"Scorpions celebrate a half-century, on record and onstage"
Sept. 4, 2015
Did you know that the venerable German metal band Scorpions turns 50 this month? Neither did I… and according to this interview (and others I've read), neither did founding guitarist Rudolf Schenker until he went looking for an old tape containing a song the group had abandoned some time before, and instead found a book that his mother had given him in September of 1965: a ledger enumerating the loans that Schenker's father had provided in order to establish and equip the new band.
True, the Scorpions that most people know is the incarnation that topped the charts during the 1980s, polished by producer Dieter Dierks into a sleek vehicle known for big tunes, catchy riffs, and polished veneer. The band's pop-hit prime neatly coincided with MTV's early glory years, which meant that songs from Blackout, Love at First Sting, Savage Amusement, and Crazy World were everywhere.
If those albums still resonate, you might want to check out Return to Forever, which comes out this Friday, since it started out as a collection of unrecorded tunes from the years spanned by those releases, and then got fattened up with some new tunes intentionally tapping the glory-years sound.
The current Scorpions set list, devised for the summer festival circuit, will be maintained for the coming U.S. trek. It includes a hefty slab of the new album, as well as most of the big hits you'd anticipate. But it also digs deep for a handful of vintage cuts from the band's rougher, heavier '70s phase with guitarist Uli Jon Roth; if you've been missing "Top of the Bill" or "Speedy's Coming," this one's for you. I've been listening to an audience recording of one of those shows – specifically, Graspop Metal Meeting 2015, in Belgium on June 21 – for a few weeks now, and I can promise that it's a solid show. (If you're so inclined, you can check out a complete set list at setlist.fm.)
Also worth looking forward to is Forever and a Day, a very fine new Deutsche Welle documentary that spans the entire Scorpions saga, from a music video for the Black Sabbath-redolent "I'm Goin' Mad" (from the band's 1972 debut LP, Lonesome Crow) to footage from what was billed as the group's farewell tour, which ended in 2012. There's a one-day cinematic screening in the works for October 14, but presumably this is bound for home video soon.
So, yeah, there is an end in sight, again: In our interview, Schenker said that Scorpions will call it a day at the end of 2016… and I'm inclined to believe him. I'm not sure whether I'll be available to take him up on his offer to share a drink backstage at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion on Thursday night, when the U.S. leg of the 50th-anniversary tour commences, but I absolutely will be there in spirit – the interview was tremendous fun, and provided at least three times as much material as I could use even in a reasonably generous article. And perhaps I'll be able to catch the Saturday night show at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which Yahoo will be streaming live.