Rudolf Schenker, the band's rhythm guitarist launched the band in 1965. At first, the band had beat influences and Schenker himself did the vocals. Things began to come together in 1969 when Schenker's younger brother Michael and vocalist Klaus Meine joined the band. In 1972, the group recorded and released their debut album Lonesome Crow, with Lothar Heimberg on bass and Wolfgang Dziony on drums. During the Lonesome Crow tour, Scorpions opened for upcoming British band UFO. Near the end of the tour, the members of UFO offered guitarist Michael Schenker the lead guitar job, an offer which he soon accepted. Uli Roth, a friend of the Schenker brothers, was then called in temporarily to finish off the great tour.
The departure of Michael Schenker led to the breakup of the band. In 1973, Uli Roth, who had helped Scorpions complete the Lonesome Crow tour, was offered the role as lead guitarist, but turned the band down, preferring instead to remain in the band Dawn Road. Rudolf Schenker eventually decided that he wanted to work with Roth, but did not want to resurrect the last Scorpions lineup. He attended some of Dawn Road's rehearsals and ultimately decided to join the band, which consisted of Roth, Francis Buchholz (bass), Achim Kirschning (keyboards) and Jürgen Rosenthal (drums). Roth and Buchholz persuaded Rudolf Schenker to invite Klaus Meine to join on vocals, which he soon did. While there were more members of Dawn Road than Scorpions in the band, they decided to use the Scorpions name because it was well known in the German hard rock scene and an album had been released under that name.
In 1973 Scorpions changed to vocalist. In 1974 the new line-up of Scorpions released Fly to the Rainbow. The album proved to be more successful than Lonesome Crow and songs such as "Speedy's Coming" and the title track to establish the band's sound. Achim Kirschning decided to leave after the recordings. Soon after, Jürgen Rosenthal had to leave as he was being drafted into the army. In 1976, he would join a German progressive rock band called Eloy recording three albums. He was replaced by a Belgian drummer Rudy Lenners.
In 1975 the band released In Trance, which marked the beginning of Scorpions' long collaboration with German producer Dieter Dierks. The album was a huge step forward for Scorpions and established their heavy metal formula. It garnered a fan base at home and abroad with cuts such as "Dark Lady", "Robot Man".
In 1976, Scorpions released Virgin Killer. The album's cover featured a nude prepubescent girl behind a broken pane of glass. The cover art was designed by Stefan Bohle who was the product manager for RCA Records, their label at the time. The cover brought the band considerable market exposure but subsequently pulled or replaced in other countries. The album itself garnered demographic praise for its music from select critics and fan base.
The following year, Rudy Lenners resigned for personal reasons and was replaced by Herman Rarebell.
For the follow-up Taken by Force, RCA Records made a determined effort to promote the album in stores and on the radio. The album's single, "Steamrock Fever", was added to some of RCA's radio promotional records. Roth was not happy with the commercial direction the band was taking. Although he performed on the band's Japan tour, he departed to form his own band, Electric Sun prior to the release of the resultant double live album Tokyo Tapes. Tokyo Tapes was released in the US and Europe six months after its Japanese release. By that time in mid 1978, after auditioning around 140 guitarists, Scorpions recruited new guitarist Matthias Jabs.
Following the addition of Jabs, Scorpions left RCA for Mercury Records in the States and Harvest/EMI Electrola worldwide to record their next album ‘Lovedrive’. Just weeks after being ejected from UFO for his alcohol abuse, Michael Schenker also returned to the group for a short period during the recordings for the album. This gave the band three guitarists (though Schenker's contribution to the final release was limited to only three songs). The result was ‘Lovedrive’, an album which some critics consider to be the pinnacle of their career. Containing such fan favorites as "Loving You Sunday Morning", "Always Somewhere", "Holiday" and the instrumental "Coast to Coast", it firmly cemented the 'Scorpions formula' of hard rock songs mixed with melodic ballads. The album's provocative artwork was named "Best album sleeve of 1979" by Playboy magazine yet ultimately changed for American release. ‘Lovedrive’ reached #55 on the US charts, demonstrating that the band was gathering an international following. After the completion and release of the album the band decided to retain Michael in the band, forcing Jabs to leave. However after a few weeks of the tour, Michael, still coping with alcoholism missed a number of gigs and at one point collapsed on stage. Jabs was brought back to fill in for him on those occasions when he could not perform.
In April 1979, during their tour in France, Jabs was brought in permanently to replace Michael.In 1980 the band released Animal Magnetism, again with a provocative cover this time showing a girl kneeling and a Doberman Pinscher sitting in front of a man. Animal Magnetism contained classics such as "The Zoo" and "Make It Real". Soon after the album's release, Meine began experiencing throat problems. He required surgery on his vocal cords and doubts were raised about whether he would ever sing again.
