TICKET TO RIDE : with North East show promoter, Julie Clay

Julie has worked within the entertainment industry for over forty years, and is a local gig promoter based in Whitley Bay.

Before the Newcastle Arena the Whitley Bay ice rink put a lot of bands on. We had Sting, Def Leppard, AC/DC – who had a massive bell and cannons on stage and when it went off all the ceiling tiles came down on the crowd. They thought it was part of the show but it wasn’t a stage effect, all the staff were running round collecting the polystyrene tiles off the floor (laughs).

I lived across the road from Whitley Bay ice rink. In 1986 I worked in ticket sales at the rink then went to the box office at Newcastle Theatre Royal in ’88 – I had good times there.

I was working on box office when someone phoned up and said he had lost his tickets for a show – he said he’d accidently thrown them in the fire – I asked for his name, he said ‘A.Pratt’ – yes it was his real name (laughs).

I used to love standing in the theatre gallery watching the show’s and the audience laughing along. There was school outings and I used to love knowing I had arranged tickets for them to see the shows.

It was all about helping people and going out of my way to make sure the person who is buying the group tickets is being looked after because I know how much hard work it is getting people’s money in.

When I was Duty Manager our matinees are Thursday and Saturday afternoon. The theatre is dark when they are not in use and you’re not allowed to go in them when the show isn’t on.

One day in the box office I heard a noise coming through the speakers so I went into the theatre and there was a line of mature ladies sitting in the Grand Circle with their bags of sweets waiting for the show to start.

I went over and asked them what they were doing as there was no show on until tomorrow. They showed me tickets for the matinee on that day but they were for a different venue – they had come to the wrong place, they needed to be in the Tyne Theatre.

Ray Laidlaw & the late Chris Phipps on board the Tyne Idols bus.

SUNDAY FOR SAMMY

I work with Ray Laidlaw who runs the Sunday for Sammy production and Tyne Idols, I help out backstage and in the production office – I love being part of it. I often watch the DVD’s because it’s a good Geordie show, just like the Geordie grand performance – a great laugh.

The show is in rehearsal for a week before the production, Saturday is the fit up day in Newcastle Arena and two shows on the Sunday. I think they were only going to do one but it was so successful they’ve kept going over 20 years and raised a lot of money to support young creative talent in the North East.

It was so exciting to be part of the 2018 show, I had a small walk on part and shared a dressing room with Vera the TV detective and ex-ITV newsreader Pam Royal.

The future of Sunday for Sammy is looking great with the younger generation of local artists like Jason Cook, Joe McElderry and many more keeping the Geordie Command Performance fresh and current – long may it continue!

Julie outside the Tyne Idols bus. parked at the Millennium bridge across the river Tyne.

TYNE IDOLS

We get seventy people on a tour for our North East music, film and heritage tours. The double decker that we use is forty year old this year and now classed as a vintage bus.

With Ray Laidlaw (Lindisfarne) at the helm of most of our tours, The Coastal Heroes Tour taking us along the beautiful NE Coast, The Newcastle Tour is best at night, the lights on the river really showing the town at its best, crossing the bridges singing ‘Fog on the Tyne’ is an unforgettable experience. 

The Sting Tour, Punk Tour and Viz Tour are also very popular. All tours are very different, we usually visit an iconic music venue and historic drinking dens as part of the tour It’s a very unique experience.

Have you any events planned for the rest of the year ?

Because of Covid I had gigs pencilled in last year and it took five attempts to re-book the dates. A lot of people cancelled their tickets because they didn’t want to be amongst people – now we are seeing them slowly come back. For Dirty Dusting (Friday October 1) at Whitley Bay Playhouse it was more or less full.

We’ve a couple of events happening soon at The Crescent Club in Cullercoats, there is electric skiffle on Saturday 13 November with the Peter Donegan band – the son of Lonnie.

On Thursday 16 December we’ve got a Christmas event with the beautiful voice of the Caffreys and their band plus a local choir at St Georges Church in Tynemouth, we can get about 300+ people in there.

It’s raising money for MacMillan cancer support and a local charity. So slowly but surely we are looking to get music back on and people performing again.

Tickets available from Julie Clay: 0191 253 1618 or juliecevents@gmail.com

Check the official websites: tyneidols.com

Sunday for Sammy | Supporting young creative talent in Tyneside

Interview by Gary Alikivi    October 2021.

REIGNITE: New album from The Fauves

The album was due to be released last year but due to Covid we had to hold back, we couldn’t get back in the studio to finish the recording as we were in lockdown. We had recorded four tracks then everything stopped. It was July this year when we went back into the studio to finish the album – over a whole year wasted really.

The album was recorded at the Garage studios in South Shields as we like working with Kyle Martin the engineer because he has some good ideas said Bri Smith, bassist with The Fauves.

The first album we recorded Routine Kills, wasn’t really us at our best, to be honest we were disappointed in it, it was a bit too smooth. We brought Mick in on vocals and re-recorded six or seven tracks off the first album along with four new ones and brought out the Back Off World album.

Mick made those songs much more powerful with his aggressive vocals and that was the sound we were looking for. Then Chris left so we brought in Allen on guitar he had a more rockier sound, the new album Reignite is sounding raw, a bit rockier and ballsy. We like it.

How did the songs come together ?

When lockdown was on we sent songs to each other online – myself or Allen would send a riff to Mick, he would add his bit with lyrics, Bob would also work on it– it came together like that and by the time we got back rehearsing the songs came together pretty quick.

