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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Rob Smith
Rob Smith is a writer, teacher, wage earner, and all-around evil genius who spends most of his time holed up in his cluttered compound in central PA. His favorite color is ultramarine blue. His imaginary band Mr. Vertigo tours every summer. You can follow Rob on Twitter, if you desire.