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 Oliver ‘Wow, 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.
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.
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.
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:
Gary Alikivi February 2021.