STOCKTON IN WHITE SATIN: THE MOODY BLUES

Sky Arts has screened some great documentaries including ZZ Top, Go Go’s, Lynyrd Skynyrd and latest programme about Birmingham band The Moody Blues.

Early in their career the Moody’s toured with Chuck Berry and Sonny Boy Williamson while signed to a London management company who in turn had a deal with Decca records.

The first recording was Steal Your Heart Away in 1964, then after sprinkling some magic on an already great song by Bessie Banks, they released Go Now, landing at number one in the UK charts.

The profits were paid from the record company to the management who – you guessed it – never passed a cut onto the band and done a runner with all the dosh.

After this set back the band signed directly to Decca and produced a hit album ‘The Magnificent Moodys’, but unfortunately didn’t follow it up. By this time Denny Laine had departed, and John Lodge and Justin Heywood stepped in, Heywood was recommended to the Moodys by Eric Burdon of The Animals.

The Stockton Fiesta club.

With the coffers running low The Moodys went out on their first tour with the new line up on the Northern cabaret circuit played by TV stars Dusty Springfield, Morecambe & Wise, Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones – leading to one memorable night at Stockton’s Fiesta Club.

Justin Heywood: We had finished our second set and their was a knock on the dressing room door.

John Lodge: We thought ok they want autographs or photographs.

JH: A guy said ‘You’re the worst band I’ve seen in my life, you’re f’ing crap’. My bottom lip trembled, we were in silence. We packed our gear up and on our way home we got to Scotch Corner, when from the back of the transit a little voice from our drummer said ‘That blokes right. We are crap’.

JL: We looked at each other and said ‘I agree completely’.

JH: Next morning we went to rehearsals threw away the blue suits and wrote new material.

A completely new set was written ‘more powerful songs with melodies’, and in 1967 the Moodys released Days of Future Passed reported to be one of the first successful concept albums.

The record featured the classic Nights in White Satin which became the biggest selling single of their career with a re-release in 1972 reaching UK and USA top ten.

Who knows what would have happened if the gadgie from Stockton never knocked on their dressing room door.

Gary Alikivi  September 2021

CARGOES in conversation with Creative Director, Garry Hunter

For his new project looking at the connection between the Tyne and the Thames, former South Shields lad Garry, now based in London,  was inspired by a poem written by English poet and writer, John Masefield –  you’ll find a Masefield Drive in Biddick Hall where Hunter grew up.

The poem Cargoes is all about sea trade and it starts with the romance of travel by ship, the second verse is of a Portugese war ship full of gold coins, with the third about a collier travelling between the Tyne and Thames full of coal. It’s a beautiful poem.

The main aim of the project is to engage with young people to learn about trade in the late 19th century and we look at innovation and technology from the 1800’s and compare it to now. Plus highlighting the type of work that William George Armstrong was doing here in the North East producing hydraulic machinery, cranes, bridges, then artillery.

At the eastern end of the Thames river in London are the high rise buildings of Canary Wharf, in their shadow is Cody Dock, which was operational until the mid-60s. A lot of colliers from the North East would take coal down there for the coal powered gas stations which are now being redeveloped into housing estates.

I set up a community pub in Poplar in 2018, to honour locally born engineer Tommy Flowers who designed the world’s first computer for Bletchley Park in 1943 and was given an honorary doctorate by Newcastle University in 1977.

THE TOMMY FLOWERS Community Pub, with Colossus operator veterans Betty and Rene in front of Tommy Flowers portrait created by Jimmy C who made the famous Bowie mural in Brixton.

Berkeley Homes have a partnership with the National Grid including Beckton which is where Stanley Kubrick shot scenes for his film about the Vietnam war, Full Metal Jacket. Kubrick didn’t want to go to Vietnam so they changed the east London gas works into Saigon (laughs).

We also look at tin plate photography of the 1850s used by Edward Sheriff Curtis who photographed Native American Indians, to glass plate techniques when Sunderland born inventor Joseph Swan brought his process into photography.

Wet Collodian 10 x 8 inch tinplates using mid 19thC technology.

The different techniques used are really interesting and young people can compare them to today’s mobile phone camera which basically does all the thinking for you.

SNAP HAPPY

When I was about 12 year old I started messing around with a camera taking pictures of street scenes, snap shots, stuff like that. I didn’t get a decent camera with a good lens until ’82 and started taking pictures of bands.

Around this time I went on a year’s course studying Marine Engineering at South Shields Marine & Technical College. Then a job came up for processing and printing photographs at Tynecolour, South Shields, at the same time a letter arrived from Charles Taylor Foundry offering me a job, but that was for £1 a week less (laughs).

So I was at Tynecolour for over four years which was a great grounding on all the technical side of processing film and using colour, and when nobody was looking I would print my own photos.

PRINT IT

As well as bands I photographed live comedy. I was at Sunderland Empire in ‘83 and had a front row ticket for The Young Ones. With six frames left on my camera I had to be careful because I didn’t have much money for new film. But ended up with three good shots which I printed.

The next year Rik Mayall was supported by a young Ben Elton and I got in the soundcheck. I took a few pictures, Rik was really great ‘You gotta come to London’ he said. So off I went he introduced me to a few people and I got my first pictures published – £25 for an hours work really, this was when I was only getting £30 a week at Tynecolour.

To be honest that’s when I was looking to get out I didn’t want to be here for the rest of my life. My Dad had gone round the world which gave me a sense of wanderlust. 1985 was a bad time in Shields, the pits had been on strike for a year, shipyards were closing, it was all grey and miserable I just had to get away. I felt it was important to try something new.

PICTURE THIS

So I moved down south and ended in The Lodge recording studio in Suffolk as in house photographer. Basically it was a farm house in the middle of nowhere run by semi classical musicians.

The studio was all analogue with quarter inch tape, and during my time there was a lot of recording done, one time in the studio was a French experimental band Orchestra Rouge, who were really interesting. But bands were getting into synthesisers and some of them should’ve stuck with what they were doing and not try to be trendy.

I remember coming down to breakfast one morning and punk band The Anti Nowhere League were moaning about their mortgages – even anarchists need a roof over their head (laughs).

At the studio Mal Tootill who designed all the record sleeves and tour merchandise was a lecturer at Swansea University and asked me if I’ve thought of going to art college. He phoned ahead to check it out while I hitch hiked from Suffolk to Bristol then on to Swansea and saw the head of the Art Department. The course was a really good move for me.

