FAMILY AFFAIR in conversation with North East songwriter Alan Fish

Loud Guitars Playhouse 4

The Loud Guitars live at Newcastle Playhouse.

Last time I interviewed Alan (Sept.13th 2019) he talked about his time in North East band White Heat who were signed to Richard Bransons label Virgin. After they folded in ’82, The Loud Guitars were born….There was 3 of us from White Heat, me, Bob Smeaton, and Col Roberts, we decided to control everything. Fund the gigs our self and not look for management or deals. Because there was a dark cloud over the ending of White Heat we thought this self-containment idea would help clear it. Virgin eventually let us go so we had total control, it was very cathartic.

For recording we funded it all, brought in some really good players, professional and slightly younger so from a live point of view they super charged the band. We had Martin Campbell, brilliant rock guitar player,  Gary Cowey and Stu Haikney were involved early on as they had their own studio. Bob and I had songs left over from The White Heat days and really it was a very important time for us to be able to do it independently. When I look back on what I’ve done I’ve always been happier when it’s independent.

We built on the legacy of White Heat and we put out new material with professional musicians who we paid. Now that sounds obvious to pay them but it is the correct way, the job is done well and it makes for a happier work place. By the early ‘90s The Loud Guitars run their course then I made the decision that was it. From the recordings I felt we pushed the quality up from White Heat days as in that band I felt our studio output didn’t reflect what we were like live. However, we still weren’t getting a lot of radio play and I became obsessed to write and record music of a standard that would get radio play.

I took time out, this was when technology was advancing at a fair old rate and recording facilities were becoming affordable. So I invested quite a bit in new instruments, microphones and developed a skillset to record my own stuff. I set up my home demo studio where I could take the song to a certain point, essentially getting the song down in the right key, right speed, then taking it to my studio of choice, The Cluny Studios in Newcastle run by Tony Davis.

Tony is a fantastic engineer and a brilliant musician so we’ve developed a good relationship over the years where I might play a bit guitar for him on some of his recordings. A lot of North East bands would have recorded there in what is a highly competitive industry.

Att Skrs Cluny Studios with Tony Davis, Paul Liddell, Stu Haikney

In The Cluny Studio, Newcastle (left to right) Tony Davis, Paul Liddell, Alan Fish & Stu Haikney.

When did you put the Attention Seekers together ?  The concept has been around for 10 years now, it was to be primarily song writing and recording. I wanted a change from what I’d previously done because the main thrust of White Heat and Loud Guitars was live performance. In a way having the band has unified my family. When I was song writing in the studio with Bob Smeaton on the record deal after White Heat had finished, I would only do it if I could bring my wife Viv down with me. I’ve seen too much destruction with musicians and their nomadic lifestyle (laughs).

We wanted to share this experience and enhance our life together but they weren’t happy so I walked away from it. A few days later I got a call saying ‘Ok bring her down but she’ll have to cook (laughs)’. Viv came down and we enjoyed the time together. It’s always been like that since those days. We bought a people carrier to get to gigs, my daughter has played in the band and Viv’s the road manager when we go out at gigs.

I didn’t trade on the back of previous bands because Attention Seekers were so different. We didn’t want people turning up to a White Heat rock gig and end up listening to 3 acoustic players. In fact our first gig’s were on buskers nights were we tried out new material and there was no pressure. My eldest daughter was becoming a proficient violin player so she came along, my brother in law had a nice voice and had never sung live so we eased him in and that added to the busker night.

Publicans were impressed after a few songs and asked us to return and do a full gig. This was around ’98 when we started getting around the pub circuit and we adopted a very low key policy of no individuals, no front men. This attracted really good musicians who liked the non-committal feel to the band. I explained this wasn’t about a unit of a traditional band it was about bringing in the right people when they were available because they still had their main bands with regular gigs. We were getting popular on the whole circuit, places like The Magnesium Bank in North Shields, The Smugglers in Sunderland and Tyneside Irish Centre in Newcastle.

Sounds like there was more emphasis on the song rather than a band ? Yes there was I had done the live band thing which I enjoyed but if I had something with a promoter or radio it would always be labelled as The Attention Seekers. There is a consistent feel that runs through the songs. I’ve found by taking this approach local radio play has increased significantly with Paddy McDee and Julia Hankin playing us on a regular basis. St James’ Park (Newcastle United) play us because some songs have a regional feel about them.

The album ‘A Song for Tomorrow’ has  overall sound of Crowded House/Waterboys with an acoustic version of the Boomtown Rats song ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ in the middle. A strange choice compared to the other songs ? Yes playing original music can be a big ask to an audience and sometimes you’ve got to give them something back. Something familiar. We arranged it without the bombastic drama of the original with the ‘Tell me why’ sentiment slightly changed.  The audience realize what song it is by the second verse. It’s ‘Tell me why’ this is still happening because that song is nearly 40 years old. It’s talking about mass shootings in America that happened and are still happening. It’s a very difficult situation for USA to solve because of the gun laws. The American singer, Jesse Terry, gave the song another edge with his accent and we wanted to give the song an anti-gun feel. But from the beginning we know it is a very good Boomtown Rats song, the melody, the lyrics all fitted together so you knew it wasn’t going to fall apart.

How did American singer/songwriter Jesse Terry get involved in The Attention Seekers ? I was watching the TV program Tyne and Wear live and the music show ‘Cookin’ in the Kitchen’ came on. There was a great performance from Jesse on there and I wanted to pass on my comments so tracked him down. It was like serendipity, he was looking for a UK based guitarist and had checked me out on You Tube – the upshot was, would I be interested ? And I was looking for a vocalist to record with Attention Seekers – you don’t turn away from these moments so a deal was struck.

