Mick Box

ARTICLE ABOUT Uriah Heep FROM SOUNDS, September 6, 1975

Oh, what a great look into the past this one is. Once again, it shows you that this band should have been inducted in the Rock`n`roll Hall of Fame a long time ago. Yeah, I know I always nag about this, but this band was one of the four most important bands of the early 70s, along with Purple, Sabbath and Zeppelin. Still touring and largely influential with a great catalog of songs that will stand the test of time. I know that Lee Kerslake is seriously ill at the time of writing this, and it would have been nice for him and the other  members to be recognised for what they have given the world of rock.
What the fuck are the Hall of Fame waiting for?
Read on!

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Into the abattoir with Heep

Rob Mackie snaps his fingers and Uriah Heep jump, (well almost). The lava spewing valium tablet in the human form of Uriah Heep recently visited Chicago and Cleveland. Here Rob gives us a bird`s eye view of the concerts and talks to Mick Box, the world`s only one-armed guitarist (almost)

“I`m Richard, your chauffeur. Snap your fingers, I`ll jump.”
Everyone in the car snaps their fingers, but the driver remains fixed in his seat, a large jowl topped off with a shiny cap. His pronouncement interrupts a flood of Monty Pythonic exclamations from Uriah Heep drummer Lee Kerslake, seemingly a spontaneous reaction at seeing an English face in the back of the big black limo at Chicago airport.
Kerslake slumps down in the back seat. An absurd blue cap picked up somewhere along the tour is pulled firmly down over his eyes. Ken Hensley, the Heep keyboard man and guitarist, sprawls in the front seat, all flowing hair and patched denim, providing the perfect contrast to the sombreness of the traditional Big Black car and its close-shorn driver.
The pair eye Chicago with something approaching fondness – one of the places where the Heep has traditionally been able to snap its collective fingers and have everybody jumping. A place where the audience expects commitment and vigour, and is no slouch at giving it back. The sort of city that a real road band looks forward to in the midst of a return US tour after a year`s absence. Not so very long ago, Uriah Heep were placed down bill to T. Rex here – a teaming which in Chicago eyes is not far away from putting Jimi Hendrix on before the Monkees. The support band did three encores. The headliners earned a cornucopia of raspberries, and have not been seen around these parts since.

PICNIC

Not that Chicago is anybody`s idea of a picnic. David Byron has met with a stabbing attempt here a couple of years back, and another time, guitarist Mick Box was due to meet a friend who was White Trash`s drummer, in a Chicago club. The meeting never took place, because the drummer, got involved in an argument, and was killed stone dead by three swift karate chops. Accordingly, a quartet of burly locals is added to the party for Chicago. As singer David Byron puts it: “If they like you here, they`re the best audience in the world. If they don`t like you, better look out.”
The first port of call, after a quick stop off at the hotel, is a bizarre trip to a gigantic suburban shopping centre called Randhurst, for a `personal appearance` number. The band is met at the door by the manager, a bulbous extremely nervous man of a sweaty disposition, wearing a white top hat for the occasion, and a troupe of shop security men dressed like park rangers in Yogi Bear. By now, even the security men have a security man.)
The highpoint of this traditional American mixture of show biz, shop biz and politics, comes when the band is ushered on to a specially erected stage in the centre of the main thoroughfare, to be gawped at by a few autograph hunters, and a majority who look ready for the members to start juggling or balancing circus balls on their noses.

