ALEX NAPIER – RIP, Uriah Heep’s original drummer

Drummer Alex Napier passed away on January 19. He was the original drummer for Uriah Heep, the first in a number of drummers in the band’s early years. Napier was born in Glasgow in 1947. He joined Spice, taking over for Nigel Pegrum, well before the band added keyboard player Ken Hensley and changed their name to Uriah Heep. It is Alex Napier who drummed on the Heep classic “Gypsy”, as well as “Come Away Melinda”, “Wake Up (Set Your Sights)”, and favorites like “Walking In Your Shadow” and “I’ll Keep On Tryin'” on the band’s 1970 debut album Very ‘Eavy…Very ‘Umble . He also played on numerous Spice demos and unreleased from 1969 that were later released on The Lansdowne Tapes CD in 1993.

Paul Newton posted – “…Alex was a strong, powerful player who has been virtually ignored and unrecognized for his work and contribution to Heep’s success. He was a tough, larger-than-life no-nonsense guy who didn’t take shit from anyone so not ideal for those intent on dodgy dealings…Gerry Bron & Ken Hensley were terrified of him but for me a good kind friend back then.”

Alex left the band due to family commitments (the band not making enough in those days to support a young family). After Uriah Heep Alex Napier would play with other bands, such as one called Prism alongside friend Peter Harrison whom I swapped messages with years ago – “(Alex) as a drummer, was a joy to behold. It’s like watching a ballet, he could do more with his feet on double bass drums than most guys could do with their hands. A f**king amazing drummer!” Napier also had the Alex Napier Band (The Party) around 1980-81. This band featured singer Tony Mason, and recorded a 2 song demo (which can be found on Youtube). Alex eventually retired from playing, and worked as a cabinet maker, according to Harrison. “The last time I’d saw him he had quit playing and was teaching his son. He [his son] was playing drums and using his dad’s kit.”

There’s never been a lot of photos out there showing Alex Napier’s time with Spice & Uriah Heep. He left before the debut album Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble was completed, and by the time the band’s first single “Gypsy” was released Keith Baker was the drummer (who played on the B-side “Bird Of Prey”, and appeared on the single sleeve and subsequent band photos). Napier is often overlooked in the band’s history, often seen as just one in a line of many early drummers that played on the band’s first 3 albums. But his performances on that album are brilliant, having left his mark on a classic on a classic British heavy prog rock album. RIP


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