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Diamond Head are an English heavy metal band formed in 1976 in Stourbridge, England. The band is recognised as one of the leading members of the new wave of British heavy metal and is acknowledged by thrash metal bands such as Metallica and Megadeth as an important early influence.
Two working class teenagers from Stourbridge created the band in 1976. Brian Tatler & Duncan Scott formed the band with a biscuit tin drum kit and borrowed guitar in Brian's bedroom. They auditioned several school friends for a singer until finding Sean Harris. "It was the last year of school, we were about to leave to get jobs or go to college" said Brian Tatler, The name 'Diamond Head' came from a 1975 Phil Manzanera album that Tatler had a poster of in his room. The band played their first gig at High Park school hall (10 February 1977) and sold 151 tickets for a forty-minute set of their own original material. Bassist Colin Kimberley, a friend of Tatler's from primary school, joined the band in 1978 as their fourth bassist.
In their early days, the band played very few cover songs and concentrated on their own material. Exceptions were Black Sabbath's "Paranoid", "Its All For The Love of Rock and Roll" by the Tuff Darts, "Motorhead" by Motörhead and Space Station #5 by Montrose. In one interview, Brian Tatler stated that they wrote some 100 songs before their first studio recorded release, and only one song (It's Electric) from their 1978 debut gig with Colin made it onto vinyl.
The band recorded self-financed demo tapes in 1979. Recorded within six hours on a four-track, their unique sound and quality of writing gained enough attention for the band to tour as support to AC/DC and Iron Maiden. Although several record companies expressed interests in signing the band, no contracts were forthcoming. The band was at the time managed by Reg Fellows and Sean Harris' mother (Linda Harris),who reportedly turned down an offer from the influential Leiber/Krebs Management,. Thus while other new wave of British heavy metal bands were signed to major labels and headlining their own tours Diamond Head remained independent. The management decided that they would release their material through a label owned by Muff Murfin called 'Happy Face Records'. Muff also owned the studio where Diamond Head did many of their early recordings.
The first release was the 1979 single "Shoot Out The Lights" (B-side Helpless), second single "Sweet and Innocent" (B-side "Streets of Gold") was released by Media Records in 1980.
In the same year the band also recorded their debut album on Happy Face. Most commonly known as Lightning to the Nations, the collection was recorded in seven days at The Old Smythy Studio in Worcester, which the band described later as 'dead'. The album was packaged in a plain sleeve with no title or track listings, simply bearing a signature of one of the band members. The management thought that it should be perceived as a 'demo' album so no fancy sleeve was required, making it very cheap to produce. the first 1000 copies were pressed and made available at concerts or via mail-order for £3.50. The only mail-order advertisement appeared in Sounds and ran for six weeks. The bands management did not pay for the advertisement and ended up being sued. The idea for recording this album came from Fellows and Linda Harris as an attempt to record tracks to entice attention from a record company, which would take care of the recording costs.
The original stereo master tapes were lost after they were sent to the German record company, Woolfe Records, who released a vinyl version of the album with a new sleeve. The tapes were not returned until they were eventually tracked down by Lars Ulrich and Phonogram Germany for inclusion on the 1990 compilation album 'New Wave Of British Heavy Metal '79 Revisited'.
Living on...Borrowed Time
The buzz surrounding the band's live shows eventually led to a record deal with MCA Records in 1982, and rush released the Four Cuts EP, which contained two early era songs Shoot Out The Lights and Dead Reckoning. Their new status afforded them a slot on the Reading festival bill in 1982, albeit as late and unadvertised replacements for Manowar. Their set was recorded by the BBC and later released in 1992 through Raw Fruit Records as the Friday Rock Show Sessions.
The first MCA album, Borrowed Time featured a lavish Rodney Matthews-illustrated gatefold sleeve based on the album's Elric theme and was the most expensive sleeve commissioned by MCA at the time. The investment paid off as it was enthusiastically received and climbed to No. 24 in the UK album charts, enabling the band to perform a full scale UK tour at premier venues such as London's Hammersmith Odeon.
To support the album Diamond Head's sixth single "In the Heat of the Night", backed with live versions of Play it Loud and Sweet and Innocent recorded at the Zig-Zag club, and an interview with DJ Tommy Vance (although the latter was not available on the 12").
