For an entire half a century the Scorpions have been rocking the world, been an inspiration to millions and left a musical footprint that is second to none. A life dedicated to rock, true passion for what they do and unparalleled team-spirit is what keeps Germany’s most successful band ever together and, it seems, retirement plans are definitely off the table with the 50th Anniversary World Tour kicking off in May.
1965 was a time when the Swinging Sixties ruled London’s roads, Mary Quant revolutionised fashion with the invention of the mini skirt and the young Beatles just rose to fame. But it was also the year when full-blooded musician Rudolf Schenker started a band in his hometown Hanover. It took a while to gather the ideal cast, but when Klaus Meine joined the Scorpions a few years later, little did they know that their efforts would lead to about 100 million records sold five decades later. The Scorpions played up to 100 concerts in up to 30 countries per year, leaving hardly any blank spot on the world map. “We clicked instantly. The chemistry has been just perfect right from the start,” Klaus remembers his first encounter with Rudolf. His mind drifts for a fraction of a second and he adds: “One of the reasons the Scorpions came this far is the fact that the philosophy of friendship and teamwork was our top priority in all these years.“ Apart from the two founding members, today the Scorpions team comprises guitarist Matthias Jabs, James Kottak on the drums and bassist Pawel Maciwoda. Twenty-five albums, many of them reaching multiple platinum status, have wowed hard rock fans across the globe. The latest one, Return To Forever, was launched as this issue goes to print and we can be sure that it will strike the chords of the Scorpions devotees. Klaus gives us a hint of what to expect: “The Scorpions-typical DNA: strong riffs, melodic songs, go-ahead-songs, power-songs, just straight-in-the-face rock-n-roll plus two or three power ballads.”
“History was written”
Asked about the very magic moments from the past, Klaus takes a deep breath and admits: “This is a tough one, we had so many very special moments. There was the US Festival in California, the first Rock in Rio in the 80s or the Russian Woodstock back then in Moscow, the Moscow Music Peace Festival.” Cumatatively, these three concerts alone counted over 2.2 million visitors. A milestone was definitely the string of concerts in the former Soviet Union. “History was written and we as a German band were able to see it happen. It was the inspiration for Wind of Change, a song that conquered the world in 1991 and became the soundtrack to the end of the cold war for so many,” Klaus fondly reflects.
But there were also difficult times, times of “personal tragedy”, as the charismatic singer puts it. In 1982 Klaus Meine lost his voice completely with no sign of hope for recovery. He begged Schenker to look out for another frontman, but the band blandly refused to write him off. Almost a year and two surgeries later, against all odds, Klaus was back on the Scorpions’ micro. “It was the triumph of friendship. The band stood behind me and then this incredible world-spanning career was taken to a new height for all of us,“ he recalls.
“We were supposed to say ‘you’re too late, we just split up’”
Despite the lavish lifestyle, private jets and glamorous parties, the Scorpions are surprisingly down to earth, enjoying a heaven of normality off stage. The usual bad boys heavy metal superstar cliché couldn’t be more deceptive. Rudolf Schenker frequently hails the benefits of yoga and meditation, while Klaus once famously confessed that, despite being a rock star, he never cheated on his wife Gabi. He never fails to rave about the mother of his son and love of his life, and soon the couple will celebrate its golden wedding anniversary.
While their peers, apart from the Rolling Stones, play golf and enjoy the fruits of their work in some sunny backyard, the Scorpions have no intention to take it slow. It would be fair to say that they tried though – until a new challenge came up. “MTV Unplugged approached us the beginning of 2013 and we were supposed to say ‘you’re too late, we just split up’, but we just couldn’t. After all it is hard to slow down from full throttle to 0 in no time,” Klaus explains. The MTV Unplugged event in Athens released new creative potential and the Scorpions just couldn’t let go. “The passion to discover new things and make new experiences never died. The curiosity is still there, even after having played concerts all over the world,” Klaus confesses. On 26 March the movie Forever and a Day will hit the cinemas. German director Katja von Garnier escorted the group for 1.5 years in order to create this spellbinding documentary.
Living the dream
Shortly the 50th Anniversary World Tour takes off. Klaus Meine will be in charge of the vocals, wearing his signature cap and sunglasses, bouncing up and down the stage like a teenager roaring songs like Rock You like a hurricane or Still loving you. “We want to celebrate our 50th anniversary with our fans across the globe and we won’t just be touring countries we have been visiting for many years, we will enter new territory, e.g. with the concert in China on 1 May, where we will perform for the very first time.” The tour will also cover Europe, Russia, North America and Canada.
Klaus and his buddies are living the dream and as the interview draws to an end he says: “We are fully booked until mid 2016 and it looks like we are living our dream a little bit longer.”
TEXT: Tina Awtani | Photo: Oliver Rath