COME TASTE THE BAND VOL.5 - SCORPIONS Part II
Scorpions conquor North America
Brought to you compliments of I’m a South African Rocker
Brought to you compliments of I’m a South African Rocker
Already hailed as a super group during the 1978 tour of Japan, in 1979 the band, comprising Klaus Meine, Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs, set out to conquer the vast US market. Their weapons: a professional attitude paired with a steely determination to succeed and a philosophy of friendship, both within the band and towards their fans, as well as great musicality. As a rock band working on the international scene, the SCORPIONS had long since created their own musical identity. In the 1980s, the built up a considerable following in the States. Van Halen launched their musical career in the mid-1970s with cover versions of SCORPIONS songs: Speedy’s Coming (from Fly to the Rainbow) and Catch Your Train (from Virgin Killer). USA was the biggest market of all for hard and heavy rock.
In 1979, the SCORPIONS had embarked on their first major tour of USA rock arenas as opening act with Aerosmith, Ted Nugent and AC/DC, boosted by the success of Lovedrive. In Chicago, the SCORPIONS swapped the headliner billing with Ted Nugent, since the SCORPIONS had more fans in the city. On this first American tour, the SCORPIONS quickly learned the rules of the game in the international rock business.
Their seventh album Lovedrive was released in the USA in 1979, and was the first SCORPIONS production to receive a Gold Disc there. Animal Magnetism followed in 1980. With the two albums, the band finally made their North American breakthrough. On their second US tour the SCORPIONS were top of the bill. The era of SCORPIONS monster tours had begun…..
KLAUS MEINE WANTS TO PULL OUT
After more successful world tours, in 1981, while recording Blackout, Klaus Meine lost his voice. Not wishing to stand in the way of the band’s success, Klaus Meine wanted to pull out.
But the unshakeable friendship between Rudolf Schenker and Klaus Meine and the close and supportive relationship within the band allowed the seemingly impossible to happen. After lengthy vocal retraining and two operations on his vocal chords, Klaus Meine overcame the trauma. And that was not all: in 1982, he re-emerged with a much increased vocal range. One critic wrote: "They have given Klaus Meine metal vocal chords." The band’s decision to stand by their lead singer through this troubled time later proved to be the most crucial the SCORPIONS ever took in the their entire career. It was Klaus Meine who in 1989 composed their smash hit Wind of Change. In 1982, on their second US tour as headliners with Iron Maiden as support act, the SCORPIONS promoted their groundbreaking album Blackout, with Helnwein’s stunning sleeve design.
SCORPIONS CONQUOR THE WORLD
The single No One Like You and the Blackout LP reached the US Top Ten, the LP was voted Best Hard Rock Album of the year and awarded a Platinum Disc. One hit followed another, and in the 1980s the SCORPIONS captured the hearts of hard rock fans around the world.
In 1984 the SCORPIONS became the first German hard rock band to play three successive gigs in front of 60,000 fans at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The SCORPIONS had finally scaled the Mount Olympus of rock. With three albums featuring simultaneously in the US charts: Animal Magnetism (1980), Blackout, (1982) and Love at First Sting (1984), the SCORPIONS spent two years on the road playing as headliner or co-headliner at all the big rock festivals that sprang up around the world after Woodstock.
The SCORPIONS toured the globe, with a fleet of articulated lorries, Nightliner buses, helicopters, private jets and the inevitable limos. Hanover’s heavy metal band played all the main rock venues in North, Central and South America and Europe. In Asia, they played in Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Japan. This was the golden age of heavy rock. With gigantic stage and light shows and dramatic firework effects, the SCORPIONS unleashed a pyrotechnic display of sound and light. Their relentless energy sent the fans wild.
To US audiences, the SCORPIONS, with their polished, hard-edged "melodic rock" and Klaus Meine’s dramatic power singing with its dizzying top notes, came to epitomise the best in heavy rock. Groups like Bon Jovi, Metallica, Iron Maiden and Def Leppard, later to become mega bands, were support acts on the SCORPIONS’ worldwide tours, learning what it meant for a band to hold its own in the rock arena in front of an audience of millions.
