Rarebell, Herman (w. Krikorian, Michael)
And Speaking Of Scorpions... (Book Review)
Released: 2011, Indie
As more and more bands who comprised the first wave of Metal, (say roughly 1970-1984) enter the twilight of their careers, we are starting to see a pretty big increase in the number of autobiographies being published. The potential growth in this realm of publishing is massive. Think about it, every dude in a band has a story to tell and you could have three, four or more autobiographies per band, depending on the number of members of course, and that's not including all the biographies! Many of the titans have already published their autobiographies (Hughes, Iommi, Osborne, Hagar, Simmons, Tyler) and we are just scratching the surface. Some Hard Rock/Heavy Metal autobiographies are perhaps a bit premature (Mustaine, Roth) or obscure (Blades, Deisinger) but no less worthy or interesting. AND SPEAKING OF SCORPIONS... seems to fall somewhere in between the rock elite and the lesser known.
When I read that the autobiography of Herman 'ze German' Rarebell was being released I was initially very excited because I'm a big Scorpions fan and this is the first book (I believe) to come from Camp Scorpions.
My second thought was that the number of books coming out is a getting ridiculous and is a little overwhelming. Do we really need the autobiography of the drummer of the Scorpions? He was just one of seven Scorpions drummers over the years and left the band almost two decades ago! What could he possibly have to say other than recounting a few 80's war stories? Why would I want to read a book about a guy I've never met (and probably never will meet) just because he played drums in a band I like? Well, how wrong I was! If you have any hesitation or reservations set them aside and get AND SPEAKING OF SCORPIONS... Rarebell's book is one of the more entertaining autobiographies I've read in a long time. It's witty, insightful and a helluva fun read.
Like 99% of autobiographies, Rarebell recounts his life story in a chronological and linear fashion starting at the beginning, with heavy emphasis on the glory years and very little detail about his recent activities. That is to be expected because as Rarebell himself realizes that the average person wants to read about how many groupies he banged in Arizona in 1985, not what he had for breakfast last week.
Rarebell has led a full and exciting life, even post-Scorpions. He tells of his humble beginnings and rise to the pinnacle of global superstardom in a dynamic and very funny fashion. He balances a tone of humorous self-depreciation and rock star ego laced with quite a bit of insight into issues like political correctness and fidelity.
There were a couple of things that did rub me the wrong way, although I doubt he would care. Rarebell like many many musicians is a bit ignorant of the music scene. I know that sounds odd and it is not a criticism directed at him but a general observation. Musicians in big bands like the Scorpions have handlers and layers of protection and when you get to that level like the Scorpions did, the members can lead a very insular lifestyle, not necessarily by choice but by necessity. Compounding this scenario is that often a musician who writes, records and plays music all day doesn't want to listen to music on their downtime. In addition at times musicians don't really care what the 'competition' is doing. These three factors can lead to the fact that often musicians can be clueless about even their own genre. Accordingly, Rarebell makes some dismissive uninformed and unnecessary comments about bands they met, bumped into and toured with. For example referring to the 1988 Monsters of Rock Tour, Rarebell refers to Kingdom Come, Dokken and Metallica as "unknown entities". All those artists were huge, international multiplatinum touring bands on major labels, hardly " unknown". Hell, Dokken are basically the American Scorpions and Don almost replaced Klaus so I felt his comments were unwarranted. It's ok to dislike a band but cheap shots are not necessary, bands take enough flak from fans and media let alone their own colleagues and tour mates taking shots at them. I thought maybe he was joking but it happens several times in the book speaking somewhat poorly of Girlschool, Bon Jovi and Kiss.
Rarebell was even dismissive of Scorpions before he joined suggested the band hadn’t done much before his arrival. That is not really true as Scorpions toured, were on a major label and had been around for ten years and recorded four albums before he joined, do I don't see why he felt the need to denigrate them. He also says Scorpions were not as successful since he left. While technically true in terms of straight sales, that applied to ALL bands of that style post 1992. Scorpions (and every other band) suffered because a wholesale shift in the industry not because he left the band and they never recovered. Scorpions have done perfectly well without him.
Now, to provide an alternate perspective. The facts don't lie, after he joined and started writing Scorpions skyrocketed to stardom with a string of multi-platinum albums and global tours playing to some of the largest crowds in the world. Rarebell co-wrote some huge hits AND most importantly because of his superior command of the English language, compared to his band-mates, he was chief lyricist. I did not really know that before I reach his book. Absolutely true, Rarebell was the last critical piece of the now complete puzzle and I do doubt they could have achieved as much ad they did without him. Many people I suspect, myself included until I read AND SPEAKING OF SCORPIONS, do not realize how important his contributions were. He was much more than just the proverbial drummer!
Rarebell goes into some detail about the glory years, the booze, the drugs and the ex-wives (many of them!) with refreshing sincerity and a candid tone but without just emphasizing dirt to be sensational. It happened, he was there, it was fun. What young man would not want to be a millionaire rockstar banging a different hot chick every night? That is living the dream and Rarebell lived the dream. Not many people get to be close personal friends with The Prince Of Monaco! He also clears up some rumors (specifically about his involvement in the recording of LOVE AT FIRST STING) and his eventual exit from the band.
Rarebell talks about his post-Scorpions life with a little less detail but still enthusiastically, tells the tales of his record label, his side-projects, his solo albums and so forth. The 242-page paperback (with a couple dozen photos) starts with a nice intro by producer DD and ends with some words of wisdom, some regret and some advice. I would have liked to see a discography tacked on the end. He freely admits this is his version of reality and says that when his former band-mates (ie. Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker) write their life-stories, their perspective may be different.
All of the above comments tie into my initial (mild) skepticism about the book. If I had not read AND SPEAKING OF SCORPIONS I would not have learned what an integral part of the Scorpions legacy Herman Rarebell is. His autobiography is fascinating, insightful and a great read.