Some time around 94, I was in a band and we needed a keyboard player. We found some really nice guys, who sadly couldn’t play. We found others who could play well, but were total jerks. In the end, we figured the best way would be to keep the band as it was. We could learn a bit, and get a computer to play keys for us. So I got myself an old 286 machine, a cheap $30 piece of DOS MIDI-sequencing software, and a Roland sound module and began learning computer sequencing. Having got into computers, the time soon came for an upgrade, and I got a machine from this guy who told me it had this Windows thing (whatever that was!), that I could hook up to the…. er…internet (whatever that was!)
Soon after, and it’s "Wow! Uriah Heep’s on here". I found a girl in Florida called Jessica Wollam, who was the only Heep fan left in the world. Wait. That can’t be right – I am the only Heep fan left in the world. Soon after, I found another only Heep fan left in the world. Then another and another. The world is suddenly full of only-Heep-fans-left-in-the-world, and we’re all talking and discovering we’re not what we thought we were.
Some of us turn out to be musicians and start sending tapes back and forth to record Heep songs together.
Now, I’ve reached the age of…well…something a little over 26 J .So I struggle to remember the order in which things happened, but I think the first thing was that Dave White added some guitar parts to a MIDI file I’d already made of Return To Fantasy. He sent it to Dave "BigDog" Griffin to add vocals. I got the tape back, and got a great buzz. Whitey added some real balls to the song with heavy guitar parts, and some great "twiddlies" (as I later began to call them). BigDog sounded more like Byron than Byron. This was fun!
More songs followed and then came a real highlight for me. "Through the Eyes of a Child" was always a favourite, and we added some parts to it - a guitar solo and some more "twiddlies" which we discussed and planned out properly. For the first time, we were doing something more that just copying. Although I no longer have them, I remember the e-mail exchanges vividly:
"Dave, you know the bit at the end, where you do the twiddly "eee-aaar-eeee-eeaaaaoowww". Could you make it just half a measure later to fill in the gap between the lines of vocal, and make it more of an "eee-> twiddly-deeee—aarrr---owww?"
Hearing other Heepster recordings, the "best" ones (I know it’s not a competition, but I can’t help having my favourites) always seemed to feature a guy called Bob Dreher from Illinois. I wrote to him asking if he fancied doing something, and signed myself "A Dreher Fan". Having worked (worked? Ha!) on various projects with him, I’m proud to carry that signature to this day. I speak here not just in musical terms. The guy is a gem of a person. As far as music is concerned, he can play guitar like a demon, beats the crap out of me as a bass player, sings lead, sings harmony including the stratospheric tight-trouser stuff, and knows more about recording than any of us. It’d be very easy to hate the guy! J ...But I can’t.
Definitely, one of my proudest moments came with River of Dreams, a backing track written and recorded by Rich Wagner in Germany, a memorable guitar riff written by Dave White in the USA, and a vocal melody and lyrics written by yours truly from good ole England. Michael Keuter of the Easy Livin’ Band took it to another level with his vocal treatment, and it ended up on the Heepsteria CD (albeit as nothing more than a basic home recording). John Lawton added yet another dimension with a vocal line specially recorded as a gift, a version which ended up as a bonus track on Gunhill’s "One Over The Eight" CD.
The song turned out pretty damned well, though I say so myself. But the memories of it are just as much about the relationships, and the song’s history, as of the song itself.
Alan Keetley has always been a good friend. I took him
into the studio one day. Alan won't mind me saying he can't sing a
note. But he went in there and just gave it everything to do a lead
vocal on "There Comes A Time". OK, it's not
Lawton...or even Hensley....but, man, that guy should be proud. I
There’s still a bit of writing and recording going on between some of us, but thankfully a little less frantically than before. It’s still as much fun as ever.
To those guys I was fortunate enough to record with…Mac, Whitey, BigDog, Bob, Michael K, Rich, John, and Muzzy…Thank you for the fun and friendship. (Forgive me if I missed anyone.)
But the thanks extend beyond that. To Rodrigo for his constant encouragement and taking time to produce the CDs. To Louis – always supportive…. And he got us some airplay!!!
But most of all to the Heepsters on the mailing list back then, who unselfishly allowed us to drone on incessantly about our bloody recordings without telling us to shove it!!! J