This article might serve as a reminder of how enormously big Uriah Heep were in the 70s. And they are still touring the world and still making mighty fine music today. Impressive and worthy of inclusion in the rock hall of fame a thousand times more than some others in there. Someone needs to get them inducted soon…
This is my last post of the year 2015 and it is incidentally a day before my 50th birthday. I have no illusions of becoming a 100 years old, so it is quite strange to reach this grand old age. Realistically I may have some 10 to 20 years left in me, so I need to hurry up now, with everything I want to do. Well, so it is for us all, we`ll just hope for a sort of rock & roll heaven! Happy New Year!
By Tony Stewart
Pass the champagne, please.
We`re on board one of the two private planes flying a bunch of journalists out to Rotterdam for Uriah Heep`s eight European concert on the present tour. Washing down the smoked salmon sandwiches with bubbly, while reading the press kits dutifully placed on each seat.
Anybody want some Tequila? Just to go with the orange juice, you understand.
We`d climbed out of the chauffered XI6L Jaguar at the airfield, hopped in the aircraft and in no time hopped out again in Holland. Slipping into the plush interior of a Mercedes. And with a vroom of the automatic engine we`re taken to the Rotterdam Hilton.
This is called Doing It In Style.
(Would anybody notice the cycle clips in my pockets?)
In the hotel bar we`re offered a Planter`s Punch or a real taste of the genuine Heineken by vocalist David Byron. Who doesn`t even give me time to wait for the waiter to wait before launching into an impassioned eulogy on Uriah Heep.
Almost crying with happiness. Slipping out superlatives to describe their current well-being. Never been better. We feel so bloody well inspired and confident on stage. He says.
Stocky Mick Box is being amiable. With two reporters on each of his thick shoulders he`s probably saying the same as Byron. And in a corner Ken Hensley politely drinks quietly, readily agreeing to be interviewed by the Dutch Press.
This is called: A Show Of Confidence. Indeed, new bass player, John Wetton, has already given the band much to thank him for.
Shucks, he says, before the drive to the Ahoy Halle.
And, of course, I like the music. Adding, to tell you the truth, I had plans of my own to form a little band. But the people weren`t available. So I accepted this challenge, because quite honestly I wished to pursue this particular musical direction. With or without Heep.
There`s no truth whatsoever in the rumour I`m biding my time to secure financial support for my own little project. Because Atlantic Records in America and Island in England both wanted to invest anyway.
Just as Wetton formally accepted his present position, he received a phone call. “We`re available to form that band with you now, John,” said a voice.
When relating the irony Wetton laughs loudly.
This is called: Doing What You`re Doing And Forgetting What Might Have Been.
So, at near 10 o`clock, the revibed, rejuvenated and thoroughly happy Uriah Heep find themselves on stage at the Ahoy cycling arena, facing an enthusiastic 6,000-plus crowd containing, somewhere up in the Gods, a line of supposedly sceptical British journalists.
“Uriah Heep usually get slagged by the press,” said Lilian, wife of manager Gerry Bron, earlier. “Any other kind of comment will be an improvement.”
She also said: We expect the reviews either to say John Wetton has brought a new lease of life to Uriah Heep, or not even Wetton can improve the band.”
As Byron peacocks onto the stage, Box crouches down, phallicly cocking his guitar between his legs and growling at the audience; Hensley sits behind the organ, lolling his mane backwards and forwards, Kerslake squeezes in behind his kit, and Wetton leaps on looking like David Essex. The band probably have two specific purposes in mind.
One, the most important, is to entertain an audience who haven`t seen them during the six-month absence from live work. The second is to convince the journalists that the feelings expressed earlier are accurately true.
This is called: Giving A Good Show.
The following is indeed a report of an excellent show.
John Wetton has brought a new lease of life to Uriah Heep.
Can`t remember who it was, but one of the entourage had said that to re -inspire Heep didn`t necessarily depend on Wetton, good as he is. Any good player who slots in personality-wise could do the same.
And Gerry Bron admiringly said he believes in certain principals of football management being applied in the rock and roll context. Such as bringing new blood into the team. A point on which to ponder.
Never did ask about Wetton`s transfer fee.
Here he is, though, acting like a Heavy Metal Kid of many years experience, striding the stage and kicking his legs like a Topper. All the while laying bass lines so thick you could run Guinness down them. Occasionally closing in on Byron to nuzzle into his hair.
Box generally stays in his own mental paddock, running round in a circle, then coming forward to the edge of the platform, swinging the axe into his crotch, as though ejaculating power chords into the face of the audience.
Up at the back Kerslake`s slamming his fists, as if pounding dough.
Meanwhile Hensley diligently plays keyboards, as relaxed as if he were fingering a box of cigars, making a choice. Oblivious of the games going on around him. Until on some numbers he balances himself precariously on his ridiculous high boots, hooks on a guitar, and joins in the floor show.
He`s such a well trained midfielder. Holding the defence. Occasionally attacking when it`s safe.
The first half of the set has various musical highlights, such as the excellent vocal delivery of “Stealin`”, but overall the pace is slow, badly measured and erratic. Also, the sound is unfortunately suppressed by the limited P.A. With no top and no bottom, the sound hangs in mid-air.
“The middle axis of the act is `July Morning`. From there it just takes off,” Byron had claimed earlier.
Although they`ve brought in new numbers from “Return To Fantasy”, like “Prima Donna”, the title track and “Shady Lady”, the main structure of the performance depends on the more familiar material.
The real highlight is “Gypsy”, where the music and stage act is good, with Wetton and Box performing a centre-rostrum bull fight, and Byron menancingly wielding a mike stand for the final kill.
Gone are the elaborate effects, with the result there is more musical concentration counterpointed by exactly the right amount of on-stage dazzle.
Heep don`t barrel-roll through the set either, but once half way through, they measure their pace for the eventual crescendo. Which comes with a confetti explosion and the encores.
As the lights went up and the crowd streamed out I felt very glad to have been there.
This is called: Enough Said.
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: Can, Phil Spector, Elton John, Greenslade, Beach Boys, Elvin Jones, Bad Company, Alan Stivell, Jackie Wilson, Fairport Convention.
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