Accepted UFO wisdom says the band were at their peak with Michael Schenker in the line-up. But although the records were good, on the road the guitarist was notoriously erratic. After going AWOL in 1977 on the eve of a major US tour supporting Rush, and walking out for good in November 1978, the band recruited old buddy Paul Chapman [leading to the demise of Lone Star].
Hugely talented and reliable, the Welshman was exactly what UFO needed and with him everything went to another level. After a year of touring, Chapman and the band were revitalised and ready to make No Place To Run – which hit the streets in January 1980.
The cover shows the band, photographed by Hipgnosis at night beside a set of petrol pumps for no obvious reason, resplendent in turn-of-the-decade rock duds – ‘smart’ jackets, stretch jeans and white high-tops. The cover was available in a variety of sleeves, each with the shot tinted in a different colour. As Chapman’s broody instrumental opener Alpha Centauri gave way to the full-blooded rocker Lettin’ Go, it was immediately clear this was UFO at the height of their powers. It also marked a huge step up for them in the USA.
As Chapman recalls: “No Place To Run was the tour where everything changed around – we started headlining in America and it was one of the highest-charting albums the band had had over there. There was a real buzz around it. Lots of people today tell me it’s their favourite period of the band.”
The album was given a big budget with erstwhile Beatles producer George Martin hired by the band’s long-time label Chrysalis to produce a hit single – but trying to get UFO into that mindset was like nailing jelly to the ceiling. Far from his comfort zone with a hell- raising rock band, Martin’s best effort, Young Blood, just scraped into the UK Top 40 chart.
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But the album rose above all this and today is at least as good as Obsession – Schenker’s last studio effort with the band. Indeed, tracks such as This Fire Burns Tonight, Gone In The Night or the [probably] Springsteen-inspired title-track are strong enough to have been on Lights Out. Chapman recalls how, alongside great success, No Place To Run brought frustration, too…
“We were so busy touring. Our schedule was so full-on. We were trying to squeeze 15 months out of every year. “We weren’t getting rich. There are some horror stories – but we did spend too much money enjoying ourselves. We were our own worst enemies. But at the time you don’t think about 20 years down the road. If you could you’d be rich – but boring as shit!”