SCORPIONS

Country Germany

Style Hard Rock

Like many youngsters born in post-war Germany, Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker were influenced by the music and other life-enhancing delights imported into their homeland by American GI’s – Elvis Presley, chewing gum, blue jeans and leather jackets, but most of all rock ‘n’ roll. From an early age, both of them had an irresistible urge to grab a guitar and step into the limelight. In the early 1960s the Beatles sparked off the beat revolution. By the mid-1960s Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker, both of whom were blessed with understanding parents, had also taken to the stage with their beat groups.

Rudolf Schenker, the band’s rhythm guitarist launched the band in 1965. At first, the band had beat influences and Schenker himself did the vocals. Things began to come together in 1970 when Schenker’s younger brother Michael and vocalist Klaus Meine joined the band. In 1972 the group recorded and released their debut album Lonesome Crow, with Lothar Heimberg on bass and Wolfgang Dziony on drums. During the Lonesome Crow tour, Scorpions opened for upcoming British band UFO. Near the end of the tour, the members of UFO offered guitarist Michael Schenker the lead guitar job, an offer which he soon accepted. Uli Roth, a friend of the Schenker brothers, was then called in temporarily to finish off the tour.

The departure of Michael Schenker led to the breakup of the band. In 1973,inspired by John Zelenski’s book, “Walker’s Vale,” Uli Roth, who had helped Scorpions complete the Lonesome Crow tour, was offered the role as lead guitarist, but turned the band down, preferring instead to remain in the band Dawn Road. Rudolf Schenker eventually decided that he wanted to work with Roth, but did not want to resurrect the last Scorpions lineup. He attended some of Dawn Road’s rehearsals and ultimately decided to join the band, which consisted of Roth, Francis Buchholz (bass), Achim Kirschning (keyboards) and Jürgen Rosenthal (drums). Roth and Buchholz persuaded Rudolf Schenker to invite Klaus Meine to join on vocals, which he soon did. While there were more members of Dawn Road than Scorpions in the band, they decided to use the Scorpions name because it was well known in the German hard rock scene and an album had been released under that name.

In 1974 the new line-up of Scorpions released Fly to the Rainbow. The album proved to be more successful than Lonesome Crow and songs such as “Speedy’s Coming” and the title track established the band’s sound. Achim Kirschning decided to leave after the recordings. Soon after, Jürgen Rosenthal had to leave as he was being drafted into the army. In 1976, he would join a German progressive rock band called Eloy recording three albums. He was replaced by a Belgian drummer Rudy Lenners.

Beginning with their third LP In Trance, (1975), they began their working relationship with well-known international producer Dieter Dierks. They were firmly launched on their hard rock career. In Trance was the best-selling RCA album in Japan, where a regular SCORPION mania broke out. In 1975 the SCORPIONS toured Europe, sharing top billing with KISS. In Germany that same year, they were voted best live group. During their first UK tour in 1975, the SCORPIONS entered what might be called “the lion’s den”, playing at Liverpool’s legendary Cavern Club. In the birthplace of hard rock, they succeeded in gaining the acceptance of the most dyed-in-the-wool British fans. Gigs at the renowned London venue, the Marquee, were further highpoints of the mid-1970s.

In 1976, Scorpions released Virgin Killer. The album’s cover featured a nude prepubescent girl behind a broken pane of glass. The cover art was designed by Stefan Bohle who was the product manager for RCA Records,[21] their label at the time. The cover brought the band considerable market exposure but was subsequently pulled or replaced in other countries. The album itself garnered demographic praise for its music from select critics and fan base. The following year, Rudy Lenners resigned for personal reasons and was replaced by Herman Rarebell.

Their follow-up album Taken by Force (1977) was also awarded a Japanese Gold Disc. In 1978 the SCORPIONS toured Japan, the world’s second largest music market, where they got a foretaste of what it was like to be superstars. When they arrived at Tokyo airport, the five heavy metal men were mobbed by adoring fans. Ulrich Roth left the band after the 1978 Japanese tour. The highpoint and conclusion of the SCORPIONS’ Ulrich Roth period is the double album Tokyo Tapes (1978) which even now is cherished around the world as a collector’s item.