Diamond Head tried a more experimental sounding follow-up to Borrowed Time, tentatively titled Making Music which later became Canterbury in 1983. The success of this album was stalled as the first 20,000 copies suffered vinyl pressing problems, causing the LP to jump.
Many fans disliked the progressive direction, expecting a reprise of Borrowed Time. During the recording of the album a split in the band occurred with Scott being fired and Kimberley quiting once all his bass parts had been recorded. Tatler explained that Kimberly found the band too much hard work and Scott did not seem to be improving quickly enough. Mervyn Goldsworthy, formerly of Samson, and Robbie France, later a founding member of Skunk Anansie, came in on bass and drums respectively. Also introduced to the band was keyboard player Josh Phillips-Gorse. Live footage of this line up's live show at the University of Leicester on 12 February 1984 was officially released on VHS via the Diamond Head fan club.
Diamond Head opened the 1983 Monsters of Rock festival at Donington, and supported Black Sabbath on their 'Born Again' European tour. After getting dropped by MCA in January 1984 Diamond Head started work on their fourth studio album, entitled Flight East. Although never released, five tracks (Be Good, A New Messiah, Someone Waiting, Today and Back In The Powerage) emerged on bootleg and shows the band totally changing direction with the dropping of all the characteristic signature guitar solos and heavy dynamic riffs. The change in the band's musical direction was with the duo becoming bored of just playing Heavy Metal and felt that it was time to change. Another change the band made at the time was Brian switching from his Flying V to a Gibson Les Paul. Harris' lyrics had also taken a religious route, as with one of the new songs A New Messiah. After little interest from any record label to pick up the project (and with no money coming in) the band fell apart and in 1985 Tatler and Harris decided to take a break from one another.
Reunion and National Bowl show
Metallica's increasing status and the often mentioned influence of Diamond Head on their sound kept the band's name relatively prominent and helped back-catalogue sales. In 1990 Tatler and Harris began writing songs for a new album and in 1991 Diamond Head went back on the road with Karl Wilcox on drums and Eddie Moohan on bass.
The band also released a new 12" only single which contained Wild on the Streets and I Can't Help Myself, and was only available at concerts and specialised music stores. Sean Harris also wrote the lyrics to a song with Dave Mustaine for Megadeth called "Crown Of Worms" and both released as a B-side to Megadeth's 1994 single Train of Consequences and on the re-mastered version of Countdown to Extinction.
In 1993 the band released Death and Progress featuring guest contributions by Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath and Dave Mustaine. The band's reunion was short lived as they were on the verge of splitting up as soon as the record was released.
In November 1992 Diamond Head guested on stage with Metallica at Birmingham's NEC to jointly perform the Diamond Head classics Helpless and Am I Evil?. Footage of this show was released via the Metallica fan club on a video entitled Metallican.
Diamond Head opened for Metallica and Megadeth at the National Bowl in Milton Keynes on 5 June 1993. Sean Harris came out dressed as the Grim Reaper which Brian Tatler remarked (in the British rock magazine Classic Rock) was Harris' way of saying that the NWOBHM was over. Their performance was subdued, reportedly due to Tatler suffering from shingles at the time and the lack of rehearsal time prior to the gig.
In 1994 the band split again and did not reform until 2000.
In 2000 Harris and Tatler reformed with guitarist Floyd Brennan and performed a series of UK acoustic gigs, which ended in the release of the First Cuts Acoustic EP.
The band started touring again doing full electric shows with Moohan and Wilcox back in the band. This tour also saw Diamond Head play their first US show at the Metal Meltdown IV Festival New Jersey in 2002. After around 18 dates Diamond Head went into a local studio to record a new album. Halfway through recording Sean announced that he did not want to use the name Diamond Head and suggested a new name for the band as a fresh start and he no longer wished to be associated with the NWOBHM. The album has still to be released
In 2003 Diamond Head and Sean Harris finally went their separate ways. Although Harris issued a press release on Blabbermouth.net that said that as far as he was concerned he had as much right over the Diamond Head name as anyone else, and that as far he was concerned he was still in the band.
