“Take Off to European Rock”: German rockers Scorpions will “Rock You Like a Hurricane”

By on June 22, 2017

Night Flight’s “Take Off to European Rock” — which originally aired on April 14, 1984 — featured the David Mallet-directed video for the Scorpions’ signature hit, the anthemic “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” which along with a previous #1 chart-topper, “No One Like You,” unquestionably helped to make the band international rock superstars during in the 1980s and beyond. You can watch it over on Night Flight Plus.

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At the time the video was released, some of the members of the band had already been playing together for more than two decades, originally forming back in 1964 (some sources claim 1965) as a beat band in Hanover, Germany.

Their rhythm guitarist and original lead singer Rudolf Schenker has joked that he first wanted to name their band “Nameless,” but he’s also said he chose the name Scorpions because he wanted a name that had a “sting” to it, which seems more probable.

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We were hoping to learn that their name came from the King James version of the New Testament — specifically Revelation 9:3 “And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power” — but that doesn’t seem to have been the case, unfortunately.

Scorpions of the Earth would have made a pretty good album title though, no?

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Right from the start, their name did not include the article “The” at the beginning, but like just about every band who has attempted to go without a “The” in their name, preceding a noun, they officially became The Scorpions sometime in the 1970s.

That same decade they released an impressive spate of guitar-dominated metal rock records.

At first, the band’s original lineup were influence by British Invasion bands and psychedelic combos, and they knocked about for many years playing in this mode at local teen dances and parties until getting more serious in 1969, when Rudolf’s 15-year old younger brother Michael Schenker joined the band on lead guitar, and lead vocalist Klaus Meine became the band’s permanent singer.

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Michael Schenker had originally played guitar on the band’s 1972 debut, Lonesome Crow, which was used as the soundtrack to the German film Das Kalte Paradies.

However,  towards the end of the tour promoting the album, the band they were opening for — an up-and-coming British heavy metal outfit called UFO — asked him to become their lead guitarist. Schenker felt they were a better fit for him, musically, so he accepted their offer.

In 1973, Uli Jon Roth — a friend of the Schenker brothers who had his own band, Dawn Road, a band who were just beginning to take off — had originally turned down the opportunity to join as the Scorpions’ new lead guitarist to replace Michael Schenker, and instead he invited the Schenkers to join his band, which they did.

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Roth also managed to get Klaus Meine to become Dawn Road’s lead vocalist.

Before long, that band were dropping their name and going by Scorpions again, in an attempt to capitalize on the recognition the name carried as they were already well known in Hanover at the time.

Rudolf Schenker had joined his friend Uli, but Michael had decided to stay with UFO, remaining with the band from 1973 to 1978 before eventually leaving due to issues that arose from alcohol and substance abuse issues that were driving a wedge in the band.

Throughout the 1970s, Scorpions — ultimately their classic lineup featured Klaus Meine (vocals), Rudolf Schenker (guitar), Matthias Jabs (guitar), Francis Buchholz (bass), and Herman Rarebell (drums, replaced by James Kottak) — and their label, RCA Records, released a number of solid heavy rock albums, including Fly to the Rainbow (1974), In Trance (1975), Virgin Killer (1976) and Taken by Force (1977).

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Virgin Killer ended up causing some criticism and requiring new cover art in some countries, do to the fact that the cover photo featured a nude prepubescent teen girl, including the U.S. (import sales of the German import, however, remained steady, and most good record stores stocked it right along with the U.S. version).

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Virgin Killer (U.S. cover)

Scorpions changed labels, swapping RCA for Mercury Records, just in time to record their next album.

Michael Schenker briefly rejoined the band too (shortly after being evicted from UFO for his alcohol abuse problems), and he played on some guitar parts of their Lovedrive album, which introduced a new, more formulaic hard rock and mellow power ballad mix which helped increase their global reach and brought new fans to the band’s concerts.

The Lovedrive album peaked at #55 on the U.S. album charts, but American audiences were finally began to catch up with the band, who, by that point, had been together more than a decade.

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Michael Schenker didn’t stay with Scorpions very long, though, and guitarist Matthias Jabs became his permanent replacement in April 1979, during their tour of France.

Schenker ended up forming his own band, MSG — for Michael Schenker Group (sometimes McAuley Schenker Group) — who are still active to this day.

