AMY FLAGG WAR DIARIES #5 BOMBS FALL ON JARROW

In 2016 when researching in South Shields Library about Historian and Photographer Amy Flagg (1893-1965), along with her photographs of damage to the town by German air attacks during the Second World War, there was a number of personal scrapbooks full of the towns history and genealogy of families in the borough.

Also included was ‘Air Raids on South Shields’, the typed notes and diary entries were a record of official statistics of enemy attacks since the first bomb dropped in 1940. Miss Flagg also recorded incidents in the surrounding areas including Jarrow. Detail from Tyneside newspapers and maps have been added to some entries.

Amy Flagg, Historian & Photographer, 1893-1965.

Friday, 25th/Saturday, 26th April 1941: 

On Saturday morning German radio claimed the main attack of the previous night’s raid was on the Sunderland Flying Boat Works at Sunderland. In fact this was another bungled raid by the Luftwaffe, as no bombs fell there. Home Security could only deduce that inexperienced crews were being used. They felt the large number of parachute mines exploding on Tyneside was believed explained by a strong to gale force NE wind which had blown them inland during sea mining operations.

22.08pm Five injured. Incendiary bombs fell on the Old Granary near Jarrow Staithes and at Hebburn. Fires were started but were quickly controlled. A parachute mine fell at Primrose – no damage. Another fell near the Old Staithes causing damage to houses and shops.

In great detail Miss Flagg describes this large scale attack on 10th April 1941.

23.30 – 03.00am High explosives fell on Station Street and Sheldon Street, Jarrow. Houses were destroyed and suffered a death roll of twenty-four, seven members of one family being wiped out, nine people were seriously injured and nineteen slightly injured. A Roman Catholic Priest died from shock. A police constable was slightly injured by an incendiary bomb.

Fires were started at the Petroleum Installation at Jarrow, Jarrow Tube Works and at Mercantile Dry Dock but were quickly subdued. High explosives fell on a colliery railway line leading to Jarrow Staithes, on a coal depot at Jarrow Railway Station and on the A185 near to Old Church, Jarrow, where the road was blocked and gas and water mains damaged.

pic Amy Flagg. courtesy of South Tyneside Council.

Published reports in Tyneside newspapers:

Tuesday, 2nd July 1940:

Newcastle and Jarrow were attacked during the late afternoon. The damage was considerable. A single German Dornier bomber passed over Blaydon, shot down a balloon and dropped bombs on Newcastle and Jarrow.

Fourteen dead and 120 injured in Jarrow. Three high explosives dropped in streets. Four houses and six flats demolished, six houses and thirty flats damaged. School partly collapsed. Three domestic shelters and five others damaged. Four or five streets were affected but most casualties occurred in Princess Street, a search of the debris for trapped victims went on throughout the night, firemen, ARP workers and others working in relays.

It was announced that the August Bank Holiday is to be cancelled.

Monday, 7th /Tuesday 8th April 1941:  

‘HMS Manchester’, waiting in Jarrow Slake to convoy the new aircraft carrier ‘Illustrious’, may have been the objective of the two disastrous raids this week; but it proved quite ineffective so far as naval vessels were concerned, no hit being scored on either. Considerable damage, however, resulted along the riverside from Tyne Docks to the oil tanks, as well as other parts of the town.

Immediately after the ‘Alert’, enemy aircraft became very active and there was an intense barrage from ground defences. At 23.45, 4 high explosive bombs dropped on Henry Wilson’s Timber Yard, Tyne Dock, Clayton and Armstrong’s Timber Yard, Tyne Dock, the Anglo Iron Foundry, Tyne Dock and a dwelling house and shop in Porchester Street.

Friday, 6th June 1941:

At 15.00 an enemy aircraft dropped one 500kg bomb, 20 yards West of the LNER railway line at East Jarrow. Two pigs and a number of hens were killed by blast. No other damage or casualties were reported.

Pic. Amy Flagg. Courtesy of South Tyneside Council.

Monday, 29th/Tuesday, 30th December 1941:

Two high explosives – damage to Primrose Hospital windows.

Single high explosive fell, believed to be a 1000kg, in a field 100yds East of the Pontop – Jarrow railway causing damage to a signal box, Wardens’ Post, overhead colliery electricity cables and a seed drill. A smaller bomb also fell in this vicinity. An UXB or aircraft shell went through the roof of a house and penetrated the soft ground under the floorboards.

Thursday, 30th April/Friday, 1st May 1942:

Explosive incendiary bombs were dropped. A hut adjoining the Jarrow Tube Works was set on fire and a woman was slightly injured. No damage to the Tube works but an electricity pylon 500 yards NW of Boldon Railway Station was short circuited. A single high explosive was believed to be dropped in the river Tyne about 50 yards from Hawthorn Leslies Shipyard and was suspected of being unexploded.

Link to Amy Flagg’s war photographs on the excellent South Tyneside History website.

https://southtynesidehistory.co.uk/

Link to Amy Flagg documentary film ‘Westoe Rose’.

