THE MAN WHO INVENTED THE EIGHTIES

Snapshot of Durham born musician & producer Trevor Horn.

“At the beginning of the ‘80s people knew about digital audio but they didn’t understand how it worked. Or what it was capable of. We were the first to stop EQ’ing to tape. Put the EQ on the monitors and record everything flat. That’s the secret.

None of that shit that you do for analogue where you pump up the top end and compress the hell out of it. Because if you put it down on digital like that it will forever sound like that. A lot of people crashed and burned with early digital because of it”.

Understand that ? No, only sound techies and music producers amongst us will get what Trevor Horn was saying in a video interview on The Art of Record Production.

I was reminded of the record producer when I was flicking through my singles and stopped at Video Killed the Radio Star by pop duo The Buggles. On Top of the Pops he was the wee man with massive round glasses. He didn’t have the look of a pop star, but it was a great tune and the song hit number one in the charts.

We had a really good learning period. Every trick we knew in the studio by then we put into ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ and made it jump out of the tape’ said Horn.

While researching Horn, a lot of interviews say he was ‘The man who invented the 80s’  that’s a claim on the epic scale – just how true is it?

Trevor Horn has music in his bones. Being a child in the ‘50s his father was a semi-pro musician so Trevor picked up bass guitar at a young age. At 21 he relocated to London and earned money as a session musician. He played bass in a covers band, which featured keyboardist Geoff Downes – the other half of The Buggles.

‘Hiring a studio was expensive you had to get somebody else to pay for it. I had four years working for song publishers, one of them gave me regular work and £300-£400 pounds to make a set of demos of their songs. That would get me into the studio and by this time I would try this, and try that’ said Horn.

The Buggles released their debut album The Age of Plastic on Island records in 1979 – not only giving Island records their first number one record in Video Killed the Radio Star, but also a great start to propel Horn into the ‘80s. Even though he had his doubts about the record….

‘My voice never had the vaguest amount of soul in it, so on the record they made it sound like it was coming out of a radio speaker’.

In August 1981 the song was immortalised into music culture history as the first video to be aired on new music channel MTV. Then after a year in prog rock band Yes playing massive venues like Madison Square Gardens, Horn became a full-time producer and had commercial success with his first project.

Straight out the starting gate was pop duo, Dollar. He co-wrote and produced three singles which all became top 20 hits in the UK. He was making a mark on the charts and laying the groundwork for classic pop songs to come.

‘When I started out, when you wanted a rhythm track you had to play it, these days it’s a lot quicker cos of all this studio stuff we have’. 

Even greater success in the studio followed with The Lexicon of Love by ABC, reaching number one on the UK albums chart and hit singles followed ’Shoot that poison arrow through my heart’. He was bottling pop magic as even more commercial success followed.

Experimenting and finding new techniques in the studio helped create ear popping singles for the mainstream. Spandau Ballet Instinction and Malcolm McLaren’s Buffalo Gals and Double Dutch won him a Brit Award  for Best British Producer in 1983.

One evening he heard Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and invited them to his studio. Three hit singles and two number one albums followed. By now he owned London’s SARM West, the go to studios.

In November 1984 he gave Bob Geldof and Midge Ure free use of the studio for the Band Aid song Do They Know it’s Christmas? Horn produced the B-side featuring messages from artists including David Bowie, Annie Lennox and Holly Johnson. He also remixed the 1985 version.

Horn was breaking new ground as he assembled one of the first studio rigs including a Roland TR-808 drum machine, a sequencer and a set of Simmons electronic drum modules. He spent £18,000 on a Fairlight synthesiser, one of only four in the country at the time.

‘I had a vision at the time which was Vince Hill meets Kraftwerk. I wanted to make electronic records that work in the mainstream. At the end of the ‘70s there was Elton John, Led Zeppelin, you needed something fresh to compete with it. I thought technology was the way, to construct something and the more control you could have in the studio the better’.

Horn resumed working with Yes as producer on their albums and another Brit Award for Best British Producer in ’85 and a run of successful records including Slave to the Rhythm with Grace Jones, the Godley & Crème single Cry, and albums by Pet Shop Boys Introspective, Simple Minds Streetfighting Years and in 1989 Paul McCartney’s Flowers in the Dirt closed the ‘80s.

So was he the man who invented the ‘80s ?

From leaving his home in the North East, forming The Buggles and producing countless hit records – his fresh and exciting outlook helped create a new way of working in the studio. His innovative production techniques alone, set him apart from others – yes, Trevor Horn sound tracked a decade.

Plus, it’s tip yer hat time, he was awarded a CBE in 2011 for services to the music industry.

Gary Alikivi  February 2021.

Research & interviews: Trevor Horn – The Art of Record Production.

HAVE YOU BEEN ZIMMERED ?

North East link to legendary film music composer, Hans Zimmer.

‘Why he is so revolutionary is that Hans takes the string section and treats them like a guitar playing rhythm, nobody has done that’ said John Debny, Director of The Passion of the Christ.

President of Music at Fox, Robert Kraft said ‘Hans Zimmer is a legend and becoming more legendary’.

The term legend is thrown around far too often and cheaply these days, but it’s special when rightly deserved – in this case for film music composed by Hans Zimmer, the dogs bollocks of scoring Hollywood movies

But what’s the North East link ? While researching studio work by Durham born record producer Trevor Horn for a later post, I found a link between Horn and Zimmer. In the music video for Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles in 1979, Horn is playing bass and two men are on keys, one being Horn’s song writing partner Geoff Downes, the other is a young Zimmer. The song hit number one and was first music video to be played on MTV.

Zimmer on the set of the music video for ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’.

Zimmer’s early work varied from co-producing History of the World Part 1 by UK punk band The Damned, who included the track on their 1980 LP, The Black Album. Captain Sensible said… ‘Yeah we gave him his first big break in showbiz. We also gave him a hard time. He was a bit of a megalomaniac in the studio. Perfect for us’.

