GETTING AWAY WITH IT – interview with Canadian musician Greg Rekus

Based in Winnipeg, Canada, Greg Rekus plays a brand of folk/punk on an acoustic and a giant stomp box. His band The Inside Job includes musicians Erik Strom (drums) and Tabitha Hemphill (bass/backing vocals).

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Have you played in many towns/countries for the first time? ‘Yes, on this tour I’m doing Greece for the first time. Also Slovakia. Super excited! Greece has so much history and it’s one of those places you only hear about if you are from Canada so I can’t believe I’m actually getting to go there. Slovakia is also awesome and I’ve drove through it a bunch of times so glad I finally get to play’.

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Have you recorded any TV appearences or filmed any music videos? ‘Yeah my friend Randy Frykas did 3 videos for me. I did a few other small internet TV things and just recent Bridge City Sessions based in Portland. I did 2 live recordings of 2 songs off Sibling Cities. It was a lot of fun. My voice was sore so didn’t nail it the first time but Nick and all the guys were great and didn’t make me feel bad about it. No prob just do it again. We ended up getting some rad takes of the songs’.

Who were your influences in music? ‘Moneen and a Winnipeg local band called The Bonaduces are a HUGE!!! reason why I play music today. Those 2 bands are at the centre of why I do this. They were the bands who taught me music can be accessible. Before that every band I knew were big bands. Arena bands. Bands I would never get to play in. These bands were made from normal people. People like me. They taught me to tour, all you need is a van and an email address or some phone numbers to call. Musically bands like Mischief Brew, AJJ, PJ Bond, Jon Creeden are all big reasons I play acoustic’.

How did you get involved in playing music. Was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ? ‘When I was super young I always wanted to play guitar. It just looked soooo cool! My mother insisted the piano was a good starting point and if I really liked it I can have a guitar.  After 5 or 6 years of trying to prove I really liked it I finally saved up my own money and bought a bass guitar. I played it for about a year but it wasn’t till I got an electric guitar and started writing songs and playing in bands that I really embraced music and punk rock. It always feels like I’m getting away with something. Like I should be doing something more responsible but I don’t. Music has taken me to amazing places and brought me together with other like minded people that a young Greg could only have dreamed of meeting or going’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play? ‘The first real gig I organized was at the West End culture centre in Winnipeg. It was an all ages venue where most of the touring bands and a bunch of the local bands I liked played. It was October 1999 if I remember correct. A bunch of people came and we made enough to even pay the bands! The first time I ever went on tour was with my former band High Five Drive. We did a week or so in the west in 2002 after we recorded our first EP.  After that the tours kept getting bigger and bigger. The biggest tour I ever got to do in Europe we supported a band called Rentokill from Austria for 4 weeks. They were an amazing band and amazing people. Since I started doing the solo thing I have done countless shows with amazing friends and have got to play with tons of amazing touring artists that do the same thing I do. Sometimes I think acoustic punk is retirement for old punk dudes who don’t have a punk band anymore but still have a punk heart’.

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Where do the ideas come from and what is the process of writing a song and what are your experiences of recording/studio work?  ‘I write best if I put aside time each day to work on stuff. I have a practice space I share with a few bands in Winniipeg but no one is ever there till after 7pm so I usually get there around 5.30pm and play till 7. When I’m home I work a lot so it can be hard to find the time but on a good week I’m there 5 out of 7 days. The best songs just come all at once. Chords and lyrics and the tune and everything. Sometimes it takes a few tries and I have worked on a song for years and in the end just trash it cuz it’s just no good. There has to be a bit of magic in the air and it’s something you cant force’.

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‘The studio is great! I’ve recorded the majority of my stuff at Private Ear which is an amazing studio in Winnipeg.  JP Peters who runs it has an amazing ear and can make you feel like you are bullet proof and can do anything after he presses record. I love recording but didn’t always. I think the biggest mistake I used to make is just not being ready. Now for recording I schedule 2 weeks of rehearsal just to bash the songs around the jam space again and again. By the time you hit the studio you can play them in your sleep and you can focus on getting amazing takes and not just trying to play all the right notes’.

