They formed in 1965, had their biggest hit in 1990 and in 2018 they’re coming to New Zealand with Def Leppard! Get ready with a quick guide to the last half-decade of German hard rock veterans Scorpions.
Scorpions? Sorry mate, never heard of them.
You have almost definitely heard at least one of their songs. Chances are it was 1990 single ‘Wind of Change’, one of the quintessential 80s power ballads (yes, 1990 counts as the 80s). The unofficial soundtrack to the fall of the Berlin Wall, it sold over 14 million copies. Unusually for a power ballad, it features quite a lot of whistling; on a good hi-fi system it sounds like the whistler is right there in the room with you. Haunting.
Anyone who has seen season two of Stranger Things will have also heard their hard rocking 1984 anthem ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ – it was used to soundtrack the arrival of bad boy Billy and his skater sister Max.
Oh yeah, you’re right, those guys totally know how to rock… but they also have a sensitive side too. Have they really been around since 1965?
That’s when founding member Rudolf Schenker started the band in Hanover, West Germany, though none of the other main members joined until later and they didn’t release anything until 1972. Their first album, Lonesome Crow, was produced by renowned krautrock producer Conny Plank. Go on, have a listen to the 13-and-a-half minute title track:
[13-and-a-half minutes later] Wow that was some sick guitar playing. Who’s the axe god?
That’s Michael Schenker, Rudolf’s little brother. He was 16 when this album was recorded. Later on, he got poached by British prog-rock titans UFO then went on to form Michael Schenker Group, becoming revered as one of rock guitar’s most lethal shredders. But anyway, Scorpions haven’t played anything from Lonesome Crow in concert for decades and it’s a bit of an outlier in the band’s catalogue. Moving on…
Alright then – when or what was ‘Peak Scorpions’?
Most Scorpions connoisseurs agree that the classic line-up started in 1978 after lead guitarist Matthias Jabs was added, beating out around 140 other auditionees, joining rhythm guitarist Schenker, vocalist Klaus Meine, bassist Francis Buchholz and drummer Herman Rarebell. Their run of albums from 1979’s Lovedrive (with its controversial bubblegum boob cover art) through to 1990’s Crazy World are the best examples of the classic Scorpions sound. To narrow ‘Peak Scorpions’ down to one essential album you’d probably have to go with 1984’s Love at First Sting or maybe 1982’s Blackout.
Who’s still in the band now?
Of the classic line-up, Schenker, Meine and Jabs are still going strong; only the rhythm section has changed. Current bassist Paweł Mąciwoda joined in 2003, while new drummer Mikkey Dee (who drummed for Motörhead from 1992 until Lemmy’s death in 2015) was recruited in 2016.
What’s their new music like?
Their latest single ‘Follow Your Heart’, released in November last year to coincide with a compilation of their best rock ballads, is a lighter-waving stadium anthem if ever there was one.
Will there be cool merch at the show?
Scorpions are a hard rock band from the 80s, of course there will be cool merch at the show! With over four decades and 17 LPs worth of artwork to draw from, ranging from ‘very cool’ to ‘very bad’ to ‘extremely NSFW (seriously go to jail)’, there should be no shortage of options.
Scorpions and Def Leppard play Spark Arena in Auckland on 12 November. Spark has an exclusive pre-sale for Spark customers, available from 10 am Tuesday 1 May until 10 am Thursday 3 May.