David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 271: Scorpions (Rock You Like A Hurricane)

July 29, 2023

Where are the great German rock and pop songs? Most of us can name the artists on one hand: Kraftwerk; maybe Nena; if we are willing to stretch our borders, Falco (who was Austrian); and Scorpions, providing us "Autobahn," "99 Luft Balloons," "Der Kommissar," and "Rock You Like A Hurricane," respectively. Gee, which one of those doesn't belong with the others? The first three of them were released with German lyrics, the last one with English lyrics. Kraftwerk,as opposed to Nena, or Falco wanna-be's, didn't even deign to make a later English version of "Autobahn," perhaps wisely so, because what value is there in re-recording an electronic 22+ minute journey, literally, of "fahr'n auf der autobahn," with only a few exits to describe the scenery, the road, or the radio (which apparently is playing "Autobahn"). Would we really need that recast as "driving down the highway?"

For Scorpions, we get a no-holds spared, in-the-face "Rock You Like A Hurricane," about as subtle as a, well, hurricane, recorded and sung all in English. Why didn't they start (and perhaps) end with the lyrics in German? As English, the lyrics are a little clunky.

The problems arise from the get-go: "Here I am," screams Klaus Mein, "rock you like a hurricane," no verb to show time. Are you planning it in the future, Klaus, "are you going to rock me like a hurricane?" Or am I in the middle of your act, "rocking me like a hurricane?" These are important distinctions.  Perhaps composing the song in in a second language, might explain how they didn't know how to handle the verb tense; The Germans a culture that all the way until the end of an incredibly long sentence has verbs placed (like this one). Heck, they even scorned the importance of gender-referencing articles for Scorpions. Der Scorpions?  I can't see it being anything but masculine.

A German version of "Rock You Like A Hurricane" would preserve the awesome metal, but allow for the often clunky German vernacular to take the song to a different level. "Here I Am" comes out a little too mellifluously; however, "Hier bien Ich" has a harsher tone, befitting a lyric a tad too misogynistic. After all, there is nothing subtle in the opening lines of the second verse: "the bitch is hungry/she needs to tell/so give her inches/feed her well." Sing it in German, and the non-German listeners are likely to never pick up the crude innuendo: "Die Schlampe ist hungrig/sie muss erzählen/also gib ihr platz/und füttere sie gut." Honestly, Tipper Gore might have tuned this out and gone after "Let's Hear It For The Boy," instead.

Later "lust is in cages" would be more puzzingly "lust is in käfig," and might have had dorky listeners across the world trying to determine if coffee is an aphrodisiac, much in the same way that Star Trek fans sought out to discover what Captain Kirk was doing in a Nena song.

The song could be innocently played at venues post hurricanes, much like the Atlanta Braves once did in 2017 when playing the Miami Marlins, a city in the path of an incoming hurricane, only to get massive push back for the insensitivity, proving once again that humans miss the real offense of the lyrics -- macho, misogynestic imagery of women in cages, not ill-advised use of weather metaphors.

Yes, metal embraced these kinds of lyrics, especially in the 1980s, but "99 Luft Balloons" and "Der Kommissar" had already shown they could be hits outside of Germany while maintaining their German identity. Why did Scorpions have to abandon this formula?  Maybe they really weren't German? Or maybe after cranking out albums for 12 years, they deserved to have a hit, in English even, when lesser bands such as Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister were topping the charts. And I have to admit, Klaus and gang, "Rock You Like A Hurricane" is still my third favorite hurricane song, behind Neil Young's "Like A Hurricane" and Bob Dylan's "Hurricane." That's still doing pretty gut.

Scorpions. "Rock You Like A Hurricane." Love At First Sting. Mercury, 1984. Link here.

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See complete list here.