We deal with all sorts of themes in the songs – betrayal, struggle, finding sanctuary, damaged personalities and staying strong through difficult emotional times. We’re not afraid to highlight the problems we all have in our daily lives. Mick works really hard on the lyrics.  

We booked the studio for two days in July and recorded the rest of the album with Kyle as he knows what kind of sound we like. We were going to add a few extra tracks but we wanted to get the album out quick so we went with mastering ten tracks.

Bri points out one of the pix on the album sleeve. It’s a picture of someone with a gas mask on…

It’s Cainy a lad from South Shields – when Covid was settling down a bit and bands started to play live again he turned up at one of our gigs with a gas mask on with The Fauves written across it – crazy (laughs). We had up to fifteen gigs arranged last year and unfortunately had to cancel every one bar one at Aycliffe and that was outdoors.

The scene has really picked up in the North East its probably one of the best places for punk gigs at the moment. There is some really good bands up here.

Why do you think the North East is one of the better places ?

Probably because people are more angry up here, it’s a punk thing (laughs).

There’s some good punk venues Black Bull in Gateshead, Trillians which is mainly a rock venue are starting to put on punk bands, The Unionist club in Shields, The Ivy House and The Peacock in Sunderland – yes the North East is really picking up.

The only gig we played last year was outdoors at Newton Aycliffe it was organised by Gaz and Alby who run a punk show on Aycliffe radio. Brilliant gig, big PA, big stage – it was really well organised. XSLF were headlining, Snide Remarks, Loudmouth The Logoz there was about ten bands in all. It was a great day.

We’ve played with some great North East bands lately – Zero Tolerance, Boilermaker, Force Fed Lies, The Carpettes, The Logoz, Kickback Generation, Loudmouth, The Proles, The Sadistic Slobs and more – they’re all doing really well at the moment.

We’ve also travelled a lot lately to gigs down to Derby, Manchester, we take our guitars, amps, drum breakables, the promoters normally supply the heavy stuff of back line drums and PA so we don’t need to carry a lot with us as we use our cars.

We’ve met some great people travelling around. Some of the Manchester crowd took us round the city after the gig we had a great laugh we really enjoyed the day. Great venue The Star and Garter, it steadily built up during the day and by night it was packed.

We take some merch with us, cd’s t shirts etc to make some cash. We get a fee for playing so that covers petrol and expenses so you’re not out of pocket. If it’s a fair distance away we normally stay overnight so we can watch the other bands and have a few drinks.

The venues are not the same before Covid – they were absolutely packed but now people are still wary of Covid as it’s not going away and people are dying. Some of the older folks are thinking if we catch it, it could kill us or pass it on to others. Its going to take time we just have to live with it.

The Fauves originally formed in 1977 after an infamous Angelic Upstarts gig at Jarrow Civic Hall. Full story at: 

GROUND ZERO – in conversation with Bri Smith & Bob Rowland from Tyneside punks THE FAUVES | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Around 1979 we used to get a lot of the Upstarts crowd coming to see us play as the Upstarts moved down south and got signed, they were really good times. In the early days The Fauves recorded a few songs on tape and planned to go down to London and take copies of the recordings to record companies but we only managed to get 70 miles down the road when the car broke down.

As we sat waiting for the recovery vehicle, Hodge (original singer) had brought a cassette player with him and pressed record without us knowing. We cracked a few cans open, sat and talked about the old times – a load of shite really (laughs).

Six months later we recorded three tracks and sent them to Garry Bushell at the Sounds not realising on the b side of the tape was the recording of us in the car pissed. Garry was always putting bits and pieces in the Sounds for us – gig dates etc. He wrote an article about these three tracks saying we were like the Upstarts, who he was a big fan of.

He also added that he turned the cassette over and couldn’t believe what he was hearing – three pissed Geordies talking absolute rubbish which he could hardly understand. His heading was ‘Nice band shame about the accents’ (laughs).

Along with releasing the new album have The Fauves got anything planned for the rest of the year ?

We’ve got a gig in Workington in November on the 27th and on 4th December we’ve got the Riverside Rebellion in Middlesbrough. The headliners were going to be The Vibrators but they’ve pulled so XSLF are headlining now. Also on the bill is Black Bombers, Boilermaker, The Gakk, Slalom D and a few others, it’s an all-dayer. Looking forward to that one.

Back in ‘79 we were planning a single but didn’t go through with it – such a big regret for us. So we’re looking to get a single out on vinyl. Phil Rowland is sorting that out at the moment it’s something we’ve always wanted to do. We would of liked to put out Reignite on vinyl but it’s really expensive and takes so long. If you’re not a big name you could be waiting from six to eight months to get it pressed on vinyl.

We use social media to promote our music and gigs also Northumberland radio with Keith and Paul. Aycliffe radio also promote local bands on their radio stations so keep an eye out.

REIGNITE cd release date 21 October 2021 available from:

Facebook pages: The Fauves punk band, or Brian Bassman

or email unclebrian1959@live.co.uk

You should be able to listen to the album on spotify, bandcamp etc and purchase online after October 21st.

The Fauves are: Mick Smith (lead vocals), Allen Hughes (lead guitar/backing vocals)

Bri Smith (bass/backing vocals), Bob Rowland (drums/backing vocals).

