UFO has been rocking audiences around the world for half a century, and currently is in the midst of a farewell tour. On October 11, 2019, UFO stops off in Las Vegas one last time at the House of Blues. The group’s lineup currently features vocalist Phil Mogg; (the only man to appear on all the band’s recordings/tours), drummer Andy Parker, keyboardist Neil Carter, guitarist Vinnie Moore, and bassist Rob De Luca. But what have those 50 years of rock and roll held for the group? In honor of the band’s farewell tour hitting up Las Vegas next month; let’s go back in time and take a look!
The earliest version of UFO, under the name Hocus Pocus; started in 1968, eventually changing their name to the rock club in London where they were discovered. The first incarnation of the group featured vocalist Phil Mogg, bassist Pete Way, drummer Andy Parker, and guitarist Mick Bolton. This incarnation of the group released two studio albums; UFO 1 and UFO 2: Flying, both of which featured a combination of bluesy rock and experimental “space rock.” A release of live recordings in Japan promoting the band’s early work; released under several named but mostly known under the name UFO Live; was the final official release from this incarnation, after which time Mick Bolton left the band. The limitations of the early “space rock” sound were becoming apparent at this time.
Following Bolton’s departure, the group featured temporary replacements Larry Wallis (later of Motorhead); and Bernie Marsden (later of Whitesnake). UFO was supporting Scorpions at the time; and asked their guitarist, Michael Schenker, if he wanted to join the group. Despite speaking no English at the time, the German guitarist became the group’s new axeman. The first release from the group with Schenker on guitar was a non-LP single, “Give Her the Gun.” It was followed with the Phenomenon and Force It studio records; both of which were produced by Leo Lyons of Ten Years After Fame; (Fellow TYA alum, Chick Churchill, played keyboards on the latter record, making it their first release to incorporate keyboards). Cuts from these albums include; “Doctor Doctor,” “Rock Bottom” (forever immortalized in live form with Schenker’s ten-minute-plus guitar solos), “Let it Roll,” “This Kid’s,” “Mother Mary,” and “Shoot Shoot.”
The band had begun their rise to fame, with increased international exposure. With the release of these albums; the band’s earlier “space rock” sound was gone, as they pursued more straightforward hard rock sounds.
Keyboardist Danny Peyronel joined the band for their 1976 album, No Heavy Petting; it being their first record as a five-piece band. Peyronel only stayed with the band for one album; though he wrote and co-wrote several tracks on it. Songs like “Natural Thing” and “I’m a Loser” remain concert staples; but the album also impressed with deep cuts like “Highway Lady,” “Reasons Love” (featuring one of Schenker’s most underrated solos), and “Martian Landscape.”
Peyronel’s departure saw the arrival of keyboardist/second guitarist Paul Raymond; who completed the band’s classic five-piece lineup of Mogg/Schenker/Way/Raymond/Parker. The first release from the band in this new incarnation was Lights Out; long hailed as the band’s most seminal studio record; with its title cut, classic rocker “Too Hot to Handle,” and the moody and atmospheric “Love to Love;” not to mention plenty of equally impressive deep cuts. The record hit #23 on the Billboard charts, making it the band’s highest charting album in the United States. The final UFO studio album to feature Schenker during the band’s 70s heyday was 1978’s Obsession; perhaps best remembered for the rock anthem “Only You Can Rock Me,” one of the band’s most famous and beloved songs.
Strangers in the Night
Rounding out the Schenker era was the classic live album; Strangers in the Night, featuring renditions of many classic cuts from the Schenker-era studio records. It is often hailed as the band’s ultimate release; and it’s no surprise many call it their favorite (even classic Guns N Roses guitarist Saul "Slash" Hudson has been known to call it his all-time favorite live album!) Following the release of the live record; the band brought in Lone Star guitarist Paul Chapman to fill the now vacant lead guitar slot; Chapman had briefly played with the band a few years prior when Schenker had first joined the group.
The first release with Chapman on guitar was 1980’s No Place to Run, produced by iconic producer George Martin (The Beatles, America). Paul Raymond left the band following its release; being replaced by Neil Carter for the follow-up release, 1981’s The Wild, the Willing, and the Innocent. The band would fade into obscurity in the years to come, effectively disbanding in 1983; but reuniting a year later, lasting until 1989.
The band reunited again in 1991; with Phil Mogg and Pete Way joining up with Clive Edwards and Laurence Archer, releasing the High Stakes and Dangerous Men album the following year. In the years that followed, Michael Schenker would return to and depart from the group a number of times, with his final appearance of a UFO album being 2002’s Sharks, which also featured ex-Journey and Jefferson Starship drummer Aynsley Dunbar. The follow-up album, 2004’s You Are Here, introduced the world to the group’s new guitarist, Vinnie Moore, himself having released several solo instrumental albums on Shrapnel Records back in the 80s. The album even featured drummer Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin’s iconic drummer John Bonham.
In more recent years, Sebastian Bach Band bassist Rob De Luca has been a regular fixture in the group during their live tours. The final studio release from the group was The Salentino Cuts in 2017, consisting of cover songs from many classic rock legends. The group set out for their farewell tour earlier this year; only to be hit with a tragedy – longtime keyboardist/guitarist Paul Raymond died of a heart attack at age 73. To fill his void for the remainder of the farewell tour; the group brought back his initial replacement in the band, Neil Carter.
In a few months, UFO will finally be done touring, according to vocalist Phil Mogg; and only time will tell what the future holds. Will we see the members of the band in other projects and bands? Either way, one thing for certain is the band’s back catalogue isn’t going anywhere; and it’s waiting to be rediscovered by classic hard rock fans around the globe. I know where I’ll be on October 11 when UFO arrives in Las Vegas. If you’re a fan, don’t miss what will likely be your final opportunity in Sin City to capture these rockers in their element!
Check out our previous coverage of UFO here!