For when Mick
Box decided to offer the vacant position to ex-Grand Prix, Praying
Mantis and Stratus vocalist Bernie Shaw, it was a move that was to pay
the highest dividends. Box had checked Shaw out at Stratus' farewell
performance at the Marquee, on the advice of Heep and former Grand Prix
tour manager Howard Menzies.
was like everything falling into place," says Mick. Shaw remembers
covering Heep songs during in his early days with Cold Sweat in Canada.
"I felt honoured at being invited to join such a legendary
band," he says.
And so there
was a new found optimism during 1987. Once again there was a definite
feeling within the camp that here was a line-up that had a certain
something about it. Things had taken an about turn behind the scenes
too, as Heep had severed their old management connections the year
before, linking up with the Miracle Group of Companies for business
management. "I'd known the band for several years," says boss
Steve Parker, "and had always been impressed by their tenacity.
When the opportunity arose, I didn't need to think twice."
difference, however, between Uriah Heep and so many other bands who have
built up large histories, is one of attitude. It would have been easy to
stick to established routines but Heep have always tried to extend their
horizons, visiting new countries and experimenting with new ideas.
But if ever the
band had started to think that perhaps they really had done the lot then
the events towards the end of the year were to change not just that
particular thought but quite possibly the course of their career as
well. Heep had ventured into most of the Iron Curtain countries, and had
returned for more, but in late '87, with Miracle now also their agents,
an even more challenging prospect was to loom on the horizon - Russia.
Up until this
point, the USSR had been considered strictly out of bounds, for heavy
rock bands anyway (with only the likes of Cliff Richard, Elton John and
Billy Joel having played there), though 'July Morning' had somehow
managed to establish their name over there in the late Seventies.
However, in the wake of glasnost and perestroika, the attitude of the
Soviets had started to change, and it was Hungarian promoter Laszlo
Hegedus (a close contact of Miracle) who was to help secure the deal;
Uriah Heep had been invited to become the first Western rock band to
play in the Soviet Union, land of Stoli and caviar!
making concerts at Moscow's Olympic Stadium, where the band played to a
total of 180,000 people across ten consecutive nights (following a
welcoming reception that Bernie remembers as being "something like
Beatlemania"), represented not just an achievement for Uriah Heep
but a major breakthrough for western music in general, opening the door
for the likes of the Scorpions, Bon Jovi, Status Quo and Motley Crue.
so aware of being ambassadors of the West," Mick Box told Music
Week shortly afterwards. "If we'd have gone there and created rock
and roll havoc it could have been (Iron) curtains for other bands
wanting to go, excuse the pun. We were definitely testing the
significantly, however, the event became the launching pad for the new
line-up, the concerts being recorded and subsequently issued in the form
of the commemorative LIVE IN MOSCOW album (their first release for
Legacy Records - incidentally their third live recording of their
career, following the million selling URIAH HEEP LIVE (1973) and the
release of LIVE IN EUROPE 1979, featuring John Lawton and finally put
out by Castle Communications in 1986).
notable thing about LIVE IN MOSCOW is the inclusion of three new tracks,
the impressive 'Mr. Majestic' (a Phil Lanzon composition) among them.
"It was important to let people know exactly where we were at
musically," explains Box.
relationship between Box and Lanzon was already beginning to gel, though
as Phil says, "I don't consider myself to be Ken Hensley's
replacement - I just happen to play in a band called Uriah Heep."
In Britain, in particular, the media got rather excited by the Soviet
excursion, serving to re-establish Heep's name. "It's funny,"
Box told Kerrang!'s Paul Henderson (who also supplied the LIM
sleeve-notes). "Because our profile hasn't been that big in England
recently some people think that weíre dead and buried.
But in the last
17 years there hasn't been one year where we haven't toured
extensively." And that's exactly what they had been doing. Indeed
their touring schedule reads like something from Around The World In
Eighty Days, with Heep subsequently following up the Soviet dates with
three sell-out concerts in Czechoslovakia (the first Western rock band
to play there), four sell-out shows in East Berlin, and then becoming
the first Western rock band to tour Bulgaria, spreading the word to
another 80,000 people.
returned to Britain for the Reading Festival in August of '88, winning
much acclaim ('Band of the day' said RAWs Dave Ling, and he wasn't
wrong), before following up with a UK tour with sleaze merchants The
Dogs Díamour in tow. "I love the road," says Bemie Shaw.
