Lights Out by UFO. The album. The song. I know what you’re thinking. “Finally, this joker reviews a dependable album.” Guess what, weirdos? This review is going to tackle the politics of this album. Sort of. Take that! You see, this album isn’t without some controversy.
Is the song Lights Out about the World War II bombings of London as I told my wary, sonicly challenged parents in the late 1970s? I sure thought so. I had no reason to doubt our neighborhood expert who told me so. He was the older brother of a friend of mine and I had it on good authority that he knew his stuff. He had more records than me, he’d kissed a girl and I saw him smoking once. The trifecta!
Remember, in late 1970s America, bands like UFO were actively solving one of America’s biggest problems - boredom. Face it, heavy rockers like UFO, AC/DC and punkers like The Ramones, The Undertones and others were pulling us kids out of a Frampton-induced malaise. Nobody knew more about exciting issues like sleeping with the TV on, drinking Coca-Cola for breakfast and the Nazi bombings of London during The Big War than the rock groups.
Here’s the deal. Maybe this song – Lights Out – isn’t about London bombings at all. Maybe it’s about the electricity shortages, strikes, and industrial unrest of 1970s England. Seems convincing. After all, those issues would provide better inspiration for a group of English rockers and their famously bare-chested German friend. But how do we confirm the band’s intentions?
I suppose I could ask the guys who wrote the song. According to the liner notes, four guys wrote it. Let’s start with Michael Schenker. Already we have a problem. Mr. Schenker doesn’t remember being in UFO. There’s also a vicious rumor that he’s in a romantic relationship with a Gibson Flying V once owned by Howlin’ Wolf. I could ask either singer Phil Mogg or bassist Pete Way but they too suffer from an unusual form of memory loss. In their case, it’s attributed to decades of spandex abuse. So we’re down to the drummer. It turns out Andy Parker is available by telephone but is despondent and seems to be singularly interested in discussing pending litigation related to his being swindled out of his investment in some sort of “inflatable cricket team.”
Since we’ll likely never get a real answer, let’s move on. It turns out the Lights Out album isn’t only about that one song. The album has another radio staple in Too Hot To Handle, a song right thinking people believe helped to create a population boom in Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago in 1977-1978. And let’s face it, the album ender – Love To Love – whoa! Pounding, thudding, circuitous! Speaking of Love. Did you know that Lights Out boasts a cover of a song by 1960s hippie band Love? Yeah, that Love. The band fronted by Arthur Lee and his buddy Bryan MacLean. Alone Again Or is performed very faithfully. Despite the fact the band took issue with the grammar.
It’d be hard to do a review of this album – which is a crucial record in any collection – without mentioning the guitar prowess of Michael Schenker. If you don’t know who he is, ask any roached out, long-haired mumbler in any bus terminal in America. They’ll all tell you the same three things about Michael Schenker. He’s technically amazing, soulful and he’s Margaret Thatcher’s favorite hard rocker. Take that, Labour!
For weirdos only: Too Hot To Handle (the first cut on Lights Out) is a favorite of Tennessee’s very own Tipper Gore! Her husband Al Gore (former Vice President of the United States) co-wrote one riff in that number and told her the song was about an overcooked plate of bangers and mash.
Here’s something. Those of you with keen eyes may have noticed my alternate cover of the Lights Out album. I own a rare Hungarian test pressing with a “559” tattoo on the huge shirtless guy’s chest. On with the action.