Uriah Heep brings cobwebbed greatness to Wolf Den on Friday

I have a short but intriguing personal history with Uriah Heep, who play Friday in the Mohegan Sun Wolf. The, ah, band, not the Dickens character.

Yes, the Heepsters are one of the great four British hard rock bands of the '70s, along with their more famous brethren Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. Not sure why UH doesn't get more respect. A six-album run — "Very 'Eavy, Very 'Umble," "Look at Yourself," "Salisbury," "The Magician's Birthday," "Demons & Wizards" and "Sweet Freedom" — was damned incredible. (Though, now that I'm not 17, ANYTHING called "The Magician's Birthday" is pretty ridiculous sounding.)

In any case, tunes from those albums and spanning a long career constitute a Rock Hall of Fame legacy, but it'll never happen. (Joan Jett? Blondie? Red Hot Chili Peppers? Yes. But not Heep.)

As for personal history: 1) I was leaning on the stage in Dallas' Moody Auditorium on September 15, 1974, about 10 feet from bassist Gary Thain, when he was severely shocked onstage and had to be hospitalized. (He survived but was severely injured and died about a year later, I think). Some say the shock happened during "July Morning." In my memory, though, it was just after the solo in "Sweet Lorraine." Regardless, I am honored in a creepy sort of way to have been there.

And 2) my band was playing in the lounge of the Odessa, Texas, Holidome when members of touring act Blackfoot wandered in. The keyboardist, Ken Hensley, was formerly the main songwriter in Heep. I ran up to my hotel room, got a Uriah Heep cassette, and had Hensley sign the J-card. He did so pleasantly with a small flower sketch.

As far as I know, only founding guitarist Mick Box is still in Heep; Thain and signature vocalist David Byron are long dead. But I'll be at the Wolf Den anyway, and they'd damned well better play "Sweet Freedom."

Uriah Heep, 8 p.m. Friday, Mohegan Sun Wolf Den; free; 1-800-503-1286.


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