Nick Tart era
The rest of the band, determined to continue, soon announced his replacement as Nick Tart. Tart had previously worked with many midlands based bands. Robin George recruited Nick after seeing him perform live at JBs in Dudley with Alabama Bombshell, a new project was underway to re-record some of Robin's songs that artists such as, Glenn Hughes, Ruby Turner, Robert Plant and coincidentally Sean Harris had previously recorded. Between 1992 -1996 they toured the UK, performed a live TV appearance on The James Whale show, and Radio 1 sessions with Tommy Vance under the name Life before releasing an album entitled Cocoon. Nick left the music business in 1997 but joined a new band in 2003. After a few weeks Diamond Head drummer Karl Wilcox dropped in on a rehearsal (as he was a friend of their drummer) and after hearing Nick sing, Karl immediately got on the phone to Brian saying he had heard a great singer and passed on his phone number. After introductions Tart agreed to join.
The band's next album, All Will Be Revealed (the title apparently referring to Sean Harris), was released in 2005 and was very different from their early material. To promote this album they toured with Megadeth. Brian Tatler commented that this was one of the best experiences of his life and regained his enjoyment playing live with the band again.
Diamond Head headlined a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the NWOBHM at the London Astoria, supported by Witchfynde, Bronz, Praying Mantis and Jaguar. This concert was later released as a live CD entitled It's Electric and also the band's first DVD, To the Devil His Due in 2006. The band's rhythm guitarist Adrian Mills left the band and was replaced with Andy 'Abbz' Abberley, previously in Cannock band Chase with drummer Karl Wilcox.
The band released their sixth studio album, What's in Your Head?, through Cargo records, co-produced by Dave 'Shirt' Nicholls, who has produced albums with bands such as Slipknot and The Wildhearts. The band have toured extensively over the last few years through the UK, Europe and Japan. In 2007 Diamond Head were special guests to Thin Lizzy in the UK. In October 2008 Nick Tart and his family emigrated to Brisbane. In November 2009 Brian Tatler published his autobiography 'Am I Evil?' with forewords by Lars Ulrich and Dave Mustaine. A hardback book that documents the story of Diamond Head, featuring many rare and unseen photographs.
In 2010 Diamond Head were special guests to Europe on their nine date UK tour. They celebrated the 30th Anniversary of their first album 'Lightning To The Nations 'with a European tour beginning 7 November 2010, with all seven songs performed back to back for the first time at selected venues. Diamond Head were invited to open for the 'Big 4' at 2011's Sonisphere Festival at Knebworth, England on 8 July and Sonisphere France on 9 July. They also performed for the first time at the Heavy T.O. festival in Toronto on 23 July and Heavy MTL festival, Montreal, Canada, 24 July 2011. On 15 August 2011 Diamond Head embarked on their first ever U.S. tour, kicking off at El Corazon in Seattle and finishing up on 1 September at BB King's in New York City, 17 shows in all.
In 2012 there was a twelve date European tour, including Bang Your Head festival in Germany. In 2013 Diamond Head completed a 17 date East coast US tour and a five date UK tour co-headlining with Uli Jon Roth.
Due to the untimely death of his father Nick had to withdraw from Diamond Head's October 2013 US tour. In order to maintain their commitment to their fans and the tour, Diamond Head called upon vocalist Chas West who has been a long time friend of the band to help out.
In 2014, due to the practical difficulties of touring and writing with Nick Tart living in Australia, Danish born Rasmus Bom Andersen, from London, became Diamond Head's third singer. A successful tour of Europe and Britain followed in the Summer and Autumn of 2014. Work started on a new studio album in January 2015.
Diamond Head have cited their early inspirations as classic 70s British rock bands such as Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, UFO, Black Sabbath Judas Priest and Free, Brian Tatler relating that the first albums he bought were Led Zeppelin's second album and Deep Purple's Machine Head, and said that although a lot of his guitar work was inspired by Ritchie Blackmore and Michael Schenker it was punk rock that showed him that anyone could form a band. Colin Kimberley commented Diamond Head got their complex sound from listening to bands like Black Sabbath and Rush and realising that a song with a single riff throughout was not interesting enough.
