Scorpions: Lovedrive - Album Of The Week Club Review

Dovetailing perfectly with what AC/DC and Aerosmith were doing, the Scorpions added arena sparkle to their sound

Scorpions - Lovedrive
Scorpions - Lovedrive

Loving You Sunday Morning
Another Piece of Meat
Always Somewhere
Coast to Coast
Can't Get Enough
Is There Anybody There?
Lovedrive
Holiday

Lovedrive found Scorpions writing shorter, crunchier, songs, with Rudolf Schenker dropping Uli Jon Roth’s flowery Hendrixisms in favour of the choppy, precise riffs that would continue to define the band’s sound.

“This was the album where we wanted to prove losing Uli Jon Roth on guitar wouldn’t affect us," says Schenker. "Klaus and I were determined to show we could carry on without him. We brought in Matthias, but he was still finding his way. So I did a solo, and Michael my brother also did some. He was on honeymoon and called to tell me he was back in Germany. Michael asked what we were doing, and when I told him we were doing a new album, he offered to come down and play on it. That made a big difference to the whole sound."

With Jabs on board the songs were sharper and shorter, as well as a little less reliant on extensive guitar solos than during the Roth era. Dovetailing perfectly with what peers like AC/DC and Aerosmith were doing at the time, the Scorpions added arena sparkle to the title track, Another Piece Of Meat and Can’t Get Enough, and the soft-centred Holiday brought another vital element to the band’s armoury: the big, weepy ballad.

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Background

Scorpions 1977 album Taken By Force was Uli Jon Roth's swansong, and the band set out on the arduous task of auditioning over 150 guitarists to find a replacement. They finally settled on a former member of the Pretty Things, Peter Tolson. Unfortunately, things didn’t gel and they again found themselves axeless. Once more they found the solution closer to home, in the form of Matthias Jabs.

“Rudy rang me up to say that he was recording a solo album and would I like to play on it,“ Jabs says. "That was typical Rudy, finding a way to hook you in.” But when Jabs joined the Scorpions, the unexpected happened. Michael Schenker had left UFO after an altercation with lead singer Phil Mogg and had also developed severe drug and alcohol problems in the process. An American management team expressed interest in working with the Scorpions, but strongly suggested it would be a good idea to take Michael on board, regardless of his state of mind. Desperate to break in the States, Rudy agreed and promptly let go of Matthias.

“What you have to remember,” Jabs explains, “is that the Scorpions weren’t a big band at all at the time, so it was really no big deal.”

Michael’s problems manifested themselves early on in the Scorpions’ US tour – he collapsed on stage during the third show. As the tour progressed the band had to plead with Matthias to help them out. “Rudy kept calling me to help out on the shows, and every time I said: ‘Okay, but just this one time.’ And he agreed… typical Rudy.”

Finally, an incoherent Michael departed and Jabs joined full-time, completing the classic Scorpions line-up. Michael did manage to stay long enough to contribute to a couple of tracks on Lovedrive, which marked the beginning of the band’s full-on assault of the US.

Other albums released in January 1979

  • Armed Forces - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
  • Accept - Accept
  • Sleep Dirt - Frank Zappa
  • Valley of the Dolls - Generation X
  • The Def Leppard E.P. - Def Leppard
  • Life for the Taking - Eddie Money
  • No Mean City - Nazareth
  • Strangers in the Night - UFO

What they said...

"The band not only highlighted the album with the licks and riffs of three guitarists (Rudolf Schenker, Michael Schenker, Matthias Jabs), but they also dramatically changed their style to sound more like that of Van Halen. This change is quite welcome; not only are the performances more unpredictable, but the lyrics and melodies are better written." (AllMusic

"Laying the final piece of groundwork for the massive success to come, the power and passion of Lovedrive would set the table for future platters Animal Magnetism (1980), the groundbreaking Blackout (1982), and 1984’s massive smash Love At First Sting leading the band to continued success clear into the ’90s and still to this day." (SleazeRoxx)

"This is an essential listen for sure, and definitely essential to own for any fans of The Scorps. Who can resist the sexual appeal and strong arrangement that is this beast? It's a lovedrive on wheels of fire, a lovedrive just one desire, love, you drive me crazy babe." (Metal Archives)

What you said...

