May 1981: Kraftwerk Boots Up 'Computer World'

'Computer Love'
Photo Credit
Elektra Records

On May 10, 1981, the influential German band Kraftwerk, which revolutionized rock music with their use of keyboards and synthesizers, released their eighth album, providing them with a very minor hit in America but a single that came within spitting distance of the top of the Italian charts.

Recorded at Kling Klang Studios in Düsseldorf, West Germany and co-produced by band members Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, Computer World was a concept album of sorts, focusing on the rise of computers in society. Talk about prescient: if anything, it may actually be more relevant now than it was upon its original release!

All told, four singles were issued from the album: “Pocket Calculator,” “Computer Love,” “Numbers,” and “Computerweit.” It was that first single which made it all the way to No. 2 in Italy, but in America it didn’t even manage to crack the Billboard Hot 100, although it did bubble under at No. 103...and as long as we’re mentioning underwhelming chart performances, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that “Numbers” actually rose a spot higher, hitting No. 102. On the other hand, both “Pocket Calculator” and “Computer Love” cracked the Top 40 on the U.K. singles chart.

Chart performance of its singles aside, Computer World was critically acclaimed when it hit record store shelves, earning a spot in New Musical Express’ top 10 albums of the year, and it’s held up well enough to have been included in Pitchfork’s top 100 albums of the ‘80s.

If you’ve never heard Computer World, then you should definitely remedy that situation right now...and once you’ve done so, feel free to marvel at how modern it sounds.

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