SUPERMARKET

Ladies and gentlemen, Uriah HEEP!”, the manager says into a microphone. A smattering of applause is followed by renewed two-way gawps. Photos are taken. Autographs are signed. Box repeats the tale of how he broke his arm for the umptundreth time. Bassist John Wetton, now a fully-fledged Heep of six months, is hanging around the edge, nursing a stomach ache. Someone thrusts towards him one of the Uriah Heep photos being distributed.
Almost inevitably, it`s at least a year old, and features his predecessor, Gary Thain slap bang in the middle.
Wetton groans quitely. “After four years of looking at Ric Grech and Greg Lake, now I`m Gary Thain.” He looks as if he may be trying to imagine how Robert Fripp would disport himself on a stage in the centre of a supermarket.
Eventually, the party of people and protectors is led downstairs to a tiny clothing store, where they are allowed to meet the plebs in a somewhat less conspicuous way, and sign some more autographs. The band is allowed out, but not before the shop manager has taken the microphone for an exceptionally tedious speech, which eventually rambles around to the fact that there will be Uriah Heep T-shirts in stock the following week. “Which you`ll give away free!”, Byron shouts. “Well, er, yes of course”, the manager mumbles. By this time, Box has sensibly Sellotaped a note to the plaster on his right arm: `I fell off the stage`.
Back to the air-conditioned limos, bearing the spoils of war. Hensley has been presented with a large and useless key “for services to music”, mounted on a wood plaque. Kerslake, no shrinking violet, emerges with seven free shirts. “I earned them” he says shaking his autograph wrist painfully…
By the time of the concert, one of the shirts has found its way on to the back of one of the security men, who struts it around like it was a policeman`s badge. True to Chicago`s heavy reputation, the concert hall has also served its time as an abattoir and animal market. In earlier days the Heep played a splendid small hall in another part of the city. Now, economics demand the sacrifice of acoustic niceties in order to house the 15,000 in a near sell-out audience in the big barn called The Amphitheatre.
The full-throated roar that greets Heep`s arrival brings back to mind the pathetic Village-green-cricket applause accorded to this afternoon`s supermarket superstars.
Like their last album title, Heep going back on the road is a return to fantasy, and their fantasy is hitting this audience right there, where it hurts, which is what this crowd loves.
Visually, Heep are clearcut and straight to the point. Hensley tilts his organ in front of him, throws his waist length hair back like a brunette Wakeman. He`s wearing white boots, as absurdly long as his hair, so that the two almost meet.
Behind him is the beefy Kerslake, laying down the heavy Heep drum sound that`s always been a trademark. In front of him, Wetton, serious in black at one side of the stage, and the amiable Box on the other, plaster limb and all. Between the two, and just about everywhere else on the stage at one time or another, Byron struts flits and poses his way unashamedly through the set.

TRIBUTE

Aside from the unrelenting din of early Heep, it was probably Byron`s stage presence that led the critics to lambast the group so unmercifully. He`s playing the pop star every minute of the set. If pulling his shirt over one shoulder gets a few squeals, he`ll do it; if rolling on the floor is a crowd pleaser, he`ll do that. The more the older element cringe, the more the kids love it.
“We just want to be where it`s all going on / But tell me what do you do when it`s over and everyone who loved you is gone? / You`re just another prima donna of rock`n`roll / So please let me know when you want me to go.”
`Prima Donna` perfectly sums up Byron and this Chicago audience, playing the church to Heep`s steeple. And of course they don`t want them to go. Ever. It`s an impressive tribute to the band`s popularity that the crowd sings the `rock and roll` part of the chorus without prompting, although the song`s a new one-off `Return To Fantasy`.
Most of the songs are current, although some old favourites like `Stealin` and `July Morning` – an impressive song reminiscent of Vanilla Fudge – survive. The addition of Wetton has broadened out the band`s sound a lot: his bass playing was always firm but fluid, and the band now has four vocalists, well used on the likes of `Primma Donna`.

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MOVING AWAY

Not that Heep are going subtle, but there are signs that they`re moving away from their old unenviable reputation as the Peter Storeys of Rock. And it is odd how numbers like `Shady Lady`, which come over as almost unlistenable on the album, suit a time and a place like this so well that you find your legs going up and down like they`re supposed to do on such occasions.
They do stiffen the sinews and summon up the blood, as Shakespeare used to put it, particularly on `Easy Livin`, another big crowd-pleaser out here in the mid-West. It has Kerslake doing his menacing immovable-object drumming, and Byron and Wetton duelling up front, one in black and one white, like good and evil. Heep set a fast pace for themselves and live up to it. The end roar is even louder than the beginning one, and it`s filled out with explosions and the eternal matches.
For Chicago, the crowd seems unusually well-behaved, which could have something to do with around 200 plain-clothes security men being posted out-front. It`s a success, and over dinner the band`s manager Gerry Bron is going over some impressive figures. In one city, he says, they`re outselling Clapton three to one.
The Heep`s hotel bookings always include a Mr. Loon, whose room is available for anyone who feels like partying. In Chicago, everyone feels like partying.
Next day, people are a little clumsy. Settling themselves on to the plane for Cleveland, everyone manages to bump their heads on the overhead luggage compartment. Kerslake does it twice, and gets his own back, by planting a firm header into it, just like he was nutting an enemy on Sauchiehall Street. Wetton whiles away the hour`s flight leafing through a few Press cuttings. He pauses in amazement over a piece in Cashbox, which, underneath the obligatory picture of Heep with Thain, proclaims: “In the case of Uriah Heep, critics less attuned to pulverising lead riffs, finely sculptured keyboard runs and the overall subtlety of a train wreck, have been prone to dismiss the band as a lava spewing valium tablet in human form”.
Today`s gig for the lava spewing valium tablet is at a huge stadium, peopled on other days by the Cleveland Indians baseball team. It`s a one-day festival in which Heep is the penultimate band, sandwiched between Aerosmith and the Faces. A hot muddy day out, especially for the people on the pitch, and something to follow, because Aerosmith are a fast-rising band with a current Top 30 album and get a great reception.

