I fancied a slice of ’77 rock this afternoon and so I grabbed an album that I like, but rarely seem to play, UFO Lights Out.  Wow, this way better than I remembered it was, I love it when that happens because it so often doesn’t.  Tell you what, this is precisely the type of album that not only defines but justifies the existence of (horrid term alert!) ‘classic rock’, God bless Pete Way’s striped spandex pants!

UFO Lights Out 05

In fact it wasn’t until I was playing air guitar along with Michael Schenker towards the end of ‘Too Hot To Handle’ that I realised why I don’t get this one out more often, its the cover.  I know, I know it’s by the revered Hipgnosis and whilst I’m as big a sucker for power stations as anyone, all those painted pipes, thrusting gauges and handles, it’s the, umm, human furniture that bothers me.

Enhanced, or as nature intended? you decide if the member (Latin; Moggus Cockus) has had work done.
Enhanced, or as nature intended? you decide if the member (Latin; Moggus Cockus) has had work done.

I’m really not sure why the cover wants to put you at crotch level with Phil Mogg in his handily opened overalls, but it does – Richard Manning even notes on his excellent website that he ‘was also asked to enhance the member of the Band member!’, although he coyly refrains from telling us whether he did extend the mini-Mogg at all.  Personally, had I been UFO’s singer I’d have asked him to crop out my crab ladder.  Added to that there is the somewhat androgynous young figure of Michael Schenker shrugging out of his own overalls in the background, combining the slight grace of a classical nude with the self-assurance of a figure by Manet, the light glistening off his shoulders, his mane of feathery hair falling across the sensitive nape of his neck … Arggh! Stop it! Stop it!

UFO Lights Out 04 (2)

Okay so my own sexual confusion aside, my other petty gripe with the LP cover is the decision to print the words in red, making them almost impossible to read.  THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT OF THE WRITTEN WORD!!!

(deep breath)

There’s some music in here too, apparently.  Some damn good, verging on brilliant, music.  Everyone likes a bit of hard rockin’, hard drinkin’, hard screwin’ braggadocio and opener ‘Too Hot To Handle’ ladles it out by the gallon.  What a great band UFO were at this point, with the exception of Schenker, none were virtuoso players but everything here is played bright, tight and right; the point being that UFO ended up being far more than the sum of their parts*, which to my mind is the whole point of a band – give me that over any supergroup, any day.  I also love Mogg’s voice, it strikes just the right, manly notes – not too polished, not pretty.  Mind you I find his lyrics on this one a bit of a mystery, what could he possibly mean?

Sha la la la, roll you over
Turn you around and do it again
Sha la la la, keep on coming
Do it once but never the same

UFO Lights Out 08UFO Lights Out 07

If I have one slight musical gripe with Lights Out it is with Ron Nevison’s production, although it is clarity personified, it occasionally doesn’t hit as heavily as it could do.  Take ‘Just Another Suicide’, which is my joint least favourite track, to my ears it has too big a flavouring of late period Who about it**, but even so the track doesn’t cut and resonate quite the way it should, although I never skip it because of the excellent Dave Gilmour-esque guitar solo that lights up the whole track.  I really like the big ballad ‘Try Me’ it’s a lush, grandiose thing featuring a full string arrangement and some great playing by keyboard dude Paul Raymond and if the computer scientists who program Rod Stewart these days had any taste this is precisely the sort of thing he should be singing.

UFO Lights Out 03

Your rock receptors would have to have atrophied and fallen off for you not to bob your head up and down to the thrust of ‘Lights Out’ and ‘Electric Phase’, what I particularly dig here is the fact that they’re not quite as straight ahead as they seem, the former is driven almost entirely by bass and keys at first and the latter by some arty guitar FX.  These are proper foot-on-the-monitors tunes to give it absolutely loads to.  But just when you’re thinking that Lights Out is a very good album, it goes and gets real classic on our collective asses.

I shouldn't have to much about with the contrast and colour levels in order to read the blooming credits!
I shouldn’t have to much about with the contrast and colour levels in order to read the blooming credits!

Where to start with ‘Love To Love’? well not with the lyrics that’s for sure.  If you read them out of their context there’s almost nothing there, but couple them with some awesomely emotive and thrusting playing then they suddenly make perfect sense.  The string sections work within the song, emphasising certain passages but never overwhelming the song as a whole, or Mogg’s voice in particular and, yet again, the keyboards are excellent.  There’s a real shot of Queen about this track and I don’t mean just in the opening gong either^, it’s in the sweep and drama of the piece as a whole, but Freddie and the boys never had the barroom edge that UFO could bring to the party, which properly envenoms the heavier passages here.  I swear you can hear a disturbance in the air before the guitar solo kicks in, it is simply that massive; spiralling upwards and outwards he tears at the strings like a man fighting for his life, then wallop! 40 seconds later it’s done.  Perfect.

