MOTLEY CREW – Beer, burger & a tenner as former stagehand Mark Johnson remembers the crazy Mayfair nights.

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We all remember our first gigs. Mine were Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Motorhead, Ozzy and Judas Priest at Newcastle City Hall and at the Mayfair with it’s over 18 policy was Tygers of Pan Tang, Raven and Hanoi Rocks with my last one before it was demolished, was the Fun Lovin’ Criminals in ’98.

I remember the distinctive green and orange day glo posters advertising gig’s at The Mayfair. Recently I talked with Mark Johnson who with his friends Dave Mitcheson and Steve Smith have recently opened Bad Moon Prints and aim to reproduce those iconic posters….

Basically we were reminiscing about all the great gigs we had seen at Newcastle Mayfair in it’s heyday. My first gig was the Pink Fairies in ‘76 and then I saw AC/DC, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Cheap Trick, there were loads. Every Friday we would be there.

We thought it would be a great idea if we could reproduce the gig posters from all the iconic acts that played the Mayfair including Zeppelin, Floyd, Sabbath, Queen, Bowie, The Who and Nirvana.

Very few, if any of the early originals are now in existence. We managed to get originals of the Led Zeppelin posters from both Sunderland and Newcastle in ’71. They were in very poor condition. But I have a few originals which I nicked off the wall from when I worked there (laughs).

When did you work at the Mayfair ? I was on the stage crew for a couple of years. My first job was in November ‘78 when AC/DC played. Then it was every Friday with the likes of Judas Priest, The Clash, Police, Cheap Trick, Ramones and Journey to name a few. I also worked at the Newcastle City Hall from summer ‘79 till around summer ‘81. I was in the same squad that also worked the Newcastle Polytechnic and Sunderland Mayfair which was a lot easier venue to load in.

How did you get on the crew ? I was a student at Newcastle College and this guy I knew who already worked there just asked if I fancied earning £10, a cheeseburger, drinks tokens and seeing AC/DC ? (laughs). We would start loading in from 11am and it ended up around 10 to 12 of us long haired types unloading two articulated trucks and taking the gear down an old service lift and using the fire escape stairs.

How much gear are you talking about ? Well these were big bands, AC/DC, Journey, Sammy Hagar, The Police, with all their sound and lighting gear, tons really. The band’s would have their own professional crew, we would just hump the gear in and out. Their crew would be the drum and guitar techs, lighting and sound guy’s etc. Those guy’s would know where everything went while we were just a rabble of young daft music fan’s getting in the gig for nowt (laughs).

When would the band appear ? They would rock up in the afternoon for the soundcheck, we would sit and watch them. Maybe hang around for a few drinks then go back to the hotel. When the bands were on stage we would either be tasked with doing follow spots, standing at the side of the stage or nicking their beer from the backstage area. Some of them were really canny  guy’s, usually the techs had more of an ego on them than the actual band members but we had some great laughs.

After the gig we would bring all the equipment back up the stairs. The load out would take until around 4-5am. I think one night it was Molly Hatchett’s sound desk that went flying back down four flights of concrete stairs because the local crew were rather a bit too refreshed. Their tour Manager wasn’t chuffed. We didn’t have any stage management or anything, half the time it was chaos and we used some dodgy characters. We were on the 5am train going home once and one of the lads had nicked half a side of beef from the kitchens which raised a few eyebrows.

Are there any stand out gigs that you can remember ? Yeah the Two Tone tour with The Specials, Selecter and Madness. Basically there was a sea of skinheads, mods and punks and there was one big fight from start to finish. Tables chucked off balconies. Mayhem. All of the stage crew had long hair so we just stood at the side of the stage or backstage and kept out of it. Think it was the night when the police with dogs turned up – or was that The Clash ?

Can you remember your last gig working at the Mayfair ? My last gig working there was The Clash. Around that time I had done 5 or 6 crew gigs in a row to save money to see Pink Floyd on The Wall tour. To be honest it wasn’t the most professional set up compared to the set up at  Newcastle City Hall. They had a plan to work from, a Stage Manager for a start. No alcohol whilst working, a set time to be there. A guy called Colin Rowell ran it and it was very well run. We were the best stage crew in England.

You have to remember most of the Mayfair gig’s would be on a Friday night, but there was concerts on at the City Hall every night. One night you could be loading in Motorhead and the next night it would be The La Sagesse School Choir (laughs) and the next night it would be Queen for two nights. By the end of the week there could have been a soul band on, an orchestra on, Shirley Bassey or someone like that and then back to a  big act like the Jam or UFO. So you were there virtually every night. Sometimes we used to sleep on the stage or back stage for the early load in next morning –Which usually involved mischief.

Can you remember your last working gig at the City Hall ? I think it may have been the Van Halen gig.They brought in enough gear to fill St James Park. It was ridiculous.

