In April 1985 the birth rate in France experienced an unexpected peak. Generally, baby booms are associated with the rebound of a painful social fact: for example, the largest of the 20th century occurred after the Second World War. But this case was different: Paris was filled with babies without there being a war, an attack, a famine to react to. Intrigued, the Gallic government investigated what could have synchronized the hormones of its population nine months earlier, and found that the reason was not a CIA prank or a shady experiment by the Kremlin: what had happened was that in July 1984 Scorpions he had launched his franelero anthem “Still Loving You”.
“That was not a fabrication, it was real!” he says. rudolf schenkerthe guitarist who founded the group in 1965. He and the singer klaus mein –the two “classic” members, although Meine joined in 1969– found out about it recently and since then they haven’t stopped singing it proudly: “It’s a great story, we made people create new life!”.
Scorpions is a rare case of a heavy band with a positive message. Almost forty years after working their magic so that the French copulate more than normal, they continue to lower the line so that we are more and not less: “Peacemaker”his latest single, mounts a riff and a court chorus to say that “the monster is alive after all this time, it’s written in the stars, love forever, let’s stop the war”.
What inspired this musical reflection was –of course– the Covid-19 pandemic, that universal blow from which we were supposed to come out better, but things happened. “The world is tense right now,” says Meine, and the Scorpions come to the rescue with a song that warns that “if we don’t change, we’re going to crash.”
“Peacemaker” is the first advance of Rock Believer, the group’s nineteenth studio album. The original plan was to spend part of 2020 recording in Los Angeles with producer Greg Fidelman (a collaborator on Metallica in Hardwired… to Self-Destruct of 2016 and of slipknot in We Are Not Your Kind, from 2019, among other bands) and chain that with a residence of a few dates in Las Vegas, but the bug forced a swerve. “Travel restrictions hit and we decided to stay in Hanover, Germany. Greg was on Zoom with us in the studio: in Los Angeles it was breakfast time and in Germany it was dinner time. It worked for a while, but then we had to make a decision on whether we wanted to go ahead or postpone the recording session to 2021. We decided to keep working and put all the faith in ourselves and our team”, says Meine.
Vocalist Schenker and second guitarist Matthias Jabs wrote and demeaned with time and without pressure, assisted by the producer who replaced Fidelman: Hans-Martin Buff. It was also decided that there would be no external composers as in the previous album, Return to Forever (2015), where the producers Mikael Nord Andersson and Martin Hansen contributed songs: the idea was to reaffirm their own identity in search of what they called “the energy of the 80s”. More than anything, Love at First Sting (the 1984 album, from which “Still Loving You” and the great “rocky” hit of the Scorpions career, come from, “Rock You Like a Hurricane”) but also the former black out (1982), are the infallible 1-2 of Scorpions, the one with which they transcended the borders of Germany and Europe and ended up landing in the United States (in Japan they were already big since the middle of the previous decade, because of those things that the metal). That was the vibe they were chasing for Rock Believer: that of a united band that -regardless of the fact that they gave their first show the year the Beatles released Rubber Soul– still think about the future. “The attitude was to make a record with the whole band rocking it together, instead of using a lot of ProTools sessions in different places. We get together to feel the music, to feel the new songs and imagine themes that we would like to play in the next shows, when we hit the road again. That vibe made the difference,” says Meine.
That feeling of returning to the garage was enhanced by the renewal that involved the arrival of Mikkey Dee, the drummer who replaced James Kottak in 2016 and who came with one of the best work experiences that a hard rock soldier can bring. “With Mikkey the spirit of Motorhead He was around us all the time. In every beat Mikkey played there was something of Lemmy. So you can imagine that what came out was a great rock record”, says the singer, and Schenker enthuses: “We have a great chemistry, and more so now with Mikkey, who seems to have been there from the beginning. With Lemmy and the rest of Motörhead we were already friends. We have a long history of friendship with Lemmy and I think he would like Mikkey to be playing with us. So here we are: we rock and we’re going to rock forever.”
In addition to a joke The Simpson, “rock forever” is still a common place for bands with long tours; What is surprising here is that the group that sets eternity as its goal ten years ago was saying goodbye. In the name of the three stages of the tour they did between 2010 and 2014, you can see how they changed their mind little by little: after the Get Your Sting and Blackout Tour (a celebration of their most popular albums) came the Final Sting Tour (the name is self explanatory) and it all ended with the Rock’n’Roll Forever Tour (one position closer to the current one).
