50 YEARS OF MUSIC
Paul Raymond’s professional career began in January 1964 as a jazz musician, but he went on to become best known as a member of British rock band UFO’s “classic” line-up alongside Phil Mogg, Michael Schenker, Andy Parker and Pete Way.
He kick-started his career at the tender age of 17 by putting an ad in the music papers, going to all the pubs that advertised live jazz and began sitting in on a few numbers with the older, more experienced musicians. He recalls:
“I started really improving that way, by playing with lots of different people. I met up with Dave Green who, to this day, is still playing jazz and who is possibly one of the top bass players in the country – he continues to play at high-profile jazz venues such as Ronnie Scott’s. Then I got invited to join a band called the Ian Bird Quintet. We ran our own jazz club at the Green Man in Blackheath every Sunday night. That was with John Heisman on drums and Tony Reeves on bass. They went on to form a band called Coliseum with the late Gary Moore. John Heisman also worked with John Mayall and Mick Taylor. That was when I really started to come on as a jazz player.”
His first band was a pop band called Plastic Penny, formed in 1967 with Brian Keith on vocals, Nigel Olsson on drums, Mick Grabham on guitar and Tony Murray on bass. They released 2 albums, “Two Sides of a Penny” and “Currency” and had a top-ten hit with a cover of the Box Tops’ song “Everything I Am” before splitting in late 1968 after appearing at the Isle of Wight Festival in August of that year. When he heard that Christine Perfect was leaving Chicken Shack to marry John McVie, he answered their ad in Melody Maker, and auditioned for her place. Nigel Olsson was kind enough to help him manhandle the Hammond organ to the audition and he was subsequently offered the job.
“I had to draw on my roots in jazz and blues again to make the transition from pop music, as Chicken Shack were 100% blues.”
Chicken Shack comprised of Stan Webb on guitar, Andy Silvester on bass and the late Dave Bidwell on drums, who died in 1977, but Paul considered him to be,
“Possibly the best blues drummer around, next to Mick Fleetwood.”
After recording the album “100 Ton Chicken” it was decided that the band should take a new direction, but the resulting album “Accept” was not successful and the band was dropped by their record company Blue Horizon. Paul left Chicken Shack and both Andy Silvester and Dave Bidwell followed on shortly afterwards to join him in blues band Savoy Brown filling the gap left by former members Dave Peverett, Tony Stevens and Roger Earl who had deserted guitarist Kim Simmonds to form the band Foghat. His tenure with Savoy Brown lasted from 1971-1976 encompassing 6 albums, including Street Corner Talking and Hellbound Train. During this period of relentless tour schedules and various line-up changes the band enjoyed major success in the USA, breaking into the Billboard Top 100 and playing prestigious venues such as Madison Square Garden.
“Then, one magical night in Saginaw, Michigan, during a tour of the States, I met Pete Way! We were playing on the same bill with UFO, who were opening the show, Nazareth were headlining and Savoy Brown were somewhere in the middle. Danny Peyronel was playing keyboards for UFO then, and after the show, Pete and I got talking. He said that they were looking to make a change in the line-up because Danny didn’t play guitar and they needed someone to play rhythm as well as keyboards to enhance their live sound, so asked me if I would be interested in joining the band”
When UFO returned to England, Paul took part in an official audition to see if he was a good “fit” with the other members of the band then they went straight to Germany to play some shows with Rainbow.
This particular incarnation of UFO is now referred to as the “Classic” line-up as it encompasses the period of time from 1977-1979 when the band was at the height of its success including studio albums Lights Out and Obsession and one of rock music’s iconic live double albums Strangers in the Night, all produced by the highly acclaimed Ron Nevison. The band had, by this time relocated to Los Angeles. Paul wrote songs on both Lights Out and Obsession, but due to a prior publishing deal, was unable to be credited for the song-writing.