I think most of the Stage crew would not carry on doing it forever unless they get picked up by a band and go out on tour with them – which occasionally happened if they were crew down or get a job with a light or sound company. Some of lads I know went on to work for various lighting or sound companies, I know other lads, and lasses who went on to work full time for Ozzy, Queen and The Tubes. I eventually decided I needed a proper job (laughs) – with some regret later on when I heard their tales.

Now you’re involved in printing the posters of the bands that were on at The Mayfair…Yeah the main reason was to bring those long forgotten nights back to life. Anyone who went to either Sunderland or Newcastle Mayfair between ‘67 and ‘97 will know where we are coming from. These were great, great bands that defined a generation, whether you were a mod, punk, biker, rocker, hippie or whatever. Producing these posters will hopefully keep those memories alive and the spirit of those fantastic nights going. They were great times for live music, and personally from a nostalgic point of view that variation and quality of artists will never be repeated.

I’m sure everyone has their favourite Mayfair gig…Yes, for the folks in Sunderland it seems to be the Faces or Free, at Newcastle it seems to be one of the 6 or 7 times when AC/DC played. Or the nights when the Specials and Selecter came to town on their Two Tone tour.
The most interesting gigs for me is finding Pink Floyd played there in 1968 and the fact that Led Zeppelin played their first ever UK gig at the Mayfair as The Yardbirds.

This was a fact unearthed by North East music historian Marshall Hall who was met with derision by the Zeppelin ‘academia’ when he first published his findings. But they all had egg on their face once it was established as fact. This had been lost for years until Marshall’s discovery and now he has rewritten the Zeppelin history books. Another little fact was Queen supporting Vinegar Joe in ‘73 and another piece of history was Bowie just before he hit the big time.

How do you produce the posters ? The posters are produced to the exact original spec. It took painstaking research of the adverts in the British Newspaper Archives where we looked at dates, support acts, ticket prices and the promoters. We also researched all of the original fonts used on the posters, a lot of them now defunct.

After a period of about 6 months we started to reproduce and build the original posters. We had to purchase the original fonts and source the original day-glo paper. Which wasn’t easy as it isn’t cheap and now not widely produced. So the whole job has become a bit of a labour of love. Some of the originals have imperfections because they were done cheaply so we’ve even reproduced them to be as authentic as possible.


How many posters have you produced ?
There is about 50 on the site with more to come. You have to remember at the time these posters were a minimal no frill affairs with only the band, date and price on. They were produced as cheaply as possible. As it was left up to the Mecca to promote the gigs, very rarely were there any images on the posters compared to the bands that were playing at the City Hall up the road.

We really love these posters, we have enjoyed making sure they are spot on with regard to exact copies. Just great times. Great posters.

Check the official website at https://badmoonprints.com/

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2019.  

ASHES TO ASHES with Bill Beadle, singer & songwriter with UK heavy rock band Sacrilege

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Influenced by the big beasts of Metal – Sabbath, Priest and Purple – singer, songwriter & guitarist Bill Beadle formed UK heavy rock band Sacrilege in London in 1981.….Sacrilege’s first ever gig was at the 101 club in Clapham Junction, London in 1982 then we played across the South East and London including the Ad Lib club in Kensington, Green Gate in Bethnal Green and the famous Marquee in Waldorf Street. We also supported an early Iron Maiden line up.

Were the band labelled as NWOBHM and what did you think of it ? I think we are more tagged with the NWOBHM label now than we were then. I didn’t think of us as a particular genre I thought we were a heavy rock band. It didn’t worry me at all but people like to categorise.

I liked the Spellbound album by the Tygers of Pan Tang but didn’t really listen to many other bands of our age really as I was still into Sabbath and Priest then. I knew Weapon were doing really well supporting Motörhead. They are a top band and nice guys. But I was so preoccupied with Sacrilege I didn’t get that much time to go to see other bands.

What bands were gigging at the same time as Sacrilege in the 80s ? Warrior, Tobruk, Demon, Vardis, Spider, Dervish and Angelwitch to name a few. Bands I was still going to see were the bigger bands like Lizzy, Whitesnake, Kiss and Motörhead. They were all great bands.

Are there any recordings of your first line-up ? We recorded a demo tape for £100 at Elephant Recording Studios in Wapping, London. We recorded it through the night as it was cheaper to do it then. We also recorded a track called Ratrace at Teddington Studios. The song was to go on a compilation album with Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Saxon and Angelwitch to rival the Metal for Muthas album, but unfortunately it got shelved. There was a pop band on the record label called Go West, they just had a number one so the budget was poured into them.

Were Sacrilege active in the media, any newspaper stories or appear on tv shows ? Yes we were in Melody Maker and Sounds and the odd magazine. We played on the David Jensen Rock TV show as one of the new bands in the metal genre of 1983. In fact we were chosen out of thousand’s of tapes and records and were billed as the band of ‘83. Also appearing on that show were U2 and The Stranglers.

