The sleeve notes (once again formulated by Hensley, as had all the
liner notes before) announced their recruitment as having
"completed" Uriah Heep, while claiming the band's
"excitement with the kind of re-energisation taking place".
And there's no doubting DEMONS AND WIZARDS as a great album.
outside it looked as if the band had consciously entered the mystical
world of surrealist fantasy, with the sleeve design one of the first
to feature Roger Dean's individualistic style of imagery. In many ways
it was a false illusion.
'Rainbow Demon', 'The Wizard' (co-written with Hensley by Mark Clark,
during his short stay), 'Traveller In Time' and 'Poets Justice' are
all thematically linked by their tales of fantasy, evidence that
perhaps Heep did test the water momentarily, but conversely DEMONS AND
WIZARDS stands on its own two feet as a mighty strong collection of
good solid rock songs, a view prompted by Hensley on the sleeve by
declaring the album as "just a collection of our songs that we
had a good time recording".
band was really focused at that time," recalls Hensley. "We
all wanted the same thing, were all willing to make the same
sacrifices to achieve it and we were all very committed. It was the
first album to feature that line-up and there was a magic in that
combination of people that created so much energy and
album throws up several classics, notably the two singles, 'The
Wizard' and 'Easy Livin'", the former representing the lighter
side of the band but foresaking none of their character (listen
carefully, special effects buffs, and you might even detect the sound
of a whistling kettle), while the latter is a hedonist's dream, all
pace and vigour, and tailor-made for Byron's extrovert showmanship.
'Easy Livin'" went into the charts all over the place, save for
England, and "helped the album to become the band's first truly
international success", according to Bron.
Britain the album enjoyed an 11-week stay in the charts, peaking at
No.20, and today is still deservedly regarded as one of Heep's finest
moments, especially by both Hensley and Bron. "The important
thing with DEMONS AND WIZARDS," says Hensley, "was that up
until that point we'd really concentrated on the European market and
it was 'Easy Livin'" that first got us into the American
charts,opening up a new phase in our career."If D&W saw Heep
establish a comfortable niche for themselves then
D&W saw Heep establish a comfortable niche for themselves then THE
MAGICIAN'S BIRTHDAY, released in November '72 just six months
afterwards, represents a natural extension, continuing as it does the
same themes. 'Sweet Lorraine' (a Stateside single) and 'Sunrise' are
undoubtedly the most instant songs, with the lengthy title track
perhaps the highlight. Some regard it as slightly superior to
DEMONS.... the various components coming together in an even more
chemistry that Hensley has mentioned working in ever more creative
ways the man was spot-on when stating in the sleeve notes that this
incarnation of Heep was in "full flight". Uriah Heep were
indeed building the perfect beast. And if their lifestyle at that
time, one of luxury, ladies and limos, had some affect on the
characters offstage it was offset by the continuing development of the
personalities on it. 'Uriah Heep used to have an image, now they have
personality.' wrote Melody Maker in 1973.
image has developed, but now it is more than an image, it is
character.' And Heep undoubtedly had that in abundance. But it wasn't
just a collective personality, more the sum of its individual
personalities. A lot stemmed from the flamboyant Byron. "David
was the communication point, the focal point of the whole group's
stage presentation," said Hensley many years later.
had so much charisma, so much ability. He didn't have the world's
greatest voice but he was one of the first real showmen."
Whatever he was he certainly wasn't your typical heavy rock vocalist,
but then Heep were never a typical heavy rock band. It was only Mick
Box and Kerslake that fitted into that category.
the man who cranked up and let blast, while offstage he was the
eternal happy-go-lucky optimist. Kerslake was the powerhouse force on
stage, providing momentum when others would have flagged. 'He doesn't
play from the wrist or forearms,' wrote MM's Geoff Brown, 'he puts the
whole weight of his torso behind each crushing beat.' Gary Thain,
meanwhile, was a contrast within himself. He was thin, almost frail,
his body resting on spindly legs and he was the most obviously serious
of the band. But his imaginative bass runs spoke for themselves.
there was Hensley, Mr. Articulate, whose writing and keyboard flair
ignited the rest of the band. And so it was more than apt that the
next release should be a live album. While on record the band were
ever more complex, their stage performances were taking on monolithic
proportions, with the likes of 'Gypsy', 'Look At Yourself’ and 'July
Morning' establishing the stage as their true home.
