means she has already broken even.

“I put down about EUR 70,000 three years ago to book the hall,” recalls Clear. It was three years ago that she began her long-haul drive to Munich.

But it has been a much longer haul for the chunky singer-strummer from the Bavarian hamlet of Hutthurm near the Austrian border.

After high school she planned to study biology at university.

“But, oh I don’t know, life sort of got in the way and I never got a degree,” she says.

Instead, she gigged at pubs and halls throughout small towns in southern Germany on a nightly basis. Her day job was driving a cab.

A recording executive spotted her back in 1985 and said she had a big future and that he could promise her a contract, but that she would have to change her name.

“He said there was no way I could use my real name, Barbara Klier, and become a star, which is maybe true,” she remembers with a chuckle. “But there was no way that I was going to let him name by Shelly Bell, which was his idea of a promising name. So we reached a compromise and I became Barbara Clear, which sounds the same as Klier but looks more worldly in print.”

At any rate, the recording contract never panned out and Clear gave up on trying to get the backing of recording industry pros and realised she would have to chart her career herself.

It was three years ago, after she won a German Rock Awards newcomers award, that she decided to turn her local following into a national following.

“I got to thinking that about 10,000 people were coming to see me each year at lots and lots of little venues around Bavaria,” she says. “So why not rent the biggest arena around and have all 10,000 show up at the same time?”

She booked the Olympia Hall and launched her “Ticket to Munich” tour of small-town gigs, selling tickets all along the way.

Now that the posters have gone up, her “Ticket to Munich” campaign has taken on a life of its own. Suddenly she is a guest on radio call-in shows and late-night television talk shows.

Suddenly, her CDs are being played on radio stations and an independent film crew is following her night and day to produce a behind-the-scenes documentary. Two record companies are in vying to sign her up.

She appears on nationally televised shows, sitting on a bar stool, strumming her guitar and singing “Ticket to Munich” and singing about her dream.

“It’s just a little crazy dream,” she warbles, “that will become a real big thing.”


Subject: German news