Uriah Heep Newcastle City Hall 19th Jan 1973
Support was from Nick Pickett, who was a folk singer on the Vertigo label.
They started out as the band the critics loved to hate. A reviewer for Rolling Stone magazine even promised to commit suicide “if this band makes it” (bet he didn’t 🙂 ). But those of us who were fans understood. We knew that Uriah Heep were one of the classic rock acts of the 70s. Easily up there with Zeppelin, Purple and Sabbath.
The classic Heep line-up existed between 1972 and 1975 and was Mick Box (guitar), David Byron (vocals), Ken Hensley (keyboards), Lee Kerslake (drums) and Gary Thain (bass).
One of my mates had their first album “..Very ‘Eavy …Very ‘Umble” and we would gather in his house listening to the raw primitive riff of Gypsy and the spooky twisting tale of Come Away Melinda (which was my favourite). “Play ‘Gypsy again’.” Onto the turntable it would go, volume on full, needle down, again and again and again. And at the local Mecca, when “Gypsy” came screaming out of the speakers, the dance floor would fill with people playing air guitar and shaking their long hair around and around. “When I was only seventeen, I fell in love with a gypsy queen.” There remains something basic and primeval about that song; so simple and yet so powerful. But there was so much more to Uriah Heep; the imagery of “Demons and Wizards” (“he was the wizard of a thousand kings”), the dark folklore narrative of “Lady in Black”, the thundering, rock’n’roll of “Easy Livin'”, the majestic “Sunrise”, and that classic mirror lp cover of “Look At Yourself”. Then there was “July Morning”, Uriah Heep’s own “Stairway to Heaven”, which used dynamics, orchestral arrangements and narrative to take us to a different world; I could visualise Dave Byron standing on a warm summer morning, the sun breaking through; simply classic.
I got to see Uriah Heep for the first time in January 1973 on the “Magician’s Birthday” tour. I went along a semi-interested fan and came away 100% a convert. The performance was so powerful, the music so loud, and the songs so great, in every way. Dave Byron was the perfect rock vocalist, possessing an operatic voice with an incredible range, and had tremendous stage presence, commanding the audience to join in and become part of the show. Mick Box was, and remains, the unsung guitar hero, long hair and a massive grin stretching from ear to ear. Ken Hensley would rock back and forth pulling at his Hammond, a long mane of hair swaying behind him, creating sounds that blended 60s R’n’B swirl with deep Bach chords. Gary Thain was the silent, solid bass man, and Lee Kerslake was constant at the back, crashing away on the drums. And the volume. Uriah Heep understood that rock had to be LOUD, that feeling the music was just as important as hearing it. When they played ‘Easy Livin'”; the volume went up a notch, the bass notes hit me hard right in the chest, and I honestly feared I would never be able to hear again (can I sue a band for the state of my hearing today ?) The other important, distinctive and vital element of Uriah Heep in concert was the screaming harmonies. They were simply stunning live. Ok, I get that it’s not cool to say so (and I guess it’s not cool to use the word “cool” but who cares), but to a teenage kid in the stalls of the City Hall in 1973 Uriah Heep were just as good as Purple or Zeppelin or Sabbath.
I came out of the City Hall that night a big fan of Uriah Heep. I went to school the next day and bored everyone about how great they were. Oh and my ears were ringing for days after, but that was part of the fun, it reminded me that I had experienced a proper rock gig.
I’ve seen Uriah Heep another 17 or so times since. I’ve lost faith in them now and then, particularly as the line-ups changed over the years, and I’ve missed some of their tours, but I’ve always returned to them. I’m going to spend the next few days writing about Uriah Heep live (don’t worry, I’ll combine some gigs and have already reviewed some recent shows, so it won’t take me 17 days) and I will try to remind myself what made (and still makes) them so great and mighty.
