Scorpions: Virgin Killer [1976]

Released October 9, 1976
Recorded 1976
Genre Hard rockheavy metal
Length 34:45
Label RCA
Producer Dieter Dierks

Virgin Killer is the fourth studio album by the German heavy metal band Scorpions. It was released in 1976 and was the first album of the band to attract attention outside Europe.[1] The title is described as being a reference to time as the killer ofinnocence.[2] The original cover featured a nude prepubescent girl, which stirred controversy in the U.K., U.S. and elsewhere. As a result, the album was re-issued with a different cover in some countries.

In December 2008, the image again gave rise to controversy when the British Internet Watch Foundation placed certain pages from Wikipedia on its internet blacklist, since it considered the image to be “potentially illegal” under the Protection of Children Act 1978.[3] This resulted in much of the UK being prevented from editing Wikipedia, and significant public debate of the decision. The decision was reversed by the IWF after four days of blocking.

Reception

The success of Virgin Killer was similar to other Scorpions albums featuring Uli Jon Roth as lead guitarist; it “failed to attain any serious attention in the United States” but was “quite popular in Japan”[6] where it peaked at number 32 in the charts.[7]The album was another step in the band’s shift from psychedelic music to hard rock.[8] Critic Vincent Jeffries of Allmusiccontends in hindsight that the album was “the first of four studio releases that really defined the Scorpions and their urgent metallic sound that was to become highly influential.”[9] He also counts the title track and “Pictured Life” among the “all-time Scorpions standouts.” Among the band members, Uli Jon Roth considers Virgin Killer and the previous release In Trance as his favourite Scorpions albums.

Cover art

The original cover art for the album depicted a nude ten-year-old girl named Jaqueline,[11] with a shattered glass effect obscuring her genitalia. The image was designed by Steffan Böhle,[12] who was then the product manager for RCA Records.[10] Francis Buchholz was the bassist for the band and, in an interview conducted in early 2007, recollects that the model depicted on the cover was either the daughter or the niece of the cover designer.[13] The photograph was taken by Michael von Gimbut.[14] The band’s rhythm guitarist Rudolf Schenker offers the following description of the circumstances behind the album cover:

We didn’t actually have the idea. It was the record company. The record company guys were like, ‘Even if we have to go to jail, there’s no question that we’ll release that.’ On the song ‘Virgin Killer’, time is the virgin killer. But then, when we had to do the interviews about it, we said ‘Look, listen to the lyrics and then you’ll know what we’re talking about. We’re using this only to get attention. That’s what we do.’ Even the girl, when we met her fifteen years later, had no problem with the cover. Growing up in Europe, sexuality, of course not with children, was very normal. The lyrics really say it all. Time is the virgin killer. A kid comes into the world very naive, they lose that naiveness and then go into this life losing all of this getting into trouble. That was the basic idea about all of it.[2]

In a separate interview, Schenker also notes that he thought the cover art was a “great thing” and that he had “pushed the band to really stay behind it” as he felt that people would “think differently” when they looked at the lyrics and realized that the cover art was only being used as “a symbol of the lyrics.”[15] In a 2008 interview, Schenker added “We would never again do something like this”.[11] The band’s former lead guitarist Uli Jon Roth notes that the cover art of the “old Scorpion albums” were “usually done by other people.”[10] He has since expressed regret over the original album cover:

Looking at that picture today makes me cringe. It was done in the worst possible taste. Back then I was too immature to see that. Shame on me—I should have done everything in my power to stop it. The record company came up with the idea, I think. The lyrics incidentally were a take-off on Kiss, whom we had just supported on a tour. I was fooling around and played the riff of the song in the rehearsal room and spontaneously improvised ’cause he’s a virgin killer!’ trying to do a more or less way-off-the-mark Paul Stanley impersonation. Klaus immediately said ‘that’s great! You should do something with it.’ Then I had the unenviable task of constructing a meaningful set of lyrics around the title, which I actually managed to do to some degree. But the song has a totally different meaning from what people would assume at first. Virgin Killer is none other than the demon of our time, the less compassionate side of the societies we live in today—brutally trampling upon the heart and soul of innocence.[16]

In 2008, photographer Michael von Gimbut emphasized that his wife, the model’s mother and sister and three female assistants had been present during the shooting and stated “We loved and protected children and did not sleep with them” (“Wir liebten und beschützten die Kinder damals und schliefen nicht mit ihnen”).[11]

The cover generated controversy: the album could only be sold sealed in black plastic in several countries[11] and the cover was replaced in some countries with an alternative cover art depicting the band members.[8] The original is named in various “worst album cover” lists: Cracked magazine online named it the #1 “Worst Album Cover of All-Time,”[17] while Gigwise.com lists it as #2 on its March 2008 “The 50 Most Controversial Album Covers of All Time!” list.[18] Similarly, it was named (by UGO Networks) one of the “Weirdest Album Covers,”[19] and placed #6 on the “All-Time Worst Album Covers” list made by two.one.five magazine.[20]