WESTOE ROSE – making the documentary about South Shields Historian & Photographer Amy Flagg | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Gary Alikivi  April 2021

AMY FLAGG WAR DIARIES #4 AUTUMN RAIDS & RESCUES OF ‘41

In 2016 when researching in South Shields Library about Historian and Photographer Amy Flagg (1893-1965), as well as her photographs of damage to the town by German air attacks during the Second World War, there was a number of personal scrapbooks full of the towns history and genealogy of families in the borough.

Also included was ‘Air Raids on South Shields’, these typed notes and diary entries were a record of official statistics of enemy attacks since the first bomb dropped in 1940. The next few posts feature selected pages from Amy’s war diaries. Detail from Tyneside newspapers and maps have been added to some entries.

This entry includes reports of widespread bombing, miraculous escapes and acts of heroism in South Shields.

pic Amy Flagg. King Street, South Shields.

Tuesday 30th September/Wednesday, 1st October 1941:  

At 21.20 A bomb fell near the Market Place entrance. The rear of Crofton’s premises was badly damaged, rolls of lino, carpets and other goods being flung considerable distances. A cafe at the corner was totally obliterated and a number of people were trapped in a basement.

A Rescue Party foreman, who afterwards received the George Medal for his gallantry, was lowered head first into the cellar and succeeded in rescuing three people, despite the danger from a broken gas main and the possible collapse of heavy masonry, he continued searching for the remaining victims.

A youth and an elderly woman were found and extricated but another woman was buried up to her neck and in danger from the likely collapse of wreckage. Without hesitation he placed himself in a position to hold up the unsafe debris and maintained this position until the casualty was removed.

The Shields Gazette Offices and Printing Works received a direct hit by heavy calibre bombs, the whole printing department and part of the offices were wrecked. There were no casualties, the only occupants of the building at the time were the firewatchers who were unhurt and a reporter who was at the head of the stairs. He was knocked down by flying debris and nearly stepped out of a hole in the wall into space.

Another heroic deed resulted from a stick of bombs which fell at 21.21 near West Holborn. One 1,000kg bomb fell through the corrugated roof of the Electric Power Station, it hit and demolished a thick wall, twisted a steel girder and came to rest on the manhole of a boiler. It failed to explode but there was great danger of it doing so owing to the heat of the boiler.

A Corporation employee very courageously drew the fires. At 04.30 on October 1st it was removed by the Bomb Disposal Squad and dispatched to Newcastle as, owing to its damaged state, the officer in charge was unable to remove the fuse.

About 21.30, a bomb fell in Rydal Gardens, two houses in Ambleside Avenue were destroyed, seven people were going to an Anderson shelter in the garden and were in the hall of their house when the bomb dropped. They were trapped at the foot of the stairs, they eventually got out by a Rescue Party and Wardens, two were dead,  two injured and the rest were suffering from shock.

pic Amy Flagg. courtesy of South Tyneside Council.

In 2012 I made a documentary, ‘War Stories’, in the film South Shields resident Doris Johnson talked about her memories growing up during the Second World War. She remembers this night vividly as her parents lived in the area.

Friday, 3rd October 1941:

At 21.23 Hyde Street and Wharton Street was the scene of further casualties and destruction. One bomb fell in Wharton Street, six houses were razed to the ground and many more made unsafe. Two bombs fell in Hyde Street where twenty houses were destroyed and a large number damaged. In both streets people were trapped under the debris or in their surface shelters and some of the casualties were fatal.

Small fires broke out under the wreckage, human chains were formed and buckets of water were passed along, the fires were soon put out. Gas and water mains were affected and upwards of forty houses had to be taken down later. Some of the many homeless were accommodated in Rest Centres.

Nearby in Anderson Street, a bomb fell in the middle of the road between Challoner Terrace East and West. It wrecked houses on both sides of the road and a number of people were trapped in the basements; some were dead when, after strenuous tunnelling and digging they were extricated. Severe damage was done to the Synagogue, some dwellings and the service mains in Ogle and Wellington Terraces.

Throughout the remainder of the raid the whole town was without electric light and the activities of the Rescue Parties, First Aid Parties and Ambulance Service were severely impeded. The ‘All Clear’ at the end of the raid had to be sounded on police car sirens.

Gary Alikivi  April 2021

Link to Amy Flagg’s war photographs on the excellent South Tyneside History website.

https://southtynesidehistory.co.uk/

Link to Amy Flagg documentary ‘Westoe Rose’.

WESTOE ROSE – making the documentary about South Shields Historian & Photographer Amy Flagg | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

AMY FLAGG WAR DIARIES #3 THE LUFTWAFFE EXPLOSIVE RAID ON SHIELDS

In 2016 when researching in South Shields Library about Historian and Photographer Amy Flagg (1893-1965), as well as her photographs of damage to the town by German air attacks during the Second World War, there was a number of personal scrapbooks full of the towns history and genealogy of families in the borough.