Simon Cryer: Some of it still stands up. I prefer the space rock from Uli rather than the shiny metal, but the Michael Schenker stuff has a lovely doleful quality here, and Jabs just feels natural. A more complete package than either Blackout or Animal Magnetism for me.

David Alejandro Cepeda Benavides: One of the best from the Scorpions: very diverse: heavy songs like Another Piece Of Meat, soft ballads Always Somewhere, Holiday, fast songs like Lovedrive, unexpected rhythms like Is There Anybody There, a nice instrumental in Coast To Coast and the awesome hard rock of Lovin You Sunday Morning. People must listen to this if they say they love pure rock'n'roll. There is no filler, so you can listen to it over and over again and never get bored. Matthias was a great choice, although i really like what Uli did with the group. 10/10.

Philip Qvist: The good old 70's! Well, the cover sure ensured that it was noticed, but that is where the debate stops (well until Animal Magnetism arrived on the scene with that cover). As far as the music is concerned, this rates right up there with Blackout and Love at First Sting. Brilliant album, with some great rockers - plus Holiday; a classic rock ballad in its own right.

Roland Bearne: Yes yes yes. Scorpions! Even the name gets the adrenaline pumping. One of my absolute favourite live bands and this album is the third icon in my personal triptych of favourite Scorpions albums, along with the stunning Love At First Sting and the monumental Blackout. Lovedrive is just brilliant. The handover from Schenker to Jabs is silky, the sound from the pumping rhythms of Rarebell and Bucholz to the "stingingly" sharp guitar tones is spine-tingling. A song that sounds like Skynyrd's Simple Man... why not? Metal reggae? Why the hell not!! Holiday, Lovedrive... sheer awesomeness. I'm sure people are staring at me in the tube cos I'm not sure I'm singing under my breath or standing still! Joy! Can't wait to see them one last time at Sweden Rock!

Marc Darling: Ah, what an album – Lovedrive by the Scorpions. Have had much fun listening to this again.

This was a purple patch for rock music. There had been some promise from this band, and boy did this album deliver. We loved the album cover back in the day - and not just because of the implied lewdness. It was so original.

On point I would add is the production was first rate. I was DJing at a rock club at the time, and we had to turn down songs from this album, as they punched louder and harder than anything else at that moment.

Kicking off – that opening riff from Loving You Sunday Morning is like a hello! What a rhythm section that was: Herman Rarebell on drums, Francis Buchholz on bass, and Rudy Schenker chugging away on rhythm guitar. Just a bit of fun lyrically (Rarebell wrote a few ditties for the Scorps with and without Herr Maine) and Michael Schenker plays a marvellous spacious counter riff. What I like most about this is the vocal melody and Klaus Meine’s vocal delivery – up and down like a tart’s drawers. That middle eight always cracked me up – oooh aww wa pa pa pa paa and all that!

Next up – oh my word – Another Piece of Meat. A classic punk-paced slab of classic heavy rock. Tongue-in-cheek lyrics, spat out by Klaus, but what makes this song is the blistering solo by Mad Mikey. This album was his stepping stone from UFO to MSG, and he was at his peak here.

So, what next? Slow it right down for a ballad, a right change of pace. Always Somewhere is a lovely guitar-based ballad – and we get Matthis Jabs – who replaced Uli Roth, playing some beautiful stuff. Great vocal harmonies in this song.

Then we get – an instrumental? Not many of those around at the time, and although that sounds like an ego-centric approach, Coast To Coast is a riff-laden delight – and when Klaus Meine’s contributes with an ‘aaahhhh’, that always brings a smile to my face. Typical Michael Schenker tone and soloing - this song was always great when they played it live.

Can’t Get Enough. Just played this album and forgot about this – what a song! Manically delightful and nice shredding from Matty Jabs.

Next up we get, reggae chops and beats! Not many other rock bands have tried this (thankfully). I didn’t mind this song, but to these ears it's the worst song on the album.

