Uriah Heep, active since 1969 (originally under the name Spice), belongs to the founding generation of British hard rock alongside Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and UFO. Had it been up to the US-American "Rolling Stone", the band would not have even made it to the end of the historic rock year 1970 - that's how devastating the critique of the influential magazine was about their debut album "Very 'Eavy, Very 'Umble". Half a century later, band co-founder Mick Box and keyboarder Ken Hensley, who joined the band in early 1970, can still be seen grinning from the confrontation with the reviews of that time
At the penultimate big eclipsed interview at the Cologne Hilton Hotel in 2018, Mick Box insisted on Uriah Heep's own time calculation. There was no way the band would celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2019: "2020 sounds much cooler, and besides, we'll all be 49 forever" The Corona virus has now put a damper on the band's anniversary plans, and unlike many others, they were able to tour Germany together with the roughly equally old Nazareth and Wishbone Ash at least in January. But Uriah Heep is used to strokes of fate of any kind, and so "even this insidious virus won't be able to stop this band", as the as usual good-humoured 73-year-old guitarist emphasized on the phone full of confidence.
eclipsed: In your interviews 2018 you still said exuberantly that you didn't want to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the band formed in 1969 in 2019 because the debut album was released in June 1970. In view of the Corona crisis, that probably wasn't a good plan, was it?
Mick Box: In Germany you say that you should celebrate festivals as they fall. But the reason why I didn't think so much about the anniversary two years ago was our new album "Living The Dream". Not that you misunderstand me, I like to talk about 1970, the 70s or whatever album you think is important for us to dig out again, but when a new album is coming up, we are a band that lives completely in the here and now and wants to celebrate this moment.
eclipsed: I don't want to dwell on it, but the songs of the debut were written and partly recorded as early as 1969, and if I remember correctly, Ken Hensley only joined in February 1970. Yet he claims that he co-wrote the opener "Gypsy", for example, and he co-wrote some of his solo releases, while on the original album only you and David Byron are mentioned as authors. You have often answered this question in a slightly smug way, but never in a concrete way. Now I'm asking it again for the 50th anniversary.
Box: Apart from the cover version of "Come Away Melinda", the songs were actually written by Spice members David, Paul Newton, our bassist at the time, and myself [The US version of the album was given "Bird Of Prey" instead of "Lucy Blues" with Hensley as the official co-writer, note] but in the studio, of course, everyone contributed something. Even if "Gypsy" was David's and my basic idea, without Ken's ideas and his organ playing it would never have become the "Gypsy" that we know and appreciate to this day. So let him be allowed to pretend to be the co-author of the song.
eclipsed: The most famous sentence from Melissa Mills review in the Rolling Stone is: "If this group makes it, I'll have to commit suicide. From the first note you know you don't want to hear any more."
Box: (laughs out loud) That's when Ken was down on her with his first organ notes. By the time we got into the song, she had probably already made the record. We can only thank her afterwards for this criticism, it has brought us headlines again and again. At the end of the day, as a band you're happy if someone reports about you at all, and then it's important that the work is really praised or torn. Who knows if we would still exist if she had written: "Uriah Heep are quite nice, but nothing more.