Herman Rarebell and the fascinating tale of ‘Heya Heya’

Isn’t it strange how a little rock novelty ditty can rise up and become an unexpected smash in one country or region and be almost completely ignored by the rest of the world?

Such is the case of “He Ya” by the early ‘70s cult outfit Jeronimo (mislabeled on the cover on a Holland release as Geronimo). A huge hit in Germany and other European countries, “He Ya,” along with another success in “Na Na Hey Hey,” helped Jeronimo merge into hard rock’s fast lane, as the band shared stages with the likes of Deep Purple, Golden Earring and Steppenwolf, who once served as their touring partners.

In the U.S., though, Jeronimo was barely a blip on the radar screen. Being a native of Germany, Herman Rarebell remembers Jeronimo well … so well in fact that the former drummer for The Scorpions has reworked the song for his new Herman Ze German solo album, Take It as It Comes, out now on Dark Star Records. Ghostly Native American chanting and tribal drums give way to monstrously heavy guitars riffs from Horst Luksch, more chanting from the Children Choir of Unterensingen, Germany and dark electronic washes in Rarebell’s version, called “Heya Heya.” The total package is incredibly compelling.

Rarebell explains how “Heya Heya,” perhaps the most strikingly original track on the album, evolved.
“It’s an Indian tribe song and ‘Heya Heya,’ you know, is actually a cover song,” said Rarebell. “It was done in 1971 here in Germany and it became a big hit by a band called Jeronimo. It was written by two Americans, and they’d covered it in ’71 and it became #1 in Germany and it stayed #1 in Germany for nearly six months.

It was one of the longest #1s. But it never ever got outside of Germany. So, you know, my version is completely different, of course. As you can hear, it sounds really big, but basically, being a drummer, I always liked that Indian beat and I decided to make it really heavy. So it sounds really big, that kind of thing.”
Marquis De Schoelch plays keyboards and Jens Peter Abele trades off between bass and rhythm guitar on the track, which Rarebell recorded for one of his favorite charities, World Vision, an organization that seeks to assist children worldwide. But it is Luksch who plays a starring role on “Heya Heya.”

“When we did this, we did it for charity in the beginning for an organization called World Vision,” said Rarebell. “On World Vision, you literally can support a child in the Third World for about $25 a month. So basically, they really bring those kids up there, educate them. I have, for example, two kids that I’ve supported for over 25 years now; they are now doctors in Germany. So they go to school with that $25, they buy clothes, they buy their school books. They probably feed half their family with it too. And we had 30 children sing on it. We recorded it in Unterensingen. That’s where the studio is, near to Stuttgart. So when we recorded this in this place, this village actually, there was the school and the teacher. We told her this and she made the kids sing along with the song. She rehearsed it with them for about an hour and then she came down and we recorded it, because it was good fun to do this along when they’re singing “Heya heya heyay,” and when you go to YouTube, you can order the video. Yeah, I made a video of it, too.”

“Heya Heya” is not the only surprise Rarebell has in store for everyone. An interesting re-recording of the Scorpions’ biggest hit, “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” also makes an appearance on Take It As It Comes, the album title being a mantra of sorts for Rarebell.

“When you really look at the world nowadays, there’s not that much you can do about catastrophes and look at the thing that’s happening right now here in Europe and in Russia (wildfires were raging across the region at the time of this interview),” said Rarebell. “The whole of Russia is burning down at the moment, and then you look at east Germany right now, which is completely under water. What I’m talking about is if there’s a higher thing structuring you, natural catastrophes, you can only make the best out of them and look forward and take it as it comes. There’s not much you can do about it. And it literally could be your last days, so live it like this. And that’s my philosophy. You know, looking back on life nowadays how are you going to change it. See what I mean? Take it as it comes, think positive and it’s the same in America. You have recession there and it’s very difficult for a lot of people. You have to take it as it comes and look forward. Otherwise, you’ll never get out of this shit anymore. This is just what I think, you know? It’s better to think positive to the future rather than negative.”

Looking forward, and not back, seems to have worked out pretty well for Rarebell.

- Peter Lindblad

Official Herman Rarebell Website:  http://www.hermanrarebell.com/

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