Origins in London, and first album
It was in London, England where the roots of Uriah Heep originated. Vocalist David Byron and guitarist Mick Box had been members of the rock band The Stalkers; after the band broke up, they formed another short-lived group Spice before turning it into Uriah Heep (after a character in Dicken’s novel David Copperfield) in 1969. Members that made up of the newly-formed band were guitarist/keyboards/vocals Ken Hensley, bassist Paul Newton, and drummer Alex Napier, who had been with Spice.
The following year Uriah Heep released their debut album …Very ‘Eavy…Very ‘Umble on Parlophone label in the UK (Elektra label in the US). It was generally dissed by critics when it was first released; however as years passed it has been acknowledged as one of the classic examples of early heavy metal.
On the way to become one of the most important hard rock acts
After the release of their first album, Napier left the band, to be replaced by Keith Baker. With a new drummer, Uriah Heep recorded their second album Salisbury, released in 1971. The album showed a lot more orchestration, exemplifying the band’s progressive rock leanings. Its single “Lady in Black” was particularly successful and popular in Germany, where it reached at #5.
At that time the group was extensively touring; this took a toll on on Baker, who left. He was replaced by Iain Clarke who briefly played with them. Lee Kerslake took Clarke’s place, and Mark Clarke came to replace Newton. Mark Clarke, however stayed quite briefly with Uriah Heep, and soon left, and Gary Thain took Clarke’s bassist position.
Around that time, Uriah Heep rose to become one of the most important hard rock acts, along with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple.
Uriah Heep’s personnel consisting of Byron, Box, Thain and Kerslake made up the band’s classic lineup from 1972 to 1977. Between these years they released Demons and Wizards (#20 UK, #23 US — it featured the single “Easy Livin” which went to #39 on the US Top 40), The Magician’s Birthday (#28 UK, #31 US), Sweet Freedom (#18 UK, #33 US), Wonderworld (#23 UK, #38 US), Return to Fantasy (#7 UK, #85 US), High and Mighty (#55 UK, #161 US), Firefly (#166 US) and Innocent Victim. In Finland these albums were immensely popular, and several of them topping the national charts.
After the peak years
After their commercial peak, from 1975 onwards their sales began to dip. Byron left in 1977 and John Lawton came to replace him. Since then band has had over 30 members going in and out of the Uriah Heep roster. Their highest-charting single to date in the US was 1982’s “That’s The Way That It Is” (from the albumAbominog), which peaked at #25 on the US Billboard rock chart
Although they have never quite yet recovered their past glories, Uriah Heep still soldier on. They continue to tour and release albums, the latest studio effort being 2011’s Into the Wild, which came out also to coincide of their compilation Wizards: The Best of and the live album Live In Armenia.
Box is the only original member still active in the current lineup, which also consists of keyboardist Phil Lanzon, lead singer Bernie Shaw and drummer Russell Gilbrook.