Autobahn (album)

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Autobahn
A74-D-front-250.jpg
Studio album by
Released1 November 1974 (1974-11-01)
Recorded1974
StudioConny Plank's (Cologne, West Germany)
Genre
Length42:26
Label
Producer
Kraftwerk chronology
Ralf und Florian
(1973)
Autobahn
(1974)
Radio-Activity
(1975)
Alternative covers
UK edition
UK edition
2009 remastered edition
2009 remastered edition
Singles from Autobahn
  1. "Kometenmelodie 2"
    Released: 1974
  2. "Autobahn"
    Released: May 1975

Autobahn is the fourth studio album by German electronic band Kraftwerk, released in November 1974. It was the band's first album to fully embrace the repetitive electronic sound they would become known for (although organic instruments still remained part of their sonic palette) and was inspired by the titular German motorway system.[4]

The radio edit of the title track became a surprise international hit, reaching number 11 in the UK,[5] number 12 in both Canada and the Netherlands, number 25 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, and number 30 in the Australian chart.[6]

In 2015, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Recording and music[edit]

Autobahn is not a completely electronic album, as violin, flute, piano and guitar are used along with synthesizers. The title track features both untreated and vocoded vocals; the remaining tracks are purely instrumental. Kraftwerk used a Minimoog, an ARP Odyssey, an EMS Synthi AKS, a Farfisa Professional Piano and various devices of their own design and implementation, such as their famous electronic drums.

The title track is intended to capture the feeling of driving on the Autobahn: from traveling through the landscape, the high-speed concentration on the fast lane, to tuning the car radio and the monotony of a long trip.

The remaining ambient tracks have a two-part structure—an introduction followed by a main section—and are loosely based around a theme of the night, beginning with twin tracks "Kometenmelodie (Comet Melody) 1 and 2" (inspired by Comet Kohoutek), then an ominous-sounding "Mitternacht" (Midnight) and the final track, "Morgenspaziergang" (Morning Stroll). This last track begins as a dawn chorus bird-song effect created by the electronic instruments, with an extended conclusion that uses a repeating variation of the melodic phrase heard in the first instrumental section of "Autobahn".

Klaus Röder was not a member of the band for very long, and had left before the recording sessions were completed.

The engineer Konrad Plank, who co-produced the very first couple of Kraftwerk albums, had reputedly played a large role in developing the early Kraftwerk sound.[7] Much of the recording and all of the mixing of the work took place at his studio in Cologne.

Wolfgang Flür had played with the band since late in 1973, first appearing with them on a Berlin TV performance to promote their Ralf und Florian album. On that show, he debuted the band's custom-built electronic percussion pads, and these feature heavily on the Autobahn album.

Artwork[edit]

The front cover of the original German album was painted by Emil Schult, a long-time collaborator of Ralf and Florian, who also co-wrote the lyrics to the song "Autobahn". The version released in the UK on the Vertigo label in 1974 had a differently designed cover, produced by the label's in-house marketing department.

The rear cover of the original LP showed Hütter, Schneider, Röder and Emil Schult seated as if in the back of a car. Wolfgang Flür's head was added to the group photo (superimposed over Schult's) when it was decided that he would stay as a permanent member of the band. However, for the 2009 remaster booklet this image has been replaced by the version originally photographed.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic5/5 stars[4]
Christgau's Record GuideB−[8]
Drowned in Sound9/10[2]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[9]
The Irish Times4/5 stars[10]
Mojo4/5 stars[11]
Q4/5 stars[12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3.5/5 stars[13]
Spin Alternative Record Guide9/10[14]
Uncut5/5 stars[15]

Upon its release, Village Voice critic Robert Christgau called the record "the Iron Butterfly of überrockMike Oldfield for unmitigated simpletons, sort of, and yet in my mitigated way I don't entirely disapprove."[16] AllMusic later described it as a “pioneering album” in which “the roots of electro-funk, ambient, and synth pop are all evident.”[4] The album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[17]

The NME in a dismissive review said of it that they were ’’dimly fumbling for approachability’’ and ‘’Pinky and Perky noises abound and there’s probably just about enough material in this 40 minutes to suffice for the Pepper’s next chart-shot. For simple minds only.’’[18]

The radio edit of the title track became a surprise international hit, reaching number 11 in the UK,[19] number 12 in the Netherlands, number 25 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, and number 30 in the Australian chart.[6] On 6 February 2013 the group played the entire album at the first of their eight-night retrospectives at the Tate Modern in London.[20]

Versions[edit]

A remastered edition of the album was released by EMI Records, Mute Records and Astralwerks Records on CD and digital download in October–November 2009, with heavyweight vinyl editions released in November–December 2009.

A quadraphonic mix was released on Q8 eight-track cartridge, possibly without the band's knowledge.[citation needed]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics are written by Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider and Emil Schult; all music is composed by Hütter and Schneider.

