The legends of classic hard rock, URIAH HEEP are coming to Greece to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their music career with a three-hour show for the first time in the band’s history, with concerts in Thessaloniki on 14th of December 2022 and in Athens on 15th of December 2022! Seems like a great opportunity to dig deeper and pay a tribute to this gigantic, in all aspects, band.
During their astounding career, they have released countless studio and live albums (twenty-four studio albums of original material, twenty live albums and forty-one compilation albums to be exact), sold over 45 million records worldwide, and played over 4,000 epic concerts in 60 countries. Such dedication to art, unchanging style and enthusiasm secured the band’s status as founders of hard rock and allowed their music to perpetuate in the hearts of loyal rock fans of the 70s. Pioneers of hard rock, heavy metal and progressive rock genres, they were as well inducted into the Hall of Heavy Metal History on Jun 26, 2019.
WHAT ARE WE CELEBRATING?
55 years after the band’s inception, the sun seems to be shining down upon Uriah Heep. Apart from Sabbs I don’t think there’s another band born in 1969 that has stayed as engaged with their fans as Heep. For Mick Box, music has never been a competition. Him and the band keep spreading their messages of positivity all over the world and gaining new fans along the way. Their songs and music have stood the test of time. And time, ooh time yes, knows well.
It was 1965, when Mick and his cousin David joined a band named “The Stalkers”. Though this band didn’t last long. Already in 1967, the duo formed another band called “Spice”, later on changed its name to Uriah Heep. Band’s name is after a fictional character created by Charles Dickens, in his 1850 novel David Copperfield. This character is notable for his cloying humility, unctuousness, obsequiousness, and insincerity, making frequent references to his own “‘umbleness”. Let’s say it’s a synonymous with sycophancy. According to Dave Ling’s 2001 autobiography of the band, Wizards and Demons, The Uriah Heep Story, though the “Uriah Heep” moniker was chosen in December 1969, the band continued to play gigs as “Spice” until Ken Hensley joined in February 1970.
50 years after the release of “Demons and Wizards” (May 1972) and “The Magician’s Birthday” (November 1972).
Both albums are monumental. At the time, Iain Clark was replaced by Lee Kerslake, and Gary Thain, a then member of Keef Hartley Band, joined also as a permanent member in February 1972. As a result, “Demons and Wizards” with top-notch tracks “Rainbow Demon” and “The Wizard” came with thematic links related to fantasy world, and with an overall more straightforward, hard-rocking approach as we can tell from “Easy Livin” (ranking no. 39 on the Billboard Hot 100 at the time). Hensley’s note though on the sleeve declared that the album was “…just a collection of our songs that we had a good time recording.” Well, it was far beyond that! They created another chapter of music history. Even Randy Rhoads was a big fan of this album, and this became more than obvious when he came up with the idea of a riff that evolved to “Diary of a Madman.”
On an interview of his, Box is being questioned on if he had any idea on how “Easy Livin’” managed to break on U.S. radio and become a mainstream hit when it was very heavy sounding for the time. “If I had the answer, I’d write another one tonight,” he laughed. “There is no rhyme or reason, but sometimes a piece of music takes on a life of its own and has worldly appeal. “Easy Livin’’ took us on to the world stage and is partly responsible for why, even to this day, we play concerts in 61 countries,” Box said. “We are very grateful for the success that song had in the U.S., and, of course, with it being played on the radio everywhere, along with the overall success of Demons and Wizards, it took us into stadiums throughout the country.”
Six months later, the band came up with its fifth studio album “The Magician’s Birthday”, rushed before the end of the year. Although the 2 albums are often seen as a classic pair for their fantasy themes, Roger Dean covers, and legendary tracks, the latter would not be as successful as Demons. Nevertheless, David astonishes one more time with “Sunrise”, giving spectacular as well live performances. As Hensley admitted some years later “David was the communication point, the focal point of the whole group’s stage presentation. He had so much charisma, so much ability.” Hensley on the other hand too developed into a sophisticated instrumentalist and stage persona, whose writing and keyboard flair ignited the rest of the band. Since there was no time for a proper concept album, several conflicting ideas made it into the titular song, making it a genuine prog-long track – a “harrowing, nightmarish epos” (Martin Popoff) ten minutes in length. The most amusing episode here is the oddball birthday song for the Magician – complete with weird singing (into resonating piano strings), a kazoo solo (by drummer Lee Kerslake) and a falsetto choir. The band was having fun experimenting – when you don’t have any songs worked out, spontaneous creativity is the name of the game. “Magician” song was mainly written by keyboardist Ken Hensley, and the lyrics were based on a fantasy novel of his.
