It is characterized by modern-sounding hard rock with many extended solo periods in songs allowing Schenker to exhibit his talent. Schenker is a German guitarist, famous for his half-black, half-white Gibson Flying V guitar.
1980 to 1981
The MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP is centred around the extreme guitar talents of ex-UFO and SCORPIONS guitarist MICHAEL SCHENKER, born in Sarstedt on January 10th 1955. The German axeman is renowned for his fluid, melodic and distinctive of playing as well as his trademark black and white Gibson flying V guitar. Unfortunately, this musical genius is tempered with a reputation for disappearing acts mid tour (this having happened during spells with UFO on numerous occasions) and various mood swings attributed to substance abuse and the wayward character of genius.
Having walked out on UFO where, unarguably, Schenker had made his name, an abortive attempt at a band with the MONTROSE rhythm section of drummer Denny Carmassi and bassist Bill Church led to nothing. Schenker was also invited to audition for AEROSMITH to fill Joe Perry’s shoes but one studio meeting between the two parties was as far as that proposed union got.
The guitarist knuckled down from 1980 onwards to produce some exceptional albums. MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP’s early albums with vocalist Gary Barden, ex-FRASER NASH, elevated the band to world-wide headlining status, but a seemingly endless series of personal and business disasters have seen the band on a downhill slide from the mid 80s with Schenker apparently unable to rekindle former glories.
The first MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP album, produced by DEEP PURPLE’s bassist ROGER GLOVER, was recorded with Schenker, Barden, former FANCY bassist Mo Foster and ace session drummer Simon Phillips. RAINBOW man DON AIREY was also obliging with keyboards.
The touring band consisted of Schenker, Barden, bassist Chris Glen, RAINBOW veteran drummer COZY POWELL and Schenker’s former UFO cohort Paul Raymond on guitar and keyboards. The first world tour, including dates opening for MOLLY HATCHET in America, established MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP as a major draw and highlighted Schenker’s cult guitar hero status.
It would be the touring band that would cut the Ron Nevison produced second album, ‘MSG II’ and, as. the group had recorded dates on their Japanese tour of ‘81 it wasn’t long before a double live effort emerged in the Far East. Fan fanaticism for new product meant that imports of the Japanese release only ‘One Night At Budokan’ album, recorded at the world famous venue on August 12th, 1981, were on sale in Britain for a then whopping £18. Chrysalis eventually gave the album a release in Britain and Europe. A subsequent Japanese re-release in 2001 added both ‘Tales Of Mystery’, omitted from the original album and a Cozy Powell drum solo from an Osaka show.
Before the group set to work on the new studio album for 1982 Gary Barden was, much to the mystification of his many fans, unceremoniously fired. Reports filtered through that the band’s management had been keen to elevate MICHAEL SCHENKER’s career by way of introducing a name singer in order to quickly recoup the apparent huge recording costs of the ‘MSG’ album. The ex-singer would soon hook up with another guitar hero, GARY MOORE, cutting demos for his subsequent ‘Corridors To Power’ album. Schenker in vain tried to enlist GRAND PRIX vocalist ROBIN McAULEY but was turned down. In his stead came erstwhile RAINBOW vocalist GRAHAM BONNET to join the fold to record the Martin Birch produced ‘Assault Attack’. Paul Raymond also left to pursue his solo project RUFFIANS with ex-ANGEL vocalist Frank Dimono and CHEAP TRICK bassist John Brandt.
In the midst of rehearsing for ‘Assault Attack’, Schenker received a call from OZZY OSBOURNE requesting his services after the tragic death of Randy Rhoads, but this offer proved unfeasible. Nevertheless, Schenker regrouped with erstwhile SENSATIONAL ALEX HARVEY BAND and RORY GALLAGHER band drummer Ted McKenna replacing the also departed COZY POWELL. Keyboard player Tommy Eyre was used for the recording, but MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP adopted ex-SHEENA EASTON man Andy Nye for the touring band.
