UFO Too Hot to Handle picture sleeve
UFO was formed in August 1969 by Phil Mogg (vocals), Mick Bolton (guitars), Pete Way (bass guitar), and Andy Parker (drums). They took their name from the London club where they were spotted by Noel Moore, who signed them to Beacon Records. At first they were a hard rock/blues boogie band; their eponymously-titled debut LP (“UFO 1”, released in 1970) exemplified this early phase in the band’s development. [It contained such tracks as a heavy version of the Eddie Cochran classic “C’mon Everybody”.] Both the debut album and its follow-up, “Flying” (1972), were successful in Japan and Germany, but fared poorly in the U.K. and America. The second album contained longer tracks, like the 26-minute long title track, and could be classified as a cross between heavy metal and space rock. With the departure of guitarist Mick Bolton in January 1972, however, the band decided to change directions. For a time Larry Wallis replaced Bolton, and so did Bernie Mardsen. In June 1973, however, they recruited Michael Schenker of The Scorpions, and the band adopted a harder-edged sound. They switched to Chrysalis Records, which released their third studio LP, “Phenomenon” (1974). This album did not prove to be their breakthrough album in either the U.S. or U.K., but it did produce many fan favorites. Subsequent LPs “Force It” (1975) and “No Heavy Petting” (1976) increased their profile in America, and by now UFO was a success in the U.K. Keyboardist Denny Peyronnel was added to the lineup for “No Heavy Petting”, but he left the band in 1976. They replaced him with keyboardist and second guitarist Paul Raymond. This lineup of Mogg/Schenker/Raymond/Parker recorded “Lights Out” (1977), which is considered by many critics to be their magnum opus. It also contains today’s featured single: “Too Hot to Handle” b/w “Electric Phase”.
“Lights Out” is such a great album that Chrysalis could have selected any 2 songs from the album at random and they would have had a single worthy of inclusion in this blog. But I think that the selection of “Too Hot to Handle” and “Electric Phase” for the single was particularly inspired. There are a total of 8 tracks on the LP, and “Too Hot To Handle” is the first track. It’s also the second shortest track on the album (clocking in at 3 minutes and 37 seconds), and it’s unusually economical for a UFO tune. We get a relatively simple, catchy riff (E/Esus4/E/A/Asus4/A/D/g/E), and some testosterone-driven lyrics (“Wink of an eye, the feelings ran high/A real rock and roll molest/But I ain’t no romance/And I ain’t no slow chance/Wont get no quick change”). The three-guitar attack works well on the song, and while it’s structure is not atypical for a pop song, there’s still ample opportunity for Schenker to strut his stuff, especially during the instrumental break that starts 1 minute and 30 seconds into the track and continues for about 45 seconds. The Way/Parker rhythm section really clicks on this track, especially Parker, whose drumming provides a solid backbone to the track, including the inspired use of a cowbell. It’s an appropriate song to lead off the album, since it’s not only the single and a much more pop-ish, catchy tune than anything else on the LP, but in addition it sounds like an opening gambit that whets the listener’s appetite more than anything else.
The B-side of the single, “Electric Phase”, on the other hand, rather than being the short, catchy song that “Too Hot To Handle” is, has the feel of an extended jam (even though the running time of the song is a relatively modest 4 minutes and 20 seconds). The way it’s built around a monotonous, hypnotic riff and a much heavier guitar sound than the A-side, and the 47-second instrumental break that seems to be a journey to nowhere in particular distinguishes it from the more radio-friendly songs off the album like “Too Hot to Handle” and the title track (even so, it’s not that intimidating compared to some of their longer tracks). The lyrical content is much more ponderous: “On the wires I can hear you comin’ /With a rush and a strummin’/This electric phase ain’t no teenage craze/In your house a phone is ringin’/Just a hot touch that keeps lingerin’/You said loving’s easy only if you please.” “Electric phase” seems to refer to the song’s protagonist’s excitement at hearing his significant other on the phone; the analogy is an interesting one, if not entirely original (e.g. “Shock Me” by Kiss, released the same year). The song reminds me of other rockers with hypnotic melodies, like “Round And Round” by Aerosmith (also a B-side). In the context of the LP, it’s a welcome change of pace from the more subdued “Alone Again Or”, which precedes it, and dovetails nicely with the more epic “Love to Love”, which closes out the album. Schenker’s axemanship is creditable, is it is throughout the album, and Mogg’s vocals are particularly inspired, in my opinion.
The single (catalog #: CHS 2157) was issued by Chrysalis Records with a picture sleeve. We get the song title in big letters, above the UFO logo. As the picture shows, the original release of this single was on colored vinyl (red). The label is puke-green in color, with the track listing across the top and the Chrysalis logo across the bottom.
UFO performing Too Hot to Handle live
UFO performing Electric Phase live in 1998