Remember the 1980’s TV game show Going for Gold ? Zimmer wrote the theme tune for that. In a BBC interview he said… It’s the sort of stuff you do when you don’t have a career yet. I just felt so lucky because this paid my rent’.

Hollywood came calling with Rain Man starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, then The Lion King happened ‘At first I didn’t want to do it, I thought I can’t write fairy tale animated music but that’s why they wanted me’.

I was first Zimmered after watching the American war film The Thin Red Line (1999). Journey to the Line has become an iconic piece of Zimmer’s work. I found his name when I checked the credits at the end of the film. This was the time before googlin’ up – remember then ?

South Shields born film director Ridley Scott.

The link from the Buggles/Trevor Horn is a bit flimsy so here is a more concrete North East link to Zimmer. In the 2000’s he worked with South Shields born film director Ridley Scott on Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Hannibal.

On his roll call, Zimmer can also list Hollywood blockbusters Mission Impossible, Inception and Pirates of the Caribbean. Would some of the films we’ve seen have had the same impact without his music ? I doubt it.

Zimmer also writes for TV – the 2018 World Cup theme, Blue Planet 2 and The Crown receiving the smooth, silky glossy treatment. Currently, his work features on the new James Bond film, No Time to Die.

Throughout his career Zimmer has received a large amount of honours, awards and nominations including Academy, Grammy and Golden Globes. One which he shared in 2001 for the dreamy opening film sequence and haunting vocals of Lisa Gerrard in Gladiator.

Zimmer said of the piece …’It had to be a woman’s voice, the only way it worked was because of Lisa. It gave a little more licence to the rest of the movie to be more poetic, more expansive’.

Sky Arts are screening an orchestral performance of his work, Hollywood in Vienna 2018 featuring Queen of the opera, Gerrard, resplendent in red velvet belting it out on stage bathed in orange fire light and video projections, chandeliers decorate the opulent concert hall. At the end a kiss for the crowd – follow that.

A set list including goth/trance of The Dark Knight add extra atmosphere to fantastic pieces of music. On the Dark Knight soundtrack check out Like a Dog Chasing Cars, it has a menacing undertow and crackling rhythm which heralds in a triumphant swell. Trust me on this one. It’s on the epic scale.

Poster from the movie Dunkirk with actor Tom Hardy as the Spitfire pilot. The film was directed by Christopher Nolan.

The latest movie I watched that had a huge blast of Zimmer was Christopher Nolan’s war film Dunkirk. So good I saw it twice. The soundtrack on CD alone is a killer. Crank up Supermarine – it’s where the lightning strikes. Sound rushes up to the max and washes over you in waves. By the end of the track I nearly spat out me popcorn.

The Film has a scene where The Oil is scored under German Stuka planes on the hunt. Its constant pulse and ticking picks up pace as British soldiers are in the sea hoping to be taken to safety by boat, but oil has spilled out among the stranded soldiers.

Zimmer cranks up the tension throwing up a signal above the noise. A Spitfire scores a direct hit on a German plane heading nose-down for the sea. Both sound and vision fuse together in perfect symmetry.

To bring yer heart rate down, why not try Time on the Inception film soundtrack, the orchestra mix is a total sob-fest. Johnny Marr (The Smiths) featured in Time on the Live in Prague cd. Zimmer, who was in the Vienna audience all night, finally makes an appearance on stage walking through the orchestra playing guitar and living up to his title of the rock star of film music.

Guarantee by the end you’ve been Zimmered. The undisputed king. A legend.

Zimmer said ‘I’m still hunting down the great tune that I’ve never written. It’s somewhere out there, that’s what makes me get up in the morning.

When I play you a piece of music I completely expose myself and that’s a scary moment. I love what I do even when I sit there tearing my hair out. I still wouldn’t trade it for anything else’.

Gary Alikivi   February 2021.

Research: Score, Cinema’s Greatest. Hollywood in Vienna 2018.

LUCKY MAN -part two

with North Shields actor & musician Tony Hodge.

As the music faded and The Pirahana Brothers drummer was thinking about packing his skins away an opportunity presented itself and he jumped in with both feet…..

What happened was the acting Union, Equity, had reps travelling around North East clubs offering acts a chance to join them, and as we were doing a type of variety show we could sign up. Plus there wasn’t many actors from the North East on TV so there was that as well.

So in 1985 I joined Equity because, at aged over 30 by then, I didn’t think I could be playing drums in my 40s and 50s. I thought I would have a longer career in acting than music. It wasn’t a real choice to break away, just a move sideways, but it was a surprise because I never thought I would get as far as I did.

Pictured below is a scene with fellow Geordie, Val McLaine. We starred in a TTTV production called I do like to be beside the seaside. It was a comedy about three couples in a maternity ward. I might have it on you tube, not sure. I also played Val’s husband in Our Friends in the North and in a commercial for soap powder.

What were you were first parts on TV?

My first parts were mainly walk on roles in North East productions like Supergran. In 1990 I won a role in a new children’s series, Byker Grove. I was busy around that time because I also got a role as Kenny Rankin in the pilot episode of Spender. I knew the main actor Jimmy Nail from his band days, and that helped.

I remember in Byker Grove I was short listed first, and then finally got the role as head of a new family, the Dobsons. I hadn’t acted before Byker Grove so they were taking a real chance on me – I’m not sure they knew that at the time though. Luckily the producer, Mathew Robinson, wanted unseen talent and that’s how I got in.

I lasted five years as Alan Dobson the husband of actress Lesley Saint John – I enjoyed reading the interview you did with her (link below). Lesley had been in a few shows including Auf Wiedersehen Pet and a Cookson film. I was recently in a show with her called Moreland’s Firm, but it was shelved due to Covid.

Jill Halfpenny was our daughter in Byker Grove, she’s done really well on film and TV recently starring in The Drowning, she is brilliant. I’m still in touch with all my Byker Grove family and they’re all lovely.

