Friday, October 23, 2009

Guest Post: Seano on Uriah Heep

Howdy, bloggies!

Today's guest post is from
I highly encourage you go over and check out his blog -- he just recently finished going through all the Beatles albums, giving very detailed notes and Youtube videos about each one. He has a true talent and you can learn so much from his posts!

Without furthur ado...

I was playing guitar at a backyard BBQ last summer and there was a guy who kept requesting older tunes. Each time he called one out, I was able to reproduce it. He then said, "OK, I'm going to stump you. Play 'The Wizard' by Uriah Heep."

I went right into it, without a pause, and he nearly lost his mind. No one else in the crowd (except him) had a clue what I was playing. He brought me a fresh beer and told me that this was one of his favorite records when he was a kid. So I went one better and told him that the guy who wrote the song sat with me and a friend and showed us exactly how to play it.

"No fucking way!"


(Cut to hazy flashback interlude with harp-laden, dream sequence music)

It was 1989, I was in university and mainstream music smelled worse than a rotted carp placed in your disc-player. You say that you don't remember the suckage? Allow me to refresh your memory with the "top songs" from that year:

1. Look Away, Chicago
2. My Prerogative, Bobby Brown
3. Every Rose Has Its Thorn, Poison
4. Straight Up, Paula Abdul
5. Miss You Much, Janet Jackson
6. Cold Hearted, Paula Abdul
7. Wind Beneath My Wings, Bette Midler
8. Girl You Know Its True, Milli Vanilli
9. Baby, I Love Your Way/Freebird, Will To Power
10. Giving You The Best That I Got, Anita Baker
11. Right Here Waiting, Richard Marx
12. Waiting For A Star To Fall, Boy Meets Girl
13. Lost In Your Eyes, Debbie Gibson
14. Don't Wanna Lose You, Gloria Estefan
15. Heavan, Warrant
16. Girl I'm Gonna Miss You, Milli Vanilli
17. The Look, Roxette
18. She Drives Me Crazy, Fine Young Cannibals
19. On Our Own, Bobby Brown
20. Two Hearts, Phil Collins
21. Blame It On The Rain, Milli Vanilli
22. Listen To Your Heart, Roxette
23. I'll Be There For You, Bon Jovi
24. If You Don't Know Me By Now, Simply Red
25. Like A Prayer, Madonna


In the midst of all this crap, my buddy and I would pass the time playing our guitars in the dorm, drinking, smoking and listening to GOOD music, which at the time was anything that was NOT on the list above. (think sixties/seventies, any genre) We were dating two sisters at that time and they violently hated the stuff we were into. They generally left us to our own devices when it came to going to live shows. When we heard that Uriah Heep was going to be doing a couple of nights at a local club, the news seemed too good to be true.

Poor Uriah Heep. They were always knocked as a "second-rate Deep Purple" because keyboards figured prominently in their sound. (which is unfair) Despite some great albums and success in the early 70s, they never really hit it big in North America and were relegated to has-been status by the end of the decade. As a teen metalhead, I got into them in 1983 after hearing Abominog and was advised to go back and check out their "classic" material.

It was well worth it.

To get primed for the show, we drank, smoked and watched an old Don Kirschner's Rock Concert set (on VHS tape) from '74, which featured the "classic" lineup.

We then proceeded to roll over to the the Crazy Horse, ordered more beer and got ready to be blown away. By this time, the band's lineup had drastically changed. Newcomer (and fellow Canadian) Bernie Shaw was now the lead singer, Phil Lanzon was on keys and Trevor Bolder (formerly Bowie's bassist in the Spiders from Mars) had slotted in to replace the dead and departed. Lee Kerslake (drummer on Ozzy's Blizzard of Oz and Diary of a Madman albums) and guitarist Mick Box were the only ones left standing from the early seventies version of the group.

