If you know your ’70s/early ’80s hard rock, you know U.F.O. Between 1974 and 1979, they put out a string of albums that mixed driving rock and elegant melodies in a way that pushed the envelope for what the genre could be. They’ve continued on into the modern day, surviving breakups, countless lineup changeovers and endless shifts in genre trends to continue delivering on album and the concert stage, notching up over 50 years’ worth of work.
Pondering such a huge mass of time is a challenge, particularly when one has to consider the array of side-projects and solo works involved (the non-U.F.O. ouevre of Michael Schenker alone is mind-boggling). However, the labyrinthine family tree and history of this rock dynasty has finally been laid out in a thoughtful, colorful manner in the new tome U.F.O.: A Visual Biography.
This new book was penned by Martin Popoff. He’s an aficionado and expert on the band, having already penned a pair of books in recent years that covered the band’s history (Lights Out is devoted to their ’70s canon, Lettin’ Go explores their work in the ’80s and ’90s). So why another book? There are two worthwhile reasons. The first is that his prior books wind to a halt around the 1995 comeback album Walk On Water. U.F.O.: A Visual Biography extends its coverage all the way through 2020 (including, sadly, the demise of three members of the band).
The second, more important reason is that U.F.O.: A Visual Biography offers an alternative method of approaching the group’s history. It’s one of a string of similarly-styled hardcovers that Popoff has put together in recent years, utilizing a timeline approach offset by plentiful album art, vintage ads and concert photography, including exclusive imagery provided by fans. Popoff limits commentary to a few pages at the beginning of each decade, offering his slant on that particular era but otherwise allowing the reader to interpret the shape of the history provided by the facts and dates.
When viewed in this fashion, the history of U.F.O. opens up in a fresh way. You get a stronger grasp of the chronology behind the band’s output, which comes in really handy when Schenker sets up his own solo franchise that incorporates countless lineups and musical interests as the decades progress. Along the way, there is also a reminder of how the time a band operates in shapes their output, even a band as distinctive as U.F.O.: hence, the flirtations with glam and AOR in the second half of the ’80s for both U.F.O. and Schenker with his McAuley-Schenker Group.
Finally, U.F.O.: A Visual Biography is simply a pleasure for those who love the tactile joys of a well-designed book. It’s a pricey proposition – $75 in the U.S. – but it delivers a deluxe experience for the U.F.O. fan: it’s an oversized hardcover, printed on thick glossy paper with a slick layout full of gorgeously rendered ads and photos. It provides a visual stimulation that a conventional text-driven tome can’t offer, the kind of thing that will prompt you to reach for your albums and maybe hunt down side-projects you didn’t know about.
Simply put, this is the kind of deluxe treat you’ll want to indulge in if you’re a U.F.O. fanatic and it makes a worthwhile companion to Popoff’s regular books on the subject. Like his other timeline hardcovers, it’s a limited printing so jump on it a.s.a.p. if you go for this group’s classy hard rock.
Click here to order direct from the author at his site.