At one of the new MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP line up’s first gigs in Sheffield to warm up for the group’s forthcoming appearance at the Reading Festival, a drunken Bonnet pulled live rhythm guitarist Steve Casey out from behind some amps and introduced him to the crowd, much to Schenker’s annoyance. The singer wandered offstage and didn’t come back again. Bonnet upped and left, necessitating the surprising return of Barden for their headlining 1982 Reading Festival appearance and two German festivals, after which the estranged vocalist was re-recruited on a permanent basis.
1983 to 1985
Reunited with Barden, the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP toured Britain and Japan before settling down to record ‘Built To Destroy’ with more than an eye to the American market. One track, ‘Red Sky’, would be a co-composition with BARON ROJO bass player Jose Luis Campuzano Sherpa. Although the material was strong the resultant mixes were judged so dire that they were completely remixed by Jack Douglas for the American release. In August 1983 ex-TED NUGENT, ST. PARADISE and WHITFORD/ST. HOLMES man DEREK ST. HOLMES was recruited for live work on guitar and vocals.
However, St Holmes packed his bags suddenly mid tour. He would later rejoin TED NUGENT before founding ST. PARADISE and BIG PEOPLE. Meantime, the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP found a valuable stand in with ex-ARGENT, PHOENIX and CHARLIE man John Verity. However, Verity’s stay was short lived and he performed only one gig in Middlesborough with the band. The group drafted former BECKETT and BACK STREET CRAWLER singer Terry Wilson-Slesser to act as an offstage singer for their European and Japanese tours.
The MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP would release a 1984 live album from the tour, ‘Rock Will Never Die’, which had a guest appearance from Michael’s brother Rudolph of the SCORPIONS and also SCORPIONS vocalist Klaus Miene on the old UFO chestnut ‘Doctor, Doctor’. ‘Rock Will Never Die’ scored a number 24 placing on the UK charts. Gary Barden left again, this time for good creating STATETROOPER and MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP started rehearsing with former KGB man Ray Kennedy who was also to leave before the end of the year. February 1984 saw Chris Glen finally leaving the ranks to pursue a recording project with erstwhile BACK STREET CRAWLER vocalist, and live backing vocalist, Terry Wilson-Slesser. Bassist Dennis Feldman, previously with SPEEDWAY BOULEVARD and BALANCE, was to fill Glen’s shoes, but towards the end of 1984 he left to work with Australians HEAVEN and, at a critical juncture, Nye and McKenna also left the ranks. McKenna formed the short lived BLUE MURDER with former CURVED AIR and STRETCH guitarist Kirby Gregory.
MICHAEL SCHENKER promptly retired to New York and rehearsals with former ORION THE HUNTER, of ‘The Hunter’ album infamy, vocalist Fran Cosmo. They would be joined by Bruce Smith, bassist from ORION THE HUNTER, and British guitarist Roland Jones. Songwriting sessions at the Mayflower Hotel and rehearsals at S.I.R. Studios in New York produced a demo that was recorded in MOTT THE HOOPLE vocalist Ian Hunter’s studio. However, this line-up disbanded after approximately six months. The guitarist then set about auditioning proposed vocalists. Included in the runners was ex-AIRRACE vocalist Keith Murrell. However, the all new MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP transpired as the McAULEY SCHENKER GROUP, with Michael’s new frontman being Irish born ex-GRAND PRIX man ROBIN MCAULEY.
1996 to 2008
Schenker was soon back in action and recruiting members for a revised version of MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP. This new act included Swedish ex-GREAT KING RAT vocalist Leif Sundin, ex-YNGWIE MALMSTEEN bassist Barry Sparks and drummer Shane Gaalaas, although an American tour had to be cancelled due over Sundin’s refused entry into the country due to visa problems.
Schenker would re-arrange the shows and toured America presenting the new UFO album ‘Walk On Water’ within the context of a live show titled ‘The Michael Schenker Story’. Sundin’s vocal position for the tour was taken by American singer David Van Landing, a brief member of CRIMSON GLORY previously as well as EROTIC LIQUID CULTURE. Sundin was to return, alongside Van Landing, for the Japanese leg of the tour.