After that about 25 ex-students all moved to London so we weren’t alone there, and these were days when you could still squat and get along without much money, that saved me.

WRITING ON THE WALL

Fast forward to over 30 years later and after a successful career in professional photography, I came back up North in 2013 and started working on a project called Street Art Heroes supported by Cultural Spring for public engagement inspired by the street names of Biddick and Whiteleas.

There was a lot of work bringing international artists over from Brazil, Canada and New Zealand, to create murals in north Sunderland and Shields, when we all stayed at Hillhead Farm on Lizard Lane in Marsden. 

They created artworks in the area, one of which is a mural on the side of Chuter Ede training centre, it’s still there now. Chuter Ede used to be the school where I attended and it was great going back because when I was a teenager there I got caned for doing some graffiti (laughs).

Alice at Chuter Ede nearby Carroll Walk on Biddick Hall, South Shields commissioned by Garry Hunter for Cultural Spring mural artist Irony.

SAND DANCER

Next year is the International Year of Glass, that’s an interesting link to the collier ships going down to London and sand being used for ballast on the return journeys. It is reported that was a different sand from the beaches, it was better for glass making and used in the North East glass factories.

Nearby to where we are now (The Alum House pub, South Shields) was Cookson’s glass factory, half of the chimney is still standing next to The Custom’s House. In the latter part of the 19th century some people from the North East would go down to London and work in the glass works.

I’m really interested in all those industrial innovations and how people have used technology to progress trade and industry and with a successful Heritage funding bid we’ve been given the go ahead for a project.

We’re in the early stages of planning now, I’m working with Graham Carrick, a fine artist from Gateshead who is Director of Digital in our Community Interest Company, Fitzrovia Noir. Plus we’re bringing in two other organisations to work alongside us. I find it all very exciting and interesting – we’re making innovations in industry sound sexy (laughs).

Interview by Gary Alikivi  September 2021.

LORD OF THE RING – in conversation with Sunderland boxing coach & fire fighter Preston Brown

The fantastic four of Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard were my era and I loved them. I’ve met Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler and went to see Tommy Hearns box as he was my favourite.  He was a great boxer, very skilful.

His fight with Marvin Hagler in 1985 is the most exciting three rounds of boxing. If Hearns boxed he would of won, but they both went at it hammer and tong and Hagler knocked him out in the third round remembers Preston.

Then every now and then you get a freak of nature like a Mike Tyson, he was powerful, had agility, and skill yes, but he was a fighter knocking people out. Boxing matches bring a clash of styles.

Today in the ring you have Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, Billy Joe Saunders who just fought for a world title, there’s still good boxers out there. They came from amateur boxing but it’s not as popular as it used to be as there are more distractions now, kids can be in their bedrooms on their computers where parents can keep an eye on them.

17 year old John ‘Pasty’ Brown.

FIRST ROUND

I was born and brought up in Hendon in the east end of Sunderland and my Dad, John, was a boxer. In the ‘60s a boxing club was opened and my Dad ended up coaching. Through boxing he helped a lot of kids and hopefully I can do the same. Boxing can learn you discipline and respect – it can do a lot of good.

When I was young I was out in the street, bird nesting, playing on railway lines. But I drifted over to the boxing club with the other lads and my Dad was in there. I wasn’t forced into it. I’d sit ring side and took an interest in it.

What I’m doing now is a continuation of what my Dad did. Some kids when they first come in to the gym are not sure about it, but about 90% of them end up respecting the place, have determination and dedication to turn up training each week, and learn discipline. You’ve got to put the time in. It’s a tough game you can get hurt.

Preston in the gym.

IN THE RING

When I became a member of Sunderland Amateur Boxing Club I started boxing competitively through the ‘70s and ‘80s. I slowly progressed from boxing to coaching and become official through the A.B.A. (Amateur Boxing Association).

Sunderland lad Tony Jeffries was one of the gym’s proteges, he represented GB in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and won a Bronze medal. At the gym with Tony was a kid called Stuart Kennedy, I thought he was a very good boxer, but just like in life, you’ve got to have a bit of luck. Stuart glided around the ring with his footwork but didn’t get the lucky breaks.

A kid called Anthony Wilkinson boxed with me, he won three British titles two years in a row and at 17 turned professional. I thought he was a bit young for it but he was making money. I think he could have been the best boxer we produced.

ALL FIRED UP

I got a job in the fire brigade, 22 year I’ve been in now, and there was a couple of firefighters who were boxers, they knew I had coaching badges so asked me to help out with some training.

We got on for a couple of year arranged a few charity matches with the police and then got invited to go over to Boston and Denver plus a small club in Ireland where we go annually.

The firefighters loved the boxing training and after using other gyms, with the total backing and support of Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther, I set up our own in an old storage building in the Sunderland fire station grounds.

We got help with funds for equipment from the local council who said ok as long as you open it up to the community. We kitted the gym out with the best because the council were totally onboard with the whole idea and we had a big opening night in April 2019.

When we first opened the doors to the kids we were only getting a handful but that quickly grew to 35 a night so we extended to two hourly sessions. We got loads of kids off the streets.

The youngest is 9 year old when they train, you can’t box until you’re 11. From 11 to 15 you’re a schoolboy, 15 to 17 classed as a junior, at 17 you can box men. My first senior fight was at 17 the other lad was 34. I got beat but we’re still good friends (laughs).

I was classed as a boxer not a fighter, I had boxing skills with my feet, hand speed and technical ability. I boxed him in the first round, dancing round him you know. Second round he thought it was time to slow me down and hit me with a body shot and knocked me down I had a standing count of eight to compose myself. That’s the difference between a boy and a man.

Kids start off at three rounds of a minute and a half, as you get older you go to two minute rounds and seniors box three minute rounds. Our gym aims to channel the energy of young kids, it gets them interacting with people, better than them playing on their phones.

CREATING CHAMPIONS

We’d love to produce Olympians or World Champions but if they come out just feeling better about themselves we’ve won. In the gym we’ve had police officers mixing with criminals, different people who wouldn’t normally get on but who’ve got a love of the sport. The atmosphere is fantastic everybody loves it and you can forget about what is happening outside – like being in a bubble.

