This section covers the general history of the band. You should be aware of relevant events, e.g. someone joining or leaving the band, and should be aware of dates.
This page is quite a lot to digest, but don't worry! There is a diagram on the next page which summarizes the information...
THE EARLY YEARS 70 - 73
The word 'unique' is over-used in music, but Kraftwerk have a stronger claim than most to the tag. Ralf Hutter (b. 1946, Krefeld, Germany; organ) and woodwind student Florian Schneider-Esleben (b. 1947, Düsseldorf, Germany; woodwind) met while they were studying improvised music in Düsseldorf, Germany.
They first recorded an album with Organisation ( Tone Float ).
ORGANISATION album, "Tone Float" released 1970
The first album with Ralf Hütter und Florian Schneider as members of the group Organisation. On "Tone Float", the line up consisted of Ralf on organ, Florian on violin and flute, Basil Hammoudi on vocals, Fred Monics on drums and Butch Hauf on bass. The LP features repetitive percussion and bass drum patterns, embellished with guitar, flute, violin and organ. Sections of the music are clearly '60s influenced and have an almost eastern feeling with scratchy violin and bongos. "Tone Float" was the last time that Ralf and Florian would rely on unrestrained expression and improvisation. With Organisation beeing a democratic five piece band, it was difficult to develop a disciplined approach. Any comparison between "Tone Float" and the later Kraftwerk sound is hard to draw.
Kraftwerks first album, "KRAFTWERK" released 1970
After disbanding Organisation the duo Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider adopted the name Kraftwerk (Power Plant) with Klaus Dinger and Thomas Homann. The album was recorded between July and August of 1970 in their new Düsseldorf studio. It was co-produced and engineered by Connie Plank (later to work with Ultravox and the Eurythmics ) with the assistance of Klaus Löhmer. Plank did believe very strongly in the pioneering music of Kraftwerk and he helped with the recording process often for little or no remuneration. When released in late 1970 the LP sleeve was designed by Ralf and showcased their adopted trademark - the traffic cone. From the very opening notes of the LP, it is evident that the duo had put much of the mendering uncertainties of "Tone Float" behind them, arriving at a more disciplined form of music. Compared to "Tone Float", "KRAFTWERK" was a considerable artistic success and they had managed to mix a blend of sounds giving an almost hallucenogenic effect. However the bleak, spartan music provoked little commercial response.
With a successful album, KRAFTWERK, the band's confidence had grown and they played more live concerts in Germany than before. The concerts were often advertised with a poster featuring the red and white traffic cone with a naked woman superimposed on it. These concerts featured the line-up from the LP and after a short while Thomas Homann left. They continued as a trio with Klaus Dinger and then the band were joined by Michael Rother (guitar) and Eberhardt Krahnemann (bass), a five piece line-up which was to only last for one session. When Krahnemann left the band he was amazingly followed by Ralf Hütter himself. This was a moment that could have been the end of the band as we know it today. For six months Florian, Rother and Dinger played music that bore a closer remembrance to Rother and Dinger's later work with Neu!. The trio recorded a 35 minute session at Connie Plank's studio which was never released.
KRAFTWERK 2 album released 1971
Ralf and Florian rejoined and released the "Kraftwerk 2" album. The LP was produced in just seven days between 26th September and 1st October 1971. 1972 In this year the interest in UK for German music had grown enough for the two first LPs to appear as double LP on Philips progressive Vertigo label. The LP appeared with a new sleeve depicting an oscillating blue electronic wave signal. The first two LPs were also re-released in Germany in 1975. At that time it was obvious that Kraftwerk's success wasn't going to be an overnight affair. With the first two albums they had created a sound that were far outside traditional parameters of pop and rock music. They were more revered by other musicians than by the general public and it was clear that Kraftwerk were very much musician's musicians.
Ralf And Florian Released 1973
After releasing a duo set, Ralf And Florian, Wolfgang Flur (electronic drums) and Klaus Roeder (guitar/violin/keyboards) join the group.
The Later Years 1974 +
Autobahn released 1974
Autobahn marked Kraftwerk's breakthrough and established them as purveyors of hi-tech, computerized music. The title track, running at more than 22 minutes, was an attempt to relate the monotony and tedium of a long road journey. An edited version reached the Top 10 in the US and UK charts.
Radio Activity released 1976
In 1975, Roeder was replaced by Karl Bartos, who played on Radioactivity, a concept album based on the sounds to be found on the airwaves.
The Man-Machine released 1978
The New Musical Express said of The Man-Machine : 'It is the only completely successful visual/aural fusion rock has produced so far'. Kraftwerk spent three years building their own Kling Klang studios in the late 70s, complete with, inevitably, scores of computers. The single 'The Model', from The Man-Machine, gave the band a surprise hit when it topped the UK charts in 1982, and it led to a trio of hits, including 'Showroom Dummies' and 'Neon Lights'.
Computer World released 1981
This album had the theme of computers taking over the world in the future.It was a commercial success, spawning the hit 'Pocket Calculator', a fun song on which Ralf sang of how his calculator could play a tune,' by pressing down a special key it plays a little melody '. This song has become a live favourite, as all band members come to the front of the stage and allow the audience to play tunes on their ' calculators '.Another hit from this album was 'Computer Love'. For this album, the band embarked on the massive 'Computer World' world tour.
'Tour De France' was released in 1983, a song that was featured in the film Breakdance and became the theme for the cycling event of the same name in 1983.
Electric Cafe released 1986
This album was a disappointment, Hutter and Schneider have remained enigmatically quiet ever since Electric Cafe. In 1990, a frustrated Flur departed to be replaced by Fritz Hijbert (Flur later collaborated with Mouse On Mars under the name of Yamo). Kraftwerk's best known songs were collected together in 1991 on the double, The Mix, aimed chiefly at the dance music market by EMI Records. 'I think our music has to do with emotions. Technology and emotion can join hands . . .' said Hutter in 1991.
They made a surprise return to live performance with a headline appearance at the UK's Tribal Gathering in the summer of 1997, then embarked on a world tour in 1998. These concerts sparked rumours of a new album, since three 'new' tracks were played on this tour. However, no album has emerged.
Expo 2000 released 2000
This single came as a surprise for Kraftwerk fans. A brand new song, although low key, sparked hopes of a new album. However, Kling-Klang remains silent. A video was released for this track, showing the band playing in wireframe suits, but no public appearances or interviews.