Reprinted from yesterday's late editors.
For UFO, everything was going just fine.
The most promising Anglo-German heavy metal quintet in rock and roll had just finished a tour that found them headlining in England, Germany and Scandinavia, and now they were more than ready to take on America. After that, it was supposed to be Japan and Australia.
But then their lead guitarist disappeared.
"The last time I saw Michael Schenker was at the gig we did in London," said UFO lead singer Phil Mogg Tuesday night just before going onstage at the Bayou, where the group performed with substitute guitarist Paul Chapman. "I don't really know where he is right now. Off meditating somewhere, I suppose."
That, Mogg and his colleagues figure, would be typical. The 22-year-old Schenker, a German who speaks only "some" English, used to spend a lot of his spare time on the road reading religious pamphlets. "He would get all these packages from San Fracisco," says Mogg. "They were from the Moonies, I think."
Since UFO is a band that, in Mogg's words, "likes to have a good time, to go absolutely berserk," does that perhaps mean that Schenker just didn't fit in? "No," says Mogg, "sometimes he was wild too. He was changeable. That's why we nicknamed him 'Jekyl and Hyde."
So when Schenker dropped out of sight in London in late June nobody in UFO or at Chrysalis Records was particularly concerned. After all, Schenker had done this before.
And besides, there were other precedents. Peter Green, founder of Fleetwood Mac but now an inmate at a British mental institution, had done ite same thing several years ago, and so had his partner Jeremy Spencer, who eventually joined a cult called The Children of God and swore off rock and roll as the devil's work.
But when a representative of the group's management went to Schenker's apartment and found it empty, that's when the panic started. After all, a guitar-based band with no lead guitarist can't do much.
A quick transatlantic phone call determined that a group called Lone Star was on vacation until Aug. 19 and that their lead guitarist, Chapman, a friend of the fellows in UFO and Schenker's of the fellows in UFO and Schenker's former roommate, was willing to fill in until then. After six days of rehersal, UFO was ready to take off again.
To tell the truth, Tuesday night's standingroom-only audience didn't seem to miss Schenker much. They cheered "Rock Bottom," the groups signature tune, just as much as usal and when Chapman fired off one of his 100-mph gitar solos, the folks in the front row pretended to play along with him.
Nobody seemed to notice, however, that there was another new member in the band: rhythm guitarist and keyboard player Paul Raymond, formerly a member of Savoy Brown. He replaced Argentinian Danny Peyronel.
Schenker, for all his idiosyncracies, was at least a know quality and Mogg is hoping that he'll return. That way UFO can avoid the tortuous process of auditioning guitar players - and possibly coming up with someone incompatible. "We'llknow by Aug 19," says Mogg, "thats the day of decision."