Archive for the ‘U Boat’ Category

Uriah Heep Newcastle City Hall 9th March 1977

Uriah Heep Newcastle City Hall 9th March 1977
heeptixmarc77Support Woody Woodmansey’s U Boat
1977 saw a new revitalised Uriah Heep and the release of their 10th album “Firefly”. David Byron had been sacked from the band, and John Wetton also left, their replacements being John Lawton and Trevor Bolder (ex David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars) respectively. My mates and I couldn’t wait to see how the new line-up shaped up, so we went along to see them at the first opportunity we got, which was at Newcastle City Hall in March 1977. The tour programme has a pretty honest account of how Ken Hensley (who seemed to take the role of leader at the time) recognised the need for change in the band, and without explicitly naming names, how he instigated the necessary changes. Major changes like this in the line-up are interesting, and risky times for a band. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Sometimes it gives a band such a boost, such a refresh, and a need to come back fighting, that it transforms them. I saw that happen with Purple when they exploded back with Coverdale, and Genesis when they came back strong post-Gabriel. And it isn’t just about how well the new guy can sing. It’s about the whole package, the image, the look, the performance, and how well the new guy gets on with the rest of the band, and whether they “fit”. Well something (almost) like that happened with Uriah Heep.heepprogmar77 They knew that the fans and critics were watching them and that the new tour could make or break the band, and they pulled out all the stops. In some John Lawton didn’t look quite right. He looked like a cross between a club singer and a straight rocker, with his open neck shirt and leather trousers. Mick Box: “Image-wise he wasn’t quite what we were looking for, but his pipes were perfect and so we went for the music end of it.” Ken Hensley: “He had a voice that I thought would give a new dimension.” Lawton had a great voice, which suited Heep. And Trevor Bolder was already known and also seemed to fit the band live. All seemed good. “Firefly” isn’t their greatest album, but it is ok, and their live set contained all the classics, including Lady in Black and the Wizard, both of which weren’t often played in the early 70s. Great stuff. Heep were back.
Support came from Trevor Bolder’s fellow ex-Spider, and Bowie sideman, Woody Woodmansey and his new band U Boat.
SetList (something like): Do You Know; Stealin’; Look At Yourself; Lady In Black; The Wizard; July Morning; Firefly; Sympathy; Who Needs Me; Easy Livin’; Gypsy; Sweet Lorraine
The next time I saw Uriah Heep was at the Reading Festival in August 1977, when they played third on the Friday night bill before Eddie and the Hot Rods and Golden Earring. They were then back at the City Hall again in November 1977, so I got hree helpings of Heep in one year; happy days.

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Reading Festival 26th – 28th August 1977

Reading Festival 26th – 28th August 1977
reading1977prog1Reading 1977 was notable for a couple of reasons. First, the line-up finally (and sadly in my view) lost all traces of the festival’s jazz and blues roots. Instead we had lots of classic rock, with a (small) smattering of punk and new wave. Although 1977 was the year of punk, it was another year before the new music finally started to make its mark at Reading. And second, the main feature of the 1977 festival was MUD. Lots of it. Possibly the worst I have ever seen at a festival. It had been raining heavily for weeks before, which resulted in most of the site becoming a quagmire with rivers of mud, and a large mud lake right in front of the stage. Wellies were at a premium and were being sold for incredible prices in the town.
Friday’s line-up: Staa Marx; S.A.L.T; Woody Woodmansey’s U Boat; Kingfish; 5 Hand Reel; Lone Star; Uriah Heep; Eddie and the Hot Rods; Golden Earring.
A strange mix of bands on the first day. Woody Woodmansey’s U Boat (ex Bowie’s Spiders from Mars) closed their set with Suffragette City. A highlight for me was Uriah Heep; now with John Lawton on vocals. Heep were always one of my favourite bands, and still are; I was a little sad to see them third on the line-up; they would have headlined a few years earlier. Lone Star were also good; showing lots of promise at the time, and Eddie and the Hot Rods went down well with the crowd. Golden Earring closed the day with a strong performance (Radar Love!).
Saturday’s line-up: Gloria Mundi; Krazy Kat; No Dice; George Hatcher Band; Ultravox!; Little River Band; John Miles; Aerosmith; Graham Parker and the Rumour; Thin Lizzy.
I remember being impressed by Ultravox!; this was the early version with John Foxx on vocals. Aerosmith seemed a big band to feature third on the bill, drew a large crowd, and were excellent. “Dream On” from those days remains a favourite song of mine. But the stars of the day were Graham Parker (the whole crowd sang along to (Hey Lord) Don’t Ask Me Questions) and of course, headliners Thin Lizzy. Lizzy were massive at the time and played a classic set including: Jailbreak; Dancing in the Moonlight; Still in Love With You; Cowboy Song; The Boys Are Back in Town; Don’t Believe a Word; Emerald and closing with The Rocker as encore. A good way to spend a Saturday night.
reading1977Sunday’s line-up: Widowmaker; The Motors; Tiger: The Enid; Blue; Racing Cars; Wayne County and the Electric Chairs; Hawkwind; Doobie Brothers; Frankie Miller; Alex Harvey.
The Enid were a big Reading favourite and Robert Godfrey got the tired crowd going with versions of classics like The Dambusters March. The Motors and Widowmaker got the day off to a good start. Steve Ellis had left Widowmaker by this point and had been replaced by John Butler, and they still featured that crazy showman Ariel Bender. Tiger featured the excellent guitarist Big Jim Sullivan (I used to love watching him play on the Tom Jones show in the ’60s), and Blue had some neat songs (try listening to “Little Jody”) and deserved bigger success. They were fronted my ex-Marmalade Hughie Nicholson. Racing Cars went down well with the crowd; this was the year that they had a massive hit with “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?” Wayne County was greeted by a hail of cans from a tired and twitchy crowd who didn’t take well to his punk songs, including the classic “If you don’t want to F**k me, F**k Off! Hawkwind were OK, as were the Doobies and Frankie Miller, but we were all there to see Alex Harvey. SAHB played the usual set and Alex told his quirky stories: Faith Healer; Midnight Moses; Gang Bang; Last of the Teenage Idols; Giddy-Up-A-Ding-Dong; St. Anthony; Framed; Dance to the Music. Alex hadn’t been well and this was their first gig for a few months. It was good to see them, but it wasn’t one of their best performances, and sadly it was the last time the band would play together. The end of an era.
By Sunday many people had given up and left because of the atrocious conditions. Poor John Peel tried to keep the crowd amused, partly be starting the famous “John Peel’s a C***” chant which continued into the next few years.
One final note. I had been to see The Sex Pistols play at Scarborough Penthouse club the night before the festival, and I was still buzzing with the memories of that gig. It had opened my eyes to the raw energy of punk, and that, coupled with the mud and awful conditions at Reading, meant I didn’t enjoy the weekend as much as usual. And just to make the experience complete, the alternator on my car packed in on the way back up the M1, and the car finally ground to a halt somewhere near Nottingham. After a wait of an hour or so, a kind AA man towed us back to Barnard Castle, where we waited (a few hours) for another AA relay van to pick us up and take us home. We arrived back after midnight on Monday, tired, hungry and very muddy, soggy and scruffy….the joys of festival going. Happy Days 🙂