From the Scorpions’ early-’70s hippie-mush origins, through mid-’80s arena-metal stardom, to 1999’s techno-rocking Eye II Eye, two things have remained constant. The hair may be gone now, but Rudi Schenker’s guitar playing has never been less than soaring and majestic. And singer Klaus Meine has always been able to craft a catchy tune around the virtues of his soaring, majestic penis.
Indeed, the Klaus penis might be the most documented in rock. The German band’s records unfold like a giant tribute to adventures with groupies. Many of these albums feature breasts on the cover, just in case a lyric like “Make love to me right now” proves too subtle to get the message across. The message: We like women, but we’d like more.
The band’s ’70s output was a strange mélange of mystical trippery and melodic heft. The beats were always solid, the singing likewise, but attention is most easily directed toward the twin guitars—the crunching rhythm of Schenker, and the weird, galloping neoclassical riffery of Uli Jon Roth. The covers of 1975’s In Trance (a nude woman straddling a guitar), 1976’s Virgin Killer (a nude woman looking very underage), and 1978’s Taken by Force (German war dead) all got banned.
After Taken by Force, Roth left to form Electric Sun, pursue spiritual interests, and prance happily amongst daisies and unicorns. So the Scorpions titled their next album Lovedrive, replacing their earlier ornateness with a modern party-rock sound. The lyrics compared a lady to “another piece of meat,” a compliment which takes on its full significance only when you consider how valued a commodity meat is in parts of Somalia and Bangladesh. The cover, featuring a nude breast covered in bubble gum, got banned.
The cover of 1984’s sales breakthrough Love at First Sting—a seminude woman coiled under a man—was comparatively tasteful, and “Rock You Like a Hurricane” had Schenker and Matthias Jabs rewriting the books on rhythm and lead guitar. But in the ’90s, lost creatively in an attempt to replicate the success of 1990’s lighter-waving Berlin Wall smash “Wind of Change,” the wind changed for the worse. To arrest the decline, Eye II Eye introduces programmed beats and all but loses the twin guitar interplay the band is renowned for. If the intention was to alienate what remains of their fan base, the Scorpions have succeeded spectacularly.
That aside, the album is expertly crafted, Klaus’s voice is tremendous, and the songs are good. The best, “Aleyah,” rocks with precision and the assurance of a band who know enough chords to know which ones to use. The disc is predictably weighted toward post-“Wind” sensitive ballads. But in “Freshly Squeezed,” Klaus still manages, reassuringly, to find a moment to write about his sensitive penis.