There’s no better feeling in the world when the referee holds up your hands to say ‘and the winner is’. In the same breath if you get beat by the better man you think ‘I’ll do better next time’. The fire lads and the kids have a thing where they say ‘I didn’t win that fight but we learnt from it’. And that’s important because it’s all about competing. The gym’s motto is creating champions in the ring, creating champions in life.

Anyone that can step in the ring has my total respect. You’re stepping into the unknown, the man across from you might be better. So have you done enough training ? Have you worked with the coach enough ? You will be put in the ring against someone with similar experience.

Although our club has fought against a team that’s put in ringers – fighters with a lot of fights – matched against someone with only two or three. That’s not on really, it’s about giving the lads a proper fight, they’ve got to be matched up correctly.

Preston coaching in the gym.

HEADS UP

Head guards were brought in a few years ago and the kids and females need to wear them but the bigger lads can agree to wear them or not. I’m a big believer in them when you are training but they are uncomfortable to wear when competing.

I will insist on everyone wearing one when sparring and training. The women may not be big and powerful as the lads but they are very skillful and I appreciate that, it’s an art.

PROGRESS

Britain has produced some good boxers over the years who have come through amateur gym’s but in the past year covid has restricted that so it’s a problem, we’ve got to work something out to go forward and make progress.

For more information contact Preston on: 07740 285 966

Sunderland Central Fire station, Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue Service,

Phoenix building, Railway Row, Sunderland SR1 3HE

Gym address: Unit One, Westbourne Road, Sunderland SR 1 3SQ

Interview by Gary Alikivi   August 2021

CARRYING DAVID in conversation with North East actor, Micky Cochrane

Before acting, Cochrane’s game was fronting a Newcastle band from 2008-13.

It was great being in front of a live audience and the buzz you get off it. We had interest from an American label who said we had to change our name because ‘We can’t sell you over here called The Soviets’ (laughs).

We done a single launch and one review said the ground was moving so we changed our name from The Soviets to This Ground Moves. We shot a couple of video’s and our track ‘Soldiers of Fortune’ got played on American TV series CSI New York.

All of a sudden we had some fans from the States and released an album in 2011. But unfortunately we split up six month later.

Fast forward to 2019 with Cochrane signing up for a new show ‘Carrying David’. North East writer & theatre producer Ed Waugh scripted a play about the McCrory brothers from County Durham. One severely disabled and the other became boxing’s Cruiserweight Champion of the world. Former Eastenders actor Russell Floyd was drafted in to direct the one man show.

I totally believe in the piece and think it’s a really important story to tell. Glenn was interviewed by Ed and he asked him just tell me everything what you remember about the fight. Glenn recalled what happened in each round and I do my best to perform that on stage. 

First out was a short tour around the North East in 2019 and then we took it to Northern Ireland for a week. The very first night was in the Newcastle Tyneside Irish Centre. I really wanted the ground to swallow me up, but after that every show got a standing ovation. The responses we got were overwhelming and it’s a lovely feeling knowing the audience have enjoyed the show.

2020 was cancelled for obvious reasons. I was in such good shape for Newcastle Theatre Royal but then Covid hit and I was gutted more so for my family who didn’t get to see me there.

Ed was saying to keep in shape cos we don’t know how long this will go on. Two month later I was eating chips and drinking beer (laughs).

But I was really upset it was cancelled. Glenn rang me and said it’ll be fine because it’s an inspirational story, it’s about not giving up, triumph over adversity.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

When I first read the script I couldn’t believe it had happened, it’s remarkable. The defeats, the times he got ripped off, he was really rock bottom with nowhere to go.

Glenn’s disabled brother David was told he wouldn’t live beyond he was 15, yet he lived long enough to see his brother win a boxing World Championship.

It was his brothers bravery and courage to keep on living with a smile on his face that helped Glenn to come back. He put his head down and worked hard.

The final scene is the set piece with Glenn fighting for the boxing world title. I enter the ring as Glenn with boxing gloves and shorts on recreating all the moves talking about the fight as it happens.

STAGE SET

I’ve been going to the gym cos if you walk on stage and you’re out of shape it won’t look good. I actually trained with Glenn at first getting his style right and how he threw punches. Added to that I had personal trainers for the weights.

Ed has a few other projects on so I took over the production and rang a few theatres to see what’s available. They were all keen to put something on so I got in touch with a few contacts who stepped up to help finance the show.

My sisters company, Sunhealth, a Swedish business owner who saw the play in Belfast, plus the conservatory company that Glenn does a TV advert for came onboard. It’s all come together.

During North East dates in September we are visiting excellent venues in Newcastle, Blyth, Durham, Barnard Castle, Hexham and Alnwick.

Plus the London dates in the Canal Café where we are looking to get a few producers along to hopefully take it on a national tour maybe this time next year.

SEND IN THE CROWDS

I was in panto in June at Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre that had been rearranged from last Christmas, I enjoyed it but there was still a few restrictions like the bar being closed and you couldn’t congregate near the stage. It was nice to be back on stage but it was a bit surreal.

This one man show is a test of endurance, it’s a challenge keeping fit and being able to bring the audience along with the story. It’s very energetic, there’s no lull, there is sad moments – I just want to do the story justice.

There is still a little uncertainty out there with audiences thinking should they go to the theatre, is it safe enough ? It’s a hard time and people will have it in the back of their mind what has happened – but now is the time for Carrying David to take off the shackles. I’m in shape for this tour and ready to go.

For ‘Carrying David’ full tour dates contact:

https://www.wisecrackproductions.co.uk/carrying-david

Interview by Gary Alikivi   August 2021

GEORDIE PLAYS new book by writer & theatre producer Ed Waugh

A new book released by the Wisecrack team –  Geordie Plays, is a compilation of North East scripts from successful plays Hadaway Harry, The Great Joe Wilson and Carrying David written by Ed Waugh.

‘In our small way, Wisecrack Productions try to give a voice to our forgotten heroes who have given us so much yet barely mentioned today.

We are taught at school that ‘our’ history is about kings and queens. Rubbish! It’s the working class who create the wealth in society and yet our real history is ignored by the London-centric educational establishment’.

‘One example is children are taught about the Great Fire of London in 1666, yet the great fire of the Quayside in 1854 is never mentioned. That fire started in Gateshead and spread across to Newcastle and laid waste to both quaysides’.

