Former UFO bassist Pete Way dead at 69

Pete Way onstage
(Image credit: Gus Stewart / Getty Images)

Former UFO bassist Pete Way has died at the age of 69. 

The news was announced in a statement on his official Facebook page, which read, "Iconic bass player Pete Way founder of UFO, Waysted and, latterly, The Pete Way Band has died.

"He sustained life threatening injuries in an accident two months ago but fought hard until finally succumbing to those injuries at 11.35am BST today. His wife, Jenny, was at his side.

"Pete Way was a much loved and highly regarded figure among rock fans, critics and fellow musicians alike. Best known for his work with UFO, Pete’s energetic live performances were at the heart of the band’s countless world tours. His melodic bass lines underpinned the catalogue of enduring rock classics upon which UFO’s reputation and legacy were founded. 

"Pete’s post UFO work included collaborating with 'Fast' Eddie Clarke from Motörhead - the two putting together Fastway with Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley – and bassist for his long time friend, Ozzy Osbourne. He then put together his own band Waysted. 

"Pete’s keen ear for song arrangements have also seen him serve as producer for popular hard rock acts such as Twisted Sister and the Cockney Rejects. Pete had recently finished a solo album, Walking On The Edge with producer Mike Clink (Guns N' Roses' Appetite For Destruction amongst many more.) 

"He had a biography published A Fast Ride Out Of Here in 2017 and an album Amphetamine which is currently out on Cargo Records.

Pete is survived by two daughters, Zowie and Charlotte and his younger brother, Neill."

Way formed UFO with friends Phil Mogg, Andy Parker and Mick Bolton in 1968. He went on to play on the band's classic seventies albums, including Phenomenon, Force It, No Heavy Petting, Lights Out, Obsession, No Place to Run, The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent, and the legendary live album Strangers In The Night.   

He left the band in 1983 to form Fastway, but quickly abandoned the project to tour with Ozzy Osbourne on the Diary Of A Madman tour and form Waysted alongside UFO keyboardist and guitarist Paul Raymond, Fun Muir, Frank Noon and Ronnie Kayfield.

Waysted went in to release a number of albums, the most recent being The Harsh Reality in 2007. He also hooked up with his old UFO colleague Phil Mogg for two Mogg/Way albums, played with Michael Schenker, and released a trio of solo albums.

An inspiration to a generation of bassists – from Iron Maiden's Steve Harris to Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx – Way was almost as famous for his rock'n'roll lifestyle as he was for his abilities as a musician.   

"Nikki Sixx told me that I was his hero and how he used to watch me do this and that, and would copy me," Way wrote. "It was an odd feeling for me, being viewed as a kind of elder statesman and also to see Nikki get up to pretty much all of the things that I had done what seemed almost a lifetime earlier with UFO. I really am talking about as much excess, women, booze and drugs as one can possibly imagine."

Towards the end of his life Way frequently battled ill health, undergoing treatment for cancer after being diagnosed in 2013, and suffering a heart attack in 2016.

"I haven’t fully recovered from the prostate cancer," he told Classic Rock, a month after suffering the attack. "I had 11 tumours and the radiotherapy was intense. I’m not quite fully back from that, fully functioning, but it’s better. They say it takes two years to properly get over it.”

The following year he published A Fast Ride Out of Here: Confessions of Rock's Most Dangerous Man, written with Classic Rock writer Paul Rees.

“I haven’t tried to hide anything,” Way said. “I’ve kept nothing back. It’s all there. The full story. There’s no point in writing your biography and leaving stuff out. I’ve tried to be as honest as I can be."

Amongst the many musicians paying tribute to Way were Michael Schenker, who wrote, "Oh my Dear Pete
You have left us.
I am so sad.
Your sweet existence has left us. I am in tears.
You were more than you maybe knew.
You were loved by everyone I know.
I am so so very very sad.
I love you Pete.
God Bless You Forever.
Rest In Peace my Dear Friend.
My condolences to your loved ones.
From the depth of my heart.
Michael Schenker .xxx"

"p.s Fly away and enjoy Heaven"

Ozzy Osbourne said, "Such sad news about Pete Way. Haven’t seen him for years but will always have great memories and such unbelievable stories of what we’d get up to. Rest In Peace. Love & Respect to his Family, Friends and Fans."

Nikki Sixx wrote, "RIP Rockstar. One of my main influences. Gotta go listen to some UFO tonight. Pete Way RIP. It is with the greatest of sadness I post this. Of all the people I’ve known and toured with, in his day Pete was the most fun and he remained a good friend. Light’s Out In London really says it all."

Metallica's Kirk Hammett said, "Pete Way was a huge influence on me. He was uncompromising musically, and he was a great performer. He had a unique feel and wrote some of my all time fave songs." 

Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler said, "This year keeps getting worse. Pete Way, one of the “characters” of metal and fellow Aston Villa supporter has passed. He supported Deadland Ritual on the show in London. Very funny man. RIP Pete."

A tweet from the official Saxon account said, "We are saddened to hear the news of our friend Pete Ways passing this morning. Our condolences and thoughts are with Pete’s family & loved ones. Biff, Paul, Nigel, Nibbs & Doug."

Drummer Mike Portnoy tweeted, "So sad to hear of the passing of the legendary Pete Way. He was the prototype badass early metal bassist who surely inspired the likes of guys like Steve Harris and Nikki Sixx. UFO’s Strangers In The Night remains one of my favourite live albums of all time. RIP Pete Way."

Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello wrote, "Rest In Peace PeteWay. Great bassist and great rocker from the great band UFO, while Brian Wheat from Tesla posted, "I’m very sad today. My pal Pete Way has died. He was my hero when I was a kid I wanted to be just like him. To this day I still play my Gibson Thunderbird because of him. We became very good friends And every time I saw him he would always make me laugh. I’m glad I got to see him last year. RIP my dear friend Don’t chase to much trouble up there."

Arch Enemy and Spiritual Beggars guitarist Michael Amott tweeted, "Iconic bass player, and a true rock’n’roll madman by all accounts. I can highly recommend his autobiography “A fast ride out of here”, as well as all the great music he played & wrote on. They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore.... R.I.P. Pete Way."

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready, who plays in UFO tribute band Flight To Mars, said, "Sad to hear one of my favourite bass players, Pete Way from UFO died today. UFO's live album Strangers in The Night is one of the best and I’m grateful that record helped me grow up in music and as a guitar player." 

Producer Mike Clink said, "The world lost one of rock's most iconic bass players today and I lost a dear friend. Love ya Pete!", while Anthrax's Scott Ian simply wrote, "Goodnight legend. It was always a pleasure. RIP Pete Way."

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.