Looking back at the Music weeklies:
OZZY, TYGERS & NWOBHM.
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 like Damned/Cramps/Costello. Take your pick of front covers splashed with Strummer/Coverdale or Pat Benatar.
In the early ‘80s North East based music journalist Ian Ravendale worked for Sounds, when I interviewed him in August 2018 he talked about that time…
‘I was freelancing at Sounds, writing articles and reviewing gigs, some of which were of local bands. One time the Tygers of Pan Tang were supporting Saxon and I’d gone along. I’d previously written a review of Saxon which included something along the lines of ‘in six month time they’ll be back playing social clubs’.
At the gig, Tygers guitarist Robb Weir came up to me and said ‘Biff (Byford, Saxon vocalist) is looking for you’. Fortunately he didn’t find me….Not yet, anyway.’
An edition of Sounds in May 1980 featured a renowned NWOBHM article that Ravendale wrote featuring Tyneside metal bands Mythra, Fist, Raven, Tygers and White Spirit…
‘A lot of local bands I reviewed were from Sunderland, Newcastle and South Shields. I’d already written articles about the Tygers, Fist and Raven. Geoff Barton, the assistant editor at Sounds, asked me to source a few more bands for a 4,000 word article. ‘The North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ was born’.
Back in November 2017 I asked Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist Robb Weir if he was aware of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal…
‘Only when I read about it in Sounds, a two page spread by Geoff Barton. He had started writing about the music – he may have coined the phrase ? Reading it I thought, so we’re NWOBHM eh (laughs).
Robb also talked about how a review of their first single in Sounds was instrumental in the early success of the band, and had no idea about the fierce storm ahead…
‘In 1979 we went into Impulse Studio in Wallsend and recorded ‘Don’t Touch Me There’. They took a chance and pressed 1,000 copies. We got the single reviewed in Sounds newspaper so the next pressing was 4,000. Then Neat label owner Dave Woods was approached by MCA and did a deal. MCA pressed around 50,000 copies. But our success still hadn’t sunk in. You’re just in it you know, the musical blender getting whizzed around’.
Weir added that the music press helped create a good feeling about the band, but change was in the air….
‘We had done the Wildcat tour, a sell out across the UK. There was a buzz in the music press, full page adverts in Sounds, NME, Melody Maker and Record Mirror. It was all going really well. But a meeting with management said ‘with the singer you have we can’t further your career outside the UK’.
After seeing a notice in a music weekly, vocalist Jon Deveril made his way up North and was made an offer he couldn’t refuse. He told me about that time…
‘I was gigging around South Wales with Persian Risk and saw an ad in Melody Maker about the Tygers looking for a new singer. I very much wanted to join them. I got in touch and came up to Newcastle for an audition and got the job. My life changed forever. A once in a lifetime chance, I still can’t believe my good fortune’.
Music journalist Ian Ravendale continued slogging around the North reviewing bands. He told me about an Ozzy gig he worked at…
‘I found metal bands easy to take the piss out of – and I did. I remember my opening line ‘What I want to know is, how is Ozzy Osbourne so cabaret?’. This stimulated very angry letters like ‘How dare Ian Ravendale slag off Ozzy. I’ve seen him and he was great’
Geoff (Barton, Sounds Assistant Editor) never said to me, ‘We’ve got a big metal readership can you go easy on them’ He never wanted me to do that.
In 19 December 1981 issue, a full back page apology from Ozzy appeared. He cancelled his British tour and a full explanation was offered promising to return with ‘a show like you’ve never seen before’.
His fans were disappointed but the apology through Sounds was a good move. His popularity didn’t suffer and returned to a sell-out tour exactly a year later where I saw the band at Newcastle and Leeds.
The Speak of the Devil tour controversially featured a dwarf he named Ronnie – a reference to the new Sabbath vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Ozzy would bring the dwarf on stage and hang him. Ozzy was right, I’d never seen that before.
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.