Archive for the ‘Rough Diamond’ Category

Rough Diamond (David Byron) Sunderland Polytechnic Wearmouth Hall 1977

Rough Diamond Sunderland Polytechnic Wearmouth Hall 1977image
I’m going to take a side-step out of my Uriah Heep bloggings to say a little more about their great first vocalist David Byron.
In 1977, after leaving Uriah Heep, Byron formed a new band Rough Diamond along with former Humble Pie guitarist Clem Clempson and ex-Wings drummer Geoff Britton. The remaining members were Willie Bath (bass) and Damon Butcher (keyboards). Rough Diamond were hailed as a new “supergroup” by the Melody Maker, who featured them on their front cover. They recorded one album and toured the USA, opening for Peter Frampton. The album was not a big success, peaking at No. 103 in the US charts. Rough Diamond also played a small number of UK dates, one of which was at Sunderland Polytechnic’s Wearmouth Hall.
I was quite excited at the prospect of seeing David Byron again, and had also seen Clempson with Humble Pie and knew that he was an excellent guitarist. I figured Wearmouth Hall would be packed with Heep fans, particularly as the concert was one of a handful of gigs, and if I remember correctly, the only one in the north of England. So I persuaded Marie that we had to go along early, to make sure that we got in. How wrong I was. When we arrived the place was empty, and by the time Rough Diamond took to the stage, it still wasn’t very full; there were probably 100 or so people there. It’s always seems a bit strange seeing “name” acts in smaller halls. They tend to bring massive set-ups, and fill the hall with equipment and sound. Seeing Rough Diamond was a bit like that. The stage was set with a massive back line of brand new looking amps; it seemed that someone was investing heavily in the new “supergroup”. They were also incredibly loud, ear-splittingly so (which was just great 🙂 one more band to include in my lawsuit for rock fan deafness ). The concert was interesting, in that all the individual elements were in place, but yet they was something missing. David Byron was in excellent voice, and delivered a great performance for the small crowd, and Clem Clempson, as expected, played some excellent rock/blues. The rest of the band were fine. The set consisted of songs from their new album. I don’t recall if any Heep songs were played, although something in the back of mind tells me that they may have played “Sweet Lorraine” and a cover of Free’s “The Hunter”. I remember one slower rock ballad “Sea Songs” as being a highlight. The songs were ok, and it was a good gig, but not exceptional. Often such “supergroups” don’t live up to their promise, the result does not match the sum of the parts. Makes me think of when I saw Paul Rodgers and Jimmy Page in The Firm; they both performed great, but overall I left a little underwhelmed. Still it was a great opportunity to see David Byron again, and in such a small venue.
Rough Diamond split shortly afterwards. They were together for less than one year. David Byron went on to form his own band. Reports suggest that Mick Box and Trevor Bolder invited Byron to re-join Uriah Heep in 1981, after Ken Hensley left (it was Hensley who insisted on Byron’s dismissal), but Byron refused.
David Byron passed away on Thursday, 28 February 1985 as a result of alcohol problems  and liver disease. He was 38 years old. Subsequently in concert, Uriah Heep would often dedicate “The Wizard” to him.
I like to remember David Byron when he was at his best, fronting Uriah Heep, standing magnificent and proud, stage centre, surrounded by dry ice, singing “July Morning”, his voice clear, powerful, and sweet. We will never experience his like again.