Meanwhile, the band began working on their next album, Blackout in 1981. Don Dokken was brought in to provide guide and backing vocals while Meine recovered. Meine eventually healed completely and was able to finish the album. Blackout was released in 1982 and quickly became the band's best selling to date eventually going platinum. Meine's voice showed no signs of weakness and fan response to the album was good. Blackout spawned three singles: "Dynamite", "Blackout", and "No One Like You".
Gaining in popularity from their success from "Blackout", Scorpions performed to over 375,000 fans on Day 2 at the three-day US Festival concert held in San Bernadino, California during Memorial Day Weekend of 1983. The concert was aired live on MTV, giving the band wide exposure in a live show.
It was not until 1984 and the release of Love at First Sting that the band finally cemented their status as metal musicians. Propelled by the single "Rock You Like a Hurricane", Love at First Sting climbed the charts and went double platinum in the USA a few months after its release.
MTV gave the album's videos "Rock You Like a Hurricane", "Bad Boys Running Wild", "Big City Nights", and the power ballad "Still Loving You" significant airtime greatly contributing to the album's success. The channel even supplied Scorpions with the nickname "The Ambassadors of Rock" to the chagrin of industry insiders who recognized the executive influence behind the scenes.
The band toured extensively behind Love at First Sting and decided to record and release their second live album, World Wide Live in 1985. Recorded over a year-long world tour and released at the height of their popularity, the album was another success for the band, peaking at #14 in the charts in the US and at #18 in the UK.
After their extensive world tours, the band finally returned to the studio to record Savage Amusement. Released in 1988, four years after their previous studio album, Savage Amusement represented a more polished and mature sound similar to the style Def Leppard had found success. The album sold well but was considered somewhat of a critical disappointment. However, British heavy rock magazine Kerrang! did award the album five K's out of five.
On the Savage Amusement tour in 1988, Scorpions became only the second Western group (not American) to play in the Soviet Union. Uriah Heep had performed in December, 1987 in Leningrad. The following year the band returned to perform at the Moscow Music Peace Festival. As a result, Scorpions developed an extended Russian fan base and still return to perform.
Wishing to distance themselves from the Savage Amusement style, the band separated from their long-time producer and "Sixth Scorpion", Dieter Dierks, replacing him with Keith Olsen when they returned to the studio in 1990. Crazy World was released that same year and displayed a less polished sound. The album was propelled in large part by the massive success of the ballad "Wind of Change". The song muses on the socio-political changes that were occurring in Eastern Europe and in other parts of the world at the end of the Cold War. On July 21, 1990 they joined many other guests for Roger Waters' massive performance of The Wall in Berlin. Scorpions performed both versions of "In the Flesh" from The Wall. After the Crazy World tour Francis Buchholz, the band's long-serving bassist, left the group.
In 1993, Scorpions released Face the Heat. Bass was handled by Ralph Rieckermann. For the recording process, Scorpions brought in producer Bruce Fairbairn. The album's sound was more metal than melodic and divided the band's fan base. Many "headbangers" responded positively to the album while many longtime fans were put off. Neither the hard rock single "Alien Nation" nor the ballad "Under The Same Sun" came close to matching the success of "Wind of Change". Face the Heat was a moderate success.
In 1995, a new album, ‘Live Bites’, was produced. The disc documented retro live performances from their Savage Amusement Tour in 1988, all the way through the Face the Heat Tour in 1994. While the album had a technologically cleaner sound in comparison to their best-selling live album, World Wide Live, it was not as successful.
Prior to recording their 13th studio album, 1996s’ Pure Instinct’, drummer Herman Rarebell left the band to set up a recording label. Curt Cress took charge of the drumsticks for the album before Kentucky-born James Kottak took over permanently. Many feel Pure Instinct is a response to the complaints levied against ‘Face the Heat’. The album had many ballads. Still, the album's singles "Wild Child" and the soothing ballad "You and I" both enjoyed moderate success.
1999 saw the release of ‘Eye II Eye’ and a significant change in the band's style, mixing in elements of pop and techno. While the album was slickly produced, fans were unsure what to make of the band, responding negatively to almost everything from pop-soul backup singers to the electronic drums present on several songs. The video to the album's first European single, "To Be No. 1", featured a Monica Lewinsky look-alike which did little to improve its popularity.
The following year, Scorpions had an artistic collaboration with the Berlin Philharmonic that resulted in a 10-song album named ‘Moment of Glory’. The album went a long way toward rebuilding the band's reputation after the harsh criticism of ‘Eye II Eye’. However, critics accused them of following on the coattails of Metallica's similar collaboration (S&M) with the San Francisco Symphony which had been released the previous year, even though the orchestra had first approached Scorpions with the idea in 1995.