HEEP LIVE is a double album, recorded at the Birmingham Townhall in
January 1973, and is a living testimony to the band's character (and
personality) at the time.
packaged in a gatefold sleeve that houses an eight-page booklet, the
album is memorable not just for its music, which included the rock and
roll medley that had become a staple of their show, but for its inner
sleeves adorned with press cuttings, good and bad, simultaneously
sticking two fingers up to those responsible for the latter while
emphasising how Heep had now become a global commodity.
to Japan was followed by the live album's release, before embarking on
the recording of a studio follow up to THE MAGICIAN'S BIRTHDAY.
where, primarily for tax purposes, Bron and the band decided to break
from established routine and record abroad, choosing to retire to
Chateau d'Heronville in France. In retrospect, SWEET FREEDOM is a
good, solid album, throwin' up 'Stealin'" as both a highpoint of
that LP and as a classic that still lives on today.
it's the kind of album you would expect from a band who had the world
in their back pocket and were still striving to move on while
consolidating their musical identity at the same time. The press, who
had never given the band a comfortable ride, had by now split into two
factions; those who rituafly slated them ("Harsh Heep lacking
style" said one) while acknowledging that the albums would
"sell another million or two", and those who fully
appreciated what the band were doing - a classic case of love 'em or
Maker gave SWEET FREEDOM the thumbs up, saying "Uriah are now
ensconsed at the top of their heap and the six good tracks (out of
eight) will keep them there for another millenium." The album did
well, peaking at No.18 in the UK, while 'Stealin'", though not a
hit here, wrapped itself in concrete and hit hard all over the world.
Hensley had meanwhile been gradually recording his own material, in a
mellower mood, and a solo album, titled PROUD WORDS ON A DUSTY SHELF,
was also released that year.
SWEET FREEDOM abroad though had been a new experience and was
certainly not without its difficulties; a lesson painfully learnt in
triplicate when Heep packed their bags and entrenched themselves
within Munich's Musicland studios in January in 1974.
album in the Heep catalogue disappoints in a major way then that must
surely be WONDERWORLD, which comes across as underproduced, hurried,
lacklustre and directionless, though in fairness the critics at the
time did give it credit for attempting something slightly different.
abroad disrupted the band's normal method of operation," says
Hensley, "and that had a big negative effect on the group. Our
communication was falling apart, we were arguing over stuff like
royalties and we were getting involved in matters beyond music."
"That was the most dramatic album I’ve ever worked on,"
reckons Box. "David was drunk for most of the time, Kenny was
having an emotional time of it and I was constantly trying to help
them so it was difficult for me too.
was also a little bit of friction because (artistic) Kenny didn't like
all the attention that (flamboyant) David was getting." One
saving grace on the album comes with the close of side one, a ballad
entitled 'The Easy Road', which rates as one of Hensley's best songs
and which is brilliantly conveyed by Byron. "I love that
song," says Hensley.
represented an area musically where the band, particularly David, was
very comfortable in. I guess it was borne out of a frustration that
was developing as a result of the fact that we were muting over so
many unimportant things, and that we weren't communicating on things
that were crucially important."
the group's concerns had been the health of Gary Thain. A strenuous
touring schedule, compounded by the bassist's heavy drug dependency
(inherent even before joining Heep) was taking its toll, though
matters came to a head while on tour during September.
electrocuted while on stage in Dallas - "all I remember is going
to the amplifier to adjust the equalisers, the next thing that
happened was I blacked out" - resulting in hospitalisation,
cancelled dates in America and the postponement of three in England
too. Bron was not too sympathetic, thinking of the group's interest,
resulting in a war of words that finally spilled out into the pages of
Sounds, with the musician complaining that "the music's been
forgotten, it's now a financial thing." Bron explained Thain's
outburst as "a misunderstanding" in a bid to diffuse the
situation but from that moment on Thain's days were surely numbered.
months later, he was out of the band, with all parties in agreement
that he was in no physical condition to continue. On December 12
1975, Gary Thain, aged 27, was found dead in his Norwood Green home,
having overdosed on heroin.
remembers Thain with great affection. "I always loved Gary as a
person he had a quality of irresponsibility that I always liked. I
think he died because he misjudged what he was doing and it got the
better of him." "You couldn't help loving Gary." says
was just a shame that he had that weakness that he couldn't
control." Perhaps his death should not have been too surprising.
"I used to spend a lot of time trying to persuade Gary to find
another reason to live apart from music." says Bron. Without
music, it would seem, Thain obviously had nothing...