The following is a copy of the Schenker biography at the Metallist, whose web page seems to have vanished:

The Unauthorized Biography of
Michael Schenker
by Glenn Wrigley

Writing about Michael Schenker's career has proven to be no easy task. Scrounging to find articles in long out-of-print books and magazines, I did my best to paste together the facts surrounding one of metal's lesser known heroes.

Born Michel Schenker on January 10, 1955, in Hanover, Germany, Michael's interest in the guitar began at the young age of nine. Under the tutelage of older brother Rudolf, Michael quickly became fascinated with the Hofner electric handed down to him by Rudolf. Together the brothers would attempt to reproduce complex classical pieces on their guitars. So rapid was Michael's progress that in 1971 at age sixteen, he was recruited as lead guitarist by Rudolf's newly founded Scorpions. Lonesome Crow, their first studio release on Germany's tiny Brain label, marked Michael's first vinyl appearance. Though quirky at times, the album is a good representation of Michael's early style. The songs reveal influences of early British blues-based rock legends Led Zeppelin and the Yardbirds, as well as the Shadows, early Beatles, and Leslie West. There is however a distinct German hue to the record. Riding the fence between hard rock and art rock, Lonesome Crow is indebted to the latter's masters Amon Duul and Eloy.

After the release of Lonesome Crow, Michael Schenker and the Scorpions launched the first of their now customary world tours, playing 130 dates in Germany as back-up band for groups like Chicken Shack and UFO. This first world tour almost saw the bands demise, however. Late in 1973 Michael was asked by Phil Mogg and Pete Way of UFO to substitute for guitarist Bernie Marsden who was late in showing up for a gig. During the concert Michael opened the show as a Scorpion and headlined with UFO, one of Europe's premier "space metal" acts. With Schenker among their ranks, UFO's musical character quickly changed from "space metal" to classic, blues-based heavy metal.

The transition from the familiar teritory as lead axe-man for the Scorpions to the more commercially successful and world-known UFO was not an easy one. The most formidable obstacle that Michael had to overcome was the language barrier. At the time he was recruited by UFO Michael spoke no English and had to have his wife translate for him. Of the fatefull events that brought them together Phil Mogg says, "Everybody was very obliging even though Michael couldn't speek English. We only had fifteen minutes to sort things out, so we ended up doing 25 minute versions of 'I'm a Man' and 'Come on Everybody'. Everything went so well we finally got round to asking Michael to join us." Michael accepted Mogg's and Way's offer, and soon the "new" UFO were heading back to Britain to record their debut Chrysalis album, "Phenomenon". Having played a key role in writing much of the album's material, Michael's hard rock influence is most evident in the classics "Rock Bottom" and "Doctor Doctor". Later that same year, the band recruited a second guitarist, Paul Chapman, who provided Michael's sizzling leads with a harmonizing background rhythm.

Apart from changing UFO's direction from that of art or space rock, Michael's presence helped the band to climb out of relative obscurity and become a major chart act. Reaction to 1975's "Force It" proved that the band was steaming forward, creating for themselves a strong European following. Michael's talents were quickly developing, as is evidenced in such classics as "Let it Roll", "Shoot Shoot", and "Mother Mary". "No Heavy Petting" of 1976 was the bands final recording with producer Leo Lyons. The band felt that something was missing in Lyons' style, and in order to break into the American market, they needed to take a different approach to the next album. They recruited Ron Nevison for "Lights Out", which proved to be a wise move. Nevison's style was much less imposing than Lyons'; he allowed the music to form itself, the results being such powerful and passionate numbers as "Lights Out" and "Love to Love".

Encouraged by the America's warm reception of "Lights Out", the band decided to pack up their equipment and embark on an American tour in support of the album. A few days before departing, however, Michael dissapeared, breaking off all contact with his bandmates. Paul Chapman of Lonestar was recruited as a substitute for the first few dates of the American tour. Soon after, however, Michael was tracked down in Germany and persuaded to re-join the band. When confronted about the odd circumstances surrounding his dissappearance, Michael's response was that he simply wanted to spend some time alone with his girlfriend.

After months of solid touring, the band grounded themselves in Los Angeles to start recording the next album, "Obsession". The album was considerably more heavy than its predecessors. "Pack It Up and Go" boasted a pile-driving drum sound that seemed to suggest a new direction for the band. By the end of 1978, however, Michael announced that he was officially leaving UFO. Years of heavy drinking finally began to take their tole; he was finding it more and more difficult to keep up with the band's grueling work schedule, and in late 1978 he was admitted into the hospital. As a testament to the band's gloru days, "Strangers in the Night" was released soon after Michael's departure. This album is perhaps the tightest of all live albums ever released, proving that UFO were one of Britain's most formiddable purveyors of heavy rock and, along with Michael Schenker on lead guitar, achieved musical hights that other bands can only attempt to emulate.

