F: (childhood friend)
Gary and I
were best mates for a brief period, I think from ages 13 to about 15 and
then we drifted apart a bit, but were still friendly up until his
departure for England. We used to do a paper route together, and
went to the same guitar teacher. We went to different schools, he to a
Catholic school. I was also friendly with his elder brother Arthur, who
played guitar, and another brother Colin. Gary and Arthur ended up in a
covers band called The Strangers, and stayed there until Gary and
another band-member, Paul Muggleston, went overseas.
went to Xavier College in Christchurch, and as far as I can remember was
very ordinary, apart from being quite good-looking. I remember him as
fairly quiet, maybe a bit broody, and I think he was interested in
soccer. By the time he had got into bass playing we had sort of drifted
along different paths.
G: (Bass Player)
time he got into Uriah Heep until he departed Gary Thain always toured
the USA with two Acoustic 371's. Each 371 consisted of an Acoustic 370
amplifier coupled with an Acoustic 301 folded-horn cabinet that was
loaded with an 18" Cerwin Vega speaker.
I think I
saw Heep 2 or 3 times with Thain, with the first time being in February
1972 during the Look At Yourself tour. Being unaware that he had been
gone for quite a while at that point I was expecting Paul Newton on
bass, but instead there was Gary. They said that Gary had only been in
the band for about a week. He had just replaced Mark Clarke and was
still feeling his way through some of the songs and taking some visual
cues on stage from Ken Hensley. I knew instantly that this guy wasn't
your typical hard rock bass player.
was the only time I ever saw him use what was probably a 1968-72 version
1 Fender Telecaster Bass that looked very much like today's Sting
reissue Precision model. Luckily a friend who was at the same show that
night shot a photo of Gary up close so I can see that the bass was a
like-new 2-color tobacco sunburst body with a maple neck
w/tele-headstock and a white pickguard, a chrome bridge cover and a gray
colored SCPB with no cover. It could have been an early 50's Precision
but it was in such perfect shape in Feb. 1972 then it's more likely to
be the Telecaster. Most of the photos I've seen from around the time of
Demons & Wizards through Magician's Birthday and Live '73 showed him
using a Fender Jazz bass that had been stripped down to a natural finish
w/rosewood neck and Tort pickguard. He was my idol, so I did the same
thing to my beat up sunburst 1962 Jazz bass that I own to this day. Who
knew back then what it would have been worth if I hadn't took the
original finish off? I was so eaten up with it back then I also bought
two Acoustic 371's which are long gone now.
toward the end of his run with UH Gary started touring with a natural
finish split pickup Precision bass, and I've seen one rare photo of him
playing a Gibson Thunderbird. Always with the two Acoustic 371's though,
and from what I've read always with flatwounds.
FWIW when John Wetton took over in Heep I saw them during the Return To Fantasy tour and he had switched out Heep's Acoustic 371's for a combination of two of those old red/black Cerwin Vega folded horn 18" cabinets and two Ampeg SVT heads. Playing his Precision bass through them they were certainly more bassy sounding but also much less distinct and punchy. From down front where I would hang out I definitely preferred Thain's sound through his Acoustic 371's, but then again I was biased.
I saw Uriah
Heep August 1974 at the "Spectrum" in Philadelphia. I thought
Gary was very good that night. Gary
was very professional and sounded great.
He was as good that night at the Spectrum as on "Live
'73". Even though I am a guitarist / percussionist / vocalist /
harmonica player, I really admire Gary's style and technique. Gary has
(I can't say had as we will always have his recordings), a great sense
of harmony, rhythm and timing that allows him to take on a unique role
in Heep. Gary added the sensibility of a horn section and boogie piano
player for a blues/jazz-like feel to Heep at times. If you listen to (or
are familiar with) CLASSIC Motown music, they used to use a session bass
player named James Jamerson on many of the recordings. James, in my
book, is one of the best. Gary to me has a similar style as Jamerson and
Gary in the same league.
H: (Bass Builder and Musician)
Yep, Gary is my first and main rock influence on bass. It's a damned shame that there's so little recorded of him to listen to. I would have loved to hear him on stage now duking it out with Sheehan or Trujillo. He'd smoke em.
I first heard him on the Live double album. (Note: He is talking about the double Live Album called "Uriah Heep Live 1973").That recording was either engineered by a former bass player or Gary himself slipped the guy a extra few quid to pump him up in that mix because it's one of the best "out front" presentations of rock bass ever recorded in my humble opinion.
It couldn't help but make an impression on me in 1975. Hearing that he had developed his style from playing with horn bands was very interesting to me. I began in jazz ensembles in high school and that was simply amazing that there was somebody that could make the crossover. Of course I wasn't making the connection that "horn band" meant an R&B group but it stuck in my head. Then when I studied more jazz in college, I made that connection of playing with horns with the "trumpeting" style he put out.
Listen to the phrases in "Sweet Lorraine" for an example. I likened it to the piano style of Earl Hines from the 20's who did it to be heard. Well, Gary could sure be heard!
don't know how much I was able to pick up and transfer to my own playing
probably all of the complexity and none of the talent and artistry :-)
but he still pretty much is IT for me. I've heard all the greats but
like your first lover, the one player that makes the biggest dent in
your head will probably be your favorite.
Nakajima: (Japanese Fan)
You may know, when Rock fans in Japan hear the name of Uriah Heep, many of them think of Gary. It's not only because of his impressive Bass play, but also because of his tragic death. And we know he had married a Japanese. And it interests us a bit.
From the Uriah Heep '74 Tour book (Australia)
Gary Thain is probably the least open member of the band, his manner is sometimes abrupt and he'll do little to aid the recipients discomfort, but get to know him and you realize that most of it is good natured enough.
In conversation he pauses and underlines statements thoughtfully, deliberating each sentence.
too he appears to be the least excited, prowling straight faced between
Ken (Hensley) and Lee (Kerslake).
His Bass playing has never been overlooked in the make-up of
Heep, it's distince and positive, combining with Kerslake's stickwork
into a forceful rhythm section.