Can penned this song for the German TV detective series, Das Messer, which was based on the Tim Frazer novels of English crime writer Francis Durbridge. Released as a single, it reached #6 on the German charts.
Keyboardist Irmin Schmidt told Uncut magazine the story of the song: "We had done this music for a German television programme, Millionenspiel, and that was very successful," he said. "So we were asked to do the music to Das Messer. We accepted, of course, and started working and it was about the first thing we did in their new studio. We did our best, and then when I came with the music to the editing room, the director (Rolf von Sydow) flipped out – he didn't like the music at all. He said, 'I wanted commercial music and not some avant garde music.' He was totally against it. Big trouble – but the guys who actually commissioned the music loved it, and said, 'No matter what the director says, this music should remain – it's fabulous.' That was a few days of sleepless nights, because I thought we had done it all in vain."
"The film itself got very bad critics," Schmidt continued, "and 100 different papers all over Germany, even the little provincial papers, all wrote, 'It's a very mediocre Durbridge this time, but the music is extraordinarily'. And we went into the charts with it."
The song marked Can's first recorded use of drum machine, an unusual feature in popular music at the time. Schmidt told Uncut magazine: "It was the first one, certainly in Germany, nobody had heard this kind of sound, that was one of the things that this funny director was so… For him that was so unusual, commercial, and yeah, I don't remember any peace at that time using a drum machine, especially using it rhythmically in this weird fashion."
Drummer Jaki Liebezeit added: "I don't mind drum machines. To make a synthetic attempt to have a real drum there, that idea I don't like so much. 'Spoon' was the biggest hit we had in Germany, and that sound was one of the first rhythm boxes, a Farfisa rhythm box. It could play bossa nova, tango, jazz, waltz, all kinds of dance rhythms, and you could also press down all the buttons at the same time and get that mixture of everything. It was fun – we didn't take it too seriously."
The lyrics were written by vocalist Damo Suzuki. Schmidt told Uncut magazine: "Damo never made what you could call proper lyrics, because it always was a kind of Dada mixture of totally meaningless syllables and some words and phrases which came to his mind. And actually the whole thing in Can was using the voice as an instrument, as one of the five instruments – it never had this kind of lead singer. And above all the lyrics and ever had this sense of transporting any kind of message, it was just music."
American indie rock band Spoon took their name from this song. As did Spoon Records, the independent record label on which music by Can and its members has been released and re-released since 1979.