SCORPIONS (1972–PRESENT). Classic lineup: Klaus Meine (vocals), Rudolph Schenker (guitar), Matthias Jabs (lead guitar), Francis Buchholz (bass, replaced by Paweł Mąciwoda), Herman Rarebell (drums, replaced by James Kottak).
With a history that goes back to the early seventies, the Scorpions are best known for breaking into worldwide success in the 1980s with their song “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” which led to a string of classic hard rock hits for the band. Along the way, they launched the careers of Uli Jon Roth and Michael Schenker and became Germany’s most successful rock band. While not as evident in their mainstream hits, their album track lyrics are often uniquely flavored with an offbeat, sometimes bizarre sense of humor. And in vocalist Klause Meine the Scorpions have perhaps the best and most unique of all hard rock vocalists, whose extended vocal range and distinct tone combine with his tongue-and-cheek delivery to make him a virtuoso of the microphone.
After the band’s first album, Lonesome Crow, was released in 1972, lead guitarist Michael Schenker was drafted into the British band UFO, and Uli Jon Roth joined the band, leading them into a harder rock direction. (It should be noted here that Roth’s fluid, melodic, virtuosic lead style is without a doubt a missing link between more old-school players like Ritchie Blackmore and Eric Clapton and the newer school of faster players like Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen who emerged in the later seventies and eighties, and was most certainly heard by, if not acknowledged by, these later players.) This version of the band released a string of albums for RCA—Fly to the Rainbow (1974), In Trance (1975), Virgin Killer (1976), and Taken by Force (1977)—over the course of which the Scorpions honed a precise and high-energy style, that while not particularly commercial was melodic and unique. Finding a ready audience in Japan as well as in Europe, the band released the live Tokyo Tapes in 1978, after which Roth left to pursue other musical interests, forming the band Electric Sun, which incorporated Hendrix influences.
As Michael Schenker had recently left UFO, the band welcomed him back and began recording the classic Lovedrive album that would move them into a somewhat more commercial direction. Released on their new label Mercury, the album featured the title track and the classic “Loving You Sunday Morning.”
While there were no singles that charted, the album did begin to attract American fans who found the band’s new approach to be both heavier and more melodically interesting than that found on the band’s previous albums. Unfortunately, the album was actually banned for a period due to its risque artwork depicting a glamorous couple in the back of a limousine, the man removing a wad of bubble gum from the woman’s breast.
After touring with the group in the U.S., Michael Schenker once again left the band, and guitarist Mattias Jabs, with whom the band had been working before Schenker’s return, joined the band to replace him. With Jabs on board, the band’s classic lineup of Jabs, Klaus Meine (vocals), Rudolph Schenker (guitar), Francis Buchholz (bass), and Herman Rarebell (drums) was in place.
Animal Magnetism, released in 1980, fared better in the States, going gold, and the band supported it with a world tour. After a delay during which singer Klaus Meine underwent surgery for problems with his vocal cords, the band returned with the 1982 album Blackout, which would prove to be their commercial breakthrough. Featuring the single “There’s No One Like You,” the album was a worldwide smash, going platinum in the U.S. Love at First Sting in 1984 was an even bigger hit for the band, which with the help of the single and video “Rock You Like a Hurricane” sold two million copies in the U.S.
With a combination of well-crafted rockers and power ballads, the band continued a string of successful releases through 1990’s “Crazy World,” after which the band lost much of its momentum. Due in part to a style that had become somewhat tired in its commercial orientation and to the fact that musical styles were changing, the band’s successes became much more modest
With a few lineup changes in the rhythm section, the band continues to tour and record, most recently releasing Unbreakable in 2004.
On January 24, 2010, the band announced that Sting in the Tail will be their last album of all-new material and that the tour supporting it will be their final tour. Dokken was scheduled to open for them but canceled after a dispute. The tour is expected to end in 2012 or 2013. According to bassist Paweł Mąciwoda, Scorpions will enter the studio in the fall of 2011 to lay down a collection of re-recorded versions of their older material. This collection is tentatively due for release in early 2012.
Discography: Lonesome Crow (Rhino, 1972); Fly to the Rainbow (RCA, 1974); In Trance (RCA, 1975); Virgin Killer (RCA, 1976); Taken by Force (RCA, 1978); Tokyo Tapes (RCA, 1978); Lovedrive (Mercury, 1979); Animal Magnetism (Mercury, 1980); Rock Galaxy (RCA, 1980); Blackout (Mercury, 1982); Love at First Sting (Mercury, 1984); World Wide Live (Mercury, 1985); Savage Amusement (Mercury, 1988); Crazy World (Mercury, 1990); Face the Heat (Mercury, 1993); Deadly Sins (EMI, 1995); Pure Instinct (Atlantic, 1996); Eye II Eye (Wea International, 1999); Moment of Glory (EMI, 2000); Acoustica [live] (Wea International, 2001); Unbreakable (BMG International, 2004); Humanity Hour, Vol. 1 (Sony BMG, 2007); The Hot & Slow: The Best Ballads (RCA, 1991); Hot & Heavy (RCA, 1993); ; Best of Scorpions: Green Series (Universal Int’l, 2008); Sting in the Tail (BMG, 2010).