UFO is arguably one of the most underrated bands in hard rock. But there have been plenty of signs in recent years that they're finally getting their due. Albums like 1977's Lights Out helped them build the story.

As Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers evangelized in the liner notes for the Strangers in the Night box set in 2020, it was the British hard rockers who gave him a night to remember, one which remains in his words, virtually unmatched. He had gone to visit his grandmother in Charleston, West Virginia over Thanksgiving Weekend in 1977. Wisely, he spent three dollars to buy a ticket to go see AC/DC and the Motors, with UFO in the middle slot.

His grandmother drove him to the show and that's where it all changed for Hood. "They were beyond phenomenal. AC/DC were great too," he said. "But I'll go to my grave swearing that UFO took the night......I'd never seen anything like UFO before and honestly, only a few shows that could compare afterward."

UFO were touring in support of Lights Out, their sixth studio album and the first with producer Ron Nevison at the helm. The combination proved to be a potent match, something that's evident right from the moment that "Too Hot to Handle," the LP's opening song, erupts from the speakers.

A new expanded version of Lights Out offers a deeper look at the band's classic album, adding a series of additional alternate versions and edits, plus a freshly mixed recording of the first concert of the Lights Out tour. During a recent conversation, UFO vocalist Phil Mogg spoke with UCR to share his recollections of the time period. 

Lights Out is a pivotal album for UFO as a band. What memories stick with you about the time period?
We’d done No Heavy Petting and some of the other previous albums with Leo [Lyons]. I thought we needed to change or up our game, as it were. We’d been looking at what name popped up on a lot of your favorite albums, either engineering or producing. Ron Nevison’s name popped up an awful lot. So we said, “Can we get Ron?” Chrysalis pulled that together and then put us in AIR Studios, which they’d just gone into with George Martin. It was a bit of a win-win situation.

Ron Nevison was surprised to learn that Michael Schenker wrote separately from the rest of the band. But that was nothing new for you as a band, right?
No, it was pretty much the same working strategy. Michael had cassette tapes of stuff. He’d give them to me and I’d babble around and do some vocals. Also, there would be long solos or pieces of solos, which we’d muck around with that and then put something together in rehearsal. It was the same with Pete [Way], so we’d generally use that method. He’d have a tape with riffs and his thoughts. [Laughs] We worked from that kind of [starting point], cassette tapes and stuff.

Michael spoke basically no English when he joined UFO. How did you all navigate that?
That was difficult, really, I suppose. But the situation we were in, it had to work. [Laughs] I think the main difference was, one of the notes, the Germans call it a B, but it’s a G. Something like that. So that was the only disturbing thing, but I think we got past that, mainly with humor. Michael was quick to pick up anyway and quick to learn.

Listen to UFO's 'Doctor Doctor'

What's some of the first stuff you remember working on with Michael back then?
“Doctor Doctor” [from the Phenomenon album], that was kind of cool. Michael had moved to Palmers Green [in Northern London, England] and I was living in some place down the road from there. We were doing the same thing with cassette tapes. He’d done a demo of it, but funny enough, he’d put the drums on with cardboard boxes, I think. [Laughs] But it had all of the ingredients. I did the vocal and it all seemed to work out well. I remember that period, because we were getting stuff together for the album and it was a very exciting time.

What did Ron Nevison bring to UFO's working process that you liked?
His dazzling personality. [Laughs] Ron’s lovely, I’m sure he would get the humor! He brought a different kind of professionalism to it in his own way, because of his engineering and producing experience. He managed to put up with Pete and everything else. [Mogg chuckles] He was remarkably stable at that point. It was a breath of fresh air, a different bloke, a different way of working. He had different ideas, which we welcomed. We loved working with Ron.

Sonically, Lights Out is a pretty remarkable sounding album.
All of it was on 24-track [tape], I believe. Oh, God. Can you imagine cutting a 24 track tape where there’s a dodgy bit in it? That was nerve-wracking. I do remember Ron doing that extremely well, where you’d never notice a cut. Brilliant. He should have been a surgeon. [Laughs] But I think that we felt, “Yeah, that’s it. That’s what we wanted.”

