Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Revelation!!!

Question: Which is the biggest rock band/act to have played inside the campus of an Univertsity or College in India?
Answer: If you said Uriah Heep, I.I.T, Madras then I'll call you one true rock fan. But chances are that a) You live in or around I.I.T Madras. b) You are a resident of Chennai c) You are a die-hard hard rock fan. d) You are a "Heepster", a die-hard fan of Uriah Heep (so what's the big deal with the options? I just wrote them anyway.)

Now that I.I.T's annual cultural fest "Saarang" is on I though it would only be apt to mention about the biggest rock event that took place here in Chennai many years ago.

The year was 1983 and the month, October. The event took place at the O.A.T (Open Air Theatre), the venue of a countless concerts, cultural events, rock shows, movies, school events, you name it. I learn from Uriah Heep's website that the band also played at Bombay, Bangalore, New Delhi and Calcutta that year but I doubt if it was played at a college/university venue.

Heep were in their prime. A very big act in rock and heavy metal with a huge and growing fan following around the world. Their popularity rivaled and beaten only by bands such as their close relative, Deep Purple. In fact if you guessed why their earlier sound, sounded very much like Deep Purple it was because these guys were practicing (for a while) in the same building where DP were practicing their hits. (Source: Inner sleeve notes of the 30'th Anniversary of DP's classic "In Rock" CD)

Hits like "Gypsy Queen", "Take a look at yourself", "Firefly", "July Morning", and "The Wizard" would only convert first time listeners into loyal fans. Any avid rock fan of the 80's will remember "The Dance", the staple of rock bands playing competitions in the city in the mid 80's.

But hold on. Here's something I stumbled into that blew my mind while searching for info about Uriah Heep's I.I.T concert. I chanced upon this quiz on Kamal Hassan where I discovered something incredible. Remember the tamil movie "Kalayana Raman" starring Kamal Hassan and Sridevi and the hit song "Aaaha vandidichu, aasayil odi vanthaen...."? The song begins with an "Enhaaa, Enhaaa, Enhae, Haaanh, Enha, Haaanh" which is exactly what is sung in Uriah Heep's song "Lady in Black" from their 1971 album "Salisbury".

I am not implying that Illayaraja lifted a tune but someone related to or associated with Illayaraja did. How else can such a tune be lifted off a song? The chances are one in a million or maybe a zillion.

I regret I didn't go to the concert. I was still in school then and months away from giving my Matriculation exams. I remember stopping at the O.A.T to watch the Goliath of a set being built as I rode back home after school. Tickets for the concert sold for just Rs.10/-. A friend who went to the concert said it was excessively loud that she had to cup her hears frequently to listen to the deafening sound. Her brother told me that lead guitarist Mick Box got so high that he started playing his guitar with the pots lined up there for decoration. I truly missed them and also missed being a part of history

Having written that, here's another question. Who else do you think were a bigger act than Uriah Heep to visit Chennai, or was there a bigger act? Was it Osibisa (in the 70's?) or Jethrotull (1991) or MLTR (2000). I am sure you have your own favorites but in my opinion there WAS one such band. In my opinion they were the best ever. I'll leave that discussion for another post. Till then let me keep you guessing. I'll leave you with some clues though. This band were one of those great bands that lived most of their lives in anonymity. However their contribution to rock music were collossal. When they played here in Chennai they toured with "The Boomtown Rats". Yes, the very same band fronted by Bob Geldof. Bob Geldorf would later go on to concieve 1985's "Live Aid" and also be involved with Live 8 in 2005. I am not sure if Bob Geldorf was in the band then but Boomtown Rats WAS his band and they DID come here.

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