How did the Geordie reformation come about?
Peter Barton from ‘Rock Artist Management’, who handled The Animals when I was a member during the ’90s and early 2000’s, called me and asked, ‘What are the Geordie guys up to these days?’ I told him I wasn’t sure, but said I’d have a word with Tom Hill (original bass player) to see if he was up for a reformation.
Tom was interested, but said we’ll need a singer who can handle the dynamics and range of original vocalist Brian Johnson, now of course with AC/DC. Both bands occupy the same stable and play in the same keys (laughs).
I last saw Brian Johnson on TV interviewing fellow musicians on ‘Life on the Road’. A great show including an episode with Dolly Parton who revealed she wrote ‘I Will Always Love You’ and ‘Jolene’ in the same session. Kerching. Back to Geordie. Johnna might be a bit busy for this job?
Indeed. We went to see a few local guys but didn’t really feel we’d found a match for what we required. It’s not an easy gig to sing. Then Peter came up with this guy from Lancashire called Mark Wright, now an honorary Geordie (laughs).
He was singing in Bon, an AC/DC tribute band. Peter sent us a link to some YouTube videos. We weren’t immediately convinced.
However, Peter was and persuaded us to come down to Clitheroe, to audition Mark with four songs of our choosing, at his expense. Just to have a run through, see what we thought in the flesh as it were.
We were shocked how good it sounded, and so relieved we didn’t judge Mark on the YouTube videos alone (laughs).
So, now suitably convinced, Tom got in touch with Brian Gibson (original drummer) to see if he wanted to be part of this new venture. Brian said he was happy to step behind the drum kit once again. We did our first rehearsal and the band sounded great from the get-go.
Was original guitarist Vic Malcolm interested in the reformation?
We got in touch with Vic in Cyprus and asked, if it became practical in the future, would he be interested in joining in with live work. He declared that some annoying health issues meant he couldn’t commit to that but would be on board for any new writing and recording. That was great as he was the main songwriter. He’s still a prolific songwriter to this day.
We’ve already started writing new material because we don’t just want to keep trading on Geordie’s back catalogue alone. We want to avoid the nostalgia trap.
How did you set about working in Geordie?
I was already familiar with their music, just good old rock n roll, classic rock, simple hooks. It’s all about capturing that magical vibe. Really enjoyable to play, with some great tongue in cheek ‘70s lyrics which are of their time.
Much of today’s music can be a bit serious, sometimes people want songs to distract them from the stark reality of life.
What type of venues are you looking to play?
We’re looking at festivals, theatres and typical rock music venues. These days, package tours are very popular, so we’re looking in that direction as well. That sort of thing would be great, as getting on something like that would expose us to other bands’ fans.
In Germany they’re still very much into bands like Geordie and welcome them with open arms. It’s a shame the band stopped playing a while back, as it takes a concerted effort to get the wheels in motion again. We just need to get out there and show what we can do.
We booked a gig at The Cluny a few months ago, and we asked Dee Dowling from Ginger Music Company in Pelaw, where we were rehearsing, to come along and record it.
The intention was to put together a promo package. We had the backdrop, photographer, merch, the lot. It was a fantastic gig and the money we made from it paid for everything.
We’ve just released the promo video, because it’s very difficult to get gigs on the circuit we’re aiming for, if you don’t have any kind of professional package to sell yourself.
After only one month it’s had thousands of views on social media so it’s doing its job. We are very pleased with how it turned out.
Can you remember watching music programmes broadcast on Tyne Tees Television, like Alright Now and The Tube?
Yeah, both those programmes. I think Alright Now was presented by Chris Cowey and Lynn Spencer. I remember The Geordie Scene more than Alright Now. That was around 1973-75 and I think it was the first music programme from the Tyne Tees stable.
I saw many local bands on there as well as the popular bands of the day and it was the first time I saw Dr Feelgood, who were very impressive.
What does music mean to you?
I’ve always had a major passion for music. I lost my dad when I was 12, so throughout my teens I was on my own because my mother had to go out and work as a barmaid. Music got me through all that.
I totally immersed myself in playing the guitar. I still have a passion for playing and could quite happily do it for a living again.
Ironically, these days I seldom enjoy just listening to music. I rarely have music on the radio in the house or car and hardly ever listen to CD’s or albums at home. I’d rather just play music. I think it’s been so long since I heard anything that inspired me.
The last time I remember being affected by something I heard, was back in the early ‘90s with The Black Crowes. Their first album had just come out, it sounded really organic, what I would call a proper performance recording, not a layered production like a Def Leppard sort of thing. But yeah, nothing’s really turned my head since in terms of an epiphanic moment (laughs).
Are you looking forward to any gigs this year?
In January this year we played ‘The Giants of Rock’ in Minehead and the ‘Rock and Blues Festival’ in Skegness and we really stormed both of those, we did the business. This confirmed what we already felt about the band. There were a lot of reviews from the press and punters raving about us.
We’re currently talking to journalists in London about which venues to play down there and in particular, which ones are best for getting the band exposure. It’s hard to get gigs, you can’t just turn up and expect a crowd. You’ve got to do the groundwork first.
Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2019.