‘PERSUADING BIG GROUPS TO APPEAR WAS IN THE LAP OF THE GODS’ Highlights from the book ‘Rock at the Sharp End’ by Sunderland author Geoff Docherty.

Docherty talks about his life from being doorman, club promoter and band manager. He remembers some of the big names that he attracted to Sunderland’s Bay Hotel ’The door leading to Marc Bolan’s dressing room was jammed with female admirers desperate to meet him. Some were crying with emotion. Others waited to meet their new heroes, Free, especially Paul Rodgers. I’d never experienced female adulation of this intensity and found it impossible to empty The Bay that night’.

Docherty fills the book with stories about bands on their way to making it, and groups already there, but next he needed a bigger venue….’During negotiations involved in moving to The Locarno, there were important hurdles to overcome. The first was the name. Over in the States were two highly respected venues called Filmore West and East. I unashamedly plagiarised the name by renaming the Sunderland Locarno, The Fillmore North, on the night I hired it. Whether I could persuade the best groups to appear was in the lap of the Gods’.

He did – and the book contains a chronology of gigs that Geoff promoted from the Bay Hotel – Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and The Who – to the Locarno – T.Rex, Mott the Hoople, Kinks and Bowie – admission and price paid for the act are included in the details, £150 for Bowie and 10 shilling to get in.

 

After a visit to a local nightclub, Annabels, he spotted a band who were playing and ended up being their manager…’In the three years I managed them, Beckett did two John Peel radio shows, 33 dates supporting The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, 19 dates supporting Captain Beefheart, 22 dates supporting Slade, five supporting Wizzard, three supporting Ten Years After and countless University and College gigs. They also made an appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test’.

Docherty gives great detail of the meeting with Peter Grant and the subsequent Newcastle Mayfair booking of Led Zeppelin on the 18th March 1971. Not short on anecdotes and how the music world affected his personal life, Rock at the Sharp End is a must read for any fan of North East music.

Gary Alikivi  May 2020

LETTERS FROM JARROW (3) – Who Were the Marchers ?

‘We are fighting the Party of the Rich, the Party of the powerful, the Party of big business, the Party that controls the industries, the cartels and the Press. These are our enemies’….(Red Ellen Wilkinson, Jarrow MP 1935-47)

In 2016 I made a film to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Jarrow Crusade. (link below) The film highlights the importance of the Crusade within the town, and opened with a powerful speech by Jarrow MP, Ellen Wilkinson.

‘As I marched down that road with those men, all of whom I knew well, as I marched with them hour after hour, just talking, that I began to understand something of what it meant, day after day after day, to get up and not know what you were going to do, never having a copper in your pocket’.

Who Were the Marchers featured interviews with relatives of the marchers and those involved with an education project which included Historian Matt Perry, author of Jarrow Cusade: Protest & Legend, and Red Ellen Wilkinson MP…

We might think that everyone in the North East of England knows about the Jarrow Crusade. Two hundred unemployed men marched 300 miles to London in October 1936 against the plight their town found itself in. It is rightly a source of local pride and a symbol of the fight of ordinary people for justice. We cannot assume that everyone does know about it’.  

The schools project also featured Jarrow playwright, Tom Kelly ‘It’s really important that the children today know something about what it meant to Jarrow to walk to London, and why. Through creative writing the children write what it would be like if your Dad was leaving for the Crusade and how you’d feel’.

Also working with the school children was Communities Librarian Catrin Galt ‘We’re looking at the 1911 Census to find out where the Crusaders lived and their family backgrounds. How many people lived in the house and how many rooms there were, so you build up a picture of who the marchers were and what Jarrow was like’.

The marchers relatives also contributed to the film, Iris Walls had two members of her family on the march… ‘They were doing it for a cause and very brave for doing so. They weren’t asking for anything free they wanted paid employment to feed their families’.

Joan Lewis added…‘My grandfather was on the march. We were all very proud, cos they went on this march just for the right to have a decent job. Yes, very proud of him and the 200 men that went’.

What did the march achieve ? This report was in The Shields Gazette, November 1936…

Laughter, cheers, sobs and screams of fainting women when the town welcomed home the 200 marchers. Miss Wilkinson near being trampled, men seized her hands, women smothered her with kisses, children hugged her.

‘This march has put Jarrow on the map, do not think this is the end. It is only the beginning.

The beginning of the fight for our right to work. This is a great night for Jarrow’.

Next day the Unemployment Assistance Board reduced the marchers payments because they had not been available for work.

Link to ‘Who Were the Marchers ?’ (11mins, 2016): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIi3pAEECfs

Gary Alikivi  May 2020

LETTERS FROM JARROW (2) – Red Ellen & the ’36 Marchers

A significant event in Jarrow’s and my family and history research, was the Jarrow Crusade of 1936. This was the march to London to protest about mass unemployment and extreme poverty in the town.

Off the back of the 2009 documentary Little Ireland, Tom Kelly (Jarrow playwright) and I put together Jarrow Voices, a short film highlighting the involvement of Ellen Wilkinson MP and the Jarrow Crusade. The film also featured the story of William Jobling who lived in the town. (Link at the bottom of the page)

The film was premiered on 10th December 2009 at the Human Rights Day in Newcastle City Library, and in October 2011 screened at the Films for Justice in the Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle. Here is the script that Tom prepared for the film.

START:

Jarrow Voices looks at two iconic events associated with the town, the gibbeting of William Jobling in 1832 and the Jarrow Crusade of 1936. Voices that need to be heard.

It was in June 1832, that Jarrow pitmen William Jobling and Ralph Armstrong, attacked South Shields magistrate Nicholas Fairles. Jobling was arrested on South Shields beach, tried and found guilty at Durham Assizes and sentenced to be hung and publically displayed upon a gibbet on Jarrow Slake.

Jobling being placed upon a seventeen foot high gibbet underlined the power of authority and sent a powerful message to the unions, their voice was virtually silenced.

Fairles, prior to his death, acknowledged that Jobling was with Armstrong but did not carry out the attack.

