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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Albums You Can't Live Without: Scorpions - Lovedrive



Alright, no doubt the horny teenager that gravitated to this album based on the legend of its cover is still lurking around inside me more than 20 years after-the-fact. Even today I'm still in dumb awe of it. I originally had Lovedrive on vinyl back in the eighties, which meant I sat staring transfixed upon it--particularly the back cover--with intense obsession. After awhile you start feeling like you have no life because the sight of this redhead German hottie with her left boob hanging out is irresistible to the point of stirring the loins into a stupid overboil. You know what happens if you let a pot go too long on high...

This classic album cover with a German version of a British dandy yanking bubblegum off the scrumptious breast of his seemingly obtuse escort is the stuff of alpha exuberance. Yet, for a brief moment in time, it was banned in the U.S. to the point you could only get the cassette version that featured a less interesting silhouetted steel scorpion. Fine for a different album cover, but the Scorpions at this point were reknowned for their artwork, which was sometimes controversial given Lovedrive and the ultra sleazy Animal Magnetism. The alternate artwork for Mercury's bland by comparison cassette release was almost punishment for everyone involved, most especially the consumers.

What most people don't know about the Lovedrive album cover, and it is extremely hard to find in print, but the reverse artwork where we get nudity and the redhead holding a framed portrait of the Scorpions was in fact another form of censorship to what truly exists there. If you manage to find the original photo on this album, you're going to find she's completely topless and she's actually jacking the guy off with his crank on full display in her hand. Ever wonder why her face is scrunched up so tightly she looks like she's either taking a dump in the backseat or straining herself to the point of exhaustion? There you go.



Now, is all of this outrageous titillation the reason you can't live without Lovedrive? Well, yeah, and when I interviewed Matthias Jabs last year, we discussed the cover and he mentioned even he's astounded when fans across the world show up with the fully uncensored version of Lovedrive for him to sign.

You might say the mid to the late seventies was all about pushing the envelope with sexuality, as if trying to outdo the Roaring Twenties and in many ways succeeding. Robert Palmer broke through in 1976 by ramming the mainstream with his one-night-stand depiction on his Pressure Drop album where his nameless plaything stands bare-assed in the background, showing her fronties off to the balcony. Then there's Whitesnake's Lovehunter from 1979 with a naked vixen straddling a king serpent (no subtleties there). Hell, even John Lennon and Yoko Ono were in on the be free, be naked spree of the seventies with their famous nude cuddling pic which appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Honestly, though, the Scorpions could've simply made do with their dirty visual work and called it a day, yet the contents inside Lovedrive more than makes the difference as it is one of their finest albums to-date.

Almost everyone who appreciates heavy music recognizes "Loving You Sunday Morning" within the first few notes, even if the Scorpions have more widely-recognized tunes which we don't need to address at this time. With the same bravado as the album's cover, "Loving You Sunday Morning" is a breathy and addictive tune about weekend flings, where unlike Palmer, the idea is to stick around just a little longer and have a second helping.

"Another Piece of Meat" is naturally more to-the-point and you can draw your own analogies to it, but the rhythm is smoking, the riffs titanic and Klaus Meine's spiraling high octaves really juice the choruses on this one. It's the direct structural antithesis to "Can't Get Enough," which belts out cautious and anticipatory verses, building up that sweltering tension that has already been climaxed on "Another Piece of Meat." You might say the two songs interconnect with "Loving You Sunday Morning" since you can timeline the three together as an oversexed batch of tunes to grind continuously to.

As the Scorpions are one of the only hard rock bands to legitmiately pull off ballads without being pukey, they serve up two of their best on Lovedrive, "Holiday" and "Is There Anybody There?" The latter song is a purposeful slowdown moment, the proverbial cigarette after hot sex with its breezy island feel. The Carribean textures of "Is There Anybody There" is so direct the Trinidad-based rock unit Orange Sky would cover it faithfully last year on their sophomore album Dat Iz Voodoo.

While some bands covering "Holiday" have opted to be so creative in their interpretations they jack the tempo to punk speed, the swaying dreaminess the Scorpions relay is the more appealing way to go, particularly after the pumping, nympho throb of the title song, which calls for something of temperment.

Then of course there's the fantastic instrumental "Coast to Coast," which was one of the Scorpions' calling card tunes in concert during the eighties. Yes, people actually went more berserk for "The Zoo" and "Coast to Coast" at one point in time instead of "Winds of Change," "Big City Nights" and of course, "Rock You Like a Hurricane." Wait, I did say we weren't going to go there, didn't I?

All of the shock value of Lovedrive's front aside, it's the confidence lurking inside that makes the album indispensible. Also featuring Michael Schenker's last official recording with the Scorpions, that too lends the element of not being able to do without this album being in your collection.

Exhibiting all that generated the term "cock rock" in heavy metal, Lovedrive is vintage in that respect, but so very few bands afterwards could match its musical integrity. Sometimes you need some actual substance behind all of that bubblegum foreplay...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are you saying there is a J/O back cover as well as the one with the framed band? I have never seen that one!

Anonymous said...

Ond thing often missed about the Robert Palmer Pressure Drop cover seen as a one night stand. The picture was actually adopted from the works of Edward Hopper. Take a look at the similarities between it and Hopper's works. Robert appears lost in thought as so many people do in Hopper paintings. The nude is looking out the window and wearing shoes, other Hopper trademarks (see 11 AM, for instance). The couple is ignoring each other, typical for Hopper paintings (see for instance, Excursion into Philosophy).