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Along with Gary Moore, Michael Schenker never quite reached the same level of acclaim stateside as he did in Europe (and other parts of the world), despite possessing exceptional, and quite influential, six-string skills. Born on January 10, 1955, in Savstedt, Germany, it was Schenker's older brother, Rudolf, who sparked the youngster's interest in guitar at an early age. Entirely self-taught, Michael picked up a thing or two from such hard-rocking acts as Wishbone Ash and Mountain, as well as his older brother, who would offer the youngster money if he would transcribe certain songs for him while he was at work. As a result of constant playing, it wasn't long before Schenker showed immense talent with the instrument, and by the early '70s, joined Rudolf's group, the Scorpions. Michael appeared on the group's 1972 full-length debut, Lonesome Crow, and toured with the outfit (all at the age of 17). But it was during the album's supporting tour that another up-and-coming outfit, UFO, took a keen interest in the young Schenker and managed to pry the guitarist away from the Scorpions.
Although a language barrier existed between Schenker and his new bandmates (he barely knew any English at the time), the guitarist let his playing do the talking, especially on his first recording with the group, 1974's Phenomenon, which spawned such metal classics/Schenker showcases as "Doctor Doctor" and "Rock Bottom" (also of note was the instrumental "Lipstick Traces," a tune which Schenker played entirely with his feet!). It was also around this time that Schenker began playing an instrument that he would become synonymous with for the rest of his career, a Gibson Flying V (which would eventually be decorated with a half-white/half-black paint job). Heavy-duty touring and a pair of further releases, 1975's Force It and 1976's No Heavy Petting, set the stage perfectly for what UFO hoped would be a global commercial breakthrough.
The late '70s saw UFO issue a trio of classic hard rock albums -- 1977's Lights Out, 1978's Obsession, and especially 1979's outstanding live set, Strangers in the Night -- all of which made strong showings on the U.S. charts. But UFO's time in the limelight would be fleeting, as alcohol/substance overindulgence and erratic behavior drew a wedge between Schenker and the rest of UFO (the guitarist also became famous for disappearing from the group without any notice, leaving them high and dry mid-tour). 1979 saw Schenker's exit from UFO (who were never the same after his exit) and re-entry into the Scorpions. But, as with his first go around with the group, Schenker's tenure was a fleeting one, only lasting a single album, 1979's Lovedrive, before exiting once more.
The same year, Schenker was invited to take the place of the just-departed Joe Perry in Aerosmith. Despite a few jam sessions between Schenker and the others, nothing ever materialized of the Schenker-Aerosmith union (the interesting meeting was discussed by the group in their 1999 autobiography, Walk This Way). Now free of any other obligations, Schenker set his sights on a solo career, forming the Michael Schenker Group immediately thereafter. While the group got off to a promising start with such strong releases as 1980's Michael Schenker Group, 1981's MSG, plus 1982's Assault Attack and One Night at Budokan, interest eventually evaporated, as it became obvious with each subsequent release that Schenker had set his sights at the top of the charts rather than sticking to good old-fashioned hard rock/heavy metal. Constant lineup fluctuation didn't help, either.
1982 saw Schenker get an invite from Ozzy Osbourne to join his group immediately after Randy Rhoads' tragic death, but like the Aerosmith bid several years earlier, it failed to pan out. Despite failing to issue a big commercial breakthrough on his own (although 1989's pop-metal outing, Save Yourself, credited to the McAuley-Schenker Group, came close), the guitarists in such renowned groups as Metallica and Def Leppard were quick to voice Schenker's influence. The early '90s saw Schenker appear with Ratt on a best-forgotten episode of MTV's popular Unplugged series, in addition to participating in a one-off pop-metal "supergroup," Contraband (which included members of such groups as Shark Island, Vixen, Ratt, and L.A. Guns), who issued a lone self-titled debut in 1991.