After that show we were booked to play in a club in Dover. We got down there done a sound check then went for a quick beer. We found a Heavy Metal club about 100 yards away and it was packed so we thought they must all be having a beer and then coming to see us. When we got back to the venue the bouncers on the door said no jeans or trainers!

We said we are the band and it’s heavy metal! They let us in and we found it was a Disco! We thought we are gonna go down like a lead balloon here. But after playing a couple of tracks and letting off a few pyros the crowd seemed to really enjoy our show, even if they weren’t exactly head banging (laughs).

 Sacrilege called it a day in 1987 but Bill started writing and recording again in 2007 and by 2012 looked at starting the band again…Yes now with different members who are based across the South East. Gillingham, Whitstable, Andover and Bristol. We’ve got Neil Turnbull on drums, he was with The Dervish. He joined in 2013 along with Jeff Rolland on bass. Paul Macnamara joined this year on lead guitar. Paul was former guitarist with UK rock/metal band Salem.

What has the new line up got planned ? We have been busy lately appearing in Fireworks magazine and have played alongside bands like Hell, Quartz, Onslaught and Witchfynde. Earlier this month we played a couple of dates in both Belgium and Germany.

We have Court of the Insane, our 7th album coming out on 16th August on the Pure Steel label and we have a couple of dates booked in at The Musician in Leicester 27th July and The Carlisle in Hastings 3rd August. More are being planned.

 Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2019.

PRESSING ISSUES with Peter Dixon & Keith Armstrong

Peter Dixon & Keith Armstrong.

Northern Voices Community Projects were set up in 1986 to give people who are denied a voice, a platform to express their views and experiences of living in the North East.

Peter Dixon and Keith Armstrong are behind NVCP and we arranged to meet in a pub along the River Tyne to find out more. The Alum House sit’s next to South Shields ferry, a handy place to meet as they are both from the North side of the Tyne. I recently talked to Keith and featured his interview on this blog, in it he talks about his writing and poetry. In this new blog Peter pick’s out some highlights and tell’s a few stories from his background.

I mentioned that the last time I interviewed anyone here it was Antony Bray, drummer of black metal band Venom…I remember Tygers of Pan Tang and all that heavy metal said Peter. But I’ll tell you about the time I worked during the day’s of the last gasps of hot metal (laughs).

From 1975-80 I worked for Northern Press newspapers which included the Wallsend News, Whitley Bay Guardian, Blyth News and where I was based, The Shields Gazette art department. We produced the graphics for adverts and things like that. This was in the day when old presses were still being used, it really was the last gasp of hot metal!

What people tend to forget is that in The Shields Gazette you had a major employer situated right in the town centre that produced the whole newspaper under one roof. About 250 people were working there with proper jobs and getting proper money. All buying their sandwiches, birthday cards and whatever in the shop’s right there in the centre of town. There was a little squad of us would regularly get in The Stags Head and the Dougie Vaults spending our money on a few beers. Sadly all those workers have gone now.

Before Northern Press I done some stuff for Vince Rea at The Bede Art Gallery in Jarrow and also designed single and album record covers for the Newcastle band Punishment of Luxury.

How did you get involved with them ? I was doing background scenery for The Mad Bongo Theatre Company and a member of the band, Brian Bond got in touch. Then I met Neville Luxury and the drummer Red Helmet. They done a single called Puppet of Life and Tony Visconti (Bowie, Bolan & Morrissey producer) reviewed it for Sounds newspaper. He described the sleeve that I done and said I was sick (laughs).

I also co-edited a monthly magazine called The Informer. That was distributed around the North East from Hexham, up to Blyth and down to Tyneside. We done around 10,000 copies a month and it ran from 2000-2010. It was originally for The Tyne Theatre but it became too expensive to run so became a magazine in it’s own right. It was a What’s On and live performance mag. It was meant as a gig guide that you could roll up and put in your pocket.

I ran it with my co-editor. He collated the live dates and information where I designed and wrote the press releases and interviews. We both used to sell advertising. Again running it became expensive so it folded.

What is the background to the Northern Voices project ? I worked with Keith who was a Community Arts worker in Peterlee and we always had some kind of publishing activity going on. It was an end result to our work in design, poetry and writing. Back in the ‘70s we were involved with Tyneside Street Press which was a bit radical. There was a whole collective of people working on it. A bit like your punk fanzines, printed on A4 but it was news stories we were doing.

Yeah it was a time when people could make their own papers and booklets said Keith. The idea was we could control the whole process from writing, printing and publish it all ourselves. It was a place where people could express themselves in their own words. We had connections with other city’s that were bringing out alternative newspapers.

Peter added A lot of poetry was going on then plus the art stuff. It was part of the pop culture, challenging the existing order and critical of what was happening. But there was always an interest of the indigenous population and what was going on.

Yeah said Keith it was the spirit of the ‘60s and ‘70s, the alternative idea’s sprouting up a bit like the music that was around then. There was a distinct northern voice, we always had something to say. It’s a fundamental idea and very democratic.

