Scorpions are a heavy metal/hard rock band from Hanover, Germany, probably best known for their 1980s rock anthem "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and their singles "No One Like You", "Still Loving You", and "Wind of Change". The band has sold over 75 million albums worldwide and were ranked #46 on VH1's Greatest Artists of Hard Rock program.
Formation and early history (1965-1973)
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 1969 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, the 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, Uli Roth, who had helped the 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. 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, 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.
Rise to fame (1974-1978)
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 began to establish 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. Later, in 1976, he would join a German progressive rock band called Eloy and record three albums with them. He was replaced by a Belgian drummer, Rudy Lenners.
In 1975 the band hit their stride with the release of In Trance, which marked the beginning of Scorpions' long collaboration with German producer Dieter Dierks. The album was a huge step forward for Scorpions and firmly established their hard rock formula, while at the same time garnering a substantial fan base, both at home and abroad. Cuts such as "Dark Lady", "Robot Man" and the title track are still considered classics by fans today.
In 1976, Scorpions released Virgin Killer. The album's cover featured a nude prepubescent girl covered with broken glass. The cover art was designed by Stefan Bohle who was the product manager for RCA Records, their label at the time. The cover brought the band considerable criticism and was pulled or replaced in several countries. Despite the controversy, the album itself garnered significant praise for its music from critics and fans alike.
The following year, Rudy Lenners resigned due to health reasons and was replaced by Herman Rarebell.
For the follow-up Taken by Force, RCA Records made a determined effort to promote the album in stores and on the radio. The album's single, "Steamrock Fever", was added to some of RCA's radio promotional records. Roth was not happy with the commercial direction the band was taking. Although he performed on the band's Japan tour, he departed to form his own band, Electric Sun prior to the release of the resultant double live album Tokyo Tapes. Tokyo Tapes was released in the US and Europe six months after its Japanese release. By that time in mid 1978, after auditioning around 140 guitarists, Scorpions recruited new guitarist Matthias Jabs.
Commercial success (1979-1990)
Following the addition of Jabs, Scorpions left RCA for Mercury Records to record their next album. Just weeks after being evicted 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 favorites as "Loving You Sunday Morning", "Always Somewhere", "Holiday" and the instrumental "Coast to Coast", the 'Scorpions formula' of hard rock songs mixed with melodic ballads was firmly cemented. The album's provocative artwork was named "Best album sleeve of 1979" by Playboy magazine though it was ultimately changed for American release. Lovedrive peaked at #55 on the US charts proving that Scorpions were gathering an international following. After the completion and release of the album, the band decided to retain Michael in the band, thus 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 and 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.
In 1980, the band released Animal Magnetism, again with a provocative cover, this time showing a girl kneeling 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 critical response to the album was good. Blackout spawned three hit singles: "Dynamite," "Blackout" and "No One Like You".
It was not until 1984 and the release of Love at First Sting that the band finally cemented their status as rock superstars. 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. However, Scorpions did manage to stir up controversy once again with their provocative album cover. This time it was a man kissing a woman while at the same time planting a tattoo on her naked thigh, mimicking a gag from the satire movie This Is Spinal Tap that was released the same year. Some stores refused to sell the album. 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". 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 #14 in the charts in the US and at #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 pop 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 to play in the Soviet Union (the first being Uriah Heep in December, 1987), with a performance in Leningrad. The following year the band returned to perform at the Moscow Music Peace Festival. As a result, Scorpions developed a strong Russian fan base and still return regularly to perform throughout the area.
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 a hit, 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.
Later days (1993-present)
In 1993, Scorpions released Face the Heat. Bass was handled by Ralph Rieckermann. For the recording process, Scorpions brought in producer Bruce Fairbairn. The album's sound was more metal than melodic and divided the band's fan base somewhat. Many "headbangers" responded positively to the album while many longtime fans were put off. Neither the hard rock single "Alien Nation" nor the ballad "Under The Same Sun" came close to matching the success of "Wind of Change". Face the Heat was a moderate success.
In 1995, a new live album, Live Bites, was produced. The disc documented live performances from their Savage Amusement Tour in 1988, all the way through the Face the Heat Tour in 1994. While the album had a much cleaner sound in comparison to their best-selling live album, World Wide Live, it was not as successful.
Prior to recording their 13th studio album, 1996s Pure Instinct, drummer Herman Rarebell left the band to set up a recording label. Curt Cress took charge of the drumsticks for the album before Kentucky-born James Kottak took over permanently. Many feel Pure Instinct is a response to the complaints levied against Face the Heat. The album had many ballads. Still, the album's singles "Wild Child" and the soothing ballad "You and I" both enjoyed moderate success.
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 a fairly successful 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 saw two of their signature tracks featured in the popular 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."
In a September 2007 podcast interview, Meine said the new album wasn't 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.
When asked if the band plans to release a Humanity - Hour II, Meine replied: "That is what everybody is asking. There might be. Who knows? Right now we are at the beginning of the world tour. It is exciting to play the new songs and they go very well with the classics. It is exciting that there is a whole new audience out there. There are many longtime fans but there are a lot of young kids. We just played in London and in Paris and there were young kids rocking out to songs that were written way before they were born. It is amazing. I don't want to think about Hour II right now because Hour I is so exciting. It is very inspiring to see how much the audience enjoys this new music."
On December 20, 2007, Scorpions played at a concert for the elite of Russia's security forces in the Kremlin. The concert celebrated the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Cheka - predecessor of the KGB. Members of the audience included President Vladimir Putin.
On February 21, 2009, Scorpions received Germany's ECHO Honorary Award for lifetime achievement at Berlin's O2 World.