‘Bloody hell indeed!’ agrees former Scorpions drummer Herman Rarebell in agreement with my expression of surprise that he’s sitting in his Munich home snowed in after the last five hours has dumped eight inches of snow on his doorstep. Here in Canberra, as the clock rubs it’s eyes and crawls past six thirty IN THE AM it’s already a balmy twenty four degrees and counting…
The weather (and latterly, COVID) are of course great ways to break the ice conversationally and we cover both but we’re here to kickstart the 2021 season of our enduringly popular series Classics Track-By-Track with a look at the Scorpions’ monstrous 1979 album Lovedrive, and kickstart it we will… are you ready to paarrttyyy? Sentinel Daily?
“You wanted to talk about Lovedrive? It’s one of my favourite albums”.
This is excellent news. What was the mood like in the band as you started the recording process for the album? “I think it was fantastic. At the time, as you know, (guitarist) Michael Schenker had joined the group. He basically came after I’d been in the band for a couple of years – I joined on May 18th 1977 – and played on most of the songs on the album. He wrote a lot of the stuff too. So the feeling was very good. The basic recording was done by myself, Francis (Buchholz, bass) and Rudolf (Schenker, guitars). We put the basic written foundation down. Then Michael might come into the studio, and sit with me and Dieter (Dierks, producer); he’d come in in the morning, drink a few beers and have all his stuff down by four in the afternoon! We had a lot of great stuff on tape. Don’t forget there was no digital recording, only analogue. So if you made a mistake you had to play the whole thing again. No dropping in or dropping out! If you fucked up they had to cut the tape, which meant you might have to wait a few hours, depending on how fast the engineer could do the cut”.
How did (guitarist) Matthias Jabs fit in to all of this, with Michael being in the band at the same time? “Matthias at the time was in a sort of ‘in-and-out’ situation. Michael was in the band, but I think he didn’t think he’d be there for long, because at the back of his mind he had MSG. So Matthias didn’t really know where his future was. But Michael played on the album, and Matthias played lead guitar on some of the album; For instance, on the song I wrote, Another Piece of Meat, Michael played rhythm guitar, with Rudolf, and Michael plays the solo in the middle. On Loving You Sunday Morning, the first solo is Michael, and the second one is Matthias… or maybe it’s the other way round (laughs). Songs like Holiday and Coast To Coast are Michael Schenker completely. So he had a big impact on this album. It’s also the album where I started to write my first lyrics, for Loving You Sunday Morning and Is Anybody There?, and my first music for Another Piece of Meat. So it was typically an album of group effort. Later on when we went on the road to promote the album, Matthias came out on the road with us two or three times; After that he said ‘look, you’ve got to make up your mind, it’s me or Michael’. But Michael took it out of our hands by saying he was going to do MSG; so after that Matthias was the man and he was in the band”.
Thanks for clearing that up. It’s something I’ve often wondered about. “It’s funny, because Michael was the one who introduced me to the Scorpions. We were both Germans living in England and knew each other. He said ‘my brother Rudolf’s band are coming over. They need a drummer and you should audition’!. And then, when he had his big fight with UFO, I said ‘why don’t you come to Germany and join us?’, but he said he would just help us out, which is how the whole thing came together. But I was hoping that Michael would join permanently. Funny again, in 2010 I was living in Brighton, and so was Michael, and we formed Temple of Rock and I played with him for five years. I spoke to him a few days ago on his birthday. Maybe we will play together again. Who knows? I don’t, and neither do you (laughs)”.
Let’s go through the album now. The first track is Loving You Sunday Morning. “With Loving You Sunday Morning as you know I wrote the lyrics with Klaus (Meine, vocals) after Rudolf had come up with the song; As with all the songs it was rehearsed first in a cellar in Hanover – we didn’t have rehearsal studios then – and then taken to Dierks Studios near Cologne. In the mornings I would go in with Dieter and listen to what we had recorded; then around lunchtime the rest of the boys would show up and we would work through together as a band on the basic tracks through to the evening. Sometimes we would turn it around and do overdubs first. The process was the same. In the studio all day long up to midnight!”
Track two – Another Piece of Meat. “My first song to make it on to a Scorpions album, and I’m very happy that it did. It made a big impact in England, it had a big impact on us making it in England and I’m very proud of it to this day. Again, everything was ready on this song when we took it into the studio, except the lead guitar which was put on by Michael. It’s a classic rock song. All the festivals we played it at, especially Reading and Donington in England, it always went down a bomb”.
Was that because it was a bit heavier than some of the material you were more well-known for? “Yes. it was a bit heavier, basically a hard rock/heavy metal song. I remember I wrote the song on the piano using only two fingers! (hums riff enthusiastically, laughing) – I played it to Rudolf like that and said ‘can you do that on guitar?’ he said ‘yeah’ and that’s where it started! But at that time I think we really were a hard rock or heavy rock band. It’s where we came from. Later with Still Loving You or Wind of Change, many more women started coming to our shows because of the ballads, but we are still a heavy rock band”.
Next track is Always Somewhere. “This is what I mean – this was where the Scorpions had their strength. Great ballads, which were more or less Klaus’ repertoire; his voice is perfect for ballads. And he wrote all the lyrics for the ballads himself because he could express himself wonderfully. Always Somewhere was basically written for his wife – ‘I’m always on the road, but I miss you’, you know? On this song Rudolf played the lead guitar solo”.
It’s probably my favourite solo on the album. ‘A wonderful solo, full of feeling. Michael can play like that but he also has the technique to play the fast stuff, which is where he has the advantage, I think. I played with the guys so I know what I’m talking about! Both guys are great players. With the ballads, Rudolf knows exactly how to express himself. He has wonderful feeling as a musician”.
