Bands like Rush and AC/DC wear as a badge of honor the fact that they’ve never written or performed a power ballad. I love them both, but they’re pussies. The power ballad is to rock and roll what Al Pacino in Scarface is to acting. The artist has little use for subtlety or restraint Á¢€” emotion is laid bare, put forth in the most emotive manner possible. In power ballads, the tempo slows; the guitars come to the fore; the notes the singer sings echo and elongate for miles and miles. When done well, the result is beautiful in its pure, overblown glory, enabling the audience to say “hello” to the band’s leetle friend, usually with lighters held aloft.
Every two weeks or so, I will pay tribute to the finest examples of the genre. Together, we will find this death by power ballad to be an exquisite one, indeed. — RS
My vote for greatest rock and roll song of all time goes to the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” It’s got it all: its guitars are loud and its lyrics filthy, sung in broken English by a bunch of long-haired yet still balding German dudes with names like Klaus and Matthias. The album it came from, Love at First Sting, was chock full of likewise loud, enormous-sounding, German-accented rawk songs like “Big City Nights,” “I’m Leaving You,” and “Bad Boys Running Wild” (cuz the Scorps were not good boys; good boys would never do such a thing).
The same record also contained “Still Loving You,” one of the great power ballads of the ’80s Á¢€” one you typically see on Volume 2 of the typical multi-disc set of Hard Rock Ballads” or “Metal Hits” or other bargain bin product. Rarely does it make the cut for the first volume, which is typically crowded with Whitesnake, Warrant, and Winger shit. More about them some other time.
“Still Loving You” is six and a half minutes of slow-building rock ballad pleading, the kind of groveling that guys only do when they’ve fucked up really bad. Really bad. Bad, as in you sleep with your girlfriend’s best friend, in the bed you share with your girlfriend, on your girlfriend’s side of the bed, using your girlfriend’s “toys” and her brand new candle from Bath and Body Works, and instead of cleaning up the sticky, smelly, waxy mess afterward, you just throw the comforter over it and leave your girlfriend a note, asking her to please throw the sheets in the wash when she gets a chance. That kind of bad.Over Rudolph Schenker’s clean arpeggiatin’, Klaus Meine (the band’s diminutive, follicly challenged singer) makes some initial declarations Á¢€” “Time, it needs time to win back your love again / I will be there,” and “Only love can win back your love someday” and “Babe, I’ll fight to win back your love again” Á¢€” the kind of blubbering, barely English declarations only a really drunk, really apologetic groveller can slur out. After the first chorus, he gets into the real hardcore groveling Á¢€” “Baby try to trust in my love again” (translation: “I’m really sorry about the stains”) and “Our love just shouldn’t be thrown away” (translation: “I’m really, really sorry about the stains”). I mean, who can resist? A little German elf is begging forgiveness? Put the sheets in the washer and fuggeddaboutit Á¢€¦
The chorus is where “Still Loving You” achieves the massiveness that makes it the classic power ballad it is. The geetars bulldoze their way through the speakers and everything gets appreciably louder. Schenker’s power chords form the solid ground over which Matthias Jabs can spark off bluesy lead licks, shot through with that cool ’80s DigiTech hair metal distortion. Meine goes into full-on begging mode, even invoking the name of the German legend Bright-Ass BildewÁƒ¤ld, Munich’s Master of the Grovel (okay, the line is really “Pride has built a wall,” but with that accent, who can tell?). There’s buildup, tension, release, then more tension, more release, until the end, when it’s all release Á¢€” a whole buncha waves of it.
“Still Loving You” is the power ballad jewel in the Scorps’ crownÁ¢€”so much better than later goofs like “Wind of Cheenge” (sorry, “Wind of Change”) or, God help me, their cover of Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind.” Like the best of the genre, it is a force of nature all its own (particularly that chorus), a song to let wash over you, or to keep in your back pocket if your girlfriend’s best friend starts making eyes at you.