Byron is expounding on the Heep philosophy: “Some other bands get up there and say `Come on and love us`, you know, but with us, we force `em along all the time, and make bloody sure they love us.”
It`s a big day for the band, and a specially big day for Hensley, who is celebrating his 30th birthday and the finalising of his divorce. He celebrates onstage, by dropping a cup of orange juice on to one of Kerslake`s cymbals during `Sweet Rain`. Appropriately, Kerslake gets drenched in stickiness.
At Cleveland, The band is more obviously enjoying itself onstage, looking a little less tense, and, as far as can be heard, playing better. In particular, Mick Box, whose playing is severely hampered by his plaster, is missing very little on guitar. `Shady Lady` (a pretty heavy song, if you listen to the lyrics) goes down well. `Prima Donna` gets the same audience response as before, but with around four times as many people out there, the effect is magnified.
Hensley weaves some intricate synthisiser through `Return To Fantasy`, like a `75 version of Telstar`, and Byron comments: “If you can figure out what the lyrics are about then tell me, because I wrote them and I haven`t got a fucking clue”.
Everyone`s enjoying themselves. Wetton`s sweating like a pig, and Box gets so carried away he`s slapping one hand against his cast in the clapalong part. Only afterwards does the pain show through on his face.
`Gypsy` is a good closer, with its slow, insidious drum part creating a mesmeric effect after a while. The audience is up, and Heep end their encore by kicking huge balloons with `THE END printed on them out into the audience.
The contrast is interesting: Aerosmith, the up-and-coming new band followed by Uriah Heep who came close to dying the death and are now showing signs of being on the verge of their most interesting period, and then the Faces.

Despite their augmenting, including what on this occasion looked at a glance like two Tetsus (the other one was Jesse Ed Davis), the Faces, to judge from the first six or seven numbers of their set, are on their last  legs – a fine band degenerated to a very sloppy standard. Sad.
And Rod seemed to have more make-up on than Britt Ekland. But he should worry. Waylaid at the hotel, in the general area of Hensley`s birthday table, he said: “I`ve got the No 1 single and album after five days. Not bad eh”. Which seems to sum up the Faces future. Even the band`s roadies were all wearing `Atlantic Crossing T-shirts.
With America`s second favourite couple in the hotel (after Gregg and Cher, that is), things were bound to be a little more packed with post-concert hangers-on than usual. Like the guy who approached some Heep members having a quiet drink at the bar with a paranoid expression, demanding: “What`s the matter with the girls at that table then? Are they ugly? Why are you all sitting up here? I mean, look at them, are those ugly girls?” Ah the perils of stardom.
Box was already beginning to regret the promise of putting a few words down on tape. “Yeah, anytime Rob. I`ll just have a few drinks.” “Yeah, sure I`ll just go and have one with Kenny.” We finally sat down with the infernal machine at lunch-time on the following day, and so, the last words on the tour from the world`s only one-armed guitarist (almost).
“John joining the group has made a big difference. I think it speaks for itself when we get up there. Towards the end of the old group, things were getting pretty bad, mostly from a morale point of view. There were four people who wanted to really pull all the stops out and work and work, but Gary couldn`t do too much because of his state of health and a lot of personal problems, so we were just going downhill as a band, it was very frustration. In the end we just had to sever that, because we are a terribly hard-working band; that`s our commitment to life at the moment.