Love at First Sting became one of the most successful albums in rock history. It includes the SCORPIONS’ most electrifying numbers Rock You Like a Hurricane, Bad Boys Running Wild, and the masterpiece Still Loving You. The critics struggled for superlatives. Rolling Stone called the SCOPRIONS "the heroes of heavy metal". The SCORPIONS were admitted to the exclusive club of the world’s 30 greatest rock groups. Their ballad Still Loving You became an international rock anthem. In France alone, the single sold 1.7 million copies. The song unleashed a wave of hysteria among French fans not seen since the Beatles and became the SCORPIONS’ musical trademark around the globe.
The SCORPIONS’ most memorable appearances as headliners were at the 1983 US Festival in California’s San Bernadino Valley in front of an audience of 325,000 and at the first Rock in Rio in 1985 where they were cheered by 350,000 enthusisatic South American SCORPIONS fans. The 1985 double album World Wide Live, a counterpart to the 1978 Tokyo Tapes, impressively documented the band’s more recent international triumphs. In 1986, the SCORPIONS topped the bill at the legendary Monsters of Rock Festival and played in the Hungarian capital Budapest, their first-ever appearance in an Eastern Block country.
By now the SCORPIONS were a household name, with hard rock hits like Rock You Like a Hurricane, No One Like You, Blackout, Big City Nights, Dynamite, Bad Boys Running Wild, Coast to Coast and The Zoo featuring in the charts around the world. In the 1980s, the SCORPIONS created a kind of modern hard rock that is just as popular today. Their authentic power rock ballads, such as Still Loving You, Holiday and later Wind of Change, Send Me an Angel, When You Came Into My Life and You and I, along with acoustic based songs such as Always Somewhere and When the Smoke is Going Down have managed to win over even the most unyielding haters of hard rock. Savage Amusement, the last album co-produced with Dieter Dierks, was released in 1988. It reached N° 3 in the US chart and N° 1 in Europe.
THE IRON CURTAIN AND THE WIND OF CHANGE
Even after years of touring the USA and the rest of the world, the SCORPIONS did not rest on their laurels and continued to seek out fresh challenges. As a prelude to their 1988 Savage Amusement world tour, they penetrated the Iron Curtain to give 10 sell-out concerts in Leningrad for 350,000 Soviet fans.
They were the first international hard rock band to play in the former USSR, cradle of Communism. Hard rock, heavy metal and especially the SCORPIONS’ ballad Still Loving You had already found their way through the Iron Curtain. The SCORPIONS are still given a rapturous reception in Russia today.
A year later, in August 1989, 20 years after Woodstock, the Soviet authorities, encouraged by the success of the SCORPIONS’ 1988 Leningrad concert, gave permission for the legendary Moscow Music Peace Festival. Here, the SCORPIONS shared the stage with other international hard rock acts, including Bon Jovi, Motley Crüe, Skid Row, Cinderella and Ozzy Osbourne and the Russian band Gorky Park playing to 260,000 Soviet rock fans in Moscow’s Lenin Stadium.
In September 1989 Klaus Meine drew on his impressions of the Moscow Music Peace Festival, to create the SCORPIONS’ smash hit Wind of Change. Then, in November 1989, came a completely unexpected event. The fall of the Berlin Wall. Throughout the world, Wind of Change became the hymn to glasnost and perestroika, providing the soundtrack to the opening of the Iron Curtain, the fall of Communism and the end of the Cold War.
One year later, in 1990, the SCORPIONS played in Potsdamer Platz where a section of the Wall once stood, in Roger Waters’s spectacular production, The Wall. The SCORPIONS recorded a Russian version of Wind of Change. They also gained a distinguished fan. In 1991, the members of the German band were invited to the Kremlin to meet Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet head of state and party leader. It was a unique event in the history of the USSR and rock music.
….(to be continued)