Years: 1967 – 1985
Styles: Art Rock, Classic Rock, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Pop Rock, Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Rock
David Byron - Lead vocals, Vocals (in band: 1967 - 1985)
Teaming with guitarist Mick Box, teenage vocalist David Garrick made his first foray into rock via the R & B-influenced Stalkers before spending three years as frontman of live favourites Spice. While this group enjoyed a residency at London’s sweaty, boozy Marquee Club,
Byron lived a twilight existence as a sessionsinger, recording a number of hit cover albums for the budget label Avenue. The group – now comprising Byron, Box, Paul Newton (bass) and Alex Napier (drums) – became Uriah Heep with the addition of keyboardist/guitarist Ken Hemsley and replacement drummer Nigel ‘Ollie’ Olsson, and a prog-rock legend was born.
Debuting with the album Very Eavy, Very ‘Umble (1970 – coincidentally the hundredth anniversary of Charles Dickens’s death), Uriah Heep began a long career of album-orientated rock releases, negotiating some pretty serious critical disapproval along the way.
The group juggled the usual predictable lyrical subjects, and also managed a sixteen-minute opening track on their second album, Salisbury (1971), which prompted a whole new craze among prog acts. (Having inspired Spinal Tap’s flirtation with Stonehenge, Uriah Heep might also be said to have blueprinted their drummer syndrome – Heep worked their way through at least five in their career.)
As for Byron himself, he was every bit the star, usually taking the stage resplendent in a slashed jacket and other rock finery. Although Heep charted a further eight albums over the next five years (unthinkable nowadays), the drug-related death of later bassist Gary Thain (December 1975) was followed by David Byron’s professional decline – he gave a series of drunken performances that the band felt were compromising their own standing.
He was sacked in July 1976, and joined metal band Rough Diamond. His health was by now in chronic deterioration (caused largely by a life dominated more and more by drugs and drinking) and, after the release of some indifferently received solo material on Arista, he succumbed to a premature heart attack.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars - Jeremy Simmonds, 2nd Edition, Chicago Review Press, Incorporated, 2012, page 176
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