Uli Jon Roth looks back at German music scene 50 years ago

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

London and America tend to get all of the attention when rock historians speak about rock music in the late 1960s.

But there were other countries with rock scenes as well – including West Germany.

Veteran hard rockers Scorpions emerged from the scene around Hanover. And that’s where German guitarist Uli Jon Roth got his start.

Roth, who is commemorating his 50th year in rock music, was 13 years old when he first started making music on the German scene. (Roth, now 64, helped form Scorpions in 1973 from the ashes of two other groups.)

Roth is coming to Daryl’s House on April 19 and the Infinity Hall in Hartford on April 21.

Roth, calling from Oakland, said there was a definite music scene in West German when he started playing in 1968. But it wasn’t as fully formed as those in London and the States. And he said, in many ways, the German music atmosphere was “very amateur.”

Like their peers in the U.S. and the U.K., Roth said young Germans paid most of their attention to acts like The Beatles, Cream, and Jimi Hendrix rather than anything that was German. And those bands in Germany still playing out were in their nascent stages, he said.

“We got a lot of gigs in Beat competitions and we got gigs at the arts center,” said Roth. Scorpions – long before arenas and stadiums came calling  played dancehalls, community centers, and a few clubs.

There were some German-centric bands developing in those days, later dubbed “Krautrock,” said Roth. However, Scorpions were like many other German bands, singing in English with ambitions to break through to the international market.

Roth has been fairly vocal in the rock press about his lack of interest in the current state of music. He has stated there is a lack of creativity and originality in today’s bands.

If a young artist asked him for guidance and asked what classic rock music was good for inspiration, Roth said he wouldn’t direct them to any specific album or artist.

“Everybody has to find their own influences,” said Roth, who admired Hendrix, Cream, and Beatles when he started out. He said younger artists should keep digging to find their own sound. They should look to the past to find out what’s good in their mind and “always learn from it.”

“I found my way early on and still find myself reinventing myself so I don’t get bored,” said Roth.

As he tours the U.S., Roth will be promoting his 2016 album, “Tokyo Tapes Revisited.” (Roth’s last album with Scorpions was the live album, “Tokyo Tapes,” which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.)

To prepare for the album, Roth had to go back and listen to that earlier music of Scorpions and his earlier 19-year-old self.

“Some of it I thought was great,” said Roth of the older recording. “Some not so great and needed improvement.”

Revisiting the album for the newer record, Roth said he went back and fixed what he thought went awry.

“It was an interesting process (of stepping into one’s past),” said Roth.

In terms of new music, Roth said he has a backlog of new composition waiting to be set down on record.

And Roth’s thoughts are leaning toward record another studio album in the future. He also thought he might like to record an acoustic album.

But Roth said he needs to put a pause on touring to hit the record button. “I tend to be a perfectionist in the studio and I take a lot of time,’ he said.

In the States, many fans know Roth primarily from his days from Scorpions. But he also has had a long and diverse solo career where he has recorded everything from mainstream rock to classical concertos. Roth said pulling together a set list can be a challenge

“Certain songs needed to be there,” said Roth. “There also is some leeway. But it wasn’t easy (figuring out what to play).”

Roth performs at Daryl’s House, 130 Route 22, Pawling, N.Y. on Friday, April 19 at 8 p.m. For tickets, go to DarylsHouseClub.com.

Then Roth stops at Infinity Hall, 32 Front St., Hartford on Sunday, April 21 at 7:30 p.m. For tickets, go to InfinityHall.com.

For more information about Roth, go to ulijonroth.com.

Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com

Guitarist Uli Jon Roth comes to Hartford’s Infinity Hall on Sunday, April 21.

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