No one could ever accuse Scorpions of taking the easy route to success. By the time the Germans were firmly established as one of the world’s biggest rock bands, they had put in nearly 20 years of active service. But after many years of incremental progress, 1982’s Blackout album finally propelled guitarist Rudolf Schenker and his bandmates to the top of the burgeoning 80s heavy metal tree, with irresistible singles No One Like You and Can’t Live Without You turning the band into a major force on US rock radio. Of course, momentum is everything, and so when the band began work on their next album, Rudolf knew instinctively that they needed some more huge, singalong anthems. But bigger ones.
“No One Like You was the most-played song on US radio in 1982,” he recalls. “That was pretty crazy. From there we were able to do our first headlining shows in the States, with Iron Maiden and Girlschool, and we did fantastically well. We were really riding on this high wave, and so I was thinking even bigger… what could I write next, you know?”
The recording sessions for Blackout had been plagued with problems, not least vocalist Klaus Meine’s temporary departure to deal with a serious vocal issue. But as the band and long-time producer Dieter Dierks began to piece ninth full-length Love At First Sting together at Dierks Studios in Stommeln, Germany, it was obvious that the tough times had brought them closer together, pushing everyone involved to greater heights. Newly inspired, Rudolf presented the band with a new song that he’d begun to write while on the Blackout tour: it was big, brash and catchy as hell. All it needed was some lyrics.
“Dieter understood that this song needed the right lyrics. I understood, too, but I couldn’t find them!” he laughs. “In the end, we wrote the lyrics for the song nine times. Every time Dieter would say ‘No!’ or ‘That isn’t working! It just wasn’t what it was supposed to be. But then we turned to our drummer, Herman Rarebell. He was always the guy for the double meanings and innuendos, and suddenly the song was there... ‘The bitch is hungry, she needs to tell, so give her inches and feed her well.’ It was perfect for the song. It was sexual, it was crazy, it was rocking… it just felt right, you know? You have to remember that this was the 80s!”
With hindsight, the lyrics to Rock You Like A Hurricane probably wouldn’t pass a political sensitivity taste in 2018, but there’s no denying that the song’s artful combination of mischievous smut and hooks the size of Jupiter made it an instant and colossal hit around the world upon its release as a single in February 1984.
“When our agent heard the song live for the first time, he called me and said, ‘This is a hit!’” says Rudolf. “And he was right! We started to notice how strong the song was. It was on the radio in the States and it was in the top 20 charts worldwide. American girls came up to us, saying, ‘We love you guys! Rock you like a hurricane!’ so it was obviously working. Suddenly you start to hear the song in a different way and you play it in a different way because then you understand the true power of the song.”
Widely regarded as one of the 80s hard rock anthems, Rock You Like A Hurricane has been a permanent fixture in Scorpions’ live sets for the last 34 years. It has also been used and abused by a never-ending succession of TV shows, films and advertisements; the unerring power of that riff and the ludicrous catchiness of that chorus ensuring that the song is as much part of mainstream culture as it is a revered heavy metal classic.
“I performed at an awards ceremony in Tokyo a while ago with a bunch of different musicians, and we played Rock You Like A Hurricane,” Rudolf notes. “I noticed when we played the song that it’s still incredibly strong. It still has that power, even when I play it with other people. When the music and the lyrics meet and they’re perfect together, it’s synergy. You just can’t beat that.”