As one of the earliest groups to fuse progressive rock and heavy metal, England’s Uriah Heep have quite the lineage. Naturally, that includes more than a handful of people standing at the foot of the stage at one point or another. Despite them all being valuable, we have to rank David Byron and John Lawton as the crème of the crop.
According to Box: “David was one of the best vocalists I’ve ever worked with, simply because he never sang a song; He lived the music. Therefore, he touched everyone who heard his voice, he was very convincing. I think this was his greatest asset. After that, he became a charismatic person, and he was a star 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And never abandoned his role, while I could get there, do my job and get off the stage and be an ordinary person, like any other. He couldn’t – he had to live the music.”
Born David John Garrick, Byron began his music career with Box. With his wide-range voice of Uriah Heep throughout the ‘70s, so he appeared on many of their greatest works. Similarly, Goalby’s fuller timbre highlighted their early ‘80s output, while Shaw’s nearly 40-year tenure speaks for itself. Byron sang on ten Uriah Heep albums: Very ‘eavy Very ‘Umble, Salisbury, Look at Yourself, Demons and Wizards, The Magician’s Birthday, Live, Sweet Freedom, Wonderworld, Return To Fantasy, and High and Mighty.
In 1975, Byron released also his first solo album, Take No Prisoners, which also featured fellow Heep members Box, Hensley and Lee Kerslake. Byron also gained a reputation for hard drinking, which eventually led to him being sacked from Uriah Heep at the end of a Spanish tour in July 1976. He died of alcohol-related complications, including liver disease and seizures, at his home in Berkshire on 28 February 1985. He was 38 years old.
A very detailed and enlightening aspect of his contribution to Heeps’ identity you can find here:
Prior to joining Uriah Heep in 1976 as replacement for Byron, Lawton, born in Halifax, England on 1946, found success fronting both Lucifer’s Friend and Les Humphries Singers, the former having gone on to receive cult acclaim as one of the earliest pioneers of doom metal, evidenced by aspects of their self-titled 1970 album. Lawton’s time in Heep was more short-lived but impactful, having contributed to Firefly and Innocent Victim, both of which were released in 1977, as well as the next year’s Fallen Angel record. Various solo albums and cooperations with other bands followed his time with Heep. Remarkable work is also the album “Live Your Life Forever” with Zar band (AOR/Melodic hard rock) in 1990. Due to internal disagreements between him and the band, he was dismissed in 1979 and replaced by Lone Star singer John Sloman. Lawton passed away last year.
Ken Hensley, who was born in London in 1945, before his time in Uriah Heep, performed as a member of a band called the Gods, which featured future Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor. The Gods released a pair of albums on Columbia Records in 1968 and 1969 before changing their name to Head Machine and issuing a final effort, Orgasm, in 1970. Hensley joined Uriah Heep in 1969 as the Gods were wrapping up. His invitation to join the act, then fronted by the late David Byron, came from Heep’s bassist at the time, Paul Newton. Hensley stayed with the band till 1980. With Heep, Hensley contributed to the studio albums …Very ‘Eavy …Very ‘Umble (1970), Salisbury (1971), Look at Yourself (1971), Demons and Wizards (1972), The Magician’s Birthday (1972), Sweet Freedom (1973), Wonderworld (1974), Return to Fantasy (1975), High and Mighty (1976), Firefly (1977), Innocent Victim (1977), Fallen Angel (1978) and Conquest (1980). Hensley spent time working with rock and metal acts such as W.A.S.P., Cinderella, Blackfoot and others following his departure from Heep; he also led his own band, Live Fire. Hensley’s death (2020) comes not long after his fellow Uriah Heep bandmate, Lee Kerslake, also passed away. His latest attempt was to record a song with “Blind Golem” called “The Day Is Gone”, an album that was released in January of 2021, thus after his passing away.
