Sunday Old School: UFO
Some bands at the beginning of metal have gone on to become icons which in the eyes of fans can do no wrong, regardless of what they release. Others also contributed heavily to the development of metal, but despite being rightly regarded as legends, sometimes escape the attention of many fans. If ever there was a group that deserved more recognition, it would British hard rockers, UFO. UFO was formed in London in 1969 by vocalist Phil Mogg, bassist Pete Way, guitar player Mick Bolton and drummer Andy Parker, initially under the moniker, Hocus Pocus, though they soon changed their name to UFO in honour of a local club where they were discovered by Beacon Records. Their first album, "UFO1," was released one year after they changed their name, in October 1970 and met with varying success, garnering mixed reviews but spawned some hits overseas, most notably the song, "Boogie" (also known as "Boogie for George," which became a hit in Germany, and their cover of the Eddie Cochran classic, "C’mon Everybody," which became a massive success in Japan, where the album was also well received commercially, as was their second release, "UFO2: Flying," which received more positive reviews and featured the near twenty minute epic, "Star Storm."
After the (initially Japan only) release of their first live album, "Live," (later re-titled, "UFO Lands In Tokyo,") the band parted company with Mick Bolton and searched for a more traditional rock guitarist to replace him. They initially hired Larry Wallis, who lasted one European tour before leaving and eventually becoming the first guitarist for Motorhead, before embarking on another tour with Bernie Marsden, who would also leave soon afterwards and go on to become a founding member of Whitesnake. Their search came to an end in the summer of 1973 when they recruited 18 year old German guitarist, Michael Schenker, who was then still a member of the Scorpions. With their new guitarist in tow, the band recorded their third studio album, "Phenomenon," which showcased their harder sound and remains one of their most beloved albums amongst fans today. It featured some of their best known work, such as "Rock Bottom" and the hard rock classic, "Doctor Doctor." The record attracted many new fans in the United States and their native, Britain, both of which were expanded upon after the release of their next album, "Force It" in 1975 and the 1976 record, "No Heavy Petting," which marked their first release as a five piece, following the addition of keyboardist, Danny Peyronel, who was soon replaced by Paul Raymond.
With Raymond in tow, the band got to work on their sixth studio album, "Lights Out," which became one of their most acclaimed albums to date. Its quality was cemented by the title track and the seven minute epic, "Love To Love," which Iron Maiden founder, Steve Harris has cited as his favourite song. The album received almost perfect scores from the press and the band followed their success with another album in 1978 entitled, "Obsession," which was also heavily praised by the press and fans alike. The critical commercial success generated by "Lights Out" and "Obsession" led the band to embark on an ambitious tour of the United States, where they recorded a new live album, "Strangers in the Night," another favourite of critics and a top ten album in their native United Kingdom.
Despite their recent success, a feud between Mogg and Schenker, coupled with the latter’s alcohol abuse, led the German guitarist to leave the group soon after the release of "Strangers in the Night" and briefly return to the Scorpions before forming his own group. His place was taken by Paul "Tonka" Chapman, who would make his recording debut with the band on their next album, "No Place to Run." The record was highly anticipated, following their recent accomplishments and the decision to recruit Beatles producer George Martin, but instead was considered something of a failure by their standards, though it was able to reach the top twenty in the United Kingdom. Paul Raymond soon left the group and, after a brief time with Uriah Heep’s, John Sloman, they recruited Wild Horses guitarist and keyboardist Neil Carter, who made his live debut with the group at the Reading festival, where UFO headlined the Saturday night. His first recording with the band came in 1981 on the self-produced, "The Wild, the Willing and the Innocent," which showcased a lighter sound and once again was able to reach the British top twenty.
Success soon returned to UFO though when they released, "Mechanix," which became a top ten hit in the United Kingdom, reaching number eight in the album charts, their highest placing with a studio record. The album also found moderate success in the United States, particularly with the song, "Back Into my Life," which became a minor hit in America. However, founding bass player, Pete Way decided to leave the group almost immediately after they finished touring in support of "Mechanix," to form Fastway with former Motorhead guitarist, "Fast" Eddie Clarke. He was replaced by Billy Sheehan of Talas, although it was Neil Carter who performed bass on their next album, "Making Contact" in 1983. The album was commercial and critical disappointment and led to the band making the decision to split after performing a farewell tour in Great Britain, bowing out with a compilation album entitled, "Headstone."
The disappearance of the UFO name came to an end a mere two years later when Mogg’s new band, which also featured Paul Raymond and Paul Gray, who had toured with UFO as a bass player on their farewell tour, along with former Diamond Head drummer, Robbie France, was signed to Chrysalis Records under the UFO moniker. France quit the band before recording took place and drums on the new album, entitled "Misdemeanour" were performed by former Magnum drummer, Jim Simpson. The album was a commercial failure and received mixed reviews, as did their follow up EP, "Ain’t Misbehavin’" and the new incarnation of the group soon folded.
In 1992, Mogg once again resurrected UFO, though this time Pete Way joined him, along with new guitarist, Laurence Archer and former Screaming Lord Sutch drummer, Clive Edwards. This new version of the band released the album, "High Stakes & Dangerous Men" on the small label, Razor Records, which received some very positive reviews from the rock press, enough to call for a full UFO reunion. Their wish was granted only a year later, when Michael Schenker, Paul Raymond and Andy Parker all returned to the fold and in 1995, they released their first album together since, "Strangers in the Night," entitled, "Walk on Water," which garnered generally good reviews. Once again however, tensions between Mogg and Schenker caused numerous problems, leading the band to essentially break up for a third time, before returning in 1998, only for another two year break to ensue before finally, with Schenker on board, UFO released their fifteenth album, "Covenant" in the year 2000, which was initially released as a double album, featuring all new studio material on the first disc and a collection of classics performed live in the United States. Both "Covenant" and its successor, 2002’s, "Sharks" received mixed reviews and shortly after the latter’s release, Schenker decided to once again quit the group, with his place being taken by American guitarist, Vinnie Moore.
Moore’s first output with UFO came in 2004, when the band released, "You Are Here," which was also notable for featuring drummer Jason Bonham. Again, the record received a lukewarm reception and the group followed the album with a double disc DVD, "Showtime," as well as a two disc live album which also contained re-recorded classics. In 2005, Andy Parker returned to the group, and was able to record with the band on their eighteenth album, "The Monkey Puzzle" in 2006, which received some of their best reviews since, "High Stakes & Dangerous Men." The band hit a problem in 2008 when Pete Way was refused a visa into the United States, leading the band to recruit Sebastian Bach bass player, Rob De Luca as a touring bassist. Owing to medical issues, Way was also unable to record the next UFO album, "The Visitor," which entered the top 100 in the United Kingdom, marking the bands first appearance on the British charts for over fifteen years. They quickly followed, "The Visitor," with a six CD live set and more touring, before releasing their landmark twentieth studio album, "Seven Deadly" in 2012. "Seven Deadly" was very well received and found a place in the British, German and Swedish album charts, as well as the Billboard Indie Charts. Today, after nearly forty five years of hard rocking, UFO are still going strong, having just this week completed a tour of Brazil, the band will be heading across Europe next month, culminating in an appearance the UK’s, Download Festival.
UFO - "Doctor Doctor"
UFO - "Let It Roll"
UFO - "Lights Out"
UFO - "Only You Can Rock Me"
UFO - "Back Into My Life"
UFO - "Backdoor Man"
UFO - "Fighting Man"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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