ON THE WAY

“I was a bit worried about this tour, but it`s been fine, just like back to square one, the audiences are still just as good; and the tour is selling the album here. Just since we started this tour, it`s shot up to around the sixties with a bullet, so it`s well on its way. We`ll get another gold album if it kills us, which it probably will.
“Now with John, the numbers and ideas are coming out at a rate of knots, it`s ridiculous. From all of us. So now we just go into the rehearsal room with our little box of gems, and say `What do you think of that one?` and then jam off it.
“Yeah, the arm does hurt a bit sometimes, and I go a bit white at the gills, but it was a choice of going on with a little bit of pain or sitting at home getting fidgety with an arm in cement, doing nothing.”

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ARTICLE ABOUT Mick Box (Uriah Heep) FROM SOUNDS, November 25, 1972

As one of those people that like and respect the music and the people in Uriah Heep, but without going complete fan-boy and doing research on every little tidbit of their career, I think this interview was really great as there was a lot of things about their early years that I didn`t know – until now. Mick Box says in this interview that he likes to go home and sleep in his own bed – well, considering their hectic activity, still touring all over the world, he has spent less time in his own bed than most people. His bed-bugs are assured to die between every visit home.
Cheers to the man and the band for keeping the flame alive!

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Mick Box in the talk-in

by Ray Hammond

Uriah Heep. A misunderstood band in this country, a band who have found such success in the States and in Europe that they haven`t really had the time to correct their British image. They arrived in the 1969 to 1970 period which was remarkable for the rise of the “heavies” such as Purple and Sabbath and to many people`s minds they play loud, heavy music and that`s that. But the band today is far, far more musical than the band which recorded “Very `Eavy, Very `Umble”, back in 1969. Perhaps the man who governs the direction most is guitarist and singer Mick Box and the opportunity of a Talk In with him gave me the opportunity to discover exactly the genealogy behind both the band and the super-fast guitar style of the man.

Can you remember what was the very first music you ever heard?

Oh dear, hang on. Yes, the first thing that actually stuck in my brain was the Buddy Holly era. I don`t even remember a particular tune, just that whole thing. I was knocked out with the sound. I liked the way he sung and it was different to anything else. That was a stage I was going through when I used to stand in the front room miming with a tennis racket.

So you knew that it was a guitar that you wanted to learn to play?

Yes, most definitely, there was nothing else.

UKELE

How long after that did you actually get your first guitar?

It must have been about a year after that I got this little ukelele `cos I thought it was a cheap guitar, I was a bit dumb. I knocked out a few little tunes on that which was fun and then I wanted to get the proper thing so I got a £12 10s. guitar called a Telston, or something like that, and that was from the pawnbrokers.

So when you switched from Uke to proper guitar you had to learn some new chords?

Ukelele chords are like shortened guitar chords, you know chords with just two fingers and I got a few little books that showed me the chords and I picked up a few things from there. I thought well I`ve got to go further than this so I tried to learn songs from records. That didn`t work at all. I couldn`t get it to sound like the music at all so I started going to a guitar teacher.
I went to him for about a couple of months and he was a bit of a con merchant. He used to give me things to play and I had to go away and learn to play the thing in a week. But within half an hour I could play it to him, it did help in as much as he showed me the basic formation of chords with tonic thirds and fifths and I suppose he was really helpful in just being someone to report to.
After I got fed up with him I didn`t know who to turn to so I just used to plonk away at home and with my knowledge of chord formation I was able to build my own chords.

So you still couldn`t get anything from records?

No, but the first thing I eventually got from records actually shaped my whole technique. I tried to copy a record by Les Paul and Mary Ford. I didn`t know anything about recording at all, nothing. His whole sound is a speeded up guitar sound and he`d play, in rough terms, something at 16 r.p.m. and speed it up to 45 and then put it out as a record.
I used to try and copy him at that speed and in actual fact I kept on plugging away at that record. I think it was “Nola,” and eventually, I got it at the right speed and so I got on into a fast technique thing. After that I started getting into jazz players like Tal Farlow and Barney Kessel.
Well soon after this period I formed my own band. That was just a local band that I formed with guys I`d heard of from the same area. We played the local youth clubs for six bottles of coke and that sort of fee. I remember our first paid gig. I think we got ten bob. That was very much the front room rehearsal scene and it was really a good era.