Keith talked about an earlier version they produced called Strong Words he said it lasted a few years and done a number of publications… It sold around 3,500 copies which was really good for us then, we sold it worldwide (laughs)…including South Shields. We used to go around interviewing people rather like what you are doing now for your blog. Some people were quite chuffed you know…Somebody’s bothered to knock on my door and asked about my life. Otherwise it would go unrecorded.

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Did you receive any funding ? We didn’t go to funding bodies then, we were autonomous. It gave us a freedom. We put together a publication called Missile Village which was about Spadeadam, a military test base, and it’s impact on the village of Gilsland in Northumberland. The Blue Streak Missile was tested there and at Woomera in Australia during the ‘70s. The general ethos is to give people a voice so we talked to the local villagers about the idea that the Government had decided to have a missile on their doorsteps. A farmer told us that it’s nowt but a puff of smoke.

Peter brings the story up to date and talks about work they are doing now… Mostly it’s history books funded by North Tyneside Council. Things on The Hartley Pit disaster, George Stephenson, the Wooden Dollie’s of North Shields and writer Jack Common. To an extent it’s easier now to do the whole thing yourself rather than farming it out to someone else. Not like the old days of laying it out for typesetting. The difference from the old days to now is that we are doing full colour. Back then a lot of it was single colour. To an extent there is a satisfaction of producing it yourself.

Keith checks his watch Well we’ve missed the ferry we’ll have to wait for the next one, might as well get another pint in. As for Northern Voices, yes we’ll keep plugging away.

For further information contact

http://www.northernvoicescommunityprojects.co.uk/Northern_Voices_Community_Projects/Welcome.html

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2019.

PIPES OF PEACE with Northumberland musician Chris Ormston

I’ve recorded various compilations of Northumbrian music but my first big break if you like was when I got a phone call one night in 1990… Hello it’s Peter Gabriel here. There is a rumour going round that I told him to f*** off because I never believed it was him (laughs). But it was and he was after some piping on his next recording. So I agreed to go down to his studio in Bath. He wasn’t really sure what he wanted and just said bring every pipe you’ve got. We worked in the studio until he found the sound he liked, which was Highland Pipes not Northumbrian.

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What’s the difference ? Highland Scottish pipes are mouth blown and mainly played outdoors. Northumbria Pipes are small, indoor instrument, blown by bellows. Not wanting to get too detailed here but you’ve got a drone going on which is a constant note playing behind so you’ve got your basic harmony going on behind the melody. The best pipe music is actually quite simple in it’s structure so it’s always chording and dischording against the drones.

How did the recording session go with Gabriel ? The pipes were mixed down and recorded onto the first song on the album Come Talk to Me. Sinead O’Connor sang on the track although I never saw her. He had brought in various musicians and sounds to add to what he had already recorded. That’s the way he worked. I got a credit and a flat fee for the work and really enjoyed the experience. Gabriel I found was very thoughtful and reserved unlike his stage performances, as a lot of musicians are don’t you think ?

(Us was Gabriels sixth studio album, recorded in Real World Studios and released in 1992)

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What is your background ? I live in Ovingham, Northumberland although I was born in Jarrow. I’ve played the pipes since I was 15 but before that I played the recorder at school which I picked up quickly and got good at, all learnt by ear. Teachers were always trying to teach me to read music but I was making good progress by ear. They sent me to the grammer school to have lessons on the clarinet. But in those days music was all about learning exercises and rehearsing not very interesting pieces so I didn’t have much commitment to it.

What first got you interested in music ? My dad was a music teacher and his brother made a name for himself as a semi-professional operatic singer. So music was always around when I was growing up. My dad died when I was 13 and I didn’t pick up the Pipes until I was 15. Later I found that my dad and my uncle wanted to learn how to play the pipes.

He was originally a joiner and my uncle was a butcher but they were both saving up money to go to music college. They ended up in the Royal Manchester College of Music and trained as music teachers. My dad played and taught piano, so there was classical music in the house and it was interesting because he never pushed me into playing anything. Sure he gave me a few lessons but never said Sit down and you must practice this. He made it sound more interesting if I would just try it out you know.

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Where you listening to any other music ? There was the operatic stuff from my family but I didn’t take to it and I started listening to Glam Rock (laughs). Slade were my thing then Prog Rock with Emerson Lake and Palmer, Yes and a band called Gryphon. Occasionaly still listen to that. You look back with affection for it, as it was part of your formative years. It’s hard to look back objectively because some of it might have been rubbish but it meant something to you then.

We talk about the moment at a concert when the lights go down, then the ‘roar’ of the crowd and the band launch into their first song. Yeah my mother used to say at Newcastle City Hall there was an excellent organ at the back of the stage that was totally spoilt when all these beat groups stated to play there (laughs).

