Having sold more than 100 million records over the course of their 47-year career, German rock gods Scorpions will certainly be missed once the final note rings out on the last date of their two-and-a-half-year-long farewell tour later this year.
But, as longtime guitarist Matthias Jabs explained in a recent interview with GuitarWorld.com, the band doesn’t want to fall victim to an avoidable element that has tainted the legacies of so many groups before them: time.
“We would like to be remembered as Scorpions in top form. I’ve seen too many bands that missed their point. All of a sudden, they don’t play arenas anymore, and then it’s the theaters and then the clubs,” said Jabs, who joined the band in 1978 and played on all of their biggest hits, including “Rock You Like a Hurricane” and “Wind of Change.” “We don’t want to see ourselves aging onstage.”
There’s still some sting left in the rockers’ tails, though. Last week, they released Comeblack, which combines updated versions of their greatest hits and covers of the songs they swear by, including The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” and The Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday.”
“We narrowed it down to the songs that were all written in the ‘60s,” Jabs said. “The music of that decade had the biggest influence on us.”
GUITAR WORLD: How did you guys figure out which songs to cover for Comeblack?
We had plenty of ideas, but we narrowed it down to the songs that were all written in the ‘60s. The music of that decade had the biggest influence on us, even though ‘70s music like Led Zeppelin did, too, of course. We tried some Zeppelin but decided we shouldn’t touch it. Same with Hendrix. I wish we could’ve done a Hendrix cover, but we were focusing on the vocals, so we were only going to do the song if we could sing it well.
What does it feel like to be nearing the end of your farewell tour?
The farewell started in spring 2010 and we’ve been to a lot of places since then. I think everybody’s trying to postpone the future. Now 2012 will be the final tour and the last time we play in these various cities. You cannot say goodbye to your fans every night. It’s a sad thing, and you get depressed after awhile. When we finally play our last show together, it will probably be a very spectacular but very sad moment at the same time.
Has the band thought about what the last song at the final show will be?
Nobody knows when or where the last show is going to be, so I don’t know. Even though we’ll have played the final show, nobody can forbid us from making music. We can still play together, so the very last song might be much later. This doesn’t mean that we’ll stop making music.
Do you guys feel any regrets about retiring from the road?
No, we never regretted it because it makes sense. After listening to (2010's) Sting in the Tail, which turned out great, we wanted to finish on a high note. We would like to be remembered as Scorpions in top-form. B.B. King, he’s in a wheelchair and playing up there at age 85, but as a rock band, we don’t want to see ourselves aging onstage.
You now famously play a Gibson Explorer, but what was your first guitar?
My first guitar was an acoustic guitar, a Klria. I think it’s an old German brand. I got it from my parents for my 13th birthday. Soon after, I got my first electric guitar, which was a 1963 Fender Stratocaster, which wasn’t considered vintage yet because that was only 1969. It was a great guitar.
What's the most memorable concert experience you've had as a member of Scorpions?
I remember the first time in Bangkok in 1982 we played two shows. It was an adventure! People were trying to thank us by throwing live scorpions onto the stage. It was meant to be a nice gesture. I also remember sitting in a traffic jam on the way to a show in Bangkok and I had the tinted windows rolled down so I could actually see something, and here’s this guy riding on an elephant who waves to me and goes, “Hi Matthias.” That was cool.
Scorpions' latest album, Comeblack, was released January 24 via Sony Legacy. Be sure to visit the band's official Facebook page.
Matthias Jabs photo: Uwe Weger