Didn't matter, as Shaw did note perfect imitations of David Byron and the band kicked throughout their sets. They had a new album called Raging Silence that they were promoting and they played a few cuts from that, though they mostly delivered the early material.

It was a devastatingly good show and we were positioned right in front of the stage, catching every nuance, buzzed and hollering so much that we practically lost our voices. All five musicians sang and the harmonies were brilliant. Highlights were "The Wizard", "Stealin'", "July Morning" and "The Way That It Is", though they could have did the alphabet all night and we would have been happy.

The great shame is that there couldn't have been more than 150 people there that night. Being a small club, they came out afterward and we walked up to Mick Box and told him how much we enjoyed the set. Seeing that we knew the tunes, he asked us to come back and meet everyone else. Keep in mind that these guys were my age now (early forties) and were playing music that was out of step with the times. They were genuinely happy to have younger people who knew their stuff note for note. I didn't realize this at the time and figured that we would go back, get a perfunctory "hello" and head home.

We hung out well past closing time. Trevor Bolder and I sat and talked for almost an hour. He told me all about the beginnings of the Spiders and how they came to play with Bowie, who was then virtually unknown, with only "Space Oddity" under his belt. The conversation really got going when I told him that I was a bass player, playing with a local group (we did university pub gigs). Ziggy Stardust and Suffragette City were in our set list, so I had studied and learned the lines he played on the record. He told me a few stories that I can't repeat here regarding some of the people that he played with. Both of us, it turned out, were Jack Bruce disciples. He also, like John Entwhistle (another common influence) played brass instruments as well. He told me that being a bassist, I would likely have to throw the instrument into the air and catch it between my teeth to get noticed on stage. It was quite an educational talk for me. He said that for him starting out with Bowie, it seemed like one week he was playing in a shitty little club and next he was onstage in the US in front of 20,000 people. It happened fast and went by in a blur.

Mick Box, for his part gave us a quick tutorial on how to play "The Wizard" properly. ("tune the E string to D, mate, and pick it like this")and Lee Kerslake went on the best rant that I ever witnessed regarding the music business. He said that he almost came to blows with a record company executive over the lack of attention given to their new record. He also had a few Ozzy stories that I can't print here. He and Bob Daisley (along with Randy Rhoads) played a large role in writing and arranging those tunes on Ozzy's first two (and best) solo LPs and were dumped before the Diary of a Madman tour. Lawsuits flew. Enough said about that.

He rejoined Uriah Heep shortly after.

All things considered, these guys loved to play and were very generous to hang out and share their road stories.

I have never been much for trying to meet famous people, so I don't have a wall of fame in my music room. When I have chanced to meet musicians that I respected, the aim was always to have a conversation and not to force them into a photo op or tell them that "they rocked". Perhaps sensing this, my buddy and I were treated like peers by these guys and, more importantly, they knew that two more kids were going to buy their new album and pass on the word.

Hard to believe that it's been twenty years. You always remember the people that genuinely love what they do and have respect for people that support their work.

Uriah Heep has just released a new disc called "Celebration" It features updated recordings of their 70s material. The lineup we met has remained intact, excepting Lee Kerslake who has left the band recently due to ill health. Check it out, if you like the band.

I'll be the first to honestly say that I had never heard of this band before, but I'm definitely checking them out now.
Have a great weekend, guys!

Oh yeah- if you're interested in writing a guest post here, please leave me a comment or feel free to email me at classicrockforthesoul[at]yahoo[dot]com.


rock and roll history said...

I have the cover of The Heep's first album and the words 'Easy Livin' tattooed on my right arm.

Check it out here

carolina said...

Sean, Thanks for sharing that story -- must have been an awesome experience and so unexpected. Loved your telling of it. Could feel your excitement. I'll check out "Celebration".

Perplexio said...

Wasn't John Wetton briefly in Uriah Heep in the late 70s?

drewzepmeister said...

Yes, he was Perplexo. He plays on the Return to Fantasy album. (Great album)

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