Thursday, 20 October 2011

Uriah Heep Glasgow 1977

Uriah Heep Glasgow 1977

March 11th 1977

Glasgow Apollo

It’s hard to imagine it now, but back in the 1970s I regarded Uriah Heep in the same bowl as Jethro Tull and Black Sabbath – just hairy guys who made albums with odd mystical sounding titles.  The difference was that whilst Sabbath and Tull appeared to enjoy some cachet amongst those boys at school who knew about such things, Uriah Heep were universally reviled.  That was probably one of the things which drew me to them: if the alpha males hated them, they can’t have been all bad.

A schoolmate who had recently stumbled upon a second-hand record shop in Bread Street in Edinburgh (second hand record shops were our Holy Grail), purchased for me two Uriah Heep albums – Sweet Freedom for £1.25, and an impressively scratched Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble for 25p.  Even to my untutored ears I could tell these were two totally different fish: VEVU (as it now occasionally known) was the band’s debut album and was pretty primitive stuff – all gumby lyrics, irritating harmonies and that rumbly bass sound which sort of died after 1971.  All nonsense of course........until the final track, which after a remarkably complex opening developed into something quite beautiful.  I can still remember lying on my bed wearing my chunky headphones listening to this remarkable tune unfold – all the more surprising given the guff that had preceded it.  Wake Up, Set Your Sights, it was called.
Sweet Freedom, by contrast was a much more polished and assured affair: here was a band who knew what they were doing.  I though so, anyway.

When the band visited Glasgow in March 1977, there was no chance of arranging a bus as we had done for Jethro Tull a few months earlier.  Indeed, no-one was remotely interested, so I decided “Fuck em, I will go alone.”  Thus it was I travelled through the Glasgow on the old number 16 – an interminable journey through Armadale, Airdrie, Coatbridge, Baillieston and all manner of one-horse towns between.

I realised I was going to see two of my early musical heroes playing this evening – two former Spiders from Mars, for not only had bassist Trevor Bolder recently joined the Heep line-up, but drummer Woody Woodmansey’s U-boat were the support band.  Woody’s four-piece plodded through a set of innocuous but forgettable tunes, before finishing off with a passable performance of Suffragette City, towards the end of which Woody did a sort of trick with his drum sticks whereby he struck them off his drum kit and somehow allowed them to bounce off spinning into the audience.  He could have a few eyes out doing that, I thought.

I had never seen Heep with previous vocalist David Byron, but even so, even I could tell new vocalist John Lawton looked an odd fit, with his eye-liner, feathers in his hair, and Archie McPherson haircut. 

Tufty Bolder looked the part though, as the band opened with a new tune Do You Know, which streamed into Stealin’ – ah, one I knew.  Indeed the only one, until they encored with Gypsy.  Thus was the bulk of the show all new territory for me, but it was pleasant enough, and fun trying to identify which numbers linked to the welter of song titles I had read.

One tune which stuck out was Firefly, the title track of their (then) current album.  Rather more ambitious musically than the rest of the set, it appealed to the Progger in me, and I have to say I still enjoy listening to the electric piano/acoustic guitar passage towards the end.  Even if some of the lyrics are a bit silly.

The set ended after just over an hour, the encores seeming to me to be just a touch perfunctory.  Just before the end, a rather well-nourished lady wandered onto the stage from backstage carrying 5 red roses.  My initial impression was, I don’t know what she is wearing, but it looks rather odd.  It then struck me, embarrassingly late, that she was actually wearing nowt – in the scud as we say, up here.  She proceeded to present a single rose to each member of the band – Bolder grabbed his with his teeth, whilst Hensley utterly ignored her, so she laid his on his organ (fnarrr fnarrr).

And that was it.  I had just enough time to pick up a typically horrible Glasgow fish supper (they seem to fry using old engine oil through there), before catching the last bus home.  Reflecting upon having just seen my first naked woman, I thought “I hope they all don’t look like that”.

Set List

Do you know
Look at yourself
Lady in black
The Wizard
July Morning
Who needs me
Easy Livin


Gypsy & Sweet Lorraine.

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