Thursday, 30 April 2009

Classic Album Review – Strangers in the Night – UFO


If that means anything to you then you are probably in your mid 40s and were a renegade from the punk explosion of the mid – late 70s. That is me!!!

I recently bought this album (the remastered version) on CD having for years gone on to my son and others about how great this album was… no IS!

It’s a live album – recorded on a USA tour by UFO in the late 70s. At that point they were a “bubbling under” heavy rock band. Punk in the UK ruled the roost and therefore they got little coverage except in the pages of Sounds the one weekly music paper that cater for the rockheads among us in the UK – I think Kerrang’s lineage would lead straight to Sounds.

I’d been into punk as it start – esp The Clash and White Riot, The Damned had impressed and of course the Pistols when playing not preening were icons. But then it all went popular and Vivian Westwood. I left stage left and discovered Judas Priest etc. In that discovery was UFO and this album.

Ok the remastered version gives you 15 tracks – more than the original, some more of the banter with the crowd but what it still has is the total rawness, energy and sheer brilliance of UFO at their height. They’d been around a while with line up changes, Bernie Marsden had been and gone later being part of the classic Whitesnake line up before they went USA. To replace Bernie UFO poached Michael Schenker from The Scorpions. This album is all about Hr Schenker with a white flying vee, a 50W marshall stack (this is before workable master vol amps remember) and a cocked Vox wah-wah for that signature tone. Natural Thing, Doctor Doctor, Too Hot to Handle, Let it Roll… classic after classic.

The band was not all about one person though the drums are brilliant piledrivers that launch the next stomper or maintain the beat throughout. The bass whilst understated and more bassy that a lot of players go for in sound terms is a solid foundation that couples to that tight and purposeful drumming. Paul Raymond’s keyboard playing is alongside JP Jones in Led Zep some of my personal fav in this genre. He lays down great swirling intros and doubles on various lead lines with Schenker. He plays second guitar as well giving the band a versatile sound base. Then at the top is Phil Mogg with his very English lyrics and vocal style.

So why should you buy this album? Cos it’s the best damn heavy rock live album ever! It is a band at the top of their game and it really shows a link from 70s to 80s rock, bands like Iron Maiden and GnRs regularly quote this album as extremely significant to their development – Iron Maiden still use Doctor Doctor off this album as the track always played just before they hit the stage. Also Michael Schenker is so great on this as well. His tone is brilliant, and his solos are a definition of taste and melody in a hard rock context, it’s not all about how fast it is or flashy technique.

Sadly this was the end of the road for this line up as Schenker was soon departed his alcoholism an issue for the band and his temperament also causing too much friction. What a shame. They never found a suitable replacement in terms of style and ability in playing or the writing stakes. The various reformations over the years have sadly lacked the magic that was there in 1978 etc. This album made the top 10 in 1979 in the UK – a live album by a band that had only really had minor chart success before that is remarkable.

Oh and the other reason… well maybe just for me but as we had this belting out in the car down the M4 the other day I was 15 again, long hair, bum fluff for a moustache, decked out in my denims covered in band patches standing in a hall somewhere whilst the Radio Caroline roadshow blasted these tracks at an obscene volume as my brother, my mates and I headbanged our hearts out and I dreamed I could be Mr Schenker… Happy days!


  1. Guitars and Life,

    Good story. I can relate. Music is as addictive as the drink and drugs, having undulged in all three at once for many years I've witnessed the wreckage. I've left the drugs behind, manage the drink and still make the music. I'm keen to find musicians who are experiencing the challenges of gettin' old and feelin' blue. Not even country songs are directed at the grey haired and worn out. I left the music business many years ago but have always made music, for myself, now with little promotion and even less exposure, it appears a few, very few, people are interested in what I have to say and want me to see if there's others out there who can relate.

    Have a look at
    and tell me what you think.

    Gray Dourman

  2. I tried posting a comment and it blew a raspberry at me.
    Anyhoo, quiz time.
    What's the link between The Damned and UFO?

  3. Have you tried gettin' old and feelin'new, workin'days almost through, kids are grown, my woman ain't new, fewer choices, nothin' to do, so I dream of places, I no longer go, talk to people I don't wanna know, walkin' dead, shattered head, lookin' for something new to do, gettin' old and feelin'blue.

    Gray Dourman