Klaus Meine has been the singer with Scorpions since the early 1970s. He’s written hundreds of songs and played literally thousands of shows all around the world. Even so, there are times when he can still be amazed by the impact his songs can have on a crowd. 1991’s monster hit ‘Wind of Change’ still resonates with audiences even now.
“It’s amazing after so many years – it’s almost thirty years after the Berlin Wall came down at the end of the Cold War, but this song remains a special song,” he says in his friendly, heavily accented manner, “like a peace anthem for so many people. Expressing hope, hope for a more peaceful world.”
“A couple of days ago in Mexico… you check it out on YouTube and the way the fans, the audience, is singing that song… I sing it too, but you cannot hear me because that’s how loud the fans are singing it!”
Originally formed in the German city of Hannover by guitarist Rudolf Schenker in 1965, Scorpions have gone on to become one of the biggest-selling bands of all time. Following a series of jazz- and blues-inflected hard rock albums in the early 70s that began with Lonesome Crow, also featuring Rudolf’s brother Michael who was soon absorbed into British group UFO, Scorpions established their signature metal sound on 1979’s Lovedrive. That album, featuring contributions from both the younger Schenker and rising talent Matthias Jabs, set up the German quintet for a decade and a half of massive worldwide adulation.
“That was definitely a very special album,” Meine says of it now. “Michael Schenker came back for a moment, from UFO, and added a few very exciting compositions and the collaborating with Michael again was just great. Then Matthias Jabs established himself being the lead guitarist for the band… the tensions in the studio around that album it had to create something very special.”
He looks back on that period of Scorpions with evident and obvious fondness. Between 1979 and 1993, his band would remain arena superstars throughout the Northern Hemisphere, winning multi-platinum sales figures for their next five albums.
“Tokyo Tapes was also a door opener in many ways, but Lovedrive had tracks like ‘Love You Sunday Morning’, also ‘Holiday’ on the balance side was just a wonderful song. I remember at the time we played Great Britain with all those heavy metal fans and we said, ‘OK, tonight we’ll play ‘Holiday’ with acoustic guitar’ and the promoter went, ‘No no, you can’t do that! Look at the audience. They’ll tear you apart!’” he recalls with a laugh. “But we did. In places like Sheffield in England – those kids with the denim jackets, those heavy metal kids, they went totally crazy about this song! So Lovedrive was a big breakthrough in many ways and it just put the band on the next level.”
Between the release of Lovedrive and 1984’s Love at First Sting and its iconic hit ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’, Scorpions toured “everywhere! Except Australia,” Meine observes wryly. In the former Soviet Union, especially, they became well established after becoming only the second non-US band to tour there. Their first live album, Tokyo Tapes, was a tribute to their rabid following in Japan, and in North America and Europe they were superstars. Yet in Australia they were barely above cult band status until 1991, when ‘Wind of Change’ sold over 50,000 copies here. Even with that success, it took another 25 years before Scorpions would visit Australia for the first time, doing a one-off show at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne two years ago.
“The gig in Melbourne in 2016 was just wonderful and the Australian fans were just amazing,” says Meine, “and we got a feeling that we gotta come back. This opportunity came up with Def Leppard and it’s a great chance to introduce ourselves in big arenas and big audiences.”
A band as huge as Scorpions should really need no introduction after such a long career, yet Meine understands that their upcoming tour package is probably the best way for them to open the door to possible future visits.
“We haven’t done a special guest slot for so long, I can’t remember. It’s been so many years. This goes back probably to the 80s. The fact that we’re with Def Leppard, we said we would do it. Maybe a lot of people can’t understand – Come on Scorpions, you’re a headliner yourselves! But this just really shows how much we want to come and play Australia, and play the big arenas instead of a theatre as a headliner. This is just a first step and hopefully there’s still enough gas in the tank to come back and rock Australia as a headliner.”
He eagerly points out that it’s not really that uncommon for really well-known bands to go out as special guests on tours, even if it’s not something Scorpions have done in a long time. In the end, he says, coming down with Def Leppard makes for a “hot ticket”, a real bonus for fans as they’ll get to see two great bands together and give Scorpions the chance to show Australia their legendary live show.
“It’s going to be a really powerful gig,” he promises. “It’s going to be exciting doing a special guest slot after so long and it’s always good to go out and win over the fans and prove that you really are the hot shit. You gotta prove it every night, whether you’re the special guest or the headliner. I heard The Who were just special guests to Guns N Roses in Latin America a few years ago simply for the fact that The Who had never toured there. They’d never played Brazil or any of those places, so they just said, ‘OK, let’s give it a shot’ and they supported Guns N Roses. So I think that’s the way it is. Deep Purple were just special guests on this festival in Mexico a couple of weeks ago.”
“It’s a great package for the fans,” he says, “and that’s all that matters.”