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Autobahn (song)

"Autobahn" is a 1975 song by German electronic band Kraftwerk, being the second and last single from their studio album of the same name. The song was composed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider of the band, with Emil Schult collaborating on the lyrics. It is co-produced by Conny Plank, and was the band's first track to use sung lyrics. Recorded in 1974, the song is designed to capture the feel of driving on a motorway. "Autobahn" is Kraftwerk biggest hit on main US charts, reaching No 25 on Billboard Hot 100.

Lyrics

The lyrics of the song are in German, the main refrain being "Wir fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn" (English: "We drive drive drive on the Autobahn"). The chorus was often mistaken for the English phrase "Fun fun fun on the Autobahn" and thought to be a reference to the 1964 Beach Boys' song "Fun, Fun, Fun". Band member Wolfgang Flür later commented:The band has never released "Autobahn" in any language other than German.

Ralf Hütter has said that The Beach Boys were an influence on the band, but described the song as a "sound painting", reflecting the band's experiences on tour.

Composition

The instrumentation used on the song's 1974 recording was highly innovative at the time and is notable for the significant influence it had on many subsequent genres of electronic popular and dance music. Notable aspects of the arrangement included:

  • Electronic percussion pads, played by Wolfgang Flür.
  • Use of a classic 'Moog bass' sound to play the bass line, playing an octave riff with added analogue echo.
  • Liberal use of phasing on synths to play the chords.
  • Use of a vocoder to process some of the vocals.
  • Use of the so-called 'motorik' 4/4 drum beat in the song's final section.

    The arrangement also included acoustic elements such as guitar and flute.

    The band have continued to perform the song live regularly throughout their career. Live arrangements have evolved continuously as the band have adapted the instrumentation and equipment they use on stage.

    Release

    A version of the song lasting over 22 minutes was recorded as the title track of the album Autobahn. This was edited to a more modest 3 minute and 28 seconds running time and released as a single, giving the band an unexpected Top 40 hit in the USA, and other countries, the first of their career. A differently edited version, at 3 minutes and 5 seconds duration, was released in the UK, reaching #11, and was later included on the UK compilation LP Exceller 8. The song also reached #12 in Canada (Vertigo VE-203) and number 12 in the Netherlands.

    Charts

    Covers and other versions

  • Kraftwerk themselves re-released the song as a digitally re-recorded and re-written version on the 1991 compilation The Mix.
  • The Dutch death metal band Gorefest has covered the song.
  • Faux Latino band Señor Coconut made a merengue arrangement of the song for their album of exotic-style Kraftwerk cover versions, El Baile Alemán.
  • Balanescu Quartet also recorded a string-quartet cover version of this song on their 1992 album Possessed.
  • Rick Moranis released a parody of Autobahn on his 1989 album You, Me, the Music and Me
  • The Canadian band Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet has covered the song.
  • An unknown Chicago, Illinois, USA, band covered the song in the mid 1970s, altering the lyrics to include local expressways ("flyin' flyin' flyin' on the ol' Dan Ryan", etc.)
  • The Atlanta FOX TV affiliate (then-CBS) WAGA-TV briefly used a shortened, sped-up version [http://www.southernmedia-nmsa.com/#3,1,1968 for their news theme] during the 1970s.
  • A 12 minute animated film version was released in 1979, with work by Roger Mainwood of Halas and Batchelor.