fame for being as hard to get on with as a bear with a sore head, a smiling Michael Schenker paid us a visit in
Madrid together with his band, Temple of
Rock to record his next live album. It was not the line-up that the
hundreds of die-hard fans were expecting to see with the "Blonde
Bomber", but it was the perfect excuse to play some blasts from the past
together with the occasional oddball, such as old Scorpions songs, Rock You
Like a Hurricane. To get the ball rolling, however, what better than Armed & Ready, perhaps the German guitarist's
most famous solo hit?
The Michael Schenker Group was the original title of the first solo album he recorded after leaving, for the umpteenth time, UFO, where nobody could stand to be with him a minute longer. This was his new project after another physical and personal breakdown. At just 25 years of age, his early alcoholism, which started when he was hardly a man - prodigious 17-year-old talent out on tour with a guitar in one hand and a glass in the other -, soon took its toll.
In 1979, the younger of the Schenker brothers was already a legend that many bands, including Aerosmith, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, wanted to recruit. He wasn't only a better player than many of the guitar gurus of the hard rock genre at that time, but also a magnificent composer… and with a magnificent ego to match. Preferring not to link up with anyone else, he decided to go it alone. A year later, in the new decade's first summer, his first album was released.
For a while a least, things went well, sharing band mates when out on the road (Don Airey and Cozy Powell) with Ritchie Blackmore, another "ex" big band member who had jumped on the 'going it solo' bandwagon. Roger Glover was the man charged with producing the sounds of these two rock monsters out to prove their genius.
Michael took a gamble by taking on an almost unheard of singer by the name of Gary Barden, who co-authored all of the songs on the album. The other MSG members were rock veterans guaranteed not to put a foot wrong either in the studio or up on stage – Don Airey on the keyboards, Simon Philips on drums and Mo Foster playing the bass.
The experiment couldn't have worked out better. Armed & Ready was a very powerful single, but Cry for the Nations, Victim of Illusion and Into the Arena were also masterpieces of 80's hard rock and any of the tracks could have been chosen from an album that was composed, naturally, for and by the guitar. The instrumental Bijou Pleasurette, for example, is a must for anyone who wants to learn the art of the six strings.
The fact that he's playing a Flying V is neither here nor there: Schenker could perform his solos just as well on any other model. His technique, by the way, has lost none of its shine, despite all the toxic years - as the 60-year-old masterfully demonstrated in Madrid with his usual guitar now changed from a 'V' to a 'W' – only the true greats have the talent and audacity to face the crowd with a double neck.