Also included was ‘Air Raids on South Shields’, these typed notes and diary entries were a record of official statistics of enemy attacks since the first bomb dropped in 1940. The next few posts feature selected pages from Amy’s war diaries. Detail from Tyneside newspapers and maps have been added to some entries.

pic Amy Flagg. Courtesy of South Tyneside Council.

This post tells how in over two hours King Street and the Market Place were made almost derelict by high explosive bombing. This was the night when the German Luftwaffe carried out an intensive and determined air raid on South Shields.

Thursday, 2nd/Friday, 3rd October 1941:

At 20.05 the Air Raid Message ‘Red’ was received and the ‘Alert’ sounded. A large number of enemy aircraft, flying at low altitude came in over the river. One or more of these planes succeeded in cutting loose some of the barrage balloons and it was evident that a heavy attack was developing. At 22.30 the Air Raid Message ‘White’ was received and the ‘Raiders Passed’ was sounded. In between the times Shields suffered.

The first bombs fell at 20.55. Wardle’s Timber Yard in Long Row where stacks of timber was damaged and a boundary wall was blown down blocking the road leading to Brigham and Cowan’s Shipyard. The attack was then carried, at 21.20 to the riverside and the Market Place. Three bombs fell near the river, one on vacant land near Comical Corner, one in Shadwell Street where the road and some adjoining railway lines were torn up, and the third on the new quay near Pilot Street.

A stick of bombs fell over the Market Place causing some of the worst damage done in the raid – one fell in vacant ground between the foot of River Drive and the Tyne Dock Engineering Company’s premises in Thrift Street. An Air Raid Warden on duty in River Drive was killed by blast and on the north side of the Market Place a messenger was seriously hurt.

Two more fell in the Market Place, one on the entrance to the shelter under the south east quarter, near East Street, the explosion fractured a gas main which burst into flame and set fire to a trolley bus standing nearby, the other fell on the shelter in the north east quarter.

The Market Place fires soon spread to adjoining buildings. Miller’s Stores caught fire and the flames crossed East Street and spread to the Tram Hotel, the Grapes Hotel, Jackson’s the Tailors at the corner of King Street and the King’s Shoe shop. The whole of this block was soon ablaze and had it not been for the solidity of the dividing walls at Lipton’s and Mason’s shops, more fire damage would have occurred in King Street.

pics Amy Flagg. Taken from her pamphlet ‘Humanity & Courage’.

Another bomb fell on Dunn’s Paint Stores and shop, demolishing the building and starting major fires spreading to Hanlon’s shop, the Locomotive Hotel, Campbell’s Lodging House and the Union Flag public house. Tins of burning oil and paint were hurled into the air and started fires in the City of Durham public house, the Metropole Hotel and the Imperial Hotel.

Crofton’s drapery stores at the corner of King Street was set on fire by a leaking gas main, then the fire spread to Woolworth’s next door, which was completely gutted. The side entrance to the Regal Theatre and Galt’s Fruit Store in Union Alley were also damaged by fire.

With so many fires and so much damage to the water mains, water had to be relayed from the Ferry Landing and the static water tank in North Street. Despite many rumours at the time, the loss of life in the Market Place shelters was comparatively small – twelve killed, five were rescued, this was partly due to the fact that as the road to the Market Place from Union Alley had been blocked in the previous raid, many people from the cinema had to go in the opposite direction to the shelters in North Street.

Three men on their way to work were crossing the Market Place as the bombs began to fall, one took refuge in the shelter nearby, but was injured, the second was killed just outside the shelter and the body of the third was never found. It was suspected that he had been blown by blast into the burning paint shop, long digging to recover his body was without result.

pic Amy Flagg. Courtesy of South Tyneside Council.

At daylight on Friday morning, the Market Place looked like the ruins of Ypres. Nothing could be seen but broken buildings the square was littered with debris and a tangle of fire hose. It was a scene of complete devastation. In addition, all remaining windows in St Hilda’s church were shattered, the roof dislodged and old stone walls pitted and scarred with shrapnel.

The Old Town Hall suffered heavy interior harm and none of the business premises was left intact. All the overhead wires were down and it was not until the afternoon of October 9th that buses were able to pass along King Street.

Gary Alikivi  April 2021

Link to Amy Flagg’s war photographs on the excellent South Tyneside History website.

https://southtynesidehistory.co.uk/

Link to Amy Flagg documentary ‘Westoe Rose’.

WESTOE ROSE – making the documentary about South Shields Historian & Photographer Amy Flagg | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

AMY FLAGG WAR DIARIES #2 SHIELDS BLITZ

In 2016 when researching in South Shields Library about Historian and Photographer Amy Flagg (1893-1965), as well as her photographs of damage to the town by German air attacks during the Second World War, there was a number of personal scrapbooks full of the towns history and genealogy of families in the borough.

Also included was ‘Air Raids on South Shields’, these typed notes and diary entries were a record of official statistics of enemy attacks since the first bomb dropped in 1940. The next few posts feature selected pages from Amy’s war diaries. Detail from Tyneside newspapers and maps have been added to some entries.