Thankfully, the title track comes next, and it’s not a million miles from UFO’s Light’s Out. Great driving riffs and one of the great driving songs, Lovedrive still drives me crazy, er, babe…

The closing the album, another ballad, Holiday: acoustic guitars and some strings. A pleasant ramble, the song gets a bit excitable before calming back down with some beautiful phrasing from Michael Schenker.

Listening to this album again, reminds me of a halcyon time for rock music. The Scorpions, AC/DC, Priest, UFO. Lyrically the songs are quite naff, and given the guys are Germans writing English lyrics, that’s quite forgivable. As I mentioned, awesome rhythm section, and a classic example of twin-guitar rock music.

This is, in my humble opinion, their best album, and is a fine example of heavy rock music from this era. Just please, leave the reggae to the experts

Hugh Lynch: One of the reasons I joined this Club is that it will get me to listen to things I have not considered before. In 1979, when this album appeared, I was immersed in Zappa/UK/Brand X sort of stuff - no-one in my circle was recommending I listen to Scorpions. So - listening to my first Scorpions album, 40 years after its release - what do I think? I am surprised at how melodic and harmonious it is. Any of the songs could be considered 'pop' if arranged that way. But they are not; instead, we get quality second guitar and strident solos. It sounded great on headphones. I would certainly seek it out again.

Mike Knoop: The best thing I can say about the cover art is that it’s only the Scorpions’ second-most vulgar cover. I read somewhere that the band generally left the cover art to the record label but after four cover controversies in a row – and more to come – that excuse is hard to believe. Hipgnosis made many, many, MANY great album covers but this isn’t one of them. 

Fortunately, the Scorpions are a first-rate hard rock band and Lovedrive is one of their best. Main songwriter Rudolph Schenker and producer Dieter Dirks crafted a sound that was commercial without sacrificing too many rough edges. You get two stadium anthems (Loving You Sunday Morning and Lovedrive), two frenzied neck-wreckers Another Piece of Meat and Can't Get Enough, two superb ballads (Holiday and Always Somewhere), and two wild cards (excellent instrumental Coast to Coast and not-as-excellent reggae rock Is There Anybody There?). Klaus Meine absolutely sings his ass off throughout the album. While the Scorps certainly wrote their share of raunchy lyrics, I’m always impressed with their ability to write ballads that grown-ups can appreciate, like Always Somewhere on this album or Lady Starlight on the next.

Lovedrive was the start of an excellent four album run with the classic lineup. And the album covers got better too.

Phil Yates: Never really paid that much attention to The Scorpions, seeing them as just another generic and fairly safe, album sleeves apart ahem, metal band. Recently got into their early stuff and was surprised how much I loved it. By comparison this album marked a change to a slicker, more formulaic sound. Some good tunes and great playing but nowhere near as much fun as their earlier, almost space rock, sounding stuff.

Juanjo Ordás: Without being a Scorpions hardcore fan, I know the band well enough to know that this album is essential to any hard rock listener. Here you have the Germans giving its music a refreshing face wash in line with the times. Less loose (goodbye 70s) and more pragmatic (welcome 80s), with new lead guitarist Matthias Jabs stepping in and Michael Schenker adding his solo magic to the record. Of course, you also have one of the best rhythm sections in the metal world and the always recognisable voice of Klaus Meine, but to tell the truth, the mastermind behind such crushing record as Lovedrive is Rudolf Schenker. The music he crafted for this album is as aggressive and melodic, the perfect basis for Meine's vocals. However, it's noticeable that the finished product is the work of a team where even the drummer contributes to make it perfect. Easily, this is one of the best metal albums of the eighties. It should make any fan's top 10.

Shane Reho: One of the best albums of its kind (certainly the best Scorpions album). Even with Michael Schenker being in and out during the making of it, this still holds together quite well. If only they had tried having two leads (Schenker and Jabs), who knows what may have been? 9/10. Track picks: Loving You Sunday Morning, Coast to Coast, Is There Anybody There?

