They’re back, as if there was any doubt. If KISS taught us anything, it’s that farewell in the rock ‘n’ roll lexicon is just another way of saying “see ya soon.” Germany’s finest export, along with Spaten and Hofbrau, the SCORPIONS, embarked in 2010 upon an unprecedented three-year farewell world tour that ended in 2013. Of course, if you go by Klaus Meine’s statement three years ago that the SCORPS wouldn’t be breaking up following their monumental road jaunt, then for certain it’s all about “see ya soon.”
The year 2015 marked the band’s 50th anniversary, and the SCORPIONS are building upon the momentum they gained with their lauded “MTV Unplugged” special. The year also saw the band release the mostly pleasing “Return to Forever”. The album dusted off and reworked outtake songs spanning the band’s career, and included some new songs written between 2011-2014. Right behind it comes “Forever and a Day”, a wonderful career retrospective that built up to the band’s purported final show in Munich.
While the possibility of the SCORPIONS hitting the road again (like KISS) seems easily, the premise behind “Forever and a Day” is a bit anticlimactic. Yet, director Katja Von Garnier assembles a near-masterpiece documentary of the band hitting a decided crossroads. As Klaus Meine himself describes “Forever and a Day”, “the film portrays not only the glamour of rock ‘n’ roll, but also gives an insight into the darker side of the music industry: self-doubt and personal conflict.”
“Forever and a Day” is hardly stuffed with the explosive drama of say, METALLICA’s “Some Kind of Monster”, but it’s hard not to be affected watching Meine struggle through swollen vocal cords, which prompts the postponement of a gig in Paris on the farewell tour. The show had significant meaning to the band, as they’d performed at the venue’s opening, long before. This, plus the fact “Still Loving You” (the greatest rock ballad of all-time) remains the best-selling single in French history.
So too is it gripping to witness both Klaus Meine and bassist Pawel Maciwoda compelled to remain on the road in the midst of the farewell tour while both losing their mothers. “Forever and a Day” is largely celebratory in tone and reflection, but it’s the understated versus the obvious that delivers the most impact. What must it feel like when Matthias Jabs poses the critical question “Where do we go from here?” to a band that flew a helicopter out to welcome him to fortify not just a group, but a gang? How touching is it to see Klaus Meine and his wife Gabi still together after all these years. Their relationship is described by former SCORPIONS drummer Herman Rarebell in the film as “one of the rare marriages that has survived rock and roll?” This for a band that’s been repeatedly accused of misogyny over the course of its career.
“Forever and a Day” beautifully merges archival footage of the SCORPIONS during the “Lonesome Crow” years. We see the band tooling around in a van, playing gigs at country clubs where the proprietors banned them from eating. The group would go on to win a local battle of the bands to win their first record contract (after first being disqualified for being too loud), and have hardly had to look back upon those salad days.
Yet for the longtime fan, it’s gratifying to see the band’s roots, along with their American and subsequent global breakout during the 1980s, mingled with footage of their farewell tour. In “Forever and a Day”, we see the band’s name drawn in the air by five fighter jets overtop the 1983 US Festival in California, which was nearly broken up by the VAN HALEN camp, teasingly retold here. We see the SCORPIONS at their jacked up best onstage, striped spandex and all: darting, jumping, tumbling, performing their famous “knot” formation, being described by KISS’s Paul Stanley as acrobats aside from musicians.
The film follows the current lineup of Klaus Meine, Rudy Schenker, Matthias Jabs, James Kottak and Pawel Maciwoda while wrangling up brief comments from alumni Michael Schenker, Uli Jon Roth and Herman Rarebell. Producers, road crew and managers chime in, including Dieter Dirks, who was instrumental in realizing the band’s supposed pipe dream of making it huge in the United States. Aside from Paul Stanley, other cameos flutter through “Forever and a Day”: Don Dokken, Alex Skolnick, Danko Jones and IN FLAMES vocalist Anders Friden. Even former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev appears in the film; testifying to a friendship with the band built during the Soviet regime and lasting through to today.
Presented largely in German with English subtitles, it’s a fitting exposition for a band that made it a point to sing predominantly in English, and historically struggled to maintain a loyal audience in their own country. It also underscores the significance of a German hard rock band breaking through the one-time Iron Curtain of pre-perestroika Russia and performing their music to that audience in English. Bonus footage includes a lengthy discussion from Klaus and Rudy in a classic clip from the Eighties after-hours music show “Night Flight”, as to the reason the SCORPIONS had the stones to release 1985’s “World Wide Live”, when it had become unfashionable for bands to deliver live albums.
It took them three years to properly salute their tremendous following, but “Forever and a Day” leaves not a feeling of farewell, but “see ya soon.”