Set List in Jan 1973: Sunrise; Sweet Lorraine; Traveller In Time; Easy Livin’; July Morning; Gypsy; Tears In My Eyes; Circle Of Hands; Look At Yourself; The Magician’s Birthday; Love Machine; Rock ‘n’ Roll Medley.
The above setlist is from the Birmingham gig of the tour, which was recorded for the classic Uriah Heep Live double lp. I also think they played Bird of Prey at Newcastle. I particularly remember Dave Byron announcing it as “Here is an old one, probably the last time we will play this” (it wasn’t 🙂 ) The rock’n’roll medley typically contained songs like: Roll Over Beethoven; Blue Suede Shoes; Mean Woman Blues; Hound Dog; At The Hop; Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On. And we all sang along. Happy happy days.
Archive for the ‘Nick Pickett’ Category
Uriah Heep Newcastle City Hall 19th Jan 1973
The Reading Festival 27 – 29 August 1976
It was August Bank Holiday 1976 and I was back at Reading for the annual festival. By now a group of us went every year, usually traveling down in the back of a hired transit van. The line-up for this festival wasn’t as strong as previous years, and included a mix of reggae, classic rock, underground and heavy metal bands. Punk was on the horizon, but yet to break through. The other memories I have are of rain (some, but not lots in 1976, as I recall), mud, lots of drunkenness (by us, and every one else as I remember), and lots (and I mean lots) of can fights, which seemed fun at the time, but were probably actually pretty dangerous. If you got a half-full can of Watney’s Red Barrel on the back of your head, you really knew about it, and several people must have come home from the festival with pretty nasty cuts and scars. The festival was moving from a friendly, hippy vibe to a drunken, laddish, almost aggro vibe. This also matched the way the line-up and the music would develop, as it moved more to heavy metal in the late ’70s. The main attraction for us this year was Rory, who was the man, and a hero to us all.
Friday’s line-up consisted of Stallion (don’t recall who they were), Roy St John (American pub rock), U Roy (reggae), Supercharge (a Liverpool band fronted by singer and sax player Albie Donnelly, who had quite a bit of success in the mid-70s and played a lot up and down the country; I remember seeing them several times), Mighty Diamonds (reggae), Mallard (Cpt Beefheart’s original Magic Band, and pretty good too) and headliners the hippy, trippy and quite weird Gong. I remember watching Mallard and Gong, who were both pretty good.
Saturday had Nick Pickett (a folk singer, who I’d seen supporting Curved Air a few years earlier), Eddie & The Hot Rods (classed as pub rock as much as punk at this stage), Moon, Pat Travers (ace guitarist), Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum, Sadista Sisters, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Van Der Graaf Generator, Phil Manzanera and the 801 band, Camel and Rory Gallagher. Stand outs for me were Van Der Graaf who played an amazing extended version of Killer (John Peel: “Bloody marvellous, Van der Graaf Generator. Come on let’s here it for them”), Manfred Mann, and Phil Manzanera and the 801 band, which was seen as a pretty big deal at the time as Phil had assembled a stella line-up of himself (guitar), ex-Roxy compatriot Brian Eno (keyboards, synthesizers, vocals), Bill MacCormick (bass, vocals), Simon Phillips (drums), Francis Monkman (ex-Curved Air, piano and clavinet) and Lloyd Watson (ace slide-guitar, vocals). The 801 band released one album, and a live lp which was recorded at one of three gigs that they played, at the Festival Hall. They played a great version of the Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows. But Rory was the highlight of the weekend. We were all massive fans, and made our way to the front of the crowd for his set, which was just amazing. A recording of Rory’s set that night exist which shows that he played: Take What I Want; Bought and Sold; Everybody Wants To Know; Drinkin’ Muddy Water; Tattoo’d Lady; Calling Card; Secret Agent; Pistol Slapper Blues; Too Much Alcohol; Souped-Up Ford and Bullfrog Blues. The Rory Gallagher band was Rory (guitar, vocals), Lou Martin (keyboards), the great Gerry McAvoy (bass) and Rod de’Ath (drums).
