25.04.2016 | Words by: Tammo Hesselink.
In a time where anybody can make music with cracked software and become a one-hit wonder in no time due to the virality of the internet, it is good to see veterans who have been working on their craft for years getting the audience they deserve. In recent years, Rabih Beaini breathed new life into bugla virtuoso Charles Cohen's career and since the release of Soichi Terada's retrospective Sounds Of The Far East, the Japanese videogame music composer, who had never performed before, has been playing all over the world. Something similar happened to The Space Lady.
Susan Dietrich has been a street musician since the early seventies, when she played covers of well-known songs on an old accordion. She had been living as a political exile with her husband and child before that, selling artwork on the streets, because her husband avoided getting drafted into the army. Eventually she picked up a Casiotone MT-40, a battery keyboard that is more a toy than an instrument, which she and her husband upgraded with a couple of effects.
Her high-pitched voice, the lo-fi percussion and the phaser-drenched melodies combined with her silver plastic helmet and light show made for a surreal experience that has amazed people for years. Her covers of well-known rock tracks like "Fly Like An Eagle" and "Born To Be Wild" sounded like they come from a different universe than the original versions, something that would definitely make for an unordinary street performance. Soon she became a fan favourite referred to as "The Space Lady". Although she saw a decent success and got some media attention, she did not release anything aside from selling burnt CDs or cassettes she recorded herself.
Dietrich retired from music in 2000 to care for her aging parents. That year music journalist Irwin Chusid wrote a book about the so called "Outsider Music" scene. This developed somewhat parallel to the outsider art scene, art made by mostly self-taught artists without much care for conventions. The compilation included in Chusid’s book contained a track by The Space Lady. She initially did not know anything about this, leaving the new Space Lady enthusiasts at a dead end when searching for other music.
After being convinced by her husband, she came out of retirement more than ten years later. After emailing her most loyal fans the good news, Night School Records released "The Space Lady's Greatest Hits" in 2013, a ten-track compilation that resurrected her career. Ever since Dietrich has been playing all over the world, along with the same helmet and keyboard. Come and witness the craftsmanship at De School Friday, the sixth of May.