Diamond Head: The Forgotten Band

author: Behnam H. date: 09/23/2010 category: the history of

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Diamond Head are a British heavy metal band formed in 1976 in Stourbridge, England. They were one of the leading members of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and are acknowledged by later bands like Metallica and Megadeth as an important early influence. Formed by school friends in 1976 Brian Tatler and Duncan Scott with Tatler playing on a Cheap Fuzz guitar and Scott on Biscuit Tins. The name "Diamond Head" came from a Phil Manzanera album, that Tatler had a poster of in his room. Sean Harris later joined the band after they learned about his vocal abilities while on a school trip, singing Gene Vincent's 1956 hit "Be-Bop-A-Lula", and auditioned him in Tatler's bedroom. Bassist Colin Kimberley, a friend of Tatler's from primary school, joined the band some months later (and was in fact Diamond Head's fourth bassist) and the band started to play local gigs in the Black Country area. In fact their first gig was at High Park School in Stourbridge on 10 February 1976, but things did not go too smoothly at that gig, with problems with feedback spoiling the songs. Even in thier early days tha band played very few cover songs and stuck to their own material. The only exception to this was the adding of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" in 1978 and "This Flight Tonight" plus "Rock The Nation" in 1991. In one interview Brian Tatler reported that they wrote 100 songs before their first studio release. The truth can be proven in this statement by the fact that only one song (It's Electric) from their 1978 set ended up being recorded on their debut. The band recorded and released self-financed demo tapes in 1977 and 1979. Although only recorded within six hours on a four-track, their unique sound and quality of song writing gained enough attention to tour as support with AC/DC and Iron Maiden, the former showing the band the ins and outs of the music industry. Although a clutch of record companies fought to sign the band, none were willing to fully commit. The fact that the band was at the time managed by Sean Harris' mother (Linda Harris), who reportedly turned down an offer from the mighty Q Prime Management, did not help the band's commercial momentum. So, while other 'New Wave of British Heavy Metal' bands, such as Def Leppard were signed to major labels and were headlining their own tours Diamond Head were growing increasingly impatient and decided that they would release their material through their own label Happy Face Records. The first release from this label was the 1980 single Shoot Out The Lights (B-side Helpless), having already had a previous single Sweet and Innocent (B-side Streets of Gold) released by Media Records in the same year. In the same year the band also recorded their debut album on Happy Face most commonly known as Lightning to the Nations, The success of their first album finally led to a record deal with MCA Records in 1981, and they released the Four Cuts EP, which contained classics such as Call Me and Dead Reckoning. Unfortunately success was short lived, as Diamond Head tried a more experimental follow-up to Borrowed Time, tentatively titled Making Music, and which later became Canterbury, in 1983. The success of this album was initially stalled by the fact that the first 20,000 copies suffered vinyl pressing problems, causing the LP to jump. Secondly many people did not like the progressive direction, most fans were expecting a second Borrowed Time. This was also the first album not to feature Duncan Scott and Colin Kimberly, due to pressure from MCA to have them removed from the band. In an interview in 1983 Tatler explained the reasons for them leaving. Tatler stated that Kimberly found being in a band like Diamond Head too much hard work and Scott did not seem to be pulling his weight in the band. In 1993 the band released Death and Progress featuring contributions by Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath and Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. However, the band's reunion was short lived as they were on the verge of splitting up as soon as the record was released. In 1994 the band split again and did not reform until 2000. Many reasons have been attributed to why Diamond Head never made the most of their potential. Some of the most commonly cited reasons are that they changed musical direction too soon with "Canterbury" and that they didn't sign a record deal soon enough, so that by the time their album did come out, there were already many bands similar to them on the NWOBHM scene. Then once they did sign to a major label, MCA were not the right label for them, trying to make them sound more commercial to attract a larger audience, which many of the Diamond Head fans resented. Also the fact that while Iron Maiden were managed by Rod Smallwood (one of the best managers in the industry), Diamond Head only had Reg Fellows, a cardboard factory owner from the Midlands and Harris' mother for a tour manager.
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