In this post Miss Flagg describes in great detail a large scale enemy attack by over 70 German planes. Water, gas and telephone lines damaged, shipyards under siege, trains flung around like toys, houses obliterated, Ingham Infirmary on full alert. An attack so severe that one of the largest bombs in the country,  a ‘Satan’, was dropped on the town.

Fire brigades from across the North East were called in to help – it was a night when South Shields was caught in a ‘blitz by fire’.

Thursday 10th April 1941:

Shortly before the siren sounded, enemy aircraft were heard, ground defences became very active and two high explosive bombs were dropped. Then came a shower of incendiaries, an estimated 6,000 falling in the Tyne Dock area, Mile End Road, River Drive and Wapping Street district. It soon became clear that a large scale attack was developing and directed  on the shipbuilding, ship repairing and timber yards on the riverside.

After this, a series of flares were dropped, illuminating the whole region. Major fires were started on the west side of Tyne Dock, Redhead’s Yards, Middle Docks, Tyne Dock Engineering Company, Wardle’s Timber Yard and Brigham and Cowan’s Store Shed.

The Queen’s Theatre, the Railway Station tower and houses in Fawcett Street and Robertson Street were ablaze. Houses in Westoe Road, Tyne Dock and east Jarrow were also involved.

Pic. Amy Flagg. Taken from her pamphlet ‘Humanity & Courage’.

The resources of the Fire Services were fully extended and a call for ‘Mutual Aid’ had to be made – this was a reciprocal system that enabled a service to get help from other districts. Fire Brigades from Durham, Gateshead, Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Sunderland arrived, each town sending their complement of Rescue and First Aid Parties.

During the progress of this blitz by fire, a large number of high explosive bombs were dropped, causing great havoc. The largest number of casualties were found in the Mile End Road area, including Empress St, Palatine St, Fort St, and William Terrace. Two large calibre bombs fell close together in this thickly populated part of town, completely shattering a whole block of houses. Bombs also fell on the railway line near Studley Bridge and Ellesmere Street, where passenger coaches were flung about like toys.

Several bombs fell in Redhead’s Yards, doing much structural damage. Bombs also fell in Cayton and Armstrong’s Timber Yard, the TIC Docks, Middle Docks and a Fire Station in Anderson Street, and on the Battery Field at Westoe.

In King George Road, two houses were obliterated and a bomb also fell at the Deans. Prince Edward Road West was blocked by a large crater on the embankment below Dean Terrace. A water main burst, filling the crater and burying a motor car in mud.

pic. Amy Flagg. Taken from her pamphlet ‘Humanity & Courage’.

One of the largest bombs dropped in this country to date, was found unexploded in Newton and Nicholson’s premises, Templetown. It was a 1,800kg bomb, recognised as a ‘Satan’. The estimated number of bombs dropped was 38, but this does not include many which fell in the river, the harbour and the sea near the pier.

50 people were rendered homeless or evacuated. Two Rest and Feeding Centres were opened and maintained until all were housed elsewhere. On the following morning a request for the help of fifty men was made under the Police Mutual Aid Scheme. Two Mobile Canteens also came to supplement local arrangements for the feeding of personnel.

Casualties – 25 killed, 11 seriously injured, 65 slightly injured. Toll in human life was also taken at the Mile End Road area where a family of four was wiped out, but their pet spaniel was rescued alive after 80 hours. Four soldiers were injured at Marsden Battery through a shell burst from their own gun. Three suffered from head injuries and one from abdominal injury.

Gary Alikivi  April 2021

Link to Amy Flagg’s war photographs on the excellent South Tyneside History website.

https://southtynesidehistory.co.uk/

Link to Amy Flagg documentary ‘Westoe Rose’.

WESTOE ROSE – making the documentary about South Shields Historian & Photographer Amy Flagg | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

AMY FLAGG WAR DIARIES #1 AIR RAIDS on SOUTH SHIELDS

In 2016 when researching in South Shields Library about Historian and Photographer Amy Flagg (1893-1965), along with her photographs of damage to the town by German air attacks during the Second World War, there was a number of personal scrapbooks full of the towns history and genealogy of families in the borough.

Also included was ‘Air Raids on South Shields’, the typed notes and diary entries were a record of official statistics of enemy attacks since the first bomb dropped in 1940. The next few posts feature selected pages from Amy’s war diaries. Detail from Tyneside newspapers and maps have been added to some entries.

In one of the entries Amy recorded the night the war came to ‘Chapel House’, the Flagg family home in Westoe Village on Thursday, 16th April 1942:  

At 00.45 four bombs fell in the grounds of residential property in Westoe. The first on the edge of a field at ‘Seacroft’, failed to explode and was dealt with by the Bomb Disposal Squad. The second and third fell in the gardens of ‘Fairfield’ and ‘Eastgarth’ respectively. The last one fell on the lawn 10 yards from ‘Chapel House’.

No casualties were reported but considerable damage was done to a large number of houses in the neighbourhood, including over 40 roofs of houses in Horsley Hill Road which were penetrated by lumps of clay thrown up by the explosions.