What are the future plans for Greg Rekus? ‘I’m going to be doing a bunch of USA and Canada dates in the fall and start to focus on writing a new record. Got a lot of great ideas and a friend who plays sax started jamming with us and it adds a lot. So stoked what the new album will be like!

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For more information, releases and tour dates check Greg Rekus facebook page. 

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2018.

MUSIC STILL MATTERS – for former Danceclass vocalist Dave Taggart

From his early days with The Executives, to packing out North East venues in Danceclass, recording in Germany with LiveRoom, writing TV soundtracks, and now touring with international pop star Belinda Carlisle, Dave Taggart has music in his blood…‘I’m living in Brighton now but always a Sunderland lad, that’s where I was brought up. After I got married we gravitated to the south coast where keyboard player Mark Taylor (Elton John, Simple Minds, Echo and the Bunnymen) landed me the job as guitarist and backing vocalist for the world-famous Belinda Carlisle. Suffice to say I’ve toured the world and we’ve had such a great time’.

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Dave on tour with Belinda Carlisle.

From a very young age music has been the life and love for Dave Taggart. But where was he turned on ?  ‘The first time I was in a Pontins Holiday camp in Morecombe. It was 1966 and we were on holiday for a week. As kids, we were left to our own devices as was the norm in those days. My greatest pleasure was sitting at the side of the stage watching the resident band play the latest hits. I was besotted and quickly became the bands gofor. I would receive a 10 bob note and orders for five ice lollies and packets of polos. This was of course to disguise the smell of the drink on their breath, which was a sackable offence. After that I suppose I was hooked on music and at 11 or 12. I received my first beat up cello guitar with half the machine heads missing and an action on it like the Tyne bridge drop. For influences I had too many to mention, John Martyn, Brinsley Schwarz then of course all the rock stuff. Lifelong friend and cohort Tony Mcananey lived in the same square as me and we would spend every summer night practising, practising, practising without any real idea. One evening he turned round to me and said you’re the singer ok !

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ’From school days we were taken to local folk clubs around Sunderland where we would play a bit of Lindisfarne, Fairport Convention, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Neil Young and early Eagles stuff before they went shit. Our mentor and driver at the time was our drama teacher Terry Deary. I wonder if teachers are allowed to do that these days. But he just had faith in our talent. Incidentally, that influential educator of young minds would go on to receive fame and fortune himself with the Horrible Histories…true bloody story that ! By 1977 we went out to Germany just to get away from the North-East and learn our chops. We’d play the American army and Air force bases. It certainly was a baptism of fire and we learnt a lot about the craft of performance. But too much innovative and exciting stuff was going on back in the UK. The likes of Elvis Costello, Clash and Ian Dury were happening. So by early ’78 we returned to England and formed a band in Sunderland called The Executives. It immediately took off. Success spiralled into a writing frenzy and low and behold Danceclass was formed’. 

(A split in late ’79 saw some of The Executive members go on to play in Well, Well, Well and The Toy Dolls. The complete line up of Danceclass was Dave Taggart, vocals,  Tony Mcananey, bass, Ali Reay, guitar and Trevor Brewis, drums). 

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’We just gigged and gigged acquiring a massive fan base which then attracted record company interest. By 1981 we ended up on the famous A&M record label. EMI begged us to sign with them but we were rather green and ended up with in the end, the wrong label. First album was recorded in Basing Street in London later to become the famous Sarm West. The producer was Mike Chapman famous for his work with Sweet and later Blondie. We toured with various large acts of the time Sad Cafe, John Martyn and Judie Tzuke. We also performed on the famous live music show The Tube’. (The Tube was a live music show broadcast from Tyne Tees Studio’s in Newcastle, UK. The show ran for five series from November 82 – April 87 and was responsible for introducing Frankie Goes to Hollywood, relaunching the career of Tina Turner and the last ever appearence of The Jam before they split).  

‘But it’s the old story, we went as far as we could with that label. We got the chance to support Blondie at Wembley Arena but apparently Debbie or Chris Stein spat their dummy out and refused to come to the UK. This was devastating news for a young band like us. Our second record signing was to MCA records. Some interesting material was written and recorded around that time. I think at one point we had Judy Tzuke on backing vocals and a coterie of musical acts hanging around so it was an exciting time. Unfortunately our guy at the helm Stuart Watson, was sacked from MCA and they cleared his roster of acts. Including us. Once again the young guys from the North-East were left floundering on the rocks. Left to our own devices in that big London town, I turned to session music mainly singing backing vocals and ended up for some reason on a lot of UK metal albums. There is a Dave Taggart backing vocal credit on the Destiny album by Saxon as well as albums I cant even remember singing on’. 

