ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 22, 1988
By Steve Newton
It’s being billed as Van Halen’s Monsters of Rock. Fine and dandy. But if it weren’t for “special guests” Scorpions, the five-band rock show that hits Seattle this Wednesday (July 27) wouldn’t be nearly as monstrous. With such mediocre acts as Dokken and Zep-clones Kingdom Come on the bill, you need a real band like the Scorps to show them who’s boss.
There’s even the possibility that Germany’s top hard-rock band will blow Eddie and the boys off stage. I passed that thought on to lead singer Klaus Meine when he called the Georgia Straight from Minneapolis last week.
“That’s what we’re doing every night anyway!” clamours Klaus. “I mean, that’s what all the bands are doing. If there’s competition or not, I think that’s what we’re all doing–we’re blowing each other off the stage. But with a great big smiiile.”
Meine and his bandmates have good reason to be grinning these days. Their latest album, Savage Amusement, has eclipsed the platinum mark in both Canada and the U.S. after only a few months. And the 29-date Monsters tour is the perfect vehicle to push sales of the record right over the top. Klaus says they’re enjoying the tour too.
“Most of the time the bands stay in the same hotels, and we hang out and party together. We have a good time. And that’s the best thing about this tour anyway–that the bands all get along very well. It’s a pretty much relaxed atmosphere backstage. And, I mean, the kids can feel it–they get a lot of rock ‘n’ roll for their money.”
No doubt. Still, there has been a lot of talk in the music industry press about how the Monsters of Rock hasn’t been attracting the huge audiences originally expected, and how some promoters have lost their shirts in a few cities. Klaus agrees that there have been problems filling some of the stadiums along the way.
“It’s true, for whatever reason. Some places are more weak, some places are stronger. But what can you say? We don’t’ care about it too much. For us it’s just the appetizer anyway for our headline tour to come. We’re having dinner later.”
The Scorpions start their own tour in Tucson, Arizona when the Monsters gig is over, and Klaus says chances are good they’ll be making it up to Canada later this year (keep your fingers crossed). Local Scorps fans will surely be ready for them, since it’s been four long years since their last tour, in support of the ’84 release Love at First Sting. So what took them so long to get their next studio album in the racks?
“We checked out the beaches in the world,” says Klaus. “No, not really. But after touring the world with Love at First Sting for 15 months or something, it was time to reload the batteries. Then we did some big outdoor festivals in the fall of ’85 in [North] America, and in ’86 we were headlining the Monsters of Rock all over Europe with such a great package as Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Ozzy Osbourne on the bill. So…the world is big! There were many places we went to and a lot of things we did in the meantime. And in between we were writing these songs. We went in the studio in the fall of ’86, and spent most of last year in there as well.
“So it has been a long time, but because we’re not in the heavy metal Olympics, we really made sure that our homework was done right. It’s only fun to tour the world with a very strong album in the bank you know, and that’s what we did. It took a very long time to make, compared with the first album we did back in ’71, which we did in one week, including the mix. But what can I say? Times have changed!”
They sure have. And bands have come and gone. But not the Scorps. And neither have their intense, melodic tunes. The new album is far from being a concept album, but it does have one underlying theme, as evidenced by such titles as “Love On the Run”, “Believe in Love”, and “Rhythm of Love”.
“We’re much more into love than into hate,” says Klaus. “We’re one of those bands. We don’t go onstage and go [screams] “Destroy yourself! Gonna kill yaaaa!” I mean, we’re much more on the up side of life, on the positive side. We prefer to write about love and have a beautiful girl on the cover instead of an ugly guy.”
Sounds okay to me. I’ll take tunes about enjoying life over the doom-and-gloom stuff any day. And so, it seems, will rock fans in Russia, where last April the band played 10 sold-out shows before 15,000 people a night. The German rockers invaded Leningrad and, according to Klaus, took no prisoners at all.
“At some point it was like Beatlemania. When we made our way back from the venue to the hotel after the shows there were kids lined up outside on the street. It was snowing, it was very cold, and they wouldn’t let us through–they wanted to have t-shirts and programs and all kinds of stuff, and when we stopped they were dancing on the top of the car. There were kids all around, and we had no chance to move, and we gave them everything, and in the end we had to call the KGB to get us out of there.”
The Scorpions were one of the first major rock bands to ever play inside Russia. Billy Joel beat them to it, of course, but as Klaus correctly points out, that doesn’t count for much. Joel’s flag-waving patriotism was shunned in favour of the Scorps’ cranked up guitars–and guess which one is more effective.
The Scorps even invited their back-up band from Moscow, a group called Gorky Park, to join them onstage for the last show. “It was like the first time in history that a German and Russian band hit the stage and played some rock ‘n’ roll tunes together–like ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and stuff.
“Everything you can read in the papers and hear on the news about glasnost–when you’re there, you can feel it. A lot is changing, you know I mean they are so hungry for the music. They are ready for rock ‘n’ roll.”