The Byker Grove Dobson family with Jill Halfpenny on the left and next to her is Lesley Saint John.

I had over 30 TV roles including Our Friends in the North. I played Brian Cox, father of actor Mark Strong. I won roles in Emmerdale, Heartbeat and the 1995 Catherine Cookson mini-series The Gambling Man, alongside Robson Green and Bernard Hill. I was also in another two Cookson’s. By the time I was involved in good acting roles The Piranhas had split after 10 years.

I have a photo of me playing drums after filming on Our Friends in the North.(pic below) There is Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), Mark Strong (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) and on keyboards Daniel Craig (James Bond). When the photo was taken no one knew just how famous they would become. Then there is me – oh well.

Have you any funny stories from working on TV programmes ?

When we were filming Spender I was playing a gangster leading a car ring gang. The scene was simple. I had to drive an automatic Jag across a junction, draw up alongside a group of my cohorts, jump out and pay them. Simple… no.

First I needed to be told by radio when the junction was near as I had no sight of it. Second I had never driven an automatic car for years and third I was wearing healed cowboy boots and I found the pedals weird with them on.

After several false starts on ‘action’ I slammed into drive and shot across the junction. I drew up to the waiting guys at a fast speed then braked hard and jumped out. I was paying the guys on perfect mark when in the middle of it all I could hear ‘cut cut, cut’.

I was amazed. I thought it had been perfect however behind me and in full view of the camera the Jag was rolling down the road by itself with the crew frantically running after it. In my haste I had put the car into drive not park, and it was driving by itself. Took a bit of living down.

There are so many more great times on stage and screen and yet when I was 11 I got stage fright in a church play, and I only had one line – no one word, help, and I froze.

What are you doing now ?

I don’t play drums much now as I have damaged my arm, although I have done the odd guest spot playing a couple of numbers with The Tynesiders who are still playing after nearly 60 years.

Now I am known for my WW2 jeep and my work with the Blyth Battery which is a preserved wartime gun battery on the Blyth coast. It was saved from demolition by a group of volunteers and I’m involved in a small way by doing a few TV interviews to promote the work when I can, and taking my jeep on their annual open days.

I have been very lucky being a chef, drummer, actor and company director plus a rocker in the famous ‘60s era of mods and rockers. I have had a great life, met some amazing friends and lived through the best years for bands in the North East – looking back they were great years, it’s been a blast.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   February 2021.

Interview with Lesley Saint John:

TALKING PICTURES in conversation with actress Lesley Saint John | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

LUCKY MAN – part one.

with North Shields actor & musician Tony Hodge.

Leaving school and taking up a job as a Chef led Tony Hodge down a path that he couldn’t imagine

I’ve been very lucky as a chef, drummer, actor and company director plus a rocker in the famous ‘60s era of mods and rockers. Looking back they were great years, it’s been a blast. I’ve been a lucky man said 75 year old Tony.

Did you come from a musical family ?

My family weren’t musical as such, although my parents sang in the church choir and my brother plays guitar. When I was a chef in 1961 at the Park Hotel in Tynemouth, the hotel had a resident band with a drum kit. I had an urge to play and that started a career that spanned over 30 years. Mind you many wouldn’t class my drumming as musical. Then I went with Ray Laidlaw (Lindisfarne) to see Ginger Baker and Cream at the Club A Go-Go in Newcastle, that changed my style of playing – I became known as Animal.

Can you remember your first bands and gigs?

My first band, I was 16, we only played a few gigs then I joined Dominion Aces, then Turm with John Lawton singing, he later sang for Uriah Heep. Next was Arctic Rainbow with Kenny Mountain (Beckett) and Micky Balls on guitar. Venues included the famous Rex Hotel, Whitley Bay and the Cellar Club in South Shields.

Then there was Tex Leon and the Tynesiders and finally The Piranha Brothers who had a huge following and never stopped filling clubs for the 10 years we played in the North East. We had a four part singing line up in many songs and some of a set at the Birtley Rex is on my You Tube page.

The Pirahna Brothers line up was two lead vocalists in Geordie Scott and Allen Matthews, lead guitar & vocals from both Paul Simmons & Mac Norris. During their time they had three bass players – founder Bill French, then Paul Allen and finally Dave Wightman. On drums was Tony Hodge.

Where did The Piranha Brothers play ?

Venues were mainly social clubs as they were hundreds around then and all the agents used them. We weren’t a typical social club band though, as our act was largely made up from our own songs written by Paul Simmons our lead guitarist. Most bands played covers as I had in the Tynesiders, but we had an act that worked in clubs and other venues.

One night we played Newcastle Mayfair with three other bands to a 3000 plus audience and The Piranhas played several open air concerts in the early ‘80s at Gypsies Green stadium in South Shields.

The most popular Piranhas venue was Heaton Buffs in Newcastle. Our Christmas concerts sold out the year previous. The original single night ended up as three nights, and we had guest bands playing along with the brilliant resident band Burlesque.

The Christmas nights were themed with ideas being thought up by our singers… ‘St Trinians’, ‘The Young Ones’, ‘WWII’ and the final one ‘The Nativity’ and Burlesque always joined in the game. I still wonder though how some of the guys always thought women’s nylons had to be included.

The guest bands never knew what to expect and one time a guest band was 747 with the late brilliant musician Dave Black. This band was really cool, all good looking and right up to date. We hired a topless dancer to come on stage mid set and serve drinks on a tray to the band.

Dave was singing in full swing and she was out of his eyesight. The rest of the band saw her and were laughing but Dave was oblivious. When she stood in front of him he was speechless – literally – and his face was a picture. The audience loved it though.

We often had many famous faces in the audience such as John Miles, Brian Johnston (Geordie) and Hylton Valentine (The Animals) so it must have had some appeal.

Pictured above is the Newcastle Mayfair competition final. The room was packed with over 3000 people. Two bands had the biggest following, that was Burlesque and us. All bands were great on the night but the audience were very unhappy when neither won. A riot erupted with plastic glasses being thrown and Alan Hull (Lindisfarne) could not provide the prize.