Throughout the '90s, Schenker continued to issue solo albums, including 1993's acoustic-based Thank You and 1999's more rock-based Unforgiven, but the real story of the '90s for Schenker was his re-enlistment into UFO in 1993. Predictably, Schenker's second go-around with UFO was short-lived, yet it did spawn a world tour as well as an all-new studio effort, 1995's Walk on Water. Schenker's pace of issuing solo albums only increased during the early 21st century, as such titles as 2000's all-instrumental Adventures of the Imagination, plus a staggering three albums in 2001 alone (MS 2000: Dreams and Expressions, Odd Trio, and Be Aware of Scorpions) saw the light of day. 2002 saw Schenker sign on with UFO once more for a new album, Sharks.
Michael Schenker (born Michael Willy Schenker, 10 January 1955 in Hannover, West Germany) is a German rock guitarist, best known for his tenure in UFO, in addition to his solo band. He first rose to fame as an early member of the Scorpions, then achieved fame in the mid-1970s as the lead guitar player for UFO. Since leaving UFO in 1978, he has been leading the Michael Schenker Group in various incarnations. He has rejoined UFO three times, producing an album each time. He is the younger brother of Rudolf Schenker, who is still a guitarist with the Scorpions. His career has had many ups and downs, partly due to a long history of alcoholism and personal problems; still, Schenker continues to perform and record. He has been called "a legendary figure in the history of metal guitar."Lewandowski, Kevin (4 September 2013). "Michael Schenker Discography at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved 2013-09-04. Cite error: The named reference brick was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Prown, Pete; Harvey P. Newquist; Jon F. Eiche (1997). Legends of rock guitar: the essential reference of rock's greatest guitarists. Hal Leonard. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-7935-4042-6.
ContentsCareer1.1 Early career and rise to fame: Scorpions and UFO1.2 Michael Schenker Group, McAuley Schenker Group and UFO Reunion1.3 2000–present
Early career and rise to fame: Scorpions and UFO
Michael Schenker started playing guitar at an early age, after his brother Rudolf brought home a Gibson Flying V guitar, which captured his imagination. He played his first gig when he was 11, with Rudolf and the Scorpions in a nightclub. Schenker debuted with Scorpions on their debut album Lonesome Crow at age 17.
The Scorpions went on tour after recording their first album, opening up for upcoming UK band UFO in Germany. Schenker was offered the position of lead guitar player for UFO (taking over for Bernie Marsden, himself a temporary replacement for Mick Bolton) and, with the blessing of his brother, accepted (the Scorpions replaced him with Uli Roth), even though he didn't speak English.
Schenker co-wrote most of the songs on UFO's major label (Chrysalis Records) debut album Phenomenon. His career with UFO was turbulent, sometimes walking off mid-song causing shows to be canceled. Despite having a series of successful albums and tours, Schenker finally left UFO soon after the last show of their US tour in Palo Alto, California, in October 1978; during this tour, the band recorded their seminal live album Strangers in the Night, which was released after he left the band.
Schenker briefly re-joined the Scorpions in late 1978, when they were recording the album Lovedrive (he plays lead guitar on three songs, "Another Piece of Meat", "Coast To Coast" and "Lovedrive"). In 1979, Schenker toured with the band in support of the album, but left the band 3 months later, following occasions when he could not perform on stage due to fatigue and alcohol problems. He was permanently replaced by Matthias Jabs, who had originally joined the Scorpions before Schenker's return.
Schenker was one of many guitarists to audition for the lead guitar spot in The Rolling Stones in the mid-1970s following Mick Taylor's dismissal. He also auditioned for Aerosmith in 1979 after Joe Perry left. According to Martin Huxley, Schenker stormed out of the room after producer Gary Lyons made several jokes about Nazis. After the death of Randy Rhoads, Ozzy Osbourne's first call was to Schenker to replace Rhoads, as the German guitarist and his iconic Flying V were a huge influence on Rhoads. But, Osbourne claims, Schenker made too many outlandish demands (including a private jet). Schenker himself, in an interview with KNAC radio, claims he was the one to say "no" to Osbourne: "If I would have joined Ozzy Osbourne, I would have screwed up my life. I was almost about to do it, and something told me: DON'T!!"
