The Robots

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For other uses, see Robot (disambiguation).
"The Robots"
Cover for the original German release
Single by Kraftwerk
from the album The Man-Machine
A-side "Die Roboter" (German title)
B-side "Spacelab"
Released 1978
Format 7" single
Genre Electronic
Length 4:20 (single edit)
3:42 (UK single edit)
6:11 (album version)
Label Kling Klang (EMI) 1C-006-32941 (Ger)
Capitol CL15981 (UK)
Writer(s) Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Karl Bartos
Producer(s) Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider
Kraftwerk singles chronology
"Showroom Dummies"
(1977)
"The Robots"
(1978)
"Neon Lights"
(1978)

"The Robots" (originally Die Roboter) is a single by the influential German electronic music pioneers, Kraftwerk, released in 1978. The single and its B-side, "Spacelab", both appeared on the band's seventh album, The Man-Machine. However, the songs as they appear on the single were scaled down into shorter versions.

Track listing[edit]

Format: Vinyl, 7" Single [1]

  • CDS 1C 006-32 941
  1. "Die Roboter" (4:20)
  2. "Spacelab" (3:34)

Lyrics[edit]

The lyrics reference the revolutionary technique of robotics, and how humans can use them as they wish. The Russian lines "Я твой слуга" (Ya tvoi sluga, I'm your servant) and "Я твой работник" (Ya tvoi rabotnik, I'm your worker) (also on the rear sleeve of the album) during the intro and again during its repetition at the bridge are spoken in a pitched down voice, the main lyrics ("We're charging our batteries and now we're full of energy...") are "sung" through a vocoder. Wolfgang Flür, a member of Kraftwerk at the time of the single's release, later wrote Ich war ein Roboter (I Was a Robot in English), with his title referencing the lyrics of "The Robots".[2] The book, published in 2003, has been described as a "controversial and uncompromising autobiography of Kraftwerk", more because the other members of the band tried to censor its publication than anything else.[3] The lyrics were also referenced in the title of a BBC Radio 4 documentary, Kraftwerk: We Are the Robots, broadcast for the first time on Thursday November 22, 2007. The documentary focused on the band's place as "part of a new generation of young West Germans, living in the shadow of the Cold War, who identified with the need to recapture a German cultural identity distinct from that of Britain and America." [4]

Live performances[edit]

When the song is performed live, the band is traditionally replaced by robots that resemble themselves.[5] The method in which this is carried out varies and depends on the performance. For example, one report of a performance in 1997 describes "four legless robot bodies [being] lowered from a lighting rig and programmed to make mechanical movements to the music",[6] another from the following year describes the spectacle as "robot torsos and heads [being] suspended in the air, slowly twisting and waving as the music plays on",[7] and yet another describes witnessing on-screen "plastic-head representations of the band, stuck on dull gray torsos with mechanical arms and metal-rod legs". The lyrics, "We are the robots" flash up on this screen followed by the line, "we are programmed/just to do/anything you want us to." The screen then lifts to reveal the band following their transformation into robots. But they are said not to move "in the popping spurts that robots are famous for; they swiveled and moved their arms slowly, thoughtfully, humanly, as if practicing t'ai chi."[8] It has also been said that these "robots" give a far more lifelike performance than the band themselves.[9] There was, however, "an air of farce" at one show in Ireland in 2008 when a curtain refused to close, disrupting the transformation of the band into robots. Stagehands had to intervene and close the curtain themselves, after which it was possible for the sequence to continue.[10] The curtain issue repeated itself at the band's appearance at Manchester Velodrome, on July 2, 2009.

Charts[edit]

Chart (1978) Peak
position
German Media Control Singles Chart 18
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play 39

"The Robots" (1991 Remix)[edit]

"The Robots"
Single by Kraftwerk
from the album The Mix
A-side "Die Roboter" (German title)
B-side "Robotnik/Robotronik"
Released May 1991
Format 7" single, 12" single, CD single
Genre Electronic
Length 3:47 (single edit)
8:58 (album version)
Label Kling Klang, EMI
Writer(s) Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Karl Bartos
Producer(s) Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider
Kraftwerk singles chronology
"The Telephone Call"
(1987)
"The Robots (1991 re-release)"
(1991)
"Radioactivity (1991 re-release)"
(1991)

In 1991, a remix of the song was issued as a single from the band's remix album The Mix.

Tracklisting[edit]

German 7" single[edit]

  1. "Die Roboter" (Single Edit) - 3:43
  2. "Robotronik" (Kling Klang Mix) - 4:51

German CD single[edit]

  1. "Die Roboter" (Single Edit) - 3:43
  2. "Robot" (Kling Klang Mix) - 7:41
  3. "Robotronik" (Kling Klang Mix) - 4:51

UK 7" single[edit]

  1. "The Robots" (Single Edit) - 3:43
  2. "Robotronik" (Single Version) - 3:46

Charts[edit]

Chart (1991) Peak
position
Irish Singles Chart 26
UK Singles Chart 20
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play 42
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Singles Sales 42

Influence[edit]

The rippling 16th-note synth lick that repeats throughout the song was sampled by dance act Twenty 4 Seven's 1990 single "I Can't Stand It!" The influence of this later single's success on the re-release the following year of "The Robots" has not been measured.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Kraftwerk - Die Roboter". Discogs. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  2. ^ "Kraftwerk: I Was a Robot - Reviewed by Troy Southgate". S Y N T H E S I S. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  3. ^ "Kraftwerk: I Was a Robot (Paperback)". amazon.com. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  4. ^ "Kraftwerk: We Are the Robots". BBC. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  5. ^ "KRAFTWERK THE ROBOTS LIVE". Google Video. 2006-08-13. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  6. ^ Strauss, Neil (1997-06-15). "Call Them the Beatles Of Electronic Dance Music". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  7. ^ Strauss, Neil (1998-06-11). "ARTS ABROAD; Hardly a Pocket Calculator: Kraftwerk's Studio Goes on Tour". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  8. ^ Ratliff, Ben (1998-06-15). "POP REVIEW; It's a Techno World, With Nothing to Fear From Gears and Switches". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  9. ^ Pareles, Jon (2005-06-03). "The Live Concert Experience, as Mechanized as Possible". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  10. ^ "Still Krafty after all these years". Irish Independent. 2008-09-15. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 

External links[edit]