I first started work in 1968 when I was 16, I worked with a guy who was in the Jasper Hart band here in the North East. I used to go around with them and decided I wanted to learn guitar and join a group. Then one night at the Sunderland Monkwearmouth Club the singer asked how I was getting on with learning the bass guitar, he was very encouraging. Then half way through the set and totally out of the blue he asked if I wanted to join him on stage and do a couple of songs. Well that was it, I got the bug. The singer was AC/DC’s Brian Johnson – and that’s my claim to fame (laughs).
What band were you in and where did you play your first gigs ? Me and some friends – Micky Duncan, Mary Downing and Micky Fenwick – took on Hire Purchase agreements to buy equipment for a band called Alcatraz. It was seven nights a week supporting the Bingo in working man’s clubs.
One night in Hartlepool the Concert Chairman knocked over an amplifier and didn’t apologise. The bass player Mick Fenwick said Don’t worry I’ve dealt with it. The Concert Chairman used a Bingo machine, it was a big plastic see through box and inside were ping pong balls with the numbers on, when he switched it on the balls were blown to the top by air and he would pick one out. Well I looked over and could see them floating about in the box – Mick had filled the Bingo machine with beer! The Concert Chairman turned on the machine in front of the audience – I’ve never heard a club laugh so much. In the end we were paid off and banned from Hartlepool (laughs).
That band were out working a lot and in the end Mary left so that was the finish of Alcatraz.
Did you record any of your songs ? After the stint in the working man’s clubs I got together with a musician called Colin Lumsden – we went under the name Queer Band who were active from 1974-76. We played original music, just trying to do something really different from the club scene. The line-up was me on guitar, with bass/vocals and sax from Colin and Geoff Pybus on drums.
We recorded at Morton Sound Studios in Newcastle, it was a two track studio, and we made acetates from the recording. Then played a showcase gig for EMI at the Chelsea Cat in South Shields, but unfortunately didn’t get signed. Then Colin went on to better things when he fronted Radiation in Sheffield then went to South Africa.
I stayed in the North East, this was the late ‘70s, and recorded a track at Impulse Studios in Wallsend. The song was called Hang Jack about the Yorkshire Ripper who at the time was terrorising the country. The track was played in clubs throughout the country and one day the Police turned up at my house. I was interviewed and had to give a hand writing sample. My parents were also interviewed asking if I was ever away from home. Yes he plays in a band and if he was responsible we would be the first to tell you.
In the early ‘80s I formed Tokyo Rose – Me, Val Ophfield, Graham Bradley, Geoff Pybus. A gig was arranged at Annabels club in Sunderland and some rep’s from CBS came all the way up from London to see us play. But nerves got the better of us and they left without saying goodbye.
Before that Tokyo Rose had recorded a single called Dry Your Eyes at Guardian Studios in Durham. Noddy Holder from Slade reviewed it for the Record Mirror. He said we were a great band but we should go to a bigger studio. This upset the producer Terry Gavaghan and we felt it was unfair as Terry was heavily involved with the track and did a brilliant job playing and producing.
Years later I heard from Vinyl Dealers that the single was selling for £100 in Japan. This prompted me to dig out the music and video and put them on social media. In the meantime I learned how to build websites so I created www.tokyorose.biz
I realised my gigging days could no longer be funded so I built a studio with Pete Barclay who used to play for North East band Lucas Tyson. We wrote and recorded songs under the name Tokyo Rose. We released them on the internet and also released a CD which featured all original songs. Our musician friends, Dave Ditchburn, Rob Foster and Dave Donaldson came in as guest vocalists.
What are you doing now ? I still write and record songs under my name Derek Buckham AKA Tokyo Rose and thoroughly enjoy it. It’s not about the past it’s about what’s happening in your life right now. I still enjoying writing hence my suite of Lockdown Songs – Angels in Blue, The Lady that Saved My Life and The Year That Never Was.
Would I do it again ? Don’t need too, I’m still doing it !
For more information check the official website:
Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2020.