My last article posted here with YES as the subject predictably attracted the YES-fans in droves. I like their eagerness to read these old articles about their heroes. May it long continue! So, this time, will the Uriah Heep-fans be just as eager? We will find out soon!
Ken Hensley celebrated his 70th birthday this year, and I salute him and thank him for his contribution to all the great music that Uriah Heep have made – life just wouldn`t be the same without it!
Win a Formula Ford 2000!!!
Just collect as many gold top records as lucky winner Ken Hensley
By Tony Stewart
“Racing,” Ken Hensley says as he produces a photograph from his wallet, “is as therapeutic to me as golf is to other people.”
He hands over the snapshot of his pride and joy, a Ford Formula 2000 racing car with modified Pinto engine.
“It`s the alternative to an ulcer,” Ken continues. “If all I had to do and think about was what I do with Uriah Heep and on my own, I`d probably be a drug addict or a looney. Probably both.”
Whizzing round a track at 130 miles per hour keeps you sane? Keeps you off dope? Jackie Stewart must be a well balanced person.
“I`m a great believer in being able to get away from things for a while,” Ken`s saying. “Because when you get back to it, it helps you think clearer. And in the rock and roll business these days with all the temptations laid in front of you, it`s difficult keeping your feet on the ground. `Specially if you`ve made a few bob.
“As soon as you get a few gold records on the wall you tend to move into a different sphere of thinking altogether, which isn`t good for anybody at all.”
It sounds as though he`s referring to other people and not himself, but I can`t help sneaking a glance past his pedigree Persian cat and taking in the sight of three of Hensley`s five cars parked out front. In descending order there`s a Ferrari Dino, a BMW and a Mini. His other BMW is on loan to a friend.
His lounge looks like a musician`s workshop, the walls cluttered with amps and speakers, the floor crammed with a grand piano, synthesisers and guitars. Ken`s buying a bigger house to accommodate his equipment.
And that sentence keeps springing to mind, “As soon as you get gold records on the wall…”
The indulgences of success? You could also say solo albums by people like Hensley fall into the same category. In fact I did, because he`s just released his second, “Eager To Please”.
In discussing this project we`ve stumbled onto his expensive hobby and then onto that tender subject: Ostentatious Rock Stars. It bothers Hensley that one day he may just lose himself and forget who he was originally.
“The only way to assess what success means is how you feel in yourself,” he says. “Do you enjoy having four cars to pay road tax on rather than one, or none, as the case used to be?
“Do you enjoy having the liability of running a racing car?
“Do you enjoy the incredible electricity bills you get from having gadgets all over the house?
“Do you enjoy having to have your grand piano tuned every week?”
Do you want to be a millionaire? God, the pain of it.
“I mean, people can only see this material thing as a gain, but it has tremendous disadvantages that people don`t see, and the biggest disadvantage is that it takes you right off the ground and you lose complete touch with everything that`s real and everything that`s normal.”
He means it. But he likes to believe that although success may have changed his life he could return to poverty street without too much heartache, if necessary.
That, however, seems unlikely, because Ken is no mug and getting back to the subject in hand, “Eager To Please”, it`s discovered that one reason for recording solo was to provide himself with some security, “in case somebody takes away this golden egg called Uriah Heep.”
“It helps me to be contended in the knowledge I`ll be able to continue doing something on my own, though with a lesser degree of success and therefore a lesser degree of material reward. But it would be a job, I wouldn`t be on the dole sort of thing.”
There are other reasons for recording solo though, and as they`re unfolded Hensley shows he has carefully thought about his present and prospective career. Or else he`s been practising answers for the interview.
“It`s a perfect media for establishing exactly where I`m going as an individual, musically, which is important so that I can contribute to the band properly.”
Another reason is relieve the frustrations of having too much material that Heep can`t take on. Talk on this leads back to his earlier reference to establishing an identity.
Another reason is to relieve the frustrations of a tamer me, I feel that, if anything, I`m probably the least heavy member of Uriah Heep and I have an individual identity which I`m keen to establish.
“Being totally realistic about it, achievement within the context of a band is a different thing from achievement in a solo aspect. When one reaches one`s ambitions regularly and fairly quickly as we`ve done, you find other goals to reach for, and I suppose now one of mine is to have success with a solo record.”
But whether the process of establishing his own identity will cause him to leave the group is doubtful, even if he did have considerable commercial success independent of the others.
“I`m not a great gambler,” he comments, “and if I was going to go off on a solo career I`d need a band, and I don`t know if I`d be able to shoulder the responsibility of leading an operation like that.
“Also against individual identity is the safety-in-numbers factor of group identity. Uriah Heep is actually the first band I`ve ever been in where I could actually operate as a member of the band, rather than being THE person. In the Gods I always felt I was responsible for the band.
“With Heep,” he continues, “I feel I can contribute more from the background because David (Byron) is the front man. That gives me a certain amount of security.
“I feel now I`m part of Uriah Heep until the end, until the death,” he states emphatically. “I couldn`t operate as a solo artist while the group was still in existence unless they sacked me, and I had to go and work solo.
“It`s ironical that it`s something I`m looking for, but something which I have no real solution to. An interesting dilemma.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Barry White, Manfred Mann, Mud, Led Zeppelin, Pete Townshend (The Who), Kevin Ayers, Mike Harding.
The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!
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