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Uriah Heep, Splodgenessabounds, and the most ridiculous prank in festival history

Uriah Heep
Uriah Heep in 1990 (Image credit: Mick Hutson / Getty Images)

The 1988 Reading Festival played host to one of the most meticulously planned wind-ups and spectacularly successful japes in UK music history. 

The prankster was Max Splodge, leader of comedy-punk outfit Splodgenessabounds. His victims were Uriah Heep. Splodge, masquerading as deranged Heep fan Martin Everest, managed to trick the band into arranging a reception for him at the Reading Festival where, they were convinced, they were being filmed for TV’s Jim’ll Fix It show, making young Martin’s dream come true. 

Splodge’s ultimate goal was to get on stage with Uriah Heep - which, nervously, they agreed he could do. The scam had taken weeks of planning, leading up to Heep’s appearance at Reading on the Saturday, August 27, 1988. 

Splodge had roped in a number of conspirators including guitarist Ronny Rocka (Splodgenessabounds, Angelic Upstarts, The Godfathers) and a friend called Juliette, the ‘BBC producer’ who conducted the negotiations with Uriah Heep’s Miracle management company. 

Juliette spun the story of Martin Everest (Splodge’s real name), a massive Heep fan who’d been hit by a lorry in Germany while following his heroes around Europe. Deep in a coma, he miraculously awakened when his brother flew over to play him tapes of Uriah Heep. 

Now his dearest wish was to meet the band who’d saved his life. And Jim, of course, wanted to fix it. It was not explained to Miracle that, due to his accident, poor Martin was still suffering from something the pranksters called ‘severe cranial disfarction’, which caused severe shakes and jerks.

Phone calls went back and forth, and so did faxes. One small snag – that Juliette didn’t have a fax machine – was resolved by a small team at Melody Maker, myself included, who sent off her correspondence from our office in High Holborn. 

Miracle finally announced that Uriah Heep would be happy to meet Martin at their hospitality tent backstage at Reading. On the great day, Juliette arrived looking brisk, efficient and professional with a clipboard in her hand, and a couple of mates shouldering a video camera. 

I was on hand to interview Martin and Uriah Heep for Melody Maker – hopefully which I could manage to do with a straight face. Splodge turned out in a pair of over-sized black-rimmed spectacles, his denim jacket and baseball boots covered in graffiti such as ‘Demons And Wizards’ hastily scribbled on with a Biro, and his knuckles bearing the legend ‘Heep’. 

And so he sat down to enjoy an audience with the band, who made a wonderful fuss of him as the camera rolled, presenting him with T-shirts and a baseball cap while he gobbled (harmless) tablets from a bottle and twitched violently. 

The band were obviously worried by Martin’s appetite for the free booze but, politely, they didn’t show it. There was one hairy moment when a friend, recognising Splodge as she wandered past, had to be shooed away before she blew his cover. 

Eventually appearing before the Reading audience with the mighty Heep, Martin could clearly be seen leaping insanely around the side of the stage with a blow-up guitar while security guards stood ready to grab him if he looked like ruining the gig.

To say that Uriah Heep must have been glad when it was over would be an understatement. Back at the tent, the band were still helpfully offering hospitality to their special guest, who kept up his preposterous performance for longer than was strictly necessary.

Finally, Splodge turned to guitarist Mick Box and asked if the band had a sense of humour. 

“Of course,” said Mick. “You don’t survive in this business for 20 years without one.” 

Splodge revelled in the moment. 

“Well, I’m glad about that,” he grinned, throwing down his spectacles, “because I’m Max Splodge. . . and you’ve been had!” 

There was silence at first as the awful truth dawned, and then a sporting round of laughter. It was, a laughing Box and drummer Lee Kerslake both agreed, the finest practical joke that had ever been played on Uriah Heep. 

The drinks continued to flow in the hospitality tent – now without the pills, the physical jerks and the band’s superhuman efforts to accommodate an increasingly alarming ‘fan’.

This feature originally appeared in Classic Rock 109.

Carol Clerk wrote extensively for Melody Maker in the 80s and 90s, and then for Uncut and Classic Rock. In 1985 she won a journalist of the year award from the Professional Publishers Association for her coverage of the Live Aid concert at Wembley. She ghostwrote gangster Reggie Kray's autobiography and was the author of books about Madonna, the Pogues, Hawkind and others, as well as Vintage Tattoos: The Book of Old-School Skin Art. She died in March 2010.