Greek History: The Scorpions Do MTV Unplugged in Athens
Blackett, Matt, Guitar Player
IT'S HARD TO SAY GOODBYE. IT'S ESPECIALLY HARD after 50 years. So that's why you have to cut the Scorpions some slack for the fact that they've been on their current farewell tour since 2010. After all, they have fans all over the globe, and they want to try to see them all before they call it quits. In a career as long as theirs, there's not much they haven't done. Sold-out tours? Check. Hit records? Check. Fans rocked like hurricanes? Duh. But one thing the Scorps had not done is a show on MTV Unplugged. Acoustic-themed gigs are not exactly a new thing for the band. They did their album Moment of Glory in 2000, where they performed their hits with the Berlin Philharmonic, and released Acoustica the following year, and that very well could have been' enough. When the offer came in to do the iconic MTV show, however, it seemed like it could be one more feather in the cap of the great German rock band. But founder Rudolf Schenker and longtime cohort Matthias Jabs didn't want to simply rehash what they had done on Acoustica. If they were to make this work, they would need to reimagine their hits, dust off some B-sides, create some new material, and unearth some obscure gems in order to give Scorpions fans something really memorable. And it wouldn't hurt if the concert could be recorded in an amazing, gig-of-a-lifetime setting.
Well, that's exactly what they did to create Scorpions MTV Unplugged in Athens. They crafted a killer set with all-new arrangements and set up in Greece's Lycabettus Theater, a 50-yearold open-air venue with a view of the Acropolis. Schenker and Jabs made their way through 25 tunes, many of which were in new and different tunings from the originals, and some of which had never been performed before. The two spoke at length from Germany on the day of the release about the album, the history of the band, and what the future might hold.
How did this DVD come to be?
Schenker: Well, 2013 was supposed to be a year for us to relax after three years on the road. But when the phone call from MTV Unplugged came, it was a pretty easy decision, because Unplugged was something we hadn't done in our career. They offered it to us in the '80s, but we could never do it because we were on tour or making a record or whatever. So we really wanted to do it, but at the same time we knew that we had already done an acoustic album. We knew this had to be different. We spoke to our producer guys, Mikael Nord Andersson and Martin Hansen, and they said, "We went through your material and there are a lot of songs you could do that aren't on Acoustica." Matthias, Klaus, and I met with them, listened to the catalog, and found a lot of stuff that we thought could work. We didn't want to just replace heavy guitars with acoustic guitars. We wanted brand new arrangements, including open tunings, 12-strings, percussion, keyboards, making songs faster, making an acoustic guitar orchestra, all of that. And we told MTV, "We don't want to do it in a studio. We want to do it in Greece, in this amphitheater under the Acropolis. Let's not do it in front of 250 people. Let's do it in front of 3,500 people."
Jabs: We definitely didn't want to do the same songs from Acoustica over again. We had to choose songs we hadn't done in an acoustic setting or songs we'd never played live or write some new ones. We didn't even want to do "Rock You Like a Hurricane" or "Still Loving You" at first. In the end, we did them because the record company and the fans really wanted to hear them. But the basic idea was to do something out of the ordinary and not repeat ourselves.
Talk about the arrangements. "Sting In the Tall" has a Cajun feel, "Can't Live Without You" is a blues shuffle.
Jabs: I was the only one from the band who went to Stockholm, and I arranged the tunes with Mikael and Martin, our producer friends. Some of these things were done at breakfast in the studio in Sweden. …