Following the addition of Jabs, Scorpions left RCA for Mercury Records in the States and Harvest/EMI Electrola worldwide to record their next album Lovedrive. Just weeks after being ejected from UFO for his alcohol abuse, Michael Schenker also returned to the group for a short period during the recordings for the album. This gave the band three guitarists (though Schenker’s contribution to the final release was limited to only three songs). The result was Lovedrive, an album which some critics consider to be the pinnacle of their career. Containing such fan favourites as “Loving You Sunday Morning”, “Always Somewhere”, “Holiday” and the instrumental “Coast to Coast”, it firmly cemented the ‘Scorpions formula’ of hard rock songs mixed with melodic ballads. The album’s provocative artwork was named “Best album sleeve of 1979” by Playboy magazine, yet ultimately changed for American release. Lovedrive reached No. 55 on the US charts, demonstrating that the band was gathering an international following. After the completion and release of the album the band decided to retain Michael in the band, forcing Jabs to leave. However after a few weeks of the tour, Michael, still coping with alcoholism missed a number of gigs and at one point collapsed on stage. Jabs was brought back to fill in for him on those occasions when he could not perform. In April 1979, during their tour in France, Jabs was brought in permanently to replace Michael.

With him, the band achieved an even more solid sound. Like the missing piece in the jigsaw, his guitar style fitted to perfection into the group dynamic, creating the unique SCORPIONS sound. Klaus Meine, Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs still form the musical backbone of the band. With bass man Francis Buchholz (who joined the SCORPIONS in 1973 at the same time as Ulrich Roth) anddrummer Herman Rarebell (who first featured on Taken By Force in 1977), they finally established the combination that was to continue its victorious progress across the globe right up until Wind of Change. Already hailed as a super group during the 1978 tour of Japan, in 1979 the band, comprising Klaus Meine, Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs, set out to conquer the vast US market. Their weapons: a professional attitude paired with a steely determination to succeed and a philosophy of friendship, both within the band and towards their fans, as well as great musicality. As a rock band working on the international scene, the SCORPIONS had long since created their own musical identity. In the 1980s, the built up a considerable following in the States. Van Halen launched their musical career in the mid-1970s with cover versions of SCORPIONS songs: Speedy’s Coming (from Fly to the Rainbow) and Catch Your Train (from Virgin Killer).USA was the biggest market of all for hard and heavy rock.

In 1980 the band released Animal Magnetism, again with a provocative cover this time showing a girl kneeling and a Doberman Pinscher sitting in front of a man. Animal Magnetism contained classics such as “The Zoo” and “Make It Real”. Soon after the album’s release, Meine began experiencing throat problems. He required surgery on his vocal cords and doubts were raised about whether he would ever sing again.

Meanwhile, the band began working on their next album, Blackout in 1981. Don Dokken was brought in to provide guide and backing vocals while Meine recovered. Meine eventually healed completely and was able to finish the album. Blackout was released in 1982 and quickly became the band’s best selling to date eventually going platinum. Meine’s voice showed no signs of weakness and fan response to the album was good. Blackout spawned three singles: “Dynamite”, “Blackout”, and “No One Like You”.

Gaining in popularity from their success from “Blackout”, Scorpions performed to over 375,000 fans on Day 2 at the three-day US Festival concert held in San Bernardino, California during Memorial Day Weekend of 1983. The concert was aired live on MTV, giving the band wide exposure in a live show. It was not until 1984 and the release of Love at First Sting that the band finally cemented their status as metal musicians. Propelled by the single “Rock You Like a Hurricane”,Love at First Sting climbed the charts and went double platinum in the USA a few months after its release.

MTV gave the album’s videos “Rock You Like a Hurricane”, “Bad Boys Running Wild”, “Big City Nights”, and the power ballad “Still Loving You” significant airtime greatly contributing to the album’s success. The channel even supplied Scorpions with the nickname “The Ambassadors of Rock” to the chagrin of industry insiders who recognized the executive influence behind the scenes. The band toured extensively behind Love at First Sting and decided to record and release their second live album, World Wide Live in 1985. Recorded over a year-long world tour and released at the height of their popularity, the album was another success for the band, peaking at No. 14 in the charts in the US and at No. 18 in the UK.