What are your thoughts on the second album and is it just collecting dust on a shelf somewhere ? ‘Looking back on the Danceclass second album, although the material was a considerate departure from the full speed ahead power pop of its forerunner, the writing especially from Tony Mac had so much more depth and maturity. The basic songs were beaten out at a beautiful rented house overlooking the lake in Bowness, while next door Simple Minds were recording their tracks for the Waterfront album. When we thought we had enough material, it was decided we should go abroad for further stimuli and the plush Wisseloord recording studios in Hilversum, Holland was chosen’. (Officialy opened in 1978 the studio was founded by electronics company Phillips and was used by international musicians such as Elton John, U2, Scorpions, Tina Turner, Def Leppard). 

‘We took along Steve Brown (producer ABC, George Michael, Wham!, Alison Moyet, Freddie Mercury, The Alarm, The Cult, Manic Street Preachers, The Pogues) and we had Richard Cottell on keyboards. It wasn’t easy recording the album as some of the songs changed dramatically as they grew and some just remained as a basic ‘rock out’ vibe. Suffice to say an album that we were proud of didn’t make it for release. We got compensation, but when you’re in your early to mid 20s with a passion for your music, it hurts. All water under the bridge now so … yes, that album will be collecting dust somewhere in a vault and all I have left are some well produced demos on quarter inch tape and a cassette of the album’.

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What was your next move ? ‘By the 1990’s I had returned to Sunderland and started writing more songs with Tony Mac who had got a job writing the music for Jimmy Nails BBC Spender series. While all this was happening our old Danceclass manager got us a deal with a new fledgeling German label who loved the material. We went out to Frankfurt to record the LiveRoom album. Moderate success followed and loving the creative environment, I stayed in Germany writing for TV and film while Tony returned to the North-East to mix the Spender soundtrack. An older countryish song that Tony almost threw away later became the inspiration for Jimmy‘s mid-90s TV hit Crocodile Shoes. These were real fun times as Tony wrote the music for the album with Jimmy Nail and we all ended up performing on it. Then of course touring it. After the Top of the Pops performances and tours I took time out to travel with my guitar to the Middle East and Europe before landing a job writing some of the incidental music for the BBC production ‘Our Friends in the North’.

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Finally, what does music mean to you ? ‘Everything. Even more so as I get older. I might not like some of the crap pumped out but I appreciate the time put in and how they got there. I’ve always had an all embracing love of different genres and that’s down to parental and sibling influence. Lying on my back as a toddler in our council house listening to Swan Lake, Ella Fitzgerald or the Fab Four. My brother taking me to the Sunderland Empire at the tender age of 12 to see Sonny Terry, Brownie McGee, Bukka White. Or a year later the Newcastle City Hall to see the now legendary Rolling Stones concert where Jagger introduced the crowd to his new wife Bianca – while Bowie clapped in the wings. Fashions and fads fall along the wayside as your journey progresses and all you’re left with is the thing that really matters. The music’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi February 2018.

For further information check http://www.danceclassuk.com

Recommended:

Steve Dawson SARACEN/THE ANIMALS: 2nd April 2017.

Trevor Sewell 21st June 2017.

Kev Charlton, HELLANBACH: 23rd June 2017.

Steve Thompson, (Songwriter & NEAT records producer) 27th June 2017.

John Verity, ARGENT/PHOENIX: 7th November 2017.

Dave Ditchburn BRASS ALLEY/GEORDIE/PILGRIM: 1st February 2018.

Les Tones & Arthur Ramm, BECKETT: 9th April 2018.

MUSIC MATTERS – interview with Les Tones and Arthur Ramm founder members of Beckett.

The 70’s and 80’s saw bands playing every night around the North East at mainly workingmens clubs…’Mostly it was two clubs a night with yer first set starting at 8pm. Then travelling to another club, loading in, setting up, playing a set and finishing for 2am. Finally back home and bed. Before you know it yer ma was shouting up the stairs it was time to get the bus for work. Aye them were the days ha ha’….remembers Arthur Ramm. Stories like these have been told many times before in smokey bars and clubs of the North East. But here we are sitting in The Word, a brand new cultural venue in South Shields.  A large circular building with huge glass walls and what looks like a floating staircase. As far removed as you can get from bingo, beer and bands. The stories were pouring out from Les Tones and Arthur Ramm founding members of Beckett. A band which changed line up many times until they called it a day in 1974. During their time Beckett had played countless gigs around the North East with stand out support slots with Rod Stewart and the Faces. There was a two week residency in the Top Ten Club in Hamburg, Germany. They notched up 25 UK dates with Captain Beefheart, 33 with Alex Harvey and 25 with Slade. Signed with major labels Warner Brothers and CBS. Released a single and a self titled album.  They also found time to appear on BBC TV music show the Old Grey Whistle Test, and a slot at the Reading Festival. We talked about music in general and the sounds travelling across the Atlantic – Elvis, Chuck Berry, Rock n Roll USA how they influenced a generation of British musicians. Turning on the Led Zepps, Deep Purples, Eric Claptons, who in turn put their stamp on the sound. British rock came out the other end.  Although they were referring to nearly 50 years ago, like a relay team passing the baton, stories from Les and Arthur still sounded fresh and told with good humour. Music really does matter.

When did you first get interested in music ? 

Les: ‘My dad was a piano player, my uncles were keyboard players for the cinema. When I was 14 my brother and cousin had acoustic guitars and my sister played all the 50’s records. I’ve always had music around me. I used to go to the local fairgrounds and there I heard Love Me Do and other songs by The Beatles. I just loved the sound and that changed my direction of what I wanted to do. I got a guitar and I was approached by a fella called Tommy Stead who was in a popular blues band called The Jump. So I joined the band at 15 and learned loads from them’.

Arthur: ‘I was aware of The Shadows but I wasn’t really interested in that, like Les it was The Beatles that kicked me off. It was Paul McCartney, I loved the way he played, he sang, he looked. I just loved The Beatles music’.

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Les Tones aged around 14.

When did you get your first guitar ? 

Les: ‘I was serving my time as a sheet metal worker in Hebburn Palmers shipyard when I bought a Hoffner Galaxy on tick, a loan you know. Then I exchanged it for a Burns guitar until my dad bought me a Gibson 335 for £150. That was great, wish I still had it’.

Arthur: ‘There was a shop called Savilles Brothers in South Shields and there it was in the shop window with a card stuck next to it with £7 10shillings written on. Eventually after a few weeks of pestering my mother, she relented and gave me the money ‘But you’ll have to pay it back’ she said. That’s where I bought not a bass, but my first 6 string guitar.  We had no money for amps so we first started with radios which had valves inside. That could amplify the sound and it had a speaker in so we used the output. But the 5 watts wasn’t loud enough cos when you were in rehearsal with a drum kit banging away you needed something louder. So we got what The Beatles and The Stones were using that was AC 30’s. They were the biggest amplifier at the time and then Eric Clapton started using a 50 watt Marshall. That became the norm until Pete Townsend said he wanted bigger. He wanted 100watt because they were playing big places and no one could hear them at the back of the hall. Suddenly it’s getting bigger and louder with 4 x 12 cabinets and everybodys ear’s gettting used to that level of sound. I remember we were playing Annabels Club in Sunderland  and to load the gear in you used the back stairs. We were loading in 4×12’s and they were so big you couldn’t see your feet’.

Les: ‘It was good having a full house and using all that gear at that volume because people absorbed the sound but if you had a venue a third full it was very different. But now a lot of people are returning to AC 30’s and using larger PA’s’.

Arthur: ‘I’m still using a Marshall now because I’m used to the sound and Les uses a Messa Boogie which is smaller in size but has plenty of power. The technology has changed over the years. We were playing the Birtley club one time and I had just bought my Marshall 100watt head. We were loading the gear in up the steep stairs at the back and I think it was our singer Terry Slesser who said ‘I’ll carry that up for you’. My brand new Marshall head slips out of his hand and goes boink, boink, boink, down the steps to the bottom. The side of the box fell away. I was distraught. We got the gear on stage and thought do I switch it on? Will it go pop! Eventually I turned it on and it worked perfectly. When I got it home I used some glue to stick the side back on. Marshall amp’s are made solidly you know’. 

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Arthur Ramm

Where did you rehearse and play your first gig ?

Les: ‘Around 1964 The Jump used to have house rehearsals at Tommy Steads and played on a Sunday at Aloysius Church Hall in Hebburn. The church ran it and they had bands on every Sunday and served soft drinks. The atmosphere was brilliant we used to look forward to it. When we played I used to push my amplifier up the street to get into the hall, we loved it. Tommy who is still playing today, was all genned up with the American music cos he had the records so we played a lot of soul and blues. But then Tommy moved to London so I left the band and joined Hedgehog Pie. We were classed as an underground band. But yeah that’s how I started’.

Arthur: ’We got a school band together and I was playing sort of bass notes on the heavy strings of my 6 string guitar. Sounded nothing like a bass really but that’s what I was after. So I got one out of the local magazine for £35 and I was away then. Then what changed for me was when I heard John Mayalls Bluesbreakers featuring Eric Clapton and I thought wow I want to learn how to play like that. My first gig was at a wedding in Careme House in South Shields. It was for the guitarists cousin and we done about half an hour of bluesy songs’.

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The Shadey Kases with Arthur Ramm on the left.

How did Beckett form and where did the band rehearse ?

Arthur: ‘I was in a band called The Shadey Kases, who I joined around 65 or 66. I was the rhythm player, just a lonely strummer. One night Les was playing with his band in Sunderland with this great sounding guitar ‘Who is that playing, sounds fantastic’ I said. I was normally a shy person but afterwards went up to Les and said how did you get that sound, your playing is excellent. He was so friendly and showed me the amp and all that. We really got on because some people can be a bit stand off’ish. When Beckett started he was the guy to ask to play guitar and he said yes’.

Les: ’I was in Societys Child and we used to get a lot of work at the Hedworth Hall in South Shields. Alf Josephs from there used to manage us. But the band split over the singer and keyboardist arguing over petty things. The Hedworth Hall was a place all the bands would go to after a gig because it was open till 2am and we’d get in free of charge. There I met up with Arthur who had just left the John Miles band. ‘How would you like to join me and Alan’ (Craig, drummer). So yeah we are the three founding members of Beckett. We got Bill Cambell in on bass. Rehearsals were in a pre-fab building near St Francis Church in South Shields. Alan Craig got it cos he knew someone from the church. We used to go 2-3 times a week to rehearse and we done some Kinks stuff, some Deep Purple’. 

How did the name of the band come about ?

Arthur: ‘When we were talking about what we are going to call ourselves I said why not Becket ? There had been a film made called Becket starring Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole and I just liked the name.  Sounds good. Just the one word. So yeah we all went with that. If you look at Ringo Starr’s drumkit just the way they write the name Beatles, the style of the writing you know it just worked. The two t’s at the end came about because Ted Hooper suggested we should write it that way. Ted was always hanging around and had a brother who was playing guitar in West One, another Shields band we knew. Next we saw an advert for a gig we were doing at the Golden Slipper in South Shields and we were advertised with the two t’s. From then on in, it just stuck’.

Where did you gig and what venues did you play ?

Arthur: ‘We ended up being very successful starting off around the pubs and clubs. Usually there would be 2x 45minute sets. Early days we’d have lots of current stuff that was in the charts, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Beatles, Stones that sort of stuff. A blessing was the Bailey Organisation because they had the Latino club in South Shields and they would get us to guest before the main artist came on like Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdink, whoever had been on Top of the Pops. There were venues like Wetheralls, La Bamba in Darlington, La Ronde in Billingham, La Dolce Vita, The Cavendish Club there was so many. Only problem was it wasn’t till 2am when we finished then we had to get back home and we still had day jobs. I was an apprentice tool maker and had to get up for the bus to work at 6.30’.

