“Tour de France” is a song by Kraftwerk. It was first issued in June 1983, peaking at #22 in the UK singles chart.
It is notable for the use of sampled voices and mechanical sounds associated with cycling that were used to supplement a simple electro-percussion pattern – an approach Kraftwerk have used on earlier tracks such as “Metal on Metal” (from Trans-Europe Express) and “Numbers” (from Computer World). The music is credited to Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider and Karl Bartos; the lyrics are credited to Ralf Hütter and Maxime Schmitt, a French label associate of the band. The melody appears to quote a fragment of the opening section of Paul Hindemith’s “Sonata for Flute and Piano” (“Heiter Bewegt”).
This 1953 Hungarian postage stamp was the source for the cycling motif.For Kraftwerk, Tour De France was a departure from the technological tone of the two previous albums, The Man-Machine and Computer World. Instead, the song is a joie de vivre celebration of cycling, marking the group’s increasing interest in the sport. Of the current line-up, Ralf Hütter and Fritz Hilpert have been known to take part in cycling events.
The track was originally recorded with the intention of being included on the subsequently abandoned Techno Pop album. The single was originally released on seven and twelve inch vinyl, and as a cassette-single. It has the most complicated set of variants of any Kraftwerk song, having been variously edited and remixed to the point that there is no completely definitive version.
The sleeve design depicted the band on road bikes in a paceline, superimposed across an angled representation of the French national flag. The design was adapted from an image that had appeared on a 1953 Hungarian postage stamp, one of a sport-themed set commemorating the opening the Népstadion (People’s Stadium) in Budapest.
The piece was also included in the 1984 film, Breakin’; also known as Breakdance internationally. Although the song did appear briefly in the film, Kraftwerk did not let the song appear on the movie soundtrack; instead, a cover version of the song was released by a group called “10 Speed”.