‘Appy Days! The Mick Box Column (No.1)
Legendary Uriah Heep guitarist Mick Box joins the Classic Rock website with the first of a regular series of columns. As well as the latest news about Heep, come inside for Mick’s thoughts on Jeff Beck, Thunder, Mott The Hoople, Trivium, Neil Young, Chickenfoot and more…
I have been asked to write a weekly column, to ramble on about any subjects that may come in to my head.
So, with a scrambled Gemini brain like mine that pings from one subject to another in a matter of seconds, I shall begin with the morning’s activities and let it all go from there.
Uriah Heep are about to celebrate their 40th Anniversary, so I have been working on things in my office for a couple of hours. Now this is unbelievable, because if you had said that the band would still be going 40 years on when we first started back in ’69/’70, then we’d have called you mad, stupid, crazy and the rest, but here we are firing on all six cylinders, and as passionate and excited about our music as we have ever been.
We are just about to release a CD called Celebration, with new versions of some of our classic songs along with two new tracks, written by Heep keyboard player Phil Lanzon and myself. I always get a kick out of the fact that a lot of our music has stood the test of time, and that people still enjoy hearing them in the live arena; this CD is a good reminder of that.
We are buzzed about playing the Classic Rock Awards show at the Relentless Garage in London on November 4 – it’s gonna be a memorable night. Right now, we are putting together an extensive world tour, starting with a five or six-week tour of Europe in November/December. Prior to all of this, we will play shows in Moscow on October 9 (a private acoustic show) and Yerevan in Armenia on the 16th. This will be our first show in Armenia, and everything always has a nice edge to it we do something for the first time.
Apparently, the song Sympathy (from our album Firefly) is a big hit out there. We have not played this song for quite a while, so we will have a quick rehearsal at the soundcheck and throw it in the set.
On another note, a while back I went to the doctors to get an MOT on my well-being (or not as the case may be) before going out on another extensive tour. When I went in for the results I sat down and he said: “Well, for a man that has already lived four lifetimes you are in pretty good shape.” Needless to say I have known this doctor for years, and he has a good sense of humour! Again this pinpoints the wonderment of the 40th anniversary.
One of the things that makes this band so special is that we all pull for each in many areas outside of the normal, and when we were recording the Celebration CD one morning, me Bernie (Shaw vocals), Phil and myself went and played an acoustic concert at my son Romeo’s school, to 100 kids. After that we went and did a full day’s recording, plus Bernie and I played Amazing Grace at my wife Sheila’s mother’s funeral recently, and these things are just the icing on the cake that is Heep.
I also am very excited about the Mott The Hoople reunion dates – I am a huge fan. I have access to a couple of tickets, and I very much hope I can go. The only reason I’d miss it is if a show comes in for Heep. Ian Hunter is looking in top form and Mick Ralphs is such a great guitar player, I cannot wait to hear those hits live again. The last time I saw Mott was in the USA, when we played on the same bill as them in the ’70s.
On the subject of music, I recorded the recent showing of this year’s Glastonbury Festival on TV a while ago. The other night I sat down and watched Neil Young’s performance playing the Beatles’ A Day In The Life. Talk about moving – it was fantastic, passionate, and everything music should be.
The other amazing version of this song, not forgetting the Beatles themselves, is the one Jeff Beck did at Ronnie Scott’s. Now Jeff is my favourite guitarist of all time, and he wrings every note out of the guitar in this performance, delivering an instrumental master class. In fact, the whole DVD he put out from those shows at the venue a couple of years ago (Live At Ronnie Scott’s) is stunning and highly recommended. He had some top class musicians with him: Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Jason Rebello (keys) and Tal Wilkenfeld (bass).
My wife Sheila got me surprise tickets to see Jeff at the Royal Festival Hall a few years back, as a birthday present, and it was truly a memorable evening. I did not stop talking about it for weeks; and on top of that Roger Walters came on and played What God Wants from his album Amused To Death, which is one of my top 10 albums of all time. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven that night. Jeff played guitar on Amused To Death, so I was in double whammy heaven there.
Heard the new Chickenfoot CD, and the initial response was that, although it is all technically brilliant, it did not move me or make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I have to be honest though, the other day when I had my iPod on shuffle a few tracks came up and it sounded really good. Sounds like they had a blast making it. Sammy Hager’s voice is in fine fettle for sure, and as strong as ever. Loved his stuff with Van Halen.
I’ve also been playing a lot of Joe Walsh lately, solo and with the James Gang. The recordings have a real honesty about them, and the songs sound like they are played for real, and mostly live in the studio. They have such amazing feels to the songs, and Joe is incredibly laid back with his style, it just feels so good to listen to. Can’t help but put a smile on my face.
Had a good listen to Trivium’s Shogun record a few days ago, and those guys can play up a storm. Energy in abundance. I also love Joe Bonamassa’s The Ballad Of John Henry. Heard it first on Planet Rock and went right out and bought it. Love his style and he has a good voice too.
What a shame Thunder have called it a day, as they were are great British rock band. I was reminded of that when we recently played the charity show Childline Rocks at the Indigo O2 in London with them, and they sounded really good. Danny Bowes (vocalist) has gone on to work as an agent, and Luke Morley (guitarist) is looking at fresh horizons with his new band The Union. Luke did an outstanding job at Childline Rocks, playing guitar with a lot of those other artists and he really nailed it.
Well that’s it for now. Back with more later!
– Mick Box
Tags: Beatles, Bernie Shaw, Chickenfoot, Danny Bowes, Ian Hunter, James Gang, Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamassa, Joe Walsh, Luke Morley, Mick Box, Mick Ralphs, Mot The Hoople, Neil Young, Phil Lanzon, Roger Waters, Sammy Hagar, The Mick Box Column, The Union, Thunder, Trivium, Uriah Heep, Van Halen