Me - Michael Schenker.
Numpty - Michael who?
Me - Michael Schenker - used to play guitar with UFO and Scorpions. Has a solo band called MSG.
Person with no taste - Oh, right. UFO? Not sure I’ve heard of them.
Me - Pffft.
Music is a strange and wonderful beast. We all have differing opinions, tastes and so on but when it comes to being able to play an instrument well, there is less room for dispute. You know when someone is a virtuoso, even when you’re not that keen on their chosen output. Michael Schenker is one such person.
Schenker’s guitar playing is breathtakingly good. The guy's been a professional musician since the age of 15 and is now well into his fifties. He’s had problems with alcohol, drugs and mental health. His private life has often been a shambles. But, at these two gigs, I witnessed a man on top of his game. Relaxed, effortless, note perfect. The canon of songs he can draw on includes some of the all time best classic rock tunes ever committed to tape (and it generally was tape back then). Doctor Doctor, Rock Bottom, Only You Can Rock Me and Into The Arena to name but four.
His heyday was the mid to late seventies, playing with UFO as a teenager, blowing audiences away as the band became a big noise on both sides of the Atlantic. But drink and drugs and crippling self-doubt drove him to bail out of UFO just as they were hitting their peak.
As I stood there, open mouthed in wonder at the musical genius only a matter of a few feet away, I became a little melancholic. Not for me but for him. Probably ridiculous, possibly a little patronising, but I found myself feeling kind of sorry for him. I got to thinking about the nature of talent and what it must be like to be so clearly gifted but be unable to convince more than a few hundred people to turn up and watch you play great songs, famous songs (in hard rock terms at least), incredibly well. To be playing pretty small venues in your fifties when in your teens you were wowing stadiums.
Of course, music is a job to this guy. Always has been. He earns his crust from it. In Schenker’s case, he blew most of it, then had the rest taken off him in a bitter divorce. He needs to play to pay his bills. All the same, it can’t be easy to maintain your self esteem or your motivation to play when you’re so criminally under-appreciated.
Aye well, in the end, I don’t suppose it matters. He seemed happy enough on stage, he’s clean and sober for the first time in years and the gigs were awesome.
Oh, and do yourself a favour. If you’re in any way a fan of quality rock music, check out the wee video I’ve attached here, and enjoy what I consider to be one of the best guitar solos ever. And, if he’s in town anytime soon, get out there and watch a true genius do his thing.