“I was 15 when I wrote this song in my mother’s kitchen,” says guitar legend Michael Schenker. “The song’s title has become the theme for my life.”
The song is In Search Of The Peace Of Mind, first released on the Scorpions’ debut album, Lonesome Crow, in 1972. Schenker soon left the band, joining UFO in 1973 and co-writing such rock classics as Doctor Doctor and Rock Bottom.
This titan of Teutonic top-string torturing has influenced guitarists including Kirk Hammett, Slash and Kerry King. Now, marking the 50th anniversary of Schenker writing the music for In Search Of The Peace Of Mind, he’s re-recorded the track for his new album, Immortal.
“I wrote this music in 1971” he says, “in my mother’s house in the town of Sarstedt, near to Hannover. Sarstedt had been all I knew. Rudolf [Schenker, Scorpions guitarist and Michael’s older brother] would walk around with a Bullworker, making sure he had a great looking body. I would walk around with my guitar – sitting down in the park and just playing.
"When I think of writing this music, it is like a video in my head. I had an acoustic guitar and I was sitting up on the top of the back of a chair. Nobody else was there in the house and I completed the whole thing there in the kitchen. I was 15 and I am absolutely amazed that this was my first composition for what became a song.
"I love the solo in the first part of the song. What makes that solo so perfect is the million-dollar question. On the rest of Lonesome Crow you can hear I’m a 15-year-old, I’m developing, I’m an amateur. So, where did that lead break come from where, to this day, I would never change a single note? I have no clue where it came from. It just came to me.”
The song is a two-part piece – a prettily plaintive first half followed by a breakdown and then a more ominous, foreboding second section.
“The second part of the song,” says Schenker, “was a bit inspired by Tony [Iommi] from Black Sabbath. Tony is the person who really inspired me on that distorted sound. I was still only 15 and I was inspired by other people. I was a Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Rory Gallagher fan, all of those guys, great guitarists from the 60s.
"I was 14 when I’d teamed up with Klaus Meine in our band Copernicus, just before we both joined The Scorpions. All we did in Copernicus was play cover songs Zeppelin and Black Sabbath etcetera. So, all that music was in me."
As with the rest of The Scorpions’ debut album, In Search Of The Peace Of Mind was recorded in Hamburg with the production master Conny Plank, a man celebrated for his work with krautrock bands Kraftwerk and Neu!.
“I was 15 years old,” says Schenker, “and there we were in the studio, in Hamburg. The Rattles were a big band in Germany at that point and they were in also the same studio. They were talking about the book Autobiography Of A Yogi [1946 book by the Indian guru Paramahansa Yogananda]. Rudolf and I were enchanted by what they had to say so we both bought the book. Rudolf had started transcendental meditation and he got me into that. Then I read this book, non-stop, in my bed. I was so enchanted I almost wanted to become a monk! [laughs].”
As Schenker recalls things, he and Klaus Meine developed The Scorpions’ songwriting methods.
“With the exception of Rudolf, the band was very good. Rudolf had very little talent as a guitarist and learned everything from me. The Scorpions never wrote songs until I joined the band with Klaus. They knocked on the door where Klaus and I were rehearsing in our band, Copernicus, and stole us out of the rehearsal room. I think it was all set up by Rudolf. He was more of a manager than a musician.
"He was after fame. I was never after fame. I was a kid in the sandbox, just having fun – putting three notes together, creating goose pimples. I’ve never competed, I never looked for fame. When we finished Lonesome Crow and started making the next Scorpions album I carried on writing songs, just before I left for UFO.
"Rudolf saw how I was writing with Klaus. I would pick something on the guitar, come up with a melody and then sing it to Klaus. Then Klaus would copy what I was singing and change it. Before they made Lonesome Crow, the Scorpions were just playing dance music – cover versions, whatever was on the radio.”
Schenker’s new version of In Search Of The Peace Of Mind comes with notable additions. A procession on vocalists feature – Gary Barden, Ronnie Romero, Robin McAuley and Doogie White. There’s also a whole new guitar solo section
"This song had to be there for the 50th-anniversary celebration,” says Schenker. “But I wanted to now make the song ever more special, so I have now added a lot of new stuff to the end of the song. I have a new solo section and I bring in all the emotions I could think of. With the new solo, it is like I am having a conversation with myself about everything I have done in music and about my philosophy of life.
"The music, to me, is like a question and answer. Shall I do this? Shall I do that? Should I sell out? Or stay true to my vision? There are many musicians that I have been asked to join. Ozzy Osborne, Aerosmith, Phil Lynott, Motorhead, Ian Hunter. I love all these bands and musicians but I just could not join them. I had to go my own way and make experimental music – instrumentals and all kinds of music.
"When I listen to this new solo it is like I was expressing my whole 50-years journey. Just as I don’t know where the original lead break came from 50 years ago, now I don’t know how this answering music was created. To me, it is all perfect."
Michael Schenker Group's Immortal is out now on Nuclear Blast.