After 40 years, Scorpions will say their last goodbye

Currently, the Scorpions are (from left to right) Pavel Maciwoda on bass, Klaus Meine on vocals, Matthias Jabs on lead guitar, James Kottak on drums and Rudolf Schenker on ryhthm guitars. Photo by Marc Theis

By Pat Prince

For the next three years, Scorpions will get a chance to say goodbye to their fans through a worldwide journey called the “Get Your Sting And Blackout” tour. Over their 40 years history, Scorpions have sold over 100 million albums. The band has launched the careers of well-respected guitarists such Michael Schenker and Uli Roth, to signature drummers like Herman Rarebell. And, all the while, Scorpions managed to turn out good, solid hard rock.

How appropriate that the band’s farewell world tour will begin in Germany, their home country, in May, and then continue on through North America and five other continents until 2012. And with their newest release, Sting in the Tail, the band will have enough new songs to play live, as well as their classic material.

Goldmine recently interviewed vocalist Klaus Meine about Scorpions decision to end what has been a very successful career.

So, Klaus, is this really farewell?
Klaus Meine:
Yes, it is. After 40 years of rocking and rolling, and touring the world many times, we realized that this might be the end of the road coming up soon with this last record, Sting in the Tail. Another time to tour all over the globe, and then close this last chapter of the Scorpions. Close the book.

So, it’s not going to be like a Rolling Stones farewell tour — this is definite.
Meine: Yeah, it wouldn’t make sense to announce it. There are a lot of artists out there playing that kind of game. And I don’t know what the future brings either. It’s a fine line. And I don’t want to criticize any band taking it ’til the day they die up on-stage. It’s a brave way to do it as well.  But right now, Rudolf [Schenker] and myself, we just passed 60, and … I mean, the Stones are a blues band … c’mon! We are a hard rock band and there is so much energy onstage and this is what we still pull off every night, wherever we play, all over the world. How can you sing a song like “Rock You like  a Hurricane” standing still in front of your fans? No way. We don’t want to finish off slowing down in front of our audience, saying we can’t do it anymore. We don’t want it to come to that point.

A lot of people will respect you for saying that.
Meine: The Scorpions enjoy every show, and it feels really good up there. When you see so many young kids in the audience, in front of the stage, it makes me proud to see our music reaching out to the newer rock generation and the new Scorpions fans. That’s fantastic. But as a hard rocker, you know, you got to be realistic. We want to stay in the minds of our fans forever. And the only way to do this is to finish off with a powerful record, and we think Sting in the Tail is a smash.

This idea (of retirement) … our manager brought it up, and we discussed it. At first we thought, ‘This is a joke, c’mon.’ Then we felt, ‘Man, we go 2-3 years on the road again and what next? Another album, another tour … how long can we do this?’ Or how long can we do this on this kind of level?

How do you think the new album will hold up to past Scorpions albums?
Meine: It’s hard to compete with your own history. When we went into production this time we wanted to really get the best out of this band. We wanted to make an album that is more like where we come from — more European. We worked most of the time in Germany, trying to reactivate what made Scorpions, the Scorpions. That means great powerful riffs, strong melodies, great guitar solo stuff, fast songs, and, of course, some ballads, too. But the focus was more on attitude. Make an album where people can feel that ‘these guys have fun in the studio. They have fun playing music.’

Are there specific songs of Sting In the Tail that you are proud of?
Meine: If there’s a special song, “Raised on Rock is one of the songs that will really go down well in America. “The Good Die Young” will be the first single and we have a special vocal appearance by Tarja Turunen, the ex-singer of Nightwish. It’s a great song because the theme of the song is dedicated to all the people of the world who stand up for freedom and a more peaceful world.

There’s one other song I’d like to mention. A ballad but it’s a ballad more in the true rock ballad fashion. It’s called “SLY.” When “Still Loving You” (off of 1984′s Love At First Sting) was a smash hit back in the ’80s, many folks made love to that song, obviously. Many people told us in Europe, especially France, ‘We called our daughter Sly because of “Still Loving You.”‘ So I thought it would be a nice idea to write a song about that girl, Sly. It’s not a pop song but it’s definitely one of those power ballads.

Now, the final tour, it’s going to be about three years long … so, over that time, will there be any special appearances? Say, from past members, like guitarists Uli Roth and Michael Schenker, or drummer Herman Rarebell?
Meine: We’ve played a few shows in the last couple years, having Michael, Uli, and Hermann with us up on stage. We just did it last year in Greece, in Athens, at a big stadium show. The fans enjoyed it a lot, of course, and we enjoyed it totally. It was so much fan to have them with us back onstage. It would be cool to have a few shows in the U.S. where we have one of them, or all of them as special guests, turning up, playing a couple tunes from those periods of time where they were involved. I hope that works out. It’s not really planned yet, because they are busy with their own schedules, but I know it would be something great for the fans and we would enjoy it as well.

