Looking through back issues of the UK music weeklies for a mention of North East bands, I came across a screaming headline from a Motorhead gig review – Raw Meat in the Sonic Mincer – Yep, that be ‘reet for the ‘heed.
Sounds or NME was always knocking about our house, pocket money bought a copy for 25p. We could read exclusive interviews with bands out on tour promoting their latest album, check forthcoming UK gig dates or look at artwork for new albums.
The music weeklies were always something to look forward to – even though half the print rubbed off on your fingers.
Sounds had a mix of rock and punk interviews with Ozzy/Halen/Upstarts. NME featured alternative and post punk bands Damned/Cramps/Costello. Take your pick of front covers splashed with Strummer/Coverdale or Kate Bush.
This post highlights Sounds issue 4th October 1980. The music weekly has a Geoff Barton interview with Ozzy Osbourne who had just been sacked by Black Sabbath. With Ozzy in a full blown howling blizzard of cocaine and alcohol, he formed a new band – Blizzard of Oz with Randy Rhoads, Lee Kerslake and Bob Daisley.
Ozzy said in the piece ‘I was panicking, wondering whether my voice would pack in, whether I could still handle it’. He had nothing to worry about as he still toured and recorded for 40 years leading up to Covid.
On page 2 among stories of another tour date for XTC, there was a piece about Ian Gillan
‘putting the mockers on suggestions that he will be taking part in a Deep Purple reunion’.
Further down the page the article mentions a connection to the North East, this one really close to home with The Customs House in South Shields nearby. A close look sees a paragraph on
‘South Tyneside Arts and Music Association buying the Customs and Excise building for £1. Trouble is it’s going to cost £400,000 to renovate’.
To raise funds the South Tyneside Arts & Music Association set about organising gigs. The article added ‘They are staging gigs this month at South Shields New Crown Hotel with Raven on the 9th, and Erogenous Zones with Night Flight on the 23rd’.
The Association also held a festival headlined by The Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. Unfortunately the challenge proved too great and Tyne & Wear Development Corporation took over renovations with a Government grant.
Today, The Customs House is a theatre, cinema and arts centre. Latest bookings at the venue have been bands on the tribute circuit, Tina Turner Experience, The Carpenters Gold and the ELO show. Over the years the centre has seen gigs by Ray Davies, Ian Hunter, Judie Tzuke and Belinda Carlisle.
10 mile up the Tyne in Gateshead is The Sage which opened in 2004, it has developed into a top class venue. I talked to Ray Spencer back in September 2018 and asked him what changes had he seen since becoming Director of the Customs House in 2000 ?
‘In terms of music programming the thing that impacted most was The Sage. When Customs House opened there was no Gala in Durham, there was no Exchange in North Shields, there was no Sage or Baltic in Gateshead and no 10 screen multi-plex up the road in Boldon.
When The Sage opened it just destroyed our guitar festival, a lot of musical acts that used to come here simply stopped. They were going there to play a big shiny building. So our music content has been damaged’.
Included in the music weekly is a regular feature reviewing new singles. The record of the week is Change/Requiem by Killing Joke. The reviewer was not too kind on Thin Lizzy single Killer on the Loose, ‘Disapointing, highly predictable’ or Army Dreamers by Kate Bush ‘Poor little rich girl having another breath of social comment. Any message is effectively obliterated by Miss Bush’s dentist drill warbles’ ouch!
Page 36 has the albums review. Four out of five stars for Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police featuring Wallsend born Sting ‘it’s a record that comes truly from three diverse experienced men without any pandering to their status’ (Phil Sutcliffe).
A five star review for The Plasmatics, ‘Buy this record, it firmly establishes The Plasmatics as Americas foremost bozo punk band (Steve Keaton).
There is four and a half stars for a very young looking U2 and their new record Boy ‘maybe their multi-layered sound might steer them off the chartwise course, but if it’s plain simple feeling you want – there’s cupfulls in here’ (Betty Page).
Flicking through the back pages the UK gig list has dates at London venues for two NWOBHM bands from the North East. Tygers of Pan Tang from Whitley Bay, are on at the Marquee, and White Spirit from Teesside, opening for Gillan at Hammersmith Odeon.
On Monday 6th,Tyneside rock band Fist, opened for UFO at Bristol Colston Hall. I interviewed drummer Harry Hill back in March 2019, and asked him about his memory of that UK tour…
’We had a great time. I remember we were playing Hammersmith Odeon and a guy was heckling us. Really pissed me off. So I put my sticks down, jumped off stage and chased him into the foyer to give him a good kicking. Thinking back, the Hammersmith had a high stage so I must have been fit to get down and run after him (laughs)’.
In support of their new album on Beggars Banquet, Fight Amongst Yourselves, The Carpettes, who formed in Houghton-le-Spring, have four dates with one at Newcastle Cooperage on October 8th. I got in touch with guitarist Neil Thompson who remembers that time…
‘It was our second gig at the Cooperage. We never played there while we were living in the North East. We were living in London in August when we came up to play then. I remember we went down well both times and on the October date Treatment Room were support’.
Sellers on EBay are flogging pre-owned copies of music weeklies. They go for anything from £2.99 to £35 depending on who is on the front cover and featured inside. What you waiting for, get yer bids in and take a step back in time.
Gary Alikivi January 2021.