Death by Power Ballad: McAuley Schenker Group, “Anytime”

When last we left Michael Schenker, he was totally shredding through the last 40 seconds of UFO’s majestic power ballad, “Try Me.” Mikey hung around the band for another year or so before leaving in 1978 to rejoin brother Rudy in the Scorpions. That, too, lasted a year or so before he left again, this time to form his own band, the imaginatively named Michael Schenker Group, the moniker under which he would rape, pillage, and drink his way through arena tours here and abroad for a number of years. Three decent studio records and a very cool live album brought Schenker some middling chart success in the very early 80s, but nothing could touch the power and finesse of the peak UFO material.

By the end of the decade, Schenker’s desire for chart success could be measured in the length of the hair extensions he wore, apparently to keep up with new vocalist Robin McAuley, whose semi-artificial mane was prominently featured on the cover of the first album released under the name McAuley Schenker Group, 1987’s Perfect Timing. McAuley had been in a band called Grand Prix, as well as the evil Frank Farian-produced hydra known as the Far Corporation (who had the stones to cover “Stairway to Heaven”—poorly—as their first single). How he hooked up with Schenker is a closely kept secret (probably involving an international banking conspiracy and at least one case of Johnny Walker Black), but those who appreciate the power ballad arts remain thankful.

The band’s 1989 follow-up record, Save Yourself, yielded an actual quasi-hit single (#69 Hot 100, #5 Mainstream Rock) in “Anytime,” a plea for reconciliation, understanding, and maybe even graphic bondage, wrapped in a warm blanket of melodic rock production.

The keyboard and picked acoustic guitar intro immediately brings to mind Def Leppard’s “Foolin’,” so much so one might wonder if some copyright-infringing skullduggery might be afoot. Certainly if a recording is capable of filling one’s listening room with dry ice fumes, either song fits the bill. As soon as McAuley opens his mouth, though, the clouds dramatically part. “Blow a kiss from your hand,” he sings, “I’ll catch it before it hits the ground.” Of course, everyone knows blown kisses are not bound by the rules of gravity (I’ve seen the ceiling of many a bar covered in ‘em), but no matter. It’s what happens next that warms the cockles and sub-cockular areas of my heart. The drums and muted power chords kick in, and the song really begins to move.

I’m so scared—there’s something wrong
I hid you in the corner of my empty room
Never really cared till now
Not standing in the corner for me anymore
You’ve done your time
Pass your sentence and I’ll pass mine
And when my time is through can I still come home to you

This, it need not be said, makes no sense. There might be bondage afoot—hiding his beloved in the corner, then noting she’s gone (escaped? Uttered the safe word?), having done her time. But yet they’re passing sentences on one another, with the possibility that he might not be able to come home to her anymore, which he definitely wants to be able to do. Were it not for the fact that McAuley makes this plea sound like the mightiest declaration ever uttered from an arena stage, we’d probably find the whole thing rather humorous.

Things get a little … um … uncomfortable in the second verse.

I know I caused you so much pain
I promise that I’ll never hurt you again
Even though the scars remain
With a little time I know we can win
Can’t stop this fire
Lost control over my desire
Still it burns for you like it always used to do

What went on in the corner of McAuley’s empty room must have been harrowing, involving burning, scarring, and lots of pain. Jesus—is this guy admitting this in a song? That will be heard by millions? Our sympathy for the woman is absolute. Police must be summoned, investigations launched, body fluid samples taken. Robin McAuley has made a mess. And Michael Schenker is just as much to blame; each one of these verses of admission is punctuated by brief, atmospheric guitar notes, providing counterpoint to the confession. Perhaps Schenker was even in the opposite corner of the empty room; perhaps he likes to watch, the sick bastard.

But charges will not be pressed. Why? Because Robin McAuley is one charming motherfucker. Just listen to the chorus:

Anytime, anytime you want me
Anytime, anytime you’re lonely
You just have to call, because you know I’ll be there
Anytime, anytime you need me
Anytime, anytime maybe you’re dreaming
Waking up all alone, your heart is screaming

When she awakens from her nightmares of her treatment in the corner of his lonely room, Robin will be there to comfort her. To sing to her. To tickle her nose playfully with his hair extensions. To be there for her. Always. Anytime she wants or needs him. How could she love anyone else? That, my friends, is called co-dependency. It’s also called a classic power ballad.

These days, Schenker rejoins and breaks up with UFO on the occasional basis, all the while releasing solo albums at a frightening and creatively unsustainable pace. McAuley released a fine solo record (Business As Usual) in 2001, and has in the last several years joined that record’s producer, Frankie Sullivan, in Survivor, attempting to convince state fair and amusement park amphitheater audiences that he’s really Jimi Jamison, anytime they want to hear him play.