The album ‘A Song for Tomorrow’ is the result of our coming together. Jesse has quite a following in the States and get’s the songs played out there.

For more information contact the official website:

http://the-attention-seekers.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi  October 2019.

 

 

 

BURNING ON THE INSIDE with Bill Newton former guitarist of ‘80s post punk band SILENT SCREAM

Silent Scream were very much influenced by what was going on around us. There was so much fantastic music in the late 70’s and early 80’s: punk, post-punk, new wave, futurism, new romanticism, Bowie’s Berlin stuff and really fresh sounding early hip-hop and disco-pop such as Grandmaster Flash and Was (Not Was).

We all loved bands like The Only Ones, The Scars, Psychedelic Furs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Wah! Heat, Japan and The Associates.

Silent Scream were alive between ‘80-82. The line up was Stephen ‘Stesh’ Miller (vocals) Steve Newton (bass) Steve Bell (drums 80-81) Bobby Greenland (drums 81-82) and Bill Newton (guitar)…..

There was a vibrant music scene in Newcastle during the early 80’s with some excellent bands, like Deda, Rival Savages and Treatment Room. I’m surprised things didn’t explode like it did in Manchester and Liverpool. Silent Scream did attract quite a following as we were very much part of the developing new romantic/futurist scene. People came to see us to hang out, pose and be seen. The audience were an intrinsic part of the movement and were as important as the bands at that time.

When did you start gigging ? Around 1980 I had been playing guitar in a band with my brother, Steve on bass, and a friend from school, Steve Bell on drums. I met Stesh at a Chelsea punk gig in Newcastle and decided to form a band there and then.

I remember that Silent Scream had this idea of wanting to be elusive and mysterious so we only played a small handful of gigs between ‘80-81. We played our debut at Newcastle University and I’m ashamed to admit I don’t remember much about this apart from being really nervous. Bauhaus had just played a storming gig at the same venue and I remember thinking, ‘How the f*** are we supposed to follow that?’

We played The Cooperage, where we were awful, Balmbras in The Bigg Market, Newcastle, twice where we were pretty good, and Rumours in Sunderland which I thought was our best gig mainly due to a sterling performance by Steve Bell on drums.

We also traveled to London to play at the renowned Moonlight Club in Hampstead as part of a showcase of North East bands. We shared the bill with Zap! and Red Performance. Stesh was sadly lost to us some years ago. He was such a creative talent. He could turn his hand to anything and was acclaimed as an influential DJ in Newcastle after Silent Scream split up. There was also talk of us supporting The Psychedelic Furs at Newcastle Mayfair on their 1980 album tour but unfortunately this fell through.

Who were your influences in music ? Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ?  Seeing Bowie perform ‘Starman’ on Top of the Pops in 1972 made me want to be a musician. I’d been playing guitar pretty badly from the age of 13. Punk exploded when I was 15 and gave me that DIY ‘you-don’t-need-to-be-Carlos Santana’ confidence to explore the guitar with a different mind set.

I was massively influenced by the spiky, staccato energies of John McGeoch, Keith Levene, Will Sergeant, Wire, Gang of Four etc. Hearing Magazine’sShot By Both Sides’ in 1978 was a pretty defining moment, and my favorite album of all time is ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’.

Did the band have a manager ? We were managed by Dave Baird who was a guiding influence. He arranged gigs, studio time, photo shoots etc. Dave is still in the business today producing new music.

What were your experiences of recording ? Silent Scream recorded two demos. The first at Impulse Studios in Wallsend in 1980 with Steve Bell on drums. The cost of this would have been laughably cheap by today’s standards and we were so young and naïve. I don’t think we really knew what we were doing or how to get the most out of the experience.

Stesh had already recorded a marvelous single, ‘I Don’t Wanna Know’, with his previous band, The Voice Of The Puppets so he had a bit of savvy. He was also a little bit older than the rest of us so we looked up to him.

The track list of the first demo was Deadline, Fate, All the Promise, Thin Ice, Trapped and Pantomime. Copies have mysteriously disappeared over the years and I haven’t heard it  in ages. Maybe someone reading this will have a copy.

Our second demo was recorded at Guardian Studios in Pity Me, County Durham over two days in October 1981 with Terry Gavaghan as producer. Bobby was drumming at this point and three songs were recorded. This became known simply as ‘EP’. The tracks are: The Maze, Drown and Join Together.

Did you get any press or appear on radio ? Our recorded material and gigs were well reviewed in the local press and I remember we featured in an early edition of i-D magazine. The demo was sent to various labels and was picked up by The Shadows guitarist, Bruce Welch, who loved our sound. We also had interest from various record labels. Unfortunately, before we could even negotiate any kind of deal we had split up.

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ?  I am writing and recording under the name Psykobilly and have recorded a number of songs at Smiley Barnard’s Sunshine Corner Studios. The man himself plays drums, bass and produces. Smiley is, among others, ex-Joe Strummers Mescaleros and is currently drumming with The Alarm and Archive. I’ve released a single ‘Leave It All Behind’ and a low key, lo-fi EP ‘Social Media Influenza’ on all major digital platforms. I’m releasing my first album, with a working title of ‘Black Candle’ in early 2020.

It’s taken a long time for me to do this on my own as I don’t have much confidence in my singing voice and have produced, mixed and engineered over half of the album independently, learning on the go really. I try to write in a way that doesn’t make me easily pigeonholed or categorized. It’s broadly dark pop, but a mix of ballads, rock ‘n roll and ‘80s influenced synth pop.

I’m lucky to have the very talented Trevor Johnson working with me. Trevor has produced official videos for the songs and we like to think of our project as a way of marrying sound and image in a deeper, kind of dark cinematic style. Trevor is influenced by the Situationist movement. His visuals are an important part of my work as they bring new and challenging perspectives to the soundscape.

You can watch all of the official Silent Scream and available Psykobilly videos on You Tube. French label, The Evil Has Landed, is in the process of releasing the Silent Scream EP on vinyl although I think copies might be pretty rare. Worth checking on Discogs. The demo is also available digitally on Bandcamp

The first track on the EP, ’The Maze’, is going to be included on the marvellous compilation album series ‘Killed By Deathrock Vol. 3’ on the Sacred Bones label based in New York, USA.

There has always been an appetite for lost, hard to find and enigmatic stuff that came out in the post-punk explosion, way before the invention of smartphones and social media. The EP is pretty widely available on various YouTube channels and has almost 10,000 views.

These days of course, everything is captured and can be stored for posterity. But in 1981 it was a different story. Thank God photos and footage were taken and kept, and good people like yourself Gary are archiving some of these independent treasures from almost 40 years ago.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  October 2019.

The Village People – new book about Westoe, South Shields

In 2016 I made a documentary ‘Westoe Rose’ about South Shields photographer and local historian Amy Flagg who lived in the Westoe area of the town. Her most notable work was recording the impact of bomb damage on South Shields during the Second World War. When doing some local history research in The Word I came across a new book about Westoe.

The book goes into great detail not only of the houses but it’s residents. The section on Chapel House, where the Flagg family lived, includes a copy of an inventory of furniture which Amy listed for 21st May 1941. It includes a typewriter and photographic equipment in an attic, a what not and stirrup pump in the hall, with a gongstand in the breakfast room – it’s all in the detail. To find out more I talked to the book’s author and member of South Shields Local History group, Dorothy Fleet…. 

More recently the Village has undergone a revival and many houses have been restored as cherished family homes. It has regained it’s elegance and has a sense of the atmosphere of yesteryear. Although it is now totally surrounded by our busy town, Westoe Village remains a place apart. This book tells the story of each of the houses and the families who lived there from the mid-1700s. About 200 years ago it gradually became the desired location for families of successful local businessmen, who often worked together for the successful development of the town. For centuries before then it was a remote rural village of farms and cottages.  (Map of 1768 with the River Tyne flowing out into the German Ocean, now the North Sea. A blue arrow points to Westoe at the bottom of the pic).

One of the stories in my book about the history and notable residents of the Village concerns Mrs Paine and her family. In 1780 a dashing Royal Navy Lieutenant called William Fox was in command of the ‘Speedwell’, an armed vessel on press gang duty in Peggy’s Hole on the North Shields bank of the river Tyne.

Mrs Paine’s young daughter, Catherine, fell in love with William and they arranged to elope to Gretna Green. Catherine joined William in a horse drawn carriage and they travelled at speed, changing horses at the posting stations along the way. Married by the blacksmith at Gretna, they returned home the following day and their marriage was accepted by the family. The following year Catherine gave birth to their son, George Townsend Fox.

Their romantic story ended tragically when William fell (or was pushed) into the icy cold river late one night when boarding the ‘Speedwell’. His fellow crew members recovered his body but, with no knowledge of hypothermia, presumed he was dead.

Left almost penniless Catherine returned to her family home. By 1807 her son George Townsend had married and had eight children, one was William who emigrated to New Zealand. After a highly successful legal and political career there, he served four terms as their Prime Minister and his childhood home in the Village is now a privately run hotel that bears his name.

The book is already selling well and with all proceeds going to the Local History Group to hopefully keep the group going forward and remaining soluble. With all the research, design and illustrations it’s been a real team effort.

For further information about ‘Westoe, a History of the Village and it’s Residents’

contact:   dorothyfleet60@gmail.com  

Interview by Gary Alikivi November 2019.                                                                 

 

 

 

ALL SAID & DONE with Derek Miller from North East prog rockers CIRKUS

Out of the ashes of North East bands Moonhead and Lucas Tyson, Sunderland band Cirkus emerged on the ‘70s progressive music scene. With the right backing they were confident of achieving success on a national scale…..Every band thinks that they have something different to offer. We also had two agents at the time, Ivan Birchall who was a true professional as a booking agent, and Mel Unsworth.

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The line up was John Taylor (bass) Stu McDade (drums & vocals) Paul Robson (vocals) Dogg (guitar) & Derek Miller (keyboards)…..We played all the usual clubs and were lucky to play the University gigs. The University audiences gave us the benefit of the doubt but the club audiences were unsure how to react to our set. We opened with ’21st Century Schizoid Man’ a King Crimson song. Incidentally we got our name from one of their tracks. In fact on several occasions we didn’t even get to the bridge and were ‘paid off’ on a regular basis (laughs).

 In 1974 the band went into Sound Associates/Emison & Air Studios in London. What was your experience of recording ? We were encouraged by the reaction to our songs from Ken McKenzie. He owned the studios where we had demoed our songs. This resulted in a fight for our signature between songwriters and producers, Dave Dee, Mickie Most and Chinn & Chapman. Finally we signed up with a guy called Robin Britten who was manager of The Hollies. But this is where it all went pear shaped.