Michael Schenker Group, McAuley Schenker Group and UFO Reunion
In 1979, Schenker started a solo career by founding the Michael Schenker Group (MSG). The history of MSG is strewn with personality conflicts and incidents. In 1982, original singer Gary Barden, who sang on the first two studio albums and a live album, was fired in favour of Graham Bonnet. Bonnet lasted one album (Assault Attack) and a single gig, at Sheffield University, where he drunkenly exposed himself and was subsequently fired from the band. Barden rejoined MSG for the rest of the tour. He also appeared on the 1983 studio album (Built to Destroy) and the band's second live album (Rock Will Never Die).
After Barden's second departure, Schenker reorganized the band around himself and new singer Robin McAuley and renamed it the McAuley Schenker Group. The new incarnation of MSG was steered toward a more commercial hard rock sound. After three albums, Schenker and McAuley parted company. In the meantime, he briefly replaced Robbin Crosby in Ratt, appearing on their 1990 MTV Unplugged performance.
In 1993, Schenker rejoined UFO. He co-wrote (with Phil Mogg) nearly the whole of their reunion album, Walk on Water ('95), and toured with them briefly.
He then resurrected the Michael Schenker Group with all new members and recorded three more albums, Written in the Sand, The Unforgiven, and Be Aware of Scorpions before rejoining UFO for two further releases, Covenant and Sharks.
Schenker fell on hard times in the early 2000s, despite his rejoining UFO that year. He picked himself up and got back to making and performing music, recording the album Arachnophobiac and supporting it with two years of touring. In 2004, recognition came from Dean Guitars, which began producing a Schenker signature Dean V (with subtle differences from the Gibson, but with the split black and white trademark Schenker finish).
2005 was the 25th anniversary of the Michael Schenker Group. Schenker put together a new album of songs called Tales of Rock'n'Roll to celebrate the anniversary and enlisted singers from each iteration of the band to sing on the album. However, in that same year the collection Heavy Hitters, a set of covers featuring Schenker and a revolving group of heavy metal all-stars, was marketed as a Michael Schenker Group album, with the result that Schenker only received a flat fee.
After nearly-disastrous North American and European tours in 2007, which included cancelled shows and less-than-stellar performances caused by heavy drinking, Schenker regained his composure and toured in the UK as Michael Schenker & Friends in 2008. Early 2008, Schenker worked with Gary Barden, Don Airey, Simon Phillips, and Neil Murray on a new MSG album In the Midst of Beauty, which was released in May 2008, followed by touring.
In 2009 Schenker toured extensively including Russia, UK and the US with MSG including original members Gary Barden and Chris Glenn.
In November 2010, Schenker was given the Marshall "11" award in London along other rock legends including Ron Wood and Slash. The award was presented to Schenker by Alice Cooper, with Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi and John Paul Jones also in attendance. The award is given to "those artists and musicians who represent rock 'n' roll excess and livin' on the edge."
In 2011 Schenker released a new album, Temple of Rock. It was supported with a tour of Europe, Japan and the USA. In Europe the line up included Herman Rarebell on drums and Francis Buchholz on bass, both former members of The Scorpions (Rarebell also joined the band for the Japanese dates) and Doogie White, formerly singer for Rainbow and Yngwie Malmsteen. With this line-up he recorded the album Bridge the Gap which was released in 2013.
