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"Autobahn" is a song by German electronic band Kraftwerk, composed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider of the band, with Emil Schult collaborating on the lyrics. It is co-produced byConny Plank, and was the band's first track to use sung lyrics. It is designed to capture the feel of driving on a motorway.
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." Band member Wolfgang Flür later commented: "No! Someone else told me that they [the misinterpreters] thought the way we speak in German, 'Fahren,' which means driving, sounds like the English word, 'fun.' 'Fahren fahren fahren,' 'fun fun fun.' That is wrong. But it works. Driving is fun. We had no speed limit on the autobahn, we could race through the highways, through the Alps, so yes, fahren fahren fahren, fun fun fun. But it wasn't anything to do with the Beach Boys! We used to drive a lot, we used to listen to the sound of driving, the wind, passing cars and lorries, the rain, every moment the sounds around you are changing, and the idea was to rebuild those sounds on the synth."
Unlike many of the band's most popular songs, the band has never released the song in any other language.
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.
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 4 minutes 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 27 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.
|Canadian Singles Chart||12|
|German Singles Chart||9|
|Irish Singles Chart||20|
|UK Singles Chart||11|
|U.S. BillboardHot 100||25|
- 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 a comedy music record in the early 1980s.
- The Canadian band Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet has covered the song.
- Samurai & Hardbartle covered the song in 1990.