Opening 26 Mar 2015
Katja von Garnier
Perhaps you have never heard of the heavy metal rock group, The Scorpions, in which case I feel sorry that you have been living in a deep cave for the last 50 years. This famous German band overcame every local prejudice to become internationally famous around the world, much to the surprise of everyone including the founders themselves. Rudolf Schenker started a band in Sarstedt near Hildesheim, Germany, in 1965. He invited Klaus Meine to be the singer. In 1978 Mattias Jabs took over lead guitar. They were willing to play “anywhere that there was an electric socket,” and the rest, as they say, is history. They toured North and South America, Europe, Russia, and Asia, always singing in English. Their own country, Germany, was the last to wake up and hear the accolades, by which time nobody cared what Germany thought.
The present band is composed of Meine, Schenker, Jabs and James Kottak (drums) and Pawel Maciwoda (bass). They have sold 100 million recordings, appeared before 325,000 fans in California (a scene which opens the film), saw their most famous song “Wind of Change” hit the charts in 78 countries, and were honored guests of Michail Gorbatschow. Director Katja von Garnier accompanied them for three and a half years on their “final” world tour which began in 2010. She presents unknown archives from the first years and interviews band members and other people in the field of music. The American drummer Kottak joined the group in 1996 and fits in perfectly, although his German is practically non-existent. Meiner and Schenker, both born in 1948, are pushing 70, but the only hint of old-age is the obligatory cap. Rock stars definitely cannot show baldness, e.g., musician Udo Lindenberg’s hat is his identifying characteristic.
The film efficiently and expertly follows this long career. Unless you are familiar with the story, it takes a while to place each character in the right slot, but it’s the music that counts. The musicians seem like such normal nice guys. As one commentator says, “A heart beats under the macho leather jacket.” There is none of this inner conflict which tears a band apart. The so-called final concert is not about to end. You can see The Scorpions live in Hamburg on March 21, 2016 at the 02-World stadium, if you can still get a ticket. Until then: see the film and look for their new album called Scorpions: Return to Forever. (Becky Tan)