Interview by Gary Alikivi  October 2021

BUSTING A GUT in NORTH AMERICA with CHIEF HEADBANGERS, RAVEN

Is the Raven Metal Machine ready to bust a gut and get back out on the road again ? John Gallagher let’s rip with a short, sharp message to the Raven Lunatics in America…

**** absolutely, we can’t wait to get into that groove, getting out there and go nuts.  It’s been way too long and people need a dose of good music!

When was the last time the band gigged ?  

We played the Alcatraz festival in Belgium on August 15 which was the first gig we played since the Monsters of Rock cruise in February 2020. So it’s been 18 month between shows and we played ‘The Power’ from the Metal City album too – it was a great gig for us.

Will the set list be made up from the recent album ‘Metal City’ ?  

We will do three or four Metal City tracks and a selection of older tunes a few of which we haven’t played in a zillion years so that’s gonna be fun!

Are you stopping off in any towns you’ve never played ?

The States is so big there’s always somewhere new to play! Petaluma, California and Lincoln, Nebraska to name just two.

The ‘Metal City’ 20+ date tour stops off in cities including Akron, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, San Diego, Salt Lake City and Brooklyn.

If you are going to see the band leave a message and include comments about the gig and where you saw them.

For up to date info & merch check the website:

Raven | Official Raven Lunatics Website

Previous post:

METAL TOON, METAL CITY – video filmed in Newcastle for new single from Chief Headbangers, Raven. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Interview by Gary Alikivi   October 2021

BREAKING NEWS: in conversation with journalist & BBC Look North newsreader Jeff Brown 2/2

Part two of a conversation with Jeff Brown in The Customs House, South Shields.

Jimmy Nail & Sammy Johnson in TV series ‘Spender’.

I’ve appeared in a few Sunday for Sammy shows at Newcastle City Hall and the Arena. I’ve loved taking part in that. In fact, the first time I was on telly was with Sammy Johnson – I was an extra in Spender.

I was in the background of a pub scene in The Ship in Byker and had to walk past him then order a pint at the bar. There was a couple either side of me with the woman saying quietly ‘Do you think we’re on ? I said ‘if you lean in a bit further you might get into shot’. I got £50 for that! (laughs).

Theatre and the arts have always been a huge part of my life, and being on TV is the nearest thing of being an actor in a way. My daughter had her first professional break here on stage at the Customs House. We’re big supporters of this theatre with spending most of my life just up the road in Jarrow.

Jeff with former professional footballer Dave Corner. (pic courtesy Newcastle Journal).

CENTRE STAGE

A couple of year ago I took a play writing course at Live Theatre, Newcastle, and came up with an idea based on a true story about a Sunderland footballer, David Corner. He gave away a goal in the Milk Cup final against Norwich City at Wembley in 1985. He was 19 years old, and it was only his third game.

Dave is six foot and ginger so he was very visible, and a lot of people blamed him for costing Sunderland the final. The ball was running towards the corner flag and instead of kicking it out he tried to shield it and let it run out for a goal kick. Someone nicked the ball off him and scored – and that one mistake had a huge effect on the rest of his life.

In the years afterwards he got a lot of abuse – a broken jaw, broken eye socket among other things – so it was trying to get him a bit of redemption, really. Everyone makes a mistake but this poor guy was pilloried for it – and even now, people see him in Sunderland and shout:  Are you Davey Corner? You cost us the cup final!

I loved seeing the play come to life. It was a monologue, with a great actor called Steve Arnott playing the part of Davey. He wasn’t a football fan and I thought he would’ve had to be to ‘get’ what the show was about. First night Steve said ‘No I’m an actor Jeff, that’s what I do – act characters that I’m not’. I thought – fair point, Steve!

It ran three nights here, then toured at Washington Arts Centre and the Gala in Durham. It was also on at The Peacock pub in Sunderland – where Davey had his jaw broken, so it was quite poignant, really.

I’m still in touch with him now, and he’s a lovely guy. He became a policeman after football, and said he never thought he would find a job where he was hated even more than when he was a footballer! He is retired now, as a result of all the knee operations he had in football.

We turned it into an audio book where I recorded it myself, absolutely loved it. We put it out last year during UK Anti-Bullying week, to raise money for the Foundation of Light, the charity connected to Sunderland Football Club.

ENTER STAGE LEFT

I’ve written a couple of plays since which I’m still hoping to have produced. One is based on a Premier League footballer, originally from the Republic of Congo but brought up in France. The play is set in the North East, where he meets a single mum. She’s a lost soul with no money, and he is a lost soul with a lot of money – so there is a clash of cultures. I’m hoping it’ll see the light of day eventually!

Trying to get people back to the theatre is hard, and trying to get them back for untried new writing is doubly hard. I’m a huge supporter of the arts and can’t understand Governments not thinking the arts are important. They’re a huge part of life.

Recent pic taken at a ‘Talk In’ with former Sunderland manager Peter Reid.

TODAYS NEWS

Soon as I get up I listen to the radio but I’m still a big newspaper fan, although it is a dying industry and I would hesitate to tell kids to get into it like I did. I still love physically reading an article in a paper, rather than trying to look at it on a phone. When I get in the office at work I flick through the papers, Northern Echo, Journal and Chronicle to see what’s going on locally.

People have been nice about us working on Look North during the pandemic. I was stopped in Morrisons in Jarrow a few weeks back and some people said thanks for everything you’ve done during lockdown. I’ve just being doing my job really but they said no it’s just lovely to see the same faces and hear a familiar voice every night.

