Michael Schenker…a true guitar pioneer!

Let’s face it! If you listen to heavy rock and roll, then you’ve gotta love the sound of the electric guitar. The best thing is that every great band, has an excellent guitar player with their own sound and a box which within they work in. They never climb out of that box, even if they go from screeching lead guitar to classical guitar. Take Jimmy Page, The Edge, Slash, Eddie Van Halen, Angus Young, David Gilmour, Ace Frehley, Kerry King, Joe Perry, Joe Walsh, Dimebag Darrell, Glen Tipton, Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi, Vivian Campbell, Yngwie Malmsteen, Dave Mustaine, or Randy Rhoads out of their respective bands and what have you got? You’ve got a new Guns N’ Roses LP that sold ZERO without Slash playing on it….that’s what you got baybeee!

Always overlooked and for the most part forgotten is a true pioneer from Germany~his name is Michael Schenker!

What saddens me most of all is that he was so talented, came up with killer rhythm guitar, and was a true guitar pioneer. I’m just gonna say what I feel and I feel that Michael Schenker single-handedly popularized the use of the Gibson Flying V guitar in hard rock. I know this because I always thought it was a cool looking guitar and knew the only 4 guys who really played it pre-1974. They were bluesman Albert King, Dave Davies (The Kinks), Lonnie Mack & Jimi Hendrix of course. By 1984 every hard rock band had a lead guitarist playing a V. I would assume that K.K. Downing and Tom Petty (who used a Flying V as part of his logo on his first two albums) were right behind Michael and Rudolf? I saw an awesome 45 minute interview with Michael not long ago and he said it was actually his brother Rudolf (of The Scorpions fame) who let him try out his V…and it stuck. Most musicians hated it because it was more of a novelty and very impractical. It always (by the design of it) sounded tinny and shrill and when Michael played it through the CryBaby wah-wah pedal…oh my God, what a shriller and shriekier sound he got…UFO indeed, it sounded like it came from Mars. Besides popularizing the Flying V, Michael excelled in 3 other big areas.

1) Rockin’ Riffs & Ryhthm Guitar
2) Texture & Melody to Ballads
3) Classical Music Composing

Rockin’ Riffs:
Oh my God, listen to just the first 30 seconds of these songs; “Hot ‘N’ Ready”, ‘Natural Thing”, “Too Hot To Handle” and others by UFO and from his own MSG band, “Are You Ready To Rock”, “Armed And Ready”, “Rock My Nights Away” & “Broken Promises.” How in the heck could these not be on American radio stations every minute…classic rock stations or otherwise??

Texture & Melody:
Especially while writing with UFO…Michael could really add the right accents on a ballad. UFO’s strongest feature was that their ballads and rockers were absolutely killer (The Scorpions would fall into that too). Just listen to the live version of “Love To Love”, Micheal closes that with a 2 minute screaming lead…man, that was killer and the quality of UFO’s ballads died after Michael Schenker left the band.

Classical & Composing:
Later on, when Michael had his own band and was a little freer with material, he hit on the idea to blend in classical music with lead guitar and keyboard/synth mixes. “Into The Arena” and especially “Captain Nemo” being his compositional tour de forces…check these out, man.

Well, there’s only one way a guitarist like this can function…and that’s on the bloody stage baby! His got his best sound on stage for sure, a note to the readers that UFO’s live Strangers In The Night & MSG’s One Night At Budokan were so, so fantastic. We have to remember…on three classic UFO albums (Phenomenon, Force It! & No Heavy Petting), Micheal was the lone guitar player, doing all the rhythm and leads himself. It wasn’t until the Lights Out album that Michael got the much needed rhythm guitar help in the under-rated lefty Paul Raymond.

It’s so sad now to see Michael playing very small halls and in the past, I think there were tremendous stresses with managers which I’m sure got in the way of his creativity…but I must salute this fine pioneer from Germany~




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