The Austrian pop/rock trio of Gert Steinbäcker, Günter Timischl, and Schiffkowitz, known simply as STS, rose to chart-topping success in 1984 with the breakthrough smash "Fürstenfeld" and remained one of the German-speaking world's most popular recording acts and concert draws in the decades that followed. Often compared to Crosby, Stills & Nash, the three singer/songwriters were individually active before teaming together as a supergroup. In addition to singing and songwriting, each member of the trio plays acoustic guitar and provides harmony vocals. Though the trio writes the bulk of its own material, with the bandmembers generally independent from one another and often using a Styrian dialect, adaptations of English-language pop/rock classics are common, including adaptations of the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" ("Da Kummt die Sunn"), Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" ("He, Alter Liedersänger"), and Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night" ("Gö, Du Bleibst Heut Nacht bei Mir"), to cite a few examples. The peak popularity of STS was 1984-1985 when they released the chart-topping albums Überdosis G'fühl (1984) and Grenzenlos (1985) and the smash hits "Fürstenfeld," "Irgendwann Bleib I Dann Dort," and "Gö, Du Bleibst Heut Nacht bei Mir."
STS were founded in 1978 by Gert Steinbäcker (born on November 27, 1952, in Graz, Styria), Günter Timischl (born on May 11, 1948, in Fürstenfeld, Styria), and Schiffkowitz (born Helmut Röhrling on December 27, 1946, in Graz, Styria), the band's name an acronym for the initials of the three bandmembers, who were active as solo artists before joining together as a trio. They made their recording debut as STS in 1979 on Atom Records with the 7" single Matter of Sex ("Matter of Sex" b/w "With You"). The release proved unsuccessful, however, and the trio's partnership with Atom Records met a quick end. Steinbäcker subsequently joined the Austrian rock band Erste Allgemeine Verunsicherung (aka EAV), assuming the role of lead singer with the band from 1979 to 1983 and appearing on the albums Café Passé (1981) and Spitalo Fatalo (1983).
In 1981 STS reunited on a new label, Ariola Records, and released another 7" single, Da Kummt die Sunn ("Da Kummt die Sunn" b/w "Geht's da Guat?"). "Da Kummt die Sunn" -- a German-language adaptation by Schiffkowitz of George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun" from the Beatles album Abbey Road (1969) -- found a warm reception in Austria, particularly in terms of radio airplay, and was popular enough to warrant a full-length debut album, Gegenlicht (1981) and two additional singles: Fahr auf's Land mit Mir and Angsthas'. Also in 1981, STS released a one-off non-album single on Echo, Automaten-Karl. A couple years later, around the time of Steinbäcker's departure from Erste Allgemeine Verunsicherung after Spitalo Fatalo, STS reconvened to record the 7" single Irgendwann Bleib I Dann Dort ("Irgendwann Bleib I Dann Dort" b/w "Einmannband") for the SSM label; the song would later become a smash hit in 1985 when given a major-label release.
In 1984 STS moved to a new label, Amadeo, and released their second full-length album, Überdosis G'fühl (1984). The album spawned the trio's chart-topping mainstream breakthrough smash, "Fürstenfeld." Written by Schiffkowitz and Josef Jandrisits (and adapted from a song originally written by the latter, titled "With a Little Help"), "Fürstenfeld" is an homage to Timischl's Styrian hometown and struck a chord with many Austrians. The song topped the Austrian singles chart for several weeks, also becoming a Top 20 hit in Switzerland and a Top 30 hit in Germany, and Überdosis G'fühl likewise logged a few weeks at number one on the albums chart, spawning a second single in the title track.
Thrust to the forefront of the Austrian music scene, STS benefited also from Timischl's auxiliary role in the Austrian band Opus. That band's international phenomenon "Live Is Life" swept across Western Europe in early 1985 in the wake of "Fürstenfeld," topping the singles chart in Austria, Germany, France, and Sweden; it also charted in Switzerland (number two), Norway (number two), the United Kingdom (number six), and the United States (number 32). Timischl is featured as a vocalist on the in-concert album from which the song originated, Live Is Life (1984), recorded live at Oberwart Stadium on September 2, 1984.
Grenzenlos (1985), the follow-up album to Überdosis G'fühl, was an even bigger hit than its predecessor. Released in September, it debuted at number two, rose to number one in its second week, and proceeded to chart for 48 weeks overall. The album's staying power on the albums chart was aided by a pair of smash hits: "Irgendwann Bleib I Dann Dort" (the aforementioned Steinbäcker song from 1984 that predated Überdosis G'fühl, originally recorded for SSM) and "Gö, Du Bleibst Heut Nacht bei Mir" (an adaptation of Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night"). "Grossvater" was also released as a single. During this period, STS toured extensively, greeted by large audiences throughout Austria; in 1986 their tour extended to Germany, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.
The next STS album, Augenblicke (1987), was another chart-topper, spawning the singles "Mach die Aug'n Zu" and "'S Ganze Leben für'n Rock'n'Roll." Another round of touring accompanied the album's release, and a live double album, Auf Tour (1989), was compiled from performances in Graz, Linz, and Vienna. Additionally, there was a greatest-hits collection, Gö, Du Bleibst... (1989), and then another, Glanzlichter (1990). The first album of new material in three years, Jeder Tag Zählt (1990), was accompanied by a tour and a Steinbäcker solo album, Einmal im Leb'n (1990). Jeder Tag Zählt fell short of number one, peaking at number two; "Jeder Tag Zählt" and "Wieder a Sommer" were issued as promotional singles. The trio's next album, Auf a Wort (1992), performed similarly, peaking at number two on the albums chart and spawning a pair of promotional singles ("So Net," "Kommt die Zeit").
After a one-off collaboration with Christian Kolonovits, Rosegger (1993), and a second solo album by Steinbäcker, Steinbäcker (1994), the album Zeit (1995) returned STS to the top of the albums chart. Their first visit to the number one spot in eight years, Zeit features two singles that were released in promotion of the album, "Wohin die Reise" and "Zeig Mir Dein' Himmel." In 1996 the greatest-hits collection Die Größten Hits aus 15 Jahren was released in commemoration of the trio's 15-year anniversary; in 1997 Steinbäcker released his third solo album, Stationen; and in 1998 the trio released its ninth album overall, Volle Kraft. From 1998 to 1999, STS toured extensively in support of Volle Kraft, which charted number two; a live double album documenting the tour, STS & Band Live (2000), resulted. The debut solo album of Schiffkowitz, Er Selbst, was also released in 2000.
A couple years passed before any new STS material surfaced: first a couple of compilations, Best of STS and Best of Steinbäcker, in 2002 and then an album of new material, Herzverbunden, in 2003. Eagerly awaited, Herzverbunden debuted at the top of the Austrian albums chart and was nominated for an Amadeus Austrian Music Award. The group then embarked on a 2004-2005 tour, from which a November 2004 performance in Munich is documented on the DVD Herzverbunden (2006). The next album of new material from STS, Neuer Morgen (2007), also debuted atop the Austrian albums chart. A tour in support of the album began in 2007 and carried over into 2008. ~ Jason Birchmeier, Rovi