40 Years Ago: UFO Take Their Eye off the Prize With ‘No Heavy Petting’
When British rockers UFO launched No Heavy Petting, in May 1976, their career was at last beginning to soar. But rather than pulling out all the stops in an effort to capitalize on this ascent, the band seemed instead to be coasting just a bit on this, their fifth studio album. But then, who could blame them for pausing to take one quick breath?
After all, following years of uncertainty and rather abject commercial failures, in which their early space rock albums had found precious few takers outside of Japan, UFO had impressively regrouped around the otherworldly talents of teenage German guitar god Michael Schenker, and turned their fortunes around with 1974’s Phenomenon and ‘75’s Force It.
Now they were understandably cautious about maintaining this successful status quo. So they reconvened at London’s Morgan Studios with returning producer Leo Lyons and efficiently worked up another batch of tight hard rockers ignited by incendiary Schenker solos (“Natural Thing,” “Reasons Love”), that must-have ballad (the sulky but effective “Belladonna”) and an equally mandatory reference to those abandoned space rock days (“Martian Landscape”), even if this was carried out in name only.
Even the album’s eventual cover art stuck to what had already worked – namely a typically strange image, once again crafted by those masters of abstract album covers, Hipgnosis, that showed a young lady and her pet monkey and was vaguely relevant to the No Heavy Petting title.
In fact, maybe the biggest novelty at hand was the installment of keyboard player Danny Peyronel (formerly of the Heavy Metal Kids), whose talents made an immediate impact via the flourishes heard on album highlight “I’m a Loser,” the high-velocity, Deep Purple-inspired attack on “Can You Roll Her,” and the boogie-woogie-piano driven “Highway Lady,” a song for which Peyronel received full songwriting credit.
Beyond these tracks, all that was left was a pair of relative filler tracks, the first being bassist Pete Way’s nearly comatose plod-fest, “On With the Action” and the second a throwaway cover of Frankie Miller’s “A Fool in Love” that suggested everyone involved had an urgent appointment at the local pub.
Tellingly, though it gave UFO plenty of ammunition to keep on building their fan base on tour, No Heavy Petting failed to match its predecessor’s sales and only barely scraped into U.S. Top 200, peaking at No. 167.
But, on the upside, this minor stumble also served as a wake up call because when the band next visited a studio in 1977, they came away armed with perhaps their greatest non-concert recording, Lights Out.
See UFO’s ‘Force It’ and Other Nude Album Covers