We were already earmarked by Chinn & Chapman for the project known as Smokie, but Britten intercepted negotiations and we recorded the album Cirkus One, incorporating Beatles producer Ron Richards and Tony Hymas. The album included orchestral arrangements, a 32 piece orchestra and chorus.

What did you think of the album ? It’s a good album but some of the mixes are questionable and poor old Ron was struggling. But timing is everything. We seemed to be doing alright on a retainer and with our own apartment in Central London, but as Britten was about to hand over the over produced and over engineered concept album, The Sex Pistols were telling everyone to ‘eff off’. And prog rock was dead.

Britten lost a small fortune and failed miserably trying to get it off the ground. Anyone that has been sacked will relate to this. I still remember being called into the office and having that sinking feeling ‘Is he talking about us?

How did you handle this situation ? Our bassist John Taylor, with his unstinting optimism suggested we all return to the North East and regroup. This idea was a bit of a sickener as I had just set up in London and got a job at RCA records. The ultimatum was return to Geordieland or be replaced. For reasons I find hard to understand now, I hired a transit van and returned.

Did you have any nightmare gigs where everything just went wrong ? We had a couple. Namely the Marquee in London where there was loads of reps from record companies to see us. What happened was that the pa actually ‘blew up’ and we couldn’t continue. Then there was the time our manager Robin Britten was trying to sell the band so he chartered a private plane to fly to a gig in the North East, Ashington Central to be precise. It was a nightmare flight, with sick bags being handed around. We done the gig but we were awful. Not a great way to sell the band.

On another occasion we invited Mike Chapman (songwriter/producer) up to see the band at the Londonderry Hall in South Shields. It didn’t start well as Chapman arrived at Sunderland station and walked into the glass doors, he was expecting them to be automatic. We thought it was funny, he didn’t. He wondered what sort of hell he had walked into when a police car was overturned and set on fire – just a normal Saturday night in Shields….in the end the gig was cancelled (laughs).

By ‘75 lead vocalist Paul Robson left to be replaced by Alan Roadhouse (ex Halfbreed) who also played sax….Yes along comes Alan, multi-instrumentalist, singer and larger than life character. Exactly what was needed to kick start Cirkus the club band.
Paul and Alan were both great vocalists in their own right. Alan had a certain flamboyance which the club audiences lapped up. He also played sax and flute. This allowed us to tackle all sorts of covers from Gerry Rafferty to Moody Blues. We became a live juke box.

We rehearsed all week and had a new song nailed by the weekend. We had a winning formula that continued for several years. The highlight of the first set was an explosion of pyrotechnics at the end. It worked like a dream scaring the sh** out of most people. Especially when sparks landed in the bingo machine and set fire to it. In the end we had to pay for a new machine (laughs). One highlight was watching the roadies trying to use a foot pump to inflate our blow up doll ‘Melissa’ by the end of the song (laughs).

Everything seemed to be hunky dory then ? Yeah at this time we were still writing new material. We recorded a couple of our own songs, Amsterdam, Pick up a Phone, and Melissa. We performed them live and mixed them in with the covers in the set. The EP sold well and we recouped our outlay.

By the early ‘80s ‘ I’m On Fire’ was featured on a Battle Of The Bands album but this proved to be the final offering from Derek…We were deciding if we should invest the proceeds into a new EP or divvy up the dosh. John, Stu and Dogg thought it was a good idea to divvy up and that was the beginning of the end for me… I decided to leave the band.

In my opinion we were going nowhere. We were repeating ourselves and going back to the same clubs every 3 months. I think the lads kept going for a few years after I left and I lost touch with the band.

But you know looking back over the years we were lucky to be able to recruit some of the most talented guitarists, like Keith Satchfield of Fist. Yes there was some hiccup’s along the way but we did have some brilliant gigs. We did a series in Holland where the Dutch people seemed to like our original music, tho’ it might have been what they were consuming (laughs).

We had some great gigs in the clubs as well. At one time we were gigging 8 shows a week, 2 on Sunday. My dad, who was horrified when I packed my job in at the Shields Gazette, was immensely proud to see the queues round the block on a Saturday night. Other bands around at the time were Geordie, Goldie, Burlesque and The Piranha Brothers, that was the peak of the club land scene in the North East.

The 1990’s saw sporadic releases from the band with ‘Cirkus II The Global Cut’ and only Derek Miller featuring from the original line-up. Then in ‘98 the much anticipated third Cirkus album ‘Pantomyne’ was released. This brought together original members and main songwriter, Stu McDade and featured cameo performances by an array of other musician’s most notably former frontman Alan Roadhouse. How did these recordings happen ? I wanted to record some new material so I built a little recording studio. I was working with a new singer called Ian Wetherburn, who I thought had a great voice and also looked the part. We put an experimental album together and Audio Archives picked up on this and decided to distribute the cd. It was basically demos but I decided to release it anyway. We pressed 500 copies and as with Cirkus One is highly collectable.
Off the strength of the Global Cut album I met up with Stu McDade and we decided to pool our resources and record a new album. Pantomyme was the result and again Audio Archives agreed to distribute.

For different reasons we lost touch until about 3 years ago when we decided to record some new material. Sadly in 2016 we lost Stu, leaving some unfinished tracks. With a brand new set of talented musicians, we managed to finish the tracks and also add some new ones. ‘The Blue Star’ album was released in June 2017 and is dedicated to Stu.

BLUE

Can you bring the Cirkus story up to date ? The new line up bears little resemblance to the original band as we have morphed so much over the years and Cirkus V is the new band. Now we have Mick Maughan (guitars, vocals, production)
Nick L Mao, (vocals, guitar, production)
Brian Morton (bass) Dave Ramshaw (vocals)
Paul Moose Harris (vocals) and me on keyboards.

On the back of the success of The Blue Star album comes Trapeze. We all record remotely passing tracks back and forth with someone ultimately doing the final mix. The tracks are all written by the band and as we speak the album is nearly finished.

Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2019.

 

 

HOWAY THE LADS in conversation with North East songwriter Alan Fish

In 2016 representatives from Newcastle United were looking to recreate a new version of The Blaydon Races that would capture the fan’s imagination. Rob Byron the announcer at St James’ Park had been playing some pre – match tracks by The Attention Seekers, so got in touch with the songwriter Alan Fish….The version of Blaydon Races that they’d been playing for the past 20 years had originally been copied from vinyl so the quality wasn’t great. Rob asked if I was interested in coming up with a new version. The biggest challenge was every version I heard was a jolly, lightweight novelty song and sitting playing it on guitar or piano just added to that, The song didn’t have any of the dynamics that fans give it!

With Rob Byron St. James'

Alan (left) with match announcer at St James’ Park, Rob Byron.

What was your initial idea about recording a new version of the song ? At the games we attended during the research phase of the project it was evident that the fans rarely sing the song, so what I wanted was to reach back to the nostalgia of how I heard it back when I first started going to the matches and try to create a fan’s version.

I’m thinking back to 1968 in the Leazes End covered stand where it sounded really powerful and loud like through a loudspeaker. You would get to the match early to get your place and sing with all the other fans, it was a real communal thing and helped pass the time before kick-off. Now people can walk in 5 minutes before because they know they have their seat.

How did you put your idea into practice ? I had a chat with representatives of the club and they wanted a single voice to create a sense of unity and pride, Rob added that the fans only sing one verse, I thought this is going to be short then (laughs). But it was one of those 4am thoughts when I got the idea how I was going to put it together, not have one voice but 50,000 voices as one. That’s where the challenge was, to make it sound like that.

I contacted sports radio stations to see if any audio of the fans singing the song without being contaminated by the match commentary existed. One person got back to me, Chris Watson used to be in a Sheffield electronica band called Cabaret Voltaire, now he’s a top sound engineer who has worked with everyone including Sir David Attenborough. With him living up here now, he had taken sound gear into the ground and got loads of recordings. I bought quite a bit of audio off him. Chris is also a big NUFC fan!

I also set up an evening where members of fan clubs Wor Hyem 1982 and Gallowgate Flags came to a pub and we recorded them singing The Blaydon Races. Then back in the studio, to build the track we mixed in the audio from Chris Watson’s ‘Toon Army’ chants, referee whistles, cheers, goals, crowd reactions….. in place of conventional instrumentation. We then added Stu’s tribal drumming.

All of this was to stay away from the jolly, comedy feel. However listening back it still didn’t sound how I wanted, so we then asked for full access to the Stadium and pitch side areas in order to pump the track through the St James’ sound system, then re- record the mixes of the fans singing, from different areas of the stadium. RESULT! Sounded great!

Originally the club wanted Jason Isaacs to sing it, he’s like the Michael Buble of the North (laughs). We met up and got on well and agreed we needed someone to lead the song, but this was going to be a fan’s version not a celebrity version so I asked him not to sing it but be ‘five pints in’ belting it out (laughs). He loved the idea ‘I go to the match and sing along so it’s no problem’. He done a brilliant job and belted it out like a fan – five pints in!

How do you feel about the song now ? It’s still being played at St James’ and I see it as an ongoing project which I can add to. Using photos and visuals of matches from past to present is an idea I’ve been looking at, and how The Blaydon Races has been sung at matches over the years. I would love to have recordings of The Blaydon Races from the 50’s, 60’s, 70s…. to mix in to the track and create an audio/visual exhibition. (anybody out there with any recordings?)

Stu Haikney was my co-producer on this and he’s done a brilliant job. Stu is also a big Newcastle fan and we felt it had to be right. We wanted to get it to transition from a music hall song to a real football chant. We wanted the true authentic sound of fans singing at St. James’ Park and not take the easy option of using a ‘stadium simulation’ studio plug- in. Football fans spot that sort of thing a mile off (laughs).

It’s like a call to arms, a Northern anthem which captures the tribal spirit of the beautiful game and the roars at St James’ on a match day.

More stories soon from Alan about The Loud Guitars and current band The Attention Seekers.

For further info contact the official website

the-attention-seekers.co.uk 

where the track is available as a download/stream on Spotify, Amazon & iTunes.

Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2019.

POLTERGEIST – Dan Green investigates Mysterious Tyneside

Mysteries of the world are fascinating subjects and we rely on scientists, archaeologists and storytellers to bring them out of the dark. Finding a mystery closer to home can add more interest.

This was the case for former South Shields resident Dan Green. Dan is a British author, broadcaster, researcher and writer, he recently got in touch and told me some interesting stories that he researched when living in the town.

Until 2013 when it went out of publication, I was a writer for the well-known monthly national magazine ‘Paranormal’. Issue 63 bore the cover ‘The South Shields Poltergeist’, a bizarre candidate for this country’s most well witnessed and intensely frightening case on record, if true.

It was the horror encountered by a young couple and their 3 year old son whilst living in a terraced house in the town during the winter of 2005. A saga that was to last for one full year before the poltergeist phenomena, as it usually does, left just as mysteriously as it had arrived.

It left a steadily escalating trail of terror the sort of stuff Hollywood movies are made of – objects balanced at angles defying logic and gravity, macabre threatening messages left on paper and the child’s Etch-A-Sketch, even text messages and emails on a mobile that couldn’t be traced back to any source. There were all forms of attack leveled at the family.

Before skeptics cry ‘Hoax!’ the phenomena was witnessed by a number of people on different occasions and thoroughly researched by local paranormal investigators Darren Ritson and Mike Hallowell. Darren himself on one occasion witnessing the ‘large black shadow’ responsible.

The full account of the twelve month assault can be found in their book ‘The South Shields Poltergeist’. Was this caused by a disturbed unconscious mind of a young child, or some controlling intelligence? Who can say for sure.

Unfortunately we will never know the true identities of the family involved or the address of the property, as all such details were changed to preserve anonymity and perhaps sanity. Who would want to knowingly live in, or even next door, to a house that may well have once housed what remains the most frightening paranormal manifestation of poltergeist in the UK.

For further information about the work of Dan Green contact www.dangreencodex.co.uk/

Gary Alikivi October 2019.

 

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS ON TYNESIDE Dan Green investigates Mysterious Tyneside

There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’s told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile.

Sang Bowie in ’72. Over the years there’s been many songs written about UFO’s and aliens. Back in the ‘50s Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodman wrote ‘The Flying Saucer’ which landed at no.3 in the American charts. In the ‘60s The Byrds sung of a ‘Mr Spaceman’ and in the ‘80s the Ramones ripped through ‘Zero Zero UFO’ about aliens visiting earth.

Some Native American tribes believe they have gained knowledge through extra-terrestrial contact with their star ancestors. Stories like these add to the mysteries of the world, and we rely on scientists, archaeologists and storytellers to bring them out of the dark.

But when you find a mystery closer to home, it can add more interest. This was the case for former South Shields resident Dan Green. Dan is a British author, broadcaster, researcher and writer, he recently got in touch and told me some interesting stories that he researched when living in the town. One of them reminded me of an experience I had back in Summer 2013.

It was around 6pm I was walking on South Shields beach, above was bright blue sky with a few clouds. Nearby there is a huge grass hill, at the top is a Roman fort. I was wondering what could be placed on the hill – maybe a sculpture, something like a massive roman soldier – my mind just wandering. I was enjoying the sun and listening to the gentle waves.

Out of the corner of my eye and way up high, I saw a small silver disc moving slowly. I thought it might have been a plane because there is a flight path nearby. I watched the disc move slowly for a minute or two, looking around for maybe a reflection off something else in the sky ? There was no noise or trail from it. It was moving very slowly then suddenly it shot off very fast and didn’t leave a trail. 

Books, TV programmes and films have all featured stories about unidentified flying objects, not all of them are operated by the Greys.

In 1988 Dan Green wrote an article for The Shields Gazette chronicling close encounters in the town including incidents now referred to as ‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomena’. He found that in 1967 the UK was besieged with a flurry of strange lights appearing in the skies. The newspaper reported ‘A bus driver said he saw a cigar shaped object surrounded by a bright green glow over the coast near Brighton. Sparks were coming from it’s tail and for a short time it travelled parallel with the bus’.

Not to be outdone was our own South Shields, with the Gazette reporting some boys claimed to have seen a bullet shaped object hovering over Horsley Hill electricity sub-station. One boy glanced up and saw the glowing green outline of an 8ft long cigar shaped object hovering 100 yards away. ‘It must have spotted us, cos it just shot back up into the sky’.

Here is Dan’s article from 1988….

I was an impressionable 10 year old when the Shields Gazette popped through my letterbox with a page reading ‘UFO over Tyne Dock’.

On the night of October 21st 1967 residents living near the river had been invited to the spectacle of three dazzling white triangular lights stationary in the sky. They had been hanging for a full half hour before vanishing.

People craned their necks out of their windows to witness it, and one in particular had called the police. This enterprising fellow was demanding answers and took his enquiry as far as the Ministry of Defence who eventually sent him a reply that ‘Everybody had seen a weather balloon that had blown over from Liverpool!’ This earned him the nickname – Ronnie Rocket.

In the newspaper report Ronnie said ‘They were very bright just like electric lights. They were triangular shaped and too big for stars’.

That week the Gazette ran a number of stories reporting strange sightings in the sky. By 27th October they screamed ‘Flying Objects Reports Come Thick and Fast’ with one headline ‘Flying cross seen by five more police patrols’. Another claimed ‘Down in Devon they are seeing things again’. Even the Minister of Defence Dennis Healey MP was pressed in parliament to make a statement about the activity.

It was reported that some people in the South believe the unidentified flying objects are British secret weapons being tested out, while some experts put the blame on Venus. Back to Dan’s article…..

That October week saw more puzzling sights in the skies of Shields, as early morning workers catching the ferry viewed a host of fiery ‘Flying crosses’, and a sighting of a cigar shaped object was reported by a couple walking their dog in the Bents Park during the day. Residents in Whiteleas saw an object streaking across the sky ‘like a bullet’.

The 1967 UFO flap was never given any plausible explanation, but I’m sure as hell it wasn’t a scousers balloon.

For further information about the work of Dan Green contact www.dangreencodex.co.uk/

Gary Alikivi October 2019.

 

MIND GAMES ? Dan Green investigates Mysterious Tyneside

Mysteries of the world are fascinating subjects and we rely on scientists, archaeologists and storytellers to bring them out of the dark. Finding a mystery closer to home can add more interest.

This was the case for former South Shields resident Dan Green. Dan is a British author, broadcaster, researcher and writer, he recently got in touch and told me some interesting stories that he researched when living in the town.

fa

I came across a genuine fairy story in the small area of woodland behind the football and rugby playing fields of South Shields Marine and Technical College. I’m no psychic, but I had been drawn to this location after playing football there for years,  used to have the odd pee in the bushes.

Anyway, in 1983 I was curious at the suggestion that not only could images imperceptible to the human eye be picked up on camera but that great mystery of mind could even imprint them onto film with enough effort. A controversial claim by the much tested American Ted Serios and his ‘thoughtography’ experiments.

A-thought-image-created-by-Ted-Serios

A thought image created by Ted Serios.

As ever a true scientist, I thought I’d try some experimentation of my own and took some pictures in the forestry area behind the fields with the strong thought of traditional fairies being there. When the pictures where developed it was hard not to notice some representations of diaphanous semi-opaque figures of the established fairy variety. Surely this was just imagination or the brain forming patterns ?

I repeated the experiment with similar results and decided it high time to involve an independent investigator. I sent the negatives to the newly formed Association for the Study of Anomalous Phenomena and they passed them over to their expert the very credible and respected Vernon Harrison, former President of the Royal Photographic Society.

He could see exactly what I was pointing out and suggested he came to South Shields to take his own photos with his own equipment. He would take the photos at intervals of one minute apart and if the entities were seen to move about, then we might have to consider the unthinkable!

Vernon sent his report to the ASSAP but was puzzled when they refused to fund his venture. I later found out on an 1855 map of Shields that this precise area had once been called ‘Fair Fields’. A corruption from a far distant recollection of a ‘fairy field’ perhaps ?

Later in the decade Shields had a prestigious private visit from my friend university lecturer and journalist Joe Cooper of Leeds, who came to my home in South Shields with a big problem. It was Joe who had finally revealed the case of the Cottingley Fairies whereby two cousins had fooled the world for almost 70 years having faked photos of fairies at the small beck at Cottingley.

For year after year Joe had visited the girls asking them how they had done it but they always insisted the fairies were real. They weren’t, they had been cardboard cut outs with hat pins and the truth only finally came out in 1983 when the girls fell out and one decided to spite the other with a confession to Joe.

Under normal circumstances Joe would have been delighted with the scoop he had patiently waited years for, but not when the manuscript for his book defending the photos as genuine sat with his publisher, and was about to be published!

What should he do, he asked me and my wife ? Look the other way and just have the book come out ? The girls confessed to The Times newspaper the following year and the game was up, but they claimed the very last photo they’d taken was genuine, so Joe went with this to cut his losses. But experts later found out it wasn’t genuine.

My interest in the camera picking up fairy images invisible to the eye continued for a while after. Here’s a pic of my favourite taken in France, a fairy figure lazing from left to right at the bottom of a tomb. Real or simply imagination?

fairyat-tomb

And there you have it, for those who consider belief in such things – Fairies in South Shields – who needs to go to Glastonbury !

For further information about the work of Dan Green contact www.dangreencodex.co.uk/

Gary Alikivi October 2019.

HIDDEN TREASURE on Tyneside with investigator Dan Green

Mysteries of the world are fascinating subjects and we rely on scientists, archaeologists and storytellers to bring them out of the dark. Finding a mystery closer to home can add more interest.

This was the case for former South Shields resident Dan Green. Dan is a British author, broadcaster, researcher and writer, he recently got in touch and told me some interesting stories that he researched when living in the town.

I lived in South Shields for over forty years and this is one of my better investigations, originally introduced to the public as a centre page article in the Shields Gazette in 1989.

 

I’d come across ‘The Cuthbert Code’ first told to me by a retired Benedictine monk who was living in the town. He told me how St Cuthbert was originally buried at Lindisfarne and eventually found a resting place in Durham Cathedral, only to be disturbed by Henry VIII’s marauding commissioners looting for treasure during the Reformation.

While orthodoxy tells us that he was reburied at this shrine in 1542, the Cuthbert Code records that his loyal monks looked to safeguard his body against any further attempts at sacrilege, so reburied him in a secret location. A substitute skeleton was placed in the tomb. The secret of his reburial location is closely guarded by no more than 3 monks at any one time.

I discovered an 1895 manuscript tucked away in the safe of St Hilda’s Church in South Shields, called ‘The legend of the Fairies Kettle’. It mentioned Cuthbert and how a gold cup had been stolen from its fairy guardians at Trow Rocks on the coast at Marsden. Then it was whisked away to Westoe,  then taken to Durham Cathedral to be buried alongside Cuthbert.

Knowing a bit about Freemasonry I deduced that there was a broader message here and that a treasure linked to St Cuthbert was telling us that something thought to be in Durham Cathedral was in fact at Westoe. This ‘treasure’ being Cuthbert himself – bear in mind that during medieval times the monks of Durham owned Westoe Village.

 

I set off on the scent of the saint and a hunch led me to Westoe Village. In 1989 there stood a derelict Nunnery once owned by The Order of The Poor Sisters of Mercy. At the time of my interest the Nunnery had just started to be re-developed and the ground was disturbed. The builders allowed me access and on the stone floor under inches of dust and grime I found a five pointed star mosaic.

By now I had my centre page in the Gazette and they promised they would carry a follow up. I’d accumulated a lot of evidence including a curious plaque high up on a wall in the village stating, ‘Follow the Paths of the Lord and you will find him’. Was this telling us to follow some subterranean path or tunnel under the Nunnery leading to Cuthbert?

The new owner of the land was intrigued by my Gazette article and allowed us three days to nosey below the site before it would be filled in. Hurriedly I took two burly ex-Westoe miners, plus a stonemason friend of theirs and entered an accessible dark mazy passageway that led to another sealed off passage. I hadn’t told the owner that my crew were armed with lump hammers, they smashed a hole through the passage wall.

Using plastercine we took an imprint of a Freemasonry mark on a brick in the wall. We were now under a stairwell and a hollow cavity. Our stonemason accomplice told us that there should be something below – the perfect place to hide something of value. Cuthbert?

Frustratingly, our time was up, with no chance of being able to return or continue. At least, with photos we had taken each step of the way, we had the follow up Gazette article. But then the Editor took fright at the implications and refused to print it. I also did a short phone interview for The Sunday Times.

What happened next is a mix of comedy and tragedy. My Cuthbert Code resurfaced in 1997, just before I left South Shields when new evidence again cast doubt on the final resting place of another Catholic saint, Thomas Beckett at Canterbury Cathedral. A similar situation to mine then.

I arranged to meet up with the latest Gazette editor and try again to see if what had been my intended second article could at last be presented to the awaiting Shields’ population. I took a dossier in and after studying the work he broke his silence with, ‘Is this a wind up?‘ I found the question disappointing and assured him it wasn’t and we continued talking for some time. He concluded he’d think about running a feature and be in contact in a few days.

He did and said that he couldn’t possibly run it. I pressed him why and here’s his reply which I still remember clearly, ‘Because I live in the flat above your location!’

What was the odds of that? I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but it was true, his flat was right above the location. Perhaps, if he’s still there, with lesser odds, St Cuthbert and his treasure is also there below him.

More mysterious stories from Dan will be posted soon, for further info contact www.dangreencodex.co.uk/

Gary Alikivi  October 2019

ALL HANDS ON DECK – interview with North Tyneside musician Aaron Duff from Alt-folk rock band HECTOR GANNET

After recently signing a deal with Wipe Out music publishing and supporting fellow North Shields musician Sam Fender, Aaron and fellow band members, Jack Coe (drums), Joe Coady (bass) and Martin Wann (guitar/korg) need all hands on deck as they prepare to release their first single ‘All Hail, All Glory’. The track sounds not quite ‘War on Drugs’ but easily nestles alongside ‘The Maccabees’, it has a release date of November 15th, a huge significance to songwriter Aaron Duff…..It marks the 51st anniversary of the sinking of the Hector Gannet. It was the name of a stern trawler that my Grandad sailed on. The boat was working as a support vessel for gas and oil rigs off the Great Yarmouth coast. In November 1968 there was a blowout on the Hewitt A rig and while attempting to rescue workers from the drilling platform, the bad weather caused the Hector Gannet to capsize, tragically resulting in the loss of three crew members. Thankfully my Grandad survived the disaster and is still alive to tell the tale. For me, the name means a lot, and sort of symbolises my heritage in a way.

23 year old Aaron also writes and performs solo. In 2017 he wrote an original music score to be performed alongside archive film footage of North East England. Ironically the film contained footage of his grandfather and other family members working at sea…. Like most people from the North East, I’m very proud of the place and the people that I come from.

When did you first start playing guitar and who were your influences ? I can’t ever remember not being interested in music. There was a guitar in the house that I’d pick up from time to time but it wasn’t until I was about ten that I started to actually learn the instrument.

I’ll listen to anything that’s played with conviction. The Clash were a massive band for me growing up. Their sentiment is something I completely latched onto. Their attitude and their ideology, I’ll stick by it for life.

Today people have described my music as Alt Rock/Folk. There’s a lot of folk influence in there, the likes of Lindisfarne/Alan Hull are huge local heroes for me and I’m influenced by artists like Dylan, CSN&Y, The Band etc.

But my heavier influences lie with bands like The Pixies, without doubt one of my favourites. There are current artists that I find inspiring too, Courtney Barnett has to be my favourite at the moment. Just brilliant song writing. Genius lyrics, really catchy.

Does your song writing happen quickly or take time for the lyrics and music to come together ?  Most of the time it starts with a subject but it has to be real to me. I suppose it goes back to that ‘Clash’ mentality. I have to write about things that really mean something to me, that I’m passionate about, enough to want to share with the world. Hopefully that way they’ll mean something to other people too. Sometimes it can happen straight away, sometimes it can take an age. I’ll sit for hours messing about on guitar and sometimes a tune will come out of it, then I’ll come up with some lyrics to fit in around it and the melody evolves around them.

What’s your thoughts on crowdfunding ? Some highly regarded artists use it, not just little known ones like us. It has its place, and a lot of artists have used it successfully. There’s always the worry that it won’t work or people won’t invest, but that’s the same with releasing your music anyway, people will invest time and money listening, or they won’t.

New single ‘All Hail, All Glory’ is released on November 15th 2019.

The band are due to support Sam Fender again in December 2019. For further information check the social media contacts:

https://www.facebook.com/hectorgannet/

https://twitter.com/HectorGannet

https://www.instagram.com/hectorgannet/

Or the official website: https://hectorgannet.com/

Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2019.