The Eighties was very different from today. All the energy came from MTV. Once MTV broke you to the masses, radio then took over and promoted you. The labels priority shifted. A&R and allowing an artist to build a fan base was gone. In its place came the search for that elusive hit.
We all knew who Michael Schenker was from his time in UFO and Scorpions, but none of us could name his MSG tunes correctly.
Because we didn’t own the albums. He wasn’t on MTV and there was no Spotify, no YouTube, no BitTorrent, no internet where we could go and look up his MSG output. Radio in Australia never played MSG. So basically if you didn’t own his albums or know someone who did, it’s like he didn’t even exist. But he was all over the guitar magazines. That is how I came across him.
Was his coverage based on his past glories with UFO more than his MSG career. Or was it due to the emergence of shredders in the Eighties who credited Michael Schenker as an influence.
The first album came out in 1980 and it stiffs in the major U.S market. Japan is another story for Schenker where his popularity has remained high.
The second album came out in 1981 and it did nothing as well. Something had to change. Someone had to be blamed. So original singer Gary Barden was fired in 1982. Graham Bonnet fresh from his stint in Rainbow was hired. Album number 3 came out the same year (along with the Live at The Budokan album) and again, it did nothing. Bonnet was fired and Barden was back in for the tour. Album number 4 came out in 1983 and a live album followed in 1984. Again nothing. Barden departed again.
So Michael Schenker changed direction. He pushed aside his unique fusion of blues/rock combined with European classical music that morphed into Euro Metal and embraced the commercial hard rock sound that MTV was promoting. “Perfect Timing” was released in 1987 by the McAuley Schenker Group. It was three years in development and it cost a lot of money. Andy Johns (an expensive producer) was on hand to produce. That appointment cost money. Even more money was spent on the marketing, the MTV video clips and the glammed up look.
And suddenly Michael Schenker wasn’t what he was presented as originally. Rather than the blues rock euro metal slinger, he was just another faceless guitarist playing mediocre riffs and solos to suit a video format all in the search of that crossover hit, that one song that could turn a mediocre album into a Platinum seller. After three albums, Schenker and McAuley parted company.
And when Michael Schenker returned to who he was, his own style, very few people noticed. There was enough interested to keep him on the road, but not enough to bring him back to prominence.
Schenker is a musician, unlike so many of today’s stars. He really could play the guitar, he did have roots and he did have a style. He inspired a whole school of 80’s guitarists. And like the classic bluesmen who preceded him, Schenker had his ups and downs. But he stuck with it. He delivered for those who cared. Even though he is too often overlooked, he is still working.
The truth is every career is unique and Michael Schenker is a product of the records era. A soldier in the rock and roll army when only the best and the brightest were signed up.