35 Years Ago: Scorpions Release Their Breakthrough Album, ‘Blackout’
Scorpions entered the early '80s poised for their worldwide breakthrough — but they came uncomfortably close to losing their singer in the bargain.
As the band prepared to work on their eighth studio LP in 1981, all the incessant touring and recording they'd put themselves through over the preceding decade seemed like they were finally about to pay off. With 1979's Lovedrive, they'd finally cracked the charts in the U.S. — and they inched a few notches higher with Animal Magnetism the following year. With the market primed for more Scorpions, they just needed to deliver, and they were ready on the songwriting front. Vocally, however, singer Klaus Meine was a mess.
"I think the heavy touring and studio schedule finally got me. My voice was in bad shape. I couldn’t sing and I thought my career was over," Meine told Noisecreep. "I couldn’t sing. It was that simple."
Forced to seek surgery for the problem, Meine was out of commission for months; meanwhile, the band continued to put together demos — many written by their ailing singer — for the new LP. Although the tracking process started relatively late in Meine's recovery period, there was still a period during which he was unable to sing, so in order to get the songs together, they reached out to a young Don Dokken.
Dokken, at the time touring with an early version of his eponymous band, was recommended as a potential fill-in who could approximate Meine's range, and he ended up pinch-hitting for a period with the rest of the group while Meine rested. "He recorded some of the songs with them," Meine later explained. "I had some surgeries done and rested my voice for about six months or something. When I finally came back, I was in really good shape. I even did the high-pitched backing vocals like I did on the older records."
It took a lot to get it finished, but the album, titled Blackout, proved well worth the effort after its arrival in stores on March 29, 1982. On the strength of the huge rock radio hit "No One Like You," Blackout immediately became Scorpions' biggest global seller by a wide margin, charting in countries where they'd previously had no success and achieving new heights in parts of the world where they'd already established a toehold — like the U.S., where the album gave them their first Top 10 hit and platinum LP.
Blackout marked the start of a whirlwind decade for the band, one that became even more intense after the release of their next effort, 1984's hugely popular Love at First Sting. By the time the '90s dawned, Scorpions were firmly entrenched as a global hard-rock phenomenon, and for a lot of U.S. fans, it all started with Blackout — the record on which, if things had turned out a little differently for Meine, the band might have gone in a different direction.
Looking back years later, it's tempting to wonder what might have been, but Dokken insists he never thought of his time with Scorpions as potentially leading to anything else — not only because he was a fan, but because he would have had an even harder time carrying Meine's vocal load.
"Even if they had asked me to replace him, I would have said 'Are you crazy?'" Dokken later told Metal Rules. "If they asked me to sing in Scorpions, which would be a dream, I would say no because you can’t have Scorpions without Klaus. I just went in and sang a couple lines — and trust me, they killed me. They kept telling me to sing higher and higher. After eight hours of work, it just sounded like buzzing."
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