The cover of Uriah Heep’s “…Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble” still gives me the creeps, 51 years after the LP was released. The photo is of David Byron, the lead singer of Uriah Heep, with his face covered in cobwebs. Eek, this really scares me. The cover reminds me of the haunted house at the fair and my dominant niece from back in the day. But more on that later.
Whether the cover has a deeper meaning or is just a pretty (..) picture I haven’t been able to figure out. “Very ‘Eavy…” is Uriah Heep’s first album. Organist Ken Hensley himself makes a connection on the inside of the cover with the group’s inexperience and the title.
Uriah Heep quickly grew into a top-notch band in the seventies, ranking amongst such peers as Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. David Byron had a voice that was as good as that of the lead singer of Deep Purple (Ian Gillan) or that of Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. The beautiful organ sounds of Ken Hensley are also worth mentioning. Rock music with a progressive touch. (The name Uriah Heep is taken from the bookkeeper’s name from the book David Copperfield by the well-known English writer Charles Dickens. He behaves, like his mother, very submissive and humble, which he always emphasizes when he says something.)
The original line-up did not last long. Its heyday was from 1970 to 1976. David Byron was no match for the success. He felt like a rock star 24/7, with the accompanying alcohol abuse. Bassist Gary Thain suffered an electric shock during a live show and as a consequence suffered paralysis of the arm. He was replaced by John Wetton, of King Crimson fame. Thain overdosed on heroin and died in 1975. Byron drank himself to death and died in 1985 at the age of 38. He had long since been kicked out of the band. The performance at Pinkpop in 1976 was one of Byron’s last appearances with Uriah Heep. Not a story that makes you happy. Nevertheless… Uriah Heep still exists, albeit in a varying line-up. The band still performs and regularly visits De Boerderij. A highlight every time round.
Uriah Heep’s album covers from the 1970s are all brilliant. Take for instance “Look at yourself” with a piece of aluminum foil as a mirror. Or “Demons and Wizards” with a drawing by Roger Dean, who is best known for his Yes covers. But for me this cover for “Very ‘Eavy…, Very ‘Umble” beats everything. The cover easily takes me back fifty years. I was dragged to the fair by my 13 year old niece. She was already something of a megalomaniac at the time. I’d always avoided the haunted house, but she wanted to go there, so I went. It felt like I had no choice. I was pushed into a cramped cart with my niece sitting next to me. She smiled, with a mean streak, at least in my memory. The cart went up slowly, through a swinging door, and then… scary noises, glowing skeletons, rats, smoke. And in the end David Byron throwing a spider web in your face. It all lasted just three minutes, but I was on the verge of tears. I looked down carefully to make sure I didn’t pee my pants. My niece burst out laughing. “What a whimp you are. You’ll never amount to anything,” she said. She has been divorced three times now. Too dominant for men. And addicted to alcohol. But she has made sure that every time I deal with a dominant woman, at night I dream of David Byron and his cobwebs.
By Gerrit-Jan Vrielink
Translation Alex Driessen