5 April 1983. Lights Out in St Davids Hall, Cardiff. I’m ten days past my 13th birthday. I’ve already seen Saxon and Thin Lizzy and make it a hat trick with UFO, with a 15-song set list that includes several staples that will remain in their show for the rest of their career.
It’s not the classic UFO line-up, but it features Phil Mogg and Andy Parker, as well as Paul Chapman, Neil Carter, and Billy Sheehan on bass. It also sees three songs from 1977’s breakthrough album Lights Out among the tracks played.
At that time, my knowledge of UFO focused on the well-known Doctor Doctor and the last two releases, Mechanix and Making Contact. But after that night, it was a voyage of discovery as I explored their back catalogue as best I could, and pocket money would allow.
Lights Out was the obvious album to focus on. Not only did it feature the song that would become the most performed track ever by the band (850 times according to Setlist.FM), but it had what many would class as the perfect line-up of Mogg, Parker, Michael Schenker, Pete Way, and Paul Raymond.
“This was the first album with this line-up,” Schenker said, “and there were always surprises coming up.”
The album has enjoyed a 2024 remaster and will be reissued as a Deluxe Edition on 3LP and 2CD on 2 February 2024 via Chrysalis Records. MetalTalk will have much more about this soon, including an exclusive competition.
Schenker is imperious throughout the album. His sublime playing is incredible on every track, be it the ferocious lead work on the title track or the more subtle flicks and tricks on Just Another Suicide, surely one of UFO’s most underrated songs.
He is backed by the sheer solidity of Way and Parker, whilst Raymond’s keyboards are a delight. Mogg, meanwhile, is in fine form. The band’s use of string arrangements on Just Another Suicide and Love to Love gave the album a different dimension.
“Phil Mogg was not a Metal singer,” Michael Schenker told MetalTalk in an earlier interview, “but the good thing about Phil’s singing was that, combined with my guitar playing, it created a unique style that was not there before.
“Of course, Pete Way on his bass with that charisma he had and Andy Parker on his drums, a very fluent player and Paul Raymond, the fantastic colouring of those keyboards and of course Ron Nevison, our producer and sixth member, as I always called him because he was so important.
“So it just had some chemistry, something you can not learn from a book. It happens, or it does not, and it happened with UFO because of the unique combination.”
There are hidden gems tucked away, alongside the anthemic opener Too Hot To Handle and the simply stunning Love To Love, reportedly, and understandably, Steve Harris’s favourite song of all time. It’s only Doctor Doctor, Rock Bottom, and Only You Can Rock Me that have been played live more than those two.
The surprise cover of Love’s Alone Again fits in perfectly, whilst Electric Phase has a darker vibe and is another that rarely gets enough airplay despite Schenker’s magnificent interplay with Raymond on the delicious melodies.
But it’s the title track, Lights Out, that is the shining star on this album. Its tempo is urgent, the subject matter a reflection on the Notting Hill Riots of August 1976. Those opening lyrics bristle with charged energy. “Wind blows back and the batons charging … smell of anarchy.”
Those words craft the images that those of us old enough to be around then cannot easily forget. Once again, it’s the combination of Schenker and Raymond that drives the song forward, and it’s no wonder that of all the UFO songs that Schenker could choose to play today, this is one that he favours.
Do a quick search, and you’ll find it covered by numerous artists from Europe, Stryper, Pat Travers and most recently, Elegant Weapons. It still sends shivers up and down the spine.
Lights Out is truly the best example of UFO at their cohesive best. And it still sounds bloody magnificent today, nearly half a century later. As Mogg said, “We were hitting our stride, playing well. We’d got to where we wanted to be.”
Maybe the last word should go to Andy Parker. “When we listened back to it, we all knew: This is really good.”
UFO Lights Out 2024 Remaster – Deluxe Edition is reissued on 3LP and 2CD on 2 February 2024 (Chrysalis Records). Order here https://ufo.lnk.to/LightsOut.