"I just can't get enough of it." Wich is just as well, when
you think about it!
But if emphatic
proof of Uriah Heep's re-emergence was required then that was to come
with the new Raging Silence album,
recorded and mixed over a couple of months in London and released in May
1989. "We immediately wanted to get Ashley (Howe) in to
produce," says Mick, "but he had some commitments so he came
over (from his NY residence) for pre-production and introduced Richard
Dodd to us (who'd just done a great job with George Harrison's CLOUD
NINE album and with The Traveling Willburys).
brought a freshness, he brought the live power onto record and I thought
he enticed out of Bernie a lot of different styles. I think Bernie
learnt a lot from him and I was very pleased to see the whole thing
grow. And hopefully that natural growth will be reflected on the next
looks on the recording of the album as one great leaming experienee:
"Iíve never learnt so much in so little time. They brought a lot
out of me that I didn't even realise I had." Perhaps the most
stunning feature of RAGING SILENCE is its contemporary freshness.
Between Howe, Dodd and the band they grabbed Heep's traditional
character by the scruff of the neck, sprinkled it with a high-tech
seasoning and emerged with one of the year's best hard rock albums.
'Blood Red Roses' (written for the album by Pete Goalby) they had
vibrancy, urgency and commerciality; in 'Cry Freedom' they had a rock
solid winner inspired and inspirited by their travels behind the Iron
Curtain; in 'Hold Your Head Up' (the old Argent hit) they displayed
bravery with a touch of verve; in 'When The War Is Over' (previously a
hit at home for Australia's Cold Chisel and Little River Band) they had
an emotive ballad full of hope and optimism; the list goes on... The
press, too, admired the way in which this particular Heep held true to
its traditional values while displaying a vision of tomorrow."
stems from a conscious search for new ways of doing things," says
Box. "It gets harder but you have to keep striving for that. We're
attracting new fans all the time, indeed for some people RAGING SILENCE
will be the first Heep album they've heard and then they'll discover
that there's a whole history to us."
SILENCE was followed by a return to the Soviet Union, this time
providing a musical education to 100,000 people in Leningrad, then a
visit to Wroclaw in Poland, six concerts in Brazil, a free concert in
East Berlin (in front of another 80,000 people), dates in Britain (the
performance at London's Astoria being captured on the RAGING THROUGH THE
SILENCE video, courtesy of Fotodisk, living proof of how comfortably the
likes of 'Bad Bad Man', 'More Fool You' and ' Blood Red Roses' sit
alongside the old favourites), tours of Greece, Spain, Firdand and even
a visit to Estonia, making it a total of 38 countries to have been
touched by the strains of Mick Box's immediately identifiable guitar.
only had my passport a year and I only got two free pages left!"
exclaims Shaw, while Lanzon is just as enthusiastic about the band's
travels. "It's now established that Heep will continue to cross
borders; who knows, for maybe another twenty years." And America
will soon be welcoming the band back to its freeways. "Iím sure
we can go there and take it to the limits," says Kerslake. It says
something about the spirit within the current band when Trevor Bolder
says "the last two years have been the most enjoyable of all my
time in Heep".
Towards the end of the year, as part of a hand-full of UK dates, Uriah
Heep played in the Central TV studios in Nottingham, the film was shown
as part of the Independent TV series called Bedrock and a few years
later, was repeated in the Cue Music series. A video of the concert was
also released in 1990 as part of Heepís 20th Anniversary celebrations
called LIVE LEGENDS along with a three CD box set of classic Uriah Heep
tracks entitled TWO DECADES IN ROCK. Also released was a cut down
version of the LIVE LEGENDS soundtrack for CD titled STILL 'EAVY, STILL
the only UK gig of this anniversary year was at the annual bikers
festival, The Bulldog Bash. As there was little promotion outside the
bikers clubs who organised the event, very few real Uriah Heep fans were
in the audience. Although Uriah Heep were to have a stable band once
Shaw and Lanzon had joined, recording deals that were satisfactory for
the band were far from abundant. In fact, between 1986 and 1995 they
were to only release three full studio albums and one prime live set.
The band toured constantly however, even if UK fans were beginning to
call this era of the band's career 'The Wilderness Years'!
WORLD, THEN THE SEARCH FOR A DIFFERENT LABEL
Work began on a new album in 1990 but with tours in North and South
America and several festivals in Europe, the band were constantly in and
out of the studio and consequently the album release was delayed.
