THE NIGHT BELONGED TO OVERKILL: Port Vale’s Heavy Metal Holocaust at 40

My ticket no.27,070 from the day with original headliners Black Sabbath on the bill.

A dozen teenage metallers from South Shields wearing bike jackets, denim and long hair jumped on a coach to travel 200 mile south of Tyneside. In honour of our Viking ancestors we burned down the highway, raised mighty hell and invaded… Stoke.

Before the driver put his pedal to the metal a shout went up from the back ‘Me ma washed me jeans last night and I think me ticket was in the pocket’.

The Heavy Metal Holocaust was on 1 August 1981 at Port Vale football ground, but from the off the neighbours tried to get the festival banned. The council gave the go ahead after the promoter offered a free coach trip to Blackpool for elderly residents.

In the first issue of Kerrang, the all-day metal extravaganza was originally planned for Milton Keynes Bowl, in what would have been the first of two shows that year.

The year previously, UB40, Squeeze and headliners The Police were on the bill. Later years saw Queen, Genesis and Bowie headline the bowl which became a regular on the festival circuit.

Rock at the Bowl on 8 August ’81 featured headliners Thin Lizzy, the Ian Hunter band, the mainstream sound of Judie Tzuke and Q Tips. Reviews say the gig was poorly attended.

Sounds advert issue 11.7.81

In 11 July issue of Sounds it was full steam ahead to Port Vale with Black Sabbath and Motorhead advertised as double headliners – with a monster PA in tow.

A ‘major band’ was to be announced with rumours circulating that Ted Nugent was being added to the bill – now Ted as we know isn’t exactly the Ken Barlow of Metal, so this might get messy.

A week later in Sounds, Sabbath had pulled, and a full page advert read Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Oz had stepped in. No surprise a deal had been struck as that summer Motorhead were opening for Ozzy on a North American tour.

But with only one album behind him might the band have to rely on old Sabbath favourites to stop a train wreck coming down the track ?

Why did Sabbath pull out ? Tony Iommi doesn’t talk about it in his biography, he mentions that summer the band were in Los Angeles recording new album Mob Rules, the follow up to the very successful Heaven & Hell.

The Nugent rumour appeared in the first issue of Kerrang, but it was just that, a rumour, and the eventual axeman who played on the day was Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush.

The day was propped up by NWOBHM band Vardis, who were hot, frustrated and angry, and looking for a groove. As the gears began to crunch and click, suddenly it was all over. Out on the field the disciples were still gathering around the stage, sensing something special was in the air.

Up came a middle order of two Canadians and one American fighting it out between each other. The slick American rock band Riot glide through their set with guile and finesse. Next up was Triumph who searched for magic only to get caught in the crossfire, and manage to hang on bravely during the bottle wars.

A solid performance from Marino, not giving up or giving in, earned a glowing respect from the sweltering hordes gathering at the altar.

As the sun set the High Priest of Rock n Roll, Lemmy, invites Ozzy and Randy Rhoads to plug in for the ride and amp it up high and loud. They leave no room for doubts delivering a blistering set, a crazy train rumbling down the line, just hot enough to light a bonfire.

Then an eerie silence falls as dark clouds gather overhead, lights spark in the night sky and through the smoke headliners Motorhead in all their glory, own the stage. Gun’s blazing it’s a lightning strike as they look to steal the show opening with Ace of Spades – but the night belonged to Overkill.

Research: Sounds, Set List, Kerrang & UK Rock Festivals.

Gary Alikivi 2021.

HEAVY TALES – new book by Megaforce Records founder, Jon Zazula

Jon Zazula

Heavy Tales is the story of how one American couple who ran a flea market stall helped create the golden era of Heavy Metal, and released the most important albums in its history.

Marsha and husband Jon Zazula, founded Megaforce Records in New Jersey, USA in 1983, and were instrumental in the careers of Metallica and Raven.

By the early ‘80s Raven had released two albums ‘Rock Until You Drop’ and ‘Wiped Out’ on the Neat record label based in North East England. But when Neat got a call from Zazula, Raven knew their future was Stateside not Tyneside.

Zazula has documented the story in his new book where he remembers listening to Raven’s first album Rock Until You Drop.

‘That album was recorded for about 1,000 pounds with a group of the greatest fucking musicians. You’ll hear the greatest jam, grooves and change up’s. I saw a number on the back of the cover and called David Wood, head of the label’.

I asked Jon if he can remember meeting Wood.

‘Yes the mastermind. This man had the key to the pulse and Neat records was his Kingdom. He came to the US and stayed at my home and we discussed the breaking of Raven and Venom in America’.

‘Venom were a crazy lot. They stayed with me in the States. Abaddon burnt down my kitchen and Cronos ate my glassware. There was blood and glass in my sink from when he spit it out. Mantas was quiet but always held the centre. No Mantas no Venom. But he had two maniacs at his side’.

Raven and Metallica.

Around this time, Zazula unexpectedly received a demo tape from an unsigned band.

