Kraftwerk – The Model (12″ EMI 5207) (1981)

“But people will know it’s a three-year old single. We’ll never get away with it–we’re trying to move forward here.”

Ralf Hütter was worried. Market research indicated the British public’s preference for new single “Computer Love”‘s b-side, Man Machine album track and 1978 German single,”The Model”. Some at EMI (UK) boardroom level were suggesting re-releasing the single with “The Model” on the a-side.

“But what about the iconography, if you use the Man Machine colour scheme and typography for this single, the public will be confused. We’ll trying to push Computer World, remember?”

“Just put the words ‘the model’ on the Computer World computer screen, no-one’ll know the difference,” piped up a junior executive helpfully.

“I like your thinking,” said the chairman, turning to face the junior executive in his executive swivel chair. “Call up the art department and make it so.”

“It’s not right aesthetically ,” argued Hütter, a note of panic rising in his voice. “And besides, it’s not even that good a song. I mean the rhetorical point about models being vacuous maneaters in love with themselves and the camera isn’t exactly groundbreaking, is it? The melody, such as it is, is banal and the way it’s sung is pretty obvious, too, all ennui and monotone.”

“You know, you’re right,” the chairman smiled malevolently. “We shouldn’t re-release this on grounds both artistic and aesthetic. But, Hütter, we are re-releasing it. Someday you’ll thank me. But if it makes you feel better, the record’s label will still show ‘Computer Love’ as the a-side and ‘The Model’ as the flip with the corresponding matrix numbers on the dead wax.”

In February 1982, “The Model” became Kraftwerk’s only UK number one–indeed, their only chart topper anywhere. Kraftwerk were able to buy a few more bells and whistles for Kling Klang and Ralf Hütter sent the EMI executive a fruit basket with a humble Danke note.

Published in: on October 9, 2011 at 5:05 pm  Comments (3)  

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  1. one has to wonder why “the model” was ever considered as a b-side in the first place? you would have thought that if anyone would have used the opportinity to put a remix on the flip at the time it would have been kraftwerk…

    when i first started buying 45’s i was compelled to give the b-side at least one listen, as a: it meant my meagre nascent collection might be expanded (in terms of listening if not amount of records), and b: i’d paid for it anyway so i was going to try and get my money’s worth! and of course i was pleased to unearth several gems as a result, that in some cases turned out to be stronger than the a-side (and become perennial favourites, whilst in contrast the a-side would virtually be eradicated from memory – a classic case for me was the flip of the fatback band’s so-so disco effort “spanish hustle” – a fantastic jazzy track called “groovy kind of day”)

    i would guess that somewhere out there (be it on the internet or in printed form) there is a look at what is surely one of the strangest anomalies in pop music – on the surface just shoving something on the other side of a record to make up the numbers, but of course at a deeper level inadvertantly triggering a whole set of issues, such as the fact that although virtually everyone bought the single for the a-side, whoever wrote the other side got an equal share of the royalties (the classic case being queen’s “bohemian rhapsody”, where through chance more than anything, drummer and occasional song-contributor roger taylor made as much money out of it as freddie mercury with his b-side “i’m in love with my car”, whilst guitarist and major songwriter brian may got sweet FA! apparently and probably not surprisingly this caused a lot of internal strife within the band and almost prompted a break-up, and eventually it was agreed that all song credits be shared as a result, whoever wrote them.. and all because of a poxy b-side!)

  2. Ah, the humble b-side. A place for experiments too bold for the “a”, remix hell or a dumping ground for studio floor sweepings? Answer: yes.

    “The Model” already was a single (in Germany in a German language version) when issued around the time of it’s parent album, The Man Machine, so it was a bit strange, though certainly not unprecedented, to put an old track as the b-side.

    Of course, with The Mix Lp Kraftwerk made a whole album re-mixes. Interestingly, I’ve given various Kraftwerk albums a go, from their various eras, and for all their technological advancements, critical kudos, etc. etc., I still don’t rate them that highly–as I was trying to make subtly clear in my little reverie above. Sorry guys.

  3. apart from being vaguely aware of their hit single “autobahn” a few years earlier, my introduction to kraftwerk was in 1978 when i stolled into the 6th form common room at school to be blown away by the majestic sweep of “europe endless” from the “trans-europe express” album – i was so taken by it i managed to blag it cheap off its owner, who obviously didn’t like it as much as i did, and it was a good buy even though nothing else on the album was quite at the same level… having earlier learnt a salutory lesson by wasting at least a fiver (a lot of money back then, espically when you didn’t have a proper income) on a full-price album in the past that was just a couple of hits and the rest filler (the debut LP by slave as you ask), i was reluctant to get burnt again so never actually acquired the follow-up “man machine” in its entirety until many years later (as mp3’s – ironically it was a rare case where i liked all the tracks on an album to some extent), so i made do by acquiring half it of on a couple of 12″ singles that cost less than a pound each (including “the model” which was the b-side of the luminous pressing of “neon lights”)…

    so yes, i was aware of it before it came out of nowhere from a b-side of a current release to number one in the charts. but presumably most punters weren’t – i was an avid follower of the band at this point and had already acquired a copy of ” computer world” on tape that a friend recorded for me – yes i know, sacrilege admitting that on a site like this, but i had got well into that habit by then as for me it was all about the music and not the format… and of course it was a lot cheaper, which was a real boon as i was on the dole and broke at the time, although that didn’t stop me from seeing them on tour and buying an ace t-shirt with the pocket-calulator design on it! talking of which, “pocket calculator” was the first single release from that album and was played quite a bit on the radio to my recollection but i don’t think even made the top 30, so when they picked the much weaker by comparison “computer love” as the follow-up (and the only other track they could have chose with any commercial potential at all was “computer world” in my opinion), presumably that explains why “the model” suddenly got all the attention, although it still doesn’t explain how it got to number one. i was a regular listener of radio at the time, and yet i only ever seemed to hear it in the weekly chart rundown… maybe it was because one particular DJ played it incessently on their show (in the manner that kenny everett did with the aforementioned “bohemian rhapsody”)? after all, unlike the american radio network with its hundreds of local stations, all we really had in those days was radio 1, which is quite scary when you think about the power those DJ’s had back then!

    i still consider those 3 kraftwerk albums i’ve mentioned as the “holy trinity” and the apex of their work, but sadly they went downhill fast after that, and ironically given their status i thought “the mix” was a real turkey! by then it was very much time to say “on your bike” – literally in their case ha ha!

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