Even though it’s balladic you still have those big powerchords to keep the rock fans interested. “Yes, exactly. It’s very important that people have their feelings aroused by the music. Your job as a musician is to transport the feeling to somebody else’s soul, or their heart. And in the ballads it’s important to transport those feelings”.
Lastly on side one we have Coast To Coast. “This is a typical Michael Schenker track; the guitar solo, the melody, most of what is on that song came from Michael”.
When you listen to it you can see where he was going to go with MSG I think. “Of course. Wonderful melodies. He is a wonderful creator of this kind of music. When I played the drums on it I could feel the heaviness, how the song moved… every time I played with Michael I feel like I play with another groove machine! It feels so good. Because he can feel the movement”.
Side two started with Can’t Get Enough. “For me always one of my favourite live songs. Pure energy, and it always went down well. It went down very well at the US festival… Almost punk, really, isn’t it? A really fast song, which as a drummer I loved playing every night”.
It’s a big contrast to Is There Anybody There?, which comes next. A complete change-up in style! “In those days I listened a lot to the Eagles. I remember always loving the beat in Hotel California. When we were writing the songs we wanted to experiment with a bit of a reggae beat; I was heavily into reggae, or anything in that direction, so it was great for me as a player to work on that song. But the influence for that song mainly came from the Eagles. Matthias Jabs plays the solo on that one”.
When you sat back after recording the album and listened through – that song still stands out from the pack today, stylistically, doesn’t it? Were you worried that rock fans would reject the reggae feel of it? “Not really. I was hoping the song would make it to radio because it had a great melody and a simple beat that was simple for people to catch. But personally I was very happy that we’d got a heavy metal version of reggae onto an album!”
And it works! “Well, it did get a very good reception at the time, again especially with the female fans”.
And within the context of the album it breaks up two of the heavier tracks quite nicely. “Yes”.
And the second of those heavier tunes is the penultimate track, the title track. What can you tell us about that? “Lovedrive is another of the tracks heavily influenced by Michael Schenker. Especially the beat, which you can hear in UFO’s Lights Out. So again it is typical Michael Schenker. Personally I love this kind of song, as it’s great for me to play as a drummer. Lovedrive as a title is a composite word that was Klaus’ brainchild, but the musical part mostly comes from Michael in association with his brother. I remember when we recorded it, we did several takes with Michael; you can hear him all over the song”.
You say you had a good system for recording, the basis of which was obviously being well-rehearsed. ‘Absolutely, you don’t have time to waste rehearsing in the studio. We spent the most time in the studio over Is There Anybody There? because the style of the song was very new to us. Songs like Lovedrive and Another Piece of Meat came more naturally”.
Was Dieter a hard taskmaster in the studio? “Oh yes! Dieter was, for me, a very tough producer to work with. He made me play to a click track – and this is the late seventies, remember, when very few people used them. I wanted to play freely but he wouldn’t let me, saying I had to play exactly because that made it easier to work in the overdubs. He made we work very hard as a drummer. I couldn’t afford to make many mistakes, because if I did it meant I had to play the whole song again from the beginning. No dropping in and out like they do now. It’s a piece of cake now!”
The last song on the album is Holiday. “The guitar melodies on there again make this a wonderful Michael Schenker ballad; And then Klaus’ vocal melodies on top. Wonderful. The basic composition came from Michael and Rudolf but again you can hear Michael all over it. When we toured with Temple of Rock this was our final encore every night and it went down a bomb everywhere, all over the world. Doogie White sang it fantastically”.
And that’s over thirty years after it was recorded! When you were writing and recording the album, were you aware that it was a record people would still delight in listening to so many years afterwards? “When I saw the reaction at Leber-Krebs, our management company in America, yes. They wanted to take us to America, suddenly everybody was interested in us. I said to myself ‘yes, they are now taking us seriously’. So I had a very good feeling about the album; the reaction was great in England, both for heavy metal tracks like Another Piece of Meat and ballads like Holiday. It went gold immediately in the US!”
You say it’s one of your favourite Scorpions albums. “Yes, because it really rocks; you can feel the emotion and the energy on the album, you can feel a band on the album that really wanted to make it”.
Although the production is good there is definitely a feeling of rawness, of hunger about it. “Exactly. ‘This is the Scorpions give us a listen!’. This IS the Scorpions that you can hear! I’m still sad that Michael decided not to be part of it with us. We talked about it many times during the Temple of Rock years. He said ‘I had to go my own way because I would never have been able to transfer my musicality to The Scorpions. And he’s right”.
On the whole do you look back fondly at that time in the band’s history” Yes, there was so much creativity from a musical point of view. I never thought we reached those heights again. It’s always important that you have the right combination of drummer and guitar player. Look at Led Zeppelin; John Bonham didn’t play with (bassist) John Paul Jones, he played with Jimmy Page. And that’s what I did with Michael – he created melodies I could play along to, do you know what I mean? All my life I’ve only got that feeling from playing with Michael – not from Uli (Jon Roth, former Scorpions guitarist), not with anybody else”.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We like to keep the video accompaniments to these pieces as broadly contemporaneous to the time that the album was released. However no video footage could be found of Michael Schenker playing material from Lovedrive with the Scorpions in 1979 (there are a couple of full-length audio bootlegs on Youtube, however), so here’s some bonus footage of Schenker, Rarebell and Buchholz rehearsing Lovedrive in 2011 for your delectation…