This would not be the last time that the band attracted controversy with its album covers. Their next album, Taken by Force, originally featured cover art that depicted “children playing with guns at a military cemetery in France and some people found that offensive.”[10] Their 1979 album Lovedrive featured a “bizarre artwork” that depicts “a woman on the back seat of a car with bubblegum over her breast.”[8] Both covers were replaced by an alternate design.[21][22] Vocalist Klaus Meine explains that the band’s penchant for controversial cover art stems from a desire “to go over the edge” and not “to offend some people or make the headlines [as] that would be stupid”, contrasting guitarist Rudolf Schenker’s earlier statement, “We’re using this only to get attention.”[1][2] In a 2010 interview Meine commented on the cover art again stating:

Back in those days (the 70’s) it was RCA, our record label then, went over the edge with Virgin Killer. Today when you think of child pornography on the net, you would never do something like that. We never did this in the sense of pornography, we did it in the sense of art. It is about the song and the label was pushing the idea because they wanted to get the controversy to help the album sale and you cannot get better promotion than that. Looking back from the band point of view it was never an album cover that we took home to our parents and said, “Look what we just released..” There was always mixed feelings about it and even 30 years later it caused a scandal at Wikipedia because the site for that album was blocked and even the FBI was getting involved. All of that after so many years, can you believe that?[23]

Internet censorship

Internet Watch FoundationIn May 2008, the U.S.-based social conservative site WorldNetDaily reported the cover image on Wikipedia to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. An officer of the Concerned Women for America, a conservative Christian advocacy group, commented that: “By allowing that image to remain posted, Wikipedia is helping to further facilitate perversion and pedophilia. [sic]”[24]EContent magazine subsequently reported the Wikipedia community‘s internal debate as concluding that: “Prior discussion has determined by broad consensus that the Virgin Killer cover will not be removed” and asserted that Wikipedia contributors “favour inclusion in all but the most extreme cases”.[25]

In December 2008, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a UK-based non-government organization, added the Wikipedia articleVirgin Killer to its internet blacklist due to concerns over legality of the image, which had been assessed as the lowest level of legal concern: “erotic posing with no sexual activity”.[26] As a result, people using many major UK ISPs were blocked from viewing the entire article by the Cleanfeed system,[26][27][28] and a large part of the UK was blocked from editing Wikipedia owing to the means of blocking in use. Following discussion,[vague] representations by the Wikimedia Foundation (who host the Wikipedia website)[29] and public complaints,[30] the IWF reversed their decision three days later and confirmed that in future they would not block copies of the image that were hosted overseas.[4] The IWF stated that one of the reasons for reversing their decision was that it had increased public interest in the image, an example of the Streisand effect.

Track listing

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Pictured Life” Klaus MeineUlrich RothRudolf Schenker 3:21
2. “Catch Your Train” Meine, Schenker 3:32
3. “In Your Park” Meine, Schenker 3:39
4. “Backstage Queen” Meine, Schenker 3:10
5. “Virgin Killer” Roth 3:41
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Hell Cat” Roth 2:54
2. “Crying Days” Meine, Schenker 4:36
3. “Polar Nights” Roth 5:04
4. “Yellow Raven” Roth 4:58

Listening

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Lyrics

1. Pictured Life

Music :Rudolf Schenker
Lyrics:Klaus Meine, Ulrich Roth

Ooh! Dark meditation,
Your second sight can show my light
In a crystal ball.
Sweet are the days, intoxication
Crow-black the nights caging my mind
Behind the wall.

Into the rock through walls of red dreams
Into the rock to find the cream
Into the rock through walls of red dreams
Pictured life from yesterday.

Ooh! Dark meditation,
Deep down inside a stream of light
Begins to flow.
Sweet are the days, intoxication
Crow-black the nights caging my mind
Behind the wall.

Into the rock through walls of red dreams
Into the rock to find the cream
Into the rock through walls of red dreams
Pictured life from yesterday.

Pictured life, pictured life
Pictured life from yesterday …

2. Catch Your Train

Music :Rudolf Schenker
Lyrics:Klaus Meine

Wake up man it’s late but not too late,
It’s six o’clock like everyday!

Get your things run and forget the rain,
Take powerpills don’t miss your train!

And you’d like to be another
A different guy and a better lover
For your love, for your life check your way.
And you like the Rock’n’Roller
A different life and Whisky Cola
But don’t be low keep your own style
And catch your train!

Don’t be lazy man and work off your ass,
He’s the boss you’ve gotta do what he says!

Catch your train, run and forget those ways,
Keep it cool it’s not too late!

And you’d like to be another
A different guy and a better lover
For your love, for your life check your way.
And you like the Rock’n’Roller
A different life and Whisky Cola
But don’t be low keep your own style
And catch your train!

3. In Your Park

Music :Rudolf Schenker
Lyrics:Klaus Meine

In the night there is
A gentle voice of silence
So low and quiet
She’ll catch me ‘cos I’ve been longing.

