Michael Schenker’s musical journey has been a tapestry woven with threads of legendary bands like Scorpions and UFO, leading to the establishment of his eponymous group. Despite the countless twists and turns, a pivotal crossroads emerged when Ozzy Osbourne beckoned after the tragic passing of guitarist Randy Rhoads. In an expansive interview with Classic Rock, Schenker unravels the layers of his decision-making process during this critical juncture in his career.
At the time of Ozzy’s call, Schenker was navigating the intricate landscape of the Michael Schenker Group’s sophomore album. The creative energies were flowing as he and Gary penned compelling tunes at John Henry’s rehearsal studio in London.
However, the studio environment proved to be a whirlwind, with the swift progression from recording a live album, “One Night At Budokan” (1982), to the unexpected addition of Graham Bonnett to the lineup. Amidst this chaos, the phone rang, and Ozzy Osbourne, in the aftermath of Rhoads’ plane crash, sought Schenker’s expertise.
Recalling the moment, Schenker reflects on the conflicting emotions that surged within him. The prospect of joining Sabbath was tempting, with vivid images of Ozzy dragging him across the stage, yet an inner voice urged him to “follow his vision.”
Having left UFO and Scorpions to escape the trappings of fame and seek freedom, Schenker deemed it impractical to embrace Ozzy’s proposition. Despite Ozzy’s belief that Schenker was the perfect successor to Rhoads, the timing was off, as the Michael Schenker Group was already engrossed in rehearsals for the “Assault Attack” album with Bonnett.
However, Schenker’s method of declining the Ozzy gig was unconventional. Recognizing the difficulty of passing up such an opportunity, he adopted a strategy of making outrageous demands. As mentioned in Ozzy’s book, “I Am Ozzy,” Schenker did indeed request a private jet, but his intention was not to secure luxurious demands; it was a deliberate ploy to be turned down.
Interestingly, the Ozzy Osbourne offer wasn’t the only prominent opportunity Schenker turned down. In 1979, he declined offers from both Thin Lizzy and Aerosmith. His friendship with Phil Lynott did not sway him towards joining Thin Lizzy, and despite rehearsing with Aerosmith’s Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton, the specter of Steven Tyler’s hospitalization led to a swift exit from the scene.
Additionally, Lemmy Kilmister once extended an invitation to Schenker to join the original Motorhead lineup, a proposition that Schenker dismissed without auditioning, deeming it incompatible with his musical vision.
In the symphony of Michael Schenker’s career, these untaken paths remain as intriguing notes, adding depth to the narrative of a guitarist who carved his own unique journey through the annals of rock history.