45 Years Ago: Scorpions Release Their Debut Album, ‘Lonesome Crow’
Germany’s Scorpions have been rocking like a hurricane for so long now, there are actually legions of fans who know them only by their hit ’80s albums. Even the ones who know a song or two from the band’s late-’70s records would find the Scorpions who debuted with 1972’s Lonesome Crow LP virtually unrecognizable.
That’s understandable, because from a personnel perspective, only singer Klaus Meine and rhythm guitarist Rudolf Schenker remain from those early days. Lead guitarist Michael Schenker was making his first and last appearance as a permanent Scorpions member (he soon left for UFO and later guested on 1979’s Lovedrive), as were bassist Lothar Heimberg (replaced by Francis Buchholz for the sophomore Fly to the Rainbow) and drummer Wolfgang Dziony.
Formed by the elder Schenker in 1965 (hence the band’s premature-feeling, but technically accurate, 50th anniversary tour in 2015), Scorpions really started taking shape five years later, as Rudolf told Noisey, “Everything was really a little amateur status until I fond Klaus in 1969. In Klaus I found someone who had the same dreams as me. And we started writing songs.”
Fast-forward another couple years and Schenker’s fledgling outfit was asked to record some music for an anti-drug movie called Das Kalte Paradies, which translates as “The Cold Paradise.” Once again speaking to Noisey, the guitarist explained, “I ran into [producer] Conny Plank (who’d later work with Kraftwerk on their classic 1974 album Autobahn), at a studio I’d booked [and] he said ‘Hey guys, I want to produce you.’ That was the beginning.”
But as the results of their labors would soon show, the brash young band had no interest in hopping aboard the Krautrock bandwagon (notwithstanding a little Can-like exotic percussion here and there) because the younger Schenker was soon unleashing all of his precocious guitar talent into moody, hard rocking numbers like “I’m Goin’ Mad,” “It All Depends,” “Leave Me” and “Inheritance.”
Even the partly acoustic ballad “In Search of the Peace of Mind” found no such thing and descended, instead, into somber vibes, later reemerging in truncated form in the Scorpions’ set lists as late as 1978, and again in the late ’90s — the only Lonesome Crow song to enjoy such a long afterlife.
Not until the album’s final 15 minutes did Scorpions succumb to broader experimentation, by way of the jazzy “Action” and the album’s epic title track, where they clearly assembled all of their musical remnants into a musical Frankenstein’s monster that was alternately beautiful and terrifying, but always imposing.
As history now shows, Scorpions would face some major changes with Michael’s imminent defection, and returned significantly changed — both musically and personally — for 1974’s sophomore Fly to the Rainbow, featuring Uli Jon Roth.
It was this LP that marked the true birth of the group’s signature sound, and it made Lonesome Crow look like an odd curiosity from another era, almost another band, but one that has become ever more fascinating to Scorpions completists as years go by.
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