I never thought about it like that – but some people have been stuck in the house all through lockdown not seeing anybody, so a regular news outlet with a familiar voice and face has helped in a small way. If we have brought some comfort to people, that’s nice.


CD version of ‘Cornered’ is available from the SAFC store:
 https://www.safcstore.com/200003380

Audiobook:  https://music.apple.com/gb/album/cornered/1539324695

Interview by Gary Alikivi  October 2021.

BREAKING NEWS: in conversation with journalist & BBC Look North newsreader Jeff Brown 1/2

Jeff Brown has been a familiar face on North East TV for 25 years, delivering news and sport in his calm and self-assured way. I arranged to meet him in The Customs House, South Shields to find out what makes him tick.

Everyone is good at something it’s just finding it, it gives you tremendous focus and peace of mind and I was lucky to find mine at a young age. I was also very lucky having supportive parents so when I said at 14 that I wanted to be a sports reporter they never said everyone wants to get into football matches for nothing, why not be an accountant.

Journalism was all I wanted to do. My Dad said let’s see what we can do to make it happen. He suggested looking in the Sunderland Echo every night to see what sports stories they don’t cover and go and cover them.

First thing I did was follow some friends up to Edinburgh for a Table Tennis tournament. I wrote it all up and sent it in. It was used in the Echo and it was an absolute wow seeing it in print. This was around 1976.

I also followed Newcastle Diamonds speedway, wrote up the reports in longhand and my Dad drove miles out of his way to work to drop them off at the Echo office.

After having three or four printed and not being paid my Dad said why not drop them a line and say you are happy to supply them but payment would be good. I eventually got £1.25 for each report printed and after a few of these they started putting my name on them – giving me a by line. I knew then this is what I wanted to do.

I was desperate to start work straight after school but a teacher advised me to go to University because it would help get me further and faster in a career. Unfortunately no Media courses then so it was Economic and Social History at York.

Jeff at the Birmingham Post & Mail.

HAVE YOU HEARD THE NEWS

In my third year I wrote off to fifty newspapers and got six replies, two interviews and one job offer. So that’s how I finished up at the Birmingham Post and Mail in 1982 as a trainee at a time when newspapers had a bit of money so they were putting you on training courses.

I did my two and a half years training and everyday I would go over to the sports desk and ask if there’s a job nobody wants to do – maybe on a weekend or evening – I’ll do it.

As my training finished a job came up on the sports desk as a junior, so I became sports reporter in January 1985 and after a year a job came up on the North East Journal. I thought I had left the North East and wanted to go to Fleet Street in London, but after talking to friends and looking at the opportunity of writing about North East sport, I came back and did ten years on the Journal.

That was mainly football, boxing and speedway plus Durham cricket who became a first class county and I got the job covering them home and away for not just the Journal but the Chronicle, Sunday Sun and the Pink. I always loved writing and did fourteen years in all on papers.

Jeff interviews cricketer Ian Botham for the Journal, 1993.

SPIRIT OF RADIO

When Durham were playing first class county matches BBC Newcastle wanted news reports from matches that I was covering. So at the end of the game I’d pick up a phone and talk about the game for a minute – and that was it.

Writing a report, you’d spend all day crafting eight hundred to a thousand words then ring the office, asking them to change a comma or paragraph – it was so much easier just talking! So I did a bit more radio broadcasting, before a job came up at Tyne Tees in 1996.

The boss, Roger Thames, got in touch and asked if I wanted to come in for a chat ? I was a bit naïve, because it was an interview really – and he asked me to do a screen test there and then.

I thought I had my best tie on, but is my hair ok ? Maybe I should say I’ll come back tomorrow, when I would have had time to prepare. But as he was talking I thought: no this is TV – it’s what you’ve got to do and be ready at a minutes notice.

I still have a copy of the screen test on tape, and if you saw it you would say ‘How did that bloke ever get on TV!’ I’m reading a news bulletin and it’s awful! I’m tense and moving nothing but my lips.

Then they asked me to talk about a sports topic for two minutes. I was wired up (through a headpiece) to the gallery and they let me know when there was a minute left, 30 seconds left, and then there was a countdown from ten seconds to zero. Timing is all important – especially on ITV, because you have to hit the advertising breaks.

For the two minute sports topic I talked about Durham cricket, and as I wound the piece up I came out bang on zero. That’s when Roger Thames said ‘that’s the guy for the job’. Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat and think what if I did say I’ll come back tomorrow?

You’ve got to take opportunities when they come along. What’s the worst that could happen ? Changed my life that did – and that was twenty five years ago this month.

BIG PICTURE

The Kevin Keegan and Peter Reid times were great for sport in the North East. ITV had Premier League rights to use the football highlights, and at its height we had a team of eleven in the sports department.

We did sport every night on Tyne Tees, and on a Monday and Friday there were separate sports desks in City Road, Newcastle and at the Belasis studio in Billingham.

We did a Saturday tea-time results service called ‘Full Time’, a weekly magazine programme called Café Sport, and Football Flashback – an archive programme. We had our own football shows with studio guests, built around Highlights of big Cup ties, and I even travelled to do features in Italy, Holland and the States – it was a great time.

I had six and a half years at Tyne Tees, but then in 2003 I had an appraisal with Roger where he asked what do I want to do? I said ‘I want to do your job, Head of Tyne Tees Sport.’

But he told me his job would be gone in a few years and there wouldn’t be a separate department – it will all be under one roof. It was just the way ITV was developing. Instead of eighteen separate regions – Tyne Tees, Yorkshire, Granada etc – it would all be just one big ITV company.

It broke my heart to leave but BBC Look North were looking to compete by having a sports night every night. And everything Roger said about the way ITV was changing came to pass.

On the BBC sofa with Carol Malia.

LIFE IN A NORTHERN TOWN

In 2008 our main Look North news presenter, Carol Malia, went on maternity leave and a national advert went out for the post. I thought ‘I’ve done sport for around twenty years now – I might just give it a go’. I was in my comfort zone, and thought I should try something different.

I had being doing sport on Look North five years so knew I wouldn’t be a new face to viewers. My boss said ‘You didn’t give the best but we’ll take a chance!’ So I started on news, and when Carol came back I filled in on some days. Now she does three days a week hosting Look North and I do two, plus two days of sport.

Most of the programme is done in advance with a planning team. The order of news stories is decided on the day. On Monday we spend most of our time churning out the weekend sport. But we also plan ahead for the rest of the week so we know we have something every night. At the same time you’re always ready to drop everything and go chasing after a breaking news story.

There is a high degree of flexibility because of the way the industry has changed. Initially it would take five people to put a story on telly. When I started there was a cameraman, sound engineer, reporter, video editor and another sound engineer for recording a voice over.

Now I can be a video journalist (VJ) where I film something, digitize it, choose the pictures, write the voice over and record that, then edit the whole package and finally present it – which is why there aren’t as many jobs as there used to be, despite there being loads more channels!

Being able to edit pictures can give you great flexibility. If a story breaks at 6pm I can write it, choose the pictures, edit it all together then bang – it’s there to use at 6.30pm.

One time I was just putting my phone in the locker and I picked up a text that the Sunderland manager at the time – Steve Bruce – had just been sacked. We had half an hour to reshape the whole programme, which began with Carol asking me questions while we floated in some pictures of Steve and I talked about it for 2-3 minutes. It’s that immediacy which makes it so exciting.

The day after this interview Newcastle United were sold to new owners becoming one of the richest football club’s on the planet. Jeff was called in for a special live broadcast from St James’ Park and Newcastle manager Steve Bruce again was in line to be sacked.

Read part two about Jeff’s involvement in theatre and arts and what he is doing now.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   October 2021.

PLAY LUCKY: Celebrating 75 years in showbiz with Ray Cooney O.B.E

‘I was born in 1932 and been in the business since I was 14 years old. When I was 18 I had to do National Service for a couple of year, you had to do that after the Second World War’.

London born Ray remembers his roots and where his life on stage began…

‘Originally the family were Irish and came over to Jarrow in the North East where my Dad was born, then he hitch hiked down to London to get work. After I completed my National Service I went up north and joined a repertory company in Blackburn for a couple of year, before auditioning for Brian Rix at London’s Whitehall Theatre where I ended up staying for seven years’.

Comedy and farce are the backbone of Ray’s work but a rock n roll swerve in 1977 saw a musical celebrating the life of Elvis Presley. The show opened at London’s Astoria Theatre with pop stars Shakin’ Stevens and PJ Proby playing the Elvis role in different stages of his life. Europe, Australia, Canada and Japan tours quickly followed.

‘I enjoyed the Elvis show so much. We got in touch with his agent and asked to put a show on about his life and he said sure go for it. So we went ahead and here we are over 40 years later talking about it’.

Having previously written with Tony Hilton and John Chapman, I then started to write my first solo play which was ‘Run For Your Wife’, that ended up running for nine years in London. We also had a six week run in New York and that went well, really delightful’.

Various TV and film stars appeared in the 1982 and 83 productions of ‘Run For Your Wife’ including Richard Briers (The Good Life, Ever Decreasing Circles), Bernard Cribbins (Carry On, Tales of the Unexpected) Bill Pertwee (Dad’s Army) and Carol Gill (Robin’s Nest, Carry On).

The show was first performed at the Windsor then promoted to the Shaftsbury Theatre, London.

‘My process is I write the play, then have a rehearsed reading which we do in my house or garden, I always play in it, and that’s where I get a real good feel for it. I do a re-write then we go to Guildford or Windsor Theatre and do a three week production’.

‘After that I do a re-write then a short six week tour and another re-write. By the time we come to do it in the West End it’s really, really polished and the play is then set in stone’.

‘The premise is basically simple and that’s why they play so well, in fact my plays are played all around the world, and in Poland ‘Run For Your Wife’ has been playing for over 27 years and is still running’.  

‘Also in Russia my plays, play for months and months and they love them – because the basic premise is so easy to understand’.

‘The well-known actors who I’ve worked with in the past, like Richard Briers and Donald Sindon, know what I’ve done with the play so respect it and rehearsals are really fun. Plus any producer who does them knows what would have gone in to them’.

With a skill set of actor, writer and director, Ray added producer, with west end credits including Chicago, Andy Capp, Elvis, Jack the Ripper and Birds of Paradise. Is he thinking of slowing down ?

‘I’m not writing anymore, I don’t have the feeling to write, but there is a lovely little dinner theatre near Reading called The Mill at Sonning Theatre. They love doing my plays there and I always go down to see them’.

