Munich in the 60s

Municipalities and riots

Events in the 1960s in Munich were mainly focused in the legendary district of Schwabing: Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix performed at the numerous live clubs, Rainer Langhans hung out with Uschi Obermaier, and there were huge street protests – the prelude to a Europe-wide revolt among young people during the 1960s.

When people think of the 1960s, they usually think of hippies, the 1968 protest movement and the Swinging Sixties. All these trends of the era not only made it to Munich, some even developed a dynamic of their own here – as seen in the High-Fish commune, the Schwabing riots and numerous legendary nightclubs. Some of the latter went down in history because they were where world-famous bands performed for the first time in Germany or were even discovered here. Whether free love or riots, there’s no doubt about one thing: the most important Munich neighbourhood in the 1960s was definitely Schwabing!

 

Schwabing in the 1960s: free love and riots

Anyone interested in finding out about what happened in this neighbourhood in the 1960s is bound to come across the Schwabing riots: in June 1962, the police were actually only called out to Leopoldstrasse because of a few young musicians, but then scuffles and riots broke out. This was followed by a day-long street battle around Munich University involving some 40,000 young protesters – some from other cities, too. Hundreds were arrested and there was growing criticism of the police, which is why the Schwabing riots are now seen as a precursor to the Europe-wide revolt among young people during the 1960s.

Nor were things as peaceful as one might initially expect at the commune where Rainer Langhans and Uschi Obermaier co-habited. The two first met in Kommune I in Berlin – originally a politically motivated group that formed in the German capital in 1967. It gained a name for itself in the early days with stunts such as the so-called “Pudding Assassination” – a planned attack on US Vice President Humphrey at which Langhans was arrested with some of the other members of the commune.

Obermaier and Langhans moved to Munich to set up their own artists’ commune known as High-Fish. Langhans still lives in Schwabing today and can often be seen cycling around the neighbourhood dressed entirely in white.

The orientation of Kommune I shifted towards the end of the 1960s, adopting a more peaceful perspective based more on free love and music, but Obermaier and Langhans moved to Munich to set up their own artists’ commune known as High-Fish. As the name suggests, this was more concerned with things of beauty – such as art and getting high. Langhans still lives in Schwabing today and can often be seen cycling around the neighbourhood dressed entirely in white.

 

Big Apple & Blow Up – Munich nightlife in the 1960s

Uschi Obermaier was not only known for her association with the commune: she also worked as a sought-after model and liked to hang out in Munich clubs like the Big Apple. This establishment opened in 1963 at Leopoldstrasse 23 – initially only as a disco, later hosting concerts by soul musicians, too. Jimi Hendrix gave his first ever performance in Germany here in 1966 – a legendary event! Not only did Uschi Obermaier fall for Hendrix: she later wrote in her book "High Times. Mein wildes Leben" about the many wild nights spent at her regular club.

Blow Up on Elisabethmarkt was no less spectacular: Germany’s first large-capacity disco opened in 1967 in the building that now houses the Schauburg theatre. There was seating for two thousand, but on the opening weekend no less than three thousand guests crowded into the club. That wasn’t the only reason why the evening turned out to be a legendary one: the party-hungry crowd threw paint buckets at each other – so if you went home with clean clothes, you obviously hadn’t been in on the action. The Pink Floyd concert at Blow Up in 1968 was highly memorable, too. 

Not only was the world record in endurance dancing set at Crash, people would often talk about the night when 13 riders turned up in front of the club on their horses.

In the 1960s there were about 50 live clubs in Munich, so the decade was full of impressive new openings: Domicile (1965) at Leopoldstrasse 19 was one of the most outstanding jazz clubs in Europe at the time, featuring greats like Chet Baker and Art Blakey: the GIs stationed in Munich and students at the newly founded HFF (University of Television and Film Munich) felt very much at home here. Then there was PN Hithouse at Leopoldstrasse 25 with its cover bands from England who would live in a flat above the club for weeks, playing live music every night – including groups like Supertramp.

Some of these places actually survived the interim decades and are still in existence to this day, in some cases with a new concept or located in a different part of town: Schwabinger 7 opened in 1961 and is still the ultimate cult bar in Schwabing – even after moving out of the legendary building at number 7. Another example is Crash: situated on Aimillerstrasse today and mainly attracting a young audience, it originally opened on Lindwurmstrasse back in 1968. Not only was the world record in endurance dancing set here, people would often talk about the night when 13 riders turned up in front of the club on their horses.

 

Architecture and urban development – a growing population

While locals and guests were having a wonderful time in Munich, the municipal authorities were busy creating new living space – still visible today in the housing estates on the outskirts of the city in districts such as Neuperlach (1967) and Hasenbergl (1960). Population growth naturally also led to the need for more infrastructure: it is not for nothing that Stachus has been one of the busiest intersections in Europe since the 1960s, and a lot of construction work was done on Munich’s ring road at this time, too – the Mittlerer Ring. 

The aim was to have everything ready in time for the 1972 Olympic Games – more roads, more housing, Munich’s first underground line – construction work for the latter started in the mid-1960s. Other important buildings for the Summer Games were also erected at this time, including the Olympic Ice Sports Centre and the Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium), where the foundation stone was laid in 1967.

The city grew – and not just because of the Olympics: firstly, the birth rate increased after the war – this was the generation of the baby boomers who were born between 1946 and 1964. There were 17,255 births in the Bavarian capital in 1964 – the highest number since the beginning of the century. Secondly, more and more guest workers began arriving in 1955; in 1968 there were some 88,000 of them living in Munich. Migration reached its peak throughout Bavaria in the 1960s. While many went back to their home countries after just a few years, others are still here to this day

The city grew: There were 17,255 births in the Bavarian capital in 1964 – the highest number since the beginning of the century. 

In the 1960s, it was mainly Italians who arrived at Munich’s central railway station – one of the reasons why there are so many Italian restaurants in the city today. One of them is Ristorante Bei Mario in Maxvorstadt district. The owner Mario Gargiulo came to Munich in 1959 to learn German, opening his restaurant in 1966. Italy was not the only influence on Munich, however. America has very much left its mark, too: the drive-in cinema in Aschheim has been showing US-style films on the big screen since 1969, and it was shortly after this that McDonalds opened its very first German branch – in Giesing of all places.

It is still there today, right next to Grünwalder Stadion, the stadium belonging to soccer club 1860 München. Anyone talking about football in Munich today tends to immediately think of Bayern Munich, but in the 1960s it was in fact die Löwen (“the Lions”) who were the best-known team in the Bavarian capital. In 1963 they won the DFB Cup, in 1966 they even won the German league, and a year before that they were in the final of the European Championship. The club 1860 Munich is affectionately referred to as Die Sechzger (which actually means “The Sixties”) – and the 1960s were definitely their decade, as fans remain proud of to this day.

 

Here’s where to go if you want to experience a taste of the 60s in Munich today:

 

Text: Anja Schauberger, Photos: Stadtarchiv München

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