Les: ‘The band used to play around the North East nearly every night of the week, quite often two bookings a night. We’d be sort of living two lives cos we’d be in a bubble on stage, going down well and everything was great. Then I’d get in at 4 in the morning and my mother would be dragging me out of bed at 6. Then not much later you’d be walking to work in the snow. The band was a job, we’d pay the stamp every Friday and get pay packets every Sunday. Arthur would get a cheque off Mel Unsworth the promoter then share it out. We would only have Tuesday off cos we had girlfriends’.

Arthur: ‘Good thing was you’d have the extra money from the gigs so you could buy an extra pedal or better guitar. One of our first gigs was at a nightclub in Darlington and the stage was big, we were right at the back and the singer was way out at the front. It was an area where all of the audience could see the artist. The lights dimmed, we went on and played an instrumental first called Supernatural. Our singer Rob Turner came on twirling the mic stand, giving it everything and there was only a dozen people there but he got them clapping. We were playing at the back in the shadows and were amazed because at rehearsals he’d just sit on a seat sort of crouched over and sing! When he was on stage his demeanour changed he was a totally different person. I always remember that gig. But I always remember the day he died. We were playing a gig at La Ronde in Billingham and were just coming up to 2am. He said let’s do a blues thing, Les you just kick it off, so we started to play. He started to sing ‘If I Knew You were Coming I would have Baked a Cake for You’ it was a blues song and that’s the last one he sang with us’.

Les: ‘I remember that gig, I remember as if it was yesterday. At the end he had a bit to drink and a girl with him. We had a policy of you go with the band you come back with the band. Then the day’s your own you know. We said your coming back with us just take her number. Arthur and I went home as usual in the Hillman Minx, that was our bassist Bill Cambell’s car and all we talked about was Rob not coming home with us. Next day was a Friday I got out of bed and went downstairs. My mam said someone’s been and left a message to phone Arthur it’s very important. The nearest phone was at the bottom of the street so I went down, phoned Arthur and he told me the bad news. I was shocked, we were upset and got the band together to talk about it. We went to see his parents’.

Arthur ‘We were told the weather conditions were very foggy that night and he was on the edge of the road near the pavement thumbing a lift. A few cars went by then he got hit. By now the girl he was with starts to thumb as Rob is on the ground. But cars just passed by because it looked like a drunken couple. Eventually someone stopped and drove him to hospital but he had too much internal bleeding’. 

Les: ‘He was only 24. The car just drove off. The person driving was caught because he put his car in a garage to have the windscreen fixed. He said to police he didn’t stop because he thought he had just hit an animal. Reports said he was under the influence of drink and drugs. He never got put in prison, just fined’.

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Terry Slesser in the middle.

Did the band make the decision to carry on ?

Les: ‘Let me tell you it wasn’t an easy decision to make. But we had gigs lined up and we knew a singer already who could fit into the band. Terry Slesser was a roadie for the John Miles band The Influence, Terry had also formed a band called Zig Zag. I had seen him a few times and thought he had a good voice. He was confident and had long hair. He joined the band eventually’. 

Arthur: ‘Yeah he learnt the songs very quickly, and fitted in. We done some great gigs especially supporting the Alex Harvey Band. They were so tight, really impressed with them’. 

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What was it that drove you on ?

Arthur: ‘It was just that the gig was so important, it was a simple as that’.

Les: ‘The time Beckett was playing it was magic. When we’d play the workingmens clubs they were queing out the door at 6pm to get a seat to see us. That’s the way it was. We’d play Middlesbrough and go to a gig in Sunderland. We’d go in a seperate car from the road crew who were in a van with all the gear. When we went in the club you would see lots of faces who were at the first gig, they’d travelled up to see us. We really appreciated that’. 

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When did Beckett start songwriting ?

Arthur: ‘Les left the band, and joined Sandgate. We got a guy called Kenny Mountain in. He was in a band called Yellow with Vic Malcolm from Geordie. They had a single out but didn’t do much. I rang Kenny who said he didn’t want to play lead but he would still be in the band. That meant I had to up my game. Kenny came up with some songs and we ended up sticking a couple in the set, then adding a few more, then a few more. That led us to meeting a guy called Geoff Docherty. He was a local promoter and saw us playing in Sunderland’. (Geoff Docherty was a very successfull North East promoter with major bands including Pink Floyd, The Who, Rod Stewart and David Bowie. One of the venues he promoted was The Locarno in Sunderland, a Mecca ballroom that held 3,000. For more information Geoff has authored two books ‘A Promoters Tale’ and ’Three Minutes of Magic’). 