Schenker, now sporting jet black dyed hair (including facial hair!), buried the hatchet with UFO once more to complete a well received European tour. He then set up his own dates with MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP as part of the G3 concept concerts in conjunction with JOE SATRIANI and fellow German axe hero and erstwhile SCORPIONS member ULI JON ROTH.
Schenker’s renewed work ethic continued unabated during 1999 as he issued his next studio album ‘The Unforgiven’. Another new face, former BATON ROUGE man Kelly Keeling, fronted the band that saw Seth Bernstein on rhythm guitar, ARTENSION’s John Onder on bass and Gaalas (now a member of his own COSMOSQUAD alongside Barry Sparks) maintaining his position. However, for live dates in America, Schenker pulled in STEELHOUSE LANE and MUDPIE vocalist Keith Slack to front the band. Keeling assembled THE WELL with erstwhile MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP man MITCH PERRY.
The 2000 all instrumental ‘Adventures Of The Imagination’ album saw the esteemed Aynsley Dunbar on drums. Dunbar had of course supplied drums on the debut MOGG/WAY album. That same year Schenker was back in UFO (along with Dunbar) for their album ‘Covenant’. It was on this tour that fans attending gigs also had the opportunity to purchase a CD titled ‘The Odd Trio’. An exclusively instrumental release the album credited Schenker, bassist Harry Cobham and drummer Kathy Brown. However, many fans noticed a distinct similarity in the facial features of all three- even ‘Kathy Brown’- surmising that this one one of the guitarist’s displays of odd humour. With Schenker busy with UFO Galaas meantime created DIESEL MACHINE with HALFORD guitarist Pat Lachman.
The guitarist’s career was seemingly put in jeopardy after a UFO show at Manchester in November. An obviously drunk and overweight Schenker not only taunted other band members but also the audience. Refusing to play any lead solos, Schenker also sported a black eye, the direct result of a headbutt from THE QUIREBOYS singer SPIKE. Needless to say after this debacle UFO’s remaining dates were cancelled.
This maverick display from the German would soon result in a another reconciliation with his UFO colleagues. Getting back to solo work the guitarist employed vocalist Chris Logan for a new record ironically entitled ‘Be Aware Of Scorpions’. The Japanese version of the album would boast an extra bonus track ‘Ride The Lightning’ with lead vocals from Jeff Martin, known for his vocal skills in RACER X and his drumming abilities with BADLANDS and, of course, UFO. Schenker’s band saw Schenker, Logan and Martin (on drums) joined by ex-FORTE and BLACK SYMPHONY man Ghames ‘Reverend’ Jones on bass.
Schenker would also find time to get in some studio time with UFO bassist PETE WAY during July and August of 2001 for a further project band billed as THE PLOT.
Touring to promote ‘Be Aware Of Scorpions’ found the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP back for a projected series of Japanese headliners during December. However, Jeff Martin quit the band with reports stating the drummer could not handle the consequences of Michael’s drinking and the tour was duly cancelled. Shortly after rumours circulated that Schenker was ensconced in the studio working on a purely instrumental venture in collusion with erstwhile MEGADETH guitarist MARTY FRIEDMAN and DOKKEN / COSMOSQUAD bassist Barry Sparks.
American dates for the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP were announced as commencing with a three night run at the Chicago House Of Blues from the 26th November. The support act for this string of dates fired fans anticipation as it emerged that the Schenker / Way combo of THE PLOT would be doing the honours. However, as it transpired THE PLOT would perform four numbers in the middle of Schenker’s set.
The tour began with a series of sold out shows and strong performances but at the 6th of December gig at Palo Alto’s Icon Supperclub disaster struck. Schenker opened the show with ‘Into The Arena’ but was unable to finish it. The audience were told the guitarist was ill and tickets for the non show refunded. Some of the gigs would be re-scheduled but soon after cancelled. Fans would be mystified as Schenker then proceeded to sell a collection of guitars and even a tour bus on internet auctions. Schenker’s famous no. 1 Flying V reportedly sold for just $18,000.
