UFO: ‘Lights Out’
Released on May 7, 1977 (Chrysalis)
As a rule, I don’t usually like to repeat myself, but I will break that rule with this passage from an earlier review… Aaaahhh, memories. Metal memories. Memories of the fathers of Heavy Metal. I think it was the spring of 1980 (or was it 1981?) — I was riding shotgun with a college buddy, hauling butt northbound on the 400 in his top-down sports car. We were enroute to a cottage party. Our soundtrack in the car, at full volume — Lights Out by UFO and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath by Black Sabbath. As Neil Peart said, “Though it’s just a memory, some memories last forever.” I remember it like it was yesterday! It was my introduction to two fantastic and seminal metal albums.
In 1977, England’s UFO were in the ‘up and coming’ category, but hadn’t achieved breakthrough status in Europe or North America despite a grinding touring schedule and some very commendable records. For Lights Out, they added keyboardist / guitarist Paul Raymond to complete what was to be a classic line-up (alongside singer Phil Mogg, guitarist Michael Schenker, bassman Pete Way, and drummer Andy Parker). Interestingly, not only did Raymond play guitar left-handed, but his guitar was strung ‘upside-down’ — a practically unique technique! For production, the band used the legendary Ron Nevison, who had credits with The Who and Led Zeppelin. AIR Studios in the band’s hometown of London was chosen for recording.
What resulted was possibly UFO’s greatest studio achievement (overall credit has to go to 1978’s live Strangers In The Night). Eight songs, and all deserving of classic status. Lead-off track, “Too Hot To Handle”, is a personal favourite … an incredible ’70s hard rocker with Mogg’s characteristic great lyrics and (of course) a spell binding guitar solo from Schenker. Next up is “Just Another Suicide”, which is apparently a Raymond creation, but he did not get proper credit due to some contractual legalities. “Try Me” is a beautiful ballad, again highlighted by Schenker’s melodic guitar work. The title track closes the old Side 1, and is a song that has always featured in UFO’s live sets. Killer stuff.
Side 2 opens with my favourite song on the record. “Gettin’ Ready” is a nicely restrained tune which features a tasteful vocal harmony in the chorus, and is incredibly catchy. “Alone Again Or” is a cover of a song from ’60s band Love, which features some great acoustic guitaring here. “Electric Phase” is based on a steady Pete Way riff, and some very cool embellishments from Schenker. Finally, album closer is the epic “Love To Love”, which is an incredible piece of music. Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris calls this his favourite song. It’s peaks and valleys display UFO at their most mature. It’s songwriting at its finest.
Lights Out should have vaulted UFO into the next echelon of rock stardom as the record raced up the charts, and they were booked to open for Rush’s 1977 North American tour. However, on the eve of the tour, guitarist Schenker disappeared. It was later revealed that he was having difficulty managing the increasing fame. This was a blow, as he was a huge part of the band’s appeal. After a short delay, UFO drafted their friend Paul Chapman to fill in for Schenker until his eventual return, but this speed bump definitely affected their upward trajectory.
The 2008 reissue of the album features four live tunes recorded on April 2 1977 at London’s Roundhouse. A record that still sounds as fresh to me as when I was an 18 year racing northbound on the 400!
01. Too Hot To Handle
02. Just Another Suicide
03. Try Me
04. Lights Out
05. Gettin’ Ready
06. Alone Again Or
07. Electric Phase
08. Love To Love
2008 CD reissue bonus tracks (Live at the Roundhouse in London, 1976):
09. Lights Out
10. Getting’ Ready
11. Love To Love
12. Try Me
Phil Mogg – vocals
Michael Schenker – lead-guitar
Paul Raymond – keyboards, rhythm-guitar, backing vocals
Pete Way – bass
Andy Parker – drums
Produced by Ron Nevison
Reviewed by John Lewis for Sleaze Roxx, May 2022
UFO performing “Lights Out” live: