Robert Heaton

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Robert Heaton
Birth name Robert Charles Heaton
Born (1961-07-06)July 6, 1961
Knutsford, Cheshire, U.K
Origin Bradford, West Yorkshire, U.K
Died November 4, 2004(2004-11-04) (aged 43)
Bradford, West Yorkshire, U.K
Occupation(s) Drummer, songwriter, musician
Years active 1982–2004
Associated acts New Model Army, Hawkwind

Robert Charles Heaton (6 July 1961 – 4 November 2004) was an English musician best known as the drummer in the English rock band New Model Army. He was probably the first person to play a synchronous drum and harmonica solo, in the song 'Shot 18' on the No Rest for The Wicked tour. The musical content of Thunder and Consolation is essentially his creation. He was the second drummer in NMA but the band's first touring and recording drummer. Having spent several years as back line roadie and tour manager for several other bands, including Hawkwind, he brought professional experience to the band's touring life and was responsible for their hiring of their long-term tour manager 'Tommy T' Walker, a fellow member of the Bradford St George's and Bradford Univ TSA stage crew.


Early years[edit]

Heaton was born in Knutsford, Cheshire and lived in Canada and Belgium as a child. He was musically gifted, eventually mastering the guitar and harmonica as well as the drums, for which he is better-known, and also played keyboards and fiddle. Heaton began playing guitar and drumming along to his dad's collection of trad jazz recordings. He developed a very eclectic musical taste, taking in obvious rock influences like Led Zeppelin and ZZ Top but also but also the country music of Johnny Cash and classical composers - Beethoven, Mozart Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi.

New Model Army[edit]

Together with Justin Sullivan, Heaton was the core of the Bradford-based band New Model Army, originally alongside Stuart Morrow on bass and then later with Jason 'Moose' Harris. Heaton's wide-ranging musical interests are manifest when he wrote the music for the anthemic "Green and Grey" as well as co-writing with Sullivan the New Model Army singles "Better Than Them", "Brave New World", "51st State", "Poison Street", "White Coats", "Space" and "Here Comes the War". He was responsible for many of NMA's best-known compositions, which are still played nowadays at their gigs. He left NMA in 1998 due to health reasons - he had long suffered from sarcoidosis, undergoing repeated surgery, and was then diagnosed with a brain tumor - and was replaced by his roadie Michael Dean. Though the surgery on his brain tumor was successful, he was advised by his surgeons that he would be unlikely to play musical instruments professionally for several years.

Work outside New Model Army[edit]

Following his illness Heaton began a successful landscape gardening business and eased himself back into music, initially as a New Deal adviser, then producer and recorder of local bands in Bradford under the 'Fresh Milk' project, eventually launching a touring and recording band - 'the Gardeners of Eden' - shortly before he died. The demo recording for the Gardeners of Eden remains unreleased, but copies are held by his family.

In 1983, he had a brief spell as recording drummer for Hawkwind whilst working as their drum roadie


Heaton died of pancreatic cancer on 4 November 2004, aged 43, leaving a wife Robin and son Marlon.