Alan and Brian, the Mayfair manager, asked if anyone from the Piranhas or Burlesque could try and do something. Paul from Burlesque and I went on stage to try and calm the audience down and the anger turned to cheers.

Alan Hull presented the prize with a bowl on his head to everyone’s delight. One of the judges, Chas Chandler (The Animals), invited us to go to Abbey Road studios and record our songs which we did.

Have you any memories from those North East gigs ?

Piranhas were known for the two main singers in Geordie Scott and Alan Mathews, pulling many stunts like pretend fights and blood capsules. They had funny routines without in any way being a comic band. This night to a packed room we counted four beats and the usual very loud intro to First Bite powered out. As always Geordie jumped up fists in the air and hit the deck, Alan started to dart around the stage.

This time however Geordie didn’t get up. This seemed ok, these guys were up for anything after all, however the intro was over and Alan wasn’t joined by Geordie. We played on but after a few more bars we realised something was wrong. It was…Geordie had dislocated his knee and ended up being taken to hospital in an ambulance. In the true showbiz style of the show must go on, Alan and the rest of us finished the night.

Another night at the Birtley Rex. A guy called Liddle Towers had recently died in police custody in Birtley and the police were none too popular.

(Liddle Towers was an amateur boxing coach who died in police custody, in 1978 South Shields punk band The Angelic Upstarts wrote a song about the incident The Murder of Liddle Towers).

This night our first set was our own material only, but second set we were finishing our final set with a couple of punk covers. A wedding party had been trouble through the night and a fight broke out. The police were called and a young Police Constable plus an overweight Sergeant arrived. When they entered the whole club erupted against them, chairs, tables, glasses all went flying.

A roadie got cut and I ran from the dressing room to the stage yelling to the police to run to the dressing room. The guys dragged them in and the glasses hitting the doors sounded like a battlefield. Suddenly there was silence and out of the tiny window was a wall of blue lights as far as you could see, police were everywhere.

Eventually, I ventured to the stage and the club was empty. Wrecked but empty. Never have I ever seen a club clear so fast.

Did you record any of your material ?

Yes I have a couple of singles they are in the attic collecting dust, unfortunately no turntable. I last heard one of them on You Tube as a fan must have uploaded it.

In 1979 The Piranha Brothers had a single on the Durham record label, Guardian. The song was called Too Much of Wanting You and studio owner Terry Gavaghan wrote that and Paul Simmons and Iwrote the b-side Dancing Time.

At one point Brian Johnston (Geordie/AC/DC) was a big fan. We recorded a single in his Newcastle studio Lynx, the song was called A Woman Like You. But it went to the USA and nothing happened. Chas Chandler (The Animals) got us recording in Abbey Road studio – but major fame alluded us.

Next time on the blog read the second part of Tony’s story, where he sees an opportunity to prolong his career in entertainment.

I didn’t think I could be playing drums in my 40s and 50s and I thought I would have a longer career in acting than music. It was a surprise because I never thought I would get as far as I did.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   February 2021.

A SONG FOR EVERYONE

with former Southbound drummer, Mick Kelly

North East pubs and clubs were covered in a smoky haze as thick as yer ma’s pea soup, Broon Ale bottles clinked and a chorus of Geordie voices cheered along to Southbound when they hit the stage at Ashington Excelsior, Bedlington Lucifers, Dunston Excelsior, then over to Heaton Buffs. Down to Hartlepool Clippies, back up to Morpeth Comrades and dropped in at The Old 29.

There was a run out to La Hacienda in Prudhoe, with next stop Sunderland Boilermakers, and not forgetting Wingate Constitutional – oh those glory nights in working men’s clubs that would bring a lump in yer throat and a tear in the glassy eye of the hardest riveter in the shipyard.

People would come early and fill the place, it made it all worthwhile said Mick.

We played a lot of gig’s and wherever we went, we went down really well.

The Thrill of it All and All Right Now are previous interviews with Alan Burke and Mick Kelly, former members of Southbound. They talk about their background in music, early gigs, recording in Impulse studio and how proud they are of the songs the band wrote. (links below)

Would they have been successful if they were signed up by a record company ? In a new interview I put that question to drummer Mick Kelly….

I felt if we had the right amount of backing to support us, our outcome would have been totally different. We were trying to get a record deal and we managed to get in touch with Brian Oliver from State Records. He came up to see us and tried to sort something out.

Some forty years later I got to chat with Brian Oliver via Steve Thompson (songwriter/producer). After I showed Brian a copy of the letter Southbound got from him back in the day, he got in touch…

Brian OliverWow, seeing that letter again is like entering a time machine. I obviously heard something in the band or I wouldn’t have come up to the Gosforth Hotel. Unfortunately, Wayne Bickerton decided which acts were signed to the record label. Sorry we weren’t able to help the band in the end‘.

We were then offered a track to record written by Steve Thompson and Gary Maughan called Front Page News, but unfortunately that never transpired. But Southbound did write some of their songs. Our two guitarists were more than capable of writing their own material.

George Lamb on the left with Alan Burke at Newcastle Mayfair 1980.

Some of the songs that were written did have personal meanings to them and some were inspired by the sound and style of West Coast music at that time. One of our favourite songs was Keep on Winding which made it on an RCA compilation album as we won a Battle of the Bands competition in 1982.

Keep on Winding was a direct result from playing at the Mayfair in Newcastle. In the lyric it says ‘You look around and see your friends are all beside you’. The song Don’t Deny Me was written about a relationship that one of the band members had. Another one was inspired by an Allman Brothers track Jessica, our song was called Joanne.

In 1977 the Melody Maker music mag was running a Pop/Rock competition so we entered. We were asked to play at Dunelm House in Durham City along with at least another 20 bands. We were first of the band section to play after the solo/acoustic artists.