“Then there was Strangers in the Night. That album kind of cemented our place in the rock hierarchy! It’s still regarded today as one of the best live Rock albums of all time and seems to have endured alongside the likes of Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous”
Guitarist Michael Schenker left the band during the mixing of Strangers in the Night album as he was not happy with the results:
“Michael thought his guitar sound was very thin and poorly recorded, and in retrospect I have to agree with him, but for me, the special thing about UFO is the sum of all the parts that make the whole thing work, the synergy between the musicians”
Guitarist Paul Chapman took on the unenviable task of filling Michael Schenker’s shoes and the band went on to record the album No Place to Run with legendary producer George Martin at Air Studios in Montserrat. The album performed well, reaching no.11 in the UK charts and no. 51 in the US Billboard but differences of opinion within the band were causing tensions and when Paul was offered the opportunity to join Michael Schenker’s new band MSG, he decided to make the move.
“I saw it as a wonderful career move. I wanted the opportunity to play with Cozy Powell and I adored Michael’s guitar playing – he was at the top of his game at the time, and he also had a great manager – Peter Mensch. I just thought it was the right time to make a change. Looking back, I’m not sorry that I did – it was a good couple of years. We toured with the first album, then recorded a second studio album, (the self-titled MSG) and toured some more, especially in Japan as the band was very popular over there. The live album One Night at Budokan came out of that.”
Paul was awarded 2 gold discs from EMI Japan in recognition of record sales for the albums MSG and One Night at Budokan and a silver disc from EMI UK for sales of MSG.
Following a non music-related altercation with Michael Schenker, Paul found himself “surplus to requirements” and set out to look for other suitable musical collaborations.
He spent a year working on a project with vocalist Terry Reid, using his own finances to help get the project off the ground, but no interest from record companies was forthcoming. During the same time frame, Pete Way who had also parted ways with UFO had secured a record deal with Chrysalis for his solo project, Waysted, and approached Paul to see if he would be interested in joining him. Paul recalls:
“It was a really tough decision for me to make; whether to keep going with Terry because at that time we still didn’t have a record deal, or go back and play with Pete again – the gut feeling at the time was that I should go with Pete. So I joined Waysted in 1983, but to this day I’m not sure I made the right decision, and still feel pretty bad that I left Terry in the lurch.”
Sometime in 1984, after the demise of Waysted, Paul was approached by Phil Mogg to see if he was interested in rejoining UFO as he wanted to put the band back on the road. It wasn’t the original band, Phil and Paul were the only former members, but they recruited ex-The Damned bass player, Paul Gray, ex-Magnum drummer Jim Simpson and American guitarist “Atomik Tommy” McLendon.
With the backing of staging company Light and Sound Design, who provided the PA system and an impressively large lighting rig, the band hit the road with new material and a video recording was released of the show in Oxford, UK entitled Misdemeanor. This sparked renewed interest from UFO’s original record company, Chrysalis and the resulting album also called Misdemeanor was released in 1985. It was a complete departure from UFO’s signature guitar-oriented sound, as midi keyboards and sequencers were the order of the day in the mid ‘80s.
The band toured for a couple of years but all was not well. The ongoing, well documented problems of over-indulgence in the band and lack of communication was causing relationships to get strained. Mid-way through a particularly gruelling US tour, Paul couldn’t take it anymore, he just snapped, and bailed out.
After moving to Japan with his Japanese girlfriend and starting a new life out there, he put together his own band the Paul Raymond Project which initially comprised of ex-Angel vocalist Frank DiMino, bassist Masayoshi Yamashita (ex Loudness)and guitarist Reibun Ohtani, (ex Marino). They recorded the 6-track mini album Under the Rising Sun in 1989 for Teichi Ku Records.
The obvious geographical distance between Frank and Paul meant that this line-up was not sustainable in the long-term and eventually Paul established a touring band in 1991 with singer Aki Fukasawa and went on to record some more songs which eventually became the album “Raw Material”.