Isabella, Jobling’s wife, could see her husband clearly from their cottage near Jarrow Slake. Sadly she had no memory of her husband when she died in Harton Workhouse in 1891.

William Jobling was displayed on a gibbet that became known as ‘Jobling’s Post.’ He hung for three weeks until his friends stole the body. To this day we don’t know where his body lies.

The gibbet remained on Jarrow Slake until 1856 when it was taken down during the development of Tyne Dock. Today you can find the gibbet in South Shields Museum.

Jobling worked at Jarrow’s Alfred Colliery which closed in 1852. In that same year Palmers shipyard was opened by Charles Mark Palmer and his brother George. Palmers became one of the greatest shipyards in Europe. However when Palmers closed in 1933 the town’s fate was sealed. Jarrow was reliant on Palmers for work and almost 80% of the town became unemployed.

Jarrow’s Council decided to organise a Crusade and walk to London to make the government aware of the town’s plight. On Monday October 5th 1936 two hundred men left Jarrow and walked into immortality.

The Jarrow ‘March,’ as it’s known in the town, had leaders with Irish and Scottish connections: Symonds, Scullion, Hanlon and Riley. A trawl through the list of marchers underlines this: Connolly, Flynn, Flannery, Joyce, and my uncle Johnny, reflecting the immigration into the town.

Sadly none of the original marchers are alive today but one direct connection we do have are the letters written between Con Shields and his late father who was one of the cook’s on the march. The letters are one of the most heart- warming stories of the March and the late Con Shields re-tells his tale with passion and enthusiasm.

Matt Perry, writer and historian in his book, ‘The Jarrow Crusade: Protest and Legend’ gives a clear account of the Crusade and its impact at the time and to this day. He also looks at Ellen Wilkinson’s contribution to the crusade and her life and times.

The name we associate more than any other with the Crusade is that of the town’s MP, Ellen Wilkinson. ‘Fiery’, ‘firebrand’, ‘Wee Ellen’, all have been used to describe one of the twentieth century’s most charismatic female politicians.

Sometimes it seems that the past never leaves Jarrow but what I do know is that we need to remember two Jarrow voices: William Jobling and the Jarrow Crusade.

END

In the next ‘Letters from Jarrow’ post we look at the background of the people involved in the march and how it is still important to the town today.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAc4jiF4ReI

Gary Alikivi  May 2020

LETTERS FROM JARROW (1) – The IRA on Tyneside

 

Recently I completed a DNA ancestry test which came back 88% Irish, a bigger percentage than I thought but not a surprise as in 2008 I had already researched my family tree using census’, birth, marriage, death records, and visiting the country a few times searching the family and local history archive.  My Irish family came to Tyneside in the North East of England in the late 1880’s, and settled here – a long way from Galway and Derry.

Amongst old certificates, photo’s and letters, my Grandfather wrote down his memories describing where he used to live and play as a kid in Jarrow at the time of the First World War. He also talked about his mother and that the family were members of Sinn Fein and the IRA.

‘My mother’s family originated in Galway in the west of Ireland. She came from a big family, her brothers, uncles and cousins were all fishermen. I remember my mother as being a very hard working woman. She worked as a Stoker in the chemical works over the bridge in East Jarrow.  She worked there all through the 1914-18 war.

She was a very kind woman, strict but fair, and was very religious. The family were also involved with the IRA and Sinn Fein’.

These last remarks were very interesting because when researching my family history I came across Donmouth, a North East local history website by Patrick Brennan (link at the bottom of the page). In one of the sections he covers the IRA in Jarrow which I have condensed here.

After being cruelly treated by England over the centuries – for example the Great Famine 1845-50 – Irish people were looking to create an Independent Irish Republic.

Politically there was a massive growth in support for Sinn Fein who established a new assembly in Dublin and on the first day proposed a Declaration of Independence. The British Government wouldn’t support this and Sinn Fein would settle for nothing less. Battle lines had been drawn.

A Volunteer force, known as ‘Black and Tans’ landed in Dublin. The IRA operated a guerrilla campaign attacking small groups of Black and Tans and murdering informers. Reprisals on an innocent Irish population, involved out of control Tans on an orgy of looting and arson.

(If you are interested in this time of history why not check out the 2006 film ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’ by Ken Loach, or ‘Michael Collins’ starring Liam Neeson released in 1996).

By 1919 the Irish Self Determination League (ISDL) was formed, the purpose was to raise funds for Sinn Fein but some members decided to take direct action. Mainland Britain had its first arson attack in Liverpool Docks, days later, a large explosion and fire near London Bridge.

On Tyneside, many men and women of Irish birth gave support to the Irish republican cause through membership of the ISDL or Irish Volunteers – better known as the IRA.

Since the 1880’s Jarrow had an active political organisation in the Irish National League, and held an important role in the ISDL. They held political meetings, fund raisers and ceilidhs in Lockharts Cocoa Rooms and the Co Op Guild Hall in Jarrow. 

More direct action was called for resulting in more volunteers being recruited and by the end of 1920 six companies with a total of 160 men had been established:

A Company – Jarrow. B Company – Hebburn. C Company – Newcastle.

D Company – Wallsend. E Company – Bedlington. F – Company – Consett.

Within a few month a further four companies were set up: Stockton, Chester-le-Street, Thornley and Sunderland bringing the total to 480 men.

Arms, guns and explosives were either stolen from Army Drill Halls or obtained from foreign sailors. In Jarrow, babies prams were used as cover to transport weapons to and from an arms dump in St Pauls Road in East Jarrow.

March 1921 saw the first incendiary attack at a Newcastle warehouse and oil refinery, plus a timber yard at Tyne Dock. Largely unsuccessful, the second attack was more ambitious, 38 fires at 20 different farms were co-ordinated to be lit at 8pm throughout Durham and Northumberland. This demonstrated the extent of the I.R.A throughout the region. (Reports from the Evening Chronicle 1921).

A number of operations were planned and executed around Tyneside. Farm fires and attacks on oil works in Kenton, Wallsend, South Shields, and an aircraft shed in Gosforth was destroyed.