Lynott Sykes: First of all there's this legendary sleeve by Hipgnosis. Then the clear and powerful production by Dieter Dierks, which stands the test of time. And finally the diversity and inspiration on the whole album :

Melodic groovy hard rock (Loving You Sunday Morning)

Catchy driving hard rock (the beautiful bass-riven Lovedrive)

Punchy and fierce hard rockers (Another Piece Of Meat, Can't Get Enough)

Beautiful ballads (Always Somewhere and Holiday, the first one being my favourite Scorpions ballad ever, I always found Klaus Meine's vocal work absolutely divine on this one)

A reggae influenced gem (Is There Anybody There?)

A masterful instrumental (Coast To Coast)

Lovedrive is a good synthesis of the band's 70s and 80s years, essential to any hard rock fan along with Blackout.

Carl Black: You crazy fool Murdock, I ain't getting on no plane, you crazy fool! Calm down BA, calm down. I was throughly enjoying this album, but imagine my surprise when the riff after the chorus on the title track happened to be a dead ringer for the theme music to 80s TV series The A-Team. This revelation only heightened my enjoyment. I've spun this three times and with each play it gets better. I've already advanced on to Animal Magnetism. I've always been aware of The Scorpions. I can remember a live review (pre-Wind Of Change) where the main picture featured three of the members forming a human pyramid. Do they still do this? And then, of course, Wind Of Change. Not a fan of the ballads or the strange reggae song on this album, but the rock is solid and fun. In my opinion, I'd swap the first two songs around, Piece Of Meat is a better opener, title track is great (nice, BA, nice), but Coast To Coast gets my vote for track of the album. The only upset is, I now have to plough through their extensive back catalog with such little time. I love it when a plan comes together.

Brian Carr: Scorpions are another American rock radio casualty for me - I have been Rocked Like A Hurricane to the point of submission. The unfortunate result is that I often forget about absolutely stellar albums like Lovedrive, so it is a joyous occasion when I am reminded to listen.

We get an excellent hard rock hook to start with Lovin’ You Sunday Morning and Always Somewhere is so much more exquisite than later ballads Still Loving You or Wind of Change. Sandwiched in-between these is Another Piece of Meat, an absolute killer song (nowadays it slightly reminds me of Queen’s Stone Cold Crazy). Coast to Coast seems quite simple, but is loaded with sweet guitar playing. 

Where the hell did Is There Anybody There? come from? They must have been thinking about Zep’s reggae foray, D’yer Mak’er and said “we can do that.” I’m not reaching for the skip button (or grabbing the needle), but it is definitely out of place, especially considering Can’t Get Enough, Lovedrive and Holiday nicely echo the hook, thrash and ballad ideas from the first three tracks.

The guitar work is stellar throughout, probably quite an underrated album in guitar circles. Their German-ness can sometimes be an obstacle with regards to accent and lyrics, but Klaus’s voice is almost always melodic and I’ve found I focus way more on vocal and instrumental melodies than I do on lyrical content. Lovedrive is an absolute classic.

John Davidson: As an album it certainly rocks. Hard and fast for its time the song Another Piece of Meat is a personal guilty pleasure. 

The title track (Lovedrive) is a joyous sing-a-long and the guitar work on Coast to Coast is sublime.

The mad axe man was in his prime and managed to sprinkle some of his genius on this album even if only some of the tracks.

The rest of the album isn't bad either with no obvious stinkers (not even the metal reggae of Is There Anybody There?)

The cover is probably among Hipgnosis' most lurid, and while I thought it was great aged 16 it hasn't aged as well as the riffs.

James Praesto: Coming off the heels of one of the worst years in hard rock, Scorpions kicked the door to 1979 wide open with a bang. The prior year had mostly been a sticky wallow in sappy sweet love songs and silly romps with massive dance tunes plaguing the land, courtesy of the movies Grease and Saturday Night Fever (overstaying its welcome from 1977) and bands like the Village People. Even rock bands started playing pop, and most of the big bands took the year off, releasing live albums or just staying in their hotel rooms, shooting heroin. Van Halen’s debut was one of the few quality albums to put some colour in the rock’n’roll wasteland of 1978, along with Rainbow’s Long Live Rock’n’Roll, Thin Lizzy’s live classic Live And Dangerous and the two darker Judas Priest releases Stained Class and Killing Machine. Note, other than Van Halen, they were all British releases, though. In America, it was a year ripe with the shimmering reverbs and soft glows of Journey, Styx and Boston, at the expense of some God honest hard rock. 

