riah Heep was founded under a different name by guitarist Mick Box and vocalist David Byron, whom had both gained their experience from the mid '60's operation Stalkers, not to mention Byron's experience playing on a cover version hits compilation with Reg Dwight (a.k.a. Elton John). After recruiting Paul Newton (bass/vocals), Roy Sharland (organ) and Alex Napier (drums), they opened up their own shop under the name Spice. A rare one-off 45 under this name was issued titled What About The Music? (1968) that failed to sell significantly, so they reformed the act under the name Uriah Heep (a name taken from Dickens' David Copperfield novel), and made some staffing changes in the form of Ken Hensley (ex-Gods/ex-Toe Fat; keyboards/guitar/vocals) and Nigel Olsson (ex-David Spencer Group/ex-Plastic Penny; drums).
Now signed to 'Virtigo' and in a Hard Rock style critics accused of ripping off Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep launched their debut album Very 'eavy Very 'umble in 1970. The record featured two classics, Gypsie, and a cover of Tim Rose's Come Away Melinda. After the album, Keith Baker filled in for the Elton John destined Olsson. Bird Of Prey was the hit on their follow-up set Salisbury (1971), like its predecessor, sold better in Germany than anywhere else. The song, however, was left off of the US version of the album. Later that same year Look At Yourself was released, featuring new drummer Ian Clarke, to fair reviews. With guest star Manfred Mann playing keyboards on the famed 10 minute opus July Morning the album pushed its way up the charts to make it to US 93 and a 39 in the UK But by the release of Demons And Wizards (1972), Gary Thain (ex-Keef Hartley had taken over from Mark Clarke, the replacement for Newton) and Lee Kerslake (ex-Gods/ex-Toe Fat) taking over the drum spot. Demons And Wizards was point blank excellent making gold on both sides of the Atlantic with a 23 in the US and 20 in the UK With tracks like The Wizard and Easy Livin' (a US top 40 hit on its own) the album could do not wrong and farther extended Uriah Heep's standards.
The Magician's Birthday (1972) followed its predecessor up the charts for the ride with Sweet Lorraine and Blind Eye becoming minor US favorites. It made only slightly less on the two respective charts but it led the way for two more gold records the year, the live set Uriah Heep Live (1973) and Sweet Freedom (1973), while Hensley released a solo set Proud Words On A Dusty Shelf. Their live album featured a medley of classic Rock N' Roll songs: Roll Over Beethoven, Blue Suede Shoes, Mean Woman Blues, Hound Dog, At The Hop and Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On.
Wonderworld (1974) matched its predecessors chart wise making 38 US (23 UK), but it would be the last party for sometime for the band entered into a rough period involving some tough decisions and discussions. Thain was asked to leave in 1975, less than a year later he would die of a drug overdose. John Wetton (ex-King Crimson/ex-Family/ex-Roxy Music) was drafted to replace him in time for the follow-up album Return To Fantasy (1975), an album that made top 10 in the UK but barely made top 100 in the US Hensely, on the other hand, tried his luck as a soloist that same year by releasing his second set Eager To Please, an album that failed to get a rise, as did Uriah Heep's next album High And Mighty (1976) making only 55 in the UK.
Now disillusioned, Wetton and Byron were sacked and replaced with John Lawton (ex-Lucifer's Friend; vocals) and Trevor Bolder (ex-David Bowie's Spiders From Mars/ex-Wishbone Asah) to reform Uriah Heep. Byron would go solo and release his one-off Take No Prisoners (1976). But their problems weren't that easily solved for the punk Rock explosion was now afoot leaving the forthcoming albums of Firefly (1977), Innocent Victim (1977) and Fallen Angel (1978) to fail commercially and critically. John Sloan (ex-Lone Star) took over vocals while Chris Slade (ex-Manfred Mann's Earth Band) replaced Lee on drums when Lee left to join Ozzy Osbourne, but the resulting album Conquest (1980) still failed.
In early 1982 Uriah Heep came back with a reformed line up in a comeback attempt, this time featuring Box with Lee and fellow mates Pete Goalby (ex-Trapeze; vocals), John Sinclair (ex-Heavy Metal Kids; keyboards), Bob Daisley (ex-Ozzy Osbourne/ex-Rainbow/ex-Widowmaker (UK); bass) (Hensley, now firmly out of the act had completed one more solo album Free Spirit (1980)). Their efforts were rewarded for Abominog (1982) returned them to the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Head First, the 1983 follow-up, continued the trend. Kevin Bolder returned on bass in time for 1985's Equator, their last to chart. The downslide couldn't be stopped even after the line-up change featuring Bernie Shaw (ex-Grand Prix/ex-Praying Mantis; vocals) and Phil Lanzon (ex-Grand Prix; keyboards). The resulting album Rising Silence (1989) was met with just that: silence. Uriah Heep, however, managed to maintain an underground loyal following and even became the first heavy Rock act to play in the USS.R., not to mention their courageous Heavy Rock version of Argent's Hold Your Head Up, which became a track on the aforementionedRising Silence album.
Still 'eavy Still Proud, a live set, followed in 1990. Their career continued with less notoriety during the 1990s with Different World (1991), Sea Of Light (1995), Spellbinder (live; 1996), and ending with Sonic Origami (1998) as their final work to date. Uriah Heep are well respected as a classic '70's act and sound, a style imitated by too many bands to mention but it was clear as far back as the early 1980s that their contribution to heavy rock music was complete.
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|RRCA File Code||UC000287|
Artists mentioned in this article:
|Widowmaker (UK)||Heavy Metal Kids|