By: Steve Schneider
January 22, 2024

One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of metal records from the Eighties (1984–1993, in our periodization schema). Series edited by Heather Quinlan. Also check out our MÖSH YOUR ENTHUSIASM playlist at Spotify.



British melodic-rock stalwarts UFO failed to capitalize on the commercial-metal renaissance of the ’80s, largely because the last of substance-addled singer Phil Mogg’s truly consequential bandmates had publicly walked away from him just three years into the decade. On their way out the door, guitarist Paul Chapman, keyboardist Neil Carter and drummer Andy Parker helped Mogg deliver the swan song LP Making Contact — which, while hardly the best-sounding record in their repertoire, included a handful of tracks that reinforced their reputation within the genre for musical and emotional nuance. One, the Mogg/Carter co-written “Diesel in the Dust,” ably furthered the fascination with seedy yet poignant slice-of-life stories the singer/lyricist had indulged, poring over magazines and staring out bus windows while traveling the endless American touring road.

It’s a story of small-town terror and retribution, allegedly inspired by the story of murdered Skidmore, Mo. bully Ken Rex McElroy (profiled in the book and TV movie In Broad Daylight). McElroy was reportedly a multiple assaulter, rapist and thief whose execution by a fed-up populace bothered exactly nobody, but in Mogg’s retelling of the tale — with the lead character rechristened “Ted McKinley,” one suspects largely for reasons of meter — the concepts of justice and guilt remain tantalizingly ambivalent.

Rising from the fadeout of thoroughly serviceable album opener “Blinded by a Lie,” “Diesel in the Dust” announces itself with a throbbing, insistent bassline that’s soon joined by a ricocheting guitar riff. Then Mogg joins in, setting the scene in a town where “you don’t make a man mad” and daddies teach their sons “you only shoot to kill.” In this place, it’s clear that heroes and villains can be difficult to distinguish.

The arrival of the first chorus abruptly shuttles the narrative forward, Christopher Nolan-style, placing us at the scene of the supposed nuisance’s murder:

Ted McKinley’s dying
At the wheel of his truck
The engine running ’til it seized up
And nobody heard a thing
Not a shout or gunshot ring
Just a smell of diesel in the dust

Verse two is more backstory, teaching us that Ted “wouldn’t back down from any man alive” but that “you need to, if you’re to survive.” The alternative, we’re told, is death at the hands of citizen vigilantes who are all too willing to impose “their own kind of law.”

Chorus two repeats the murder scenario, followed by a mournful guitar interlude that sounds more thought-out than most (a crucial seven-note figure is doubled by the bass and the drums).

The final verse depicts the aftermath of the ugly incident, with the town preacher bowing his head, “glad that [Ted] was dead,” and advising the co-conspirators it would be “better the least that was said.” Seven years before Warrant’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” we’re shown the futility of protesting surreptitiously sanctioned violence — rare cases of metal finding power in powerlessness.

Mogg, though, isn’t the sort who cottons to being told to shut up. He repeats the chorus yet again, reminding us of what he “saw” and knows to be true. But this time, he adds a couplet that makes us question who’s really to blame, and for what:

In this town, there was a man out on his own
With no account of how he stood alone

The track fades out on the same riff that inaugurated it, with overdubbed lead-guitar lines echoing over the top in an eerie elegy.

Ken McElroy’s death remains officially unsolved. Phil Mogg suffered a heart attack and mini-stroke in August 2022. Plans for a UFO farewell tour remain on indefinite hold.


MÖSH YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Heather Quinlan | Crockett Doob on Metallica’s ENTER SANDMAN | Dean Haspiel on Mötley Crüe’s HOME SWEET HOME | Jack Silbert on Poison’s TALK DIRTY TO ME | Adam McGovern on Dio’s INVISIBLE | Mariane Cara on Faith No More’s EPIC | Heather Quinlan on Blue Öyster Cult’s SHOOTING SHARK | Steve Schneider on UFO’s DIESEL IN THE DUST | Carlo Rotella on Primus’ JERRY WAS A RACE CAR DRIVER | Erik Davis on St. Vitus’ BORN TOO LATE | Greg Rowland on Motörhead’s ACE OF SPADES (remix) | Kathy Biehl on Twisted Sister’s WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT | Nikhil Singh on G.I.S.M.’s GAS BURNER PANIC | Erin M. Routson on Metallica’s ESCAPE | Holly Interlandi on Helmet’s MILQUETOAST | Marc Weidenbaum on Celtic Frost’s I WON’T DANCE (THE ELDERS’ ORIENT) | Amy Keyishian on Living Colour’s CULT OF PERSONALITY | Josh Glenn on Scorpions’ STILL LOVING YOU | Alycia Chillemi on Danzig’s SOUL ON FIRE | James Parker on Godflesh’s CHRISTBAIT RISING | Miranda Mellis on The Afflicted’s HERE COME THE COPS | Rene Rosa on Type O Negative’s BLACK NO. 1 | Tony Leone on Slayer’s SOUTH OF HEAVEN | Christopher Cannon on Neurosis’s LOST | Brian Berger on Black Sabbath’s HEADLESS CROSS | MÖSH CONTEST-WINNING ENTRY: Tony Pacitti on Metallica’s THE CALL OF KTULU. PLUS: CONTEST RUNNER-UP: James Scott Maloy on Accept’s MIDNIGHT MOVER.




Enthusiasms, Music