There are a lot of fans that love the old material, from Lonesome Crow (1972′s debut album) on up. Can those fans expect any older material on the set list?

Meine: Well, maybe not from Lonesome Crow, but we might go back to the early days and play a couple tunes, maybe from the ’70s . We want to try, with this next tour, to really play songs from all those different decades and time. And, of course, songs from the new album. Especially in America, you go to a radio station and present — proudly — your brand new album. And they go “Well, yes, that’s coo,l but let’s play “Rock You Like A Hurricane.” So, in a way you’re stuck in this kind of window there. I mean, it’s great when after a long career you have so many classics, and those songs will probably live on forever, which is great. But still, making new albums, we never lost the passion for rock music, we never lost the passion creating new songs.  And many fans around the world were waiting for this new album and it definitely will be one of the best. It will very much connect with the stuff that we did back in the ’80s. I’m not saying it’s an ’80s album, you know. But it brings the best of the Scorpions stuff out, and that’s where it makes its connection.

Well, that’s a good thing. When I first heard the song “Blackout” as a young kid — the day the album was released — I thought it was the heaviest thing I had heard up to that time. And I was already into Priest, Maiden … you guys must have taken some pride in that. Coming out with a song like that. Metal was just coming into the mainstream, and you guys just blew it out the doors.
Meine: Yes, absolutely. The album (Blackout) was going through the roof, you know, and it was a time where I had just lost my voice and I came back in a strong way. We ended up coming home from months and months on the road in America with platinum albums. It was a great time. And you cannot turn back the time. And we were always looking straight ahead, coming up with something new. We had our moments where we lost it a bit but I think the last few years with Unbreakable, Humanity — which we did with Desmond Child in Los Angeles — and with the new album Sting in the Tail, I think we’re back on track where we tried to focus on what makes the Scorpions really strong. And we wanted to come up with something where our fans can be proud of. It really feels good.

Do you feel you opened the door to a lot of German Heavy Metal bands that came after you, like Accept and so forth.
Meine: Yeah, I think we’ve opened many doors. Because for quite a long time the Scorpions had been the only band that came from Germany that made a worldwide career. There was nobody really following us up. For a long time the Scorpions were the only German band out there. And from the early ’80s onward, we were always proud to be a part of the international rock family.

What would you like the Scorpions to be remembered for, when it’s all said and done?
Meine: A killer live band. Always a killer live band. And of course there are a few songs that stand out after all these decades. On your side of the world, it’s “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” a monster rock anthem. And for many people on the other side of the world, it’s a song like “Wind of Change” (1990′s Crazy World) that is so much connected with the end of the Cold War. But don’t call us a ballad band. We are always a live band from the heart. And we were never a band that could only produce a lot of noise. We were always a band with great songs, great melodies, and something that can live on forever in the hearts of the fans.

Would you say that your most interesting experience as a member of the Scorpions was actually playing behind the Iron Curtain for the first time? Or is there another experience?
Meine: For our career, and the way the Scorpions started out of Germany in those early days, it was to make it to the top of the world of rock music in the ’80s. To be the headliner in Madison Square Garden, that is something I will actually never forget. That’s a benchmark. Then, of course, to be one of the first bands to go to the Soviet Union and to see the world changing in front of our eyes. Michael Gorbachov invited the Scorpions into the Kremlin in 1991 and we jammed with the Soviet president. So there are a lot of great moments and it was something very special.

Would you still like to be defined as heavy metal, or do you look back and say it was all just good rock n roll?

Meine: Well, when we started we were a hard rock band. Then when heavy metal came out, we were a metal band. It doesn’t matter, really. There are probably a lot of songs you can call Heavy Metal and there are other songs you can just call timeless rock anthems. But we don’t mind, you know. We’re proud we found our audience in the world and that we never lost the excitement and the passion for the music. The world has changed so much but we never lost our friendship in the band. And we never lost the passion, and most of all, and most important, to be an excellent live band … to go out on stage. No matter if there are a hundred people out there or a hundred thousand or five hundred thousand, we always give it our best, and we know, onstage the Scorpions, after all, will always sting.

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End notes: The North American part of the farewell will kick off June 18 in Holmdel, NJ. Supporting the tour along the way will be Cinderella and Dokken.

Sting in the Tail entered the Billboard Top 200 charts at #23, marking the band’s highest chart debut in over 20 years.

In April, Scorpions will be inducted into Hollywood’s RockWalk. Hollywood’s RockWalk is the only sidewalk gallery dedicated to honoring artists who have made a significant, lasting contribution to the growth and evolution of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Blues and R&B. And now, Scorpions handprints will be there, too.

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