Forty years of leather, studs, ballads in D minor and turbo-charged riffs are wrapping up as the Scorpions say goodbye on tour from 2010 to 2012. Deutsche Welle has been on the road with the band, filming their farewell.
"Big City Nights," a documentary of the band's final tour will hit theaters in 2013
The band got started back in 1965 when Rudolf Schenker was standing in front of a record shop in Hanover and had an epiphany. He thought he saw his name written on a poster advertising a concert, and decided on the spot to become a rock musician.
That coincidence gave rise to one of the most commercially successful hard rock bands in history. The Scorpions recorded their first album, "Lonesome Crow," in 1972. But Germany was not quite ready for the tough sounds of the band, leading the musicians to try their luck abroad.
Playing at London's legendary Marquee Club, not just the British, but Americans and the Japanese fell in love with the Scorpions. Yet hardly anyone in Germany was getting wind of it.
The Scorpions on stage during their legendary Soviet Union concert in 1989
Fans in the US were so taken with the German rock musicians that even managers forced artists such as Jon Bon Jovi to go and watch every performance by the Scorpions, adding that if they wanted to be successful, they had to do it the Scorpion way. That meant the right mix of rock, charisma and connecting with fans.
It also meant teased hair, skintight pants and cowboy boots - that quintessential 1980s look that Klaus Meine, Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs helped usher in. But the main thing for the three performers from Hanover was being on stage, playing their songs and showing the world who they were.
Lousy English, embarrassing performances, bad songwriting - that's how German critics summed up the band, however. By the early 1980s, though, they had become world stars and landed in Germany with their own jumbo jet. Since then, the rock musicians from Hanover have sold over 100 million albums and given more than 5,000 concerts in over 80 countries around the world.
Wind of Change
The Scorpions - theirs is the story of friends who forged their own path. The band members have worked hard and been ambitious, but luck has played its role along the way, too, as has their instinct for doing the right thing at the right time.
Already sure of their American and Asian fan base, in 1988, the Scorpions did what no internationally successful rock band had dared to do before: They traveled to the Soviet Union.
"Our parents went there with tanks; we went there with guitars," Meine said at the time.
Meine (r) and Schenker pose in front of an image of the fall of the Berlin Wall
The Scorpions played for more than 300,000 fans in Lenin Stadium in what was then Leningrad and is now Saint Petersburg. The KGB was on hand, watching their every move, but so were the fans, who sang along to the band's songs verbatim. Change was in the air.
The musicians let their concert experiences in Lenin Stadium flow into their hit, "Wind of Change." It was a typical Scorpions ballad - something to which one could hold up a lighter, wave it back and forth, and sing along effortlessly. It was a song that captured the Twilight of the Gods atmosphere of the Cold War, and the whistling at the beginning became a sign of the times.
"Wind of Change" was released in November 1990 - just in time to become the hymn of reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The single would go on to be the band's most successful tune.
German media remained critical of the Scorpions, though. Although the band's influence on music and music culture was evident, music journalists continually roasted their albums with palpable pleasure, or branded their album covers as sexist.
40 years of writing music history: the Scorpions
While the Scorpions were still packing large stadiums abroad at the beginning of the millennium, German listeners stayed away from their concerts at home.
Back to the roots in Wacken
A turning point came in 2006. In Wacken, which hosts the biggest metal music festival in the world, the Scorpions - then in their mid-50s - proved they weren't all dried up. Festivalgoers went crazy for songs from before the "Wind of Change" era.
"Sting in the Tail" was the title of the band's final 2010 release
Soon afterwards, the Scorpions gave their all for a 2007 album titled "Humanity-Hour 1," followed by "Sting in the Tail" in 2010. Concert halls filled once again, and even the reviews were positive. The Scorpions were back.
But, Rudolf Schenker and Klaus Meine began joking that it was time to stop before they'd have to be carried on stage, adhering to the old show business adage of going when the going's good. In early 2010, they announced the end of their career.
Since then, the warhorses of turbo-charged ballads have been traveling the world on their "Get Your Sting and Blackout Farewell Tour," effortlessly filling halls, stadiums and festivals along the way.
Recently, Director Katja von Garnier has also been accompanying them. Commissioned by Deutsche Welle, she has followed the future pensioners around with her camera - on stage, in the tour bus and on the plane - with the aim of capturing one of Germany's most successful rock bands ever as it bids farewell.
The result is 90 minutes of uncensored Scorpions. DW's partners in the project are German public broadcaster ZDF and Sony Music. The producer is Grimme-award-winning DOKfilm Potsdam.
The film accompanied the band for their show in Moscow in July, 2011
The documentary is entitled "Big City Nights - The Scorpions Film." Shooting began in February 2011 and will run into 2012. Thailand, Russia, England and Belgium were the first filming locations, with Germany, Greece and South America coming up next. "Big City Nights" will open in theaters at the start of 2013, and will later be broadcast on DW-TV and arte. A DVD will also be available.
Big City Nights illuminated
Those who can't wait for the premiere can get a taste of it all at www.dw-world.de/scorpions. The site features video clips, pictures and texts about the film in "the making of" style. Visitors to the site will also find an interactive tour calendar, information on the musicians and related links.
"With a film whose production runs over the course of several years, it makes sense to regularly provide fans and other people with information about it," said Rolf Rische, project director at Deutsche Welle's Berlin studios.
Archive footage also supplements the material, and brings important stages in the band's development to life again. In interviews, Klaus Meine, Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs describe how a newbie group from the provinces could become one of the world's most successful bands.
The cult band that wrote rock history will officially retire in 2012, and it will be the last time fans will be able to sing along live to "Holiday." The band will make a final appearance at the heavy metal Wacken Festival - the place where the band was reborn.
Author: Uli Jose Anders / als