By 1984, I had been into the Scorpions for several years and had seen them become one of the biggest bands in the world with huge hits off the Blackout and Love at First Sting records. I was completely psyched to go see them for the very first time when they played the Cow Palace in San Francisco. The opening act was an unknown band out of New Jersey called Bon Jovi. They put on a respectable set, with catchy tunes and good harmonies, but the crowd turned against them almost instantly. Years later, I would interview Richie Sambora and remind him about that show, which he remembered vividly. “I think our management was trying to toughen us up or something,” he said. “We had poufy hair and were singing about how she’s a little runaway, and the Scorpions’ fans were throwing things at us. Tough crowd.”
The Scorps hit the stage sometime later, with ’80s-approved risers, lights, and smoke machines. I think the opening song was “Coming Home,” although my recollections are a little dim. I do remember the crunch of Rudolf’s V, which was solid, muscular, and heavy. When he and Matthias locked in together on “Loving You Sunday Morning,” it was unstoppable, with a groove and a pocket that had the whole crowd pulsating. Then there were the solos. Matthias made them all look so easy, bending, bending, and burning like it was nothing, ending phrases with that monster vibrato, with enough brain power left over to run, jump, and clown around in his killer striped outfit that somehow didn’t clash with his striped Explorer. He played his plain old Strat on the whammy bar tunes, which struck me as coolly confident in an era where a lot of guys were wielding guitars with day-glo clown vomit finishes that looked like an Australian’s nightmare.
Tune after tune, Rudolf laid it down and Matthias shredded over the top of it. I came away from it very aware that these guys were at the top of their game and it was no shock that they were selling tons of records and selling out arenas. By virtue of my cool job at GP, I’ve gotten to talk to a lot of players who are also Scorpions fans. When I asked James Hetfield who he thought was a badass rhythm guitarist, he named Rudolf Schenker without hesitation. Italian rocker Alex De Rosso had the gig with Dokken when the bad was touring with Whitesnake and the Scorpions, and every night a gaggle of great guitarists would take the stage. I wanted to know who the top dog was among all those shredders. He replied: “You know who we all watch every night? Matthias Jabs.”
A theme is emerging in this series of journal entries. If you haven’t seen the Scorps, or you haven’t seen them lately, what are you waiting for? This is their farewell tour and we all know that the first farewell tour is always the most poignant. But seriously, they ain’t making any more Scorpions. Get ‘em whilst you can. —Matt Blackett