In her diaries Amy recorded incidents that happened on Tyneside, she would add accounts of what she had seen, descriptions of her photographs or what was in official Air Raid Precautions (ARP) reports.

Saturday 22nd June 1940: The first bombs dropped on South Shields were four high explosives dropped near the junction of Marsden Road and Centenary Avenue. Several houses were slightly damaged by shrapnel. There were no casualties.

Friday 9th August 1940: One high explosive bomb fell in a garden at the back of Lawe Road near Pearson Street. Four people in an Anderson shelter ten feet from the crater were uninjured. One Home Guard was killed by machine-gun fire. No casualties from the bomb.

Pic. Amy Flagg. Courtesy of South Tyneside Council.

A comprehensive report by Amy detailed a raid by German aircraft on Sunday 16th February 1941: 

This night will be long remembered in South Shields. 130 enemy aircraft were engaged in action on the coast from Hull to Berwick. Bombers and minelayers came over in waves and were met with intense Anti-Aircraft fire.

At 00.25 a Heinkel 111, was hit by gunfire and collided with a Barrage Balloon cable on the North Foreshore. Part of one wing was broken off and fell on the shore. The plane lost height very quickly and crashed in Beach Road.

One member of the crew bailed out but his parachute caught on the overhead wires and he hung downwards until rescued. He was badly injured and died shortly after admission to the Ingham Infirmary. The remainder of the crew perished with their plane on impact with the ground.

At 00.50 a mine, which had not been released from the bomb rack of the plane, exploded with terrific force. It was seen and heard from beyond Newcastle and windows were broken as far away as Tynemouth, North Shields, Westoe and Laygate.

The Model Yacht House in South Marine Park and a small building were completely wrecked. Parts of the plane, maps, papers and clothing were subsequently collected and dredged from the lake.

The explosion had tragic results – one officer of the Borough Police Force and one Auxiliary Fireman were killed. Two other members of the Auxiliary Fire Service died in hospital. Seventeen more members of the Police Force, Fire Brigade and Auxiliary Fire Service were injured, some very gravely, and were admitted to the Ingham Infirmary.

Other enemy aircraft, apparently taking the flames as target, dropped bombs on Broderick Street, where an elderly couple lost their lives and several houses were demolished. On the junction of Lawe Road and St Aidan’s Road, damage was caused to St Aidan’s church and a number of houses, ‘Sea Merge’ and ‘Tyne View’ being completely wrecked.

During the same raid six parachute mines descended on the South Sands near Trow Rocks, and on some fields near the New Marsden Inn, but caused no damage or casualties. Many houses severely damaged and widespread breakage of windows was suffered in many parts of the town. 85 people were rendered homeless, some of whom were taken to an Emergency Centre.

Gary Alikivi  April 2021

Link to Amy Flagg’s war photographs on the excellent South Tyneside History website.

https://southtynesidehistory.co.uk/

Link to Amy Flagg documentary ‘Westoe Rose’.

WESTOE ROSE – making the documentary about South Shields Historian & Photographer Amy Flagg | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

RAW MEAT IN THE SONIC MINCER #6 – Looking back at Sounds Music weekly: Record Adverts

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 theheed.

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 mixed 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 David Coverdale Kate Bush or Def Leppard.

Zoom in above the header to see what bands are featured – Madness, Wild Horses and South Shields punks, Angelic Upstarts.

Album and tour adverts were a feature of Sounds. Renowned artists and graphic designers were employed by record companies to attract our attention with eye popping images. Budgets from the big wigs might not have been forthcoming or were stretched so far that quality suffered.

Some album covers went along the lines of ‘so bad it’s good’. One that will fit that slot is Black Sabbath album Born Again. The image was a purple cover with an ugly red baby on the front with devil horns and pointed claws.

In his biography, guitarist Tony Iommi I was in stitches when I first saw the image’.

Manager Don Arden  ‘I think it will cause a lot of problems, a lot of interest, people will talk about it’.

Iommi added ‘we eventually agreed to have it, and people did talk about it’ .

Full pages have colour kerb appeal but smaller adverts can be just as effective when sharing a page with a known musician/band interview. Using a live photograph is used to full effect by Gary Moore for his 1978 album Back on the Streets. The advert includes the band line up heading off any problems with members not being credited.

Heavy metal have more striking images, and a band who have instantly recognisable covers are Iron Maiden with their mascot Eddie who appears on most if not all of their albums, posters and merch.

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  April 2021.

MAKING TRACKS #4 with songwriter & producer Steve Thompson

In the fourth and final part part of an interview with Teesside based Thompson, he talks about MCA records, Pete Waterman and mainstream success.

SELL RECORDS, SHIFT UNITS

I was working in several different genres but I still had a healthy grounding in rock. In 1981 I came up with a little slushy ballad which didn’t fit the NEAT stuff although I played it to Dave Wood and he said uh it’s ok. So I was determined my future lay elsewhere. Within six month it was a Top 20 hit for a band called Wavelength, it was Hurry Home and it was in the charts for three month.