‘As soon as I heard it I was blown away. I thought this was America’s answer to the NWOBHM. When I came upon Metallica it was like mounting a lightning bolt’.

We also worked with Raven on releasing their album and had them headlining a summer tour with Metallica. When Raven hit the stage nothing can compare. They tore it up. I can honestly say that Raven were heavily on the rise. When they toured with Metallica as their opener, they were still able to maintain headline status every single night’.

‘The Raven/Metallica tour was a success. We sold a lot of band merchandise and people took notice. Raven and Metallica played an amazing show in Chicago which we filmed in case they would ever use it for promotion’.

‘I spent some time in Newcastle. I stayed in a flat with Raven drummer, Rob Wacko Hunter. I was fortunate to meet John and Mark’s (Gallagher) parents. They were wonderful people’.

Zazula remembers offering the bands a place to stay when they were out on America’s east coast gigging.

‘There was a point when Raven, Venom and Metallica were all hanging at Casa Z ! I was trying to work in the basement with my desk surrounded by sleeping bodies snoring away’.

In 1983 Megaforce released Metallica’s debut album Kill ‘Em All and became the label in America for Heavy Metal. The book also includes stories of managing and releasing albums by Anthrax, Ace Frehley, Overkill, Ministry and more.

HEAVY TALES: The Metal, The Music, The Madness. As lived by Jon Zazula – out now on kindle or paperback.

As a mark of respect this post was held back due to the death of Marsha Zazula, on 10 January 2021. Rest in Peace.

On line interview and book extracts by Gary Alikivi  December 2020 & June 2021.

TAKE A BOW – writer, actress & theatre producer, Leah Bell

The last 17 months have been surreal, I don’t want to live my life behind a glass window and frightened – I’m double jabbed and ready to rock n roll said Leah as we sat down in The Centurion bar in Newcastle Central Station.

‘Dirty Dusting’ full cast – Andrew Green, Vicky Entwistle (Coronation Street), Vicki Michelle (Allo, Allo) & Leah Bell.

I got a call from Ed Waugh ‘Would you be interested in putting on Dirty Dusting at Whitley Bay Playhouse for a week ? I saw it around 20 years ago when it opened so was interested in picking it up. He sent me the script and I thought I’m not learning all this for one week.

So I asked Ed and Trevor Wood (Writers) if I could make a few alterations to make it more current. Well Ed had been to review our pantomime at Consett Empire and had seen me do other variety shows so he knew I was comedy based. They said ‘You know what’s working when you’re doing it – go ahead’.

So I pushed it along and here we are with 31 dates on our ninth tour. It’s a sign of a good play when it can last as long as it has. I hope to start touring at the end of September, I love getting up and setting off to the next venue.

WE ARE FAMILY

The meeting of the cast for the photo call and press launch was in my niece’s dance studio in Bedlington where I live, so very handy to pop in to my house, the restaurant and the pub. It’s very important that everybody gets on and gels – they did and we had a great time.

Dirt Dusting starts in Blyth Phoenix and for all the dates the cast go into a theatre family. We have Vicki Michelle (Yvette Carte-Blanche in Allo, Allo) still a very glamorous lady, and Vicky Entwistle (Janice Battersby in Coronation Street) just so funny.

In the past young people have told me they brought their gran to the show because they thought they would like it. But it’s the young people who like it, one girl said to me ‘I never went on my phone once’. What an accolade (laughs).

I just hope people are not frightened to come back to theatre because at some point we have to make a decision how we are going to live the rest of our life. If people want to come into the theatre and keep a mask on fine, it might be mandatory anyway.

Promo pic for Beverley Artists Agency, South Shields.

THE CLUBS

When I was 12 year old I was putting play’s on in the backyard roping in my school friends and hanging my mother’s sheet up as the backcloth. Nobody in our family had any connection to the entertainment industry so I don’t know where it came from, my mother couldn’t understand it. I didn’t go to stage school, I was more academic and looking at being a teacher or a lawyer, but somewhere, somehow, I wanted to be on stage.

I was born in Benwell on the banks of the river Tyne, I didn’t come up through Jesmond when everything is there for you. I came up where you learned to survive and work. My brothers and sisters were the same – cut from the same cloth. From my experience I think North East women are strong.

At 15 I started for Beverly’s Agency in the North East. The working men’s clubs is where I learnt my craft. And I’m eternally grateful. The clubs were different back then they were always a discerning audience. The men didn’t go in the concert room if they didn’t have a suit and tie on.

I think that background stood me in good stead for working in showbusiness. Especially when I moved out of the North East into more of a national market, you realise it’s a tough industry. You can’t be easily knocked down.

DODDY TIME

I was very happy going into places doing what I felt I have to do – entertain. I started off singing but because the audience in clubs are close to you, and some aren’t adverse to talking to you, I learnt how to speak to them on a personal level. I didn’t realise at first but it translated into comedy, and from that I won club and stage awards.

