Paul O’Neill was not a household name, but the music he created is loved by millions. He was best known as the founder of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a band that combines hard and progressive rock along with traditional Christmas music and classical works. Their elaborate stage show has sold-out countless venues and the band has donated over $10 million to local and national charities. Many of their songs have become Christmas classics, and all of this was Paul O’Neill’s vision. I first met him back in the early 80s when he worked at Leber-Krebs, who at the time managed many rock heavyweights including AC/DC, Aerosmith, Scorpions and Joan Jett. I later worked for him when he started producing and co-managing Savatage and Badlands.
The announcement about his death broke a week before and it hit me like a kick in the stomach. Although I lost contact with Paul over the years, I always admired his talent, passion, and enthusiasm. I remember him as quite the madman, but I think most geniuses have a bit of lunacy in them. Plus he had a heart of gold and was very generous and kind. Paul’s cause of death has not been confirmed, yet it was noted that he had a chronic illness, and the future of TSO has yet to be determined.
The band recorded the concept album “Dead Winter Dead” in 1995; a story about a Serb boy and Muslim girl who fall in love during the Bosnian War. Paul and Savatage frontman Jon Oliva wrote the album together, and it included "Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)", a track which later became one of TSO’s best known songs.
Paul also helped Badlands find their sound. As well as producing their debut album, he helped Jake E. Lee and Ray Gillan form the band and co-wrote most of the tracks.
The set ended with “Madness of Men from the last Trans-Siberian Orchestra album “Letters From The Labyrinth”, a track based on a Beethoven piece.
As noted, Phil Mogg’s 69th birthday gave me good reason to play some of my favorite UFO songs. He is now the only original member of the band left and the only member to appear on all 22 studio albums.
Phil formed the band in 1969 with bassist Pete Way, guitarist Mick Bolton and drummer Andy Parker. Their first albums were described as space rock, which was popular back then, but they decided to move forward with a hard rock sound. They recruited Scorpions guitarist Michael Schenker in 1973 and the rest is history. I kicked off the set with “Only You Can Rock Me”; the first track I heard by UFO and the one which made me a life-long fan.
“Serenade” is from their 2000 release “Covenant”, an album which remains special for me as it is the UFO album I was hired to help promote as their publicist. Getting the job was a little surreal; Despite the fact Id had decades of experience within the music industry, I felt a bit intimidated when I had call their home phone numbers to introduce myself. After all, I grew up with these guys on my bedroom wall. There was the chance I'd end the job hating the band if they gave me a hard time, but I walked away with an even deeper respect and love for them. Phil, Pete and Michael were incredibility professional and a pleasure to work with.
Fastway - Say What You Will
Warrant - Devil Dancer
Volbeat - My Body
Life Of Agony - A Place Where There's No More Pain
Savatage When the Crowds Are Gone
Badlands Dreams In The Dark
Savatage Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)
Trans-Siberian Orchestra Madness Of Men
Anthrax Carry On My Wayward Son
Black Star Riders - When The Night Comes In
Iron Maiden - Doctor Doctor
UFO - Only You Can Rock Me
UFO - Electric Phase
UFO - We Belong To The Night
UFO - Serenade
UFO - Knock Knock
Mogg-Way - Jerusalem
Metallica - Creeping Death
Helloween - Judas
Queensryche - Heaven On Their Minds
Yngwie Malmsteen - Crown Of Thorns
Yngwie Malmsteen - Judas
UFO - Lights Out '95