Scorpions, I Can’t Get Enough (February 1979) — Heavy Metal timeline, part 15

Up till now, nearly every band on this list has been either British (The Kinks, The Who, Cream, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Rainbow) or North American (Jimi Hendrix [though with a British backing band], Steppenwolf, MC5Blue Öyster Cult, Rush [Canadian]). The sole exception has been AC/DC, and they too are from an anglophone country — Australia. Now meet the Scorpions (and the bad-taste cover of their Lovedrive album):

As though you can’t tell from the vocal, the Scorpions are German. The screaming vocal is Klaus Meine’s. Their drummer, Herman Rarebell, was to go on to record a solo album under the title Herman ze German, billing himself as “the only German with a sense of humour”. But (and I mean no disrespect to bassist Francis Buchholz), the Scorpions are really all about the double-guitar attack of Rudi Schenker (rhythm) and Matthias Jabs (lead). The two of them work together to great effect on I Can’t Get Enough, Rudi’s remorseless riffing perfectly complemented by Jabs’ fluid, powerful, and occasionally atonal soloing. By the end of the song, both of them are hammering away in top gear, with Meine’s howled vocal improvisations winding in and out of both. It’s one of the most unashamedly full-on metal songs I know.

Rudi Schenker is the older brother of the more celebrated Michael, one of hard rock’s most distinctive guitarists. Having briefly been part of the original Scorpions line-up — it’s his lead playing on their underrated debut Lonesome Crow — Michael Schenker invested the best years of his career with brit-rockers UFO before briefly returning to contribute to some of the songs on the Scorpions’ Lovedrive album and then forming a near-endless sequence of different versions of the Michael Schenker Group. UFO didn’t quite make it onto this timeline, but they’re well worth a listen. Check out Schenker’s unique guitar tone in the solo from Born to Lose (starting at 1:50). Or, better yet, his signature song Rock Bottom, with its monster riff and inventive soloing — recorded when Schenker was only eighteen.

While little brother was building a career with UFO, Rudi and his bandmates put together a sequence of very Germanic sounding albums. But it was only when Matthias Jabs replaced previous lead guitarist Uli Roth that they landed on the sound they’re best known for. Lovedrive was the first and arguably the best of these — a commercial breakthrough that made them the first continental heavy metal band to break into the top tier.

8 responses to “Scorpions, I Can’t Get Enough (February 1979) — Heavy Metal timeline, part 15

  1. Richard G. Whitbread

    You knew this was coming, Michael… ;-)

    Much as I adore the Scorpions (and ‘Can’t Get Enough’ is a great track from a great album), I must admit that I’m struggling to see what merits their placement on the timeline. If one of the rules for inclusion is songs that ‘…favour the historically important…’ then UFO’s ‘Rock Bottom’, as the archetypal track that inspired a thousand budding guitar heroes, must surely get the nod over ‘CGE’. The case being made in the Scorps’ favour seems to be that they were the first continental metal band to hit the big time. While factually correct, that seems a tenuous justification.

    (That being said, I think our German pals could claim a spot as masters of the, ulp, power ballad (‘Always Somewhere’, ‘When The Smoke Is Going Down’, ‘Still Loving You’, etc., etc.)).

    Kindly explain yourself. :-)

  2. Well, Richard. As you said, I knew this was coming :-)

    I bow to no man in my admiration for Rock Bottom — I imagine it would make it into my personal Top Ten hard rock songs. But with hand on heart, I can’t see that it’s important in any historical sense. You talk about inspiring guitar heroes, but by the time it came out in May 1974, the world had already had years to absorb Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Blackmore and others. (I might also mention Blue Öyster Cult’s chronically underrated Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser.)

    Whereas the success of the Scorpions opened a path for the likes of Mercyful Fate, Celtic Frost and and Opeth. (And A.C.T., though no-one likes them except me.)

    Good point on the Power Ballad, though. Perhaps I should have gone with Always Somewhere (from the same album), but I avoided it because it’s not really representative of what the band were about.

  3. Richard G. Whitbread

    I guess my point really has to do with the distinction between songs and bands. I fear we may be in danger of straying into ‘choosing representative tracks from certain metal bands’ territory, as opposed to selecting historically important metal songs per se…which I understood to be the idea. In some cases, of course, both the song and the band assume equal importance – Steppenwolf’s ‘Born To Be Wild’ comes to mind – but not in others. If the argument for the inclusion of ‘Can’t Get Enough’ is because it’s representative of an act whose success paved the way for others to follow, then that’s a bit of a stretch to my mind.

    True, by May 1974 the world had certainly been exposed to a number of guitar heroes. Schenker, however, was instrumental in creating one in a somewhat different mould. ‘Rock Bottom’ is perhaps historically important for the precise reason you’ve already stated: it’s his signature song. Up until that point, I don’t think we’d really had a metal track that was synonymous with a particular musician within a band. But ‘Rock Bottom’ was different. This was all about showcasing Michael’s virtuosity – via the extended solo – while the others took a bit of a breather (and the audience looked on in slack-jawed admiration). And how was this influential? Well, in (Eddie) Van Halen’s hands, the signature solo element is taken to its ultimate ‘guitar hero’ conclusion and ends up becoming the entire track (‘Eruption’, of course, from 1978’s self-titled debut).

  4. We can go back and forth on this …

    My take is that until the Scorpions hit the scene, heavy metal was pretty exclusively a British-American phenomenon, at least so far as we’re concerned with bands that anyone had heard of. The album that changed that was Lovedrive, so I picked one of the songs from that album.

    And I’m afraid that in your love for Schenker, you’re really reaching. You nominate Rock Bottom because (let’s see if I got this right) it was the first song to become a signature guitar showcase for a guitarist who was a member of the band — right? So Blackmore doesn’t get that honour because no one song was his signature, and Hendrix doesn’t get it for Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) because … uh, because his band was named after him?

    Tell you what. If I ever expand this series into a book (which I admit is unlikely, as it’s not getting enough response to suggest there’s a demand for it), I’ll add a UFO chapter. Meanwhile, I’ve put Rock Bottom in the “ones that got away” section.

  5. Richard G. Whitbread

    OK, let’s agree to disagree on this one. :-)

    (And I’ll write the UFO chapter.)

  6. Yes, do! Post it on your blog, and I’ll link to it!

  7. Pingback: Dream Theater, Under a Glass Moon (July 1992) — Heavy Metal timeline, part 22 | The Reinvigorated Programmer

  8. Pingback: Anne Heap of Frogs (1987-1988) | The Reinvigorated Programmer

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