UFO Lights Out 02

Being an 80’s rocker I had always thought of Michael Schenker as a wildly gurning, widdly-widdly merchant and purveyor of the fairly obvious, Lights Out shows me he wasn’t always thus and I’ve had to re-evaluate.  I was absolutely knocked out by the tone and delivery of his guitaring here and I am always impressed by any hotshot guitarist who doesn’t play too many notes, knowing how to leave some space in the songs.

So classic rock it is then, loud and clear.  Lights Out is pretty much a perfectly judged amalgam of light and shade, rough and smooth with some added stripey spandex and a cover I find confusingly homoerotic^*.  Super.

608 Down.

PS – I have completely ignored their cover of ‘Alone Again Or’, it’s not awful, or offensive, just totally pointless.


*reader can insert their own joke about the size of Phil Mogg’s part here.

**I don’t like them. Sorry, I know you probably do.

^which is a dead ringer for ‘Teo Torriatte’.

^*Look, it’s Monday night, this is no time to be challenging my core beliefs and sense of sexual self.  That’s what I set Thursday nights aside for.  True story.

25 thoughts on “Members Out

  1. ‘Lights Out’ is the only UFO record I ever bought. I think in the mid-80s I went through a Michael Schenker phase after stealing my brother’s MSG cassette. I think my Scorpions phase was around that same time. As a budding teen boy I was quite perplexed by the album covers I discovered going through both bands back catalog. The Scorpions were decidedly misogynistic, while UFO was more on the homoerotic side of things. I ultimately ended up on the side of Klaus Meine when it was all said and done, but I still to this day quite enjoy ‘Lights Out’. Though, if those work jumpers weren’t zipped up a little more I’d demand the lights indeed must stay on.

  2. Listening to ‘Love to Love’ as I type this. I just got the UFO 70s studio albums earlier this year. I’d had the “monkey” album as a kid and have worshiped the “Strangers ..” live album forever (with it’s own awesome version of ‘Love to Love’), so was unsure as to why it took me so long to get the others. I now have to thank you for the enlightenment. I had no idea it was because I was, until recently, not secure enough in my own sexuality. Here’s to liberation!!

    1. Thank you for sharing, please be reassured that this is a non-judgmental space where freaky deviants like yourself can mix freely with more acceptable folk.

      Isn’t Love to Love amazing? A friend of mine lent me Strangers … years ago and I couldn’t quite get into it, possibly because I didn’t really know the originals so well.

  3. Nice one. I got this from a pal of mine during the early stages of yhe ‘Metal Class’ (along with the shower and monkey albums). Been tempted to snap up the vinyl when I’ve spotted it, but not sure I need that cover. Y’know? Good tunes and you’re also spot on about Schenker. He’s no Joe Walsh, but he does use the space really well.

  4. Ron Nevison! Holy shite! I should forward this to Jon Wilmenius — it’s his most hated producer of all time! I guess he produced at least one great album…

    Yeah I think in 2016, I’m gonna start to grow a UFO and a Saxon collection.

  5. Great writeup! Living in Canada to read about UFO it was buying Kerrang on import to read about the shenanigans of Mogg,Way and company as when they did appear in North American press(Hit Parader) the articles were watered down…
    Love To Love your totally right about how the music builds the silliness of the lyrics going no where….
    UFO….great job fella!

  6. Hipgnosis screwed up as many covers as they got right. UFO have always seemed like a good idea, I really liked Flying and the first one and they always put a good show on as the eighties progressed.

    1. UFO are one that totally passed me and my mates by in the 80s, so I’m just putting the pieces together now. This isn’t flawless, but it was a really great listen.

      Aren’t their first two a bit spacey?

  7. I’ll leave commentary on the music to those more qualified, as I’ve never owned a UFO LP. Their covers are often striking though. Wasn’t it them who had the oft-censored ‘Force it’ romp in the showers jobbie? And one with a monkey?

    1. It is, dodgy title aside it is a damn odd cover, what is the significance of all those taps? Things like that keep me awake at night.

      They were a really good hard rocking band. Bon Scott used to do his drinks with them in London. Yup, they were premier league boozers!

      1. Wow!! Genuinely, I would never have got that, even if you’d given me a large research grant, 3 assistants and a year off to think about it!

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