Arthur: ‘Geoff approached our singer Terry Slesser. Geoff said he liked the band and said ‘I can do something for you’. We had other offers but the managers wanted too big a cut out of the money we were earning. It wouldn’t of left us with much. So we arranged a sit down meeting with Geoff, he was straight talking. We were very impressed. The clincher was when he said ‘I won’t take any money, not a penny from you until you are successful. I will have you backing people like Rod Stewart and Ten Years After’. Not long after we started travelling the country playing gigs and what a thrill it was playing in London, especially the Marquee club. He was exact to his words’.

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Did Geoff Docherty get the record companies interested in Beckett ?

Arthur: ‘Yes he got to know them all as he used to book the bands for the Top Rank Suite in Sunderland. He was very pushy. He’d tell them to come and see the band. His rhetoric and the way he put it over. Very convincing. He got us a deal with Warner Brothers and then we went to CBS. We got a £10,000 advance from Warner Brothers. Think our Mercedes van was around £4,000. But I had left before they made the album with Warner Brothers. They got Bob Barton in. The line up kept changing. All the original members had gone by then’.

By the time the album was released on Warners label Raft Records in 1974, the Beckett line up was Terry Wilson Slesser (vocals) Kenny Mountain (guitar) Robert Barton (guitar) Ian Murray (bass) and Keith Fisher (drums). The Iron Maiden connection is a story for another day if one of the members can get in touch. As we were about to leave The Word I asked Les and Arthur one more question.

What does music mean to you ?

Arthur: ‘Well I can’t live without music. If my hands don’t work I don’t know what will happen. I listen to music all the time and I am in a band now with Les’. 

Les: ‘When I’ve got a guitar I lose loads of time cos I can’t put it down. I’ve also been teaching music and I got into repairing and building guitars. I still play in a band now’. 

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2018.

Recommended:

Steve Dawson, THE ANIMALS: 2nd April 2017.

Harry Hill, FIST: 29th April 2017.

Trevor Sewell, 21st June 2017.

Howard Baker, WARBECK: 17th August 2017.

John Verity, ARGENT: 7th November 2017.

Dave Ditchburn, BRASS ALLEY/GEORDIE: 1st February 2018.

ROKSNAPS #4

Roksnaps are fan photographs which captured the atmosphere of concerts on Tyneside during the late 70’s and early 80’s. It was a time when rock and metal bands ruled the city halls up and down the country. On Tyneside we had the main venues of Mecca in Sunderland, The Mayfair and City Hall in Newcastle. The gigs were packed with tribes of mostly young lads from towns across the North East. T-shirts, programmes and autographs were hunted down to collect as souveniers – and some people took photographs on the night.

 

 

Here are more Roksnaps from John Edward Spence pictured above with Janick Gers in 1982.

 

 

‘The first gig I went to I was 15. It was on the 31st of October 1977 at the Newcastle City Hall and the band was Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. The support band were called Kingfish. Rainbow came on really late and we missed our last bus home so one of friends had to phone his dad for a lift’.

 

 

‘Around October ’78 I decided to take my camera to a few gigs. I had a job so I bought a roll of film and some flashcubes, my camera was a Kodak 126. I couldn’t take it to every gig as the film and flashcubes used to make a dent in my pay packet’.

 

 

‘I used to go to loads of gigs at the City Hall and the Mayfair of course, that was my favourite venue. I was also lucky enough to see the bands associated with the NWOBHM, just loved the music around then’.

 

 

‘I don’t go to many gigs now. I always try and watch The Tubes when they come over, in fact the last gig I went to was to see The Tubes supporting Alice Cooper at Leeds, great gig’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi.

Recommended:

When Heavy Metal Hit the Accelerator 6th May 2017.

Steve Thompson (NEAT producer) Godfather of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, 27th June 2017.

Roksnaps #1 18th February 2018.

Roksnaps #2 22nd February 2018.

Roksnaps #3 27th February 2018.

1980 The Year Metal was Forged on Tyneside 11th February 2018.

LOST IN MUSIC – interview with North East musician Bernadette Mooney.

