UFO is a British rock band that was formed in 1969. As a transitional band between the rock of Led Zeppelin and the metal to come in the New World of British Heavy Metal, UFO’s influence was strongly felt in the ‘80s metal scene and they have been cited as a primary influence by Kirk Hammett of Metallica and Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, among others.
Vocalist Phil Mogg, guitarist Mick Bolton, bassist Pete Way and drummer Andy Parker formed UFO in 1969. Originally taking the name Hocus Pocus, the group changed their name to UFO in honor of a London club. Their eponymously-titled first album debuted in 1971. Both UFO and its follow-up, the same year’s Flying, found great success in Japan, but generated little interest in Britain or America. Consequently, their third effort, 1972’s UFO Lands in Tokyo - Live, was only released in Japan.
UFO's early work was influenced by the space rock sound (their second album was subtitled One Hour Space Rock) that was modestly popular at the time but the band realized the style was somewhat limited. In 1974, Mick Bolton left the group and UFO set out to find a guitarist capable of providing the band a more standard rock sound.
After brief trial runs with ex-Pink Fairies’ guitarist Larry Wallis and future Whitesnake member Bernie Marsden, the band hired former Scorpion guitarist Michael Schenker (brother of Scorpion Rudolph Schenker) in time to record 1974’s Phenomenon, which debuted the band’s harder-edged guitar sound. Schenker was only 19 at the time, but was already a well-respected guitarist. Phenomenon was not an instant classic, as the band was a little wary of giving Schenker complete artistic freedom. The album’s major hit was “Rock Bottom”, a song whose model would pave the way for the UFO's success.
Wasting little time, the band released Force It in 1975 and No Heavy Petting in 1976, which brought UFO increased visibility with American audiences and made them bonafide stars in England. After experimenting with keyboards on Petting, the band hired keyboardist and second guitarist Paul Raymond, who joined for 1977’s Lights Out. Lights Out was the pinnacle of UFO's studio career and is considered a genuine ‘70s rock classic. The album was filled to the brim with hit songs, such as “Too Hot to Handle”, “Lights Out”, “Alone Again Or” and the seven-minute opus, “Love to Love”. With Lights Out, the band finally received substantial critical acclaim and Michael Schenker firmly established himself as a modern guitar hero.
With their new found success, the band went back into the studio to record 1978’s Obsession. While the album didn’t garner quite the acclaim that Lights Out did, it still contained several popular tracks, including “Cherry” and “Only You Can Rock Me”. The band went out on tour and recorded the live album, Strangers in the Night in 1979. The concert album displayed the band at the peak of their performance playing to a very receptive audience. Strangers was a critical and commercial success and stands as one of the most influential live rock albums of the ‘70s, along with KISS’ Alive! and Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive. UFO appeared to be poised to continue their success into the new decade. However, unknown to those outside the band, tensions had been growing between frontman Phil Mogg and Schenker. Soon after the release of Strangers in the Night, Schenker left the band and returned briefly to the Scorpions before forming the Michael Schenker Group (MSG).
After Schenker’s exit, UFO quickly hired guitarist Paul Chapman, and released their next LP, No Place to Run, in 1980. Despite little adjustment to their hard rock formula, No Place to Run failed to match up to the success of its predecessors. The following year UFO released The Wild, The Willing and The Innocent to similarly tepid sales.
In 1982, the band released Mechanix, which contained the song, “Back into My Life”, which was a minor hit in the US. Later that year, founding member Pete Way left the band to form Waysted and was replaced by ex-Eddie and the Hot Rods’ bassist Paul Gray. UFO released Making Contact in 1983, but the album was all but ignored and UFO decided to disband. This actually proved to be a short hiatus as Mogg reassembled UFO two years later and released Misdemeanor. Not surprisingly, the album was met with little response, and UFO again called it quits.
In 1992 Mogg and Way decided to put a new UFO together and released High Stakes and Dangerous Men. While just released on a small independent label, High Stakes was enough to generate serious interest in a full blown reunion. The following year, the classic UFO line-up – Mogg, Schenker, Way, Raymond and Parker – reunited, and the resultant album,Walk on Water, was released in 1995. This lineup went on a world tour but tensions arose again and Schenker left the band in the middle of the tour, and the other members yet again went their separate ways.
Phil Mogg and Pete Way continued working together artistically and released two albums under the Mogg/Way name in the late ‘90s. In 2000, Schenker decided he was willing to work with UFO again and the band released the double CD, Covenant, containing a disc of new material and a disc of live classics. Despite constant rumors regarding Schenker’s status in the band he returned once again for 2002’s Sharks.
Shortly after Sharks was released, Schenker and the band decided to make the oft-rumored (and oft-actual) split permanent. Mogg, Raymond and Way decided to permanently replace Schenker with guitar-shredder Vinnie Moore. In 2004 the band released You Are Here, with Jason Bonham handling drum duties. UFO is no longer the rock powerhouse the once were, but they’ve shown no signs of calling it quits and can be expected to be recording and touring for the foreseeable future.