Heep wasted no time in
bringing ex-Lone Star vocalist John Sloman in as Lawton's replacement.
Musically and visually, Sloman was the complete antithesis of Lawton -
he was younger, better looking and he had all round musical ability; he
could sing, play keyboards and guitar - he was, in the words of Box,
"an all rounder".
was swiftly followed by the departure of Lee Kerslake, following "a
blazing row" as reported in Sounds, with the songwriting issue
coming to a head when the drummer accused Bron of favouritism towards
Hensley's material. "I couldn't agree with the management's
attitude - as far as he (Bron) was concerned the only person worth
anything was Ken Hensley," complains Kerslake.
Much of the recording
for the next album had been completed but it was now a case of
re-recording (again at The Roundhouse) with Sloman and new drummer Chris
Slade, ex of Manfred Mann's Earthband and familiar to the band through
Bronze, home of both bands. The resulting album, was emerging
in February 1980.
The very fact that it
still rates as a good Heep album speaks volumes for the band's ability
to come up with great songs in their own right even when perhaps the
overall direction is at odds with itself. Record Mirror's Robin Smith
could hardly contain himself, remarking on Heep's re-thought strategy
and giving the record five stars.
Some felt it was a
confused Heep (and given recent events it had every right to be, Mick
Box acknowledging it was "a very difficult album to record"
while Trevor Bolder describes the period as "a mess") but
tracks such as 'Feelings', a poppy kind of ballad that's commercial in
the very best sense of the word, prising its way into your brain with
every intention of staying there ("a minor masterwork" said
Sounds), and Bolder's excellent 'Fools', featuring great guitar and
brilliant harmonies, make CONQUEST a constant visitor to my turntable.
Elsewhere, perhaps, it
strayed into un-Heep-like territory, going a bit too soft in places;
rather ironic considering that the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy
Metal) was currently running at full throttle and generating the likes
of Iron Maiden, Saxon and Def Leppard, most of whom were citing Heep as
a big inspiration.
Iron Maiden's Steve
Harris remembers seeing Heep for the first time in 1975. "The thing
that gets me is that they're still obviously enjoying themselves,"
he says today. "They're fighters but they're still having fun.
" A '10th Anniversary' tour saw the band go out with Girlschool as
support, pulling respectable crowds, but Hensley was very unhappy,
primarily with Sloman: "The band had chosen John and I had opposed
He was a good musician
and he looked great but I thought he had little going for him vocally.
The way that he interpreted songs were totally different to the way I
had written them. I could understand wanting to move on but this was
like the difference between Black Sabbath and Gino Vanelli.
We weren't addressing
our basic problems, in that we weren't re-establishing our musical
direction and John definitely wasn't helping us to do that." And
with the songwriting issue still creating dissention, a meeting was
called up at Gerry Bron's office. Hensley had had enough, explained his
reasons and promptly resigned from Uriah Heep. Ken Hensley has since
recorded another solo album, FREE SPIRIT ("it wasn't very
good"), briefly joined American rockers Blackfoot ("they asked
me to help bring their music into the Eighties") and is today
living very happily and successfully in St. Louis, arranging artist
endorsements for a music company while occasionally guesting on albums -
WASP's 'Headless Children' for instance. "Ken Hensley wrote the
rule book for heavy metal keyboards asfar as I'm concerned", says
WASP's mainman Blackie Lawless.