At roughly the same time the Tygers put out Paris By Air which was a minor hit so I had some credibility on both sides of the coin. My publishing was with Neon and I had a hit with Sheena Easton on her Madness, Money and Music album which went Top 20. Celine Dion also recorded the Sheena Easton song in French. It was a hit single in Canada going Gold. The album sold 400,000 units in Canada and 700,000 units in France.

Lorraine Crosby

One day I got a call from a management company who said they had just signed a young guy who wanted to come and work with me on some tracks. ‘No mate, I’m not into that’. They said ‘we’ll pay you’ and quick as a flash I said ‘cool, send him round this afternoon’. The young guy was Stu Emerson.

I told Stu I was looking for a good female vocalist and he introduced me to Lorraine Crosby who went on to sing with Meatloaf on one of his hit singles. I recorded loads of tracks with Lorraine. She recorded all the backing vocals on some stuff I was recording with a guy called Pete Adshead. Pete’s management company had sent him up from London to work with me in Whitley Bay.

When the stuff started to get released Pete changed his name to Baby Ford. I had a couple of hits with him in the style of Acid House and one of them Chiki Chiki Ah Ah earned a BBC ban. I’m very proud of that.

HOLLYWOOD NEED SOMETHING SNAPPY

On quitting NEAT Records as producer I had a shed load of releases as a writer. In the early ‘80s I was signed to MCA Music as a songwriter. One day I got a call from my mentor there, Pete Waterman. Pete said there was a big-shot movie producer in town and I was urgently needed in London to meet up with him.

So the next day I flew down and arrived in Pete’s office around midday. Pete introduced me to an American guy who’s name now escapes me. He was one of the producers of the movie Jaws 3D which was nearing completion.

Anyway, this guy treated me to the story of his wonderful new movie and told me all it needs is a killer song. Apparently it’s a ‘boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl’ theme. Except in this case there are no boys and girls involved, the lovers in question are dolphins. He says they have Barbara Streisand lined up to sing this yet to be written song.

Pete has put me in the frame to write the lyrics and makes his office available to conduct my work. Pete and the American guy went off to lunch saying they will check my progress on their return. As they were leaving the American called back over his shoulder ‘Hey kid, gimme a lurve song for two dolphins’.

Alone in the office I slid the cassette into the machine. Shit!!!!! How on earth could I turn this orchestral pomp into a song. Still I had been charged with the task so I had to try. I spent the next two hours racking my brain and writing one liners and drawing doodles.

SINK OR SWIM

The guys arrived back and the American says ‘OK kid, whaddyah got?’  I said ‘not much’ and passed over the piece of paper and waited to be well and truly spanked. Pete – ever the bullshitter, went into overdrive. ‘What did I tell you about my boy, F***ing brilliant, just look at this, sink or swim, I will follow him, that’s a killer line’.

It was just about the only line but Pete was leaving no room for contradiction. He was already on the phone booking a studio for that evening. Then he dashed out of the office and grabbed another MCA staff writer who had a good singing voice. This hapless guy was named Simon Jeffries and he was going to have to sing this crap. Like me, Simon was not going to say no to the guy responsible for signing his yearly salary cheque – a publishers advance.

I was therefore obliged to spend the rest of the day making words fit to soaring violins and trumpets. The pain of this was nothing compared to the recording session that evening. I think we nearly killed the poor vocalist. Unsurprisingly, I never heard another thing about my entry into the world of movie themes and as it happens I never saw Simon again either.

Steve’s latest album is available on Cherry Red  www.thelongfade.xyz

For more details check the official site:

The Steve Thompson Band – Steve Thompson: Songwriter (steve-thompson.org.uk)

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2017.

MAKING TRACKS #3 with Teesside based songwriter & producer Steve Thompson.

In the third part of Steve Thompson’s story he is working at Impulse studio/NEAT records and recording with Tygers of Pan Tang.

FIRST OUT THE BLOCKS

They had no sophistication then but I guess they made up for that with raw energy. I was looking at this from a songwriter’s perspective and suggested they shorten intro’s and reduce repetition of dead wood and get to the hooks quicker.

I mixed the tracks and worked on the drum sound and a few other bits and pieces, we got it ready and the A side of their first single was Don’t Touch Me There. We put it out and it started to really sell. MCA got interested so they picked it up, re-released it and went on to do their first album. 

I was also signed to MCA in their stable of writers and my mentor was Pete Waterman, he was crackers. It was Pete who suggested the Tygers should do Love Potion No 9 as a single. Great idea.

At that time I was sharing a rented flat in Whitley Bay with the band, it’s a sitcom waiting to be written. Bizarrely the original Tygers vocalist Jess Cox and his replacement Jon Deverill both lived at the flat. Lead guitarist John Sykes lived there as well. So I would go off to Impulse studio in the mornings and John would stay in the house playing guitar constantly.

FOR THE RECORD

When I’d come back from the studio he’d still be playing. He was a really friendly guy and he’d ask what I’d been doing that day and sometimes I’d have rough mixes and play him stuff. That particular day Tygers bass player Rocky Laws was there and I played them Paris By Air and Rocky loved it, the song stayed with him a few years.

