August 24, 1985
By Greg Garrett
Big City Nights Await the Scorpions
It's been nearly a year now since the Scorpions finally stung the music world with their heavy metal masterpiece, Love at First Sting, featuring the international hit, "Rock You Like a Hurricane."
Accompanied by a relentless tour schedule, the Scorpions stretched their metal madness around the globe then finally took some time off. About a month ago, the band issued the double-live album, Scorpions World Wide Live, which was recorded over a stretch of twenty performances during last year’s Love at First Sting tour.
"This album is a perfect document of our last tour,” said drummer Herman Rarebell who co-wrote the band’s biggest selling single to date. “I like all the live versions of our songs better than the studio tracks. We all play better with thirty thousand screaming fans in front of us than just staring at each other in the studio. This album features more solos, tighter arrangements and it's packed with more excitement.”
Also included on this year's agenda for the Scorpions is their silver screen debut dubiously entitled. Scorpions - World Wide Live! The movie release should coincide with the Scorpions limited live engagements at outdoor stadium shows later this summer.
With the release of Love at First Sting last year, the West German quintet set attendance records throughout the world that saw the Scorpions soar to new heights.
"I'm just glad that tour wasn't dubbed the Killers tour," remarked singer Klaus Meine. "We had a number of accidents on that tour. For example, in Phoenix there were a couple of girls in the front row that had taken off their shirts and were waving them around. Francis (Buchholz, bassist) who is nearsighted, went to the front of the stage to get a better look while I was swinging my microphone around. I hit him right in the head. He blacked out and they had to take him to the hospital to get stitches."
Meine lets out a slight chuckle as he tells the story. As if that weren't enough, the following night, Rudolf Schenker decided to inadvertently get into the act too.
"The next evening we played Las Vegas," laughed Meine, "and Francis somehow ended up hitting Rudolf in the head with his bass guitar sending him to the hospital to get stitches. After that, we started to call those two the Stitch Brothers."
The Scorpions certainly weren't short on excitement following all the lean years the band endured waiting for their moment to arrive.
Meine joined the Scorpions as the ‘70s got under way along with Rudolf’s younger brother Michael. Even as far back as then, Meine says there was something different about the Scorpions that made them stand out from other European bands at the time.
"In 1970 when Michael and I joined," said Meine, "we were writing our own songs then and we were doing something pretty different, playing what we called 'heavy rock.' We thought we were something special, but you know the saying about the prophet in his own country."
Michael Schenker, who was 16 years old when he hooked up with his older brother, didn't last long with the Scorpions. When the band was opening for UFO on a European tour, the band asked the younger Schenker after if he’d be interested in joining the group as its lead guitarist. With his brother’s blessing he did.
"UFO was playing in Germany at the time," recalled Meine, "when we supported them. They saw Michael and asked him to join them. Rudolf gave his blessing. At his age, it was such a great opportunity he couldn’t pass it up."
A stormy relationship with UFO singer Phil Moog eventually saw Michael leave the band and come back to the Scorpions in 1979. Unfortunately, the moody Schenker, still battling demons whether it be alcohol or himself, walked out on the Scorpions three months into their first U.S. tour never to return. He was permanently replaced by Matthias Jabs.
For much of the ‘70s, The Scorpions were signed to RCA Records. The only problem was the label really had no interest furthering the band’s career outside of Europe.
"They blocked us every time we turned around," recalled Meine of the label’s insistence the group remain a European product. "There were always telling us they would push the next album but they never did. The problem with the company was the simple fact no one at the label was really into heavy rock and roll. They didn’t want to support the kind of music we were playing."
About the time the RCA deal was fizzling out in Europe, Michael Schenker was coming back to the Scorpions forcing Rudolf to sideline Matthias Jabs, who had won the lead guitar spot for the band over a hundred other guitarists who had auditioned for the position Uli Jon Roth had left vacant. A stormy relationship with UFO singer Phil Moog over the years eventually forced the younger Schenker’s hand. He left the UFO after permanently stamping his name on the band. In 1979, the label-less German rockers landed their first American tour opening for Sammy Hagar. Three months into the tour, the moody Michael, still battling demons whether it was alcohol or himself, walked out on the Scorpions never to return. He was permanently replaced by Jabs.
"One day Michael was just around,” stated Meine. “He jammed with us on a few tracks we working on for the new album and then just rejoined the band. Matthias was new, he understood Rudolf’s loyalty to his brother and graciously stepped aside. We didn't suspect the trouble we would be getting into upon his return.
"Michael was in a terrible condition we just didn’t quite understand. One night in the middle the tour we were supporting with Sammy Hagar, he just got up one day and disappeared. He just left overnight and went home. We called Matthias up and he flew in from Germany to join us for the rest of the tour."
With the Scorpions line-up finally settled down, the next order of business was a record company.
The Scorpions shopped around for a label and finally settled on Mercury/Polydor for worldwide distribution. Since the band was virtually starting over, they continued to clean house by signing on with a new management. The first album for the group’s new label was Animal Magnetism. It contained the hit single “The Zoo.”
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 vocal assistance to the band while Meine recovered. The singer eventually healed completely and was able to finish the album. Blackout was released in 1982 and quickly became the band's best-selling recording to date, thanks to the singles “Dynamite”, the title track and the smash hit, “No One Like You.” Fan response to the album set the stage for what would be the band’s true breakout recording.
"I lost my voice," said Meine simply. “I had been pushing it too hard on the last tour and I never recovered. When it came time to record our new album, my voice had no power. I still knew how I want to sing, it was all in my head, but I just no punch or power coming out of my mouth.
"One doctor simply told me that I had better start looking for a new job. I underwent two throat operations then started doing a lot of voice therapy with a doctor in Vienna, Austria who was famous for working with opera singers. It was taking so long for my voice to come back, I just about gave up. I even told Rudolf at one point he should start looking for a new singer. The whole album was finished but the vocals.”
Even though Meine lost faith in himself, his band mates did not. Don Dokken did an admirable job stepping in for the band’s singer while he recovered. Rudolf Schenker had made the decision to wait it out for the band’s lead singer to return from his injury.
"It was a terrible experience from a physical standpoint," recounted Meine. “On the other hand, emotionally it was a very good one because the band was behind me all the way. Then one day, it happened. I was singing again. We finished the album and went on to do a ten month tour. When we finished, my voice was still there."
With confidence restored and voice intact, the band went back into the studio and spent months working on what would be their breakout record, Love at First Sting. Schenker and Meine collaborated on most of the material for the album.
"After the Blackout tour,” stated Rudolf Schenker, “I rested for about three weeks. Then I looked back over our previous tour and got my impressions from it. I have to go deep inside myself to get the feel I want. It's like that in music, When you are in concert, you have to go out from yourself. When you are composing, you have to go within. When I have something that I like, I will play it for Klaus, or sing it to him over the phone. He will either say it’s good or it’s not that good. If he doesn't like it, then I will put that song away, sometimes for years."
"Still Loving You," was one of those songs that Schenker put on the shelf for years until he thought the Scorpions were ready to record it. He put the ballad on the Love at First Sting album.
"You know,” offered the guitarist, “it's not important how fast you do something, it's important how good you do something. It's like going from New York to L.A. You could take a plane and be there in a matter of hours. But if you travel by ground, you see all sorts of different places along the way and the experience is totally different. On this record, we wanted to go slowly because we enjoyed what we were doing."