Richard Dodd (producer of Raging Silence) was unavailable, so Trevor
Bolder assumed the production responsibilities. Released early in 1991,
Different World got a mixed
reception from the press, Chris Watts overlooked the music and resorted
to personal insults in Kerrang!, Andy Bradshaw wrote in Metal Hammer:
"What a surprise this one is! Heep bassist Trevor Bolder should
produce all their albums in the future". Concluding the review he
went on to say: "DIFFERENT WORLD is a very strong album indeed,
containing quality songs, immaculate arrangements and heeps of
coincided with Uriah Heepís biggest UK tour since the 70ís, equalled
only by the EQUATOR tour 6 years earlier, once again they were dogged by
poor promotion from the record company with terrible presentation in the
artwork, consequently the album disappeared without a trace. After
completion of the DIFFERENT WORLD album Uriah Heep were to end their
association with Legacy Records. The band however continued to tour in
many territories throughout the world including Continental Europe,
North America, South Korea, Eastern Europe and Japan.
compilation releases have flooded the market in recent years but the
only ones to offer anything other than previously released material were
RARITIES FROM THE BRONZE AGE, an excellent CD of singles and B sides
previously unavailable on CD, and THE LANSDOWNE TAPES which features
previously unreleased material from the early 70ís during the period
when Gerry Bron first took Spice into the studio through to the LOOK AT
YOURSELF era. Uriah Heep did return to the studio to record 5 tracks in
August 1992 to aid their efforts in obtaining a new recording contract.
Anxious not to be saddled with another record company who were not 100%
behind them, they have been very selective and therefore did not enter
into deals that were readily available. In 1995, Uriah Heep celebrated
their 25th anniversary moving through to 1996 are as solid as ever.
present line up of Mick Box, Trevor Bolder, Bernie Shaw, Phil Lanzon and
Lee Kerslake spans over a third of their history and is the longest
lasting of all. Mick Box may be the only ever present member but Lee
Kerslake has been around for all but a couple of years, Trevor Bolder
has played bass in Uriah Heep for almost three quarters of the bandís
career, Shaw has been the longest serving of all the vocalists and
Lanzonís time on keyboards will by 1996 be equal to Ken Hensleyís
time in the band. They work better together today than any of the
previous line ups and their latest album, Sea of Light has been hailed
as their best since the days of DEMONS AND WIZARDS and THE MAGICIANíS
BIRTHDAY. This box set contains 2 demos from the sessions prior to the
latest album along with the track 'Time Of Revelation' - a song not
unlike some of the great rockers from days gone by. Uriah Heep have
indeed had an eventful history, with both successes and set backs, there
can be no doubt however on the impact and influence they have had in the
development of Rock Music. They are a band that are very 'eavy, very 'umble
and very very good.
September 14 of
1998 " Sonic Origami" is released, a
brand new album produced by Pip Wiliams. The band did a very succesfull
tour in Europe, 45 countries were visited by the king of the road. A
planned US tour in the autumn of 1999 was cancelled. Heep just carries
on and in november of 1999 a new tour in Europe was done.
The new century
started off with lots of gigs all over Europe. In the year 2002 Uriah
Heep is more active then ever. 30 years of rock resulting in
stunning DVD's called THE LEGEND CONTINUES, Acoustically Driven and the
rockumentary Sailing the Sea of light.... live CD's : FUTURE ECHOES OF
THE PAST & Electrically Driven.. In 2001 the band had a sold out
tour in the UK.
A reunion gig took
place in London on December 7th, 2001 with Ken Hensley & John Lawton.
The Magicians Birthday Party was the first celebration of Heepmusic that
had turned into a Heep-tradition. Heepfans come to London
every year to enjoy the band and guests. In 2004 the event was held at the
Astoria. November 6th 2004 the Magicians Birthday Party took place at the
looks brighter then ever.....
Talk to Mick Box (and
if you get the opportunity then do so, because he'll certainly talk back)
and he'll reflect back on the history of Heep with a glint in his eye and
a smile on his face (after selling millions of records he's entitled to),
and like any seasoned traveller who's just returned from a momentous
journey he'll, along with Lee Kerslake, Trevor Bolder and indeed, Ken
Hensley, recall the highs and lows, ups and downs, with genuine affection.
And you know what? They won't have regretted a single minute of it.
They've had their share of 'appy days alright, but they're not over yet,
that's for sure.