So in 1980 whilst I was getting increasingly fed up with the ‘Horses’ Paul Raymond was getting ‘evicted’ from UFO. In the grand scheme of things it was only a few years ‘blip’ as they are now happily married again but I was introduced by Phil Collen to the band and a ‘try out’ was arranged. I learnt a few songs (I remember practising ‘Lights Out’ like crazy in a room at the Hammersmith Odeon while on tour with the Horses supporting Ted Nugent) and had a run through with them. I was sort of ideal for the job as I did exactly what Paul had done (keyboards, guitar and backing vocals)...a seamless transition and it seemed a natural move for me and an exciting challenge. I never told them, but up until the ‘audition’ I had never even seen a Hammond Organ at close range so I did rather ‘bluff’ my way through the first few weeks! I had a short time to learn the entire set before our first mini tour of three gigs, the third was headlining the Reading Festival on the Saturday night...so no pressure there then obviously.
I joined right in the middle of the recording of ‘The Wild, the Willing and the Innocent’ and my input on that album was mostly backing vocals and the infamous saxophones on ‘Lonely Heart’. Phil had a bit of an obsession with Bruce Springsteen at the time and I think this might have been behind the idea. The album has quite a few good songs on it and a really excellent string arrangement on ‘Profession of Violence’. Following this was a tour of the UK and then a major tour of the US with Cheap Trick. This was my first experience of ‘stadium rock’ and UFO really were at their best in this situation. We also did a lot of our own dates in the South, Midwest and West Coast which were always strong areas for us. I began to do some writing at that time and this became an on the road diversion for me.
‘Mechanix’ saw my first real attempts and we wrote and recorded this at Queens’ studio in Montreux, Switzerland. Not a cheap exercise by any means which is why the band were always heavily in debt to the record company. Gary Lyons produced it, after a fashion, and it again has one or two standout tracks, but Pete hated it because of the keyboards and saxes so after the tour that followed he was off! I seem to have been painted as an evil imp over the years because of my input to the bands’ music (too keyboardy etc…) but there was no hidden agenda on my part at the time, just an honest enthusiasm to make a respectable album.
We did a long tour of the US with Ozzy Osbourne, dates with Rainbow and a cast of thousands. So many dates with so many different big acts of the day; Heart, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Blue Oyster Cult, Foreigner...with some amusing and not so amusing times, among them Phil getting carted off to jail for ‘lewd behaviour’ on stage, and having to play night after night with a selection of animals and reptiles being thrown onstage. The audiences obviously thought we shared the same taste in food Mr. Osbourne supposedly did. My personal favourite was when members of the Klu Klux Klan turned up on horse back at a gig in Texas baying for blood after Ozzy had spectacularly relieved himself against the Alamo...I can laugh about it now, but at the time...
If you look at the tour date page on this site you may notice that UFO worked quite hard and you would think that it bore some kind of financial reward but if it did I don’t think the band saw much of it! (I think I know who did though...) Even now I see many re-releases of songs I co-wrote and wonder who actually gets the money for these! Ah well we can put that down to inexperience (or trusting nature) on my part! So after Pete went, (as Phil put it ‘he never actually told us he was leaving, he just kept making excuses) Paul and I took over the bass duties between us and set to work on ‘Making Contact’.
After an initial hiatus with Gary Lyons we had Mick Glossop as producer which was an excellent choice and the album came together painlessly. I am proud of that album as it was made at a time of adversity and although not a classic, a lot of care and effort went into it. Billy Sheehan began the tour with us but things were going steadily downhill within the band and, following a disastrous gig in Athens, we called it a day mid tour...wise, as something horrible seemed inevitable if we carried on. After much cooling off we decided to do a ‘farewell’ UK tour which was a little painful as the atmosphere between Phil and the rest of us was not easy but we got through it and even went back in the studio to mix the live part of ‘Headstone’.
Phil as we all know reformed UFO with new people and, despite a few (!) line-up changes, they are still going today. Good on ‘em. For those who like a good read (!) Martin Popoff has written a book on UFO ‘Shoot out the Lights’ which can be bought through his site (see links page) and for anyone who loves the band it is a very insightful account of the making of every album with numerous interviews with all of us. Makes Jackie Collins look tame!
Paul, Andy and I wanted to continue working together, though obviously not as UFO, and we recorded some demos with me doing the vocals but at the final UFO gig I had two mysterious approaches, one from a mega band who have had more personnel than we have all had hot dinners (so I sort of discounted that), and one from Gary Moore who at that time was establishing his solo career...tempting!