Coming up to start recording their fourth album The Cage, there’d been a few changes in the Tygers camp and that made a big dent in the song writing team. Jon Deverill was already in, and Fred Purser from Penetration was brought in to replace John Sykes.

The band were looking for some songs and Rocky suggested we should do the track I’d played to them a few year ago called Paris By Air. OK I said I’ll re-write the lyric as it was originally for a female.

I also played a brand new song called Lonely at the Top to their managers. It was unfinished and I played it on acoustic guitar, stamping my feet and vocally trying to make noise that indicated how it would become a loud rock song. They asked me to make a full demo and I did. It was also selected for the album.

I also asked the Tygers management if anyone wants to come along to my new gaff in Tynemouth for co-writes. Jon Deverill said yes so we knocked off a few tunes. Letter to L.A. was put together using a Casio synthesiser played through a fuzzbox. That song was just prior to them going into the studio so it really was down to the wire with unfinished lyrics.

DEADLINES

They were in the studio when I got a call from Jon Deverill, he said in his lovely little Welsh accent ‘I’m having a bit difficulty with these lyrics’. I said ‘ok what you got’. Well it turned out he didn’t have much at all. I said I’ll put some lyrics together, how long you got ?

‘Oh well, we’re having a little break then I’m going in the studio to sing it in 20 minutes’. So phoning in a second verse in double quick time was challenging.

The Cage was a success but sadly the band broke up. I don’t know why, maybe some of the guys thought we had been a touch too much in the commercial arena. 

OLD FRIENDS, NEW SONGS

After that I started working with Jon Deverill on a solo album. To begin with I was using a little porta studio but decided to go large with an eight track demo studio in my new house in Whitley Bay.

I met up with John Sykes again when we used his studio to record the album. He had this huge place in the middle of a housing estate in Blackpool, where he was originally from. So when we were there he popped in and met everyone. I co-wrote all the songs on that album with Jon Deverill.

TOKYO CALLING

When John Sykes was touring Japan with Whitesnake we got a call from him saying the Tygers are huge in Japan why not get out here and tour. Well at the same time we were about to get a record deal from Music for Nations so we decided to make this the fifth Tygers album, rather than a Deverill solo album.

Because it was going to be a Tygers album we needed another Tyger to validate the band, who wants to see a band with no original members ? So original drummer Brian Dick came back in, there was Jon, and on guitar a guy was brought in called Neil Sheppard. I was asked to play keyboards.

I didn’t tour with them but we did a live TV rock show called ECT, Gary Moore and Robin George were also on – I was heavily disguised.

Read Making Tracks #4, when Steve gains mainstream success.

Steve’s latest album is available on Cherry Red  www.thelongfade.xyz

For more details check the official site:

The Steve Thompson Band – Steve Thompson: Songwriter (steve-thompson.org.uk)

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2017.

MAKING TRACKS #2 with songwriter & producer Steve Thompson. Impulse studio/NEAT records

In the second part of an interview with Teesside based songwriter & producer Steve Thompson, he talks about his time as in-house producer at Impulse studio/NEAT records and crossing swords with Northern metal maniacs Raven, Venom & Tygers of Pan Tang.

Raven

METAL CITY

The basic idea at Impulse was to have an in-house producer. Some places just had an engineer but I would be on hand to help in song construction, production and putting product out on vinyl and releasing it.

There was quite a scene with muso’s getting together in some bars on the North East coast of England. Part of the scene was a club called Mingles in Whitley Bay. This was the place I checked out Raven, they were due in Impulse studio so I wanted to get a feel of what they were about. I’ll never forget the first time I met bassist John Gallagher.

I was standing at the back of the room with my back against the wall watching the band on stage, which must have only been six inches high. John took his bass and pointed it at me like a javelin, he raced toward me and only stopped right at my throat. I didn’t flinch. He gave me a wink as though to say, yeah you’ll do for us.

CRASH, BANG & DON’T FORGET THE WALLOP

Producing their album was an intense but rewarding experience. When I agreed to produce the album it was only on a three-day week basis. I figured I would need time out to recover from the sessions. I’ve heard these guys described as ‘athletic rock’, and that’s just about right.

In fact they were so energetic that I was obliged to gaffa tape the headphones to their heads otherwise they were just bouncing off as their heads where banging ten to the dozen as they recorded.

When I first heard them I thought yeah this is heavy as hell, not what I’m writing at the moment but it was constructed, well thought out and clever with a huge sound for a three piece.

You know some studio work is psychology, getting the best out of people. For instance the harder I pushed Raven the better the output was. Some people you have to be gentler with and try not to make a mistake. Most of the time humour was what worked best. They have since said one of the things they remember about our time in the studio was how much they laughed.

THROW THE KITCHEN SINK AT IT MAN

We experimented a bit, we decided we wanted a marching sound to bring in the Rock Until You Drop track so we mic’d up the toilet floor next to the studio and went in there and marched. It wasn’t right though.

