Uriah Heep (chapter 1)
".....has justly become one of the most respected and admirable bands in rock history. All through its long-lived path they’ve experienced countless changes in their formation, including several musical styles in their more than twenty studio albums. They remain active, showing they are in excellent form with the release of “Wake The Sleeper” in 2008. Figures are overwhelming: they’ve sold more than forty million records in the four decade career there is behind them. However success refused to arrive more than usual in their beginning, when they had to appeal to all their talent and even to magic to gain a place among the sacred rock sorcerers of the seventies.
In 1968, some place in London a band formed by ambitious and dreamy young men were giving form to their first songs trying to find a place in the growing scene of the early Hard Rock. Their name was Spice, a project directed through the remains of a previous group called The Stalkers. Mick Box and David Byron, who were the embryonic team for the future process of development of one of the most exciting and productive bands in the rock history, were between them. None of them knew it but Uriah Heep was beginning to write the prologue of their own legend. The last group of Spice was completed with Paul Newton as the bassist and Alex Napier as the drummer, who would also be in the initial Heep band, although Napier would soon be in the first one in a dance of future substitutions with percussion. They only released one single together with the title “What’s About The Music”, although they also have other good themes, such as “Astranaza”, “Magin Lantern” or “Born In A Trunk”, full of progressive sounds or brief jazz music movements.
These recordings, together with the firsts Uriah Heep songs never released before, would be rescued and released in 1994 in a compilation called “The Lansdowne Tapes” under the hallmark of Red Steel coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the band and they form a good sample to know about Uriah Heep’s prehistory.
Spice tried to make their way giving numerous concerts and they enjoyed certain popularity in that period, playing several nights in a row as residents in the mythical London Marquee during the first three months of 1969, in the same stage where bands like Yes, Jeff Beck Group, Free, Taste or Led Zeppelin themselves would play a few days later.
Gerry Bron, a young manager and producer, who would work in later years with bands like Colosseum, Mötorhead or Manfred Mann between others, saw them playing live and he inmediately saw there was something interesting there, offering them a bit later the recording of an album.
With the contract of Vertigo record company under their arms, they soon started writing and rehearsing to shape the tracks of what it was going to be the first Spice album at first.
A lot of those tracks were bred in the rehearsal places of the public centre of Hamwell, where curiously there was a band called Deep Purple, who were only a few days away to win the market worldwide with “In Rock”.
Box, Byron and the rest were impressed when they listened to the contrast of that swift hard rock fused with the great Jon Lord’s Hammond and they soon decided that was the best option to exalt the progressive character of their music to the detriment of their blues, emphasizing its sound.
Gerry Bron also agreed that they should look for a keyboarder and at Christmas of 1969 Ken Hensley entered Uriah Heep’s orbit. He would reveal himself in little time as a decisive piece for the band’s gears, due to the fact that everything was going to change with his incorporation.
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