May 21, 2013 – Trevor Bolder (Uriah Heep) was born on 9 June 1950 in Kingston upon Hull, East Yorkshire, England. His father was a trumpet player and other members of his family were also musicians. He played cornet in the school band and was active in his local R&B scene in the mid 1960s. Inspired by The Beatles, in 1964 he formed his first band with his brother while taking up the bass guitar.
In his teens he took the direction followed by many other young males of his generation and switched to the guitar, at which time he formed The Chicago Star Blues Band with his brother. Stints in other Hull-based bands like Jelly Roll and Flesh came later, with Bolder eventually trading in his guitar for an electric bass; meanwhile, food was kept on the table through a series of day jobs that ranged from hairdresser to piano tuner. He first came to local prominence in The Rats, which also featured fellow Hull musician Mick Ronson on lead guitar.
In 1970 he received an invitation from Ronson to come to London and join Ronno — a outfit that had been active earlier in the year as The Hype, and which had served as a backing band for vocalist David Bowie. Ronno only managed one single (1971’s Fourth Hour of My Sleep) before poor response prompted Vertigo, the band’s label, to abandon them; not long afterwards, however, Bowie enlisted most of the line-up which would soon be known as the Spiders from Mars (Ronson, Bolder, and drummer Woody Woodmansey) for his fourth album Hunky Dory (1971). Bolder subsequently appeared in D. A. Pennebaker’s 1973 documentary and concert movie Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
He is name-checked as “Weird” (Bowie’s stage nickname for Bolder) in the song “Ziggy Stardust” in the lyrics “Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly, And The Spiders from Mars”. Bolder “never looked comfortable as a glam-rock mannequin, tottering behind Ziggy Stardust in platform boots and a rainbow-hued outfit of latex and glitter”.
Bolder’s bass (and occasional trumpet) work appeared on the studio albums Hunky Dory (1971), The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972), Aladdin Sane (1973), and Pin Ups (1973), the Spiders’ swan song with their leader.
When Bowie announced his departure from Live Shows, he then went on to play on Ronson’s 1974 album Slaughter on 10th Avenue which made the British Top Ten.
The bassist continued his affiliation with Ronson for the next year or so, touring as part of his band and performing on the solo album Play Don’t Worry (1975). Bolder then joined forces once again with Woodmansey in a short-lived (and ill-advised) attempt to resurrect the Spiders From Mars name, their 1976 eponymous release being met mostly with indifference from both critics and fans. A more rewarding situation was right around the corner, however, and later in the year Bolder was enlisted to replace bassist John Wetton in Uriah Heep — a band that would remain his primary musical home for most of the years to come.
Bolder’s first recorded participation with Heep materialized as the 1977 album Firefly, and he maintained a strong instrumental and songwriting presence on the subsequent releases Innocent Victim (1977), Fallen Angel (1978) and Conquest (1980); but by 1980 the internal situation in the band had become unmanageable, prompting him (somewhat unwillingly) to make the decision to move on. Work with Heep keyboardist Ken Hensley on his solo album Free Spirit kept him busy for the early part of 1981, after which he once again was chosen to fill a gap created by a departing John Wetton — this time in the art rock outfit Wishbone Ash. This new situation lasted two years, involving a constant schedule of touring and a contribution to the 1982 release Twin Barrels Burning. Then in early 1983 an opportunity to re-join Uriah Heep presented itself, and Bolder was quick to accept; he remained active in their ranks ever since, with a dozen further Heep albums added to his credits.
In 1994 a second resurrection of his partnership with Woody Woodmansey as the Spiders From Mars was undertaken for a Hammersmith Apollo memorial concert for guitarist Mick Ronson, who had succumbed to cancer the previous year. The pair were joined for a set of early 70’s Bowie material — incongruously enough — by Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott and Phil Collen; the four bonded over the material and, after an appearance by the two Spiders at a second Ronson memorial staged in Hull in 1997, eventually formalized their collaboration under the name Cybernauts. A Cybernauts tour of the UK was arranged that same year, with the unit resuming activity in 2001 for a tour of Japan.
In 2012 and early 2013, Bolder worked with Stevie ZeSuicide (Steve Roberts of the band U.K. Subs) as producer on singles “Wild Trash” (co-writer with ZeSuicide), “Lady Rocker” and a cover of “Ziggy Stardust”. Bolder also played on these tracks.
Trevor Bolder died in May 2013 at Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham from pancreatic cancer. He had undergone surgery for pancreatic cancer earlier that year. He was almost 62.
My playing style did not really come from McCartney although the Beatles were my motivation to go into music. My style came through the blues mainly, through listening to the blues players. I started out from listening to a lot of the old blues players from ’30s and ’40s, listening to a lot of Sonny Boy Williamson, a lot of early blues stuff, copying it. We didn’t have a lot of blues albums in England when we were fourteen and learnt to play, but we liked it [the blues] so much that it was all we ever played. In Hull, we would go out just on Saturday with what money we had from mid-day working or whatever, and we used to buy every blues album we could find. We found all these great songs by all those people.
Then, along came a chap called Jack Bruce – I saw him play with Graham Bond and Ginger Baker, in Hull, before they formed CREAM, and then I saw him play with CREAM, and that was just unbelievable. I wanted to play like Jack Bruce, and I practiced to all his records continuously. He was unique, there was anything like it before him. Before that, the bass players were just standing back playing along with the drums and leaving it for the guitar players and singers, but when he came along, he turned the bass up. For me, it was stunning to watch him play, and he was a great singer as well – it was brilliant, the way he sang, much more than Clapton. I mean, Eric Clapton was no one at the time, with John Mayall and THE YARDBIRDS, and to me, the whole crux of the band [CREAM] was Jack Bruce. Also there was John McVie from FLEETWOOD MAC, who was with John Mayall at the time, a lot of his stuff I liked and I copied a lot of his style. A little bit of McCartney and John Entwistle, but mainly Jack Bruce, he was the big influence – for the feel, he had great feel, amazing! Jack Bruce also played cello, which is a melodic instrument – I played trumpet and I adapted the trumpet stuff to the bass as well, playing melodic parts. And I never wanted to just be a bass player plonking away, I always wanted to have the edge to the sound and be able to play with a melodic feel. It took many years for another great bass player to come along, which was [Jaco] Pastorius, who also played in that style but with a jazz feel. My style’s developed, and that’s the way I play: I play a lot of notes… too many notes sometimes. (Laughs.) I actually found that if I was restricted in a way I play – if somebody said, “You don’t play like that, play like this!” – I don’t think I could do it. It would be difficult for me, because a bass player isn’t just somebody who just sits back there and plonks away, it’s somebody who adds a lot to the music. And if you can add more to the music, it’s exciting, really exciting. If they took that away from me and said to play like a regular bass player, I think I’d be a terrible bass player.