My first musical experience that blew my mind – blew everything – was seeing a local brass band performing on Norway’s National Day. The conductor let me sit on his shoulders and the excitement went through me like lightning. I was three. I took to music immediately and I started playing piano at four – my father was a classically trained pianist turned doctor – and was making little music pieces by myself.
Next I played trombone in a local band. But the enthusiasm died immediately when my parents got me a music tutor. I wanted to discover music for myself and not out of duty. The whole terrain of disappointment in the loss of enthusiasm for music kept a tight rein on me for years.
Then, when I was 13, my cousin came back from a school trip to London with Wonderworld by Uriah Heep. That completely blew me away. I hadn’t heard any heavy rock at all, just Johnny Cash and Simon And Garfunkel, which I liked, but I was yet to ‘wake up’.
Wonderworld resonated so powerfully with me, it was like coming home. Heep became the most important thing in my life and I did everything to make the pocket money to get their records. I saw them in Oslo in ’75 and ’76. Things were changing with them and when Gary Thain passed away something died within Heep. He mattered on a level beyond being a bass player.
Then I don’t know what happened mentally to David Byron, maybe a typical lack of confidence? It affected everything else. I’m sure if I talked to Ken Hensley about this he’d be nodding to some of it. Heep also led me to the shock discovery that there were other bands to be reckoned with – Deep Purple for instance. When I heard a snatch of Child In Time on the radio, I immediately thought it was Heep and scouted for days trying to find it in their catalogue. I didn’t realise or know that other bands had that sound too!
Heep meant everything to me in those years – on records like Magician’s Birthday, Demons And Wizards and, of course, Wonderworld, their songwriting was so very good – and I still feel the same way. Through listening to Heep, I had this massive revelation that I wanted to do what they did and I believed I would go all the way. I was 15 and so excited–it was a calling! I knew what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life. I didn’t know how, or with whom, but I didn’t doubt for a minute that it was gonna happen.
Morten Harket was speaking with Jo Kendall.