Scorpions were going through some personnel changes at this time. Michael Schenker had just quit UFO and come back to a band that already had two guitar players, now that Mathias Jabs had joined. As a result, Lovedrive features three classic Scorpions guitar players, and we are all better off because of it. Even though there is still some debate about how much was played by whom, the end result is nonetheless a joy for anybody in love with the Scorpions trademark guitar sound.

One of the most immediate differences from past releases is obvious off the bat. With the departure of Uli Jon Roth, and his more intricate songwriting, the responsibility for the bulk of the songwriting instead went to the more straight forward Rudolf Schenker, and this is what finally made Scorpions hit their stride. I love Sails of Charon and many of the older Uli-penned songs, but the band always seemed a bit lost in the woods as far as musical identity went. That changed on Lovedrive. Loving You Sunday Morning is the perfect opener with a really smart guitar riff, landing somewhere between classic AC/DC and what Def Leppard would later expand upon for years to come. Another Piece of Meat kicks up the tempo another notch and delivers a rock classic that oozes sex, grit and guitars in spades. Always Somewhere is the Scorps’ House of the Rising Sun moment on this album; a slower number where Klaus Meine’s throaty German gets to do its thing. Klaus knows how to make songs like these sound real intimate, and, funnily enough, this may be the album where his German accent is least noticeable. I guess in the beginning of their career, he struggled a bit with his English, and later he just probably didn’t give a fuck. On all of Lovedrive, his accent is not distracting at all.

The last true collaboration between the Schenker brothers is found on Coast To Coast. They have nowadays fallen out to the point of where a reunion seems more than unlikely, so an instrumental track like this serves as the last bonding moment, on record, in the love/hate relationship of a classic brother guitar duo. They wrote it together and Rudolf played the rhythms with Michael doing the leads. Pretty pedestrian from an instrumental standpoint, but an important piece of Scorpions history; the very crossroads if you will. The heavy pronounced guitar riffing and simple rock solid beat was the blueprint of many songs to come in the years that followed (The Zoo and China White to name a couple).

Can’t Get Enough could have been a top track on most other Scorpions albums, but in the company of others on Lovedrive, it almost gets a filler-status. Unfair. Killer guitar leads and crushing energy drive the album towards the one song that should have been left on the cutting room floor. Is There Anybody There? is a weak attempt at rock’n’roll reggae that could have been “fun” as a B-side on a single to show a sense of humour and diversity, but fails in the context of the other tracks on here. This sound was later gobbled up and monopolised by tons of early 80s Swedish pop-bands like Gyllene Tider, playing faux-Island music to love-struck teens during the one month of summer in the North.

The title track, Lovedrive itself, is phenomenal, delivering classic Scorpions to the masses. I am surprised that they so rarely play this track live. It is a true representative of what Scorpions is all about: classic guitar riffs, killer hooks and some awesome nonsense lyrics about sex and cars.

Holiday closes the album as a deceptive ballad. It lulls you in with pretty acoustics, a whispered verse and a promise of massive cheese to follow. But, no, this was before the later 80s took hold of Scorpions predictable style of writing ballads, and instead the song builds up to a hard rock crescendo, much like more well known epic songs from big bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath had also done. The way it softly transitions back to the acoustics for a last farewell guitar solo from Michael Schenker before the album fades out is a master class in tastefulness.

1979 turned out to be a pretty good vintage for quite a few bands and their releases. Other than the aforementioned Van Halen and their sophomore album, the debuts of Accept and Saxon hit the streets, while Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, The Who, Pink Floyd and Motorhead (three albums that year!) released some of their most loved work. In the background, bands like Def Leppard and Iron Maiden were releasing their first EPs, with hints of what was to come. I know, I know… It was also the year Kiss brought us Dynasty, but shit happens (plus, I actually like the album – sue me). Late 70s and early 80s Scorpions pioneered a sound that they never get enough credit for. Lovedrive is a staple of American hard rock, in all its German glory.

Final Score: 8.10 ⁄10 (198 votes cast, with a total score of 1605)

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