The Scorpions are no less than rock and roll legends. The biggest band to ever come out of their home country of Germany, and one of the biggest hard rock/metal acts of all time. Any band who can not merely endure but prosper for 45 years have certainly earned iconic status.
March 23, 2010 marks the release of what the band calls their last studio album, Sting in the Tail. After the band spends the next three year on their Sting and Blackout Tour, the Scorpions are retiring the band they started in 1965.
Over the course of 45 years the band have sold in excess of 100 million albums, and that number will only grow with Sting in the Tail, and subsequent compilations, and perhaps a final live album. After four and a half decades, the original founder, guitarist Rudolf Schenker still remains. Many casual fans of the band are unaware that Rudolf was originally the band’s singer as well, and the sound was distinctly different from what we appreciate as the Scorpions today.
In 1969, Rudolf’s teenage brother Michael would join the band along with the band’s current singer, Klaus Meine. Michael Schenker was offered a gig as lead guitarist in 1973 while the two bands were touring together, a job he took for the latter part of the 70′s, before again moving on to several of his own projects over the years. Michael was replaced by Uli Jon Roth in 1973. Initially Roth finished the band’s tour when Michael left for UFO, but declined to join the band. Ultimately, the entire line-up merged with Roth’s band, Dawn Road, which featured Francis Bucholz on bass. Dawn Road adopted the Scorpions name as it already had greater notoriety from their 1972 release, Lonesome Crow.
This line-up would record some classic Scorps material, including Fly To The Rainbow (1974), Virgin Killers (1975), In Trance (1976) and Taken By Force (1977). This would be a time of significant change for the band. Drummer Herman Rarebell would join the line-up. Guitarist Uli Roth became discontent with the commercial direction the band was taking and left to form his own project, Electric Sun. After an exhaustive search he would be replaced by Matthias Jabs, and this would become the band’s signature line up.
During this period the band received some controversy for the initial album covers for both Virgin Killer and their 1979 release, Lovedrive. The former featured a naked prepubescent girl with cracked glass over her pubis. The latter cover featured a couple in the back of a car, the woman’s dress open, one breast exposed and connected to the man’s hand by stretched bubblegum. Not surprisingly, Playboy magazine would tab it as the best album cover of the year. Both covers would be replaced by more generic artwork in most countries.
Original Vigin Killer artwork
Original Lovedrive artwork
After leaving UFO, Michael Schenker would return for the recording of the band’s seminal Lovedrive album, but he would only appear on three tracks. This would be the Scorpions’ first album for Mercury records, and be the beginning of the band’s mass commercial success.
Over the next decade the band would become one of the largest selling, best know metal acts in the world. Albums like Animal Magnetism (1980), Blackout (1982), and Love at First Sting (1984) would each become progressively bigger, reaching their pinnacle of mass appeal with First Sting, which yielded what is perhaps their signature song, “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” They would round out the decade with chart toppers Savage Amusement (1988) and Crazy World (1990), before the Seattle grunge movement would impact them as it did most 80′s metal acts.
Like many bands in the 90′s, the Scorpions struggled to remain relevant in a musical landscape that had completely changed. The band’s classic rhythm section of Buchholz and Rarebell would both depart. The latter permanently replaced by James Kottack, who is likened to Rarebell with his wild maniacal personality.
The band’s three studio releases during this period reflected a loss of direction and frustration with the state of hard rock and metal as a whole. 1993′s Face The Heat would be heavier than previous releases, but only moderately successful. Pure Instinct (1996) over-corrected, while 1999′s Eye II Eye was barely a Scorpions album in sound and style.
For fans, it would be 2004′s Unbreakable album that would return the band closer to their classic sound. Ironically this would be when many 80′s rock and metal band’s began to go back to their classic styles. In 2007 the band released Humanity: Hour I, another excellent Scorps release, and finally what was to be Humanity: Hour II, their final album, Sting in the Tail.
Sting in the Tail is a complete return to the band’s signature 80′s sound, and a solid final offering from one of rock’s true legends. Songs like “Raised On Rock,” “The Best Is Yet To Come,” and “Slave Me” all made for radio hits.
It’s hard to imagine the rock landscape without the Scorpions, a band born only one year after I entered the world. While this tour may be the last of the band’s recording and performing, the sting will remain for generations to come.
Because of all they have given to rock music they are Mojo Radio’s March artist of the month.
This last week, the Scorps were honored by the Rock Walk of Fame, video below.