Funnily the first rock concert I went to was around 1979 when I was studying Geography at Liverpool University and I saw Lindisfarne (laughs). It worked out really well in Liverpool because there was a good traditional music scene with lot’s of informal sessions most night’s of the week plus the folk club’s. I sort of learned the trade there.

It was a big challenge because I’d been playing the Pipes for around three years and in order to play I had to join in with the Irish music sessions. That was a steep learning curve to adapt to suit the Northumbrian Pipes.

I remember the first Garden Festival was held in Liverpool and I was playing with a Highland Pipe band at the time. We got a gig there, played our set and walked off. The first person I see is the actor John Pertwee dressed as Worzel Gummidge he said Ooh arr Pipes, I love the pipes especially Northumbrian. I ended up having a long conversation about Northumbrian Pipes with Jon Pertwee staying in his role as Worzel Gummidge (laughs).

What was the last gig you played ? The last gig I played was at the Morpeth Gathering with Katrina Porteous. (Featured interview Some Kind of Magic, April 27th 2019). There is a folk crowd who you reguarly see at the gigs, within that there are people who like different traditions of music and dance such as Scots or Irish folk as well as Northumbrian. The Morpeth Gathering is one place where all that comes together. People travel from all over the North East and come down from Scotland for these events. The performance with Katrina went really well. We’ve worked together on-and-off for 20 years. Originally we were both commissioned to do something for Northumbrian Language Society and we worked on that separately first then found out when we came together it all worked in a live setting. We’ve worked a lot like that.

What have you got planned this year ? I do a bit of teaching on the Pipes so there will be more of that. I’m off to Germany in July and Ireland in October with Newcastle Poet Keith Armstrong, that’s part of a Cultural Exchange trip. (Interview with Keith on More Than Words, April 15th 2019). In August I’m playing on a festival down in Sidmouth, Devon. Not a part of the country that I play very often so really nice to get down there.

I’m going to Devon by train rather than plane. One time I flew over to Amsterdam and security there knew what the Pipes were and said Ahh Doedelzak – that’s the Dutch word for Bagpipe. (laughs). Surprisingly, it’s usually the staff at Newcastle airport that don’t know what the Northumbrian pipes are!

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2019.

ON THE ROAD with author and former Iron Maiden roadie Steve Newhouse

Romford in Essex is where Steve Newhouse call’s home. He’s lived around the East End of London all his life and after leaving school with no qualifications he picked up various job’s in supermarkets and warehouses, he’s also worked for the Royal Mail… In 1995 I decided to have a change in career and joined Royal Mail. I worked for them for 21 years until retiring in 2016. I have since written four novels of which two have been released.

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Steve has recently found time to write down memories about the part of his life that he worked in the music business…I toured a lot with Iron Maiden, then with More, Di’anno, Wildfire and in later years with Michael Jackson, U2 and Spandau Ballet. I worked as a scaffolder, stage hand and crew supervisor.

First I was asked to write a column for on-line magazine Metaltalk. The column became really popular so was asked if I wanted to write a book.

When did you start working for bands ? About 1975. When I first started I was just a dogsbody helping carry the gear in and out of rehearsals or gigs. Then as things progressed with Iron Maiden, I got on so well with Doug Sampson that looking after him became the obvious choice. I was mainly a drum tech/roadie after that.

Doug Sampson was Iron Maiden drummer from 1978-9 before Clive Burr was in place and then Nicko McBrain took over the stool.

Steve remembers growing up with his friends and what music they were listening to as teenagers…First record I bought was probably the T. Rex single Ride a White Swan, and my first album was a cheap compilation of glam greatest hits. About ’73 or ’74 I went to my first concert at the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park to see Nazareth. T.Rex, Sweet, Bowie, Slade was my thing and later that turned to Purple, Sabbath, Zeppelin and Quo.

I grew up with a guy called Paul Andrews (Paul Di’Anno original vocalist with Iron Maiden) and whereas Paul’s taste’s were a lot wider, Reggae, Swing, Blues etc. some of his influences rubbed off on me. We always had friends that were either in a band or wanted to form one.  Paul always had a decent voice, and we were asked to join various bands with me playing bass. I wasn’t very good, so when the opportunity came to roadie for Iron Maiden I gave up playing bass.

Iron Maiden were one of the pioneers of what became known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Along with Sheffield’s Def Leppard and the Tygers of Pan Tang from Tyneside, they were at the very start of a nationwide musical movement.

I don’t remember much about the Tygers but I got to know the Leps fairly well and did a UK tour with them while working for More and Lionheart. Also in ‘81 the Maiden UK tour was opened by French band Trust. I can remember a gig at Newcastle City Hall, the crowd were great and people were jumping off the balcony onto the p.a stack!

I was at all the gigs pictured above. In the early days, Maiden were just another heavy rock band. I think it was Geoff Barton at Sounds who first used the term New Wave of British Heavy Metal and all of a sudden we were part of it. Things had been fairly quiet up until then, with punk rock all the rage. Suddenly rock band’s were springing up all over the country and got tagged with the NWOBHM label.

What are your thoughts when looking back on the time in the music business ? I have no regrets about being in the business. It was a great chance to be involved in something I loved. I got to work for some great people and met a lot more. I still have a lot of connections with my past. And I still believe now that Maiden are the hardest working band of any genre.

Any funny moments working for the band ? Yeah plenty. They’re all in the book (laughs).

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Loopyworld – The Iron Maiden years’ out now and available at https://www.loopyworld.co.uk/

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2019.

GET YER STRIPES – a year in the life of a Tyger with Glenn S Howes

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On 1st December 2017 this blog has a full interview with Glenn where he talks about his early years as a musician in the North East. Guitarist for Tyneside metal band’s Avenger, Blitzkreig, Fist, Tygers of Pan Tang and playing European festivals like Headbangers Open Air, Heavy Metal Night and Keep It True. As I’m in the process of tracking down former members of the Tygers I got back in touch with Glenn and we arranged to meet and talk about his time in the band….In ‘97 I re-joined Blitzkrieg. They were already heavily involved with Jess Cox (former Tygers vocalist) through the Neat Metal record label in Wallsend. Jess was co-managing the band and arranged for Blitzkrieg to appear on the ‘99 March Metal Meltdown festival at Asbury Park, New Jersey, USA. Excellent bands like Sweet Savage, Vicious Rumours, Sepultura, Overkill, Biohazard and Anvil were on the bill.

On the flight over to Philadelphia I was talking to Jess and he mentioned that he had been trying to organise getting the original Tygers back together. He also wanted John Sykes involved. Robb Weir was in but in the end Sykes turned it down. Also the original drummer and bassist didn’t want to do it. I seem to remember they had genuine personal reasons not to join. Jess just said to me Do you fancy having a go? I was to take on John Sykes role. I said yes! He also persuaded the then Blitzkrieg bassist Gav Gray to take on the bass role. Gav brought his good friend Chris Percy in on drum’s.

When we got back from the USA. I got a call from Robb asking for us to get together for a jam. Essentially checking me out (laughs). I tried to impress him with a few Eddie Van Halen licks (laughs). It went well. Rob said yes it’ll work lets go for it. Thank you Mr Halen.

I loved the Wildcat album back in the day and still think it was one of the best NWOBHM albums. In those days the Tygers were held in high regard and were tipped to be huge. I was so happy and excited to be doing this. So much so I served my notice with Blitzkrieg in ’99 and left them to concentrate on the Tygers that same year.

Where did you rehearse? We started rehearsing in a place under the Byker Bridge near Newcastle. We were booked on the bill for The Wacken Festival in Germany in August ’99, so rehearsals were for that gig during the Summer. I have good memories of those rehearsals. We then found out we were playing the Friday night but were surprised that not only was it a headlining slot, but above Saxon! I still don’t know why that happened it must have been a mistake or Saxon must have wanted to get away earlier.

What are your memories from that gig?  They used a rotating stage mainly to get the drum kit’s ready for the next band. We were ready at the back watching Saxon who were mind blowing. I was thinking we have to follow that! To say my bowels were loose would be an understatement (laughs). But it was a great gig, we went down well and got a lot of favourable reviews for our set.

I remember the intro that Jess wanted to play I think it was The Planets by Holst. We went on, played a few bars but the lights weren’t on. The lighting guy was fast asleep. Snoring his bracket off, now this was a major festival with Saxon and Dokken on the bill. We were told the audience was nearly 20,000. There was certainly a sea of faces that’s for sure. Robb Weir just ran straight over to the lighting guy and kicked him in the bollocks. Bang, wake up (laughs).

For stage clothes Me, Robb, Gav and Chris were wearing nothing flash just like jeans and t-shirt you know. But Jess decided to wear a cheese cloth suit! I asked him why and he said he liked to change the rules. It made him look like Jesus. It wasn’t an ironic piss take either. Just weird.

I’ve done thousands of gigs in different countries. Small and massive crowds but that was one of the highlights of my career. Headlining, getting that kind of attention, it can be mind blowing. Then you get back home and back to reality. Your mates say Have you had a canny weekend then? Me: Aye just played in front of 20,000 people with the Tygers of Pan Tang in one of the biggest festivals in Europe. Not everyone actually believed me. (laughs).

You weren’t a rockstar then? No (laughs) there’s a whole myth around that in my opinion. There’s an expectation to be throwing a TV out the window, shagging groupies and snorting ants or other stuff up your nose. But the truth is that is only a small minority of bands who do that and get away with it. To be a musician in a rock band is more me.

When I’ve played Festivals which ever country I am in and your meeting, talking to fans who bring cd’s and your signing stuff for them, that is the best part. They are showing their love and respect for the songs you wrote and recorded. It’s amazing.

I’ve seen people doing the rock star thing. Maybe that’s just their extreme personalities or its done for sensationalism. That’s up to them and I don’t criticize them for it. I like socialising and having a really good time but I’ve never snorted ants or thrown a tv out of a window (laughs).

I’ve just watched The Dirt movie about Motley Crue, was it all true? Did it give a musical background? and who were Mick Mars guitarist influences etc? No one really knows. There was no depth to it. As I’ve said a lot of this type of thing is done for sensationalism and to perpetuate the rock star myth. It sells.

Did you record with the Tygers? The Wacken show was recorded. Jess took the tapes back to Neat studio and we redone just a few bits. Jess arranged all of that via his label. That was licensed out to Spitfire Records and released in 2001. Basically the full set from Wacken gig. We did have a few new song ideas for a new album but nothing materialised from those sessions. I would have liked to have put some new stuff out. But it wasn’t long after that Robb decided not to take this version of the Tygers forward and leave behind the Jess Cox version. Much like he did when Deverill took over I suppose.

How long were you in the Tygers? Not long (laughs). About a year I think. The initial discussion between Robb and Jess was for there to be another album like the Wildcat era but it didn’t pan out. Looking back there wasn’t anything negative around the band and certainly no animosity that I was aware of. My only thinking is it just didn’t feel right for Robb. Maybe he would of liked the original members in the band. I’m not sure, better to ask him. I always got on well with Robb and for me he always had the right vision for the Tygers and I respect that.

I think Jess worked on a few other projects after that. He contacted me and talked about another Wildcat type project but by that point I wasn’t interested as had other projects on the go and it all seemed a bit late.

What do you think of the Tygers now? Since Robb created that new line up I think he has done a cracking job. They have been solid with some great musicians in the band. Before they went from the Wildcat era into the Deverill and Sykes period, Robb talked of needing something special to move the Tygers on and he was honest with that. Sykes and Deverill certainly added that extra ingredient. Deverill was a great vocalist and frontman. I think Robb did the same the 2nd time around post Jess Cox. They have brought out some impressive albums. I joined other NWOBHM heroes Fist as frontman/guitarist in 2013 and I stayed with them for over four years. We played a show with the Tygers and Avenger at The Cluny in Newcastle. I stopped and watched the initial part of their set and was gobsmacked at how great they are. An amazing band.

Looking back can you walk through that Wacken Festival Day? I can pick out the whole Tygers period. Good memories of rehearsing together then travelling over to Germany. The night before the gig me Gav and Chris went out on the town and were drinking with the locals, they were amazing and found them really friendly. We got a taxi back to the hotel and Gav and Chris went to bed and I stayed up for a tab (cigarette) as I smoked in those days. I sat outside the hotel and a guy got out of a taxi who I recognised but wasn’t sure as it was around midnight and dark. He walked up to me and said in an American accent Hey man do you mind if I sit down, are you going to the festival? I then realised he was one of my heroes, Don Dokken. We sat and chatted for hours. We talked about everything. Family, where we lived. We talked about music, guitars etc. He was a really cool guy.

Next day we bumped into each other backstage How ya’ doin’ Glenn. You know it was another highlight from the gig meeting him. Me, Gav and Chris were really happy to do it. Jess had his spotlight. Robb done his thing. Yes happy times. Fantastic memories.

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2019.

Recommended:

Steve Lamb March 25th 2019.

Jon Deverill Jan 22nd 2019.

Micky McCrystal Mar 17th 2017 & Jan 3rd 2019.

Fred Purser Dec 30th 2018.

Robb Weir Nov 5th 2017 & Dec 19th 2019.

Richard ‘Rocky’ Laws Aug 24th 2017.

Tygers of Pan Tang in Gaurdian Studio May 3rd 2018.

Steve Thompson June 27th 2017.

SONG FOR THE SIREN – Blues & Soul from Teeside with Emma Wilson

When did you first get interested in music and who were your influences ? My influences initially came from my mam. An inspired young woman who promoted Jazz gigs in the ‘50s. My Dad was a charismatic market trader who encouraged me to whistle and sing along to the funky ‘70s theme tunes like Kojak and Pink Panther. I’m sure that developed my ear.

My older sister’s and brother were playing records by Van Morrison, Little Feat, Funkadelic and of course Motown. But the first record I bought was from Austin’s Record Store in Middlesbrough. It was Aretha Now and quickly followed by Aretha Sings the Blues. Both record’s have shaped my development as a singer and I still perform track’s from both in my current set.

I used to sit for hours listening to the songs on vinyl especially anything on the Stax and Chess labels. Writing out the line-up, lyric’s and liner notes made me feel closer to the music and that I could get to know the people on the record. I suppose it was a bit of studying.

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Was there a defining moment listening to a song when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? Hearing Avalon by Roxy Music made me think I would love to be part of a band and make such wonderful sounds.

But a defining moment was seeing Heaven 17 on Top of the Pops singing Temptation. Carol Kenyon sings the iconic backing vocal. I was mesmerised. Her voice, her style, the way she looked. I remember wanting to be a singer from that moment.

