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I feel a bit sad for Uriah Heep. Have they ever been fashionable? Forever doomed to be a band that`s just there, but never getting the credit they truly deserve. Still touring the world and creating records as they did at the start of the 70s.
Personally i feel that Heep is among the four originators of hard rock, and should be mentioned equally among the other three: Sabbath, Zeppelin and Purple. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame proves that it is a clueless institution with random inductees when two of the aforementioned; Deep Purple (estimated 150 million albums sold)and Uriah Heep (estimated 40 million albums sold) still isn`t inducted. But The Clash (Estimated 16 million albums sold) and Tom Waits (Estimated 2 million albums sold) is.
I rest my case your honour!
A leap for the Heep
By James Johnson
Uriah Heep can now afford a quick smile at the expense of the heavier breed of rock critics who have sneered at the band in the past. Their new album is showing in the charts and proves that with the public at least they have quite a considerable following.
Even so, nobody could admit they`ve ever been a fashionable band. They`ve never particularly appealed to rock`s supposed intelligentsia. They`ve gone down better with the much-talked-about second generation of rock fans; fans who probably also dig Black Sabbath and Deep Purple and probably have to think twice before deciding whether they can afford this week`s gig at the local club.
Those kind of clubs, in fact, have been Uriah`s bread and butter for some time. They`ve always been a hard working band, playing the same places over and over again and drawing a few more people each time. But it needed a hit album to kill the sneers of the past once and for all.
“I think we came in at the wrong time as far as the Press were concerned,” thought guitarist Mick Box, trying to explain why they had been so often criticised. “We came in when heavy bands were going out and all the softer stuff was coming in. As we were decidedly a heavy band and promoted as such, we were going to get put down and we knew it.
“The only way for us to ride over the storm was to keep together, keep working and move forward musically.
“To be honest though, we`d always thought we`d be proved right in the end simply because despite what anybody has ever said, audiences have always been very good for us. We`ve never died a death, and when this slating was reaching a height we`d be going on and getting three encores.
“So we thought, `Who is wrong? It can`t be us.`
“Personally I don`t think the Press ever gave us a fair listen. Consciously we`ve been trying to progress from each album and I think it`s obvious if you listen.”
The band first came in for a lot of knocking at the time of their first album. It was released almost before the band had played any gigs, put on the market with a pretty appalling title, “Very `Umble and Very `Eavy”, and promoted in an enormous publicity campaign. Everybody agreed there was a whiff of hype in the air.
“Really it was taken out of our control,” said Box. “We didn`t agree with all that publicity at all but our record company at that time asked us to describe our music. We said there was heavy stuff and some lighter stuff. They went off and came back with `very `eavy, very `umble`, and when we saw the advert it was like – ugh – twinge. Even we had to admit that from the outside it looked like a hype, but it wasn`t meant to be. It was just taken that way.”
In fact Uriah Heep weren`t just an artificially created heavy group as was generally thought at the time. Each of them had been playing in groups before, and the formation of Uriah Heep was a purely natural process.
Box had previously formed a group with David Byron called Spice, and were later joined by Ken Hensley from the Gods, a group that at various times included such luminaries as Mick Taylor and Greg Lake.
Mick Box as a young man.
“Even after we had formed the first Uriah Heep we had terrible problems finding the right bass and drummer,” said Box. “You see, we`ve never wanted any weak musicians. We`ve always wanted people with push and drive, but it took ages to find anybody. Then after a long series of changes we`ve now settled in with Lee Kerslake (drums) and Gary Thain (bass).
“It`s a really nice unit now because we`ve got five strong vocalists, five strong personalities on stage and five people who write. I think things are beginning to happen now because we`ve got five strengths to our bow.
“To me, that`s great because we really dig each other as people, and really dig each other on stage. That`s quite rare you know, because with a lot of groups it can get so bitchy, even if it`s all smiles up front.”
Do they feel they appeal to a particularly young rock audience?
“I think it`s getting younger,” replied Box. “At first we were really afraid of this, and we sat down and discussed it among ourselves. But then we thought we`re lucky because we`re still pulling in the older crowd we had before as well. They tend to sit at the back while the younger ones come down to the front and leap about. I think that`s great.
“In fact this album success has already made quite a difference to the size of our audiences already, which, of course, is very pleasing.
“We put a lot of hope into this album and I think it`s quite a big step from `Look At Yourself`, which was more of a rock thing. I feel the new one is better in every way, although we`ve always kept certain Uriah Heep ingredients.
“For instance, like it or lump it, I think our music is very honest. All our words mean something, they`re all about experiences we`ve gone through, rather than a lot of rubbish about the sky is green or the wind is brown or something.
“I feel that many groups who are classed in our category don`t worry too much about the lyrics, or even the vocals for that matter.
“Overall, we`re trying to create our own scene, something that is unique to Uriah Heep.
“And I think we`re broadening all the time. The success of this album puts us up another rung. In a way it was a sort of make or break album because by the fourth album you`ve had a chance to establish yourself. If you haven`t proved yourself by then it`s time to start worrying.”
Some of the concerts you were able to attend in the summer of `72.
This number of the NME also contains articles/interviews with these people: Marc Bolan and T. Rex, Pentangle, Marilyn Wilson, Robert Fripp, Andrew Oldham, Glencoe, Rolling Stones, Edgar Broughton, Chi-Lites, Slade, Mama Cass, Cliff Richard.
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