100 Greatest Songs of the 80’s #49 Kraftwerk – Tour De France

Released: 1983

The 1980’s was the decade in which everyone spent catching up with Kraftwerk: having taken much of the previous one laying the bedrock for half a dozen future movements, the quartet seemed happy to sign off with Computer World – supported by a band infuriating reissue of The Model from 1978’s brilliantly transcendental The Man Machine – and let a younger generation of pioneers catch them up.

The pause marked a cultural shift for the German auteurs, as Ralf Hütter convinced them to adopt vegetarianism and take up cycling, with some of the recording sessions for what would eventually become Electric Cafe taking place in Holland, a place he described as “Cycling heaven”. So enthusiastic did they become that whilst on tour they would be dropped off miles from the venue before a show and bike the rest of the way to it.

This obsession led to one of the greatest sport-inspired songs of the century. Tour De France was poppier, less mechanik, a departure from some of what people saw as their inherent pretentiousness. Spurred on by a naggingly simple motif, the addition of breathing effects somehow gave the track a tantalising third dimension, mountains, air and sun surrounding listeners as the serotonin kicked in. It all went to show that having given the music world a head start, Kraftwerk were still lapping everyone.

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