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Wednesday, March 24, 2004
THE SCORPIONS INDEX

Song that I figured would be good, since everyone thinks it's bad, but which is, in fact, not all that great : Rock You Like A Hurricane[1]

Song which fades into the background, much like a Luther Vandross song : Loving You Sunday Morning[2]

Song which sounds like mildly retarded kids playing AC/DC : The Zoo[3]

Song which starts, as far as I can tell, exactly like "Rock You Like a Hurricane" : No One Like You[4]

Song which sounds exactly like its title : Big City Nights[5]

Song I keep thinking is going to be on their Greatest Hits record, even though I know very well they didn't play it : We Built This City[5.1]

Song which a certain revivalist pop-metal band would seem to have almost certainly stolen a title from, except otherwise the songs share practically no similarities; they might as well not be in the same genre : Believe in Love[6]

Song which has weird resonances with a song on another album I listened to yesterday, Elvis Costello's Blood and Chocolate (two-disc expanded edition) : Rhythm of Love[7]

Song about which no more need be said besides "it's a Who cover" : Can't Explain

Song which, knowing the backstory, you can't help but listen to and think, well, every band gets one great song, and this is it; this was their gift from the music gods : Wind of Change[8]

Song whose only good part is the ultra-clich├ęd key change in the last chorus : Tease Me Please Me

Song which would seem to be avoiding copyright infringement in its main guitar part purely through that weedly-weedly distortion effects which piles on harmonics and makes the actual note obscured : Hit Between The Eyes

Song which I can't help but interpret as kind of a repudiation of the inclusionary rhetoric in "Wind of Change," since the alternative explanation is even more embarrassing : Alien Nation


[1] Which doesn't actually seem to rock very hard.
[2] "Loving You Sunday Morning"? It justifies the title, I guess, but what about "Easy Like Sunday Morning"? (Or whatever the fuck that song is called.) What about "Sunday Morning Coming Down"? It's an interesting intertextuality, but on the other hand, it's not. Scorpions lyrics don't seem to be intended as something you actually listen to.
[3] Five and a half minutes on like a riff and a fucking half! And not in a good way!
[4] Well, technically, its 0:00-0:20 are like "Hurricane"'s 0:20-0:40. But this song is just massively better--better recorded, better played, better arranged, etc. Plus, kind of a classic chord progression. Makes me want to clutch my fists and do that breast-shaking dance, had I breasts. Plus plus, it comes in at under 4 minutes which is good but unusual for them; the Scorps apparently had that Wagnerian maximalism impulse, at least in the context of pop-metal bands.
[5] It really does! Maybe this is because I've seen the video (one of the classic mid-80's MTV "tour diary" videos with the Scorps playing to sold-out stadiums, playing on a flatbed truck, etc.--er, although maybe I'm mixing up Scorps videos here, which you can hardly blame me for) and there are a lot of nights in big cities involved, but something about the production, or maybe the drums, just sounds like driving through somewhere big and warm in the summer at night. Like Miami, or Disney World.
[5.1] An AMG search for "We Built This City" turns up as its second choice "This Is How We Do It."
[6] It's a ballad! Pity the Darkness doesn't seem to have any good ballads. Well, maybe next album, if they're following The Pop-Metal Career Arc.
[7] "New Rhythm Method." I mean, what's the substantive difference, really? They're both just sort of bad double-entendres. Weirdly enough, the Scorpions song has a great line in the chorus that belongs in an EC song--"Got the groove that hits the bone"--while the Costello song has lyrics more suited for a Scorpions song[7.1], i.e. "I stare at you while you're asleep / And play [sic] the Lord your soul to keep / And on your cheek a kiss I peck / And pray it's just your heart I break." Uh, although maybe I'm thinking of Metallica or something.
[7.1] Elvis Costello needs to do a pop-metal album! OK, I just got really excited there. But there wasn't necessarily a real big difference in the attitude toward women in pop-metal songs and Elvis Costello songs...
[8] First off, you're going to have to go here.

Now, I haven't actually been able to find this documented anywhere, but as I understand it, the story behind "Wind of Change," which when you read the lyrics is pretty obviously about the fall of communism, is that it was written mere hours after the fall of the Berlin Wall, recorded shortly thereafter, and hit #1 across Europe mere weeks after the historic event. (I'm going to go with this, because it's neat.) And sure, you could complain that it sounds like it's practically designed to be played behind moving montage of "images of freedom" in network TV retrospectives of the 80s, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a great song, which is all the more amazing when you know that it seems to have just dropped into their laps, even if it actually didn't. It's 5:10 and justifies every single second of that, except maybe the guitar solo. There's that awesome whistle hook at the start, which actually has a great accompaniment (!), and they only reuse it twice, I think, which is again unusual for them but good. It just seems like a culmination of everything the Scorps have learned to do well; they were good at rocking out early in their careers, and there's some of that here, but as they *cough* matured they got better at ballads, and this is sort of the 80's "Bohemian Rhapsody." (Or, um, the 80's "November Rain," I guess.) It's a series of bits that all fit together really well, really flow, and there's a dramatic arc there, kind of a story. It's not just indulgent: it makes sense. And everything there works toward it: the otherwise-painful clean chorus effect on the main guitar part, the heavily reverbed toms on the drums, the reverbed and chorused acoustic guitar strumming, etc. Plus, honestly, a really good vocal melody line.

And (gulp, here we go) it really is kind of moving. I was neither greatly affected by the event at the time nor acquainted enough with pop culture to actually have heard the song upon its initial release (although maybe I should ask harm what his experience with it is; I suspect he would make fun of me), but this really carries some kind of emotional impact. The fact that it's about freedom but sounds neither celebratory nor particularly liberated goes against my instincts in some ways, but its very sadness is what really validates it. It's not taking a particularly political stance pro- or anti-communism (although the Scorps aesthetic wouldn't seem to be particularly in line with Soviet attitudes towards debauched pleasure), it's just sort of expressing how great it is that we can finally see each other again and talk to each other, while at the same time acknowledging the suffering that so many people had to get through to actually get to this point. Or, you know, the Scorps' gratitude for having an even larger audience they can sell to now, mixed with a sadness about not being able to sell to them before. But that's just cynical.

I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I know "Where the children of tomorrow dream away / in the wind of change" is a horrendously cheesy line, and the bridge is somehow even worse (i.e. "The wind of change / Blows straight into the face of time / Like a stormwind that will ring the freedom bell / For peace of mind / Let your balalaika sing / What my guitar wants to say" into, yes, a guitar solo!!!), but the damn thing appeals to me. I don't think I could listen to it too often, though. Actually, the three times I've hit it today is already pushing it, so I'll stop now.