Eric Clapton was God in the late ’60s and Eddie Van Halen was God in the late ’70s; at some point between, German guitarist Michael Schenker assumed the mantle. Ask any number of the most influential guitarists in metal history—from Metallica’s Kirk Hammett to Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith—and they’ll testify to his greatness. Even those who no longer have a voice (Randy Rhoads and Dimebag Darrell come to mind) claimed Schenker as a major influence. As a teenage/young twentysomething guitar hero in Scorpions and UFO, his star blazed brightly. His riffs were rock-solid and his solos transcendent. We could easily justify inducting more than one UFO album he played on in the Hall of Fame (and at least one is, in fact, in progress).
But since Schenker is long overdue for commemoration, we’ll start with the solo project he formed following live UFO masterpiece Strangers in the Night and a brief reunion with Scorpions on Lovedrive, both issued in 1979. The Michael Schenker Group was always more about Schenker than the musicians that surrounded him, so the first two albums—1980’s self-titled and 1981’s MSG—had completely different personnel save for Schenker and vocalist Gary Barden. No surprise, then, that when it came time for album number three, Assault Attack—the lineup turned over (nearly completely) once again, with then-drummer Cozy Powell even exiting in the middle of the writing.
So, it was not without the typical Schenker drama that this album not only came into the world, but died a swift commercial death upon its release, when new vocalist Graham Bonnet (ex-Rainbow) was booted after exposing himself onstage at a pre-release warm-up gig in England. However, the only album that featured Bonnet—who later went on to front Alcatrazz (among other projects)—turned out to be MSG’s finest moment, a record beloved for decades not only for Schenker’s incredible playing, but the stellar songs, Bonnet’s soaring vocals and Martin Birch’s bruising production. Though this lineup (rounded out by bassist Chris Glen and drummer Ted McKenna) never toured at the time, longtime fans of Assault Attack can witness it playing several of these songs on the current Michael Schenker Fest tour. And now Schenker joins the pantheon of other musical gods—many of whom no doubt idolize him—in our Hall of Fame.
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