January, 1979 - UFO: Strangers In The Night is released.
No other decade has produced more iconic live albums than the 1970's: KISS ALIVE!, Cheap Trick At Budokan, Frampton Comes Alive, Aerosmith Live Bootleg, Thin Lizzy Live and Dangerous, AC/DC If You Want Blood, You've Got It, The Kinks One For The Road and the list goes on and on. The live album was looked at as a souvenir of a band's current tour and were often a better representation of a band's sound than their studio albums, even though in most cases live albums were not completely live. Live albums really connected with the fans and were big business in the 1970's. Live albums were also a quick way for a band to buy some time in between studio albums. Most bands were releasing a new studio record every six months, so a live album kept the bands name in the public eye while they worked on their next studio record.
When compiling a list of the greatest live albums of the 1970's, UFO's "Strangers In The Night" always makes the cut and is often considered the best of the bunch. Like most live albums of the era "Strangers In The Night" has it's share of studio trickery and blending of different shows but that does not take away from it's overall impact. The sounds coming from the grooves of this record are full of energy and deliver a perfect document of UFO in 1978.
By the time "Strangers In The Night" was released in 1979, UFO had been making albums for almost a decade. Their self titled debut album came out in 1970 and it's follow up - "Flying" - came a year later. At this point UFO went through a transitional period that would eventually lead to the addition of German guitarist Michael Schenker, formerly of The Scorpions. With 19-year old Schenker in the line up the band began moving away from their "Space Rock" style to a straight-forward rock sound beginning with 1974's "Phenomenon." A string of studio albums would follow, including "Force It," "Lights Out" and 1978's "Obsession." With an endless cycle touring and releasing five studio albums from May 1974 to June of 1978, UFO had increased their popularity with American audiences and became a big concert draw. UFO were one of the hardest-working rock bands in the business and the time was right for a live record.
"Strangers In The Night" is a tour de force of classic UFO songs and captures the band at their commercial peak. "Doctor, Doctor," "Only You Can Rock Me," Too Hot To Handle," "Lights Out," "Mother Mary," "Shoot Shoot," and "Rock Bottom" are all here, along with another half-dozen songs recorded at shows in Chicago, Illinois and Louisville, Kentucky during their 1978 American tour. Chicago had become a mainstay for UFO and they would often headline there in front of 15,000 fans. The bulk of the albums songs are taken from the Chicago show and all of the crowd noise comes from the Chicago show as well. The band recorded six shows in six days beginning with Chicago on October 13th and ending with the Louisville show on the 18th. A show in Columbus, Ohio was recorded on the 17th but there has been no material released from that show. Two tracks from the album - "Mother Mary" and "This Kids" - are studio recordings recorded at The Record Plant in Los Angeles, California with crowd noise from the Chicago show added. Guitarist Michael Schenker left UFO during this tour and refused to do any guitar overdubs for the record, not that any were needed, but Schenker has expressed disappointment in the takes that were picked for the final track listing and felt there were better performances. Schenker and vocalist Phil Mogg were at odds due to Schenker's alcohol abuse and erratic behavior on the road. After this tour UFO would officially split with Schenker and "Strangers In The Night" would serve as the swan song for the classic line up of UFO. Guitarist Paul Chapman was brought in as a permanent replacement for Schenker and the band would carry on recording several more albums. A reunion with Schenker in the early 90's was short-lived, the band was unable to recapture the magic they had in the 70's and once again went their separate ways. .
In 1998 "Strangers In The Night" was remastered and expanded to include two additional tracks from shows recorded in Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio. The track listing was also revamped to represent the actual running order from the bands 1978 tour.
"Strangers In The Night" is not only considered UFO's crowning achievement, but one of the greatest live albums of the 1970's and beyond.
UFO continue to tour and make new records with guitarist Vinnie Moore, who has been with the band since 2003. Their latest album "A Conspiracy Of Stars" is set for release on February 23rd, 2015.
Scott Carr is a guitarist who plays in the Columbus, OH bands Radio Tramps and Returning April. Scott is also an avid collector of vinyl records and works at Lost Weekend Records. So...if you are looking for Scott....you'll either find him in a dimly lit bar playing his guitar or in a record store digging for the holy grail.