30 Years Ago: The Scorpions Release ‘Love at First Sting’
Not too many bands enjoy the greatest success of their career with their ninth studio album -- but that’s precisely what Germany’s Scorpions did when ‘Love at First Sting’ arrived in record stores in March of 1984.
For almost twenty years, the resilient quintet from Hanover had patiently bided its time on the fringes of America’s musical conscience, painstakingly building a highly respectable career across the pond throughout the '70s until musical trends started coming around to the band’s increasingly commercial sound at the start of the '80s.
Now, a perfect storm was brewing that would finally bring hard rock and metal to the global masses, and the Scorpions (along with fellow European veterans like Judas Priest and younger upstarts like Iron Maiden and Def Leppard) were ready to reap the rewards like a finely tuned machine. Perhaps “the ultimate metal machine,” to borrow a slogan from another well-known German brand.
In all seriousness, though, the best thing about the Scorpions’ ascension was that they hardly needed to alter their sound to achieve it — merely make a few cosmetic improvements to Rudolf Schenker’s already highly focused songwriting (as heard on 1982’s hit-laden ‘Blackout’ LP), because the last vestiges of their outdated ‘60s and ‘70s influences had wisely been jettisoned years earlier, in tandem with original guitar wizard, Uli Jon Roth.
Simply put, the band knew exactly what they had to deliver, musically speaking, when they started work on ‘Love at First Sting’ with the help of longtime producer Dieter Dirks, and the results immediate spoke for themselves. In ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane,’ the band concocted their ultimate hard rock hit (No. 25 in the U.S.); in ‘Big City Nights’ an even catchier follow-up, tailor-made for the arenas they’d soon be packing; and in ‘Still Loving You,’ the perfect tear-jerking ballad to win over female fans in droves.
Just as importantly, at a time when consumers still expected a full-length album experience, ‘Love at First Sting’ was remarkably deep with quality material, including tone setting rocker ‘Bad Boys Running Wild,’ the impressively hooky ‘I’m Leaving You,’ the thought-provoking ‘Crossfire,’ and the ultra-heavy ‘Coming Home,’ which certainly appealed to the band’s all-important core heavy metal audience.
Together, these hits and album cuts combined to push ‘Love at First Sting’ to No. 6 on the Billboard charts and towards multi-platinum sales across the globe (with support from the largest tour of the Scorpions career) — even though its iconic, erotic cover image (snapped by noted German fashion photographer Helmut Newton) not surprisingly offended some American sensibilities and forced an alternate photo to be shipped to some retailers.
None of this could forestall the Scorpions’ triumph, however; the persistent “Teutonic Terrors” had clearly won the marathon. And they did so in a year that would also prove quite memorable for heavy metal’s next generation of “sprinters”: bands like Motley Crue and Ratt (whose ‘Out of the Cellar’ was coincidentally released on the very same day as ‘Love at First Sting’) that were following in the older band’s inspiring footsteps to win some gold and platinum “medals” of their own in this nascent “age of metal.”