Uriah Heep Newcastle City Hall 21st Nov 1973 & 17th Oct 1974

Uriah Heep Newcastle City Hall 21st Nov 1973 & 17th Oct 1974heeppleccy
The strange little black blob pictured here is a prized plectrum that I was lucky enough to catch at a Uriah Heep gig in the early ’70s. It was thrown to me by Mick Box, and I was so excited when I caught it. It is a small black plastic Hofner pleccie and was well worn when I got it, so it had obviously been used quite a bit by Mick. I have used it myself a few times and found it quite hard and chunky; great for riffs. I would try and play “Gyspy” in the hope that it would somehow transform my playing into that of Mick Box, but sadly it didn’t quite work out. I couldn’t get the same tone or power. Still it’s nice to have it, and frightening to think that 40 or so years have passed since Mick threw it from the stage of the City Hall.
We would always try and get down to the front at Heep gigs. When Uriah Heep came on stage there was always a rush for the front. They would usually start with a favourite, perhaps “Easy Livin'” or “Stealin'” and it would be loud and rocking. There would be a massive crush at the front of the stage and Dave Byron and Mick Box would both play to the crowd. Mick would have a massive grin on his face. He would do a series of strange hand gestures, lifting one arm above his head and wiggling his fingers as a magician would do, pointing towards the strings of his guitar, as if he was magically controlling it and playing it from a distance, just like one of the wizards that they would sing about. Mick in an interview: “The hand movements came about when I play a left hand trill in the old days and we were only playing clubs, and everybody could see it to be clever. When we first went to the USA and supported Three Dog Night playing 10.000-20.000 seaters I waved my arm in the air so that all and sundry could see.” Sometimes Mick would lift his guitar above his head, or hold it out in front of himself, and let those down front strum the strings. Pure magic. I remember reading somewhere that David Byron was the ultimate rock front man, and that ain’t far wrong. Ken Hensley: “David was the communication point, the focal point of the whole group’s stage presentation. He had so much charisma, so much ability.” His vocals were amazing and his stage presence, charisma, ego and attitude were all so much larger than life. Dave Byron knew that he was a star. How could he be anything else? I can picture him now, wearing satin flares, one foot on the monitor, leaning over towards us all, hands outstretched. He was singing directly to us. Byron: “I see myself as more than just a vocalist. I have a definite job in tying the band together visually. It stands to reason that the spotlights will be on me most of the time because I’m the front man, so by moving around I can involve everyone. I take singing very much to heart, and I try to use my voice as an instrument.”
heepnov73tixAll around us down at the front of the stage were fans going absolutely crazy. I would usually stand and watch but many of the people beside me were totally manic. It was called “idiot dancing” at the time. A definition of “idiot dancing”: “a style of frenzied, abandoned dancing on the spot (invariably consisting of writhing hand and arm movements and shaking of the head) to rock music, particularly the ‘psychedelic’ style (a precursor of heavy metal) of the late 1960s. By the mid-1970s it had mutated into the less picturesque headbanging.” I notice from my tickets for Heep gigs in late 1973 and 1974 that my seat was halfway back in the stalls, or in the balcony. But by the end of the show I swear I was in the crush near to the stage.
Support for the 1974 tour was the mighty Heavy Metal Kids. Imagine it: Gary Holton and Dave Byron on the same stage in one night. Mayhem! The setlist was probably something like this: Easy Livin’; Sweet Lorraine; Stealin’; July Morning; Dreamer; If I Had The Time; Gypsy; Seven Stars; Sweet Freedom; Look At Yourself; Love Machine; Rock ‘n’ Roll Medley
heep74tixAccording to the Uriah Heep website the support act for the 1974 tour was Peter Frampton. Now I have no recollection of seeing Frampton with Uriah Heep, but hey who knows, the City Hall bar (or the City Vaults) may well have been calling me. If it was Frampton, this was at the time of his third solo album “Somethin’s Happening” and he will have played songs like “Its a Plain Shame”, “Lines on my Face” and “Doobie Wah”. A typical setlist for Uriah Heep in 1974 was: Stealin’; Suicidal Man; Something Or Nothing; Wonderworld; Sweet Freedom; I Won’t Mind; July Morning; Easy Livin’; Sweet Lorraine; Little Piece Of Leather; Look At Yourself; Gypsy; Love Machine; Rock ‘n’ Roll Medley
Bass player Gary Thain suffered an electric shock at a concert in Dallas, Texas on 15 September 1974, and was seriously injured. He was also suffering from a drug habit which was affecting his performance, and he was fired by the band in early 1975. He was replaced by former King Crimson bassist John Wetton. Thain passed away as a result of a heroin overdose, on 8 December 1975 at his London flat. He was just aged 27.
Gary Thain had a unique, and very intense bass style. He would play without a plectrum, preferring to use his fingers, and would put his entire body into the performance. I first saw him play in the Keef Hartley band, and remember being impressed by him then. He was undoubtedly a very important part of the classic Uriah Heep line-up. In just three years Gary Thain participated in over 400 live performances all over the world with Uriah Heep.
This was the end of the classic line-up, but there were still many more great concerts to come.
More Heeping tomorrow.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Many thanks for sharing your memories Peter. That was an excellent write-up.

    A correction which you might find interesting: “In less than three years Gary Thain participated in over 400 live performances all over the world with Uriah Heep.”

    Reply

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