Though it marked a sad day for heavy metal fans, Michael's departure from UFO did not mean that he was giving up music. After a brief stint back with the Scorpions in 1979, which produced the "Lovedrive" album, Michael decided to embark on a solo venture. His first solo recording, entitled "The Michael Schenker Group", was completed and released in August of 1980 and immediately soared to the number 8 position in the UK charts. To ensure complete artistic control, Michael hired various session musicians to record the album. On the tour in support of the album, however, Michael chose the line-up that would eventually record the band's second studio album, "MSG". With the help of Gary Barden on vocals, Cozy Powell on drums, Chris Glen on bass, and Paul Raymond (ex-UFO) on rhythm guitar, Michael developed a sound that was considerably more metallic than what he had grown used to in UFO. Soon after the release of "MSG" in September of 1981 (which reached the number 4 position on the UK charts), a double live album, recorded in Japan, was released. This album confirmed Michael's status as one of metal's finest axeman, reaching the number 5 position in the UK charts.

The glory of Michael's newly found success was shortlived, however, due to his recurring personal problems. 1982 saw the demise of the powerful line-up that helped to re-launch Michael's career: in the first few weeks of 1982 Paul Raymond quit the band; in February Gary Barden was asked to leave to make room for better known Graham Bonnet; by April Cozy Powell had left, to be replaced by Ted McKenna. The new line-up lasted long enough to record Assault Attack, which did fairly well in the UK. While the album contains the bite and aggression that characterized MSG's first two studio efforts, there never seems to be any harmony between Michael's playing style and Graham's singing style. Michael's playing revolves very much around feeling, and while Graham has a huge vocal range, he never seems to harmonize with Michael's passion. This line-up soon disbanded, as many thought it would, after it became painfully obvious that Michael and Graham's egoes were incompatible. The circumstances surrounding Graham's "departure" from MSG the day before their appearance at the 1982 Reading Rock Festival were reported in all the music magazines, and in a panic to find a replacement, Michael contacted Gary Barden, who was eager to re-join the band. After being called back to front the band, Gary Barden commented on Graham's reputation, "Most people know that Graham's an epileptic and also a rather heavy drinker and while I admire him tremendously as a singer, I just knew he wouldn't be right with Michael."

Needless to say, Barden did a fine job at the Reading Festival, and soon the band was back in the studio to record their fourth studio effort, Built to Destroy, which sold close to 100,000 copies in the first months of its release. Michael recruited Andy Nye on keyboards, whose presence gave this release a more pop-oriented sound. In support of this new release, MSG embarked on a US tour backing Ted Nugent. Since Michael had officially left his partying days behind him, giving up alcohol and booze, the band sounded tighter than ever while on tour. The new "cleaned-up" Michael Schenker was wooing audiences all over the states, and his new live album, Rock Will Never Die, released in the summer of 1993, quickly climbed the charts, proving that his reputation was rapidly growing.

Sadly, the release of Rock Will Never Die marked the end of the Michael Schenker Group. Michael was growing tired of the grueling tour schedules and life on the road and distanced himself from the music scene until 1987, when he teamed up with ex-Grand Prix vocalist Robin McAuley to form the McAuley Schenker Group. All together the new MSG produced five albums, Perfect Timing (1987), Save Yourself (1989), MSG (1991), Nightmare-The Acoustic MSG (1992), and MSG Unplugged Live (1992). Michael's musical direction had completely changed for his work with Robin McAuley. One look at McAuley's hair style on the cover of Perfect Timing gives you a good idea of what the music is like. Gone were the driving beats and complex structures that characterized much of Michael's earlier work. Instead Michael opted for a tamer, more pop-oriented sound, not too dissimilar from what was being produced by LA's more popular glam metal bands of the late 80's. Michael's side project in 1991 with "super group" (!) Contraband, made up of various members of Vixen, LA Guns, Ratt, and Shark Island seemed to suggest that either he was attempting to conform to what was popular at the time, or that he genuinely felt an affinity to the LA scene. The results of this side project, coupled with his guest appearance on Bad Moon Rising's self-titled debut led many to believe that Michael was selling out. The verdict had been returned by many of Michael's hardcore fans: though the passion was still present in his music, the power was gone.

by Glenn Wrigley

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