1960s and early 70s
It all started in the late 1960s when Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider met in University. In 1970 they released and experimental “flower power” album called “Tone Float” under the band name Organisation. The album was only released in the UK and didn't sell very well.
In 1970 they started the band Kraftwerk and the first album under that name was released on the Philips label. The traffic cone design was made by Ralf and the album was more electronic than the Tone Float album. This is the first album under the name Kraftwerk. One year later “Kraftwerk 2” was released with a similar sleeve design. “Kraftwerk 2” was the first album to use a drum machine, which was very innovative at the time.
In 1973 the album “Ralf & Florian” was released and on this record the vocoder (and singing) was introduced on the Hawaii-influenced track “Ananas Symphonie” (=Pineapple symphony).
Commercial breakthrough – 1974
In 1974 the album “Autobahn” was released and Wolfgang Flür joined the band as electronic drummer. This album is by many people considered as the first Kraftwerk album, probably because this is the earliest Kraftwerk album you can find on an official CD and the first album you can buy in most record shops. The earlier albums have never been officially released on CD. Autobahn is also the earliest album to be included on for example “Der Katalog” collection of remastered albums. Autobahn was the breakthrough for Kraftwerk and the title track reached top 10 in both USA and UK!
Most famous line-up 1975
In 1975 Karl Bartos joined Kraftwerk and the most famous line-up was born (from left to right): Wolfgang Flür, Karl Bartos, Florian Schneider and Ralf Hütter. That year the album Radio-Aktivität / Radio-Activity (German and English version) was released. This is the first album to be released in different languages, which all later albums should be!
Trans-Europe Express and Man-Machine
1977 Trans-Europe Express was released with its title song, which later became a big hit in the dance clubs in New York, and also marked the start of Hip Hop in Afrika Bambaataa's mix of the song in “Planet Rock”! In 1978 they released the album Man-Machine and the band look-alike robots were introduced and used for promo photos and even on a press conference in Paris and in the front-row audience in Italy.
Computer World, Tour de France and Electric Café
Computer World was released 1981 – In my opinion the best album and the peak of their career. It includes for example Numbers, Pocket Calculator and the title track, which were all hits. 1983 the album “Techno Pop” was planned to be released but since Ralf had an accident with his bike and they didn't have enough good songs for an album they instead released a single called Tour de France, which was featured in the movie “Breakdance” (or Breakin' which is the US original title) and was a big hit. Then in 1986 “Electric Café” was released, which was the last album with the line-up from Radio-Activity-days.
The Mix was released 1991 and was sort of a "best of" album. All the songs were for the first time all digital - all the analogue sounds had been digitalised and tracks had been re-recorded in new versions.
Expo 2000, Tour de France Soundtracks and Minimum-Maximum
In 1999 the fans were astonished to see a new release from Kraftwerk with the single "Expo 2000" made for The Hanover World Exposition. The album - “Tour de France Soundtracks” - came in 2003 no less than 12 years after The Mix, when most people thought that there would never be another album ever again! And in 2005 Kraftwerk released their first ever live album “Minimum-Maximum” as well as a live-DVD with footage of the world tour. This was the first official DVD release! Although Kraftwerk have made several great music videos, they haven't been released on DVD yet!
To be continued...