“Autobahn” by Kraftwerk (1974)
Release Date: November 1, 1974
Produced by Ralf Hütter, Conny Plank, Florian Schneider
Genre: Electronic, Avant-Garde, Krautrock
Label: Phillips, Vertigo
Chart Positions: #4 (UK), #5 (US, Canada), #7 (Germany, New Zealand), #9 (Australia), #11 (Netherlands), #27 (Sweden)
Certifications: Gold (France), Silver (UK)
Singles: “Mitternacht,” “Kometenmelodie 2,” “Autobahn” #3 (France), #4 (New Zealand), #9 (Germany), #11 (UK), #12 (Holland, Canada), #15 (South Africa), #16 (Netherlands), #20 (Ireland), #22 (Belgium), #25 (US), #27 (Belgium), #30 (Australia)
Autobahn is the fourth studio album by German electronic band Kraftwerk, released in November 1974. The 22-minute title track "Autobahn" was edited to 3:27 for single release and reached number 25 in the US, number 9 in Australia and performed even higher around Europe, reaching number 4 in the UK and number 7 in Germany. This commercial success came after the band had released three experimental and purely instrumental albums.
The album possesses many ironies in it music. The arrangements are precise to the point of suggesting mechanism yet able to showcase the group's gift for simple, wistful melodies. Kraftwerk is able to capture and make beautiful the sensations of everyday activity - such as going for a drive along the highway (or autobahn if you may). The album is based on the very first road opened in Germany in 1932, a year before Hitler's ascension to Chancellorship. The album however has nothing to do with Hitler and everything to do with an enjoyable trip on the autobahn.
Autobahn is an electronic album that includes violin, flute, piano and guitar used along with synthesizers. Autobahn is where the group's hypnotic electronic pulse genuinely came into its own. The main difference between Autobahn and its predecessors is how it develops an insistent, propulsive pulse that makes the repeated rhythms and riffs of the shimmering electronic keyboards and trance-like guitars all the more hypnotizing. Within Autobahn, the roots of electro-funk, ambient, and synth pop are all evident -- it's a pioneering album. The album brought Kraftwerk into the spotlight charting in high positions throughout the world with its highest peak positions in the UK (#4) and US (#5). he album cover, which features a colorful drawing of a motorway on a summer day, was painted by Emil Schult, who also co-wrote the lyrics to the title song.
Autobahn (Single Edit 1974)
There were three singles released from the album the first “Mitternacht” (Midnight) went almost unnoticed and failed to chart. The second single, an instrumental track, “Kometenmelodie” (Comet Melody 2) also failed to chart. Finally it was the third single “Autobahn” that burned up the charts around the world. “Autobahn” is a 22 minute long that was crafted to reproduce a journey on the German motorway. Band member Ralf Hutter recorded the passing cars in the background by dangling a microphone out of the window of his old grey Volkswagen, as it traveled down the autobahn. However, these recordings were not suitable for the song, so they recreated the car sounds using synthesizers. The song was was edited to a more modest 3 minute and 28 seconds running time and was released to the US market while a differently edited version of 3 minutes and 8 seconds was released in the UK. There has been confusion as to what Kraftwerk sings in the vocals. Some people have thought they were saying “fun, fun, fun on the autobahn,” but they were actually singing, "wir fahren, fahren, fahren auf der Autobahn" which means "we drive, drive, drive on the Autobahn.” The song was a huge hit reaching the Top 30 in more than a dozen countries around the world including its highest peak positions in France (#3), New Zealand (#4) and Germany (#9).
The influence of "Autobahn" only continued to grow with influence as each year has gone by. Hints of the Kraftwerk sound began to show up in the music of the artists such as David Bowie, Africa Bambaataa and Depeche Mode.