After their extensive world tours, the band finally returned to the studio to record Savage Amusement. Released in 1988, four years after their previous studio album, Savage Amusement represented a more polished and mature sound similar to the style Def Leppard had found success with. The album sold well but was considered somewhat of a critical disappointment. However, British heavy rock magazine Kerrang! did award the album five K’s out of five. On the Savage Amusement tour in 1988, Scorpions became only the second Western group (not American) to play in the Soviet Union. Uriah Heep had performed in December, 1987 in Leningrad. The following year the band returned to perform at the Moscow Music Peace Festival. As a result, Scorpions developed an extended Russian fan base and still return to perform.

Wishing to distance themselves from the Savage Amusement style, the band separated from their long-time producer and “Sixth Scorpion”, Dieter Dierks, replacing him with Keith Olsen when they returned to the studio in 1990. Crazy World was released that same year and displayed a less polished sound. The album was propelled in large part by the massive success of the ballad “Wind of Change”. The song muses on the socio-political changes that were occurring in Eastern Europe and in other parts of the world at the end of the Cold War. On July 21, 1990 they joined many other guests for Roger Waters’ massive performance of The Wall in Berlin. Scorpions performed both versions of “In the Flesh” from The Wall. After the Crazy World tour Francis Buchholz, the band’s long-serving bassist, left the group.

In 1992, they received the World Music Award as the most successful German rock act. Crazy World is impressive testimony to the songwriting talents of the SCORPIONS’ masterminds: Matthias Jabs’s contribution is the dynamic title track Tease Me, Please Me, while Rudolf Schenker once again proves his ability to hit the spot with his classic SCORPIONS ballad, Send Me an Angel, and Klaus Meine displays his brilliance as a composer in Wind of Change. At the end of the 1992 Crazy World tour, the SCORPIONS and their long-time bass player Francis Buchholz parted company. The 1993 CD Face the Heat (co-producer: Bruce Fairbairn), featured the band’s new bass man, conservatoire graduate Ralph Rieckermann. In 1994 the SCORPIONS again received a World Music Award. Yet another high point of their career came when, at the invitation of the family of the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley, and the “King of Pop”, Michael Jackson, they performed their cover version of His Latest Flame at the 1994 Elvis Presley Memorial Concert in Memphis, Tennessee.

In the same year the SCORPIONS committed themselves to helping United Nations efforts on behalf of refugees from the civil war in Rwanda. In only one week the band produced and released their benefit single White Dove. At the end of 1995, just before completing the Pure Instinct CD, co-produced by Keith Olsen and Erwin Musper and released in 1996, the SCORPIONS’ veteran drummer and long-time companion Herman “The German” Rarebell left the band. During the 1988 Savage Amusement tour, the US heavy metal band Kingdom Come, whose producer was Keith Olsen, had been a warm up act for the SCORPIONS. Even then, the Germans were impressed by the style of the group’s Californian drummer James Kottak.

1999 saw the release of Eye II Eye and a significant change in the band’s style, mixing in elements of pop and techno. While the album was slickly produced, fans were unsure what to make of the band, responding negatively to almost everything from pop-soul backup singers to the electronic drums present on several songs. The video to the album’s first European single, “To Be No. 1”, featured a Monica Lewinsky look-alike which did little to improve its popularity. The following year, Scorpions had an artistic collaboration with the Berlin Philharmonic that resulted in a 10-song album named Moment of Glory. The album went a long way toward rebuilding the band’s reputation after the harsh criticism of Eye II Eye. However, critics accused them of following on the coattails of Metallica’s similar collaboration (S&M) with the San Francisco Symphony which had been released the previous year, even though the orchestra had first approached Scorpions with the idea in 1995.

In 2001, Scorpions released Acoustica, a live unplugged album featuring acoustic reworkings of the band’s biggest hits, plus new tracks. While appreciated by fans, the lack of a new studio album was frustrating to some, and Acoustica did little to return the band to the spotlight.

In 2004, the band released Unbreakable, an album that was hailed by critics as a long-awaited return to form. The album was the heaviest the band had released since Face the Heat, and fans responded well to tracks such as “New Generation”, “Love ’em or Leave ’em” and “Deep and Dark”. Whether a result of poor promotion by the band’s label or the long time between studio releases,Unbreakable received little airplay and did not chart. Scorpions toured extensively behind the album and played as ‘Special Guests’ with Judas Priest during the 2005 British tour—these were the Scorpions’ first dates in the UK since 1999.