During 2002 the guitarist busied himself with recording of a fresh UFO album ‘Sharks’ for September issue. A concert was announced in Bangkok, Thailand on August 31st as an ambitious salute to UFO and the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP. Early reports slated the SILVER duo of ex-MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP vocalist Gary Barden and guitarist Michael Voss as participants.
As a teaser for the lavish ‘Re-Activate Live’ archive live album the Zoom Club label issued a digi packed one track single, restricted to just 1000 copies, of UFO’s ‘Lights Out’ in October of 2002. ‘Re-Activate Live’ itself comprised rare recordings culled from rehearsal tapes, 1980 gigs in Eerie, Pennsylvania and Los Angeles along with a January 1984 set from Castle Hall, Osaka, Japan.
2003 brought a rash of news on the Schenker front. The guitarist exited from UFO, relinquishing any claims on the band title, (enabling Mogg & Way to immediately recuit JOHN NORUM) and set to work on his solo career. The guitarist put up for sale yet more personal items, including guitars and clothing, as he announced a new record deal with the Dutch indie label Mascot Records.
Schenker unveiled yet another new band line up in April for a new studio album ‘Arachnophobia’ comprising vocalist Chris Logan, the JOE SATRIANI and STEVE VAI credited bass player Stu Hamm and Jeremy Colson, also of STEVE VAI repute, on the drums. Despite this, and with ‘Arachnaphobic’ still waiting in the wings, reports emerged the German had forged another new project entitled SCHUGAR/SCHENKER working with Amy Schugar, guitarist Fred Robinson, ex-SURGICAL STEEL bassist Mark Lehman and drummer Matt Indes. This outfit released a demo album entitled ‘Under Construction’ in November.
The Schenker faithful would be pleased to see an apparent return to form with ‘Arachnophobia’ but this subsequently turned to alarm. Credited as a guest musician on the record, NIGHTRANGER guitarist JEFF WATSON subsequently revealed in interviews that Schenker had disappeared in the midst of recording. Watson therefore laid down the bulk of the guitar work on the record including many solos.
The band announced a November / December run of US dates, predictably sporting a newly revised line-up. Alongside Schenker, Logan and Reverend Jones would be guitarist / keyboard player Wayne Findlay with the BLACK ‘N’ BLUE, TED NUGENT, BLACK SYMPHONY and YNGWIE MALMSTEEN credited Pete Holmes on the drums.
As 2004 was ushered in the guitarist announced a further spin off project in union with the GAMMA and ROBIN TROWER band credited vocalist Davey Pattison. This duo, provisionally billed as SCHENKER-PATTISON unveiled plans for an album of seventies Hard Rock cover versions. The final product, featuring bassist Gunter Nezhoda and his former UFO colleague Aynsley Dunbar on drums and a guesting LESLIE WEST proved a stylish set of tracks but unfortunately received little attention. Meantime the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP lined up a series of European dates for February and March with US West Coast dates projected for June. Whilst in Europe the band filmed a date in Poland for future DVD release. Two former band members, vocalist Kelly Keeling and drummer Jeff Martin, hooked up with GEORGE LYNCH’s solo band for March shows in the USA.
Bassist Rev Jones enlisted as temporary touring member of Nu-Metal band FUEL in April. Along with MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP keyboard player Wayne Findlay he would also establish a brand new band project in union with his erstwhile BLACK SYMPHONY colleagues guitarist Rick Plester and drummer Pete Holmes with CHILDREN vocalist Wade Williams. That same month Chris logan took a diversion to lend his vocals to a remake of the BLACK SABBATH song ‘It’s Alright’ for use in the movie ‘Invisible Heroes’, directed by Dan Harris and starring Sigourney Weaver and Jeff Daniels.
