Based on appearances alone, Klaus Meine would be a shoo-in for the role of the bad guy in an upcoming Road Warrior sequel.
Publicity photos show him and his bandmates staring stonily, a hint of a sneer on his lips. His bare chest and medallion peer from between the flaps of a leather jacket, and on his wrists are bands of leather and metal.But Meine, lead singer for Scorpions, says the band's macho image is merely a facade. In truth, he says, they're pretty mainstream guys.
All five band members are married. All have children, who are as vulnerable as kids with not-so-famous parents. In fact, while the Scorpions were kicking off their U.S. tour this week, Meine's 5-year-old son was hit in the eye by a sand-filled snowball - prompting several overseas calls to Mom in Germany from Dad in Albuquerque.
Meine says it's hard to be away from family, but U.S. concerts are dreams come true for "German outsiders" thrust into international stardom by fiercely loyal fans.
"So many dreams have come true for us," Meine said in a telephone interview, "when no one believed in the band, but we believed in ourselves and we did it our way."
Scorpions was formed in 1971 - five guys performing gut-wrenching music that initially overshadowed simple, yet passionate lyrics.
"Our music is about honesty. Our attitude is always on the upside of life," Meine said, speaking in a thick German accent. "We are very positive people, and we try to give people positive energy as far as our music and lyrics."
Band members are tight.
When looking for musicians in the 1970s, Meine said he wanted great talent - but also friends.
"We didn't want super egos but good company - people who would take care of each other yet give each other the space to grow."
That chemistry has translated into worldwide success for five men who began composing lyrics when they barely spoke English.
In 1988, Scorpions earned the distinction of being the first hard-rock band to perform in the Soviet union, mounting 10 sold-out shows in Leningrad alone.
"We felt like music ambassadors playing before a virgin audience," Meine said. "Our parents went to Russia with tanks; we came back with guitars to help undo the harm that had been done."
But the band's most memorable moment came during Roger Waters' spectacular musical staging of Pink Floyd's "The Wall," performed on Potsdamer Platz, the site of the Berlin Wall and "no-man's land" between East and West Berlin.
All of the band members grew up 100 miles from the Wall - yet never before had been allowed to play for their brothers and sisters in East Germany.
Today, the Scorpions' song, "Wind of Change," - inspired by the group's Russian and German tours - is played by soldiers of all nationalities fighting for peace in the Persian Gulf.
"Their letters to us are touching," Meine said. "Through our music we give them something positive."