Scorpions’ 1980 album, Animal Magnetism — which featured some of the band’s fan favorites, like “The Zoo” and “Make It Real” — was a critical disappointment, particularly when compared with Lovedrive, but it still managed to find a home FM rock radio stations who were beginning to add several of the band’s songs to their regular rotation.

By the time 1982’s Blackout was released, the Scorpions were finally poised to be the dominant rock band they’d been intending to be all along.  The album quickly became their best-selling LP to date, eventually going platinum and spawning three hit singles: “Dynamite,” “Blackout” and “No One Like You.”

Early in MTV’s history the burgeoning new network added the band’s video for “No One Like You” to their heavy rotation, sometime in 1982, although there are some who make the claim that the video was played on MTV simply because so few videos were available at the time.

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Nevertheless, its success paved the way for their highly-anticipated next album, 1984’s Love at First Sting, which proved to be so massive that the Scorpions went from being a huge arena rock band selling lots of concert tickets to headlining mega-stadium rockers that were probably the decade’s biggest commercial rock act.

The album sold two million copies in 1984 alone.

The video for “Rock You Like a Hurricane” — one of hard rock’s perfect sing-along anthems, practically dripping with machismo attitude and overt sexuality — certainly helped to continue to foster the idea that the band were becoming, if not already, a worldwide phenomenon.

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The video, however, was considered somewhat outrageous at the time, considering that it featured a leopard, a black panther, and partially clad women with a red-painted band over their eyes who apparently were frothing like rabid dogs whilst trying to break through the prison cell bars in order to have their way sexually with a bunch of 40-year old balding German dudes.

The video was directed by none other than David Mallet, who — as we recently told you in our post about Billy Idol’s Video Profile — was one of the most popular video directors during the MTV era, working with Queen (“Radio GaGa,” “I Want to Break Free”), David Bowie (“Ashes to Ashes,” “Let’s Dance,” “Dancing In the Street” w/ Mick Jagger); AC/DC (“You Shook Me all Night Long,” “Thunderstruck”); Deff Leppard (“Photograph”); Joan Jett, the Boomtown Rats and many, many more.

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Mallet thought the Scorpions were, in his words, very funny,” and we’d like to think that he thought the idea of balding 40-year German rockers in a makeshift cage being rocked back and forth by a bunch of half-naked women with red eye paint was his idea.

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According to an interview with Rudolph Schenker that appears in Rob Tannenbaum’s and Craig Marks’ I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, the band’s selection of Mallet was based on seeing Billy Idol’s videos on MTV:

“When we were on tour in America, I was watching MTV every day to see who was the right director. We were very careful about choosing. Billy Idol, who is the guy directing him? Oh, David Mallet, he’s great. David saw us live and was smart enough to get the essence of the Scorpions into ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane.’ He said, ‘Don’t be serious, let’s get crazy.’ That video is about attitude, craziness, and sexuality. That’s how we survived into the video generation.”

The video, however, was singled out by Tipper Gore (Vice President Al Gore’s wife) as one of the reasons she decided to co-found the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) in 1985.

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Gore and her group — all four co-founders were wives of powerful political men, which is why they became known as the “Washington Wives” — felt that the music industry and videos in particular had simply gone too far, and since the videos were getting constant airplay on the free MTV cable channel, at times when impressionable young kids were likely to be watching, they felt that the industry needed to be held responsible.

There were congressional hearings, and although many recording artists (including Frank Zappa) testified against the use of any labels on their material, citing their rights to freedom of speech and no censorship, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) were successful in persuading record companies to voluntarily place warning labels on any of their releases which contained sexually explicit or violent lyrics or images, or which were suggestive of drug use.

They continue to do so to this day.

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MTV continued to air “Rock You Like a Hurricane” — in addition to videos for “Bad Boys Running Wild,” “Big City Nights,” and the power ballad “Still Loving You” — which greatly contributing to the album’s incredible success. They continued on into the 1990s having even more hits.

On January 24, 2010, after forty-five years of near-constant performing, Scorpions announced that they would be retiring after touring in support of their then-latest album, Sting In The Tail.

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However, after enjoying the tour, they decided to continue and new songs were written and new albums have released.

To date, the band sold over 100 million albums worldwide (other sources have said album sales are closer to 150 million).

Check out our original 1984 episode “Take Off to European Rock” and, if you’re a fan of Scorpions, be sure to check out our previous post on Scorpions: Forever and a Day , which chronicles the band’s 2011-2012 Final Sting tour, the band’s so-called farewell tour. They’re both streaming over on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.