I took a coffee break to ponder the problem and then it struck me. The disposable plastic coffee cups had just that crunch factor we needed. We spread a hundred or so and stomped on them. We then did several takes but had to keep replenishing the cups. In the end we used the entire supply of three thousand.

Venom

SEDUCED BY THE DEVIL

I remember being in the studio when our tape op was a young guy called Conrad. It was his job to fetch and carry, make coffee, thread the tapes onto the machines, make tape copies and cassettes. Conrad fitted in well.  He was a good tape op and got on well with everyone. He was always going on about his own band.

It seemed they saved up for about three months until they could afford enough pyrotechnics to blow up half a city, then had to save up to do another show. Conrad said very little about the music, it was mostly about the explosions. Nearly forgot to mention, Conrad’s band was called Venom.  And what about the time I gave Venom the Devil (laughs).

The Devil is a nick name for a musical interlude called the Tritone. And it’s heavily discordant if you crank the volume up, basically the sound of The Devil. I remember in the studio I loaned them my bass and Conrad played it through a Marshall stack and a fuzz box. Apparently the loan of that bass gave birth to Black Metal. I’m responsible. Sorry.

They were very unrefined but had absolutely bags of enthusiasm, but that was the last thing I recorded there. I never took a production royalty, just said ‘There’s the tapes lad’s, I’m off’.

Eventually I sold Conrad that bass – a Gibson EB3. I said ‘I have no use for it now but you must take care of it’. Next I saw it had an upside down effigy of Christ nailed to it and holes drilled through it. Some years later I asked him did he still have it, he replied ‘It died in L.A.’

Tygers of Pan Tang

A BIG TIDE AT TYGER BAY

One of the earlier times in Impulse, Dave Woods – NEAT label owner – came in and said there’s a band out there making a big noise why not get them in and sell a few records? So in came Tygers of Pan Tang to cut three tracks. Incidentally it was to be the third single I’d produced for NEAT – the first two releases were not heavy metal.

We recorded their first single Don’t Touch Me There, now we know it was the start of what is known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), and the tide was coming in that very evening (laughs).

Anyway we put it out and it started to really sell. MCA got interested so they picked it up, re-released it and went on to do their first album. Our paths parted then, but sometime later I was looking for somewhere to live, and the Tygers had a spare room for me to move into.

Next up read Making Tracks #3, where Steve talks about song writing & recording with Tygers of Pan Tang.

Steve’s latest album is available on Cherry Red  www.thelongfade.xyz

For more details check the official site:

The Steve Thompson Band – Steve Thompson: Songwriter (steve-thompson.org.uk)

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2017

MAKING TRACKS #1 with songwriter & producer, Steve Thompson. From Consett to Wallsend.

Teesside based songwriter & producer Steve Thompson has had a hell of a career in the music biz, from producing heavy metal bands Venom, Raven and Tygers of Pan Tang, to mainstream artists Sheena Easton, Elkie Brooks and Celine Dion recording his songs, plus working with Pete Waterman, Gus Dudgeon, and The Hollies. Here he talks about his early influences and forming Bullfrog.

A BIT OF BULLY

Records I was fond of in the ‘60s were The Beach Boys. Brian Wilsons skill in making records was unbelievable. I used to listen to the radio and they were so far away like gods playing this music. But the thing that got me into playing guitar was seeing everyday guys around town playing guitars, just ordinary people.

Like all kids in my town, I went straight from school into Consett Steel Works. With three other steelworkers we formed a band called Bullfrog, and served two apprenticeships. One of them by day working in the steelworks, the other by night playing the pubs and clubs of North East England. That was my first stab at the music industry.

Bullfrog supported a lot of bands like Vinegar Joe and Edgar Broughton. On October 10th 1974 I got a call from our manager to say there was a gig going that night supporting Wishbone Ash at Newcastle’s Odeon Cinema and could I get the band together. When the call came in I had been dying my cream coloured platform boots, I fancied green. But because I was in a rush, I turned out on stage that night with one green boot and the other still cream.

Steve (in blue) in Bullfrog.

I’VE GOT A PLAN, MAN

When Bullfrog were in Island Studios in London our first producer was Roger Bain, he also produced Black Sabbath. I was introduced to his friend and record producer, Gus Dudgeon of Elton John fame, later on I did a lot of work as a songwriter with Dudgeon.

The whole process of studio and song writing really intrigued me so I knew where I was headed. I wrote a few songs put them out and a guy called Dave Wood heard about me and found a slot at Impulse Studio in Wallsend.

Next up read Making Tracks #2, when Steve is producer at Impulse Studio in Wallsend, home to New Wave of British Heavy Metal label NEAT records, and crosses swords with metal maniacs Raven, Venom & Tygers of Pan Tang.

Steve’s latest album is available on Cherry Red  www.thelongfade.xyz

For more details check the official site:

The Steve Thompson Band – Steve Thompson: Songwriter (steve-thompson.org.uk)

Interview Gary Alikivi  from June 2017.