In music, as in life, things end. Bands split up, people pass away, movements come and go. It’s an inevitable thing we all have to reckon with in both music fandom and in our lives.
Except the Scorpions. They don’t go away. The German rock and metal juggernaut is due to release a new album soon. I figured today I’d look back at one of my favorites from their prime. It’s not an album most anyone versed in rock needs an introduction to but sometimes it’s nice to pull out the favorites and get back into them.
Scorpions – Blackout
Released March 29, 1982 via Mercury Records (U.S.)
My Favorite Tracks – Blackout, No One Like You, Dynamite
The band had a major issue while recording Blackout – singer Klaus Meine had surgery on his vocal chords. Such an issue brought forth the risk of Klaus being unable to sing again. While Meine recovered the Scorpions brought in Don Dokken to record guide vocals for their songs. Meine did make a full recovery and was able to track the album.
The album leads with the title track. The song is an absolutely blistering attack with some splendid guitar work from Rudolph Schenker and Matthias Jabs. Klaus Meine lets his voice rip at the end and ensure everyone that he his indeed recovered from vocal surgery. Blackout is a highlight from across the entire Scorpions catalog and certainly one my favorite bangers of theirs.
Can’t Live Without You
Another quick rocker that gets the job done magnificently and is one of the Scorpions’ many, many offerings to pontificate on the subject of love and romance. The song has an old school rock feel but also maintains the frenetic pace established by the title track. The band is totally on fire on this record and out to make their mark on rock and metal world wide, a feat they would certainly accomplish.
No One Like You
This song was the lead single for the album, at least for everywhere except Japan. It became the big hit from the album and is one of the band’s most recognized songs to this day. It would hit number 1 on Billboard’s Rock chart and is a staple of the band’s concert sets as well as their many greatest hits compilations.
The verses chill things out a bit and bring in that signature Scorpions ballad vibe, but then the chorus amps it all back up and rocks out, in line with tone established for this album. It’s easy to see why this song caught on in the early ’80’s, it is a prime specimen of hard rock greatness.
One bit of trivia about this song – this is my girlfriend and I’s “song.” No real huge story on how that came about – when we first got together way back when it was still somewhat customary to assign songs as ringtones and this is the one I set for her. That’s really all there is to it.
You Give Me All I Need
This song breaks more into power ballad territory, the area which this band excels at and have few peers. It is a very straightforward track that keeps the Blackout ball rolling. The chorus picks up the intensity again and has that driving hard rock the band would exemplify through their career.
Now was released in Japan as a single but kept as an album cut in the rest of the world. The song ups the ante for tempo and even goes beyond the pace set earlier by the title track. It is, very simply stated, time to rock out. Nothing much more needs to be said.
Blackout’s second side kicks off with another barn burner of a track. This song goes for the throat with a full on heavy metal assault. In a moment of lyrical diversity for the band, Dynamite is about kicking ass and hooking up. It did take both the singer and drummer writing words to come up with that. But the song is a spectacular cut from the record that keeps cranking out the hits.
The pace chills just a bit for this rocker about, wait for it – getting with someone. It makes me wonder if there really was some story from Arizona that happened to inspire the song, or if the group simply wrote the tune and thought that Arizona was a cool song title. Musically the song keeps everything going just fine, total hard rock and guitar work.
The Scorpions have a long history of offering multiple versions of albums. This sends collectors scouring record bins and puts budgets into fits. While normally the issue is controversial cover art, China White offers a different kind of chase for multiple versions. Rudolph Schenker could not decide which solo take he liked the best so the U.S. and European versions of the album have two different solos. This is one I haven’t hunted down yet as I only have the U.S. version so I can’t speak too much to the contrast.
The song turns the beat down a bit but still slams with the same rock intensity found throughout the rest of the record. The music’s downright nasty tone belies the anti-war subject matter. Though it still very much sounds like Scorpions, they were definitely flirting with doom metal on this song. The curveball is very welcome and it’s not hard to find people who cite this as their favorite tune from the record.
When The Smoke Is Going Down
As a later hits compilation would attest, the Scorpions are a band of rockers and ballads. Blackout concludes on one of the latter and a fantastic example thereof. The guitars are just beautiful on this and Klaus evokes some haunting vocals that aren’t even about anything melancholy. While I’m not really in any position to rank their ballads right now I would certainly have to consider this one of their top efforts.
The Scorpions scored a complete triumph with Blackout. The album sold well across the world and carried forward the momentum they’d gained from their prior two efforts. The band were poised to break world wide and would do so through the rest of the 1980’s. I’m nowhere near ready to begin the massive task of ranking each Scorpions record but I do know that Blackout is one of my favorites and will see a place toward the top when that time comes.