What’s wrong with this picture: the Scorpions and Alice Cooper co-headlining a national tour and packing amphitheaters across the country.
Isn’t this 1996?
Shouldn’t the current musical climate have driven grizzled mainstream metal bands like these into extinction?
Yes, but that’s not deterring either the Scorpions or Cooper from touring the U.S., a country where both acts - Cooper in the 1970s and the Scorpions in the ‘70s and 1980s - were furiously popular. Both acts play The Gorge Amphitheater on Saturday.
“It’s a natural movement, especially now with MTV,” explains Scorpions guitarist Rudolph Schenker in a phone interview from San Diego last week. “They’re doing the same thing the English press did in the ‘70s and ‘80s in England. They’re trying to find trends and trying to build them up and blow them up.
“We know that trends come and go and things are going to be OK,” he says with a thick German accent.
Schenker should know. The Scorpions, born in 1968 in Germany, have watched the face of music change continually over 28 years. They were struggling in bars during the tail end of psychedelia and the British Invasion. They survived folk. The band was signed in 1974 and released its first record when heavy metal was a baby. The group continued to gain momentum in the 1970s even with America shaking its booty to disco. They out-lasted the punk movement in 1977 and 1978. At heavy metal’s peak - the late ‘70s and ‘80s - the band, too, reached its pinnacle and stayed there for about a decade. So don’t bet on pesky alternative rock (as if that means anything anymore) and its throngs of generic bands (young enough to be the Scorpion’s and Cooper’s sons and daughters) to neutralize their venom.
Schenker insists alternative bands can take a cue from the Scorpions when it comes to assembling big-production rock shows. He says the ones he’s seen have been pitifully dull, a pitfall of being an overnight success.
“How can you do it when you don’t have experience, you know? Bands like AC/DC, Van Halen, the Scorpions, Aerosmith know how to put on good shows because they were building up slowly - playing first, then as the special guest and then as the headliner.”
The Scorpions, who have never broken up, may not be blazing up the charts with their new album “Pure Instinct” in this country, but in other parts of the world the album is doing quite well. Schenker attributes the Scorpions’ continued international success to constant touring.
“The American bands of the ‘70s and the ‘80s made a mistake by ignoring the rest of the world,” suggests Schenker. “Then when their own markets changed to different formats, they started having big problems.”
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“By not having the success we used to have in the ‘80s in America, we didn’t say ‘(Forget) the American market let’s go somewhere else.’ (To do that) offends what’s always been important, the fans. We don’t want to give the people the fear, ‘… because here the music situation changed drastically, we don’t want to play anymore.”’
Another thing the Scorpions have proven is that the aging rock band still has plenty of sting in its pop-metal music. The new album glows with all of the traits that have made this band distinctive - Klaus Meine’s high-pitched vocals, trademark power-ballads and a dual-lead guitar sound.
Co-headliner Alice Cooper has been absent from the road for some time, although he’s been semi-retired since the 1980s. The singer instilled fear in parents in the ‘70s for his devil-may-care attitude, wild shows and dark and rebellious songs. He was among the first rock stars rumored to have sold his soul to the devil.
Lately, he spends most of his days on the golf course and being a parent. This year, Cooper returned to the studio to record a duet with his successor Rob Zombie of White Zombie for the X Files soundtrack, “Songs in the Key of X.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color photos
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: CONCERT The Scorpions/Alice Cooper Location and time: The Gorge, Saturday Tickets: $46.50, $36.05 and $30.80, available only at Ticketmaster