The Linear Canvas
This journal is about the wrongs and rights of the world, as I see them.

The Linear Canvas

Summer of ’75: Uriah Heep

August 3rd, 2008 . by Alexander Fisher

Uriah Heep had been putting out albums for about five years when I saw them in June 1975. The first time I recall hearing Uriah Heep, was the "Magicians Birthday" album at a friends house in about 1973.  I now have all of their recordings except the first album "Salisbury".

I saw them at Hara Arena (Dayton, Ohio) and then at The World Series of Rock, in Cleveland at the old Municipal Stadium in 1975. At Hara Arena, when we first arrived, there weren’t many people there yet. But unlike my Aerosmith experience at Hara Arena the previous month, they had let everyone in early. It might have been because of that incident that they did. (see the post Summer of ‘75: Aerosmith) People were just milling peacefully around the stage area as we walked in. We talked to a few people and just waited for the show. We saw some friends from London, and talked to them for awhile. Just before the beginning of the concert, my friend John Sullivan and I went out into the arena. John noticed a pretty girl laying on the floor, near the wall. Being the ladies man that he always tried to be, and actually was usually, he walked over to her, started smiling, talking and asking her questions. All of that must have disoriented her just enough to make her extremely ill, because that’s when a tube shaped stream of vomit came out of her mouth and splashed on my friend’s pant leg.

The first band that played that night was an Australian band called The SkyHooks. I seem to remember they were a punk/pop band. I had never heard of them before that night and I have never heard anything about them since. Their big gimmick was blowing up an empty TV console on stage. I looked them up and I guess they were very popular in Australia.

The second band was The Outlaws. They had just released their biggest selling record recently, containing their big hit Green Grass and High Tides Forever. They were a lot like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band. They were from the south and had three guitars that would duel throughout their songs. They were a country rock band, but they played hard and loud like any other rock band of the time. They jammed on Green Grass and High Tides Forever for about 30 minutes. It was great.

By the time Uriah Heep came on, it was getting kind of late.  I immediately was very impressed with the musicians in the band. They all seemed to be very proficient at their instruments and the singer, David Byron, was extraordinary.  He died about a few years later from alcoholism.  Most accounts are that his performances suffered greatly once he began drinking heavily.  I must’ve seen him in the times before that became a real problem.  But this was also the time when Uriah Heep’s record sales were becoming stagnant or worse.  Maybe that figured into his decline.  After their two biggest albums, Magicians Birthday and Demons and Wizards, they released an album called Wonderland that didn’t sell very well and didn’t contain a big hit like the others did. When I saw them that summer they were touring promoting their new album that was trying to recapture the old Uriah Heep fantasy theme. It was called, predictably, Return to Fantasy.

The Uriah Heep performance was really short. I cannot recall them playing any encores. It was after midnight and the length of the previous two band’s sets probably caused the arenas management to turn on the lights right after Uriah Heep left the stage the first time.  I remember feeling a little cheated.  Probably some kind of city code issue.

Uriah Heap previously had a bass player named Gary Thain. The story that I remember was an incident at a Texas concert where he had been seriously electrocuted onstage. I believe the story ended a few months later with him dead in a bathtub.

Both times that I saw the band, the bass player was John Wetton formerly of King Crimson.  He had been the lead singer and played bass in that band. Some might remember the song The Court of the Crimson King that he sang with them.  Later he would become the lead singer and bass player for the progressive rock group U.K., and then the progressive/pop group, Asia.  I think he got to sing something with Uriah Heep both times.  I can’t remember much about it. I really didn’t know much about him until a few years later.  I wasn’t paying much attention when he sang.  I guess I should have, considering how much I liked the band U.K. later.  He was only in Uriah Heep about a year.  I think he liked being in the spotlight more than he could be in this band.  He had a cast on his leg in Dayton and leaned up against a stool all night.

Here is a video of Uriah Heep’s Ken Hensley with former bandmate and ASIA frontman John Wetton.  This show was part of the Magician’s Birthday party weekend, filmed at the London Forum in December 2001.

The best interaction in the group was the guitar player, Mick Box and the drummer, Lee Kerslake. Both were very creative in their playing. Each stood out from the rest in their skill level.

The most interesting member was keyboard/guitar player, Ken Hensley. His guitar playing was not that memorable and his keyboard playing was just above average. But he looked great doing it. He had really long hair and looked cool behind the organ. His playing is what made the sound of Uriah Heep unique. His keyboard sound was what pushed the guitars and drums through the song harder and also kept the intensity going in the quieter moments.

When even classic rock fans look back to the seventies, some have forgotten Uriah Heep. They were a band of their time, occasionally a little heavy on the analog synthesizers, and heavily inspired by fantasy worlds and creatures. They will always be one of my favorites because of the good times I had seeing them live and listening to their recordings.

One Response to “Summer of ’75: Uriah Heep”

  1. […] the only band we were into at the time, we saw Uriah Heep twice that summer as well.(see my post Summer of ‘75:Uriah Heep ) But Aerosmith was the rock band we liked the best. I saw them at Dayton and in Cleveland that […]

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