Uriah Heep Newcastle City Hall 21st Nov 1973 & 17th Oct 1974
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.”
All 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
According 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.
Archive for the ‘Peter Frampton’ Category
Peter Frampton (Frampton Comes Alive!) Manchester Belle Vue 1976
Support from Gary Wright
This was a great gig and one I remember to this day. I first saw Peter Frampton when he was touring with his band Frampton’s Camel as support for his old mates Humble Pie in 1972 or 1973. I remember that he played a great version of the Stone’s Jumping Jack Flash, and there was a song called Its a Plain Shame which was from his first solo album, and which was a great favourite of mine at the time. He then all but disappeared from view for a few years, and suddenly reappeared with massive success and his Frampton Comes Alive album. I bought the album, played it again and again, and when he arrived in the UK for a short tour in 1976 a group of us bought tickets to see him in Manchester. The gig was help in Manchester Belle Vue Kings Hall, which was a big hall in the centre of Manchester’s Belle Vue centre which was housed in an amusement park, and a zoo. This was before the days of arenas, and Kings Hall was at the time one of the largest indoor venues in the North of England. We had great seats close to the front. Support came from Gary Wright, ex Spooky Tooth, who wowed us with some great keyboard work and songs such as Dream Weaver. I think he also played Better By You, Better Than Me from his time with Spooky Tooth. Frampton was amazing. He played the entire Comes Alive! album and the place went nuts for him. I know that he has been touring the album again, and he brought it to the UK last year. The nearest gig to me was again in Manchester, and sadly I didn’t make it. Looking back that was a mistake. Setlist: Something’s Happening; Doobie Wah; Lines On My Face; Show Me the Way; It’s a Plain Shame; Wind of Change; Just the Time of Year; Penny For Your Thoughts; All I Wanna Be (Is by Your Side); Baby I Love Your Way; I Wanna Go To The Sun; Nowhere’s Too Far (For My Baby); (I’ll Give You) Money; Do You Feel Like We Do; Shine On; White Sugar; Jumpin’ Jack Flash; Day’s Dawning.
David Bowie Roker Park Glass Spider Tour 23 June 1987
Support Acts: Big Country
“Good evening Newcastle”, said David Bowie as he took the stage at this gig. Big mistake for a gig in Sunderland; rivalry between the two towns run deep, particularly in the context of football, and saying this in Roker Park, the home of Sunderland football, was not a good idea. It was to be an omen for the rest of the gig, which wasn’t one of Bowie’s best. In theory, this should have been a great gig. Bowie has a great band, with Peter Frampton coming in on guitar. He had promised that this tour would see a return to theatricals of the scale of the US Diamond Dogs tour. There was great anticipation for the gigs, which ultimately played to 3m people, exceeding the Serious Moonlight tour.
The day was wet, as I recall, and Big Country went down a storm, perhaps better than Bowie. Bowie’s setlist focussed on his more recent catalogue, and particularly his latest lp Never Let Me Down, ignoring the Ziggy era. The stage set was Ok, but somewhat silly, and personally I didn’t think it was as impressive as promised. At one point Bowie came down from the stage on a swing, and the spider just looked strange (but was it a forerunner of the recent U2 stage set up?). The programme for the gig (shown left) was obviously produced for the word tour, with lots of glossy photos of David, and nothing about the support acts; there was also an edition of the Sunderland Echo produced specially for the event (see below).
Setlist: Up the Hill Backwards; Glass Spider; Day-In Day-Out; Bang Bang; Absolute Beginners; Loving the Alien; China Girl; Fashion; Scary Monsters; All the Madmen; Never Let Me Down; Big Brother; ’87 and Cry; Heroes; Time Will Crawl; Beat Of Your Drum; Sons of the Silent Age; Dancing With the Big Boys; Zeroes; Let’s Dance; Fame; Encore: Blue Jean; Modern Love. Towards the end of the gig Bowie said: “I’m glad the rain has kept off”. It then poured down during the encore. Not a good day; I was slowly losing faith in Bowie, and I was to suffer further disappointment at a Tin Machine gig a few years later (see my blog of a few days ago). Tomorrow I’ll report on The Reality tour which I caught in Dublin in 2003, and which restored my faith in Bowie.