Have I ever told you the one about Philip Mogg and the feather duster? Well, not on this blog, I haven’t. If, however, you happen to have bought the recently re-issued version of UFO’s 1981 hard rock gem ‘The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent’ and have read the sleevenotes, then most likely you’ll already know the tale. If so, please indulge me while we get everyone else up to speed…
I was asked to write the notes for the re-issue last year. My credentials? Loved UFO’s blend of hard rock muscle and melodic finesse since first seeing them on the ‘No Place To Run Tour’ way back in 1980. Had hung with the band a few times over the years, most memorably at Pete Way’s London paid in the early ’80s when all kinds of deviant doings went on. Had been subjected to numerous prank calls from vocalist Mogg claiming to be ‘The Inland Revenue’. Funny guy!
Anyroad, after chatting to all the other members of the band for the sleevenotes, I wheedled a home number for Mogg out of somebody or other. Turns out he lives in Brighton these days. But despite leaving plenty of messages a return call wasn’t forthcoming.
I’d all but given up on getting Mogg to contribute to the notes at all when one day, out of the clear blue sky, the moby rang and there on the end of the invisible line was The Moggster himself.
“I’m so sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you Howard,” he said in the kind of ‘arist-rock-racy’ voice favoured by ’70s musos. “I did have your number on a scrap of paper, but it got lost down the back of the sofa. I just bought myself a new duster. It’s got some sort of long stick on the end and it’s brilliant. Have you seen them?” I admitted that I hadn’t. “Well never mind. Anyway, I was dusting with this new duster and I came across your number again, so here I am.”
And there he was indeed. Phil Mogg. What a great man. What a great vocalist. Not as in ‘I can hit the highest note in the universe’ great. Not as in ‘I’ve got the most powerful rock voice of all time’ great. Indeed, not as in ‘I can always sing in tune’ great either. But when it comes to giving it some emotion, to infusing hard rock music with some real soul, there have been few to match Mogg.
Double live albums were, of course, all the rage in the Seventies and there are some classic releases from the era that deserve a prime place in any rock fan’s collection. Thin Lizzy’s ‘Live And Dangerous’ springs to mind. So does Kiss’s ‘Alive II’ and The Scorps’ ‘Tokyo Tapes’. But if push comes to shove I’d have to say that UFO’s ‘Strangers In The Night’ gets the nod as the cream of the crop. Recorded in the States in 1978 and featuring the talents of ‘Mad Mickey Schenker’ – as every British rock mag referred to the German guitarist at the time, ‘Strangers…’ is quintessentially European, quintessentially ’70s hard rock at its very best, brutally riff-oriented yet still possessed of an ear for melody that seems almost quaint when placed in a modern rock context. Who gives a toss if it’s quaint, though, when songs such as ‘Doctor, Doctor’, ‘Lights Out’ and ‘Too Hot To Handle’ form part of the set that was captured?! Brilliant stuff!
More than 30 years after that classic live set, UFO are still at it today, with a new album – ‘The Visitor’ – due at the end of May. No matter that Phil Mogg now weighs in at an astonishing 61 years old, the band is still more than active. And given the kind of shenanigans they got up to back in the day that’s a triumph in itself.
We here at Saltyrockz couldn’t resist the opportunity of producing a classic ‘Strangers-style’ line-up tee as our own little tribute to one of hard rock’s greatest survivors. And you won’t need a feather duster to find it!
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HoJo rocked as a top journalist on legendary UK metal magazine
Kerrang! and now runs a way-cool rock T-shirt site at www.saltyrockz.com.