Also the daring attack in Jarrow – a gas main blown up on the old Don Bridge. This story was featured in my documentary ‘Little Ireland’ (link at the bottom of the page).

Report from the Evening Chronicle 23rd May 1921.

THE SINN FEIN OUTRAGES: GAS MAIN BLOWN UP

At 11.15pm on Saturday night there was a heavy explosion at the west end of the town, and it was discovered that a hole 18 inches by 18 had been made in the lower of two gas mains carried across the Don bridge at East Jarrow. The gas company’s workmen were soon on the spot, and the main was temporarily repaired.

‘They were just trying to make a point, that’s all they were trying to do. Not harm anybody, just trying to make a point that they wanted home rule for Ireland’.

(Con Sheils speaking in the film ‘Little Ireland’ 2009).

The IRA on Tyneside were severely damaged when two of their top men were arrested in connection with the theft of explosives from a colliery in Blyth on the Northumberland coast. They were sentenced to prison but released in 1922 as part of Truce arrangements made a year earlier.

But more trouble was on the horizon with pit strikes, extreme poverty and mass unemployment meant the Irish had another fight on their hands – by 1936 Jarrow was about to march onto London.

For further information:

https://garyalikivi.com/2018/08/22/little-ireland-documentary-on-irish-immigration-into-jarrow-uk/

http://www.donmouth.co.uk/

 Gary Alikivi   May 2020 

‘THE VICAR LOCKED US IN THE BACK ROOM. THEY WERE BANGING ON THE DOOR WANTING TO BEAT US UP’ – with Neil Thompson from The Carpettes

 

 

When did you first get interested in music ? When I was a kid I loved listening to records and watching singers like Billy Fury and Joe Brown on TV. I had my first single when I was 2 – and I also saw my first gig when I was 2, which was Billy Fury at Sunderland Odeon in March 1962. By the time I was 11 I had about 150 singles in my collection.

I saw The Kinks at Sunderland Empire in 1969 and that was the start of me going to gigs in the North East – Led Zep at Newcastle City Hall, Queen at Sunderland Locarno, Sabbath, Genesis, Lizzy, Budgie, Nazareth, absolutely loved them all.

When was your first gig in a band ? My first gig playing in a band was as a drummer. We were called Brown Sugar and it was on the 22nd November 1974 at Newbottle Church Hall, County Durham. We played Chuck Berry and Rolling Stones songs to kids that wanted Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath – we went down terrible. When we finished the vicar locked us in the back room cos they were banging on the door wanting to beat us up.

I played drums in that band for another four gigs and in the meantime started playing guitar/vocals in another band. We were doing Status Quo/Thin Lizzy covers and I played nine gigs with that band. The last one was my first pub gig at the Sunderland Royalty in March ‘77.

By this time I was getting into the punk scene and one night I was in The White Lion in Houghton, County Durham and George was there – bassist from Brown Sugar. We hadn’t seen each other for a good while and first thing he said was ‘Have you got the Ramones album’. I said I did, so he said ‘Well do you wanna be in a punk band then’. The problem was that I was a drummer, but he’d seen one of the gigs where I played guitar and sang and thought I was good enough. We did our first gig as The Carpettes in June 1977.

What was your first experience in a recording studio ? We did our first recording at Impulse in Wallsend that was in the summer of ‘77.  The demo is available on The Early Years, a CD released in 1997 on Overground Records.

Did you support any name bands ?  While we were living in the North East we gigged with Penetration, Punishment of Luxury and Angelic Upstarts. We also supported The Vibrators at Redcar Coatham Bowl. Among all this we played one gig in London at Leytonstone Red Lion in March ‘78 supporting The Leyton Buzzards. This was the only time, thank goodness, that I was spat at during a gig.

 

 

(The Carpettes released six singles and two albums from 1977 to 1980 including a 4 track EP in 1977 & ‘Small Wonder’ 7” both on the Small Wonder label. Two albums, Frustration Paradise & Fight Amongst Yourselves on Beggars Banquet).

How did signing with those labels come about ? We were on the Small Wonder label while we were living in the North East. That came about when we answered an advert in the Sounds music weekly for new bands and they liked us.

Me and the bassist, George, moved down to London in October 1978 and found a new drummer. But it was like starting from scratch when we moved down there but we signed to Beggar’s Banquet in June 1979. We stayed there until 1981 then moved back up North.

Did you appear on TV or radio ? We were on tour with The Inmates at the time and had to cancel one of the gigs at London to travel up to Manchester to record The Old Grey Whistle Test. They’d already played a track from the album on a previous show. The other band that was on was The Blues Band.

 

 

Did you have any high points in the band ? I don’t know about high or low points – all I know is that we got better and better as we gigged. Our new drummer, Tim Wilder, was a really solid drummer, he was from Oxford but he’d been a student at Newcastle University and was the drummer in The Young Bucks while living up North.

I loved going to The Marquee to watch bands but I didn’t really enjoy playing there to be honest. We did six supports there and they were hard work – there was always a ‘Come on then, impress us’ in the air !

We played four nights in November ‘79 with The Lurkers during their residency there. Each gig would have punks sitting on the stage with their backs to us and every now and then one would look around and stare at you – and then turn back around. I much preferred London gigs like The Hope ‘n’ Anchor and The Nashville.

By the very last gig for The Carpettes in June 1981 we were a really tight live act with four years gigging experience – you can’t beat live experience for getting better on stage. It’s no good sitting in the bedroom playing guitar – not gonna get you anywhere.

One story to tell is that one of our first gigs was supporting Penetration at Newcastle University in November ‘77 – and we were terrible ! It was far too early to be playing gigs like that but we supported them again at Middlesborough Rock Garden in August ‘78 and went down a storm.

 

 

Have you any road stories ?  In 1980 we went to Italy three times and Holland once, and we also did a short UK tour supporting The Inmates. That UK tour was probably the best two weeks of my life. I was twenty years old, travelling around the country playing music and when we arrived at the venue all the equipment would already be set up by the roadies – heaven!

What are you doing now ? Well I’ve spent most of my life down London. I was in my own band called The Only Alternative – all my ideas and songs which was a bit selfish. But we had some laughs for a couple of years between the summer of ‘84 to the summer of ’86. We released an album in 1985 on the Midnight Music label.

Then with the 20th anniversary of punk happening in 1996 I got both bands back together, well sort of with different line-ups. Both bands gigged on and off until the end of 2003. During this time The Only Alternative recorded two more albums and two singles. I played drums on all of these recordings – as well as being the singer. The Carpettes released a single in 2002 and an album in 2003.

At the moment I have a three piece band called The Alternative Carpettes which play some of my songs from The Carpettes with some Only Alternative ones thrown in.

What does music mean to you ? Music means everything to me. All my life has revolved around music. I love all sorts of music. I love orchestral music like Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. Love the ‘30s and ‘40s swing bands like Basie and Ellington. Rock ‘n’ roll, country, rhythm and blues of the ‘50s. I have a radio show playing ‘50s music every day.

I also love punk, metal, indie, 78’s, cassettes, records, CD’s.  I love it all. I don’t like TV or read books – my whole life is music!

Check out The Carpettes from this 1980 episode of the Old Grey Whistle Test.

https://youtu.be/LvUt7yeAepw

Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2020.

 

‘I TOOK MY BASS OFF & SWUNG IT AROUND. NOT SURE IF IT HIT HIM BUT HE DONE A RUNNER’ with Bri Smith from North East punks The Fauves

The Fauves reformed in 2016 but they first got together in South Shields in 1978. Bassist, and original member Bri Smith looks back on some gigs they played in the late ‘70s….Out of all the gigs back then we played a gig in Hebburn. I’ve got no posters for this one but this was something else. About 20 of us turned up from (South) Shields and we met in a pub near Hebburn town centre. The gig was at a youth club and I can remember it being like a church hall, the atmosphere was unreal.

About the third song in this lad came right up to me and spat in my face. I remember taking my bass off and swinging it around. I’m not sure if it hit him or not but he done a runner. A few skuffles broke out but it settled down. We couldn’t get out there quick enough even though we went down well!  Happy days (laughs).

 

The North Eastern gig organised by Rebel music was upstairs on a Friday night. It was quite small, 40p to get in, the place was full and we went on early. The Condemned were on last but our mates the Whiteleas Estate Aggro Boys (The WEAB) turned up late and shouted for us to go back on – so we did. It ended up a great night for us.

Another gig organised by Rebel music was at The Neptune in South Shields. It was 40p to get in and we had a great turn out. Hodge our singer had left the band by then so we drafted in Abbo (Carl Abernethy). He only had a couple of days to learn the songs.

Murder the Disturbed played really well that night but when we went on I thought we played shite but managed to get through it. To our surprise we went down great.

We played twice at the West Park gig in South Shields. This poster is from the second gig, it was 35p to get in. We organised this gig so what money we made on the door was ours. It was another great turn out and just before Christmas. I can remember the police turning up at this gig as there was quite a bit of bother but we managed to calm things down.

This was the first gig our mate Micky Warkcup who bought himself a double turntable put on a punk disco and got everyone in the mood. He used to travel around with us back then.

The Gosforth Park Hotel gig was 50p to get in and put on by Anti Pop from Newcastle. We supported The Noise Toys and Arthur 2 Stroke, it was a cracking night and always a good crowd there. We went down well and met some good contacts through Gosforth. Ended up playing there on many occasions, we were always welcome.

This Sunderland Echo newspaper cutting is from the War for Work interview around 1980. Me, Bob and Chris shared a place in Washington around this time. Ski and Abbo had left the band. A journalist called Mark Rough was interviewing local bands about the punk scene and came round to our place after watching us live. He had been in a band himself on vocals called Disorder. After the interview we said we were looking for a singer he said he was looking for a band ‘I’m your man’. He joined us, it was as simple as that.

The Upstarts contacted us as they were living down London and they asked if they could borrow our gear – drums and amps. It was a Saturday afternoon and they were supposed to play on the roof of the shop but the police put a stop to it so we set the gear up inside. The place was packed and the Upstarts were brilliant that day.

After the gig we ended up on the drink with Decca, Mensi and Mond. Then Decca took us through to Sunderland for more – it was a class day from what I can remember.

Leon (Ski) made a lot of the early posters. We used to sit in his bedroom with the guitars working on new songs and planning gigs. We photocopied the posters then drove around the North East or wherever we were playing and stuck them all over.

We also used to spray paint The Fauves name all over the town. Once it was even mentioned on the local news and in the Shields Gazette about the graffiti. They were trying to find out who was writing The Fauves all over the town. Hey it wasn’t us (laughs). Great days.

The band had lined up some gigs for May but Bri told me the dates have been cancelled due to the virus pandemic, and are being re-scheduled for later in the year. Check their Facebook page for more details.

Link to ‘Ground Zero’ my first interview with The Fauves:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/10/03/ground-zero-in-conversation-with-bri-smith-bob-rowland-from-tyneside-punks-the-fauves/

 Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2020.

NORTHERN DIAMOND in conversation with performer Lorraine Crosby

‘Through Thick and Thin’ is the new single released today by Bonnie Tyler and Lorraine Crosby in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust…By releasing the record and helping to raise money we hope it makes a huge difference to teenagers with cancer.

I worked with Bonnie on another recording a few years ago in a studio down in Battle where Def Leppard recorded Hysteria. We get on really well, she’s fantastic, one day I went to her house and we had the same clothes on! She’s another one in the business who really works her socks off.  

The North East has a pedigree for strong woman, do you think you fit into that ? We had a hard upbringing living in sheer poverty, so there was a fight to get out of that. My father died when I was only 2 so my mother was a young widow with 4 kids to bring up. On a Friday we’d have a box of food arrive from the shop and that would have to last a week, when all that was gone and we were starving literally we went in the garden as we had a rhubarb patch at the bottom. I used to break off sticks of it and dip them in a bag of sugar…..diarrhea for the weekend (laughs).

We’re laughing about this but really I used to walk into the kitchen and clap my hands to scare the mice off. That was my youth. We had absolutely nothing. Yes they were hard times, and you had to be strong to get through it, but through sheer determination I dragged myself out of it, it makes you very resilient.

What does music mean to you ? I think music saved my life. It was pure escapism. I remember being at school and sneaking off to the hall to put classical music on the record player then dancing around like Margo Fonteyn, I got caught and given the belt. These days they would suggest drama class or dance class to embrace the passion not reprimand you !

I played clarinet and violin but got bullied because of it so I bullied back as a form of self-protection, I only realise that now and how wrong it was but when you’re young and don’t really have any parental guidance you just survive the best you can.

Was music in your family ? No don’t think so, New Years Eve you’d have the family and friends getting out the banjo’s and accordion, singing along and it was a magical time I so looked forward to going there and singing

I was in the church choir at Walker school so I think my desire to be a singer came from there. I’ve been told that I was an outgoing kid and at my Dad’s funeral I got up singing and dancing to cheer everyone up because they were all crying, so yeah something triggered in me then at just 2 years old !

When I left school in Newcastle I trained as a hairdresser, but when I found the stage I didn’t stay for long, yeah always been a performer.

Lorraine on stage with Spike from The Quireboys.

Is that where you feel most comfortable ? Yes and as long as people are coming to see me I won’t retire. I’m still rockin’, Tina Turner did till she was 77 so why can’t I ? I’ve even done panto. 5 year ago I was asked and told them ‘Yes but don’t let me make a fool of myself’. Only a small role they told me, turned out to be the Queen in Snow White (laughs). But I embraced it and loved my time there. I thank my mentor Leah Bell for turning me into a West End Wendy.

We’ve supported Status Quo many times and I’ve been on stage with Spike from The Quireboys. I’ve just been on an album with Elton John, Rod Stewart, Paul Carrack, Willie Nelson to name a few.

I’ve sang on cruise ships, and have done shows on American Military bases when I lived out in Japan in the early ‘80s, that was a real culture shock. We did four 45 minute sets, on a weekend it was six shows, I retain thousands of songs up here (points to head).

Japan was hard going but the alcohol afterwards might not have helped as we drank the local hooch, it was wild. After Japan I came back to the UK that’s when I met my husband Stu Emerson, formed a band and ended up in America recording with Meatloaf.

First time I saw Lorraine Crosby was on a Meatloaf documentary I watched a few weeks ago. Meatloaf and musician Jim Steinman told stories about the first album Bat Out of Hell but it was the second album where Lorraine appeared. A single ‘I’d Do Anything for Love’ was released in 1993 and was a massive hit, would you say that was a magic moment in your career ? Just getting to do the Meatloaf song was great. What happened was Stu my husband and songwriter, knew a guy called Dan Priest in London and he sent our tape to Jim Steinman – he loved us and wanted to be our manager so we moved to New York to work with him.

Jim was recording Bat Out of Hell 2 and one day he called me up ‘Lorraine can you come along to the studio and sing this part?’ Well Meatloaf is like a method actor he wanted to hear the female voice so he can react off it, so originally I sang on just a demo of the song that’s why I wasn’t credited on the track. We recorded some more songs and he played it to the record company who gave me a deal off the back of them.

Then a phone call came in saying what I’d recorded on the demo they were putting on the record and releasing it as a single. Originally they were going to get someone else in to sing the part, but yeah that was a defining moment for me. Not long after, we were driving down to Venice Beach and the song came on the radio it was just like, wow, crazy ! We knew it was gonna be big.

Then walking on stage at Whitley Bay Ice Rink singing it live with Meatloaf was a great moment, like scoring a goal at St James’ Park. I also appeared on Broadway with him, so yeah a couple of really big moments. Great memories.

Does that story follow you around ? Number 1 in 28 countries, sold 15 million records, won a Grammy…It’s a hell of a claim to fame isn’t it ? You gotta shout about it. As I said when we were in America we signed as a song writing duo Emerson/Crosby and Jim Steinman got us a big deal with MCA. We went in Power Station studio in New York city with Bernard Edwards from Chic, there was the Bon Jovi bass player, keyboard player with Bowie, you know they were all in there when recording our album.

My husband Stu has always been my backbone, he has supported me and is a great songwriter. His early band back on Tyneside were called Emerson, they were part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and recorded a single on Neat records and were on the brink of getting somewhere but split as some of the band joined Samson just before their big break.

We thought we were really getting on and putting things together over there. Steinman was mentoring and helping us with our writing and as he was based in Los Angeles we ended up moving to L.A. living in his house in the Hollywood Hills at first, and recording in Ocean Way studio. The record company then paid for apartments in Hollywood and San Fernando valley, that house had a studio in it where Earth, Wind and Fire recorded, Harry Neilson had been there, it was a real old ‘70s studio.

Jim is one of the most incredible genius’ I’ve ever met. I remember we didn’t see him much during the day, he was very nocturnal with his silver foil at the windows to stop the light coming in. But he had his own career and it had really taken off so he couldn’t devote the time to us.

Meanwhile the second Meatloaf album which I sang on, went over budget so the record company sacked the guy who we were dealing with, and every band on his roster including us, went with him. So no manager, being dropped by the label and no money left, we reluctantly moved back to the UK. We heard 3 month later the last house we were in was destroyed in an earthquake.

What state of mind were you in when you returned to the North East ? I was gutted, there was a number 1 album I was on and everyone thinking I was earning millions! So looking for a new manager I found Smallwood and Taylor, Rod Smallwood was Iron Maiden’s manager. I was with him for a couple of years and he got me a couple of development deals with Chrysalis, Hansa and some others but unfortunately nothing seemed to gel with the songwriters I worked with. I was based in the North East and travelling down to London to try and get things going.

One time I went out to L.A and worked with Andy Taylor from Duran Duran, we recorded a few songs but they weren’t pop enough for the label, I’m more rock and blues. So that time with Rod Smallwood ran out, no hard feelings involved, he had exhausted all the avenues and we parted.

Looking back it was a daft decision to start back in cabaret and clubland but you know you live an’ learn. Thing was I needed to pay the bills because I didn’t have anything then, but I’ve never stopped working, my voice gets better and my range has gone through the roof.

Did you have a wow moment listening to a song when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? Yeah Lene Lovich. I heard her song Lucky Number on the radio and thought it was so bad anybody can be a singer. My mam said ‘Well why don’t ya’. There was a music shop in town called Rock City and it had a notice board with adverts on for bands looking for singers. Me and a friend chose a country and western band first then left them to join a group called Time Out.

We played the working men’s club circuit for a year but I was only backing and not developing my voice so with a couple of other guys I formed my own band Foxy. This was the early ‘80s and with a few agents working for us we did American Military bases all over the world.

Who else have you worked with ? I’ve sang on albums featuring Rod Stewart, Kid Rock, done some backing vocals on the new album by John Parr, he’s a lovely man. I’ve worked with great musicians who have retained their skill, they aren’t like a lot in the charts now who just want to be famous, they have music in them and they still love what they do.

What’s next Lorraine ? I was at the same charity event as Producer Geoff Wonfor and we got chatting and he said why not do Sunday for Sammy ? (This year it’s the 20th Anniversary of the popular live entertainment show featuring North East actors and performers) Not long after I got a call asking me to do a duet with Tim Healey (Benidorm, Auf Weidersehen Pet) and we did Anything for Love. So that was my first time, then I became a member of the house band and I love it.

Where else would you see a show that’s had AC/DC’s Brian Johnson (He was in a sketch rebuilding the roman wall when I was at the show at Newcastle City Hall 2004) or Brenda Blethyn (Vera) Johnny Vegas, Trevor Horn, Joe McElderry all these people who wouldn’t normally perform together, it’s just magical. The show is a charity that helps people in the arts and it’s very important now as funding for the arts is being cut. So yeah it’s really special and the whole show has adapted to the size of the Arena, it hasn’t lost it’s feel from the City Hall.

After Sunday for Sammy we are recording my new album, very rock and blues stuff I’m sounding Jimmy Barnes meets Bonnie Tyler. It’s very rocky and a bit like Vintage Trouble who I’m a huge fan of.

I was also asked by Spotlight TV to present a music video show called On Demand Country, people request songs from artists like Dolly Parton and we play the video. The studio is Jam Jar Studios in Gateshead where we film it with a green screen behind me so we can project the video onto that. The techies do a great job behind the camera. First time I’ve done it and really love it, so looking forward to doing more shows.

 Interview by Gary Alikivi  2020.

 

 

 

THE DAY I WAS TOLD OFF BY FREDDIE F***ING MERCURY with singer & songwriter Sam Blue

When I was in Ya Ya we recorded some of the album at Maison Rouge in Fulham. Next door Roger Taylor was recording The Cross album. So we used to regularly meet the Queen guys. There was a bar in Maison Rouge – part of it’s appeal – and one night I was sitting there on my own with a drink and Freddie Mercury plonks himself down on the stool next to me.

He asks how it’s going, Brian and Rog said it was sounding great. I didn’t know what to say…it was Freddie ‘F***ing’ Mercury! So I just said I was a bit bored…’They’re working on guitar amp and bass sounds, so I had nothing to do’.

Freddie looked at me and said quietly, ‘Never ever say you’re bored, there’s always something to do and there are people out there who would give there left arm to do what you’re doing’.

I didn’t know what to say. I was being told off by Freddie Mercury.

You know what, I’ve never said I was bored since, because he was right. We had a drink and chatted about all things singing, which singers love to do, what a wonderful person. Turns out, he knew lots of people I knew and worked with, some of them part of Freddie’s inner circle – funny old world isn’t it.

To the tune of ‘Once in a Lifetime’ (Talking Heads) You may ask yourself how did a boy from Tyneside end up here ? Now living on a houseboat in Twickenham, west London, Sam Blewitt has great stories from his life in music including Ultravox, Dizzee Rascal at Glastonbury, hitting number 1 with Mike Skinner & the Streets and not forgetting his formative years singing in rock bands in the North East.

But first I asked him what got you interested in music and are you from a musical family ? I’m not really from a musical family, but my Dad played the guitar, he’s pretty handy on the keyboard now. What got me interested was my mates in Gosforth, where I grew up, we talked about music the majority of the time.

Also my Aunty Lily worked for a company who changed all the singles on the jukeboxes around Newcastle and Gateshead, she would drop by in her mini-van and drop off piles of singles.

This would have been around ‘68 or ‘69. Me and my sister would pile them up on the record player and listen to every song day after day. I loved the Beatles, Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Rolling Stones, Small Faces, The Animals.

We also used to watch all the Saturday night shows on TV, like Cilla, Lulu – I even remember the famous one where Jimi Hendrix starts Sunshine of your Love in the middle of Hey Joe.

There was music everywhere – or so I thought.

Can you remember your first gig ? My first proper gig was at the Cooperage near the Quayside in Newcastle with my first band Moulin Rouge. It was just a party for a friend of one of the band members. We had been rehearsing for a while and it was an ideal way of us starting out properly.

Moulin Rouge gigged anywhere we could to be honest – The Newton Park Hotel with Newcastle band White Heat, The Mayfair, the Old 69 and the Locarno in Sunderland and some workingmen’s clubs. I remember playing a few times in Whitley Bay sharing headline slots with The Tygers of Pan Tang and supporting Geordie at the Mayfair. The line-up changed a few times and we eventually recruited Rob Hunter on drums, who was also a great singer and songwriter. He left to join Raven.

I left Moulin Rouge to join Fastbreeder with Fred Purvis, Dave Drury and Andy Taylor – who later moved on to Duran Duran. They were a great little rock band and we did the Mayfair a couple of times and some workingmens clubs, but after Andy left it sort of fell apart.