‘Around 700 working people were made homeless and many dozens died. This loss was much greater than the Fire of London but how many Geordies know about our fire?

A script featured in the book is about a former Durham miner, Harry Clasper, the story follows his journey from working class pitman in Jarrow, to rowing Champion of the World.

‘When you tell people about Harry Clasper who invented the sport of rowing that we know today – people can’t believe it. Nor can they grasp that 130,000 people attended Harry’s funeral in 1870’.

Waugh has also included the story of North East singer and song writer, Joe Wilson.

‘Joe chronicled working class life and supported workers on strike, yet he doesn’t appear on the educational curriculum, even in the North East where he was a superstar. The Scots celebrate Burns Night annually. We should be celebrating Joe Wilson Night every year’.

The third script in the book, Carrying David, focused on two McCrory brothers, one severely disabled and the other who became boxing’s Cruiserweight Champion of the world.

Glenn’s story about becoming a world champion is incredible but add in the inspiration he got from terminally ill brother David, and you have something special. Rocky 1 is a great film but Carrying David, about a ‘Country Durham Rocky’ is better’.

‘To be champion of the world at anything is a tremendous accomplishment but as a boxer, that takes dedication and skill. David was the one pushing Glenn to bounce back when it looked like his career was over. An incredible, heart-warming, funny and emotional story’.

Both Hadaway Harry and Carrying David are touring North East theatres, Carrying David in September 2021 and Hadaway Harry in June 2022. Both are planned to be hitting London stages.

The Geordie Plays book launch will be held on Saturday October 16, in Newcastle City Library at 2pm & 7pm. The afternoon show will be a free illustrated talk, evening tickets priced £3 will include songs and entertainment from the cast of the plays.

Ed added ‘Obviously, this is subject to what happens with the pandemic and could change but we are very confident the talks will go ahead on that date’.

Volume One of Geordie Plays can be bought from Tyne Bridge Publishing website, online at Waterstones, Blackwell’s, WH Smiths, Amazon, Wordery and Foyles.

Also available from high street shops Waterstones, Meander, The Baltic and Newcastle City Library. 

Posting soon a new interview with Micky Cochrane who stars in the one man show  ‘Carrying David’ in theatres during September 2021.

For full tour dates contact:

https://www.wisecrackproductions.co.uk/carrying-david

Gary Alikivi  August 2021

SUNDERLAND ‘TIL HE DIES in conversation with football agent & former Sunderland A.F.C footballer, Martin Smith (part 2/2).

It’s a big mix of Sunderland fans here in South Shields (we’re talking in the Littlehaven Hotel) there is the Shields branch and the Jarrow branch. I lived in Spennymoor which at one time was all Sunderland then the Keegan era changed that, same for a few Durham pit villages.

They were so entertaining they became everybody’s second team, for a Sunderland fan that was horrible. Although the way things are now with Brucie at Newcastle, sounds like a few Mags might want to come over to our side (laughs).

A message for the Mag’s. Celebrating scoring at St James’ Park (home of Newcastle United) for Sheffield United.

Wherever I’ve been I’ve enjoyed my time, and always got players player of the year that sort of thing. My record for goalscoring was 1 in 4 and scoring a goal is one thing you cannot replace.

I scored at St James’ playing in the FA Cup for Sheffield United, we were a Championship club then. It was right in front of the Gallowgate to make it 1-1. I bent it past Harper and went off to dance around the corner flag. I lost my head, for 15 minutes after that I was on a different planet.

It doesn’t look like the best goal I scored, but it meant a lot to me. It was special. In the end we got beat 4-1. I wasn’t bothered. I had a few songs from the fans in my career ‘Martin Smith, Martin Smith, running down the wing’ and ‘Loved by the lads, feared by the Mags’ (laughs).

I was playing for England under 21’s at Newcastle and got booed every time I touched the ball. People asked if I was upset ‘No I wouldn’t want the Mags cheering for me’ (laughs).

When I was at Northampton we were playing against Mansfield and I scored putting us 3-0 up. Job done. One of our players came up to congratulate me, he seemed to be more excited than usual and I didn’t know why, ‘It’s your hundredth goal’ he shouted. He was the statto of the team – every club’s got one.

I think I played in all, 400 odd games with over 100 goals. With the injuries I’ve done well to notch that many games. The Premier League is so demanding now, have an off day and you get found out – back then I could hide on the wing for 10 minutes and get my breath back.

You look at tactics now and the lengths they go to suss out a team’s weakness, they analyse everything. Back in our day somebody would go to scout the opposition and come back with a few notes and then go through it on a Friday.

A lot of 18 year old players I know have no doubt got the ability, but it’s what they have up there that counts (points to head). Can they handle bitter rejection, what about people having a go at you, you’re not going to be the best when at previous teams you’ve always been the best, can you handle fans telling you that you’re rubbish ? Suddenly it becomes a different game.

A big difference now is the intrusion into your life. When I was playing you only had a letter in the Sports Weekly newspaper that was having a go at you, or someone shouting at you in the pub, but now it’s all over social media, and it can be constant.

Remarks from the crowd from week to week are you’re either great or rubbish, maybe the amount of money the players are getting paid is something to do with that.

Stuart Ripley (Blackburn & Middlesbrough)

A former pro told me that Stuart Ripley who used to play here in the North East for Middlesbrough, during one game when he was playing for Blackburn he was getting a hard time from the fans. There was one guy in the crowd shouting at him ‘Ripley you’re absolutely f***ing useless’.

But Stu was sitting on the subs bench with his head in his hands thinking ‘I’m getting stick and I’m not even on the pitch’.

Footballers now are so different, they are athletes. I was at Northampton later in my career when we were playing Southampton in the cup. Both teams were lined up in the tunnel, I looked around and seen every player towering above me. 6 ‘2 players going to run over the top of you.

I think it was Brendan Rodgers (Leicester manager) that said don’t class yourself as a professional footballer until you’ve played 50 games. Today you see young players with their shiny cars in the carpark, my first game as a pro I only had a Ford Escort.

Sadly, I ended up with 13 operations during my career. I done most injuries like hamstrings and calves, the longest time I missed was a full season. But my main problem wasn’t something you could see like a broken leg, it was a degenerative cartilage in my knee.

You’d have the operation then three month rehab, come back kick a ball and it would go again. This went on for 15 month and the physio’s started to question what was happening.

