Michael Schenker Biography
Michael Schenker (born Michael Willy Schenker, 10 January 1955) is a German rock guitarist, best known for his tenure in UFO, in addition to his solo band. Nicknamed the “Blonde Bomber”, he first rose to fame as an early member of 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 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.”
Michael Schenker started playing guitar at an early age, after his brother Rudolf got a Gibson Flying V guitar for his birthday, 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. 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 (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 cancelled. Despite having a series of successful albums and tours, Schenker unequivocally quit UFO after their show in Palo Alto, California, on 29 October 1978. During this tour the band had recorded six concerts whose selected tracks would make up their seminal live album Strangers in the Night, which was released after he left the band.
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).
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 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.
- O2 Academy, Sheffield – November 03, 2017
- Rock City, Nottingham – January 29, 2016
- O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London – May 31, 2013
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