 Did you travel out of Tyneside ? I joined a band in Cleveland called Axis, they were set up like a proper professional band, and we played a few gigs around the country. Once again a guitarist left, that was Mick Tucker he joined White Spirit.

I then joined Emerson, which included brothers Stu and Bri Emerson, Dru Irving on keys and Jon Sellers on drums, later replaced by Charlie McKenzie. We worked hard with writing sessions and rehearsals every weekend.

Once again we picked up gigs where ever we could like the Whitley Bay Esplanade and some cool ones supporting bands like Nazareth, Budgie, Robin George and Heavy Pettin’. We got quite a few slots in the capital at the Royal Standard, Dingwalls and the Marquee, this led to a lot of interest from the industry in London.

But the band started to break up after a year or two, Bri left and I started getting offers from bands in London. We kept the band going for a while with Norman Appleby replacing Bri Emerson. I eventually left and joined LA Secrets, after a short stint with them I joined Paul Samson’s Empire, that was fun but again only lasted a few months before I joined a band called  Ya Ya.

I spent 4 years with them and we were signed to Warner Brothers and released an album called Ya Ya, it got rave reviews. But unfortunately it failed to sell in great numbers. We released a few singles from the album which were fun to promote.

By this time it was 1989 and the band broke up. Looking back on my time in Ya Ya we had toured a fair bit and recorded with some great producers. We supported Roger Taylor’s band The Cross, for a whole tour of the UK, which was fun and got to meet all the Queen guys.   

Where there any offers after Ya Ya ? I worked as a session singer and songwriter for a few years, working with some amazing writers and producers, trying to form new projects. Then in 1992 I joined Ultravox and stayed with them until 1996. In that time we released one studio album Ingenuity, and one live album.

I then worked with Vinny Burns – who was the guitarist in Ultravox at that time – on his solo album The Journey. We then joined forces as Burns Blue, to write and record our own album What if.

Then came my time as a ‘hired gun’ session singer, I sang the Phat Beach/Naughty Boy version of The Baywatch theme I’ll Be Ready, which reached the top 30. Plus I sang for Mike Skinner & the Streets on ‘Dry Your Eyes’ which went to number 1 in the UK. This attracted the interest of many hip hop/grime artists and producers.

I sang with The Young Punx on their albums who were recruited to become Dizzee Rascal’s backing band for his 2009/10 tours and TV performances.

I was brought in to sing ‘fix up look sharp’, but ended up joining in with the band singing on most of the songs. We had Guthrie Govan on guitar, Hal Ritson on bass and keys, Alex Reeves on drums, Vula Malinga on vocals and a whole brass section – not too shabby.

I still collaborate with producers Hal Ritson and Richard Adlam on Young Punx, Avicci, Urban Myth and various other releases.

What was your first recording experience ? My first recording experience would have been with Moulin Rouge at Impulse studios in Wallsend. The line-up of the band was Me, Matty Rocks and Ian Wood on guitars, Ian Drury on bass and I forget the drummer’s name – it was a long time ago.

We done a 2 track recording for EMI records. They had seen us at a Melody Maker rock competition in Durham, and much to our surprise – we won, but they didn’t follow up their initial interest.

We were so naive, we didn’t really know what a demo was. The next time I recorded properly would have been with Paul Samson’s Empire, we had a day at the BBC Maida Vale studios in London, which was awesome.

Did you have a manager ? My first proper manager was Diane Wagg, when I first moved to London – we’re still mates now. Then Ira Blacker managed Ya Ya. When I joined Ultravox our managers were Simon Napier Bell and Sir Harry Cowell – a couple of real characters.

At the Jools Holland Hootenanny TV show in 2010 with Dizzee Rascal & the Young Punx.

What were your high points on stage – any magic moments ? My high points have been, playing on the Glastonbury Pyramid stage with Dizzee Rascal in 2010. I was his rock singer with his amazing band The Young Punx. We have no idea how many people were there, but something around 70,000.

In Ultravox we played some cool festivals too, one in particular in Bielefeld, Germany on the same bill as Roger Chapman, one of my musical heroes. One festival we played we were given a one hour slot to play, this was cut short, but we weren’t told and we hadn’t played any of the big songs like Vienna and Dancing with Tears in My Eyes, then we were pulled off stage by the promoter and stage manager after about 45 minutes. I don’t think the audience were too happy, we made the promoter explain the situation – still don’t know if he did or not. It happens.

Have you any road stories ? One of my favourites was myself and Vinny Burns getting a bit merry after a gig, we went back to watch Asia who were headlining, they had lots of dry ice, so we took it upon ourselves to crawl across the stage under the dry ice without being seen. It was all going well until we ended up behind Geoff Downs (the keyboard player) and couldn’t see where we were going but we managed to get back across the stage without being seen. It’s an old UFO trick, great fun.

When Ya Ya were in LA to shoot our video for When the World Cried with Nigel Dick, who also filmed Toto and Guns n Roses, we agreed to meet him at our hotel to have a chat. Ray the guitarist fancied a dip in the hot tub on the roof, we had put a whole bottle of shampoo in the hot tub, we switched on the jacuzzi and he got in just for a laugh.

Nigel pulled up and looked up at the roof, all you could see was foam sliding down the side of the building. He said you could see it about a mile away. The hotel weren’t too happy – it was only soap !

There was a time I was backstage at Glastonbury when Bobby Womack walks up to me and says ‘You remind me of that mutherfucker used to sing with Slade!’  Before I could answer his trumpet player declared…’No man, he remind me of that mutherfucker used to sing with Led Zeppelin!’….then they both walked of, it was hilarious.

Post soundcheck in Barcelona with The Project band in 2019.

Bringing your story up to date what are you doing now ? I’m currently singing with The Project Band, basically the guys from the Alan Parsons Project featuring Lenny Zakatek joint vocals, Stuart Elliot on drums, Laurence Cottle on bass, Richard Cottle on keys and Dave Bainbridge on guitar.

They’re great people and amazing players, just waiting for this pandemic to clear up and we can get back out on the road. I didn’t know much about the Alan Parsons Project, but local boy John Miles was heavily involved and I rate him very highly indeed.

I’m still working as a session singer, which I really like, you never know what they’ll throw at you next.

Finally, what does music mean to you ? Music has meant everything really. Hard work, fun, and a living. It’s a cruel mistress sometimes, some wonderful moments you never forget, days when you wonder what you’re doing there. I’ve met some fantastic people over the years, many great friends, lot’s of people to look up to. There’s always a challenge to look forward to.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   May 2020.

For more info contact the official website:

http://www.samblue.co.uk

8th of MAY IS MOTORHEAD DAY

Image 25

I could write about the times I’ve seen them absolutely pound the Newcastle City Hall into submission, or their blistering attack at the Heavy Metal Holocaust at Port Vale in ’81. But no, this is about a more recent time when I caught sight of some remarkable photographs of the band live on stage.

It was a Saturday, I had been working all day and was tired and looking forward to watching some football on the telly. I thought to check on my emails before shutting down the lap top. There was only one unread and written in bold, it was from a guy called Dave Curry and labelled ‘Motorhead pics’.

A few months beforehand I asked live music fans for any photos they had taken at gigs in the ‘80s and I would post them on the blog with a bit of blurb – who took them, where and when, just a short description because the main focus was the photos – and some belters came in which captured the atmosphere and excitement of watching a band.

I clicked on the message and a small thumbnail photo appeared. Well I’ve taken, sent, received and edited tens of thousands of photo’s over the years so quickly recognise when the image is good or not. And this was.

After downloading the rest of the photos and clicking on each one they appeared full size on the screen –  while pointing at the lap top shouting ‘That’s the mighty Motorhead in all their f***ing glory destroying the City Hall’. And that’s the title right there.

To view Dave Curry’s pic’s go to https://garyalikivi.com/2019/03/30/roksnaps-6/

For more pic’s – Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, Twisted Sister & more go to

 https://garyalikivi.com/2018/02/18/roksnaps/

 Gary Alikivi   May 2020.

LONDON CALLING: Nights at the Marquee Club

The heart of London’s music industry was the legendary live music club the Marquee, along with CBGB’S in New York, the club has been defined as one of the most important music venues in the world.

It would provide the catalyst to launch the career of many bands – The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin – the list is endless. A&R men used to regularly visit the club to watch out for the next big thing and with plenty of bands looking to make it, the best way was to be seen on the stage of the Marquee.

Tony Iommi explained in Iron Man his auto biog…‘I was in rehearsals with Jethro Tull for the recording of their Stand Up album and one night Ian Anderson took me to see Free play at the Marquee. He introduced me to everybody as his new guitar player, so I thought, this is wonderful. I felt like a pop star. From being a nobody in Birmingham to people at the Marquee taking an interest – it seemed great’.

Graeme Thomson wrote in his biog about Phil Lynott – ‘It was do or die. Thin Lizzy were £30,000 in debt. Money was borrowed for their showcase gig for Phonogram at the Marquee on 9th July 1974. It was so hot that night that all the guitars went out of tune, but they played well enough to confirm the deal, even if the advance for a two album contract only cleared what they owed’.

Mick Wall’s biog of Lemmy featured the time Motorhead nearly called it a day. Guitarist Fast Eddie Clark remembers ‘We found ourselves in April 1977 in the situation of breaking up’.

As a farewell gift to fans they would record a live album. They had a show coming up at the Marquee that surely would be the best place for them to bow out. But when they looked into the cost, they knew they had no chance. A farewell single was recorded instead.

‘The Marquee gig was one of the best we ever did’ according to Eddie. ‘Lemmy said the sweat was climbing up the walls trying to get out’.

Thoughts of it being their last were quickly forgotten about. Two weeks later they piled into a Transit van for the drive down to Escape Studios in Kent. They recorded the bones of 13 tracks, eight of which would become the album Motorhead.

Bands from the North East of England – White Heat, Angelic Upstarts, Fist, The Showbiz Kids, Punishment of Luxury, Raven and Tygers of Pan Tang, all travelled south down the M1 to the capital. Was playing London the catalyst for a life in music, or just a road too far for some ?

John Gallagher from Chief Headbangers, Raven  ‘The running joke was – c-mon lets git in a van and gaan doon t’London ! We did quite a few one off support gigs. It was in the back of the truck, drive down to London, play the Marquee with Iron Maiden and drive back straight after the gig’.

Harry Hill, drummer with Fist remembers…’We played the Marquee for two nights supporting Iron Maiden. We were going down an absolute storm, the place was packed. I’m not sure what the band thought about it but their manager was kicking off – You’re just the support band. You’re not supposed to go down like that –  We won him over in the end and he came into the dressing room with a crate of beer. Yep we gave them a run for their money’.

Residencies were part of the scene and a few North East bands got on the list including Dire Straits. This advert from March ’78 with admission fee only 70p.

Select dates for North East bands listed as playing the Marquee for 1976:

Halfbreed 15 & 29th January & 3rd March.

Arbre 4th April.

Back Street Crawler 11 & 12th May with AC/DC as support.

Cirkus 15th May.

1977:

Penetration 29th June opening for Heron.

also 30th July & 1st August opening for The Vibrators.

1978:

Penetration 21st June.

Punishment of Luxury 3rd October.

1979:

Showbiz Kids 3rd February.

Punishment of Luxury 13th February.

Showbiz Kidz 21st April.

Punishment of Luxury 7th May.

Showbiz Kids 19th May & 14th June & 14th July.

Punishment of Luxury 23rd August & 31st October.

1980:

Raven 5th, 6th, or 7th November with Taurus or Diamond Head opening for Gary Moore.

1981:

White Heat 29th April.

1982:

Angelic Upstarts 18th February & 12th August.

The Marquee at Charing Cross Road finally closed it’s doors in 1996 after first establishing the club in Oxford Street, then it’s heyday in Wardour Street.

 Gary Alikivi  May 2020.