40 Years Ago: The Scorpions’ ‘Fly to the Rainbow’ Points to Bigger Successes
The Scorpions rose phoenix-like from the ashes of recent career setbacks with their sophomore album ‘Fly to the Rainbow,’ released on November 1, 1974.
Over the previous year, the troubled band had gone as far as breaking up, following the rather disappointing performance of the debut project ‘Lonesome Crow’ and the crippling departure of lead guitarist Michael Schenker -- who’d been whisked away by UFO.
For Michael’s older brother Rudolf and fellow Scorpions frontman Klaus Meine, the next best available option for keeping their rock and roll dreams alive was to join another Hannover-based band named Dawn Road, featuring bassist Francis Buchholz, drummer Jurgen Rosenthal and another six-string wizard named Uli Jon Roth.
But before too long, the new quintet had mutually agreed to adopt the relatively established Scorpions moniker, and that’s when their fortunes changed: a new recording contract with the German division of RCA materialized and gave them a new lease on life, leading to the recording of ‘Fly to the Rainbow.’
Yet the band’s sound was still in transition. Only this album’s blistering opening number, ‘Speedy’s Coming,’ truly epitomized the focused hard rock that would soon become a Scorpions trademark, and while ‘Fly People Fly’ previewed their future knack for power ballads, much of the remaining material harked back to increasingly dated, late ‘60s aesthetics.
Both ‘They Need a Million’ and ‘Drifting Sun’ were largely fueled by Roth’s obsession with the Jimi Hendrix Experience and also stowed away synthesizers from the band’s brief, early days flirtation with krautrock. ‘This Is My Song’ was a harmless hippie-dippy jam, while ‘Far Away’ was unnecessarily weighed down by overwrought orchestral arrangements.
Even the album’s impressive, near-ten-minute title track indulged in some serious art rock pretension (Spanish guitars, Roth’s stoned space-shaman narration, etc.) but these were ultimately compensated for by its irresistible melodic themes and sheer sturm und drang.
All in all, ‘Fly to the Rainbow’ wasn't perfect, but it was clearly a perfectly respectable and occasionally very impressive bridge album for a band that had so recently found itself on the verge of total oblivion. It got the Scorpions back on their feet, moving in the right direction, and quickly paid huge dividends when the following year’s career-defining ‘In Trance’ helped set the template that would come to define Germany’s biggest hard-rock export.