This was part of a music genre known as "Electro Pop." It was the first song in that style to chart in both the UK and US. Kraftwerk was a very influential band and helped give rise to the British new romantic movement, hip-hop and techno.
The album version is 22 minutes long and it was intended to reproduce a journey on the motorway. Band member Ralf Hutter recorded the passing cars in the background by dangling a microphone out of his old grey Volkswagen window as it traveled down an autobahn. However, these recordings were not suitable for the song, so they recreated the car sounds using synthesizers.
Autobahn is the German word for a major high-speed road usually linking one or more cities and towns, similar to motorway or freeway in English-speaking countries. In the 1920s the Weimar Republic built the first autobahns on a limited scale. Shortly after the 1933 Nazi takeover, Hitler enthusiastically embraced an ambitious autobahn construction project and soon over 100,000 laborers were working at construction sites all over Germany. These autobahns formed the first high-speed road network in the world.
Florian Schneider and Ralf Hutter first met as classical music students at the Dusseldorf Conservatory. They formed the group Kraftwerk (German for "power station"), in 1970 and began to immerse their music in the fledgling world of minimalist electronics. Their debut album Kraftwerk 1 was released in 1971. The duo were joined in 1973 by Wolfgang Flur and Karl Bartos as electronic percussionists and the following year they made their international breakthrough with their album Autobahn. The album is often credited for bringing electronic music to the public for the first time.
In America the edited version of this song was Kraftwerk's only hit, but they had many more in the UK. In February 1982 their double-A-side "The Model" and "Computer Love" topped the British charts, making Kraftwerk the first German act to reach #1 in the UK.
The album cover, which features a colorful drawing of a motorway on a summer day, was painted by Emil Schult, who also co-wrote the lyrics to the song.
The Autobahn album contains five tracks. This song takes up all of Side A and the other four are on Side B.
Suggestion credit: David - Dublin, Ireland
Mojo magazine November 2009 asked Hutter whether with his classical training he wrote scores when composing for Kraftwek. He replied: "We made little notes. When I composed Autobahn with my partner Florian, we don't need many words, we just (mimes making notes or sketching), 'Yes, cars, tyres, asphalt, landscapes…' By using keywords, we could fantasize the whole symphony. That's how I make notes."
Hutter's vocal would become his trademark delivery. "It's called Sprechsingen," he told Mojo magazine October 2012. "It means 'talk-sing'. It's like a form of rap. This started with Autobahn."
The rhythm of the words is virtually identical to the cadence of The Beach Boys' 1965 single "Barbara Ann". A big fan of the American group, Hutter commented to Mojo, the Beach Boys, "managed to concentrate a maximum of fundamental ideas. In a hundred years from now when people want to know what California was like in the '60s, they only have to listen to a single by The Beach Boys."
It was engineer Conny Plank who introduced Kraftwerk to synthesizers. The first use to which they put their new Moog keyboard was the "car" sounds on this song.
Chris from Germany It is strange that a German band with that conservative and strange look and that strange song had a huge success in the USA. The song reached the Hot 100 and the album the billboard top 200 Albums. The success surprised the label and the band and so they were forced to play gigs in the US. They toured the US in 1975 with that album. And the length of this song with more than 22 Minutes was also strange. The many progressive rock bands from the UK with that length of songs were all rejected by US Radio. But Kraftwerk were asked if they could shorten the song.
Roberta Trevisan from S?o Paulo, BrazilKraftwerk is awesome! Great, great band! =DD
Jesse from Madison, WiThank God somebody knows their head from their ass! I was just about to flip when I read that somebody corrected the statement about the car sounds being "recorded"... Those sounds were unmistakably synthesizers!
Doug from Kansas City, Mowell it was a fine song for the pot heads in the early seventies..like myself! We spent many a Sunday afternoon...driving driving driving on our local "autobahn" whilst smoking hemp.. I understand they make rope out of it as well.
Richard from Talladega, AlRight you are, David in Dublin. I acquired CD-R copy of a good quality recording of Tone Float a few years ago to complete my Ralf/Florian/Kraftwerk catalog. I actually got to see Kraftwerk in the early 70s in Birmingham, Alabama. Believe it or not, they opened for Atlanta Rhythm Section.
Eric from Beaverton, OrThe words "Wir fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn" could also be translated as "We're driving, driving, driving on the motorway".
Matt from Pinetown, South AfricaThis is known to be the first ever song to be popular in both the UK and USA, that is entirely in the German language.
Matt from Pinetown, South AfricaThe song has been covered by the Dutch metal band Gorefest. As they were not given permission to release it, they made it a free download from their homepage www.gorefest.nl
Matt from Pinetown, South AfricaThey did hang out microphones from their car on the Autobahn as is mentioned, but the recording came out bad. So this drove them to recreate the car sounds with their synthesisers.
Frank from Westminster, ScThe words are, in German: "Wir fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn", which, in English, is: "We drive drive drive on the motorway" [If my high school German is still with me...]
Pete from Nowra, Australiayes i rember it well...fun ,fun, fun, at the Autobahn.......
they had another song The Model as well...."she's a model and she's looking good , i 'd like to take her home that's understood etc etc etc
David from Dublin, IrelandActually,Ralf Hutter & Florian Schneider,released an album called "Tone Float" in 1969.It was somewhat experimental in it's electro origins.The Duo named their band Kraftwerk-Organisation,at the time,later to be shortened to just Kraftwerk.
There were 5 tracks on this debut album including..Tone Float..20.45mins,Milk rock...5.23mins,Silver forrest...3.16mins,Rhythm Salad...4.07mins,& Noitasinagro...7.45mins.
It is not in general production at this time,& only a small amount of this album were taped.If you see one,be prepared to pay top dollar for it at auction.Other bootleg copies do exist,but of an inferior quality.
I have posted a full discography of Kraftwerk's albums released to date on Artistfacts,so check it out,for more info.