We set up and were waiting for the judges to return from their tea break, we asked the packed crowd if they would like a song. They said yes so we broke into one of our own numbers Love is a Strange Thing.

On hearing this the judges ran down stairs to see us getting stuck into our song. Then one of them jumped onto the stage and started leaping around like some person possessed. After the song he came across to me and said ‘That was fantastic but don’t say anything’.

The judges said we will be judged on our next three songs. The competition carried on and we left soon after to play a gig somewhere else but didn’t get to know what the result was until the next day when we played Wheatley Hill Club, Durham. My brother, who had stayed at the competition, came and told us we had won the competition. We were absolutely ecstatic.

Southbound at Newcastle Mayfair supporting Tygers of Pan Tang Feb.1980.

As well as gigging in the North East, Southbound visited the likes of Berwick, Richmond, Dudley, Edinburgh, London, Manchester and Northampton. They knew how important stage time was….

I think many bands in the ‘70s and ‘80s playing regular gigs was a key for development and agents played a great part, which we don’t have now. Once we got onto the working man’s club circuit around the North East playing other people’s material, it gave us an idea of what went down well and which songs didn’t.

Some support gigs had been arranged with bands like Cado Belle, George Hackett band, Alberto y lost trios Paranoias, Tyger’s of Pang Tang, Last Exit, The Junco’s, Shakin Stevens and The Sunsets. Plus playing alongside bands on the music festivals like the Newcastle Music festival and Domefest which we played at least three times.

I remember one night when we played Newcastle Mayfair we supported Babe Ruth, not with the usual member Jenny Haan, but with a girl called Elle Hope who went on to sing the disco song Dance Yourself Dizzy in the band Liquid Gold.

We actually headlined a couple of gigs at the Mecca in Sunderland and Newcastle Mayfair, and one time with Raven at the Mayfair. At the time Raven used to fill in for us at The Gosforth which later helped them get a foot hold on the pub rock circuit. We also had the obligatory gig at Newcastle Labour club on a Sunday morning for the female lady who removed her clothes. 

There are some photos from when we played Newcastle Mayfair on 15 February 1980, supporting Tygers Of Pang Tang. Not the best quality but they have a bit of atmosphere about them. This is when we were a four piece, personally our best time.

Southbound at Newcastle Mayfair supporting Tygers of Pan Tang Feb.1980.

Have you any road stories to share ?

We had some hilarious times on the road. One is when we were playing Catterick Garrison which was a high brow affair with food from caviar to curry and numerous amounts of liquid. The night went on forever with a stand-up comedian, Bob Richie, a solo singer, a jazz quartet and us.

We ended up finishing the night a little worse for wear and having a Champagne breakfast. On the way back we spotted a hedgehog running round a roundabout, so we stopped, got out and tried to get it back on to the grass when the police showed up.

They asked what we were doing at 6:30 in the morning. None of us thought about getting breathalysed or arrested as the police officer just said ‘get off the roundabout and get yourselves home’. I don’t know how we managed to get home.

We played Hartlepool Quoits club, if the band played too loud the orange light flashed and the sound system would cut out the electrics on stage. So we hooked all our equipment into the dressing room sockets and when the orange light would flash away the committee looked puzzled why it didn’t cut out. A few other bands quickly caught on and did the same.

Not a story from the road but funny all the same – while we were recording, the studio had a 16-track recording tape machine. One band member was speaking to someone on the phone about recording, and the person on the other end of the phone asked what kind of tape machine it was.

The reply came quickly…‘It’s a Hotpoint’. In which the band member quickly said to the person on the other end of the phone. ‘They said it’s a Hotpoint’…..oops he fell for it.

I’m sure there were plenty of other occasions but they have faded beyond memory. But having said that a song or another piece of history will trigger things off.

Check the earlier interviews with Mick Kelly and Alan Burke:

ALL RIGHT NOW with Michael Kelly former drummer with North East band Southbound | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

THE THRILL OF IT ALL | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Gary Alikivi   February 2021.

ROCK OF AGES

with Fist vocalist, Glenn Coates.

I was reminded of the night the New Wave of British Heavy Metal came in to South Shields. What happened was I was flicking through my records and I come across the Hollow Ground EP which was kindly given to me by Lou Taylor (Satan/Blind Fury) after I lost my copy.

I originally bought one from Second Time Around Record Shop in South Shields after watching Hollow Ground play live at Tyne Dock Youth Club in 1980 – my very first LOUD gig. They certainly gave the place some welly and was one of the first NWOBHM gigs I went to – Hellanbach and Satan followed over the years.

Glenn Coates was vocalist that night, but later he left the rock hard granite sound of Hollow Ground, and became frontman for another South Shields plug in an’ play no frills outfit, Fist…Yeah we used to play so loud, one gig I jumped onto the drum riser at the very same time that the drummer hit his crash cymbal and I nearly lost my balance, I think I have tinnitus now (laughs).

I saw Fist at venues like South Shields British Legion, and Newcastle Mayfair on 4 June 1982 on the Y & T Earthshaker tour….

I remember they brought all their gear in flight cases. One of the cases was like a very tall chest, and when they opened it, it was full of cans of beer. We had a great time opening for them, good memories.

Later that year I saw Y & T again, this time opening for AC/DC in Newcastle. The Americans warmed up the City Hall enough for DC to land on stage with their huge backline. They were fronted by ex-Geordie singer Brian Johnson. During the ‘70s & ‘80s a lot of rock/metal bands came from the North East – The Animals, Geordie, Raven and the Tygers of Pan Tang….

I remember Fist supported the Tygers at Warrington Park Hall, which is the same set up as Newcastle City Hall…said Glenn.

The Tygers were doing well at the time with arctic’s full of sound gear parked outside. But our van with all our gear decides to pack up on the M62. We eventually got to the hall just in time – we pulled up outside at 6pm with our backline in a horsebox (laughs). 

If we go back to the start, how did the job in Hollow Ground come about ?