One of the reasons for reconsidering the goodbye, says Schenker, was the Internet. “We were one of the first bands to have a YouTube channel, which made young kids say, ‘Hey, Scorpions, what’s going on here?’ So suddenly we had a new generation on stage, it was incredible”, explains the guitarist. The renewal of the audience (the children of the children they helped to spawn fell to the dance) brought fresh motivation. But, in addition, an “archaeological” finding made them drop the token that, if they wanted, they could celebrate something that few celebrated.
“I found a notebook that my mother made at the beginning of the band. My father gave me the money to buy instruments. In this notebook she wrote down what came in, what went out and what was left, and then we had to pay her. But the important thing is that the notebook started saying ‘Scorpions 1965’, so I went and said to the rest of the band ‘guys, did you know that next year is the 50th anniversary of the group? We have to celebrate!’ The only bands that continue after fifty years are the beach boysthe quien and the Rolling Stones. And the response from the promoters was ‘yes, we have to do this,’” says Rudolf.
“That” was the 50th Anniversary Tourwhich on paper was the promotional tour for Return to Forever but more was the birthday party that they could not deprive themselves of. The specialized site Pollstar placed the tour in the 79th position of the 100 most successful of 2015 and in the 68th of the following year’s chart, with a collection of almost fifty million dollars.
This call for a half-century Scorpions is explained by its status as a crossover band: not only expanding up and down as far as ages are concerned, but also sideways, with a style that represents both the orthodox hard rocker and the lover of the sweetish AOR. That, plus the madness that there are no conflicts of belonging as usually happens in the metal world: neither the old guard complains when they get rubbery nor those who knew them listening to Aspen in the car get scared when they play “Big City Nights”. Klaus Meine’s hypothesis is that he who warns does not betray: “Ballads have always been part of our repertoire, from the earliest days. I remember back in the old days, in the mid ’70s, when we first played in Britain, the promoter freaked out because he saw us play a song like ‘Holiday’ – an acoustic ballad – in the middle of the set. . ‘You can’t play this song, this is a heavy metal show, they’re going to kill you,’ he said. And we told them no, we were going to keep it on set, and it turned out we played ‘Holiday’ and all the long-haired kids in the jean jackets went crazy. Those shows proved to us that this was something that separated Scorpions from other bands and made us special. There are bands out there that are jealous that they don’t have those songs…”
Schenker says that the group has a motto: “Love, peace and rock n’ roll”. Love is brought by “Still Loving You”, peace “Wind of Change” and the rock n’ roll “Rock You Like a Hurricane”; to each hit, a purpose, although the ultimate goal –concludes Klaus– is still what mobilized them at 17: “To be honest: ballads attract girls to shows, so we have a pretty mixed audience. Guys bring girls to concerts, and they love ballads.”
One of their signature slow motions, “Wind of Change,” made the news last year: Patrick Radden Keefe, writer and journalist for the new yorker, assured that one of his sources in the American intelligence had confessed to him that the very CIA had composed the song. The theme, which speaks of “winds of change” in Moscow in 1990 (a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a year before the end of the USSR), would then not be a goofy ballad but a complex move by the administration of Bush Sr. to hasten the decline of the Soviet communist regime. All of this ended up in a very successful podcast, also called Wind of Change, in which Keefe interviews about a hundred people and even goes to see the Scorpions play in the Ukraine, without reaching any definitive conclusions. The question, then, was served.
Are they working with any intelligence agency these days?
Schenker: Ha, are you sure if you’re interviewing musicians or spies?
Meine: I laughed so hard at this, it’s so hilarious. Unfortunately there are always people who believe this nonsense, but I must say that it was a very popular podcast. The author went to see Scorpions in kyiv and when he confronted some fans with this theory they went crazy. This song, with its message of peace, is very emotional for many fans, especially in countries like Ukraine or Russia. If you say “this wasn’t real” the fans go crazy. I can laugh because I know the truth.
If there are those who believe that you overturned communism with a slow, it’s because you knew how to build a plausible wide one, based on the accumulation of atypical achievements such as playing ballads for metalheads’ girlfriends without being lynched, succeeding in rock as a German or making the French rub against each other. Scorpions are believed because they work miracles. Today they are the ones who reinforce their faith with Rock Believer, an album that seems to put a conceptual bow on his career. “We hear the phrase ‘rock died’ so many times… With alternative rock, with punk, with hip-hop, whatever. We were always yesterday’s news, but when we were on tour we saw all these rock believers in front of us,” says Meine. Between the death projected by others and the one that touched us all in the last two years due to the pandemic, there was no other choice but to take advantage of the experience and go out to celebrate life: “It is a privilege to play for three generations, to see the most guys standing in front of the stage. They are the believers in rock today. That’s what these songs are about.”
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Scorpions, the hit band that accelerated the birth rate in the 80s
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