East 17’s Stay Another Day, David Essex’s A Winter’s Tale, Jona Lewie’s Stop the Cavalry and various versions of Let It Snow are all good examples of Christmassy-feel songs that having nothing at all to do with Christmas, most of them don’t even reference the ‘C’ word! This week’s suggestion is another. It features on most festive compilations and like all of the aforementioned, it get heavy radio rotation in December but virtually nothing the rest of the year. Let’s find out about Keeping the Dream Alive by Freiheit.
The band formed in 1980 and their original name was Münchner Freiheit which takes its name from a square in Munich’s Schwabing district, near the English Garden. During the winter it is home to one of Munich’s largest Christmas markets which is a huge tourist attraction. The original line up comprised singer Stefan Zauner, guitarist Aron Strobel, bass player Michael Kunzi, keyboardist Alex Grünwald and drummer Rennie Hatzke. The only personnel change was when Stefan left the band in 2010 and permanently replaced two years later by Tim Wilhelm. Although that is still their full name it’s often shortened to just Freiheit.
Their debut album, Umsteiger was released in 1982 and followed a year later by Licht. They toured around Europe successfully and in 1985 did 80 concerts in Germany alone and on the back of that released the single Ohne Dich which charted in Austria, Switzerland and made number two in their native country. The parent album, From the Beginning, followed a few months later.
In 1987, they recorded the song As long as you can still live dreams and in my exclusive interview with the bass player Michael Kunzi he explained its origins, “I didn’t write the song, but Stefan, our singer at the time who wrote the song, told me that he had the first idea in the bathroom whilst taking a shower. First, we made a normal band version, and there is one on the Album Fantasy, but our record label CBS at this time said, ‘the composition is so huge, that it recommended the production of the London Symphony Orchestra with conductor Andrew Powell.” The backing vocals are performed by the Jackson Singers and it was all recorded at Abbey Road Studios with producer Armand Volker. The German-language version reached number two in Germany and both the ARD and ZDF, who are German public-service television broadcasters, recognised their achievements by naming them Best Band of the Year with the Golden Tuning Fork and the Berolina.
The song was re-recorded in 1988 with an English lyric but the original master was used and thus the LSO were kept on the recording we know but they were still not credited. It reached the top 20 in Ireland and number 14 in the UK.
As the nineties arrived, the band slowed a little; they released the single Love at First Sight in 1992. They continued touring and released an album every couple of years but it all remained fairly low key until 2009 when, with the help of a huge advertising campaign made a big comeback with the album Eigenwege which put them back in the German top 10 for the first time in 18 years.
Michael told me, “We are still touring and playing a lot of our big hits, in Germany, our biggest hit was Everytime and we are also still recording new stuff.”