You mentioned that Tyne Dock gig, well we have fond memories of playing there because before Hollow Ground I was in a band that used to rehearse in that youth club. There was Brian Rickman (bass) and myself in a band with guitarist Steve Dawson (Saracen/The Animals/Geordie). That fizzled out around ’78 so Brian and me got together with Martin Metcalf (guitar) and John Lockney (drums), that was the beginning of Hollow Ground.

We also rehearsed in a backroom at the Adam & Eve pub in South Shields and all day on a Sunday in a hut in West Park. We used to give the caretaker a fiver and he’d let us in. We’d always record our rehearsals then listen to it back during the week, then rearrange the songs.We had started to write our own stuff and went in a studio to get it down on tape.

Studio work was financed by playing covers in pubs and working men’s clubs around the North East. The first studio we went into was Impulse Studio where Neat records were based, and we recorded an hour long live demo. It turned out quite good, I thought the vocals and drum sound was better there than at our other recording for the EP at Guardian Studio in Durham.

What was your experience of Guardian studio ?

Terry Gavaghan was owner and producer there and it was exciting to make a record at Guardian. We were still pretty naïve about it all you know – making a record to get noticed by a record company. Then we put some tracks together for a compilation album called Roksnax. Other bands on the record were Saracen from South Shields and Samurai who I think were Newcastle based. We all contributed four tracks each.

How did joining Fist come about ?

At first Hollow Ground were like sponges taking everything in, playing gigs wherever and whenever we could, at pubs and clubs doing covers to pay for the studio time. Learning all the time, it was a great energy to write the songs and it came about quite easy and quickly.

But thing was Terry Gavaghan said EMI were interested in signing us so we were waiting for that, but really I didn’t believe it and I’ve heard he told lots of bands the same. The band had stopped playing live so with no gigs happening I wasn’t doing much.

Fist came along and asked about me joining, I took it because they had things to offer. This was around ’81 and in the summer we played the Rock on the Tyne festival at Gateshead Stadium with Rory Gallagher and a few others. U2 were on the day before us.

The night before we played in Manchester and someone had smashed the whole back window of our car. I remember being freezing cold travelling on the motorway finally getting back to the North East about 4 in the morning. Not the best preparation cos we had to do a soundcheck and the first band on stage at 12 noon. With hindsight shouldn’t have played Manchester, but had a good time the rest of the day playing to a very large audience at Gateshead stadium.

Did you go in the studio with Fist ?

Yes we recorded the Back With a Vengeance album and the feeling then around the band and the songs was great. There was magic in the air. We also recorded a single on Neat records in 1982, it was an easy going pop song called The Wanderer with Too Hot on the b side. The Wanderer was just a laugh really, I don’t think we even played it live.

But some people thought we had mellowed and gone poppy by releasing it, but no, it was never meant to be a serious record. Then about a year later Status Quo recorded a version and got it in the charts. The picture on the front cover is me with my long hair – I haven’t got that now but I still think I’ve got that jacket (laughs).

When did Fist call it a day ?

We didn’t call it a day as such, it just kind of fizzled out. We were still rehearsing new stuff in Harry’s pub (Hill, drummer) as he had got into the pub game by then. But I don’t think any live dates were coming in. It’s a hard game to keep going.

But Fist played some memorable gigs. On 7 May 1984 we opened for Motorhead at Hammersmith Odeon on their No Remorse tour. It was great they had the Bomber lighting rig. I just remember seeing the first two or three rows singing along to songs we had wrote, it was such a buzz.

Afterwards we were upstairs in the Green Room drinking, Motorhead were there and Young Blood, the other band who were on. Lemmys son was also there, who is a good looking lad – all the lasses fancied him (laughs).

What are you doing now ?

Fist are still active. We’ve got Mark Jackson in on drums because unfortunately Harry Hill had to retire due to health problems. Last year we were still gigging and ready to go in the studio, but the March lockdown came so that put a stop to it.

We’ve got an albums worth of new material so when we can, Covid permitting, we will go in the studio and record the songs cos they can’t be left on the shelf.

Interview by Gary Alikivi    February 2021.

ROCK n ROLL DREAMS

with Dean ‘Deano’ Robertson former guitarist with Tygers of Pan Tang.

How long were you a member of the Tygers ?

I was in the band just over 12 years. After Robb (Weir), I’m the longest serving guitarist.

Why did you leave ?

At that time I wanted more from the band including more gigs and I felt my writing ideas were stifled by the Tygers style. I could write typical Tygers style songs but a lot of my songs needed a different outlet – but the grass ain’t always greener and all that. I’ll always be grateful for my time with Robb and the Tygers.

Dean has an impressive list of recordings from his time in the Tygers – Mystical (2001), Noises from the Cathouse (2003), Animal Instinct (2008) and Ambush (2012).

Two live albums, In the Roar in 2003 and 2005’s Leg of the Boot, recorded in Holland. Plus a couple of EP’s, Back and Beyond in 2007, Wildcat Sessions in 2010 and the Spellbound Sessions  in 2011.

There was also a compilation album produced in 2003, Second Wave – 25 years of NWOBHM, which included five songs each from Tygers, Girlschool and Oliver/Dawson Saxon.

What was your experience of studio work ?

Everything with the Tygers was fun – studio, rehearsals, travelling and gigs. It all seemed fairly relaxed to me. The days working with producer Chris Tsangarides in his studio was fun and a memory I’ll cherish.

I worked with Chris at a studio in London for the Second Wave album with Girlschool and OD Saxon. Plus we recorded the album Ambush in his own studio in Dover. He was a great guy, up for any suggestions and would give his advice when he thought it was needed or asked for.

His walls were covered in gold and platinum discs by some great inspiring bands, plus a few strange ones – I remember him making a point of showing us the Samantha Fox one (laughs). 

I remember him sat at his desk with a guitar in his hand while we were recording, and when we would come back in, he would be playing a version of the riff or wanting to know a part he couldn’t work out. We could have easily spent the first week just chatting, he had some amazing stories.