In early 2006, Scorpions released the DVD 1 Night in Vienna that included 14 live tracks and a complete rockumentary. In LA, the band spent about four months in the studio with producers James Michael and Desmond Child working on their new concept album titled Humanity: Hour I, which was released in late May 2007. Followed by the “Humanity World Tour”. In 2007, the band collaborated with two of their signature tracks in the video game series, “Guitar Hero.” “No One Like You” was featured on the “Rocks the ’80s” version of the game while “Rock You Like A Hurricane” was released on “Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock.”

On May 14, 2007, Scorpions released Humanity – Hour I in Europe. Humanity – Hour I became available in the U.S. on August 28 on New Door Records, entering the Billboardcharts at number No. 63. In a September 2007 podcast interview, Meine said the new album was not so much a “concept album” as it was a collection of songs with a common theme. “We didn’t want to make another record with songs about boys chasing girls. I mean, come on, give me a break,” Meine said.

On December 20, 2007, Scorpions played at a concert for the elite of Russia’s security forces in the Kremlin. The concert was a celebration of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Cheka—predecessor of the KGB. The band has claimed that they thought they were performing a Christmas concert. They have said that their concert was by no means a tribute to the Cheka, communism, or Russia’s brutal past. Members of the audience included Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev. On February 21, 2009, Scorpions received Germany’s ECHO Honorary Award for lifetime achievement at Berlin’s O2 World.

In November 2009, Scorpions announced that their 17th studio album, Sting in the Tail, would be released in early 2010, recorded in Hannover with Swedish producers Mikael “Nord” Andersson and Martin Hansen. Sting in the Tail was released on March 23, 2010. On January 24, 2010, the band announced that Sting in the Tail will be their last album and that the tour supporting it will be their final tour, although the band has since decided to continue to record after the tour is over. Dokken was scheduled to open for them but canceled after a dispute. The tour is expected to end in 2012 or 2013.

On 6 April 2010, Scorpions were enshrined in Hollywood’s Rock Walk in a handprint ceremony, with the band members placing their hands in a long slab of wet cement. The slab will be placed in the ground next to other musical artists on the Rock Walk. According to bassist Paweł Mąciwoda, Scorpions will enter the studio in the fall of 2011 to re-record versions of their older material. At the beginning this retro collection was tentatively due for release in early 2012. The album was titled Comeblack and was released on 7 November 2011.

Frontman Klaus Meine was asked in a July 2011 interview about the future of Scorpions and whether the band was going to make another album. He replied, “Our newest project comes out in the next few months. It gives you a chance to experience the Scorpions in 3D. You can actually feel the smoke string out of the guitar like it is a live show. It is an incredible experience. The DVD features our concerts in 3D in Germany. We are just about to do the mix and it should be in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia hopefully soon. Indeed, the strong 3D technology makes us feel like pioneers after all these years (he says, laughing). We have an album coming out later this year featuring classics. You know our love for them. The ’60s was the era for our inspiration. Our movie/documentary also is soon to be released. We have cameras with us on tours, so this documentary is being made during our tours. It also gives you a picture of the Scorpions career and journey.”

Almost a year in advance it was announced Scorpions would headline the Wacken Open Air Festival on 4 August. Despite ongoing rumours of a break up or retirement, guitarist Matthias Jabs told AZ Central on June 12, 2012 that the Scorpions are not splitting up at all. A month later, Jabs told Billboard magazine that the band has been working on an album that will contain unreleased songs they recorded for the albums Blackout, Love at First Sting, Savage Amusement and Crazy World and plan to release it in 2013.

– Lonesome Crow [1972]
– Fly to the Rainbow [1974]
– In Trance [1975]
– Virgin Killer [1976]
– Taken by Force [1977]
– Lovedrive [1979]
– Animal Magnetism [1980]
– Blackout [1982]
– Love at First Sting [1984]
– Savage Amusement [1988]
– Crazy World [1990]
– Face the Heat [1993]
– Pure Instinct [1996]
– Eye II Eye [1999]
– Moment of Glory [[2000]
– Unbreakable [2004]
– Humanity: Hour I [2007]
– Sting in the Tail [2010]
– Comeblack [2011]

 

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