Among venerable UK rock institutions, with Black Sabbath and Jethro Tull dispersing, we are, perhaps, really, down to just Deep Purple, Yes and Uriah Heep left to uphold the tradition of quality original progressive hard rock forged at the very beginning of a golden era for this music, late ‘60s into the nexus year that was 1970. At that crossroads, along with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, Uriah Heep helped invent a decorative and uniquely British form of heavy metal with their debut album, Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble. The record was offered as a self-titled on American shores, but whatever the titling, it was historically massive in the invention of a music format that would rule the ‘70s and only intensify in the ‘80s. Furthermore, Uriah Heep have been responsible for the most elevated and intelligent use of vocals in a heavy metal context amongst the major bands inventing the genre in the 1970s. It is for this reason Heep were coined the Beach Boys of Heavy Metal, and their influence is there for all to see in other bands including the likes of Sweet and Queen. The band were also one of the forerunners with respect to the integration of Hammond organ that became the template for their sound. Across 25 studio albums, along with myriad live releases and compilations, Uriah Heep has managed to sell 40 million records worldwide, four million of those in the US. Given the massive commercial status of Uriah Heep in the ‘70s, along with the considerable attention afforded the guys in the early ‘80s, it’s become a bit of an urban myth that this is a band plagued by lineup changes. After all for over 30 years, from 1986 to 2007, Uriah Heep had consisted of patriarch Mick Box on lead guitars, Bernie Shaw on vocals, long-time member Lee Kerslake on drums, Trevor Bolder on bass and Phil Lanzon keyboards.The point of all this is that even now, 50 years after the band’s inception, the sun seems to be shining down upon Mick Box and Uriah Heep. Fact is, Heep are one of only a small clutch of heritage acts that are doing everything a band must do to be considered vital, namely touring worldwide and regularly recording and releasing high quality, exquisitely produced full-length records that continue to capture their fan base’s imagination. If there’s another band born in 1969 that has stayed as engaged with their fans as Heep, all the power to them. But for Mick Box, music has never been a competition—him an’ Heep will keep spreading their many messages of positivity all over the world and gaining new fans along the way. Their songs and music have stood the test of time, and with even more new songs on the horizon the mighty Heep are as strong and powerful as ever.
Covers are always temping for such musicians as Heep. Here’s a catalogue throughout their history.
Come Away Melinda – Harry Belafonte
Love Stealer – Hello [GB]
Hot Night in a Cold Town – John Cougar
On the Rebound – Russ Ballard
Prisoner- Sue Saad and The Next
That’s the Way That It Is- The Bliss Band
Lonely Nights- Ian Lloyd
Hold Your Head Up- Argent
Lifeline- Le Roux
When the War Is Over- Cold Chisel
Tin Soldier- Unverified
Across the Miles- Survivor
The music of Heep was tested by both time and fame and still every generation can find something of their own to love their music for. Chaos & Colour is the energetic and triumphant 25th studio album from the hard rock progenators. “Save Me Tonight” shows the band’s weighty yet blistering chops, whilst “One Nation, One Sun” is a journey of soaring balladic contemplation. “Fly Like An Eagle” takes the listener on a journey of meditation, and “Closer To Your Dreams” is a battle cry for all rockers to get out there and do it. Their new album will be out in January 2023.
Some may say enough with these old folks. These old folks though dared to dream and spread their light upon the universe with masterpieces, you and I have such a background. So instead of judging and complaining try to spread your light to the people. And if 50 years later you can still be on stage with 23 full lengths then yes my friend, then we can talk and compare as much as you want.
Lyrics from Sunrise, as a kind reminder for the fact that each and every sunrise we get a chance for a change, a new day, a new life!
Sunrise, new day Hear my song, I’m tired of fightin’ And foolin’ around
But from now on till who knows when, my sword will be my friend
And I’ll love you, love you, for all my life