"Autobahn" is a song by German electronic band Kraftwerk, composed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider of the band, with Emil Schult collaborating on the lyrics. It is co-produced by Conny Plank, and was the band's first track to use sung lyrics. Recorded in 1974, the song is designed to capture the feel of driving on a motorway.
The lyrics of the song are in German, the main refrain being "Wir fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn" (English: "We drive drive drive on the Autobahn"). The chorus was often mistaken for the English phrase "Fun fun fun on the Autobahn" and thought to be a reference to the 1964 Beach Boys' song "Fun, Fun, Fun". Band member Wolfgang Flür later commented:
No! Someone else told me that they [the misinterpreters] thought the way we speak in German, 'Fahren, ' which means driving, sounds like the English word, 'fun.' 'Fahren fahren fahren, ' 'fun fun fun.' That is wrong. But it works. Driving is fun. We had no speed limit on the autobahn, we could race through the highways, through the Alps, so yes, fahren fahren fahren, fun fun fun. But it wasn't anything to do with the Beach Boys! We used to drive a lot, we used to listen to the sound of driving, the wind, passing cars and lorries, the rain, every moment the sounds around you are changing, and the idea was to rebuild those sounds on the synth.
Ralf Hütter has said that The Beach Boys were an influence on the band, and seemed more open to the interpretation of the chorus as a homage to their song.
Unlike many of the band's most popular songs, the band has never released "Autobahn" in any other language.
The instrumentation used on the song's 1974 recording was highly innovative at the time and is notable for the significant influence it had on many subsequent genres of electronic popular and dance music. Notable aspects of the arrangement included:
- Electronic percussion pads, played by Wolfgang Flür.
The arrangement also included acoustic elements such as guitar and flute.
The band have continued to perform the song live regularly throughout their career. Live arrangements have evolved continuously as the band have adapted the instrumentation and equipment they use on stage.
A version of the song lasting over 22 minutes was recorded as the title track of the album . This was edited to a more modest 3 minute and 28 seconds running time and released as a single, giving the band an unexpected Top 40 hit in the USA, and other countries, the first of their career. A differently edited version, at 3 minutes and 5 seconds duration, was released in the UK, reaching #11, and was later included on the UK compilation LP . The song also reached #12 in Canada (Vertigo VE-203) and number 12 in the Netherlands.