Uriah Heep was formed in 1970 by keyboard player Ken Hensley, guitarist Mick Box and vocalist David Byron.
Byron and Box had previously been with Essex-based band Spice, who had recorded a single for United Artists in 1968. Hensley had previously played with The Gods, who recorded two notable psychedelic albums for EMI’s Columbia label in 1969.
In 1970 the band recorded their debut album, Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble which immediately gained favourable reaction from fans, if not from the critics. Various drummers were enlisted during the band’s first year of touring (shades of Spinal Tap), but following the release of 1971’s orchestrated Salisbury, Lee Kerslake was recruited as permanent skinsman.
Despite various lineup changes, critical derision and the departure of singer David Byron in the mid-70s, Uriah Heep became a major concert attraction throughout the world, particularly in the USA, selling millions of records in the process.
Uriah Heep probably pioneered the concept of the organ solo (and 6th form lads everywhere have never been the same since) . . . and for my money, David Byron just always seemed to try too hard with all his screams and his “aaah”s.
And when they weren’t giving it the art school mega pomp they were wallowing in naff acoustic ballads with crap lyrics. Ok, so I’m not a big fan. . .
My mate Tony will no doubt disagree and tell me that ver Heep helped change the shape of music (and what was wrong with the shape it was in, I ask you?).
Still, along with Black Sabbath they probably helped pioneer Heavy Metal (except it was called Hard Rock or “Progressive” Rock back then). How progressive? Well check out Lady in Black. It’s only got two chords all the way through for Christ’s sake . . .
Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, have a listen to Salisbury – the most over-orchestrated song in the history of western music.
On the positive side, the cover of Look at Yourself (pictured at left) had a mirror on it which probably came in dead handy for the sixth formers and art school lads to cut up some lines of go-fast before they slapped on the album and went very very slow!
And I did quite like Free Me from the 1977 Innocent Victim LP (even though it sounded more like The Eagles).