Side one
No.TitleLength
1."Autobahn" ("Motorway")22:43
Side two
No.TitleLength
2."Kometenmelodie 1" ("Comet Melody 1")6:26
3."Kometenmelodie 2" ("Comet Melody 2")5:48
4."Mitternacht" ("Midnight")3:43
5."Morgenspaziergang" ("Morning Walk")4:04
Total length:42:26

Personnel[edit]

Original album credits[21]

1985 credits[22] The 1985 re-release added:

2009 credits[23] The 2009 remaster contained further changes and additions:

  • Ralf Hütter – voice, electronics, synthesizer, organ, piano, guitar, electronic drums, artwork reconstruction.
  • Florian Schneider – voice, vocoder, electronics, synthesizer, flute, electronic drums
  • Wolfgang Flür – electronic drums on "Kometenmelodie 1–2".
  • Klaus Röder – electric violin on "Mitternacht".
  • Johann Zambryski – artwork reconstruction.

Charts[edit]

Chart (1974–1975) Peak
position
Australia (Kent Music Report)[24] 9
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[25] 5
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[26] 7
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[27] 11
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[28] 7
UK Albums (OCC)[29] 4
US Billboard 200[30] 5
Chart (1985) Peak
position
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[31] 27
Chart (2020) Peak
position
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[32] 77

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[33] Silver 60,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

References[edit]

  1. ^ Roberts, Randall (7 March 2014). "Kraftwerk's 'Trans Europe Express' started the musical revolution". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 2165-1736. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b Power, Chris (12 October 2009). "Album Review: Kraftwerk – Autobahn: Remastered". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  3. ^ Dalton, Stephen (19 August 2016). "Kraftwerk, Autobahn and a new era of electronic music". Uncut. London. ISSN 1368-0722. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Autobahn – Kraftwerk". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  5. ^ Kraftwerk albums Official charts
  6. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 170. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  7. ^ Flür, Wolfgang (29 November 2000). Kraftwerk: I Was a Robot. Sanctuary Publishing. ISBN 1-86074-320-X. This was described in detail in this autobiography, where Flür describes many meetings with Plank at his home/studio, and how his input was allegedly later downplayed.
  8. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "K". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor and Fields. ISBN 0-89919-026-X. Retrieved 28 February 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  9. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Kraftwerk". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8.
  10. ^ Clayton-Lea, Tony (30 October 2009). "Kraftwerk: Autobahn (1974), Radio-Activity (1975), Trans Europe Express (1977), The Man-Machine (1978) (Mute/EMI)". The Irish Times. Dublin. ISSN 0791-5144. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  11. ^ Snow, Mat (November 2009). "Gut Vibrations". Mojo. No. 192. London. p. 110. ISSN 1351-0193.
  12. ^ "Kraftwerk: Autobahn". Q. No. 109. London. October 1995. p. 141. ISSN 0955-4955.
  13. ^ Coleman, Mark; Randall, Mac (2004). "Kraftwerk". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 468–69. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  14. ^ Reynolds, Simon (1995). "Kraftwerk". In Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (eds.). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. pp. 215–16. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  15. ^ Cavanagh, David (16 October 2009). "Uncut reviews: Kraftwerk – Reissues". Uncut. London. ISSN 1368-0722. Archived from the original on 5 December 2010. Retrieved 22 October 2009.
  16. ^ Christgau, Robert (7 April 1975). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. ISSN 0042-6180. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  17. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (7 February 2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.
  18. ^ "Shortcakes". New Musical Express. 15 February 1975. p. 23.
  19. ^ Kraftwerk albums Official charts
  20. ^ Sweeney, Sabrina (7 February 2013). "Kraftwerk kick off Tate Modern retrospective". BBC News. Retrieved 7 February 2012.
  21. ^ (1974) Album notes for Autobahn by Kraftwerk [LP], credits on the rear of the sleeve; Philips (6305 231)
  22. ^ (1985) Album notes for Autobahn by Kraftwerk [LP], re-release, credit line on the vinyl side B label; EMI-Parlophone (AUTO 1/EJ 24 0070 1B).
  23. ^ (2009) Album notes for Autobahn (Digital Remaster) by Kraftwerk [CD], booklet notes; Mute Records (CDSTUMM303).
  24. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 170. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  25. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 2482". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  26. ^ "Longplay-Chartverfolgung at Musicline" (in German). Musicline.de. Phononet GmbH. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  27. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Kraftwerk – Autobahn" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  28. ^ "Charts.nz – Kraftwerk – Autobahn". Hung Medien. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  29. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  30. ^ "Kraftwerk Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  31. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Kraftwerk – Autobahn". Hung Medien. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  32. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Kraftwerk – Autobahn". Hung Medien. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  33. ^ "British album certifications – Kraftwerk – Autobahn". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Autobahn in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.

External links[edit]