VINYL JUNKIES – Gary Payne, 7 songs that shaped his world

The love for vinyl has always been there and many stories are attached to it. There is whispers in some quarters that vinyl is back, and they are getting louder. Not in the same numbers that it was in the pre-cd day’s of the 70’s and 80’s, but the records are up on display shelves of record shop’s. There is hundred’s of reasons why we like a certain song. Vinyl Junkies is looking for the stories behind them.

Promoter/Manager/Label owner/Vinyl collector – just all round music lover Gary Payne got in touch…

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‘Back in the 80’s I co-edited a punk fanzine ‘Still Dying’ with my friend Will Binks, and along the way managed a few bands here and there. I recall my sister buying me a copy of Lonely this Christmas by Mud for a present. It had a “to” and “from” printed on the front sleeve, which my sister actually filled in with biro. Being someone who progressed onto collecting vinyl, this heinous act of defacing a picture sleeve should surely be worthy of a lengthy spell at her majesty’s pleasure. 

By early ’78  and ’79 , myself and my friends were becoming increasingly attracted to the many bands emerging on the punk scene and I think we could all sense there was just a different feel to what we had been into previously. In the days when the local cinemas always featured a supporting film to the main feature, a trip to see Ray Winstone in Scum was preceded by the short film Punk Can Take It, which was basically the UK Subs in concert.The flame was lit and burned brightly as we meandered our way through many bands that were emerging onto the scene. 

Aged 16, myself and my cousin made the trip to Newcastle Mayfair in an attempt to see the UK Subs. The night suddenly took a turn for the worse when an over zealous bouncer refused to believe that I could be 18 and therefore wouldn’t let me in. Soon after, we took in our very first gig, Buzzcocks at Newcastle City Hall, although we couldn’t help think that the singer of the support band was a right miserable bastard! Still, I suppose Joy Division, and Ian Curtis in particular, had their well documented demons. I recall standing at that gig commenting to my mate how sad it was to see there were 2 fella’s next to us who must have been in their 50’s. Today, as a regular gig goer, I still wonder if the younger attendees look at me and my mates with the same level of disdain. In true punk rock style though, I don’t care what they think, but in years to come they will hopefully come to know that punk is like a favourite toy you just can’t put down.

I grew up with a new found air of independence and took on the mantle of organising our trips around the country to see a few of my heroes. Highlights would include Dead Kennedys in Liverpool, with Jello in magnificent form, as well as The Clash at Brixton Academy. A few memorable trips were also on the agenda, namely Chron Gen at Preston and Vice Squad at Worksop, the latter of which made us known to the late Dave Bateman, Vice Squad guitarist and all round decent bloke. To add to that, I could have died a happy man after the night we interviewed The Ramones for our fanzine at the Thistle Hotel in Newcastle, just after their Mayfair gig.

Their were lots of gigs that were brilliant along the way, but I especially recall the Christmas on Earth festival at Leeds as being a fun day out, not to mention us being chuffed to bits that the aforementioned Dave Bateman actually remembered us as we passed Vice Squads merch stall. It seems ridiculous reading that back, but to a fan, it meant, and still means everything, perhaps more so as he is no longer with us. I had a lot of friends who turned their hands to playing in various bands, but being blessed with the musical talents of a goat, I had to find some other outlet for my enthusiasm. It was soon after when I decided to put my organisational skills to great use by managing a local band called Public Toys.

