Diamond Head is 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 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 fuzzy 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 in 1978 (and was in fact Diamond Head's fourth bassist). The band started to play local gigs in the Black Country area, with their first gig at High Park School in Stourbridge on 10 February 1977 but things did not go too smoothly at that gig, with feedback problems marring the start of the concert.
In their early days, the band played 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 and "Motorhead" by Motörhead. 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 set was recorded for their debut.
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 a 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, (although it was officially untitled), the collection was recorded in seven days at The Old Smythy Studio in Worcester, a venue 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 band 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.
This album has become one of the most sought after items among record collectors. Another 1000 copies were pressed along with the track listings once the first 1000 copies had sold out. Unfortunately, the original stereo master tapes were lost after they were sent to the German record company, Woolfe Records, and never returned. However, Woolfe Records released a vinyl version of the album with a new sleeve. The tapes were eventually tracked down around 1989.
Living on...Borrowed Time
The buzz surrounding the bands 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 stunning 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 large 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, saying that "I think the Les Paul's better, the V's more of a metal guitar. At one stage it was just me and Schenker with them, now the guy in Saxon's got one and all the European metal bands like Accept have them." 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) Tatler and Harris decided to take a break from one another in 1985.
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. Inevitably 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 short acoustic gigs, including a support slot with Budgie, 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. The band went back into the studio to record a new album entitled Host, however the band ended in disagreement and turmoil as Harris wished the album to be put out under a new name as a fresh start.
After years of Tatler and the band tolerating Harris' creative desires 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.
The 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 quit the music business in 1997 but joined a new band in 2003. After a few weeks Diamond Head drummer Karl Wilcox happened to drop 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 traditional heavy metal band Requiem with drummer Karl Wilcox.
The band released their sixth studio album, What's in Your Head?, through Cargo records with Dave 'Shirt' Nicholls, who has produced albums with bands such as Slipknot and The Wildhearts. The Japanese version included extra track This is War.
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 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. All 500 copies have now sold out.
In 2010 Diamond Head were special guests to Europe on their nine date UK tour.
Diamond Head 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 have been invited to open for the 'Big 4' at this year's Sonisphere Festival at Knebworth, England on 8 July and Sonisphere France on 9 July 2011. 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.
Diamond Head are booked on a 17 date East coast US tour beginning April 10th 2013. A West coast US tour is being planned for October 2013.
Due to the untimely death of his father Nick will be flying home to Brisbane to be with his family and unfortunately has had to withdraw from Diamond Head’s upcoming US tour in October. In order to maintain their commitment to their fans and the tour, Diamond Head have called upon vocalist Chas West (The Jason Bonham Band, Lynch Mob, 3 Legged Dogg & Tribe Of Gypsies) who has been a long time friend of the band to help out for this tour. Diamond Head are delighted to have Chas be part of this upcoming tour which kicks off in Vancouver Canada October 8th 2013.
Diamond Head have cited their early inspirations as classic British rock bands such as Free, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, UFO, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. Brian Tatler relating that some of 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. The fact that while the likes of Iron Maiden and Def Leppard were managed by established music management, Diamond Head were guided by Reg Fellows, a cardboard factory owner from the Midlands and Harris' mother as managers.
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 openly acknowledge 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. The song would see another demo release as part of the Horsemen Of The Apocalypse demo in 1983. "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 Garage Days Re-Revisited in 1987 and "The Prince" was included as a B-side to the "One" single.
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 2011 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 the encore of Seek and Destroy.
- Current members
- Brian Tatler – lead guitar, backing vocals (1976–1985, 1991–1994, 2000–present)
- Eddie "Chaos" Moohan – bass (1991–1994, 2002–present)
- Karl Wilcox – drums (1991–1994, 2002–present)
- Nick Tart – lead vocals (2004–present)
- Andy "Abbz" Abberley – rhythm guitar (2006–present)
- Touring member
- Chas West - lead vocals (2013)
- Former members
- Duncan Scott – drums (1976–1983)
- Sean Harris – lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1976–1985, 1991–1994, 2000–2004)
- Colin Kimberley – bass, backing vocals (1978–1983)
- Mervyn Goldsworthy – bass (1983)
- Robbie France – drums (1983–1984; died 2012)
- Josh Phillips – keyboard (1983–1984)
- Dave Williamson – bass (1984)
- Pete Vuckovic – bass (1992–1994)
- Floyd Brennan – rhythm guitar (2000–2002)
- Adrian Mills – rhythm guitar (2003–2006)
- Lightning to the Nations (1980) (also known as The White Album)
- Borrowed Time (1982)
- Canterbury (1983)
- Death and Progress (1993)
- All Will Be Revealed (2005)
- What's in Your Head? (2007)
- The Friday Rock Show Sessions / Live at Reading (1992)
- Evil Live (1994)
- Live - In the Heat of the Night (2000)
- It's Electric (2006)
- Live at the BBC (2010)
Singles and EPs
- Shoot Out The Lights (1980)
- Sweet And Innocent (1980)
- Waited Too Long/Play It Loud (1981)
- Diamond Lights EP (1981)
- Call Me (7-inch; 1982)
- Call me
- Dead reckoning
- In The Heat Of The Night (Double 7-inch; 1982)
- Disc 1
- In the heat of the night
- Play it loud (live)
- Disc 2
- Sweet and innocent (live)
- Tommy Vance interview
- Disc 1
- In The Heat Of The Night (12-inch; 1982)
- In the heat of the night
- Play it loud (live)
- Four Cuts EP (1982)
- Makin' Music (7-inch; 1983)
- Makin' music
- Andy Peebles interview
- Makin' Music (12-inch; 1983)
- Makin' music (extended)
- Andy Peebles interview
- Out Of Phase (7-inch; 1983)
- Out of phase
- The Kingmaker
- Sucking My Love (12-inch; 1983)
- Sucking my love (live)
- Out of phase
- Wild On The Streets/I Can't Help Myself (7-inch; 1991)
- Wild on the streets
- I can't help myself
- Acoustic: First Cuts EP (CD; 2002)
- Lightning to the nations
- In the heat of the night
Compilations or alternative versions
- Am I Evil (1987)
- Sweet and Innocent (1988)
- Behold the Beginning (1986)
- Singles (1992)
- Sweet and innocent
- Streets of gold
- The prince
- Sucking my love
- Waited too long
- Play it loud
- It's electric
- Trick or treat
- Dead reckoning
- Shoot out the lights
- In the heat of the night
- Makin' music (long version)
- Play it loud (live)
- Sucking my love (live)
- To Heaven from Hell (1997)
- Lightning to the Nations (1997)
- The Best of Diamond Head (1999)
- Diamond Nights (2000)
- The Diamond Head Anthology: Am I Evil? (2004)
- The MCA Years (2009)
- Lightning To The Nations (2011)
- To the Devil His Due (November 21, 2006)
- Official website
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