As I prepare for my trip out to join the Scorpions, I’m thinking back to my young self, a kid who was into all things rock guitar, and that included a healthy dose of Scorps. After my initial exposure to the band at Mike Varney’s record store, I was pretty much hooked. A big topic of discussion amongst guitarists was what the next record would sound like without Ulrich Roth. My sister got the album Lovedrive right when it came out. The crazy bubblegum cover was a wild sight for my adolescent eyeballs and I couldn’t wait to hear Michael Schenker on the three cuts he was on. I was also intrigued by the new guy, Matthias Jabs. Being a beginning guitarist, I couldn’t imagine what it could be like to step into a huge gig like that. The riffs on Lovedrive are massive, with killer tones and a dangerous, sexy groove. “Loving You Sunday Morning,” has the driving rhythm chugs that are a staple of the Rudolf Schenker trip and a dreamy, expansive chorus. It also has a kick-ass solo by Matthias, with the awesome bends, wide vibrato, and blazing pull-offs that made him famous. Rudolf plays a nice solo in “Always Somewhere,” a great example of wringing emotion out of a note.
Side 2 (back when “side 2” meant something) opens with “I Can’t Get Enough” and features a pummeling rhythm guitar riff and a crazed whammy-bar solo. Then there’s the reggae-inflected “Is There Anybody There?” with its skanking acoustic and crunching electric, which was a simple enough progression that I could actually play it, although it would be a long time before I could touch the tasty solo. I loved it all and years later when the bubble gum cover was banned (in very Spinal Tap fashion), I would brag that I had been lucky enough to get the original. If memory serves, the bubble gum album was wrapped in red shrink wrap. How cool is that?
I was all atwitter (back when “being all atwitter” actually meant something) when the follow up to Lovedrive, Animal Magnetism came out. I always saw this record as the first true Matthias record. He was no longer in any way in the shadow of Ulrich Roth or Michael Schenker and was free to stretch out and do his thing. Animal Magnetism has a little bit of everything on it. There are the power-chord anthems, like “Don’t Make No Promises,” gorgeous pop in “Lady Starlight,” and sinewy metal in “Only a Man.” The rhythms are badass as usual. Rudolf Schenker can’t seem to play a bad rhythm guitar part to save his life. His bouncy power chords in “Twentieth Century Man” are a blast and Matthias’ solo in that one, while short and to the point, kicks every available ass. “The Zoo” was seen by almost everyone as an instant classic, with its heavy intro, sparse, gut-punch verse figure, and what might just be the last great talk box solo. Damn! This record showed that the Scorpions had their act together and were poised to take over, which they more or less proceeded to do.