In a recent interview Tatler stated that he now tries not to be influenced by modern bands and keep his sound, although he imagines that "little bits creep into the writing process."
Lack of success
Many reasons have been cited why Diamond Head never achieved their full potential. That they changed musical direction with Canterbury and that they did not attain a record deal soon enough are two main reasons. Once they did sign to a major label, MCA proved to be the wrong label, forcing the band to sound more commercial. Also, while bands like Iron Maiden and Def Leppard were managed by established music management, Diamond Head were managed by Reg Fellows, a cardboard factory owner from the Midlands and Harris' mother who were both learning on the job.
There are also many other smaller contributions to the decline of Diamond Head. One of these being that the band seemed to shy away from playing shows in London, where the main hub of activity was. Diamond Head did not play their first headline gig in the capital until April 1980 at the Marquee. It also did not help that the band did not stick to a style and give it chance to succeed before trying something new.
Then later they had problems with a viable comeback, with problems associated with the National Bowl gig with Metallica and the lack of desire from Sean Harris to carry on performing heavy metal.
Influence on Metallica
Diamond Head are probably most famous among heavy metal fans for their influence on Metallica. Metallica have acknowledged them as an important early influence and have covered Diamond Head songs at gigs such as "Sucking My Love", "Am I Evil" and "The Prince." The earliest known recordings of these songs are a rehearsal demo recorded at then-bassist Ron McGovney's house in March 1982. The Metal Up Your Ass live demo, recorded in November of that year, featured a live rendition of "Am I Evil." "The Prince" was also played, but the tape ran out too soon to catch it. "Sucking My Love" exists on various bootlegs that have been circulating since 1982 along with a recording on the early demo No Life Til Leather.
The first official release of "Am I Evil" came in 1984 as part of the Creeping Death EP, paired with another NWOBHM classic "Blitzkrieg", by the band of the same name. The two songs were also included in the first pressing of the Kill 'Em All LP when it was re-released by Elektra Records.
"Helpless" would see a release with The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited in 1987 and "The Prince" was included as a B-side to the "One" single.
During the Wherever We May Roam Tour Metallica played "Am I Evil?" and "Helpless" with the original band members on 5 November 1992 at NEC Arena in Birmingham.
The official recordings of "Helpless", "Am I Evil", and "The Prince" would also be featured on Metallica's 2-CD Garage Inc. compilation, a collection of numerous cover songs that the band had played over the years. The first CD in the set was newly recorded covers, one of which was Diamond Head's "It's Electric".
Metallica performed "Am I Evil" along with the other bands in the Big 4 (Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer) at the 2010 Sonisphere festival, and with Diamond Head themselves at the Sonisphere festival in Knebworth on 8 July 2011. Lars Ulrich said that there was "a pretty good chance that none of us would be here" without Brian Tatler before playing the song. Brian performed "Helpless" with Metallica and Anthrax at the Sonisphere festival in Amnéville on 9 July 2011.
On 5 December 2011 Brian Tatler and Sean Harris joined Metallica onstage at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco to celebrate Metallica's 30th Anniversary. Together they played "The Prince", "It's Electric", "Helpless" and "Am I Evil?". Brian and Sean also took part in a group encore of Seek and Destroy.
Brian Tatler – lead guitar, rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1976–1985, 1991–1994, 2000–present)
Karl Wilcox – drums (1991–1994, 2002–present)
Andy "Abbz" Abberley – rhythm guitar (2006–present)
Rasmus Bom Andersen – lead vocals (2014–present)
Dean Ashton - bass guitar, backing vocals(2016–present)
Duncan Scott – drums (1976–1983)
Sean Harris – lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1976–1985, 1990–1994, 2000–2004)
Colin Kimberley – bass, backing vocals (1978–1983)
Mervyn Goldsworthy – bass (1983–1984)
Dave Williamson – bass (1984–1985)
Pete Vuckovic – bass, backing vocals (1992–1994)
Floyd Brennan – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2000–2002)
Adrian Mills – rhythm guitar (2003–2006)
Nick Tart – lead vocals (2004–2014)
Eddie Moohan – bass, backing vocals(1991–1992, 2002–2016)
Josh Phillips – keyboard (1983–1984)
Robbie France – drums (1983–1985; died 2012)