Martin playing for Northampton.

It all started when I was at Huddersfield, then I went to Northampton, eventually the last one happened at Darlington and I didn’t come back from that. 

I remember we were playing Macclesfield, something just didn’t feel right. I tackled and my knee blew up, I knew I was finished. I retired in 2008. I eventually went back to light training and playing in the Northern league.

Martin had a spell at Blyth Spartans in 2008.

I tried a couple of other things but I had to come back to football, it’s all I know. Now I work for a football agency, Quantum Sports, I do a bit of scouting and some radio commentary for Northampton when they play in the north which I love.

In the agency I like working with the younger lads and try to help them make the right decisions. I talk to managers and try to get the lads signed. I like being involved, seeing players develop and I offer them advice and tell them the mistakes I made.

Actually there is more chances out there for young English lads to come through because of Brexit, I know a lot of foreign lads can’t come in to the country unless they meet a certain criteria.

Scotland and Northern Ireland used to be countries for good players but stopped coming through for many years because there was maybe a Romanian or Slovak player in front of them, but now they are starting to come through again.

I mentioned the camaraderie and togetherness that football gave us as players and even now we keep in touch. We have an ex-players club where four or five times a year we get together and play golf against different clubs around the North East. The FA Cup ’73 lads still get out and a few of us younger lads play – well we’re nearly 50 now (laughs).

I don’t think there is a day goes by when I don’t think about football, wishing I was going into training or playing. I’ve got a 7 a side game tonight, just can’t give it up. For the rest of my life I’d like to stay in football in some capacity – well that’s the plan.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   August 2021

SUNDERLAND TILL HE DIES in conversation with football consultant & former Sunderland A.F.C footballer Martin Smith (part 1/2).

The blog has featured over 500 interviews with North East musicians, actors, writers and much more, but now for the first time, stories from professional football.

In the first part of this interview, Sunderland born Martin Smith talks about his influences, playing for his hometown and the impact Peter Reid had on his career.

I always wanted to be a footballer. My earliest memories in the ‘70s were kicking a ball about, and from my mam and dad’s bedroom I could see the Roker Park floodlights.

Even though I’m a massive Sunderland fan, a player that stood out for me was Spurs player Glenn Hoddle. When you watch him on the ’70s and ‘80s TV football shows there’s never a mark on him.

Everything looked effortless too him and back then he looked like an athlete, just a different player from everyone else, if he played now he’d be worth £200million.

His passing range was something I tried to do, and his first touch. When I was younger my dad used to say ‘your first touch is the most important touch’. It buys yourself time, and like Hoddle, who always had the ball glued to his feet.

When I was a 17 year old Sunderland apprentice he was managing Swindon and I was in charge of the tea. I knocked on the dressing room door, he opened it, I was staring open mouthed at him, he took the tea and shut the door. I was still there staring at the door.

For great players it was the goal scorers at Sunderland like Marco Gabbiadini, then following football on telly you’d see players like Maradona just going past people, doing something different.

Martin Smith then with Northampton, with Cristiano Ronaldo in an FA Cup game.

When I was at Northampton we pulled Manchester United in the FA Cup. Cristiano Ronaldo was in the team I think he was only 17. He was so quick, absolutely phenomenal. I’ve never played against anybody as good as him.

I watch him now on TV doing his tricks and think back when we played why didn’t I just kick him – but really by the time I brought my leg back he was gone.

You sit back and look at all his attributes, speed, skill, heading ability and yeah you think he’s got to be the number one player, you’ve got to have a level of arrogance to say ‘I’m the man’.

Paul Gascoigne was probably the best player in the world around 1990-91, what a player, he was unbelievable. But that tackle in the FA Cup final against Nottingham Forest done his knee and he wasn’t quite the same after that.

But he was strong as an ox and he did like a tackle did Gazza, he had that streak in him, yeah he could mix it. Plus I’d take him all day long over a Phil Foden or Jack Grealish.

Gazza liked a tackle, pictured in his Newcastle days by Evening Chronicle.

I was actually at Newcastle from the age of 10 to 14 at Benwell training ground. They used to bring Gazza in to train with us because they wanted to know where he was, and keep an eye on him. So he played on a Saturday then trained with us under 12’s on a Monday night. They probably had him in on a Tuesday with some other team (laughs).

It was a great education, but I got my senses and signed schoolboy terms with Sunderland. My first professional contract was also with Sunderland, towards my 17th birthday.

As an apprentice you were in from 8.30am to 5pm working hard and cleaning boots. But signing professional terms you didn’t have to do as many jobs, it was more about focusing 100% on football.

To get the first contract was great. But I tell the lads I’m working with now at Quantum Sports that the first one is probably the easiest to get, and now you’re in with seasoned pro’s are you going to improve ?

The second or third contract is where people are looking different at you, and starting to ask questions. Are your standards improving ? Can you positively effect games ? I was doing well at Sunderland, I’d been in England youth teams so didn’t worry too much, but now if you stand still the bloke behind you is going take your shirt.

I was at Sunderland from around 1990 and left in ’99. I was a winger, I did play the odd games up front, some managers took me on as a centre forward but thought I’d get as many goals with assists. Then later in my career I played deeper, by the time I was at Northampton I was centre midfield.

Peter Reid at Roker Park.

In the 94-95 season in Division 1 Sunderland were in a relegation battle when Peter Reid was brought in as manager. Near the end of the season we were playing Swindon who were also in trouble, a real six pointer. But I scored to keep us up and we won 1-0 at Roker Park to make us safe. I wonder if Reidy would have stayed if we went down ? I think he probably would of gone.

Pre-season was so hard you just wanted it out of the way and the league to start. But you had a belief, you’d look around the dressing room thinking we can do something this year. We got promoted to the Premiership with practically the same team, he only brought in a couple of players, Reidy really moved the club forward.

The progression of Sunderland from Roker Park to the Stadium of Light was something we couldn’t get our head around, from 14,000 to filling that 40,000 plus stadium. It took the club to a new level and the expectation changed massively.

I grew up with a comfy Roker Park, then suddenly you’ve got these big stands bearing down on you. That’s where Reidy done well, he brought in experienced players who could handle it.

The Stadium of Light.

By the time I’d left Sunderland after an away match Reidy had even stopped the beers on the coach home, so he was seeing things had to change.

