ufoWelcome to the latest musings from our resident classic rocker Self Made Man.

And this week the North East’s expert on all things denim and leather shares his love of music and sport.

Read Self Made Man’s exclusive column right here every week.

 

Growing up, January and February were always the two worst months of the year. Still are, in fact.

But what always kept me going back then was sport and music.

If Celtic won the Ne’erday Old Firm derby, then that made for a good start. And there was always the Five Nations (as it was back then) to look forward to and hopefully an Ireland Triple Crown.

And let’s not forget the FA Cup. Today’s managers just don’t realise that in a bleak winter, otherwise blighted by bills, overdrafts, cut-downs and ice, it was Cup results which kept you going.

Victory, even in the third or fourth round, would keep the hope-fires burning as you dreamed of warmer weather and Wembley.

Of course, that dream remained largely unfulfilled which meant in my youth, music was my fall-back pleasure.

And January always meant UFO. A new album and a concert.

UFO became one of my favourite bands in the late-70s when I borrowed a copy of the live classic Strangers In The Night, which, to this day, remains one of my most played albums.

It set in motion a New Year routine which was to last three or four years.

In January 1980, they released No Place To Run – their first Chrysalis album not featuring lead guitarist Michael Schenker, who was replaced by former Lone Star axeman Paul Chapman.

I recall my disappointment when Sounds gave NPTR just two stars despite legendary Beatles producer George Martin being the man on the mix.

But as the first UFO album I bought on day of release, it’s always been a record close to my heart.

That same month I saw UFO for the first time at Newcastle City Hall. It was probably only the third or fourth live gig I’d attended and naturally, it shot straight to No. 1 in my favourites’ list.

That’s despite some long-standing fans of the band giving Chapman a hard time for the crime of not being Schenker.

Now I’d agree no-one plays Rock Bottom quite like the German maestro but to my untrained ears, Chapman did a pretty good job that night and subsequent times I saw UFO in the mid-80s.

Twelve months later, they released The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent which rode high in the charts, was critically acclaimed and increased their popularity to the extent that they were now playing two or three sold out shows on successive nights around the UK.

Somehow my student grant (or perhaps it was a kind-hearted bank manager) afforded me the luxury of seeing them twice in 1981 and though, by now, I’d been to quite a few live gigs, these two remained high on my favourites’ list.

In January  1982, UFO ,released Mechanix, and 1/83 saw the disappointing Making Contact hit the shelves.

And they still toured in the first weeks of the year.

Even to an ardent fan like me, I realised they had, by now, lost their edge though the City Hall concert in 1982 was memorable for a quite bizarre incident.

Two-thirds of the way through the event, the power shut down – no sound, no lighting. Nothing. The auditoriium was plunged into darkness. And guess which song was playing at the time? Lights Out!

By the time UFO reformed in the late-90s with Schenker back in the fold, they still toured early in the year though this time, they visited the North East in February.

February 14 to be precise. Not the date a happily married man should go gigging with his mate but I did.

By 1999, however, Phil Mogg and co. had decided the summer would be a better time to tour. Only they’d forgotten to ask me first.

This time, they dropped into Newcastle on my wife’s birthday.

Fortunately, my marriage survived that gig only for UFO to next play up here on our wedding anniversary. I kid you not.

Why couldn’t they just have stuck with those January dates which were such an antidote for those post-Christmas blues?

Ian Murtagh