"Love to Love" is still such an epic production. It's got that nearly three-minute intro that's just astounding.
When we were doing the UFO tours, that was always a number that, as they say, went down well. It was asked for a lot.

It seems like that would have been a pretty substantial song to work on.
You know, it wasn’t really. It came together in a weird way, because Michael had this middle section with the soloing, which we wanted to keep. But a lot of the other stuff came from running through and rehearsing. It got expanded and got longer. We went to the pub and it got even longer. Then we went back. But then we went across to the pub again and it got longer and longer. I’m joking here, by the way. But it got a bit longer in rehearsals and changed shape, which worked out great.

UFO is the only band I'm aware of that had an actual drinking schedule.
Now, that’s actually all kind of gone. It wouldn’t be possible to do it now. Back then, we were in training. [Laughs] It wouldn’t be possible to do it now. But we were happy-go-lucky drinkers. That’s about it, really.

Lights Out, it seems like you all found a good match with Paul Raymond coming into the band as well.
Paul was a treat in there. We were looking for a balance between [our sound at that point], which had two lead guitars before, with Paul [Chapman] and Michael. They clashed. We tried just the keyboards and that didn’t really work out well. It wasn’t a keyboard band. I’ve forgotten how we met Paul. He had been in Savoy Brown and he had the perfect match of being able to play guitar and keyboards. He had a blues background and he just slid straight in and fit in great.

What are your memories of working on "Too Hot to Handle" with Pete?
Oh, that was Pete’s nice, simple three-chord rock, as he likes to call it. That was a quickie. It only took about an hour. I think we knocked the whole thing off in an afternoon.

But that was lucky. You know, Pete could play very simple stuff like that, which you could whistle a tune to.

It seems like every band had a song like that, which just appeared.
You know, going back, of course bands used to rehearse together when they were starting off a lot more. You kind of drift apart a bit [as time passes], but back then, it was [all about] getting in, mucking around and rehearsing. A lot of good stuff came out of that.

"Lights Out," the title track, is an epic. How did that one come together?
That was more of a jam. Another rehearsal thing. I think Michael started playing that riff. Paul joined in and then everybody kind of joined in and it took off. But I think most of the chorus, that came a little bit later. But for the main grip of it, the band was just playing together.

Listen to UFO's 'Lights Out,' Live in London

We spoke about Michael, what did you love about his style?
He had a great sound. I loved his style. Back then, he didn’t overplay, but there would be a melody in there, you could follow what he was playing. He played some really nice melody stuff. The solo on “Lights Out” or “Try Me,” there’s a really cool solo on that. I always thought he had the touch. As a matter of fact, as far as Michael, the only guitarist who played in a similar style, do you remember the duo of Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter? They played on Lou Reed Live.

Steve Hunter was the only guy that I heard who played in a similar style like Michael. Me and Pete saw [Michael] with Scorpions, because we’d been looking for something. I do remember going to Pete, “Oh, well that’s it. That’s what we want.” And I said, “How are we going to do that?” That was the day that Bernie [Marsden] never turned up. Michael jammed it out with us. It’s a funny old world, isn’t it?

Being in a band is never boring.
[Laughs] No.

Especially a band like UFO
Oh my God, you’re damn right.

Is there more to do with UFO? Is there unfinished business?
No, no. I think it’s come to a conclusion. We did that last U.K. tour in 2019, just before COVID. So that was kind of the end of it and the time was right.

Last one, why do you think people have such an affection for the Strangers in the Night live album? It's become such a special part of your catalog.
I think all of the albums building up to Lights Out, after that, we did Obsession and then the live album. It’s almost like it had an actual course. You know, Obsession was the last studio album we did and then there was the live one. For UFO at that point, that was it. But I think it built up to the climax, Strangers in the Night, before it finished, which is kind of cool.

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