How the Scorpions Charged Into the ’80s With ‘Animal Magnetism’
After steadily growing from strength-to-strength through the '70s, Germany's Scorpions confidently charged into the new decade on March 31, 1980, with their seventh studio album, Animal Magnetism. They were now setting their sights squarely on breaking big in America, like they had in Europe continent, the U.K. and even far-flung territories like Japan.
And the band had every reason to feel confident, having successfully dodged a potentially career-threatening bullet with their 1979 classic, Lovedrive, which saw them transition from longtime guitar magician Uli Jon Roth to hungry young gun Matthias Jabs – and all Jabs had to do was sweat out a few weeks of nervous coexistence with Michael Schenker, who dropped in to record a solo or two between his departure from UFO and the launch of his solo band, MSG.
Nobody could blame Scorpions mastermind Rudolf Schenker for letting his baby brother sit in, but Animal Magnetism showed that Jabs would be the man moving forward. The talented guitarist even contributed the music for the album's storming second cut, "Don't Make No Promises (Your Body Can't Keep)," to prove his worth.
Matthias' song followed a somewhat laid-back but even more irresistible opener, "Make it Real," and paved the way for another pair of of infectiously melodic hard rockers in "Hold me Tight" and "20th Century Man." These were written by Rudolf and singer Klaus Meine, with the occasional lyrical assist from drummer Herman Rarebell, whose command of the English language was tops in the group.
Next came the album's mandatory ballad, and this time the exceeding gentle "Lady Starlight" was boldly issued as the album's first single. But despite including an eight-piece string and horn section to further sweeten its romantic pleas, the tear-jerker was nether a hit nor a particular fan favorite.
Instead, those fans inevitably gravitated toward the heavy rockers splayed across the album's second half, including Rarebell's slightly repetitive (but effective) "Falling in Love," a born singalong in "Only a Man," the deceptively simple "The Zoo," which featured Jabs on talk box and later transformed into an absolute monster on stage, and, finally Animal Magnetism's astonishingly haunting, almost doom-like title track.
Another song, "Hey You," was recorded for use as a B-side, but wound up tacked on to the end of a few editions of Animal Magnetism. Its only distinguishing trait was falsetto lead vocals from Rudolf everywhere but the chorus.
And then there was the album's curious cover photo, which, for once, didn't require a censored replacement to pacify overly sensitive American audiences, but ultimately proved just as sexually suggestive as other notorious Scorpions LPs – though in rather more subliminal ways. Even cover designer Storm Thorgerson, of Hipgnosis fame, couldn't hide his bemusement in a 2008 interview, saying, "That one was funny. I don't think we figured it out. We just knew there was something rude somewhere."
In all likelihood, that "something rude somewhere" is precisely what has made this particular LP into a dark horse favorite among die-hard Scorpions fans: Despite the fact that both 1982's Blackout and '84's Love at First Sting became the huge American success stories the band had been hoping for, eclipsing Animal Magnetism with enough massive hit singles to block the sun.
Those fans may not always hear its songs in concert, and rarely on the radio, but their magnetic pull still draws them nonetheless, forcing them to obey the compass of their most basic animal instincts.