The Scorpions pull Vancouver’s Jim Vallance into their Crazy World

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, FEB. 28, 1991

By Steve Newton

It’s been a long seven-year wait for Vancouver Scorpions fans, but the dry spell is nearly over. Germany’s veteran hard-rockers—who haven’t performed here since the Love at First Sting tour of 1984—will be in town for a Saturday (March 2) gig at the Pacific Coliseum. And if the band is its usual enthusiastic self, the show should be enough to make local fans of riff-riddled hard rock forget all about that other big music deal happening this weekend.

Juno what I mean.

On a transatlantic line from snowbound Hanover last week, guitarist Rudolf Schenker explained why the band has taken so long to return to Vancouver. It turns out that routing difficulties on the 1988 Savage Amusement tour played a part in the band skipping Van last time—but that wasn’t the only reason.

“The way was so long to go to get to Vancouver,” explains Schenker, grappling with the English lingo, “that we said, ‘Okay, Vancouver is not good anyway.’ Because we found out in ’84 there was not so much audience there. We thought it was not so much rock ’n’ roll any more, Vancouver.

“But then we came there one year ago, and we said, ‘Hey man, this town changed a lot, let’s play next time in Vancouver.’ So that’s what we’re doing this time.”

The same man responsible for drawing top acts like Aerosmith and AC/DC to record in Vancouver—producer Bruce Fairbairn—deserves some credit for giving the Scorps an opportunity to change their mind about his home town. He first met the band when he produced their version of The Who’s “Can’t Explain” for the Make a Difference Foundation benefit album, Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell.

At that time he suggested they visit Vancouver to run the tunes for their next album by Fairbairn’s next-door neighbour, Jim Vallance (co-writer for Bryan Adams, Aerosmith, Heart, et al.). So singer/lyricist Klaus Meine and drummer Herman Rarebell did just that, returning to Germany with some Vallance-inspired revisions to tunes from the current Crazy World album.

“Jim came up with some ideas for ‘Don’t Believe Her’,” says the 42-year-old Schenker of the band’s current single. “When Klaus came back to here, he said, ‘Rudolph, listen to this,’ and I heard the hook and I said, ‘Hey great. Much better than my one.’

“Then Klaus and Herman said, ‘When we go next time to Vancouver, you come too, because Jim is a great guy and it’s fun to work with him.’ So I went and we started to go through the songs, and Jim came up with some few ideas. I think Jim is a great writer, and he’s a very sensitive person. That’s especially important when you work as musicians together.”

In total, Vallance received lyric-writing credits on seven of Crazy World’s 11 tracks, and played keyboards on one other. Although producer Fairbairn did much of the preparatory work on the album, the Scorpions weren’t able to make the most of a Vallance/Fairbairn alliance because of the latter’s busy production schedule. Fairbairn was ultimately passed over in favour of Keith Olsen, another big-name knob-twiddler. It was the first time in a very long time that the band didn’t record with producer Dieter Dierks.

“I tell you one thing,” explains Schenker. “We worked over 10 years with Dieter, and 10 years…I can’t tell you a lot of bands which even exist 10 years. In the beginning we worked with Dieter very well; in the end it was a little pain in the ass because he became a dictator too much. That is not our way of thinking what music is about. We are a live band, and we wanted to do things the easy way in the studio—just plug in and play. But he wanted to control everything, make everything perfect.

“But Keith worked with us. And he knows when he has to push the buttons, when the magic moment is there.”

Although the Scorpions have been touring and releasing albums since 1972, selling more than 15 million of the suckers, the last few years have been particularly eventful for the group. In ’88 they became the first major hard-rock band to perform in the Soviet Union, playing 10 sold-out shows in Leningrad. The band returned to Russia in ’89 as part of the Moscow Music Peace Festival, where they played to another 380,000 fans.

But the biggest deal, as far as Schenker is concerned, was the Scorps’ performance of Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh” for Roger Waters’ enormous staging of The Wall in Berlin last year.

“It was the shortest concert we ever did,” laughs Schenker, “but it was an amazing big show. The stage was so big that Matthias [Jabs, the lead guitarist] was playing in East Berlin and I was playing in West Berlin.

“But the most fun part was that we was driven with a limo on stage. Roger came up and said, ‘What I want is you guys coming with Hell’s Angels escort on stage in a limo.’ And we said, ‘Hey, whoa—that sounds fun!”

As anyone who’s seen the Scorpions live can attest, having fun is the name of their game. “First of all we are a band,” he declares, “a gang. And we like to travel around the world. We’re like five friends playing in front of our friends, and our audience is great. Our basic heart is into live shows, and we just know that we are having fun on stage. And I think that’s the point.”

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