Comprising a few of my friends, I would like to think my efforts went some way to raising their profile and their guitarist Robby remains a close mate to this day. My next foray into management saw me take the reins for a band from Peterlee called Uproar. On hearing them, it was hard not to realise that they were a cut above the rest, and several ep’s and albums went some way to confirming that. We endured a long and partly successful partnership over the coming years and again, the band and the punks in their local area remain some of the

finest people I have ever met. In the mid 80’s, I coincidentally timed the lull in the punk scene with meeting my beautiful wife and starting a family, although my love for all things punk never waned. In the 90’s, a host of punk bands seemed to be reforming and over time, the scene became as vibrant as it ever was. I still had the urge to contribute to the scene in some way, so I started my own label Calcaza Records. I started a free website and advertised for any interested bands to send me recordings or demos and all would be considered for inclusion. I have never been money orientated and my only aim was to get as many unknown bands heard by more people. It was important to me that I included a booklet with all lyrics and full contact info for all bands as this would be a starting point hopefully, should anyone discover a band they might like. Maybe it was seen by some as naive, but those that know me will know that I just love being involved in music, so if I made money, great….if I didn’t so what. Most bands who appeared on the 2 cd’s I released took on board my intentions, but one band in particular, who shall remain nameless, were as unhelpful as they could be and had no interest in anything but themselves. 

After my 2 cd’s, I turned to promoting, and put on a few gigs in the North East, again, with no real intention other than to put good gigs on, and hopefully not lose too much money in the process. A John Cooper Clarke promotion made me a fair bit on one occasion, although on the whole, I probably lost more on my other gigs. My main aim was that bands were paid fairly and no one took the piss…..2 criteria that a lot of promoters seem to overlook these days. In the last few years, my son, a very talented musician in his own right, has been in several bands, all of which I seem to have fallen into managing, and I have genuinely loved being involved. Charlie Don’t Dance, for me the best of them, were very poppy, but very, very good, and even though they were a world away from punk, they were pure quality. It all just goes to prove that there are thousands of excellent bands out there, many of whom we will never get to hear, so it’s good that there are folk in this world to give them a helping hand in whatever way they can. 

As I creep past my mid 50’s, I still attend punk gigs and I still get the same buzz I always did and hopefully that will never change. Recent bad health meant I have to take things a bit easier than I used to, but I must profess to joining in with my mate Will Binks during a recent Skids gig and doing the Jobson kick in the middle of ‘Into the Valley’. In all honesty, a lie down afterwards would have been appreciated! On a recent trip shopping with my daughter, I spied a young chap with a Dead Kennedys t shirt serving behind the counter. I was tempted to stay quiet but couldn’t resist almost bragging that I had seen them back in the day when they were at their finest. The lad in question, who must have been about 20 years old, looked me up and down and said, ‘Do you know what it is mate? Old fella’s like you make the scene what it is!’ Cheeky young git, but you know what?…..I kind of like that comment. So, to you all, like what you like and never apologise for it. For me, it will always be punk rock, and that is something I am especially proud of’.

Here are 7 songs that shaped Gary’s world.

1. Sex Pistols: Bodies (1977)

‘Being a punk in those days still upset a lot of people and we embraced the fact that it was fun being differently dressed to the majority of other people. With my tartan bondage trousers, Pistols t shirt and occasionally a chain and padlock around my neck, I revelled in the glory of it. One day we were at my mates house and we spied the Jehovas Witnesses doing the rounds in the local area. Mischievously we tried to come up with a way to get rid of them. The plan was to have the chorus to Bodies playing on full volume just as the guy knocked at the door. Anyway, my mate Geoff answers the knock and as the guy begins talking, the volume was cranked up, and the obscene chorus to Bodies kicked in. Behind muted grins, we revelled in the profanities coming from Johnny Rottens mouth and we felt sure the fella would move on to his next person. To our surprise, he stood back and said ‘Ah, the Sex Pistols….great band!’  We just stood there open mouthed whilst the fella just laughed and walked off’.

2. B Movie: Nowhere Girl (1980) 

‘Like most people, I have never given up hope that one day I will discover a hidden talent that will enable me to play in a band, and when that day comes, I will write a song just like this one by B Movie. My love of punk steps aside to find one of the catchiest pop tunes you will ever hear. I must stress that it is the 12″ extended version that captivates me, and I have always advocated a song going on and on…and on, if it is catchy. The way the song starts with a simple tune and then just builds and builds is a work of pure genius. It is a song I will never tire of’.

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3. Big Country: Chance (1983)

‘My love of The Skids endeared me to the talent that was Stuart Adamson and after their demise. I followed his next band Big Country with high expectations. I was not to be disappointed, and their first album The Crossing was magnificent. Stuart took the reins on lead vocals and guitar and kept me enthralled until his sad passing several years later. One song in particular showcased the raw emotion of the band and it was Chance. Watching them play live always was an awesome experience and to hear the crowd take over the chorus of this song at every gig never failed to move me. It is still a song I find it difficult to listen to for emotional reasons,but it is pure quality’.

4. The Boys: First time (1979) 

‘I bought my first ever compilation album, 20 of another kind, with a spikey,yellow haired punk on the front,which instantly grabbed my attention. It contained several classics, and amongst them was this song by The Boys, which remains one of my favourite songs of all time. Aged 16, I never really got what the song was about, but years later I did ! It cemented my love for pop punk and that is something that has always stayed with me’.

5. The Stranglers: Always the Sun (1986)

‘On meeting my future wife in 1985, I persuaded her to join me in my passion for collecting 7″ singles, although a lot of the punk bands I liked had temporarily called it a day, which meant we bought quite a lot of poppier stuff. Artists such as Status Quo, Madonna and A-ha took up residency in a red vinyl singles box under the bed, but the jewel in the crown was my copy of Always the Sun by The Stranglers. Since the release of the brilliant Golden Brown years earlier, The Stranglers were showing themselves to be a lot more commercial, and this song is just wonderful. Even at recent gigs, you will be hard pressed to find a better performance of any song in their sets, and to hear the crowd singing the chorus just goes to confirm that’.

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6. The Ruts: Jah War (1979)

‘The Ruts debut album The Crack, showed them to be a cut above a lot of the other punk bands around at the time. Fusing punk with reggae was never gonna be easy, but they made it look so. Documenting the vicious attack by the police on a black friend of theirs, they produced one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. Malcolm’s vocals are sorely missed and never bettered than on this recording. It upset me greatly when he died prematurely and I still recall a friend telling me the news whilst at college doing my apprenticeship, ironically wearing my Ruts t shirt that very day. I immediately went home and put this song on’.

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7. Flux of Pink Indians: Neu Smell – Tube Disasters (1981)

‘I used to visit my local record shop, Callers at the Nook shopping centre in South Shields, and I would often buy most of the new punk stuff they had bought in each week. Yes, I ended up with the odd rubbish single, but boy did I hit lucky with this one. I have never been a massive fan of the many bands that affiliated themselves to the anarchist scene, but this song by Flux of Pink Indians just has it all. Angry vocals integrate with a catchy beat that just sucks you in. It is a song I still play regularly and love. Whenever I play it now for some reason I feel the need to text my mates and rave about how good this song still is. I’m sure they’re all sick of me, but I’m still gonna keep doing it !’ 

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2018.

Recommended:

VINYL JUNKIES:

Will Binks July 7th 2017

Martin Popoff July 12th 2017

John Heston August 3rd 2017

Neil Armstrong August 11th 2017

Colin Smoult August 29th 2017

Neil Newton September 12th 2017

Tony Higgins October 11th 2017

Vince High December 11th 2017.

DEFENDER OF THE NORTH – Guardian Recording Studio stories #3

Gaurdian Sound Studio’s were based in a small village called Pity Me in County Durham, North East UK. ‘Pity Me’ features later in this story by Steve Thompson, songwriter and ex producer at NEAT records. There are various theories on the origin of the unusual name of the village – a desolate area, exposed and difficult to cultivate or a place where monks sang ‘Pity me o God’ as they were chased by the Vikings. Whatever is behind the name it was what happened in two terraced houses over 30 years ago that is the focus of this blog. They were home to a well known recording studio. From 1978 some of the bands who recorded in Guardian were: Neon, Deep Freeze and Mike Mason & the Little People. A year later The Pirahna Brothers recorded a 7”. 1979 saw an E.P from Mythra and releases in 1980 from Hollow Ground, Hellanbach and a compilation album, Roksnax. From 1982 to 85 bands including Red Alert, Toy Dolls, Prefab Sprout, Satan, Battleaxe and Spartan Warrior had made singles or albums. I caught up with a number of musicians who have memories of recording in Guardian… 

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STEVE THOMPSON: (Songwriter) ‘I had quit as house producer at Neat Records in 1981. I had begun to realise that I was helping other people build careers whilst mine was on hold. I was becoming bogged down in Heavy Metal and whilst there’s no doubt I’m a bit of a rocker, I really wanted to pursue the path of a songwriter first and foremost. Production might come into it somewhere along the line but I wanted that to be a sideline, not my main gig. So I set about composing the song that is the subject of this story, ‘Please Don’t Sympathise’. This is what happened.

I had just cut a single with The Hollies. Bruce Welch of The Shadows was in the production seat for that recording in Odyssey Studios, London. I signed a publishing deal with Bruce and remember signing the contract at Tyne Tees TV Studios in Newcastle, Hank Marvin was witness. Bruce had heard an 8 song demo of my songs and selected 4 favourites from it. He asked me to make some more advanced demos of those 4. I could have gone into Neat/Impulse Studio but I still wanted to carve new territory so I went to Guardian Studios in Pity Me, County Durham. I played bass, keyboards and guitar on the session with Paul Smith on drums and I brought my old mate Dave Black in to do vocals. I spent two full days on those demos, Bruce Welch was paying and he really wanted me to go to town on the production. Then a producer called Chris Neil entered the story. Chris had worked with Leo Sayer, Gerry Rafferty, A-Ha, Rod Stewart, Cher and others. Chris and I had just had a massive hit with his production of my song Hurry Home. Chris was by now having a bit of a love affair with my material. Chris had asked Bruce to give him first dibs on any of my new songs that came along. He picked up on two from the four songs I’d just demoed in Guardian. One of them he sang himself under the band name Favoured Nations. But the recording pertinent to this story is his production of Sheena Easton’s new album Madness, Money and Music. He recorded my song Please Don’t Sympathise for that album. The album did very well. It went top 20 in the UK, peaking at 13. It also charted in several other countries and did particularly well in Japan’.

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‘About a year later Celine Dion also recorded the song in French ‘Ne Me Plaignez Pas’. It was a huge hit single in Canada and certified Gold status. The album it was featured on sold 400,000 copies in Canada and 700,000 copies in France. I never did go back to Guardian but that is a lot of action from just one demo session. Interestingly, the literal translation of Ne Me Plaignez Pas is Please Don’t PITY ME ! Spooky huh?’

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‘These days I’m doing this song and many others that I wrote for various artists with my own band. I’ve uploaded a video collage here https://vimeo.com/266141205. It starts with the Guardian demo with Dave Black singing. The demo doesn’t sound that sophisticated after 37 years but that’s where it started. Then there are clips of the Sheena and Celine versions and then my band doing it live. Sadly Dave Black is no longer around to sing the song as he did on the demo but Terry Slesser does a fine job of it. Jen Normandale comes in on the bridge in French ala Celine!’  www.steve-thompson.org.uk

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This needs to be confirmed by a visit down to Pity Me, but  a quick search of 26-28 Front Street on google maps reveals a well known supermarket where the two terraced houses were. I wonder if customers buying their tins of beans and bananas know the rich musical history that Gaurdian Studios contributed to recording in the North East. The Tap & Spile is just next door, was that the pub where many of the bands went for refreshment ? If anyone has information or recorded in Guardian studios it’ll be much appreciated if can you get in touch.

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2018.

Recommended:

Kev Charlton HELLANBACH: The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

Steve Thompson (NEAT Producer) Godfather of NWOBHM, 27th June 2017.

Richard Laws TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Tyger Bay 24th August 2017.

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

ROKSNAX: Metal on the Menu, 9th March 2018.