In August 2012 Schenker received a Lifetime Achievement in Rock and Roll Award from "Vegas Rocks!" magazine. The award was presented by David Coverdale of Whitesnake. During the award ceremony Schenker performed with Sammy Hagar of Chickenfoot, Montrose and Van Halen.Strong, Martin Charles; John Peel (2002). The Great Rock Discography. The National Academies. p. 926. ISBN 978-1-84195-312-0. Saulnier, Jason (23 January 2009). "Michael Schenker Interview". Music Legends. Retrieved 6 May 2013. Dodd, Philip (2005). The Book of Rock: From the 1950s to Today. Thunder's Mouth. p. 470. ISBN 978-1-56025-729-5. Power, Martin (1997). The complete guide to the music of Aerosmith. Omnibus. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-7119-5598-1. Huxley, Martin (1995). Aerosmith: the fall and the rise of rock's greatest band. Macmillan. pp. 88–89. ISBN 978-0-312-11737-5. "Off-Rails-Aboard-Crazy-Blizzard" by Rudy Sarzo Osbourne, Ozzy; Ayres, Chris (2010). I Am Ozzy. Hachette. p. 164. ISBN 978-0-446-56989-7. Retrieved 17 January 2012. Harris, Shelly (28 July 2009). "Behind Blue Eyes: Up Close and Personal with Iconic Guitar God Michael Schenker". KNAC. Retrieved 2009-08-18. "Rock Music Star – Graham Bonnet". Rock Music Star. 21 April 2011. Retrieved 2014-10-15. Gill, Chris (September 2008). "Brick by Brick". Guitar World. p. 44-. Retrieved 2013-09-05. "Classic Rock Roll of Honour Winners Revealed!". Classic Rock Magazine. 10 November 2010. Retrieved 2011-04-21.
Instruments and sound
Schenker's main guitar for much of his career was a Gibson Flying V, which he typically played through a wah-wah pedal (used as a parametric equalizer to strengthen the "sweet spot") and Marshall amplifiers. His "unmistakable midrange tone" emphasized by the partially engaged wah, as exemplified on the song "Rock Bottom" from the UFO album Strangers in the Night, was listed among the 50 greatest tones of all time by Guitar Player magazine. In recent years Schenker has switched to using a signature model Dean V.
In 2007 Dean Guitars, after producing a signature Schenker Dean V, also made two acoustic models with the familiar black and white "V" design.Cite error: The named reference brick was invoked but never defined (see the help page). The Boss Book: The Ultimate Guide to the World's Most Popular Compact Effects for Guitar. Hal Leonard. 2002. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-634-04480-9. Blackett, Matt (October 2004). "The 50 Greatest Tones of All Time". Guitar Player: 44–66. "11 legends of the Flying V and explorer" 38 (10). Music Radar. Retrieved 2009-08-17. Gill, Chris (September 2007). "Built to Destroy: Dean Michael Schenker Performer MSP and Exotica MSE Acoustic-Electric Guitars". Guitar World. p. 187. Retrieved 2009-08-17.
In video gamesThe Michael Schenker Group's song, "Armed and Ready", featured in Guitar Hero: Metallica.The song "Assault Attack" was featured in Brütal Legend.
Awards and recognitionPlaced on Guitar World magazine's 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists.On 2010 Schenker was given the Marshall "11" award.Michael Schenker accepts his "ROCK GUITAR LEGEND" award at the Vegas Rocks! Magazine Music Awards 2012 Blabbermouth GUITAR WORLD's 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists Of All Time Retrieved on 18 July 2008. "The Official Site". Michael Schenker Himself. Retrieved 2012-04-24.
Schenker has been on the covers of many guitar magazines and has influenced many notable guitar players, including Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield (Metallica), Dave Mustaine....I'm delighted to read that my "Under the Influence" column got you into Michael Schenker—what a phenomenal player he is! In case you're interested in exploring his playing more, when he left UFO he formed his own band called MSG (the Michael Schenker Group) and did some pretty amazing stuff with that band too... ..James Hetfield recalls.'It was the second guitar I ever owned...I wanted a white one because Michael Schenker of U.F.O. had one, so I needed one, too... Dave Mustaine Quotes.. When I was a kid, I had guitar heroes: Jimmy Page, Michael Schenker, Angus Young... ..Mustaine attributed his choice of the Flying V guitar to being a fan of UFO's Michael Schenker when he was growing up...Dave Mustaine