In May someone purporting to be Schenker’s personal manager Nancy Lewis posted an online message to fans asking they pray for him as he was “very sick and if he does not get well soon, it may end him as well as his career”. The claims were subsequently revealed to have been planted by an imposter but did serve to highlight fans concerns over the guitarists’s health and career difficulties. Nevertheless, Schenker did comment that his divorce had left him near destitute, revealing at his lowest ebb his personal possessions amounted to “a bicycle, a few shirts and a few trousers”.
A unexpected appearance for Schenker occurred at BARON ROJO’s 24th July 2004 gig at the Pavello Olimpic de Badalona in Barcelona, Spain as support to JUDAS PRIEST. Schenker joined the Spanish veterans to perform a version of the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP’s ‘Assault Attack’. The guitarist also recorded a guest appearance on a Blues Rock album from SIGGI SCHWARZ & THE ELECTRIC GUITAR LEGENDS, performing on five tracks, ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’, ‘Messin With The Kid’, ‘Upside Down’, ‘Chevrolet’ and ‘Steppin’ Out’. Schenker also notably reunited with ROBIN McAULEY to front up a cover of IRON MAIDEN’s ‘Run To The Hills’ for a 2005 tribute album.
The MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP announced touring plans for the Autumn of 2004 pairing Schenker with another illustrious ex-SCORPIONS member - ULI JON ROTH. The band then extended their tour for a European run of dates in October and November supported by PURE INC. Apparently the first two shows ran smoothly but then Schenker was hospitalised following a break down. He would discharge himself to resume the tour but then was rushed back to hospital whilst on the way to the next concert. The MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP missed their Colos-Saal show before getting back onto the road. However, following a 14th November performance at the Klubben venue in Stockholm, Sweden, singer Chris Logan exited. He swiftly issued a statement the following day claiming he had been “Severely injured” by being “attacked twice from behind by a member of our tour, who was too big a coward to face me from the front.” Support band PURE INC. subsequently revealed the latercation had been between Logan and bassist Rev Jones. Logan was swiftly replaced by former singer Leif Sundin. Also helping out would be PURE INC. frontman Gianni aiding on two numbers, ‘Let It Roll’ and ‘Ready To Rock’. Schenker then issued a statement saying his former band mate GARY BARDEN would assist for the UK shows. However, Barden himself soon refuted this.
In more upbeat news, Dean Guitars issued a Michael Schenker Signature V guitar. 100 limited edition models would be signed and numbered by Michael himself. Another generation of Schenkers broke through too, son Tyson Schenker announcing his band RAIDERS OF ROCK N’ ROLL. Reuniting with Siggi Schwarz, Schenker formed up a live band with his guitar ally for a brief burst of German gigs in December. That same month it would be learned the recently ousted Chris Logan was working with former OZZY OSBOURNE and BADLANDS guitarist JAKE E. LEE on an album of classic Rock cover versions.
A MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP concert at the The Vault in Long Beach, California on 20th January saw ROBIN McAULEY guesting, marking the first ocassion he and Schenker had shared a stage in over 13 years. In early 2005 Rev Jones guested on SEVEN WITCHES guitarist JACK FROST’s solo album ‘Out In The Cold’. Chris Logan too would be busy outside of the band, laying down vocals for the soundtrack to the motion picture ‘Crazy’, a biographical on ELVIS PRESLEY guitarist Hank Garland.
The band announced Summer touring plans for Europe in an alliance with the YNGWIE MALMSTEEN. However, Michael then pulled out of these shows, announcing that the original intention of his act being nominated as ‘co-headline’ status was not being honoured. He further explained that “The tour I agreed to was a co-headline deal with Yngwie closing the show. I was fine with this because he plays so loud and it would tend to deafen the delicate ears of my fans. However, reports have been coming in … that I was advertised only as a special guest. Yngwie himself was advertising it on his website that way too. MSG was not even mentioned on the London Hammersmith tickets. This is an insult to MSG and myself.”