The band was playing what sort of music?

I think it was just before the Stones happened and we were into Buddy Holly music and Elvis` stuff. Our lead singer could only sing rock so we bashed that out all night. I think I must have been about 13 at this time so we were pretty young. All the music like “Jailhouse Rock” and “Blue Suede Shoes” is based on the 12-bar format and that also gave us a chance to do a few lead breaks because you don`t have to think too heavily.

What did you call the band you had at that time?

We were called the Stalkers, and that was for both reasons because we wanted the women as well, you see.

SPICE

How long did the Stalkers last?

It lasted a good few years because we started to get £15 gigs, and all that and we thought “amazing” and we were really pleased. We started playing the Marquee and that was really the big time for us and just before we made the Marquee we realised we needed a new vocalist because the other guy just wasn`t up to it and our drummer`s cousin was David Byron who`s our singer now and he suggested that this guy David might be suitable and that was the start of a partnership that has taken us right through `till now.
The auditions we had at that time were so silly, we just said: “What do you know” and if he knew “Blue Suede Shoes”, we said: “OK sing it.” So we settled on David.

Where did the band go to from the Marquee?

From there we thought we wanted a change and David and myself wanted a change, we wanted to go professional. I was working as a clerk in an export office. I was determined to be professional.

It must have been a big decision.

David was a bit unsure because packing up and going pro meant that we were going to lose two members because they wanted to go through with their apprenticeships. We struggled a long while when we first went pro and we spent a year just writing songs together.
It proved a lot harder than we thought to get the right musicians and we finally got Paul Newton who was in this band and we got in a drummer and we called ourselves Spice.

So this was in fact the beginning of the band that`s now Uriah Heep?

Yeah, we started doing all the clubs after a period of a year with no work.

How did you live through that year?

For the first six months I did things like potato picking, get up at six in the morning and worked all through the day and get about £2 a week for it. I washed down shop windows and signs, cut someone`s lawn, anything to get money going and get through a week. It was just a struggle for ourselves and in the end we ended up going on the dole for six months.
They kept sending us for jobs and they`d tell us to go on the ninth for an interview and we`d turn up on the 19th and swear that we`d seen a one in front of the nine on the piece of paper with the instructions on it and of course they would immediately consider us unsuitable.
I also used to go down the dole in the bizarre clothes like pyjamas and jumpers with huge holes in the sleeves and I`d do anything not to get a job. I did that for six months and in the end I couldn`t keep a straight face.
We eventually got a drummer called Alex Napier in on drums and we started doing some clubs and being picked up by a few agents. A guy who helped us out a lot was Neil Warnock. He worked for an agency called Southbank and he managed us for a while.

OBSCURE

What sort of material was Spice doing?

Well to get work in those days you couldn`t do what you wanted to. You had to remember that people wanted to hear certain things and you just had to play them. We tried to get away from playing all the run of the mill stuff and we used to dig out old Joe Tex things and numbers like that which went down very well.
We never did the top twenty stuff, we used to spend hours in record shops digging out obscure numbers to play. I remember finding Donnie Elbert`s “Little Bit Of Leather” and songs like that.

Did you put any soul in the act at that time?

Well soul was the thing at that time and we used to do some as a kind of a mickey take thing with dance routines. Then we started to get into an improvisation kick and we started to play our own numbers on stage.

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MURDER

I remember that it was difficult for a band to play their own numbers on stage at that time?

Yeah it was murder. We got to a point where we were digging up all these old numbers and we thought we could write numbers just as good. At that time we couldn`t actually, but at least we were attempting it. So we started sticking in a few originals and they seemed to be getting the same reaction so we gained a little confidence.

About what year would this have been?

I think it was about 1967. It was during that year that we started doing our own numbers on stage and we did more and more of them until the whole set was just our own numbers.

What sort of clubs were you doing then?

We were doing the Marquee, college dates, the Red Lions, the Wake Arms, Epping, this sort of thing.

This was about the time of the start of the underground movement?

Yes very much so, I think we were one of the first bands to get a little bit indulgent in as much as I used to go and do a guitar solo for 15 minutes on stage with the rest of the band going off and at that stage nobody around was doing that.
I think we were carving our own little niche then but we kept to the format that we used with this band that you can afford to be really heavy and exciting but still retain lot of harmony and melody with it and that`s what we were trying to do then. We`re still doing that.
On stage five of us sing and normally with all that power going on you get just one guy out front who`s singing.