The best for me was Judas Priest, he talked about how Rob Halford was just incredible and had perfect pitch every session and the music from the metal gods was intense. But he would listen to the band chatting in the studio and their Brummie accents made him laugh.

When did you pick up the guitar & what were your early days like in music ?

I live in the North East now, but I’m originally from London and I got my first guitar when I was around 9 year old from my cousins future husband. At the stag party I pestered my Dad all day for him to buy it, he waited till the groom was drunk and offered him £10. Then he came home with a Zenta Strat copy and a Leo 6 watt amp. It was nice he came to see me in the Tygers years later. 

Playing live in bands in the early days was the usual pub and club circuit, then I joined a club rock band where I met up with Craig Ellis (drums) and Brian West (bass). Eventually our friendship took us into the Tygers.

How did the job come about ?

Brian West was the first of us to join the Tygers, who at that time were just Robb Weir (guitarist) and vocalist Tony Liddle. Brian got a call from Tony who he knew and had worked with before. The Tygers had almost completed the Mystical album (2001) and needed second guitar and drums for live work. I came in and played a couple of solos for the album.

When I ran through a few old tracks with Robb in the studio he seemed quite pleased that I had done my homework on the songs. We then booked a rehearsal studio for a week and jammed through most tracks. I’m not sure Robb was that interested in spending time auditioning after that cos basically we hit it off instantly and he was happy with my playing. Gigs were already lined up and Robb wanted to get out there again.

Where was your first gig in the Tygers ?

I always reminded Robb that my second gig I ever went to was the Tygers/Magnum and Def Leppard concert at Newcastle City Hall – I still have the ticket stub. (Wild Cat tour April 20 1980).

We were signed to Z Records who asked us to headline a Z Rock festival in Wigan. Robb had asked if we could be further down the bill with it being our first gig and at short notice, but it was already advertised as a Tygers comeback show.

Our singer Tony was also working in another band and was in Russia while we were in rehearsals. Therefore we only had one day with Tony and he wanted to change the songs and order. It was a shambles – definitely one to try and forget.

(Set list.com have the gig on 26 August 2001 featuring Tyketo, Contagious, Jaded Heart).

Blimey ? Can’t remember the date, somewhere I have a video from the show. I think the gig was at a venue called Maximes, I only remember Tyketo being on the bill, Danny Vaughan is such a good vocalist.

A few weeks later we went to Germany for another Z Rock Festival and that was a lot better. However Z Management were not happy with Tony on vocals, so after two gigs we were looking for a new singer.

Gav Gray, Robb Weir, Jack Meille, Craig Ellis & Deano.

Have you any road stories from gigging with the Tygers ?

I’ve so many great memories, and met so many great people. We used to get up to a lot of mischief in hotels, even two minutes before walking onstage there was always something going on.

Once Robb nearly crashed our van in Germany and almost ended up fighting with the other driver because of Craig. Craig and I were always the last to bed and our ‘Tygers Night Game Compendium’ became famous for all the wrong reasons – say no more about that.

Robb, Craig, Gav and Me sat with our trousers round our ankles watching the 50 second beat the clock Babestation challenge as a set up for our Manager and vocalist Jack – don’t think they were impressed !

Were there any songs you looked forward to playing in the live set ?

I liked playing Hellbound and when we put a new album track into the set. Unfortunately never got to play any Ambush tracks live, would have loved to play the song I wrote Rock n Roll Dream.

What are you doing now and do you keep in touch with the Tygers ?

I was playing in top AC/DC tribute Live Wire – The AC/DC Show for a few years after I left the Tygers. I started playing bass and singing in a trio where we rehearsed up a few of my Tygers tracks and wrote new material but it never made it to the stage. 

I speak regularly to Craig and Robb, and Micky (Crystal) who took my place in the Tygers.  When this year finally gets going again I hope to meet up with the Tygers again at a venue and say hello to the new boy Francesco, be nice if you were there too Gary.

But yeah I’m still writing, mainly lyrics and the odd riff. I have a few old ideas that might rear their ugly heads at some point, you never know.

Finally, what does music mean to you ?

It was an escape. Really, just a way of life.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  February 2021

Check the official Tygers of Pan Tang website for a full discography:

Tygers Of Pan Tang – The Official Site

THE THRILL OF IT ALL

with former Southbound vocalist/guitarist, Alan Burke.

Back in 2019 I interviewed drummer Michael Kelly (link below). He talked about his time playing in North East bands The Virgins, Stampede and Southbound. This post features another member of that band….

I know you’ve had a comprehensive conversation with Mick Kelly so not sure how much I can add to the Southbound story but I’ve put a few things down. To be fair Mick certainly has the best memory and was careful to record and document things – a real organiser! Anyway here goes.

When did you first pick up the guitar and play live ?

I started playing at an early age and was pushed into a first gig without any experience of playing on stage with a group called Arabesque in a club called Stormont Main in Gateshead. I was 17, and at some points I didn’t know what the hell I was doing – a real baptism of fire.

Then a band called Southbound came knocking. George Lamb (guitar) asked if I wanted to join him in a band with Keith Nicholson (bass) and Alan Gordon (drums). Mal Troughton was the singer. After intensive rehearsals we started gigging in pubs and clubs doing covers. George and I were focused on developing strong three part harmonies and twin lead guitar which became a signature sound.

We became established quickly and George and I started to compose our own songs, a couple of the first ones being High Time and Summer Sound. Davy Giles (bass) and Mick Kelly (drums) came along and joined a little later.

We started playing more of our own songs than anything else and we’re still proud of them today. Bill Sharpe joined as singer for a short time and Richard Archibald towards the end, but there was a long period when George and I played guitar and shared lead vocals/harmonies – a time I really enjoyed. I felt it pushed me on a professional and personal level.

What other bands were around at the time ?

Bands like Junco Partners, Kip, Scratchband, Young Bucks, Eastcoast Sidekick to name but a few.