The rhythm section of Rev Jones and Pete Holmes resigned in early May, issuing a statement claiming the departure was “due to continuous cancelled tour dates and bad management decisions”. The erstwhile duo had fired up a new project in alliance with guitarist Rick Plester of BLACK SYMPHONY entitled BARNEY FIFER.
The guitarist renewed ties with former band singer GARY JOHN BARDEN in October, donating a solo to the track ‘Let Me Down’ on the solo album ‘Songs From The Thai Room’. Personal legal difficulties forced the guitarist to leave the USA in November, Schenker posting on his website explaining “I am being threatened with my passport being suspended, my assets frozen and jail time”. However, as confusion reigned once again, just a day later Schenker stated that all issues had been resolved and that he was to tour the USA in December alongside MOUNTAIN legend LESLIE WEST. It would be revealed later that year that Schenker, together with ACCEPT’s WOLF HOFFMAN and ULI JON ROTH, was in negotations to conduct a “German G3” tour of Europe in 2006. Schenker cancelled the proposed US dates in December, announcing “Unfortunately, I must sacrifice this USA tour to protect myself to be able to keep playing music.”
The band, pushing 25th anniversary album ‘Tales of Rock n’ Roll’ released in April through Armageddon Music, partnered with the resurrected VICTORY and NIKKI PUPPET for European gigs in May. Band line-up comprised new singer Jari Tiura of Finnish bands SNAKEGOD and MASTERSTROKE, Michael Schenker, Wayne Findley on guitar and keyboards, Rev Jones on bass with Pete Holmes on the drums. Notably, UK dates would see support from FASTER INFERNO, the band led by Michael’s son, Tyson Schenker. Main support for the trek would be German outfit NIKKI PUPPET with DOOMFOXX also appearing at select shows. Schenker guested on GARY JOHN BARDEN’s 2006 solo album, ‘The Agony And Xtasy’ and former drummer JEFF MARTIN’s ‘Fool’ debut.
US dates were announced then scrapped. In August the guitarist posted several personal communications between himself and singer Jari Tiura on his personal website, blaming him for the tour’s cancellation. After stating “I have quit playing” Schenker went on to say “I am tired of changing musicians and singers. MSG is finished and I am not inspired anymore.” Shortly afterwards, all content was removed from Schenker’s personal website and replaced by an inverted MSG logo. Band members subsequently stated that the tour fell down due to financial issues.
Japanese and Chinese dates would then be announced for November. Unfortunately, the band’s November 17th concert at Tokyo, Japan’s Nakano Sunplaza was cancelled after just three songs. Michael Schenker performed ‘Assault Attack’, ‘Ready To Rock’ and ‘Let It Roll’, minus solos, before leaving the stage. Immediately afterwards, bassist Rev Jones published a statement slamming the guitarist.
Nevertheless, the band went on to perform in Thailand, again a show which provoked strong criticism for Schenker’s abilities, and then Hong Kong. The final date of the tour, in Taipei, Taiwan at Liberty Square on November 25th was also cancelled due to “illness”.
In January 2007 Schenker’s management company, International Concert Service GMBH, unveiled a fresh line-up of the band involving Schenker, vocalist Jari Tiura, guitarist / keyboard player Wayne Findlay, bassist Barry Sparks and a return for drummer Bodo Schopf. Shortly afterward Frank Rummler replaced Sparks. Japanese dates were scheduled for February, after which the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP announced their intention to tour across the USA and Canada.
In 2008 on April 24th the ‘In The Midst Of Beauty’ album was released in Germany, one day later in the rest of Europe. US and Japanese release dates were May 13th resp. May 28th. The album charted in Germany on number 78, in Sweden on 60 and in Japan on 30. In the HMV Japan Rock charts and in the Amazon Japan charts it reached number 2.
On June 13th it was announced, that former AC/DC, URIAH HEEP, ASIA, THE FIRM drummer Chris Slade joined the ranks of MSG for the 2008 tour beside Gary Barden, Chris Glen, Wayne Findlay and Michael Schenker himself.
Edited by OTH12 on 25 May 2013, 08:42
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