All coaches and managers made big impacts on my career. With Peter Reid some fans thought I might not like him as I was getting a few runs in the team, but not as much as I had before he came. The truth is Reidy opened my eyes.

Back in the ‘70s footballers wouldn’t think twice about sinking three or four pints after the game, then go into town with the fans and have another three or four. We were brought into that culture and under previous managers football was different, it wasn’t as athletic as it became.

My first two years went so well I probably took my eyes off the ball in terms of fitness, but gradually that all changed and Reidy got me to knuckle down. He could see talent and got the best out of me.

He got us pressing the ball, a high tempo game. People talk about high press now, we were doing it back in the ‘90s, it’s just different terminology.

Truth was, at first I struggled with that so Reidy put me with a fitness coach from the North East called Steve Black, he had a great reputation, and had worked with the Lyons rugby team. I was with him a month and he changed my total outlook on fitness, it was hard work but worth it.

Maybe other managers would have let me drift whereas Reidy got more out of me. There was a big change in my mentality towards that side of the game. I was probably fitter nearer the end of my career than when I was younger.

When he first came to the club Reidy would join in training. In one of the sessions Martin Scott, Reidy’s first choice left back, gave him a shoulder nudge and he went flying into a puddle. Scotty started laughing, the gaffer said nothing. Next time Scotty got the ball it was a two footer down the shins from the gaffer.

Vinny Jones at Wimbledon said our captain Kevin Ball was the hardest player he played against – but every day I had to train with Bally and he was an animal. He had a very strong will to win and he epitomised everything Reidy instilled in us at the club.

The squad at the time was excellent, a tight camaraderie fostered by Reidy and Bobby Saxton. Now and then he would get the lads together and have a bit of a blow out, maybe take us away for weekends. A great bunch of lads with big Niall Quinn in there, yeah great times.

From the lows of battling through injuries to the highs of scoring, how today’s footballers cope with pressure, plus what Martin is doing in football now. Read part two on the next post.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  August 2021

IRON MAN OF NORTON – with Teesside songwriter & producer Steve Thompson

Thompson releases two compilation albums this month, the first Iron Man of Norton on Friday 20 and another to follow, Second Shipment  on 27 August.

Iron Man is my cycling name and it speaks of the prowess of my ability to go for miles and miles (laughs)’.

Toward the end of last year Thompson signed a licensing deal with Cherry Red Records and since the turn of 2021 has been busy releasing his back catalogue of songs.

‘The Bullfrog stuff (Steve’s first band) gave me the idea of a boxed set, then tracks I produced for Southbound 30 odd years ago, plus some stuff I did with Alvin Stardust and other bits and pieces’.

Thompson first appeared on the radar working at Impulse Studio in Wallsend, the home of Heavy Metal label Neat records – he produced the first singles by Raven and Tygers of Pan Tang.

‘When I quit as Godfather of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal I moved out of Impulse Studio and needed somewhere to create. Luck would have it six month later I had a massive hit with ‘Hurry Home’. Not long after that an even bigger one with Celine Dion – that’s a whole other story’.

After the band Wavelength went on Top of the Pops with ‘Hurry Home’, the royalties started piling in and Thompson bailed out of Wallsend and set up a new base further along the North East coast in Whitley Bay.

Demo’s were made of the Tygers of Pan Tang albums ‘The Wreckage’ and ‘Burning in the Shade.

‘That studio became the ‘Brill’ building in Whitley Bay for several years with a lot of muso friends dropping in and adding bits and pieces. A lot of tracks have ended up on these two compilation albums’.

‘We recorded a bunch of tracks with a guy who became Baby Ford. There was one track from those sessions, I don’t know what it referred to but it got us a BBC ban – although it didn’t stop it becoming a chart hit. Actually Lorraine Crosby (who sang on the Meatloaf hit ‘I’d Do Anything for Love’) sang a lot of backing vocals on those’.

Tygers fans will be interested in the original version of Paris By Air that appears on the Second Shipment album. The Tygers covered the song and had a hit with the track, it also appeared on their top 20 album The Cage.  

‘On the second album is the original sung by Toni Halliday, she was only 16 at the time. There was another young 16 year old guy who hung around the studio called Andy Taylor. He played on some Toni Halliday stuff, he was one of my session guys. You could see he was soaking it all in’.

Recently, Taylor recorded an interview on Planet Rock radio where he gave credit to Thompson for giving him his first break in production.

‘It’s really nice of him to do that as it was a while ago’.

(link: www.bit.ly/andyplanet)

‘I was 25 then and Andy used to call me and the other muso’s around who were my contemporaries – boring old farts. He said he was going to be a major rock star. He wanted to cut a couple of tracks on vocals and guitar’.

‘Toni Halliday talked a lot about her life and ambitions while living a hum drum life on a council estate in Washington. Out of that the story of ‘Paris By Air’ emerged…..

‘I don’t know a soul in this neighbourhood, who can afford the fair, and I’m stuck here for good’.

‘But I didn’t know much about Andy’s background other than how ambitious he was’.

‘A guitarist friend of mine, Stu Burns, God bless him he’s not with us now, was in a band called The Squad. I was taken by their ballsy, Phil Spector type songs. They had a song ‘Hey Gene’ and I thought that would be good for Andy’.

‘It was written by John Farmer of The Squad. Stu engineered the session for me in the bands makeshift basement studio’.

‘Hey Gene’ is on the Iron Man of Norton album, the original b side of that record Catch a Fast Train can be found on Second Shipment. Thompson remembers one unforgettable day in the studio with Andy Taylor.

‘He looked in The Melody Maker and he saw a notice bigger than all the others and said… ‘I’m gonna audition for this’. So he went to Birmingham to audition for this band. He came back and said…

‘I got the gig’. We said ‘what they called ?’  

We all fell about laughing saying ‘you’re going to get nowhere with a band called Duran, Duran’. How wrong can you be.

Both compilation albums contain a couple of tracks by Tony McPhee of The Groundhogs.

‘Tony called me up one day to record in the studio. He wanted me to record two songs in one day but also wanted a drummer and a bass player for the session.

I got in Paul Smith who I used a lot, I played bass, we were the Geordie Groundhogs. He paid Smithy, and for the day session. I played and produced for free’.

‘When the session was over he said have you got a bed to put me up for the night ? I phoned up my wife and said we’re going to put this guy up but he says he’s a vegetarian. We hadn’t a clue what he ate’.