Alan in white t shirt, Malcolm Troughton with tambourine, Davy Giles on bass and George Lamb at opposite end to Alan. Can’t see Mick Kelly on drums.

Can you remember what venues you were playing ?

We played North East pubs and working men’s clubs such as Wheatley Hill, Thornley, West Cornforth, High Pit, Forest Hall and many others. We travelled across country also getting down to London. A few stand out gigs are Sunderland Mecca, Newcastle Mayfair, Newcastle Poly (now Northumbria), Cooperage and Guild Hall in Newcastle. I remember supporting Def Leppard the night they got signed up.

We did the Durham Domefest for a few years working our way up the bill each year and I really enjoyed our weekly residency at the Gosforth Hotel in Gosforth High Street. We took over from Last Exit, Sting’s band at the time. I remember a packed house every time, they even stood on the stairs.

What I didn’t enjoy was lugging equipment up and down stairs alongside our dedicated roadies/fans. Mick was hoping to organise a get together at the Gosforth Hotel in 2020 but Covid put paid to that.

Did you record any of your songs ?

We wrote a lot of songs and Mick saved a lot of live recordings. We did a more formal recording in Impulse studio, Wallsend, which was exciting at the time. When the studio closed down they discovered some recordings and they digitally remastered them which was really unexpected. Even today I am still proud of the songs we wrote.

Mal and Alan on guitar.

Looking back to those times does it bring back any stand out memories ?

Gigging with Southbound always felt like a great night out with my mates. They were great lads and we were always laughing even though we took our music very seriously. There were no egos and we all got on well.

I remember a gig in Seahouses when we picked up a former GI from America who was hitch-hiking. He came to the gig and a big fight broke out. We had to stop playing while the GI got stuck in along with a well-known North East actor. (Alan wouldn’t say who, but my money’s on that 6 ft brickie with a chipped tooth, his wife was called Marjorie).

One night we got snowed in during a gig in Wes Cornforth and stayed overnight at the concert chairman’s house. I remember he had crossed swords hanging on the wall. He removed one and started chasing us with it trying to jab us – I hid in the toilet.

Basically I had the time of my life. It was always a great laugh. It still surprises me today how well we got on and still do. I often think about how we would have done if we had got signed up.

Do you come from a musical family ?

My parents used to sing at ‘Go As You Please’ venues, as they were called then, but I wouldn’t say we were a musical family. They always encouraged me and I was sent to piano lessons as a child however I knew it was the guitar for me. I used a guitar belonging to a guy who lived on my estate. He taught me the basics sitting on the steps outside his house, but I’m mostly self-taught.

I used the Fender Telecaster my Dad bought for me in 1976 from a small music store in Jarrow. I’d been searching Newcastle shops but just couldn’t find the right one. As soon as I played the Telecaster I knew it was for me and I used it right up until I had to stop playing due to illness in 2014.

My telecaster changed appearance over the time in terms of colour, pick-ups and other additions, but for me it always gave me the wide range of guitar sound required during my career. I bought different guitars but it was always the telecaster.

What does music mean to you ?

Music has essentially been my life’s passion and allowed me to form great lasting friendships. I went on to play with musicians who are well regarded locally including Pat McMahon (Idle Hands), Ray Stubbs and the All Stars during which time I honed my ability to play blues. The Annie Orwin Band, when we played versions of some unusual and interesting songs and with Paddy Doughty in the Rain Kings, who I consider to have a great blues voice.

At 40 I went to University to become a music teacher and worked in high schools and finally a great little school called Southlands in Tynemouth. At the same time I worked as a guitar tutor in a private school in Sunderland and got children and adults through their exams with sustained success.

What are you doing now ?

I have a rare medical disorder called Amyloidosis Polyneuropathy which means I can’t use my hands to play guitar. I did some singing but my vocal chords were affected too. During lockdown I was encouraged to take up the harmonica which I’m loving. I use a neck rack which slows me a little but I’m working hard so you never know.

Not sure if this was any good to you but I enjoyed remembering the Southbound experience.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  January 2021.

ALL RIGHT NOW with Michael Kelly former drummer with North East band Southbound | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

VOTE FOR THE VELVET TONES OF TEESSIDE

with North East UK Blues artist, Emma Wilson

Votes are being cast for the 2021 Finals of the UK Blues Awards. The finalists were nominated by 1000 influential people on the UK Blues scene and now it’s down to the public to vote who they want to win.

This year Emma ‘Velvet Tones of Teesside’ Wilson, is after your vote in the Emerging Artist of The Year category. This category is for an artist who has significantly raised their profile, experience and presence on the UK blues scene.

Emma, who learnt her craft gigging around the Teesside and North Yorkshire area, is the sole representative from the North East…

‘Yeah I am and it’s down to the support of the Blues community particularly on my home turf here in the North East that my records have done so well and I have been noticed’.

Emma explained… I’m delighted to be in the Emerging Artist category. I was able to release two records in 2020 during lockdown simply using piano accompaniment.

Dean Stockdale recorded his piano parts from home as I was unable to get my band in the studio. The fact my voice is so exposed has struck a chord with DJs and Journalists – they seem to like it.

I was lucky to have great reviews and lots of airplay for my ‘Feelgood’ album which hit No1 on UK Independent Blues Broadcasters Association and received 4 stars in Music News. It also charted in the USA and Holland.

My ‘LoveHeart’ album reached No.7 in the UK Independent Blues Broadcasters and my single specially recorded for lockdown, ‘Hold On’, received UK and International airplay’.

‘I don’t have a big PR machine working for me, I do everything from home. Every vote for me counts because I’m up against some bands with huge followings. Thank you for your support, I really appreciate it. I hope everyone is doing ok and staying well, we’ll get there. Love, Emma x’

The voting is from 1st to 15th Feb inclusive.

Vote for your North East Blues Queen here

www.ukbluesawards.com 

Interview by Gary Alikivi  February 2021

Check out Emma’s official website:  www.emmawilson.net