When rock n’ roll of the seventies was caught in between corporate rock and mellow rock there emerged out of England the glorious band UFO. They were a transitional group between hard rock, glam and the New Wave of British of Heavy Metal.
Lead by singer Phil Mogg their first album on the Chrysalis label was entitled “Phenomenon” and was produced by Ten Years After’s bass player Leo Lyons. Their notoriety became paramount when they recruited the 18 year old German guitar titan, Michael Schenker from the Scorpions.
Mogg had assembled an outfit of journeymen that would soon be one of the globe’s biggest hard rock bands .UFO bridged the gap of heavy metal and mainstream rock which lead to many critically acclaimed albums. Their status of being commercially viable put them into the successful league of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath.
With their unusual album art they had created an image that was futuristic and progressive yet set into the dark world of the macabre. Released in 1974 Phenomenon would soon become UFO’s preliminary statement. The album included “Doctor Doctor” and the immediate “ear candy” riff driven track, “Rock Bottom”.
U.F.O. “Rock Bottom” Live
What distinguished UFO from other rock bands of that era was that they never stopped touring; like the Eveready Battery Bunny they would continue their blitzkrieg on the road. Without fail they dominated the stage with lightening like performances conquering every market.
As the band matured they continued to release amazing hard rock but it wasn’t until 1977 with their greatest studio effort, “Lights Out” did UFO graduated into the ivy league of heavy metal. This album was the pinnacle of UFO’s studio career containing songs such as “Too Hot To Handle,” “Lights Out,” and the 7-minute opus “Love To Love.” With Lights Out, the band received substantial critical acclaim.
Lights Out… U.F.O. With Def Leppard Commentary
Mogg never being able to rest one out and take a breather, UFO continued their non-stop touring schedule. Never letting up they became the rock band that always delivered that knockout punch. If they were a supporting act it was a laborious chore for the headliner to exhume life from a fulfilled audience. It soon became obvious to Chrysalis Records that a live-greatest hits package would successfully encompass the passion and achievement of UFO. In 1979 the label had released “Strangers in the Night” which catapulted the band with its first Top 25 album. Still, they would take no prisoners at concerts!
With success at hand the road soon would have its perils for the world’s new contenders as hard rock’s kings. Michael Schenker’s increasing alcohol abuse and tensions begun to grow between with Mogg their tempest of success was being challenged. Soon after UFO’s final U.S. show in Palo Alto, California Schenker literally disappeared from human citing and left the band. He made a brief return to rejoin his sibling, Rudolph and the Scorpions before going on to form his own band The Michael Schenker Group. MSG had the guitar slinger chops but didn’t have the songs to re-create the power of UFO.
UFO, like many road weary artists had gone through many lineup changes yet was unable to achieve any great traction. None of their albums that followed could create the panache of Phenomenon or Lights Out. Mogg would continue to assemble new versions of UFO but hard rock would soon be consumed with bands like Def Leppard and Iron Maiden. While at Chrysalis Records I had the opportunity to promote U.F.O. to American radio and whilst the record didn’t measure up to earlier releases but their live performances were like ear candy.