‘Anyway he did sleep over but next day he woke up and just pissed off without saying goodbye – I might hear from him when these tracks come out (laughs)’.

Find both albums here:

Iron Man Of Norton: Boxed Set out on Friday 20 August 2021.

http://steve-thompson.org.uk/iron-man-of-norton-boxed-set-various-artists/

Iron Man of Norton: ‘Second Shipment’ out on Friday 27 August 2021.

http://steve-thompson.org.uk/iron-man-of-norton-second-shipment-various-artists/

Gary Alikivi   August 2021

JAZZ PARTY – in conversation with drummer & first leader of the Green Party Group on South Tyneside, Councillor David Francis.

I really believe there are pivotal moments in your life. There are times when things happen and put your life in a different direction. I remember as a kid getting the first Van Halen album and it totally blew my mind, I thought it was amazing – still do now. When I put the record on the turntable, and hearing for the first time Eruption.

I started playing guitar first, and at school had a good teacher who encouraged me on the drums. Then I completed a degree at Leeds College of Music and came back to the North East and got into a bit of teaching, gigging and working in a drum shop.

Around 2010 I was in a bookshop in Newcastle when I picked up Labour MP Tony Benn’s diaries and thought, well there’s more important things going on in the world than drums. I wasn’t happy about how things were going under the coalition so looked at the Green Party – and joined in 2014.

FIRST LOVE

The first music I was into was Michael Jackson then quickly got into rock like Hendrix, Cream then more modern stuff like Iron Maiden. I would go to Pet Sounds in Newcastle and pick up second hand vinyl for £3.00 and also visit the record fairs. I progressed to listening to Frank Zappa and lots of jazz.

There is links with musicians in the North East who have played with known musicians, some are a bit tenuous but others are more legit. I’d point out that my own links to anyone well known where more tenuous than legit, but I did cross paths with people like Gerry Richardson and Ronnie Pearson who were in Last Exit with Sting when he lived up here in the ‘70s.

Gerrie was an organ player and went onto teach music at Newcastle College then The Sage Gateshead. Ronnie was the drummer and went on to have a drum shop in Newcastle. I met them and played in bands a few times with Gerry and worked with Ronnie’s son who also had a drum shop.

Although I doubt Gerry remembers me now as a lot of jazz gigs were thrown together and you would meet loads of other musicians that would lead to getting gigs. It would often be –  ‘We need a drummer next week, can you do it?’

GOING LIVE

I was in loads of bands over the years playing jazz. When it first opened the Sunderland Glass Centre had a posh restaurant and on a Friday and Saturday they would have a trio playing in the corner – I was the drummer from time to time, that’s where I met Gerry.

When I first started playing jazz gigs after my music degree in the late ‘90s there wasn’t an easy way to find out what was going on, then there was a guy called Lance Liddle from South Tyneside who started a Jazz blog. He would review gigs, then add what was coming up.

There was a number of venues in Newcastle like the Jazz Café run by Keith Crombie, there was The Bridge Hotel, and a pub called Beamish Mary, we played those venues a lot. I was also playing in a bluesy rock band at the time, plus doing corporate gigs in places like Edinburgh and Birmingham.

Then a few gigs for the Royal Television Society awards dinner at The Sage. They were a bit surreal as you’d be playing when Aled Jones or Reeves & Mortimer come up on stage to get an award (laughs).

The Customs House Big Band

BIG BRASS SOUND

Through those bands I ended up at South Shields Customs House in the late ‘90s playing in the Big Band which was first put together by Joe Peterson (Community Arts Officer) and first ran by Tommy Moran, then Keith Robinson when I was there. We’d have a rehearsal once a week then go for a drink in The Steamboat. I met my wife at that time – Elaine was a saxophone player.

Most of the time I spent learning how to be a good musician but not spending time out hustling getting gigs, I was waiting for people to call me. I’d get a message to go to Harrogate on a New Year’s Eve and if you done well one of the musicians would recommend me to another gig.

In those jazz gigs you’re playing a fairly standard set rather like rock covers doing Hendrix, even if you haven’t worked it out note for note you know how they go. A lot of musicians have a back catalogue of songs in there (points to head) that they can play.

THAT’S THE TONIC

I did play a lot of gigs where it was written out and as a decent enough music reader I got through. You learn a lot of improvisation and skills on some gigs. One time I got a call off a bass player who I regularly worked with, ‘Can you do a gig in North Allerton with an American keyboard player called Dave Keys’. ‘Yes sounds good’ I said.

He directed the songs, all his, all original, you really had to pay attention and follow his lead. He’d say things like ‘This is a shuffle and a couple of stops, I’ll nod my head at the stop’ those sorts of things you know, directing the song as its being played – in front of the audience (laughs).

But music has common phrases and chord progressions that come up time and time again and you can work through it. I enjoyed the buzz of jazz and improvisation, the not knowing keeps it fresh. There is a saying ‘It’s never the same way once, never mind twice’ (laughs).

Drumming on stage with Tony Bengtsson.

THE MARKET

You’ve got to work on your business and I did eventually take control of that side of things, around 2010. What happened was I was teaching in schools, doing some private lessons, playing gigs but not earning much because I was travelling all over the place.

So I started to build up work closer to home and getting contacts, it’s the working on your business, not just in it, that was needed. Lately in music I’ve played on an album with singer/songwriter Tony Bengtson, he plays a folk, country, Americana style, he’s a really good player and maybe not getting as much recognition as he deserves.

WATCHING THE WORLD GO ROUND

I suppose the performance aspect is a parallel between musician and politician, there may be something in the saying that ‘Politics is showbusiness for ugly people’. It wasn’t in the family at all, my parents took an interest in, but weren’t active in politics.

When I was a kid we lived in the States for a year and on a basic level I became aware of the American history, like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, the  Civil Rights movement, and as I got older I took an interest in current affairs and politics.

I remember being a student in Leeds watching TV shows Spitting Image and Have I Got News For You and then the 1997 election and Tony Blair getting in, a real air of optimism after the Thatcher decade. I’d always listen to Talk radio and listened to the political commentators, watched Question Time, but always observing not taking part.

Around 2010 when I was in a bookshop in Newcastle I picked up a copy of one of Tony Benn’s diaries, then read other volumes and thought, well there’s more important things going on in the world than drums.