‘I’ve directed a couple there and even though they were written years ago they still play wonderfully well. They do dinner before the show and it’s around £60 a ticket – it’s always packed out’.

‘Looking back I’ve been very fortunate over the years because my plays are done all over the world. I’ve been really, really lucky – you betcha’.

For more info on Ray check his official website, Facebook and Twitter accounts:

Ray Cooney

Interview by Gary Alikivi  September 2021.

BORIS OUT !

The poem ‘Mask of Anarchy’ by Percy Shelly inspired Writer and Theatre producer Ed Waugh to write lyrics for a new song ‘For the Many, Not the Few’.

Ed recently got in touch…We are delighted to launch our new song and you can watch it on You Tubeit can also be downloaded from various platforms Facebook, Spotify and Amazon (link below)’.

‘The song is to launch Boris Out! A show of socialist comedy and entertainment – comedy sketches, satire, stand up, songs and poetry written and performed by some of the region’s top writers and actors. It is also a precursor to the political earthquake that is about to engulf the world’.

‘If you like it please share the song and the Boris Out! leaflet on social media.

If you don’t like it, still share it but say it’s by Duran Duran……

See you all at Boris Out! at the Tyneside Irish Centre on November 14’.

Due to demand, only tickets for the 3pm show are available.

The 7pm show is sold out (returns only) – only 50 remain for the 3pm show.

Buy your tickets for only £10 from:  borisout.eventbrite.com

Watch the video here:

Gary Alikivi  October 2021

MORE THAN WORDS : with Chief music writer, Phil Sutcliffe 2/2

In this second post with music journalist and author Phil Sutcliffe, he talks about working with some of the biggest bands on the planet.

I knew AC/DC somewhat when they’d just come to London. Bon was the best storyteller and his narration of the Whole Lotta Rosie legend was a treat – 19 stone, Bon the 32nd bloke she’d had that month, the ‘Climb on top’ – although I don’t think it was her who’d got the jack.

AC/DC interview in Sounds August 1976.

The Police had a famous story of one of those early career gigs that Sting told me about, I mean famous once they were getting interviewed. They were in Poughkeepsie, upstate New York, their first US gig after their CBGBs debut, and the story goes that six people showed up.

The band played full-on regardless, broke off to introduce the ‘crowd’ to one another, all had a good time despite circumstances and one of the six was a DJ who played, Roxanne, and world conquest began right there!

The Police book I did in ’81 with Hugh Fielder was the real thing, mid-story right-there excitement, the Springsteen biography will be the best I can do, skill and enthusiasm on a long creative life – his I mean, though mine will be in there too. From that English and American Lit degree to the old retired music journo, exploring still – not necessarily getting anywhere.

In the Springsteen biography have you found anything you were surprised at ?

My approach is connections and that makes for a wide reach and the surprises you ask about. For months I’ve been reading about Elvis, racism and the south, and that has extended to books on MLK, Mahalia Jackson, Gospel, plus infinite circles around Elvis, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Odetta, Dylan, Stax – all occurring when Bruce was 8-20 year old.

So the title might be a sonorous BS and The Great Tradition, if I ever get there, fun en route though. Regardless, it all interests me and other fans, beyond that probably no readers.

Phil second from right at a Sounds reunion 2011.

Throughout your career who were your memorable interviews with ?

That’s the question very old music writers don’t want. My disappointing answer is they were more or less all enjoyable, including Lemmy for Sounds. Flying to France in a bigger-than-small plane his manager Gerry Bron owned. He was remarkably direct and engaged with anyone who looked him in the eye, so another different-planet interview that worked very well.

AC/DC for Sounds, my first and favourite being at the house they rented in London. The Youngs and Bon Scott being nothing but their down-to-earth – with a touch of python-round-the-neck – selves and storytelling till the teabags ran out.

Springsteen in Mojo, my lifetime fave, who I first heard through Bedrock (BBC Newcastle radio programme). To interview, no one I met has ever combined such clarity, such heart, such ideas, such grasp of the sweat-and-blood inner lives – well, we’ve been travelling over rocky ground you know.

In sum though, through all these blessings, I’d just state musicians all have a lot to say and I’m happy to take notes and tell the story. Never met a stupid musician, never.

Vocabularies vary according to background, but the ability to express themselves verbally seems pretty consistent to me, whether or not they’re wordsmith lyricists by trade – the creative, artistic instinct and inclination carry over into speech – fortunately for us music writers.

What are you doing now?

Meandering through semi-retirement writing a much-needed Springsteen biography which pleases me – if the Bruce book counts as professional work.

Still very active in my union the National Union Of Journalists, whereof I’m a Member Of Honour. My only honour! But a good one.

Lived with my wife Gayle in the same south London flat since we left Newcastle in 1979. No reason to move, never saw the ladder. Lucky, lucky, lucky as the lovely Kylie said.

Thanks to ‘Soundclips’ on twitter for articles from Sounds 1975-80, archivist Steve ‘Stig’ Chivers.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  September 2021

MORE THAN WORDS: with Chief music writer, Phil Sutcliffe

The blog has featured some people who stuck a flag in the ground for the North East – Chris Phipps, Chris Cowey, David Wood, Colin Rowell, Ian Penman and Rik Walton for the pix.

The latest addition to the squad is a man who used words to create a colourful landscape and painted pictures in the minds of thousands of teenage music lovers.

London born Phil Sutcliffe, looks back on 40 years of music journalism for Sounds, Q, Mojo and The Face.