Bonus: Here’s an acoustic version of “Anytime.” Enjoy.

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  • http://www.longpauses.com/blog Darren

    The first big rock show I ever attended was Rush's Hold Your Fire tour (1987). Still, whenever I see the words “McAuley Schenker Group” I remember the awkward moment in their opening set when McAuley stepped up to the mic and squealed, a la Spinal Tap, “Hello Washington DC! Are you ready to rock?” If there'd been a cricket at the Capital Centre that night, I would've heard it.

  • iblametheparent

    Being very old there is a chance I'm somewhere in a Grand Prix video. Strangely it was shot in Heaven. Uneasy bedfellows as I recall. Must check on Youtube.

  • EightE1

    LOL. Thanks for sharing that. Something similar happened to me that same year, when Dokken opened for Aerosmith at the old Hersheypark Arena. At one point early in the set, Don Dokken yelled, “Are you ready for a rock and roll party tonight?” and was met with indifference, to put it kindly. To be fair to Donnie-Boy, though, the crowd at that time was enveloped in an enormous cloud of pot smoke, so they probably had no idea it was him.

    Rob
    EightE1

  • Pingback: McAuley/Schenker “Anytime (Acoustic Version)…Plus The Original « Rock God Cred

  • slappyfrog

    I've been a fan of Schenker from UFO to Scorpions to the various permutations of MSG and I think Robin McAuley is by far the best vocalist he's ever had.

    ^lays self open to criticism^

  • EightE1

    I think McAuley is the best he's had for MSG, but my I'm a Phil Mogg guy (even though, as Reader Jane pointed out a couple weeks ago, he resembles John Oliver from The Daily Show). Mogg's got that swagger and soul to spare, even today. McAuley, though, was the right guy for the late-80s MSG; that upper-register vocal style fit the music Schenker was coming up with then. And he certainly had the hair for the job. :^)

    Thanks for the comment.

    Rob
    EightE1

  • slappyfrog

    Hey Rob,

    I think you are on to something with the 'era' thing…late 80s MSG was the heart of my high school years. No disrespect to Mogg or any of the rest, but the UFO stuff was kinda like a history lesson and the Gary Barden stuff just didn't do it for me (Barden reminded me of the various vocalist Malmsteen had, the guys who never entirely seemed to mesh with the sound and/or seemed to predominantly be in the band because they were serviceable but wouldn't outshine the guitar player) even though those are arguably the better songs (Armed and Ready, etc.).

    It's kind of like my theory on Guy Ritchie movies: Which ever one you see first is the one you like more…I saw 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' first and think it is better than 'Snatch' but every one I know who saw 'Snatch' first think it is better.

    So, since McAuley was my primary exposure to MSG maybe that's why I think he is best.

  • Noah

    How ODD is this? I randomly heard this song on the XM Hair Nation station the day after this article and I really dug it (had no idea it was about physically torturing your girlfried although not as blatant as the Nirvana song about a tied up girl I guess).

    I was having a hard time finding the mp3 to purchase and bumped into this article that oddly enough is dated ONE day before I heard the song! It's pretty weird to see an article written about a 1989 song I heard for the 1st time in the same week no?

    To see proof, click here:

    http://www.dogstarradio.com/search_playlist.php

    23 Michael Schenker Anytime 6/9/2009 4:32:34 PM

    Btw, the song they did that I DO remember well is “WHEN I'M GONE”…..that was a killer tune!

    Noah

  • Noah

    How ODD is this? I randomly heard this song on the XM Hair Nation station the day after this article and I really dug it (had no idea it was about physically torturing your girlfried although not as blatant as the Nirvana song about a tied up girl I guess).

    I was having a hard time finding the mp3 to purchase and bumped into this article that oddly enough is dated ONE day before I heard the song! It's pretty weird to see an article written about a 1989 song I heard for the 1st time in the same week no?

    To see proof, click here:

    http://www.dogstarradio.com/search_playlist.php

    23 Michael Schenker Anytime 6/9/2009 4:32:34 PM

    Btw, the song they did that I DO remember well is “WHEN I'M GONE”…..that was a killer tune!

    Noah

  • Noah

    How ODD is this? I randomly heard this song on the XM Hair Nation station the day after this article and I really dug it (had no idea it was about physically torturing your girlfried although not as blatant as the Nirvana song about a tied up girl I guess).

    I was having a hard time finding the mp3 to purchase and bumped into this article that oddly enough is dated ONE day before I heard the song! It's pretty weird to see an article written about a 1989 song I heard for the 1st time in the same week no?

    To see proof, click here:

    http://www.dogstarradio.com/search_playlist.php

    23 Michael Schenker Anytime 6/9/2009 4:32:34 PM

    Btw, the song they did that I DO remember well is “WHEN I'M GONE”…..that was a killer tune!

    Noah

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