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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOU, A TALE OF TWIN GUITARS

DISCLAIMER: The following is based on heresay and conjecture, and has been slightly fictionalized for your reading pleasue. I, in fact, was not there.

Upon mentioning the Scorpions, most Americans think of such songs as ‘No One Like You’, ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’, and ‘Winds Of Change’, and undoubtedly these are the hits they are known for worldwide, but the history of this German band dates way back before the glory days of the mid-eighties. In fact, our story begins in Hamburg circa 1964, when Rudolph Schenker changed the name of his band from ‘Nameless’ (The Regulars?) to the Scorpions. Because Rudolph had a job after school, he paid his little brother Michael a few pfennings to learn popular songs of the day, which he would then show to Rudy who could then teach them to his band. What Rudy didn’t know, at first, was that little Michael was a born musical genius. At first Rudy refused to let Michael play with the band, he was after all ten years old, and who wants to be upstaged by their ten year old little brother? By 1971, however, Rudy realized that what he needed to get his band out of the clubs in Hamburg was a whiz guitar player, and so he relented, and Michael became a Scorpion. That year they got the chance to record a movie soundtrack, which in turn became their first album, ‘Lonesome Crow’. Then the band broke up. The rhythm section got drafted, and Michael was lured away from his brother by a British rock outfit called UFO. Rudy is no quitter, however, and soon enough he and vocalist Klaus Meine had replaced Michael with Ulrich Roth, and hired a new rhythm section. While Michael was accumulating acclaim in UFO, recording such classic albums as ‘Phenomenon’ (1974), ‘Force It’ (1975), ‘No Heavy Petting’ (1976), ‘Lights Out’ (1977), and ‘Obsession’ (1978), he was also gaining a reputation as an alcoholic and a drug abuser, and he frequently disappeared during tours and recording dates. In 1975, Rudy got a phone call from Mick Jagger, the Stones were auditioning Mick Taylor’s replacement in Holland (while recording ‘Black And Blue’), and he was looking for Michael. Rudy hung up on him, a decision that just might have saved Michael’s life. Rudy was not going to send Michael into the wolf’s den. In hindsight it appears that most of Michael’s bad behavior was due to the fact that he hated UFO vocalist Phil Mogg, and since his English was practically non-existent, his only outlet seemed to be getting wasted, or splitting the scene. Meantime, in the Scorpions camp, things were going well. Ulrich Roth was certainly no slouch, and his hendrixian style provided the exotic touch to the Scorpions vinyl output during the seventies. Between 1974 and 1978, the Scorpions released four studio records (Fly To The Rainbow, In Trance, Virgin Killer, and Taken By Force) as well as a live album (Tokyo Tapes), and toured endlessly around Europe, the US, and Japan. Success in the US, however, eluded them. Rudy and Klaus wanted to streamline their songwriting, making it more accessible to the US, Ulrich wanted to explore further the direction he had been pursuing, far out space jams. An amicable parting of ways was achieved, and before Ulrich left to form Electric Sun, he even had a hand in finding his replacement, Matthias Jabs. Recording for their 1979 release, ‘Lovedrive’ had barely begun, when Rudy got another phone call. It was Michael. He had left UFO again, and for good. He was strung out, broke, a mess; could he please come home now? Poor Matthias was put on hold, while Michael came in, finished the record, and briefly toured. Chrysalis records, however, had paper on him still, and so Michael gave Matthias his gig back, and went on to form MSG (Michael Schenker Group) in 1980. The Scorpions would go on to conquer the world. UFO in losing Michael lost steam, and by the mid-eighties they fell apart amid squabbles and drug dependency. Michael had more acclaim than success doing the MSG thing, and during the nineties he would be lured back into the UFO fold. They recorded some marginal records, and did some successful touring, banking upon Michael’s cult status as a guitar player. In the end, he resumed his old habit of walking off mid-set, blaming Mogg for not being sober, and it seems that his tenure with that band is now officially over. Rudy and Michael are still close, and they both still sport their trademark white and black ‘mirrored’ Gibson Flying V’s.

Comments:
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