With Green’s Deputy Leader, Amelia Womack in South Shields.

GO GREEN

A musician friend who I mentioned earlier, Tony Bengston, was standing as a Green candidate. I wondered what was going on and I wasn’t happy about how things were going under the coalition plus not being enamoured about The Labour Party so I looked at the Green Party and found they weren’t just a one issue party. Actually they were somebody I could connect with and feel more comfortable with, so I joined in 2014.

We’d done a beach litter pick and it felt good to do this in South Shields with nice people, but importantly it was a tangible thing to do, a contribution to improving the area. Then within weeks we were out on the streets knocking on doors. Not long after an opportunity arose to meet the Green’s Deputy Leader Amelia Womack when she came to South Tyneside – the result was I got more involved.

I got elected a few years ago then a few more candidates followed so we aren’t looked upon as the party in South Tyneside who have no chance. Labour has a long history in this town and some responses on the doorstep are ‘I’ve always voted Labour and not interested in anyone else’. Which is fair enough, I get that.

In the council chamber, Town Hall, South Shields.

I HEAR YOU KNOCKING

I’ve only had experience of knocking on doors for the Greens so don’t know what it’s like for everyone else but when I first started in this area (Beacon & Bents, South Shields), a lot of people weren’t sure who we were, some people thought we were the same as Greenpeace. At first we’d hear on the doorstep ‘Are you all about saving the whales?’

Some people aren’t interested, or are watching TV, or got the dinner on, but generally people are really nice and give you a bit time even when they don’t agree with you. Then it got to the stage when people knew of what we were doing, they’d see or hear us working with people and trying to improve the local area.

It surprised me how favourable the response was becoming when people got to know us, and even if they don’t want to talk to you they are still civil about it. You aren’t going to please all the people.

I remember the worst reaction I had was when someone answered the door and he was trying to be polite and his other half was upstairs shouting ‘Just tell him to f*** off’. I’m glad I wasn’t face to face with her – he just looked a bit embarrassed (laughs).

A lot of people just want to talk to you if they have an issue with fly tipping in their back lane or sorting out wonky pavements in the street. They want to talk to somebody who can go away and get something done.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  August 2021

A TYNESIDE HERITAGE – new book by author, Peter S. Chapman

Cleadon born Chapman has enjoyed a varied career – educated to Master’s degree level leading to a housing career in London. He’s devoted time to being chair of a number of charities – manuscript restoration in Egypt, Archaeology & Anthropology in Cambridge and even found time for a local youth football team – The Kensington Dragons.

But Chapman, who lives in London, still retains close links to the North East…

The South Shields Local History Group invited me to give a lecture on the lives and public service of my grandparents, Sir Robert and Lady Chapman. It was their lives, and their exceptional contribution to South Shields and Tyneside, which inspired me to write ‘A Tyneside Heritage’.

It was quite an undertaking and took me six years. My research into family and Tyneside history was fresh in my mind and if I didn’t write the book now it would never get written.

Summer fetes at the Chapman home, Undercliff, were popular events throughout the 1930s.

As a teenager I became fascinated by my grandparents’ collection of scrapbooks at Undercliff, their house in Cleadon where I was born. These scrapbooks recorded family events over three decades from the 1930s, and some newspaper articles covered events in early nineteenth century Tyneside.

The 424 page book weaves the Chapman family story with local history. He features the boom on Tyneside of the industrial revolution and the bust that followed culminating with the Jarrow March of 1936 and Ellen Wilkinson MP taking the Jarrow platform in one of her speeches “The unemployment rate was over 80 per cent, 23,000 are on relief out of a total population of 35,000”.

With his family heavily involved in local politics I mentioned to Peter about my Great Uncle Richard Ewart who, after working at Whitburn Colliery, was Sunderland MP in 1945.

He and my grandfather would have known each other on the South Shields Borough Council in the late 1930s.
My Grandfather was Col Sir Robert Chapman (1880-1963), at the time of the First World War he was Major Robert Chapman. He became a South Shields Borough Councillor, MP for Houghton-le-Spring 1931-1935 and Chairman of the Team Valley Trading Estate. He had numerous business and charity directorships and chairmanships.

Richard Ewart’s life, including at Parliament, was extremely interesting to read about, and there would have been numerous Parliamentary bills on which he would have brought his ‘real life’ experience to bear – no full time professional politicians in those days.

He would have been in good company in the House of Commons, with many former miners representing County Durham constituencies, including Jack (later Lord) Lawson at Chester-le-Street and Bill (later Lord) Blyton at Houghton-le-Spring. Both feature in my book, which has a good index.

Outside Undercliff July 1941, left to right: Col Robert Chapman, Major Robin Chapman & wife Barbara, Helene Chapman, Nicholas Chapman. (pic. James Cleet)

Chapman features the invaluable work of South Shields historian & photographer Miss Amy Flagg (1896-1965), who I made a documentary about in 2016.

Yes I watched it, a really good film, and Amy Flagg’s history writings and World War Two photos feature in my book I am very pleased to say. When researching the book I also came across some unusual stories including the one about new potatoes during the Battle of the Somme, in World War One.

Food rations were basic during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Major Robert Chapman told his junior artillery officers that a field of potatoes had been discovered nearby. Under the pretext of searching for a ‘forward observation post’ they dug them up and enjoyed their first new potatoes since leaving England eighteen months earlier. 

Are you working on any other projects?

I have one or two ideas for future projects. Meanwhile I am writing articles and am busy preparing for upcoming lectures and events.

I have already had what my wife Joan and I called a ‘book warming’ party for ‘A Tyneside Heritage’ in London. However, the focus of book events will be in the North East with a launch in the afternoon of October 20 at a venue to be confirmed.

A talk has been arranged in Sunderland at 2.30pm on Monday 18 October during Sunderland Libraries Literature Festival and a talk at the Lit & Phil in Newcastle at 6.00pm on Thursday 21 October. 

The cover price for the book, published by History Press, is £25. Peter Chapman is offering it to followers and their friends in the UK for £15 including package and postage (payable on delivery).

If you live overseas contact Peter for a p&p quote.

email: peterschapman@chapmanlondon.com or

write to: 53 Highlever Road, London W10 6PR.

Provide your full name and postal address. Peter will send the invoice with the book.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  August 2021