When UFO played Knebworth in 1985 I was blown away by their hard rock sound.
Their set at Knebworth displayed their back catalogue to the full. It was a set loaded with more vintage classics than Keith Moon’s swimming pool and I knew a visit to the record store might be worthwhile to dig out their back catalogue.
UFO were one of those potentially tricky bands with a few good albums in the back catalogue, but apparently also some real early duffers.
The thing about UFO was that they hadn’t always stuck to hard rock. That only happened when they recruited a young German guitarist called Michael Schenker on a free transfer from The Scorpions (’70s heavy rock is very incestuous). This was a good move, because until then both bands were as unremarkable as a civil servants convention in Shrewsbury on a rainy day, and both subsequently hit mid season form, and their creative and commercial peaks.
Prior to this UFO peddled something called Space Rock. The only way to judge whether this was worth listening to was to look at the front and back cover of the albums for clues. This became quite a skill, so to see if you also possess this talent, here’s a short test:
One of these records is Space Rock, one is 70’s Hard Rock. Both are by UFO.
Record 1: The cover features a photo of a man and woman in the shower in a tight clinch. She is wearing significantly fewer clothes than the man, notably no skirt or underclothes. In a “clever” twist (and to counter accusations of sexism) the woman appears to be the keener of the two. The album is sensitively titled “Force It” (an early example of a rock band confusing “sexy” with “sexist” – I assume this is one of many inspirations for Spinal Tap’s “Smell The Glove”) There are nine songs listed on the back, most less than five minutes long. In a further clever punning twist, there are a number of Faucets in the foreground.
Record 2: The cover features an illustration of a bald man flying past some flying saucers. There are five songs listed including “Flying” that lasts 26 minutes and “Star Storm” that lasts 19 minutes. A character named “Prince Kajuku” gets a mention in two of the remaining three songs.
How did you do? Did you guess correctly?
Like many other seventies rock bands (Whitesnake, Rainbow, Deep Purple etc) that have reformed a few times, UFO have a strong back catalogue…of former band members: according to Wikipedia UFO have 35 former members – which by my reckoning is only three fewer than The Sugababes.
Fortunately, (and new album notwithstanding) the band is best defined by a single (or rather double) album: the truly wonderful “Strangers In The Night”.
The record perfectly encapsulates everything that is good about them. It is one of the greatest double live albums ever – and so good that you don’t really have to listen to any of their studio albums to get a feel for how good this band was. That, if nothing else, saves a bit of time in this busy modern world and gives us more time to check the pictures of all those former Sugababes…
Record 24 – UFO – Strangers In The Night
UFO’s new album is called “Seven Deadly” and the band are on tour in the UK between now and the 4th April and in Europe thereafter
Categories: Hard Rock