The space craft had landed. After half a century of hard rock, U.F.O. are touching down and hitting the self-destruct button – but not before one final flight of fancy.

With the band out on the road, extending last year’s 50th anniversary celebrations, the band’s frontman and only constant member Phil Mogg has confirmed that this will be his last. And the band will go with him.

The band, who took their name from the legendary London club in which they were spotted, sign off with one final tour which hits Oxford’s O2 Academy on Saturday.

“This decision has been a long time coming,” says Phil, who has played on all 22 of the band’s studio albums since 1968. “I’d considered stepping down at the end of UFO’s previous two tours.

“I don’t want to call this a farewell tour as I hate that word, but these gigs will represent my final tap-dancing appearances with the band.”

Phil adds: “2018 marked U.F.O.’s 50th anniversary, so the timing feels right. Being out on the road isn’t always tremendously luxurious and although the playing is as great as it ever was, the stuff that surrounds it becomes very tiresome.

“I always told myself that when I reached that stage I would step down, and that’s what I’m going to do. This is the right time for me to quit.”

Mogg turned 70 back in April and although his voice remains strong, he admits that age played its part in his conclusion.

“I’m a big reader of obituaries, and my finger always goes down to: ‘I wonder how old they were…’,” he chuckles. “The last few years have been tough, losing Lemmy was awful and I was sad that Jimmy Bain passed on a cruise ship. That distressed me quite a lot.”

While many veteran bands in such a position simply cease playing live and continue to record, U.F.O. will also stop releasing new music.

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Their 2015 album A Conspiracy Of Stars and last year’s covers collection The Salentino Cuts are set to become a signing-off point, though Phil insists he would have no problem with U.F.O. – keyboard player and guitarist Paul Raymond, guitarist Vinnie Moore, drummer Andy Parker and bassist Rob Le Luca – continuing with a replacement.

“For me, this is the end of my stint with U.F.O,” he clarifies. “This is a line in the sand. Maybe the best word to use is ‘bittersweet’. But My time has arrived and all that remains is to make sure that we have a good tour.”

* U.F.O. Last Orders tour is at the O2 Academy Oxford tomorrow (Saturday). Tickets from atgtickets.com