Sunday featured: Howard Bragen; Aft; The Enid (who got the crowd singing along with Land Of Hope And Glory and became a festival favourite), A Band Called ‘O’; Back Door (very jazzy); Sassafras; Brand X (featured Phil Collins on drums); AC/DC (one of their early UK appearances, and just blew everyone away; Angus and Bon Scott on top form); Sutherland Bros & Quiver; Ted Nugent (had some arguments with the crowd who were throwing cans at him); Black Oak Arkansas (Jim Dandy to the Rescue 🙂 ) and Osibisa (who were billed as special mystery guests, which seemed a bit of a let down, but got the crowd going and went down well).
Another fun time had by all 🙂
Note; for the first time there was an official glossy programme, as well as the newspaper programme, produced by the local Evening Post. Both are pictured here.
Curved Air 70s gigs
I believe that the bands that you see when you are young shape your musical tastes for the rest of life. Curved Air are one of those bands for me. I first saw them at Newcastle City Hall in 1971, and was mesmerised by them in many different ways. Their mix of classical music, folk and electronic sounds was quite unique, Sonja Kristina was just stunning on stage, and the musicianship of Darryl Way on violin and Francis Monkman on moog synthesiser was outstanding. And they had great songs: the hit single “Back Street Luv”, “Marie Antoinette”, the beautiful and haunting “Melinda (More or Less)”, their first single “It Happened Today”, and the set closer “Vivaldi” during which Daryl Way went wild with his electric violin. Support at that 1971 gig came from Irish band Skid Row, not to be confused with the American heavy rock band of the 80s. I’d seen the bluesy Skid Row a few months before in Sunderland Locarno, with the young Gary Moore on guitar (he just blew me away: I went home and practised and practised). However, by the time of this gig Gary had been replaced by Paul Chapman. Brush Sheils was the bass player and front man of Skid Row; his name coming from his big brush of hair. He sported a persplex bass and was totally crazy on stage: a real wild guy. I then saw Curved Air play a great set on the Friday night of the 1972 Reading Festival where they headlined over Genesis and Mungo Jerry. They came onstage late, around midnight by which time we were all sitting on the grass, waiting in the cold night. Their set was just amazing that night. Sonja sang those lovely songs over the evening mist, and brought the first night of the festival to a lovely end. From then on I saw Curved Air almost any and every time that they played in the North East. I remember gigs at Newcastle Mayfair, Newcastle Poly, Sunderland Poly and Durham Students Union. I recall Marie and I turning up at a sold out Freshers Ball at Teesside Poly one night and managing somehow to blag our way in to the hall (backhander to the doorman methinks). I saw them again at the City Hall in 1976. I think I may have seen them at Redcar Bowl. There were probably other gigs that I don’t remember; Curved Air played a lot in those days and must have been up and down the motorway playing Student Union dances most weekends. Over the years the line up changed (a lot). At one point local guy Eddie Jobson joined on violin. Jobson was a young and extremely talented multi-instrumentalist who I’d seen several times at Sunderland Locarno, playing in Hartlepool (or was it Peterlee?) band Fat Grapple. Fat Grapple were great, its a shame no recorded material of the band from that era exists. Along the way Stewart Copeland, who was to become Sonja’s husband and later of The Police, joined on drums, and Darryl Way returned to the fold. The one constant factor throughout that period was Sonja Kristina. I can picture her now, commanding the stage, top hat on her head and a cape around her shoulders, belting out Back Street Luv. Great nights. Can I go back there please? I’ve seen Curved Air a couple of times in recent years, at Holmfirth Picturedrome and at Glastonbury, and the magic is still there; for me anyway. Thanks to John for finding a signed 1971 programme on ebay for me, and for sending me an image of an early 70s poster (also bought on ebay; see scans).