The Robots

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"The Robots"
Kraftwerk - Die Roboter Cover.jpg
Cover for the original German release
Single by Kraftwerk
from the album The Man-Machine
A-side"Die Roboter" (German title)
B-side"Spacelab"
ReleasedMay 1978
Length4:20 (single edit)
3:42 (UK single edit)
6:11 (album version)
LabelKling Klang (EMI) 1C-006-32941 (Ger)
Capitol CL15981 (UK)
Songwriter(s)Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Karl Bartos
Producer(s)Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider
Kraftwerk singles chronology
"Showroom Dummies"
(1977)
"The Robots"
(1978)
"Das Model"
(1978)

"The Robots" (German: "Die Roboter") is a single by German electronic-music group Kraftwerk, which was 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 edited into shorter versions.

Composition[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 tvoy slugá, "I am your servant") and "Я твой работник" (Ya tvoy rabótnik, "I am 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".[1] 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.[2] 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 22 November 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."[3]

Live performances[edit]

When the song is performed live, the band is traditionally replaced by robots that resemble themselves.[4] 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",[5] 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",[6] 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."[7] It has also been said that these "robots" give a far more lifelike performance than the band themselves.[8] 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.[9] The curtain issue repeated itself at the band's appearance at Manchester Velodrome, on 2 July 2009.

Track listing[edit]

1978 7-inch single
Side one
No.TitleLength
1."Die Roboter"4:20
Side two
No.TitleLength
2."Spacelab"3:34

Charts[edit]

Chart (1978) Peak
position
US Hot Dance Club Play (Billboard) 39
West Germany (Media Control Charts) 18

1991 re-issue[edit]

"The Robots"
Kraftwerk-The Robots (1991 Version).jpg
Single by Kraftwerk
from the album The Mix
A-side"Die Roboter" (German title)
B-side"Robotnik/Robotronik"
ReleasedMay 1991
GenreElectronic
Length3:47 (single edit)
8:58 (album version)
LabelKling Klang, EMI
Songwriter(s)Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Karl Bartos
Producer(s)Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider
Kraftwerk singles chronology
"The Telephone Call"
(1987)
"The Robots"
(1991)
"Radioactivity (1991 re-release)"
(1991)

In 1991, a re-recorded and re-arranged version of the song was issued as a single from the band's album The Mix.

Track listing[edit]

English versions only

1991 7-inch single
Side one
No.TitleLength
1."The Robots" (single edit)3:43
Side two
No.TitleLength
2."Robotronik" (single version)3:46
1991 12-inch single
Side one
No.TitleLength
1."Robotnik" (Kling Klang Mix)7:41
Side two
No.TitleLength
2."Die Roboter" (single edit)3:43
3."Robotronik" (Kling Klang Mix)4:51
1991 CD single
No.TitleLength
1."Die Roboter" (single edit)3:43
2."Robotnik" (Kling Klang Mix)7:41
3."Robotronik" (Kling Klang Mix)4:51
Cassette single
Side one
No.TitleLength
1."The Robots" (single edit) 
2."Robotronik" (single version) 

Charts[edit]

Chart (1991) Peak
position
Ireland (IRMA) 26
UK Singles (OCC) 20
UK Dance (Music Week)[10] 32
US Hot Dance Club Play (Billboard) 42
US Hot Dance Singles Sales (Billboard) 42

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Kraftwerk: I Was a Robot - Reviewed by Troy Southgate". S Y N T H E S I S. Retrieved 18 September 2008.
  2. ^ Flür, Wolfgang (2003). Kraftwerk: I Was a Robot (Paperback). ISBN 1860744176.
  3. ^ "Kraftwerk: We Are the Robots". BBC. Retrieved 17 September 2008.
  4. ^ "KRAFTWERK THE ROBOTS LIVE". Google Video. 13 August 2006. Retrieved 17 September 2008.
  5. ^ Strauss, Neil (15 June 1997). "Call Them the Beatles Of Electronic Dance Music". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 September 2008.
  6. ^ Strauss, Neil (11 June 1998). "ARTS ABROAD; Hardly a Pocket Calculator: Kraftwerk's Studio Goes on Tour". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 September 2008.
  7. ^ Ratliff, Ben (15 June 1998). "POP REVIEW; It's a Techno World, With Nothing to Fear From Gears and Switches". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 September 2008.
  8. ^ Pareles, Jon (3 June 2005). "The Live Concert Experience, as Mechanized as Possible". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 September 2008.
  9. ^ "Still Krafty after all these years". Irish Independent. 15 September 2008. Retrieved 16 September 2008.
  10. ^ "Top 60 Dance Singles" (PDF). Music Week. 1 June 1991. p. 22. Retrieved 27 September 2020.