Monday, 28 November 2011

Uriah Heep

21st November 1977

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Uriah Heep’s Gerry Bron induced Album:Tour:Album:Tour treadmill found them back in Scotland just seven months after their last visit, with a new album to promote: Innocent Victim.

I was a student by this time, and had asked around within my new circle of aquaintances if anyone fancied going along to the gig.  Little enthusiasm once more, but this was less due to who was playing than who was playing elsewhere.  For The Tom Robinson Band, at this point the Darlings of the New Wave Press were the alternative, and a whole raft of classmates had already shelled a wodge of their dwindling grant-money (anybody out there remember grants?), for his gig the same evening. 

Perhaps not surprisingly the only the only gig-buddy I could rumble up from my year was a very hairy Hawkwind-obsessed Hippy, whose name I cannot even recall.

The support band for the concert was named, in stereotypically heavy metal style, Fury and I can recall not a jot of their performance.  Heep’s display was pretty forgettable too, I have to say.  It was an almost note for note run through of the set I had seen in Glasgow, with a couple of songs from Firefly dropped to make way for the customary smattering of new ‘uns.

The sound was just dreadful – overloud and distorted.  I often had to wait until the vocal started before being able to identify songs, such was the sloppy hash-bash of each intro.  One exception was The Wizard; a tune which, even now over thirty years later, I still think is just great.

I recall Mick Box, at one point kneeling down playing at the front of the stage, his guitar within reach of the outstretched arms of the Heep faithful, who twiddled all the volume and tone control knobs on his guitar……making not a jot of difference to the god-awful racket he was making.   

Leaving the gig afterwards my companion suggested we hang about outside the dressing room door, to maybe catch a couple of autographs as the band left.  So we stood on the steps with around twenty other sad souls.  We had been there no more than ten minutes before the door was opened, and half-a dozen or so of us were invited in.  There to be greeted by clearly very drunk Mick Box, who seemed utterly delighted to meet us all, in fact treating us as if we were his long lost children.  He was clutching a box full of promotional stickers featuring their current album cover (some silly snake-thing).  And, after shaking my hand warmly he thrust into it a huge fistful (at least a few hundred) of the stickers, grinning widely as he did so, clearly glad to be rid of the bloody things. 

He introduced me personally to “Me Good Mate, Tufty” (Trevor Bolder), who looked as glum as ever.  I briefly considered about asking Bolder about his Spiders From Mars days, but thought better of it, knowing there was a touch of bad blood there. 

I got my programme autographed by these two, and then by a remarkably polite Lee Kerslake as he ambled by.  I could see Ken Hensley deep in animated conversation with someone whom I took to be a journalist from the local rag, but we wandered over anyway, and to be fair he did autograph his pic in the programme, but managed to do so without even looking at the programme or acknowledging our presence on the planet – which I though was quite a neat trick.  Of vocalist John Lawton, there was nothing to be seen.

We were soon ushered out to allow another group of oiks in, and it was then we noticed said Mr Lawton sitting in the back of a large car.  If not quite a limo, it was certainly a big ‘un.  His window was wound down the absolute minimum to allow programmes to be slid in, scribbled on, then slid back out.  The chap in front of me made the mistake of handing over his programme open at a picture of support band Fury.  “I’m not fookin’ signing Fury” quoth our hero, as the offending article was promptly shoved back out. 

Whilst waiting for my companion to get his programme signed by Lawton, I noticed a bulky figure standing at the front of the car – ‘twas Lee Kerslake.  I sort of glanced at him out of the corner of my eye, and could see he was sort of expecting me to approach him.  But I could not think of a single word to say, so we just stood like dafties ignoring each other for around 5 minutes.  I wanted at least to let him know I knew who he was and, as I had already got his autograph there was no need for us to do it again.  But even this idiotic burble was beyond me.

Starstruck in the Presence of Lee Kerslake – now there is a phrase you do not hear terribly often

Set list

Free 'n' Easy
Look at Yourself
Free Me
The Wizard
July Morning
Lady in Black
Cheat 'n' Lie
Who Needs Me
Easy Livin'

Gypsy/Sweet Lorraine.

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