“I have to say we had some very happy times in Japan, I met a lot of great people and actually made some good records too – got a lot of things off my chest, recorded stuff I hadn’t had a chance to record before and be boss and tell other guys what to play for a change! I really enjoyed myself. I did a couple of albums, Under the Rising Sun and Raw Material. We played around Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and other major cities, it was great. The singer Aki Fukasawa was crazy about Rod Stewart, he spoke good English and he had a really English sense of humour which was fun, guitarist Reibun Ohtani was also a good writer – it was a memorable time.”
In 1993 Paul once again got the call to come back to UFO, this time for a reunion of the classic line-up. Michael Schenker had come back and wanted to reform the band. Japanese record company Zero Corporation offered them a recording contract and the result was the album Walk on Water, produced by Ron Nevison in California. Initially the album was only released in Japan in 1995, but was subsequently repackaged and re-released worldwide in 1997. Paul did not contribute to the song writing on this album due to the death of his father in London at the time the album was being written. By the time he returned recording had already started.
The band started touring with ex-AC/DC drummer Simon Wright replacing Andy Parker on drums, as Andy had business commitments in the UK, but during a tour of the US, Michael Schenker once again quit the band. There was a period of downtime and then he came back begged forgiveness and asked if he could give it another shot. Manager, Bill Elson stepped in to take control of the business side of things and once again the band started touring.
Unfortunately, things again unravelled, this time at the Nakano Sun Plaza in Tokyo as Michael stormed off stage in the middle of a show in front of 3000 people. The concert was cancelled and the promoter was livid. Paul decided it was the end of the road for him too.
“I’ve never been able to work out the reason why he did what he did. It was so embarrassing, Pete and I had to go out on stage and apologize to the audience. The promoter had to refund all the ticket money and that was the end of it for me, I just didn’t want to do it anymore, it was unforgivable and unprofessional and it did the band’s reputation so much damage. It was a real low point.”
Frustrated by the whole UFO phenomenon, and by this time living back in the UK, Paul got together with a local guitarist Andy Simmons who played in a similar style to Michael Schenker. They began writing and recording music together over a period of months which became the Man on a Mission album.
Paul remarked that around this time ,he got disillusioned with rock music as it had changed, and a lot of the current music didn’t interest him. He found himself drifting back to the piano and jazz music – his first love. He made the bold decision to sell all his equipment and in 2001 became the resident pianist at a prestigious river-front hotel in central London, playing standards, jazz and popular music. (Later on, in 2003 Paul also played piano in the Gloucester Casino and in 2004, The Clermont Club, a casino in Berkeley Square, Mayfair)
“But as usual – the phone call came through; ‘would you like to come back to UFO, without Michael? We’ve got Jason Bonham on drums’! I thought, Wow! that sounds interesting. ‘plus Vinnie Moore, a hot American guitar player who has made an outstanding instrumental album, called Mind’s Eye’ and so I thought, yes! all right, let’s give it another go.”
Jason Bonham subsequently left the UFO fold to join Foreigner after recording albums You Are Here in 2003 and Showtime an album/DVD package in 2005. Original drummer Andy Parker returned after an absence of 11 years and recorded the 2007 release, Monkey
Puzzle. That album was unfortunately to become the last for original bass player Pete Way, who was suffering serious health problems due to well documented long-term use of drugs and alcohol. The band has continued without a permanent replacement, recording two further albums, The Visitor in 2009 and Seven Deadly in 2012 and regularly touring the UK, Europe and North America with occasional visits to Russia, Eastern Europe and South America.
Paul has continued to record with long-term friend and musician Andy Simmons, who is now relocated north of the border, releasing Virtual Insanity in 2008.
In 2013 he took his band Paul Raymond Project to the next level, performing 3 live shows in 2013 with Stampede’s vocalist Reuben Archer and guitarist Rob Wolverson, Mark Coles on bass, Neil Ablard on drums and backing singer Andy Dodds to support the release of his latest album Terms and Conditions Apply on Hear No Evil, a subsidiary of Cherry Red Records.
2014 sees Paul celebrating his 50th year as a professional musician. He will be recording a new album for UFO with producer Chris Tsangarides and plans to release some new material over the course of the year, reflecting his varied career.