`EAVY

How long did Spice last under that name?

It ended at the end of 1969. Gerry Bron came to see us working at the Blues Loft, High Wycombe, and we`d heard that Gerry was a good straight manager so we`d invited him to come down. He thought we had it all there potentially, musically and so on but he knew there was something missing. So did we but we didn`t know what, we didn`t know where to turn.
So he took us under his wing, he didn`t sign us or anything and he gave us a few pilot gigs to see if we were good enough, whether we`d turn up on time, if we were reliable or if we were temperamental. So he tried us out for a long while and then he slung us in the studio with a couple of our own numbers, just to try and find out our direction.
We`d never been in the studio before except for a few demo sessions and we went in and what we came out with wasn`t very impressive at all – in fact, we still listen to the tape we made on that session now, just for a laugh. Gerry was knocked out with the enthusiasm and the will to get on and he stuck with us. Then we started to record our first album.

Was this the album that eventually came out as “Very `Eavy.”?

Yeah and it was during that we discovered what the missing link was we needed a keyboard player, and another voice. Our bass player used to play with a band called the Gods and another ex-God was Ken Hensley who was playing at that time with a band called Toe Fat.
We approached Kenny and he agreed to come down to Hanwell Community centre and have a blow. We just played for a while and we realised it was going to work. In addition to playing keyboards he could also play guitar, write songs and sing and this was just what we needed. So we started recording that band.

The album came out a long while after you recorded it didn`t it?

Yeah, that was the drag, because when that album came out it was obsolete for the band because we`d moved so fast we were already into other material.

It did a lot of good for you that album, though, didn`t it?

It did more good for us on the Continent actually, it was OK here, but they really picked up on it.

SNOWBALL

When was the period that the band actually started to break?

We got the Uriah Heep name from Gerry. The band came to him in the centenary year of Dicken`s death or something and we picked up on a bit of publicity. We`d been thinking of all different names for the band like your Corrugated Dandruff and Clockwork Doughnut and it was nice to find a name that had a bit of a story behind it.
We got all that dealt with and we were doing some pilot gigs in England getting new gear worked in and then we were slung over to be on a festival in Hamburg in Germany and we were first on the bill. We steamed in there and they gave us an ovation and they wanted an encore which wasn`t bad for a band there for the first time.
There were a lot of influential promoters backstage who all saw it and they started booking us on German tours and things, which was beautiful and the Germans really started plugging for us. In six months we were over there six times on various tours.
The album started going in the charts; it snowballed for us there.

How did the band come to go to the States?

Well we were very successful in Germany and it was slowly happening here, it was very slow but it was still going. We were having a lot of bad press which may have been right or may have been wrong. I don`t know, but it never concerned us that much because we were still going along to gigs and each time we went we got bigger crowds and we always got encores. We just hoped that the press thing would swing round which luckily it has done.
We thought, States, OK. Let`s go there.
We went over there as a support band playing 30 or 45 minutes just to get experience and it`s the first time we`d ever played before 20,000 people. It was like the Blues Loft, High Wycombe to the Los Angeles Forum, it was ridiculous.

HOME

What was the States audience reaction like?

It was interesting, it wasn`t brilliant but it was interesting. Three Dog Night wasn`t exactly our crowd. At the end of the tour we found there was enough reaction to go back and do another tour and then we toured with Deep Purple and Buddy Miles which really broke us out there.

Do you enjoy playing the States more than anywhere else?

I enjoy playing there but there`s no where like home, is there? Up the M1, play the gigs and then you can go home to your own bed.

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Frankie Miller, Wishbone Ash, Steve Took, Edgar Broughton, Rod Stewart, Don McLean, Harry Chapin, Hookfoot, Lou Reizner, Allman Brothers, The organisers of the Isle of Wight Festival, Roy Harper, Gladys Knight, Tight Like That, Gentle Giant.

This issue is sold!

ARTICLE ABOUT Uriah Heep FROM NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, JUNE 24, 1972

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. If you really like this sort of thing – follow my blog! Thank you!

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!

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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.

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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.”

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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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