CHATTERBOX: with musician Drew Gallon part 1/2

Now based in Brighton, Gallon originally lived in Newcastle playing on the music scene during ‘80/90s. This first part features his time in glam punk bands Sweet Trash and Shotgun Brides.

A group of mates from Walbottle High School in the west end formed a band in 1982. We were young and punk influenced, and briefly toyed with the name Razor Cuts after the last line of a Buzzcocks song.

My dad wanted us to call ourselves Luke Puke and the Sickeners ? He’d obviously read the wrong press when he formed his opinion on punk rock. But it was never going to last because we had four guitarists and a synth player.

Eventually everyone went their own way leaving just me and Steve Wallace to soldier on, Steve now plays guitar for Penetration. We were in most bands together and he thinks I’ve got a crap memory so he’ll no doubt tell me I’ve got the timeline wrong and bands muddled up. 

I decided to swap a guitar for bass, and Steve and I looked around for other kindred spirits and found a lad in our local pub, Mickey Parris. We also found a local drummer called Gary Binns. He was playing in a heavy rock band but as soon as we heard him we knew we had to have him in the band, so we convinced him that his future lay with us.

We were listening to New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders Heartbreakers, Hollywood Brats, and that’s where the band name stemmed from. English glam, The Sweet, and a term used for American glam, Trash Rock.

Drew and guitarist Steve Wallace.

So the first band I was in was Sweet Trash who rehearsed at a place called The Scout Hut. It was a lonely building in the middle of a field. An old two-storey house which had the rooms downstairs knocked into one. We could play as loud as we wanted for as long as we wanted without disturbing anyone – it was perfect.

We started off playing covers. Some never made it to a gig, like Time Warped Garden Of Love by Cuddly Toys, but others did. First gig we played The Stones Get Off My Cloud, The Pistols No Feelings and Bodies.

Over time we played stuff by New York Dolls, Hanoi Rocks, and in later bands R.E.M. and The Clash. Towards the end of Shotgun Brides we played one that Sounds magazine referred to as our ‘rapidly becoming famous encore’ which was one of our songs – Stop Looking – into bits of Whole Lotta Love, Babylon’s Burning, Silver Machine and Bomber, then back to Stop Looking to finish off. It was quite long.

We did a couple of gigs then Mickey departed and was soon replaced by a singer called Carl Smith who I spotted on the #73 bus. He looked right for the band, but unfortunately only lasted for a little while then left. 

We played as a three-piece for a gig or two around this period, which would have been mid-’84, then we got a lad called Keith ‘Cosmic’ Forster in as second guitarist and he and Steve shared vocal duties. The jigsaw was finally completed when we got Kev Wilkinson in as singer.

We played loads of gigs in pubs around the area. The Mitre in Benwell, The Cyprus in South Shields, Talk of the Tyne in Gateshead. We played the opening nights of Edwards Bar at the Crest Hotel and that started things moving for the band as it used to get packed.

We also played at Sunderland Mayfair and did a few gigs at Newcastle Tiffanys with The Vibrators and one with Guana Batz, as well as headlining gigs.

We were managed at the time by Tony Fiddes who ran The Monday Club in Tiffanys and The Drum Club in Sunderland Mayfair and I think it was him who got some of the North East TV crew Malcolm Gerrie and – I think – Chris Cowey to come down to see us play in Newcastle’s Edwards Bar.

Our gigs were always raucous affairs with a load of weirdly dressed overly enthusiastic northerners going for it in the audience, with the band very much the same. So that was how we got the slot on TX45, the local show filmed in The Tube studios at Tyne Tees.

Looking back on it now we calmed down a bit for the programme and it looks quite tame compared to how I remember the gigs, but they did get a great shot of Kev diving into the audience at the end of the two-song set to close the show.

With Tony managing we did a self-financed single called Burn It Down which was recorded at Steve Daggett’s (ex Lindisfarne) studio in Gosforth. I think it might have been the first single cover designed by the lads at Viz records, but unfortunately they took a sensible approach and there aren’t any Viz characters lurking in the background.

We also played out of the area, about the time of TX45 we did our first decent London gig, on the same bill as Flesh for Lulu, Turkey Bones and the Wild Dogs, and Dogs D’Amour.

But Sweet Trash had ran its course and we were getting into other types of music. So one October night in 1985 we went on stage as Sweet Trash and then changed our name to The Shotgun Brides for the encore.

The Shotgun Brides played quite a few gigs around Bradford and Leeds playing with the likes of Salvation and Loud and ended up being managed by Andy Farrow at Far North Music.

We signed to Neat Records and did an album that was never released, and a single called Restless, both with Keith Nichol at the controls. We lasted about three or four years with various line-ups, playing gigs around the North East and further afield, but eventually the usual musical differences raised its head and The Shotgun Brides played their last gig at the end of the ‘80s.

It was still me, Steve and Gary, but with Kev Ridley on vocals and Chris McCormack on guitar. We thought that keeping the name would attract some people in, and we still had some t-shirts left over to sell.

I’m not sure where Shotgun Brides last Shields gig was. Some social club I think. We probably did play The Venue in South Shields, and I’m sure Forgodsake did too.

Read the second part of the interview where Drew talks about recording with Forgodsake and Automatic, plus bringing his story up to date with Dawn after Dark.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  September 2021