1975 Kraftwerk – Autobahn
Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider formed Kraftwerk in Germany in 1970. Many other musicians came and went through the years, but Ralf and Florian were the major forces within the group until Florian left the band in 2008.
The band’s name translates as “Power station.” The band recorded two albums using traditional instruments and then sent the music through various electronic modifications. With their 1973 album Ralf und Florian, the band switched to extensive use of synthesizers and drum machines and began using a vocoder.
Their next album contained a title cut that ran nine and a half minutes, Autobahn. Many people think the band is singing, “Fun, fun, fun on the Autobahn,” but they were actually singing, “Drive, drive, drive on the Autobahn,” in German.
Their record company edited the song down to a radio-friendly version that only ran three and a half minutes. The single made the top ten in Germany and nearly got that high in the UK, but stalled at #25 in the US.
Even the edited version featured the band’s groundbreaking use of the new technologies like the vocoder and synthesizers that eventually paved the way for electro pop. The commercial success of their Autobahn album made it possible for the band to purchase and experiment with even more electronic equipment. The band even began to tour in the US.
Kraftwerk released a half-dozen additional albums and recorded released their most recent album in 2003. While the band never again reached the top forty in the US, their singles continued to do well in Germany and the UK.
A Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 acknowledged the band’s accomplishments in pioneering electronic music.
Ralf still leads the band on tour.
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