Michael Schenker A Truly Exceptional Guitarist
The Early Years
Michael Schenker is a German born guitarist, he was born on January 10th 1955 in Sarstedt, near Hannover, Germany. He is an exceptional guitarist, and is an influence to many of the guitar players that came out of the 80s, including Kirk Hammett, and James Hetfeild of Metallica. His story is full of triumph and tragedy, success and obscurity, but he has endured and is still touring today.
Michael Schenker started playing at a young age, when his older brother Rudolph Schenker brought home a Gibson Flying V guitar. He was immediately drawn to it and thus started playing. The Gibson Flying V would become his main guitar for many years.
He quickly developed as an exceptional guitarist, and played his first gig at age 11, and he was known as an outstanding guitarist even at a young age. His brother Rudolph already had formed an early version of the Scorpions, and Michael was in a group called Copernicus. At the age of fifteen Michael, along with vocalist Klause Meine, who was the vocalist of Copernicus, joined his older brother Rudolph in the Scorpions.
In 1972 at the age of 17, Michael Schenker recorded his first album with the Scorpions called "Lonesome Crow". The album quickly turned heads because it was one of the first hard rock albums from a band of all Germans. Also Klause Meine and the scorpions wrote all their lyrics in English, because they were aiming for superstardom. This album quickly opened door for them, and they toured with Rory Gallagher, Uriah Heep, and UFO. This would eventually Lead Michael Schenker, and the Scorpions in different directions.
Lonesome Crow Album Cover
Scorpions in 1972
Early Scorpions with Michael Schenker, Klause Meine, and Rudolph Schenker
Michael Schenker and UFO
UFO with Michael Schenker, put out five more albums: Force it, in 1975, No Heavy Petting, 1976, Lights Out, 1977, Obsession, 1978, and Strangers In The Night, 1979 (live album). During this time he established himself as one of the best guitarist of his time. But success came at a price. When UFO's album Lights out cracked the top 40 in 1977 Schenker was unprepared for the success, and started drinking to help him overcome his fear of stage fright. The constant cycle of touring, and the daily drinking to help him overcome his fears, eventually took a toll on Schenker, and his band mates in UFO.
Shortly after the start of the USA leg of the tour, unable to stand the pressure any longer Michael Schenker disappeared and left the tour without telling anyone where he was going. In 1978 UFO recorded Obsession, convincing Michael Schenker to join them once again. With an ensuing tour looming ahead, His stage fright, and fear of touring soon reared its ugly head again, and shortly after Michael Schenker left UFO for good. There is one good side to this, Michael Schenker did a few American shows on this tour, and one show or shows was recorded which resulted in Strangers In The Night, a live album by UFO with Michael Schenker. This was one of the best live albums ever produced and many guitar players from the 80s site this as a major influence.
Live With UFO, check out the guitar solo
With the Scorpions again
In 1979 Michael Schenker once again briefly joined the Scorpions. He played three songs on their Lovedrive album, and was credited on this album. The Scorpions replacement for Uli John Roth, Mathias Jabs, was also on this album, a great guitarist in his own right. Michael joined the Scorpions once again on their tour of Lovedrive, but soon left to form his own group, The Michael Schenker Group, and Mathias Jabs joined the Scorpions once again.
Lovedrive Live in 2006
The Michael Schenker Group
In 1979 Michael Schenker was extended an offer to join Aerosmith, when Joe perry departed from the band. Which Michael entertained the Idea but it never came to be.
In 1980 Michael Schenker formed the Michael Schenker Group, and achieved some of his greatest success yet. His first four albums, The Michael Schenker Group (1980), MSG, (1981), Assault Attack,(1982), and Built To Destroy (1983), along with two live albums, One Night At Budokan (1981), and Rock Will Never Die (1984), were some of Michael Schenker finest works to date. With vocalist Gary Barden on vocals, and ex Rainbow vocalist Graham Bonnet singing on Assault attack. In 1982, he was also asked to join Ozzy Osbornes band to replace Randy Rhoads, who recently died in a plane crash, but also it never came to be.
MSG live 1983
Live in 1981
With Robin McCauley
In 1986 Michael Schenker teamed up with vocalist Robin McCauley, and formed The McCauley Schenker Group, Keeping the MSG name. They recorded three great albums together and one acoustic album together which enabled them to tour extensively. They were: Perfect Timing (1987), Save Yourself (1989), MSG (McCauley Schenker Group), (1991), and Nightmare – the Acoustic MSG (unplugged album). These were also some of the most successful MSG albums, in which they were geared toward a more commercial sound that was aimed at pleasing the American audience, but was still successful none the less in Europe and all over the world. McCauley and Schenker parted ways in 1992
In 1991 Michael Schenker was part of a super group called Contraband, with Tracii Guns,of LA Guns, Share Pederson, of Vixen, Michael Schenker, Richard Black, and Bobby Blotzer, of Ratt. He also filled in for Ratt on their MTV performance unplugged, and also played a few live shows with them.
Reuniting with UFO
In 1995 Michael Schenker teamed up with the original members of UFO and recorded a new UFO album, of all new material called Walk on Water. It was the first UFO studio album in fifteen years, and if there was any doubt that these five guys made magic together, it was quickly put to rest with this recording. With the success of this venture with UFO Michael formed a new MSG group and released Written in the Sand, In 1996. In 1999 the Michael Schenker Group released The Unforgiven, and in the year 2000 Michael teamed up once again with UFO and they released Covenant. During this time he also recorded two live albums, 1997s The Michael Schenker Story Live, and 1999s The Unforgiven World Tour.
2000 and beyond
In early 2000 Michael Schenker fell on hard times, and almost lost everything, Bad mismanagement, and a failed marriage, nearly ruined the guitarist career, but he persevered, and he picked himself up, and carried on. He continued to work and recorded, Be Aware of Scorpions (2001), and Arachnophobiac (2003). In 2005 he recorded a covers album called, Heavy Hitters, with an all-star cast of musicians including, Leslie West, Tommy Shaw, Tim (Ripper) Owens, Sebastian Bach, and Edgar Winter. He also recorded two live albums of covers called the Schenker- Pattison summit, with Davey Pattison , titled The Endless Jam, and The Endless Jam Continues.
In 2008 Michael teamed up once again with Gary Barden, the first original vocalist on the first Michael Schenker albums, and recorded In The Midst Of Beauty. In 2011 he recorded his latest album Temple To Rock, a true hard Rock Schenker album, on the Temple To Rock tour, he is teaming up once again with Robin McCauley, which he formed the McCauley, Schenker group.
Michael Schenker continues to work, tour and produce recordings, and has for 40 years. He is one of the hardest working musicians out there, who truly loves what he does. I recently had the honor of seeing him live for the first time, and was not disappointed. He was as good as I thought he would be, and his technical ability on the guitar is phenomenal. If you’re an aspiring guitar player check out some of his work, especially his material with UFO, and early Michael Schenker albums with Gary Barden. While not world famous he is more of a guitar player's player, and has been a true influence of many guitar players today.