In 2001, Scorpions released ‘Acoustica’, a live unplugged album featuring acoustic reworkings of the band's biggest hits, plus new tracks. While appreciated by fans, the lack of a new studio album was frustrating to some, and ‘Acoustica’ did little to return the band to the spotlight.
In 2004, the band released ‘Unbreakable’, an album that was hailed by critics as a long-awaited return to form. The album was the heaviest the band had released since ‘Face the Heat’, and fans responded well to tracks such as "New Generation", "Love 'em or Leave 'em" and "Deep and Dark". Whether a result of poor promotion by the band's label or the long time between studio releases, Unbreakable received little airplay and did not chart. Scorpions toured extensively behind the album and played as 'Special Guests' with Judas Priest during the 2005 British tour—these were the Scorpions' first dates in the UK since 1999.
In early 2006, Scorpions released the DVD 1 Night in Vienna that included 14 live tracks and a complete rockumentary. In LA, the band spent about four months in the studio with producers James Michael and Desmond Child working on their new concept album titled Humanity: Hour I, which was released in late May 2007. Followed by the "Humanity World Tour".
In 2007, the band collaborated with two of their signature tracks in the video game series, "Guitar Hero." "No One Like You" was featured on the "Rocks the '80s" version of the game while "Rock You Like A Hurricane" was released on "Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock."
On May 14, 2007, Scorpions released ‘Humanity – Hour I’ in Europe. ‘Humanity – Hour I’ became available in the U.S. on August 28 on New Door Records, entering the Billboard charts at number #63.
In a September 2007 podcast interview, Meine said the new album was not so much a "concept album" as it was a collection of songs with a common theme. "We didn't want to make another record with songs about boys chasing girls. I mean, come on, give me a break," Meine said.
Asked in 2007 if the band was planning to release a Humanity – Hour II, Meine replied: “That is what everybody is asking. There might be. Who knows? Right now we are at the beginning of the world tour. It is exciting to play the new songs and they go very well with the classics. It is exciting that there is a whole new audience out there. There are many longtime fans but there are a lot of young kids. We just played in London and in Paris and there were young kids rocking out to songs that were written way before they were born. It is amazing. I don’t want to think about Hour II right now because Hour I is so exciting. It is very inspiring to see how much the audience enjoys this new music.” – Klaus
On December 20, 2007, Scorpions played at a concert for the elite of Russia’s security forces in the Kremlin. The concert was a celebration of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Cheka—predecessor of the KGB. The band has claimed that they thought they were performing a Christmas concert. They have said that their concert was by no means a tribute to the Cheka, communism, or Russia's brutal past. Members of the audience included Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev.
On February 21, 2009, Scorpions received Germany's ECHO Honorary Award for lifetime achievement at Berlin's O2 World.
In November 2009, Scorpions announced that their 17th studio album, Sting in the Tail, would be released in early 2010, recorded in Hannover with Swedish producers Mikael "Nord" Andersson and Martin Hansen. Sting in the Tail was released on March 23, 2010.
On January 24, 2010, the band announced that Sting in the Tail will be their last album and that the tour supporting it will be their final tour. Dokken was scheduled to open for them but canceled after a dispute. The tour is expected to end in 2012 or 2013.
On 6 April 2010, Scorpions were enshrined in Hollywood's Rock Walk in a handprint ceremony, with the band members placing their hands in a long slab of wet cement. The slab will be placed in the ground next to other musical artists on the Rock Walk.
According to bassist Paweł Mąciwoda, Scorpions will enter the studio in the fall of 2011 to re-record versions of their older material. At the beginning this retro collection was tentatively due for release in early 2012. The album was titled Comeblack and was released on 7 November 2011.
Frontman Klaus Meine was asked in a July 2011 interview about the future of Scorpions and whether the band was going to make another album. He replied, "Our newest project comes out in the next few months. It gives you a chance to experience the Scorpions in 3D. You can actually feel the smoke string out of the guitar like it is a live show. It is an incredible experience. The DVD features our concerts in 3D in Germany. We are just about to do the mix and it should be in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia hopefully soon. Indeed, the strong 3D technology makes us feel like pioneers after all these years (he says, laughing). We have an album coming out later this year featuring classics. You know our love for them. The '60s was the era for our inspiration. Our movie/documentary also is soon to be released. We have cameras with us on tours, so this documentary is being made during our tours. It also gives you a picture of the Scorpions career and journey."
Almost a year in advance it was announced Scorpions would headline the Wacken Open Air Festival on 4 August.