War Machine went on to play many gigs after the album was released in 1986 and I was asked to do a photo shoot in Kerrang called ladykillers. I really enjoyed the day as Bon Jovi was getting his photos taken the same day and for that month’s issue we both appeared in the Kerrang magazine. We also appeared in Viz as the meanest band in the North East but I think Venom should of got that one!

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How did you get started in music ? ‘Bought my first guitar when I was 15 and had lots of song ideas but wasn’t sure how to write. There was lots of lyrics in my head so I wrote them down, taught myself to play guitar from a book and started to write my own songs. A friend heard them and played them to a guy who was in a band. He liked my voice so I ended up doing a few gigs with him. Then I joined a band called Chapter 24. I played a while with them as a guitarist and vocalist but then moved on to a local band called She with Lee Robertson. I played a few gigs with them before forming War Machine with Steve White on guitar. We were both from Wallsend and Les Fry was living in Jesmond he was on bass. We had a drummer called Steve Smith who still gigs in the North East. My influences then were Pat Benatar, Steve was into Black Sabbath and Venom. I first met Steve White at college and we dated. Before he formed a band with me he was in Atomkraft with Tony Dolan who is now with Venom Inc. Steve and myself would write the songs together just by jamming. I had lyrics and give them to Steve who would write the guitar bits and Les added bass. I think Les wrote some songs too’.

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Where did War Machine rehearse and gig? ‘We used to rehearse in an old building. I think it was in Felling near Gateshead. It was horrible. The guys used to pee in Brown ale bottles as there were no toilets. I used to stand in a cardboard box with newspaper in to keep my feet warm. But we were skint and it was cheap. We did a few gigs around the North East and in Scotland. When we did a gig we went all out with the show. Pyrotechnics and explosions which always seemed to be going off near me! One night at Chrystals Arena in Scotland we set a ceiling on fire and got sent a £300 bill. We never paid of course. Couldn’t do that now with health and safety I don’t know how we got away with it. We even got offered a gig in what was then Yugoslavia. But they wouldn’t let us in because of our name. I remember we entered a Battle of the Bands held in Gateshead Brewery. We came second, or was it third ? War Machine would rehearse a lot before a gig, getting really tight and after playing many venues in the North East we ended up with a good fan base’.

What was your experience of recording ? ‘We recorded a demo at Neat records and on it was a song I wrote called Storm Warning. Dave Woods who owned Neat records, liked it so much he offered to record our album. The line up of the band that recorded was me, Steve and Les and we had Brian Waugh on drums. We didn’t get much time in the studio and we felt it was a bit rushed. Our album did pretty well abroad but we never received any royalties or from any other songs that were used on compilation albums. Dave Wood said all the money from the album paid for the distribution. (Nerd alert: War Machine released Unknown Soldier in 1986 on the Neat record label. An 8 track album including the tracks Power, On the Edge and No Place to Hide. The same year the album was also released by Roadrunner records in the Netherlands. Tracks by War Machine appeared on at least four compilation albums released in the 90’s). ‘We were young and naive so never questioned it. We were like many bands in that respect. We were played on a lot of radio shows across the world even the USA. I hosted the Alan Robson North East radio rock shows as he was a fan and played our music on his broadcasts’.

What happened next with the band ? ‘After a couple of years gigging I decided to leave the band as I got offered a job as a costume designer in London. It felt like the band was just doing the same round of gigs and I needed a change. Steve White the guitarist went on to play for Venom and Les went on to open Voodoo cafe. I worked in London for a few years where I did a lot of gigs with different bands’.

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What are you up to now, are you still in music ? ‘Being back home in the North East I have always played music and mainly my own. I write, record and produce my own songs. My style is very mellow now, a bit like me. Not like my wild days with War Machine which I really enjoyed’.

Listen: bernea on Reverbnation

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2018.
Recommended:
SATAN/BLIND FURY: Lou Taylor Rock the Knight, 26th Feb & 5th March 2017.
WARRIOR: The Hunger 12th April 2017.
FIST: Turn the Hell On, 29th April 2017.
TYSONDOG: Back for Another Bite, 5th August 2017.
ATOMKRAFT: Running with the Pack, 14th August 2017.
VIIXEN: Fox on the Run, 19th March 2018.