I want to walk in your park
Cos I’m alone,
I want to walk in your heart
Where are you? I don’t know …

I look around and see
The sunshine in the morning.
(Shadows in the night
Like angels by your side in the alley …)

On my journey I change the time,
Leave everything behind me.
(Shadows in the night
Like angels by your side in the alley …)

I want to walk in your park
Cos I’m alone,
I want to walk in your heart
Where are you? I don’t know …

Let me walk, let me walk in your heart!

4. Backstage Queen

Music :Rudolf Schenker
Lyrics:Klaus Meine

Hey little Donna, sweet little Donna I know
You wanted my love and I gave it to you.
Hey little Donna, sweet little Donna you know
Goodbye is hello, ‘cos I’m on the road.

Take it easy, don’t get me wrong,
Just keep me in your dreams.
Take it easy, life goes on
My little backstage queen.

Hey little Donna, sweet little Donna so good
My feeling with you was all very true.
Hey little Donna, sweet little Donna you know
Goodbye is hello, ‘cos I’m on the road.

Take it easy, don’t get me wrong,
Just keep me in your dreams.
Take it easy, life goes on
My little backstage queen.

Hey little Donna
Sweet little Donna
Goodbye Donna …

5. Virgin Killer

Music :Ulrich Roth
Lyrics:Ulrich Roth

Cry like you feel,
Try like you feel, feel it …!
Try to escape,
Cry to escape, escape it …!
It’s so hard to run away
He’s a virgin killer …

No, no, no, can’t you see?
No, no, no, can’t you see?
You’re a demon’s, you’re a demon’s,
You’re a demon’s desire!

Death on the screen,
Sadistic magazines, watch out
Suicides ev’ryday,
Political ways, get it
Well, you can’t find new ways …
But he’s a virgin killer …

No, no, no, can’t you see?
No, no, no, can’t you see?
You’re a demon’s, you’re a demon’s,
You’re a demon’s desire!

Garbage in the streams,
A-bombs in your dreams, look out
Sharks in the pictures,
Exorcist prescriptions, forget it
Try to get away from that,
Cos he’s a virgin killer …

No, no, no, can’t you see?
No, no, no, can’t you see?
You’re a demon’s, you’re a demon’s,
You’re a demon’s desire!

6. Hell Cat

Music: Ulrich Roth
Lyrics:Ulrich Roth

Fire in her eyes … burn …
Perfume of the skies …
Fingers cold as ice … freeze …
Devil in disguise!

Well, she’s a, she’s a, she’s a
You know that she’s a hell-cat, hell-cat, hell-cat, hell-cat
(She’s gonna scratch up your mind …)
You know that guy with piccadilly-eyes
Was talking to the French boy
But didn’t realize.
Banana-long-boat-eating
An’ he tried to get a wife
But he couldn’t stay alive
Well, you know that lad with the rubber-dad
Paints his fingers yellow, blue, and red.
An’ you also know that she’s a liar
Knowing only her desire …

7. Crying Days

Music :Rudolf Schenker
Lyrics:Klaus Meine

Force yourself to use your brain,
The only way to gain,
A lot of things are just a lie.
This world we love comes down in pain
With hate and bloody games
A question-mark up in the sky.

Look, you can’t keep away
And you can’t hide
Tomorrow, yesterday, today …

Some people say, we’ll do it better
Some people say, everything’s good
Some people sing, let’s come together
But nobody has ever brought it through
Maybe you and me …

8. Polar Nights

Music :Ulrich Roth
Lyrics:Ulrich Roth

Down, down …
That’s bringing me down
The stars in the sky
Seem to fall to the ground.
Time, time …
I’m chasing the time
The stars in the sky
Seem to be turning round.
Is that the wind in your eyes
That is soothing my mind?
Is that the night of your eyes
That is soothing my mind?

Round, round …
My mind’s whirling round
The moons in the sky
Seem to burn on the ground.
Gone, gone …
My mightmares are gone
The moons in the sky
Seemed to eat up the sun.
Is that the wind in your eyes
That is soothing my mind?
Is that the night in your eyes
That is soothing my mind?
Back from polar nights …

I was down …
I was out …
The nights at the pole’ve been
So cold without you!
I was down …
I was out …
The pole-star was bringing me
Back home to you.
Is that the wind in your eyes
That is soothing my mind?
Is that the night in your eyes
That is soothing my mind?

9. Yellow Raven

Music :Ulrich Roth
Lyrics:Ulrich Roth

The yellow raven sipped the air
Of thunder and of rain …
The yellow raven sipped the air
Gentle eyes kissing the rain …

Where do you go, fantastic dreambird?
Take me away to somewhere
Take me away from here!
Where do you go, fantastic dreambird?
Answer to my yearning
Take me away from here!

The firebird began to cry
When the music died away …
The firebird began to cry
And smoke was slowly drifting by …

Where do you go, fantastic dreambird?
Take me away to somewhere
Take me away from here!
Where do you go, fantastic dreambird?
Answer to my yearning
Take me away from here …

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