Many years later I was booked as a backing singer for an advert for Barclays Bank. I didn’t know earlier that morning Carol had been in to lay down the lead vocal. I cried when I found out that I’d just missed her. But I did get to hear her down the cans (headphones) and ‘sing’ with her.

When and where did you start gigging ? I was 16 when I started gigging in and around the Teeside and North Yorkshire area. Simon my brother, had a guitarist friend called Graham Brotton who was in a band. Unbeknown to me, Simon told him I would sing with them. Bearing in mind by then I had only sung in school musical’s! Well one afternoon I was lying on my mum’s sunbed in the spareroom when this cassette came flying through a gap in the door and landed at my feet. You’ve got a gig in four day’s …learn this! Shouted Simon.

The songs on the tape were all soul tracks and after rehearsing with the band we played the gig and my youthful confidence got me through. I remember Tracks of my Tears was the first song of the set.

Simon had so much confidence in me and a great piece of psychology to get me to do my first gig, never having too much time to think about it. He is still my unofficial A&R with his finger on the pulse recommending song’s to add to my set.

Can you remember your first band ? I took every gig on offer and eventually put my own band together Ask the Cat. We played over in Scarborough at The Stage Door and had some great pub night’s around Teeside.

I had my own p.a which my parent’s bought for me from Bandland in Stockton – most girl’s wanted a car (laughs). It was a huge Peavey in a wooden case that I would load in the back of my mum’s Ford Estate and she would drive me to the next gig. I’d then unload it, tottering along in my stilletos, and set the sound up – not too much top on the mic, a bit of middle, being careful with the bottom end and a smiley face e.q. I can do it blindfolded now.

Did this early experience lead to new opportunities, playing to a wider audience ? My brother Simon and I joined LTK and the Barhops, a soul revue band from York. We done some Little Feat and Gospel tracks. A singer called Ken Pickering was also in the band. It was a great experience as we played University ball’s and club’s in Leeds and York. We had a great following and such a big sound.

I learned a lot about performing and technical stuff in those few years. You could say I had some of the sharp edge’s knocked off by the more experienced band members. That’s when I developed my big voice. I sung sweeter soul style track’s but in LTK I learned how to use my chest voice. It was no more chirping for me, it was get big or get off!

If there were no monitors I was never allowed to moan about it because the philosophy was you should know the song in your head, why do you need monitors ? Now when I ask sound guy’s to turn down monitors on loud stages, I’m met with bemusement.

Did you get to tour with name bands ? In 2002 I toured the UK supporting Fine Young Cannibals. Just me and a guitarist doing my own material. After the first couple of gigs I noticed the audience were mostly made up of women who were big fans of the singer Roland Gift. They saw the support act as just more time to have to wait and see him.

So I started to mention him in my set Oh I’ve just seen Roland getting his dinner things like that and they loved it. They’d just made a connection. After that they listened to my set and it made the gig’s easier and more fun. Roland thought it was hilarious and was extremely sweet to us. I also supported Mary Black at the Mean Fiddler in London for just one show, but that was a great moment.

Have you recorded any of your songs ? My first experience of recording was epic ! My brother and cousin were signed as 29 Palms by Miles Copeland to IRS Records in 1991. I was asked to sing backing vocal’s on both their album’s. I went from singing in pub’s to recording in The Chapel Studio in Lincolnshire with producer Mick Glossop. Mick had worked with musicians with the calibre of Van Morrison, John Lee Hooker and The Waterboys.

The Chapel was residential and I remember being so excited that Marty Pellow had been in my room the night before!

Mick Glossop was brilliant I basically got a masterclass from one of the legends of record making. He’s an amazing musician who knows how to put a sound together. I was so lucky to work with him at such an early point in my career. Vocals on the 29 Palms album required a much more intimate and harmonically complex sound than I had ever used vocally. I done 6 or sometimes 8 layered vocal track’s all on tape not digital. I still use the techniques he taught me today.

He subsequently booked me to add backing vocals on a single by Martyn Joseph on Sony records. We just missed out on doing Top of the Pops as the single stalled at number 31.

I also recorded for songwriters when pitching to big artist’s and pretty much sure of doing Candy Man in a kitchen in Notting Hill Gate. Christina Aguillera recorded that one. Also done scores of TV advert stuff and recording sessions when session singers could do really well. But auto-tune came along and ballsed that up for us.

That was around the time when I started running my own music night’s. Starting in 2000 for ten year I was running my own Live Nights London at five venue’s across the capital mainly working out of The River Bar on Tower Bridge. I met great friends and loved promoting duo’s and band’s but I never gigged much myself then.

What are you up to now ? I am very lucky to be still involved in music. I have my own band and we are gigging around the UK on the blues scene, which has embraced me with such warmth and encouragement.

For more information contact the official website http://emmawilson.net/

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Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2019.