Very ‘Eavy

Given the number of musicians, actors and comedians I admire who have passed away these last few months it does add another layer to the overall struggles we’re all going through. But I don’t feel the death of Uriah Heep’s Ken Hensley should pass without a mention here, as many Purple fans held a torch for Heep as well. I was lucky to see so many great bands in the Seventies, but for some reason (probably lack of cash!) Uriah Heep always escaped me. But I do remember vividly being sat on the carpet at home in our ‘best’ room with a borrowed copy of Uriah Heep Live blasting out on my Dad’s stereo. Packaging and concept wise it did of course come across as a bookend to Made In Japan (recorded only a few months earlier, and also with Fin Costello live pics), and contained Easy Livin’ – the studio version of which remains one of my favourite rock tracks of all time, written by Ken, as were many of their classic tracks.
And of course Ken was one of the many players of the time who proudly sat behind a Hammond organ on stage, something which is becoming a lot less common these days. Heep and Purple crossed several paths back then, indeed as Spice they used a rehearsal room in Hanwell and would listen in to embryonic rehearsals of In Rock material. They did appear on a few one-nighters together as well in 1970 (completely showing Deep Purple up at a gig in Sheffield University according to one music paper letter writer!). They also turned up bottom of a triple bill when Deep Purple began their mammoth touring stint of America in January 1972 with Buddy Miles (and would have appeared on the same bill this year until festivals were cancelled, though Ken had long since left).
Others have noted more connections, with Glenn playing on a couple of Ken’s solo tracks and Ian Paice appearing on the Free Spirit solo album before that. There were even a couple of job opportunities which mixed up the personnel of the two bands. David Coverdale was on a wish list to join Heep not long before he formed Whitesnake, while Ken joined Blackfoot in the 1980s but only after Jon Lord had declined the offer.
I had one great story from Pericle in Italy who was able to sit in on a recording session where Ken Hensley was guesting on Hammond. This and two rare Leslie speakers were not easy to source and Ken insisted on cranking everything up at full volume while he played. He managed to blow up both speakers during a long afternoon, leaving the studio organiser wondering where on earth he was going to be able to get the gear repaired before handing it back!

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