The success of Uriah Heep’s 1972 Demons And Wizards album made the down-to-earth Londoners rock superstars in America. But not before an ill-advised séance in Italy scared the shit out of the band members, as long-standing guitarist Mick Box cheerfully recalls in the new issue of Classic Rock magazine.
A hit album on both sides of the Atlantic, peaking at number 20 in the UK, and number 23 on the US Billboard chart, Demons And Wizards is arguably Heep’s definitive studio set, with singles Easy Livin’ and The Wizard still in regular rotation on classic rock radio station. But for guitarist Box, an “uncomfortable” brush with the supernatural remains an abiding memory of the album’s creation, and the inspiration behind spooky, Hammond organ-driven, side one closer Circle Of Hands.
“It was born out of a séance we were invited to by some girls in Italy,” Box reveals in Classic Rock. “It all got a bit out of hand, a bit freaky. These things start out as a bit of fun, then you start to get a bit uncomfortable, and then it’s, Bloody hell, I’m getting out of here! That was the first and last time we tried to summon spirits of the dead. We were dabbling where we should never have dabbled!”
It was the release of Easy Livin’ which turned Demons And Wizards into a global smash. Though it failed to chart in the UK, the song became a top 20 hit across mainland Europe, and peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 39.
“Hearing the song on US radio was immense,” says Box. “But you had to get out there and work it. We started out touring in the mid-West, the strongest rock market, and let the music filter out to the coasts. Then things started moving very, very fast. A hit single is like a small boulder rolling down a hill, gathering moss, and by the time it gets to the bottom, it’s huge. It wasn’t long before we were doing 10,000 seaters right across America, and had Lear jets and limos at every airport. It was an absolutely amazing time.”
“It got very, very silly,” the guitarist admits. “We got to the point where we had bodyguards outside each of our hotel rooms, particularly in the mid-West. It got heavy, and very hedonistic, totally decadent. All the stories you hear about being a successful rock band in America are all true. And I can’t tell you any of them! Haha!”