He interviewed a world of musicians including Stewart Copeland, Joni Mitchell, Nick Cave, Sheryl Crow, Eric Clapton…

Thom Yorke for Los Angeles Times and for Mojo, 15 minutes on the phone with Dolly Parton, truly that can set you up for a year or two.

Where did Sutcliffe find his love for words, and what’s his connection to the North East ?

I always wanted to be a journalist so in 1969 when I finished my A-levels and had a degree in English & American Literature from Manchester University, I applied for journo jobs and got a training course followed by an apprenticeship at Newcastle Evening Chronicle.

That was in the new training centre in an office above the Bigg Market doing just about everything – local councils, sports desk, feature writing, a spell as a columnist, the subs desk, and in court where the 15-year-old kid who pleaded guilty to burglary and asked for 153 other offences to be taken into account.

There was stints in district offices – Gateshead, Consett and North Shields – ah, the morning fishing report of how much, by weight and type of fish each boat had landed! From the outset writing heaps, hard, fast and fascinating all the time.

How did the job with Sounds come about ?

I’d always said I wanted to work freelance but it happened sooner than intended. After three years mainly on the Chronicle I did the usual thing of trying to get my second job, 175 rejections later I went freelance.

September 1974 I was 27 my first marriage had just broken up, a bit late to start writing about rock’n’pop so not much in the way of a plan, but thought maybe I could earn part of a living on one of the five weekly rock/pop papers – as ‘our man in the North East’.

While still doing a bit of local news for Newcastle papers and Radio Newcastle, plus a couple of non-musical feature items for Woman’s Hour! I wrote off to NME, Melody Maker, Sounds and Record Mirror.

With so many band tours starting in the North East you could get the first review in, and I got a sniff from Melody Maker, but really hit it off with Sounds.

Within the next year I started doing feature interviews and making a slightly more decent living – Gentle Giant might have been the first as I tended to get ecstatic about their wild prog adventures.

But my first rock interview I think was Sparks backstage at Newcastle City Hall for Radio Newcastle’s late-night programme, Bedrock. The show was DJ’d by my friend Dick Godfrey with a strictly non-rowdy zoo of other voices – Ian Penman/Ravendale, Arthur Hills, the Out Now fanzine team, me, and other enthusiasts, all of us unpaid but enjoying ourselves meeting stars.

Also dozens of local bands from Sting’s Last Exit to Bob Smeaton’s White Heat, the veteran Junco Partners, Southbound, Gale Force Ten (with singer-saxist Joy Askew) and Wavis O’Shave.

There was a lot of local stuff about and loads of it good in what might well have been a culture – Tyneside pub rock. Very diverse, and not what Londoners called pub rock – Ducks Deluxe, Chilli Willy and such, Brit R&B-rooted – but it did happen in pubs quite a bit.

The Cooperage, The Bridge, The Gosforth – Last Exit every Weds if I recall. That one out in Heaton, Andy Hudson’s wine bar for a bit, a cellar near the Civic Centre – he played trumpet for the Grimethorpe Colliery Band when he were a lad you know, and then the more obviously culture-centred Jesmond Theatre.

We met on a Saturday lunchtime in a pub near the Tyne river and chatted and plotted, me and Dick Godfrey, promoter-musos like Chris Murtagh and Angus, er, sorry lost his surname but nice bloke with a moustache.

Even the odd sympathetic older star like Hilton Valentine from The Animals who could show us all a thing or two, though I can’t remember what. It was good.

Angelic Upstarts pic. Rik Walton.

Once in a while the Guildhall down by the Tyne river, scene of the Bedrock festival that spun off from the radio programme – all of this encouraged by a loose collective of bands and fans.

Putting the Angelic Upstarts on before Neon at the Bedrock festival proved to be a misjudgment as a huge fight ensued, a rather one-sided affair given Neon fans were student’ish and Upstarts fans were from South Shields.

I jest in retrospect, but it was a shame and in part my fault thinking in a hippie way that music brought us all together. We didn’t do that again.

However, the Upstarts – and their fans – were fine on their own territory which is where I met them generally, starting with a gig at Jarrow Town Hall when punk had reached the North East and they’d released their single, Who Killed Liddle Towers?

Which was a drama and a campaign in itself, with police brutality played out by cop-hatted singer Mensi, going at a real pig’s head fresh from the butcher with a bloody great axe. That was a night.

Also a double-page spread in Sounds, Mensi and Mond had plenty to say for themselves and we got on, up to some point where me coming from another planet got unfeasibly less brotherly. I always liked them.

My Sounds colleague Dave McCullough didn’t though and he invented a great word for the rolling profanity Mensi deployed – fuckverballing. What came in between worked pretty well though, speaking for a life much harder that most rock writers knew anything about.

I did cover heavy metal/hard rock quite a lot, but missed the North East bands, but pretty sure Ian Penman did a feature.

(Penman writing as Ian Ravendale in Sounds, May 1980, featured the North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal with interviews from Mythra, Fist, Raven, White Spirit, Tygers of Pan Tang).

Penetration feature in Sounds 18/6/77

My other ‘discoveries’, as we used to say were Penetration, a quite brilliant sophistopunk band from Ferryhill, dazzling in every way with a natural star singer, Pauline Murray.

