Here in the North East the Tyneside Bloc has given up a load of music stories from bands including Venom, Fist, Satan, White Heat, Angelic Upstarts, plus Tygers of Pan Tang.
Since forming in the coastal town of Whitley Bay in 1978, the Tygers have released a number of studio albums with their latest Ritual in 2019. The present line up of Robb Weir, Gav Gray, Jack Meille, Craig Ellis and new guitarist Francesco Marris have chipped in with up to date news and stories from the Tyger camp.
Former members including Jon Deverill, Fred Purser, Dean Robertson, Glenn Howes, Micky McCrystal and more have told their side of the story. John Sykes must have lost my number.
The blog has also featured interviews with original members Robb Weir, Richard ‘Rocky’ Laws and now, Brian Dick. After extensive gigging around Europe, plus live shows in Japan, and playing on six studio albums, Brian called it a day in 1987, here he remembers where it all started.
DELIVERING THE GOODS
By the time I’d saved enough money to purchase my first drum kit, for several years I’d been harbouring the idea of being in a band. I attended gigs at Newcastle City Hall on an almost weekly basis since I was 11 year old, all financed by paper rounds.
I would soak up anything and everything from Zeppelin to Leonard Cohen, always mesmerised by the drummer. I only ever played along to records, with my Russian hi-fi speakers inches from my ears – luckily I had very tolerant neighbours.
During A levels I used to go to Newcastle Poly most Friday nights, there would be name bands playing almost every week. This is where I met Rocky Laws who had a Heavy Metal DJ slot upstairs, turns out he played bass and lived round the corner in Whitley Bay. We got together in his parents garage with his mate Robb Weir. Rocky came up with the band name, Tygers of Pan Tang, he lifted it from Sci-Fi novel Stormbringer by Michael Moorcock. And so it began.
RATS IN THE CELLAR
First gig was in a pub cellar in Durham City, we were a four piece then with singer Mark Butcher. It was a memorable gig as only one person attended and I cut a rat in two putting my bass drum back in its case. Songs included Ted Nugent cover Cat Scratch Fever, Rush’s Bastille Day and Motorhead. We regularly played pubs including The Golden Eagle in Blyth and some working men’s clubs.
After releasing their first single ‘Don’t Touch Me There’ on Neat records, MCA picked up the band and re-released the record earning them a record deal and releasing their debut album, Wild Cat.
TYGERS ON 45
We had previously been to Impulse Studio in Wallsend to record demos. So to record ‘a record’ was very exciting. I remember Cronos from Venom was the junior staff member. I would imagine it was all done and dusted in the same day. It all led to record and publishing contracts, national gigs, giving up the day job as a Computer operator at Tyne and Wear Council, plus our first ever trips abroad. Brilliant.
PENNIES FROM READING
We played Reading Festival twice, 1980 and 1982. The first was very nerve-wracking. We were onstage during the daytime and you could see the cans and coins coming towards you. The second was much better. We played in the dark as we were the penultimate band of the day before Iron Maiden. It was much easier than playing a pub where audiences are on top of you.
Several years ago I heard a BBC recording of the 1982 appearance on Radio 6 and was quite taken aback – it was bloody good. Definitely a career highlight.
THE CAGE TOUR
Can remember the Mayfair gig for three reasons – I got the bus to town in true rock star style, my then girlfriend was accidently knocked out after the gig resulting in several hours in A&E, and my Dad came to see us for the first time. He was still very disappointed I’d left my secure job but following the Mayfair gig could see why.
Any road stories ? Three that came to mind, but there is many, many, more. Loads of drug and drink fuelled tales that will remain untold to protect the guilty and their subsequent families. There were also many jolly japes like when a plastic fork was dipped in dog shit before an unnamed member ate his Chinese takeaway.
The time when our manager had to leave early doors for London’s King’s Cross train station and was barricaded in his bedroom with several rooms worth of furniture. Then Trevor Sewell (North East guitarist) was depping for us in Barcelona and forgot his guitar, he came on playing a broom.
I was in a great band called Sargeant, still in touch with Stevie Lamb (guitar). We opened for Accept on that tour and I remember Tony Liddle (vocals) at the Hammersmith Odeon. He had eaten too close to gig time, puked on stage, shouted ‘rock an’ roll’ and the stalls rose to their feet.
ALL ABOUT THE SONG
It’s been many years since I last listened to the back catalogue and with little thought two songs come immediately to mind, Life of Crime and Stormlands, both b-sides, both recorded in 5 minutes with no real production. My favourite album is Spellbound by a country mile, fave tracks are Gangland and Hellbound – when performed live the bpm is on overdrive!
Tygers came to a natural end for me around Autumn ’87 following a final run of gigs across mainland Europe.
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY
I was due my new teeth in Turkey this month and am the beneficiary of free prescriptions for the over 60’s ! Out here on Exmoor National Park in West Somerset where I’ve lived for 20 year, me and my partner share our cottage, outbuildings and land with several animals. My daughters and grandchildren live in the North-East so I’m a regular visitor, or rather was until covid.
Until lockdown I was active on the local pub gig ‘scene’, an enjoyable hobby with good craic.
Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2021.