With a revolutionary new sound, Kraftwerk carved inroads in the music scene in the 1970s and 80s. Music critics have placed them on par with the Beatles in terms of influencing pop culture and upcoming artists. Their signature sound combines catchy melodies with repetitive, driving rhythms and strictly electronic instrumentation. In recognition of their services to music, they were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2014 Grammy Awards ceremony.
In the late 1960s Florian Schneider and Ralf Hutter met as students at the famous Robert Schumann Hochschule in Düsseldorf, Germany. Both became interested in the German experimental music scene and decided to perform together. They started their musical journey by performing in an experimental band, Organisation, with which they released an album, Tone Float.
Following Organisations breakup, the duo decided to form their own band, Kraftwerk, so that they could get creative freedom and produce their own kind of music. Hutter and Schneider experimented with various musicians during the early years of Kraftwerk, with only the two of them remaining constant in the lineup. Schneider would perform on flutes, electro-violins and guitars, while Hutter performed on the electric organ, synthesizers, and electric piano.
The bands earliest releases were mostly instrumental jam sessions, which fused various traditional and classic instruments with groovy beats and rhythms. Their first two albums, the eponymous Kraftwerk (1970) and Kraftwerk 2 (1972) revolved around the same pattern. Their third studio album Ralf und Florian showcased the first semblance of the bands classic sound, since it relied more heavily on drum machines and synthesizers. The album also marked the first time the band used the vocoder, which would become a staple in the later releases.
International Success and Recognition:
With the success of their earlier albums, the band started making a name for themselves in the industry. They started experimenting more with their sound and used more technologically advanced instruments to achieve a distinct, more disciplined sound. In 1975, the bands fortune took a turn for the better as they landed a contract which would allow them to tour the US and the UK.
This international tour would be significant for two main reasons. Firstly, it brought Kraftwerks music to the huge markets of the US, the UK and Canada and secondly it brought together the classic live lineup of Kraftwerk. Schneider and Hutter were joined by Wolfgang Flur and Karl Bartos on electronic percussions, giving the four member lineup a lot of creativity and spark. The classic lineup performed together till the late eighties, spawning numerous hit albums and successful tours.
Over the following years the band released Radio-Activity (1975), Trans-Europe Express (1977), The Man-Machine (1978), Computer World (1981) and Electric Café (The name was changed to Techno Pop) (1986). These albums peaked in music charts around the world, making Kraftwerk a major name in the electronic dance genre and helped to bring the relatively new art form to the main stream.