Great ideas men in Gary Chaplin and Robert Blamire, plus drummer Gary Smallman and out-there’ish guitarist Fred Purser. They almost made it. As did the rude theatricals, Punishment Of Luxury, with their panto villain frontman Brian Rapkin and his small band of wild-witty anarchs.

Reading festival 1979 line-up with Punishment of Luxury and headliners, The Police.

Meanwhile, I loved Last Exit to bits, jazz-rock and soul and their own stuff, often saw them twice a week, and eventually got them in Sounds. A big feature on Geordie boys trying the London move – and this despite editor Alan Lewis saying “God that singer’s awful” when I played him a cassette.

But this was just after I happened to introduce Sting to Stewart Copeland, passing through as Curved Air played the Poly in ’76 – he had a lightbulb moment all right and somehow persuaded Sting to give up the music he loved, come to London and play the music he hated – punk – until it freed him to find reggae and write, Roxanne onwards.

Stewart and Andy Summers played to their optimum pop potential and they become the biggest band in the world for quite a while.

Read part two featuring Phil’s memorable interviews, books on The Police and AC/DC and a Springsteen biography.

Thanks to ‘Soundclips’ on twitter for the articles from Sounds Magazine 1975 – 1980, archivist, Steve ‘Stig’ Chivers.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  September 2021

A FISTFULL OF MELODIES : Durham band Lowfeye

A potion of Velvets/Stooges/Morricone/Springfield – that’s Dusty not the Boss (Steen!) – two self-produced albums behind them, and a third on its way – Lowfeye are a perfect antidote to pop gunk blocking the airwaves.

Durham’s deadly duo are musician & producer Alan Rowland, and vocalist & songwriter Carol Nichol who I arranged to meet in Newcastle’s Centurion bar.

Before 12 noon it’s quiet as travellers with their cabin cases wait in anticipation to board trains and whisk them off around the country.

But today it’s a Friday, and there’s a stag do on heat, one bloke dressed as a crocodile and another in a silky white wedding dress. We search for a quiet corner.

What came out the blue was we had done a Ennio Morricone type track. I love his soundtracks on the Spaghetti Western films with Clint Eastwood. We shared it on a Quentin Tarrantino website (Reservoir Dogs/ Jackie Brown/Inglorious Basterds) and a label in Europe picked it up.

They said a Swedish director is making a five part drama for TV called The Partisan, he’s looking for analogue sounding, quirky stuff and really like’s your track. We got in contact and a year later he signed it up and added it to the programme.

In The Partisan the leading actor is an undercover cop (played by Fares Fares) living in an idyllic part of Sweden. Some dramas are very grey and set in the city, but he wanted to capture how beautiful the country was with the darkness lying beneath the cornfields. The actor reflected that with a lot of skeletons in his cupboard.

The track was played around his character and had that spaghetti western feel, that was great because I’m obsessed with The Good, The Bad & the Ugly type films. Since I was young I‘ve been obsessed with Ennio Morricone. Forget your Mama bloody Mia I’m into cowboys and old films.

Afterwards, the Director got in touch and personally thanked me for the track saying it was very Sergio Leonne (A Fistfull of Dollars/Once Upon a Time in America). 

It’s been shown in Sweden, France, Australia and America but not the UK yet. I got some footage and watched it, I’ve been in music since I was 14 and it was surreal hearing your track on something as good as this. One of the best days of my life.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO

I love the sound and films from the ‘60s and ‘70s and had an overload of pictures and music when I was young. Written on the back of my biker jacket was Black Sabbath and underneath The Stranglers, people would say how do they go together ?

But I also like tracks by Chic, the bass playing is excellent. Then the Russian classical composers, and Sabbath who have a really heavy sound that I love, the riffs from Toni Iommi were very original for their time. I also loved punk, Pistols, Damned then got into Joy Division and Magazine.

I saw The Stranglers, Smiths then Nirvana with Cobain at the Newcastle Riverside, who were really good but unheard of at the time. They ended up giving the ‘90s a kick up the arse. I remember I wasn’t allowed to go see Ozzy with his wild reputation but I did see AC/DC with Bon Scott. I’ve seen lots of local bands at Fowlers Yard in Durham and small venues in Newcastle.

HOME GROWN

I fronted a punk band and got some good gigs and support slots but didn’t want to keep on playing live so decided to concentrate more on working at home in a studio. We’ve got a good little set up now. We work from an eight track, a computer and instruments.

I’m a melody writer and bring up the ideas, Alan’s a great arranger and musician. The melodies just pop in really, anytime of the day, I play guitar or keyboard and record them on my phone. It comes quickly we never slog at it.

We love the old analogue stuff, as Lowfeye we try to get that warmer analogue sound. We experiment a lot with the soundtracks we are doing and get away from the digital sound.

MAGIC NUMBER

We’ve recorded our third album, just need to mix it. I love Raw on the second album (Poor Little Rich Girl) it’s a really heavy song and we’re looking at getting heavy tracks on the new one.

The last three month we’ve also been working on soundtracks and The Partisan are doing a second series. the Director gave us a brief about what it is about, so we sent him six soundtracks and he said there is two he might use in the new series.

Poor Little Rich Girl is available from Lowfeye via Facebook

or email cnichol66@btinternet.com

Check this link for review of the album:

POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL -new album by LOWFEYE | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Check this link for review of their first album Pow:

LOWFEYE – Deadly duo trip hop into the sunset on their debut album | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Link to music videos via You Tube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhdNiSGr3ho

Interview by Gary Alikivi   September 2021