I went on a summer season in Jersey and from there Ken Dodd put me on his UK tour in the early ‘70s. He used to stand in the wings which is very disconcerting. When I came off stage he would say ‘You’re timing that gag wrong, this is how you time it’. So I had for free, one of the best teachers of comedy. If I’m writing a gag or a comedy sketch his words on timing echo in my ear.

Ken Dodd put me on with him at the Victoria Palace, London when I was young and I’m glad because when you’re young you’re brave. I never thought if the London people would understand me. Will my approach be acceptable in the West End ? I just went on and did my act and spoke to people.

Leah with David Jason. Promo pic by Newcastle Chronicle for Cinderella at Newcastle Theatre Royal 1980.

OH YES HE IS

I worked with Bobby Thompson a lot, he was a nice man. His act was of its time, the poverty, the war – very funny. We done a panto in Newcastle Theatre Royal with David Jason (Only Fools and Horses). Being in the North East was like being sent to the Antarctic for him ‘Blaady ‘ell’ he’d say in his Cockney accent (laughs).

David didn’t know Bobby Thompson at all, Bobby never rehearsed with us, there was no interaction. So Bobby done his Cabaret piece at the start of act two, and afterwards backstage would shuffle around saying hello to people. David used to say to me ‘What a shame for that old fella, fancy having to work at his age, I’ve just give him some money for a cup of tea’. I said ‘What ! he gets dropped off in a limousine (laughs)’. 

One night David said ‘He’s never in the finale, it’s nice of the theatre to let him go early he must be tired’. Really Bobby was doubling up and playing the late spot at Newcastle Mayfair. Bobby had great delivery, clear, distinctive and not draggy. It can sound like he’s just talking along but it’s not, it’s very precise. He was a one off.

SHOW MUST GO ON

But there has been low times like when I was doing final rehearsals for a touring show that was just stopped completely because of what happened in New York on 9/11 – the show just didn’t go ahead. But if the theatre permits it I’ve always gone on after terrible events.

When Princess Diana died I was in Jersey, and you could tell the mood of the island and all the holidaymakers, the whole world was watching news 24/7. It was decided that nothing would proceed that actual night, but from the next day it would carry on.

We were doing a fabulous ‘50s and swinging ‘60s show, I would do the opening and make a remark about it and say we need to carry on. The audience applauded that and relaxed into the show. It was like people were waiting for it and wanting us to acknowledge what had happened.

When I used to work on the cruise lines I was on the Canberra and we would be doing the rota, and none of us wanted to go on stage after we had stopped in Jerusalem. When the tourists got back on board they were very sombre and serious because they had been on a religious tour. We felt we would be far too flippant for them after they had spent the day there.

TURN BACK TIME

If I could go back and change anything I would like to have in my thirties the frame of mind I’ve got now. When you go through showbusiness you really have your heart on your sleeve all the time, you are trying to please everybody and doing what you think they want you to do.

I worried about performances when working for people when really I should have just enjoyed it more. I should have made more of the opportunities rather than worry about them. As I say to all the cast before they go out to do any show ‘Remember above all, try not to be shite’ (laughs).

LIGHTS UP

An old lady stopped me on Bedlington Front Street the other day and said ‘Leah are you gaan on at the Blyth, cos we’ve had our tickets cancelled from the Christmas show.

I said ‘yes I’m going on’.  ‘Good’ she said ‘we’re glad to be gaan oot cos we’re sick of stopping in’

I walked off saying ‘If the theatre is shut, I’ll do it in the car park behind ASDA’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   June 2021

CRACK ON with North East comedian Gavin Webster

The first comic I heard that brought on huge belly laughs was Richard Pryor when I watched the video of his 1979 live show from Long Beach, California. I mentioned this to Gavin when I met him in Newcastle’s Centurion bar.

I met his daughter after a show for multiple sclerosis, that’s what he died of. I asked her about his films and other work, and yes she was a nice woman. She does all the legacy stuff like Keith Thompson does for Bobby Thompson – there’s always one child who keeps it going with all the memorabilia.

Richard Pryor.

SCHOOLS OUT

When I was at school I was quite withdrawn, sometimes I’d open up but only to people I knew well. I wasn’t the class clown. My family are probably on the spectrum of autism, back in the day you were called eccentrics. My mother was involved in amateur dramatics and sang in choirs in Blaydon where I was brought up during the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Back in the ‘40s and ‘50s living on a council estate you went to these types of societies in working class areas. It was post war coming out of austerity and getting some hobbies to colour your life. People were too busy with their different clubs to have a popular uprising or revolution like in Russia. There was plenty sporting clubs, and things like the Welsh speaking society.

Here we are next to the Lit and Phil in Newcastle (Literary & Philosophical Society) and it’s not full of hoity toitys, our obsession to be part of clubs and getting together stops us from taking up arms.

GENERATIONS

Stand up is the loneliest job – you’re on stage with just a microphone, and when I started people were shouting ‘Tell us a joke’ but you don’t really get that now and nobody says ‘I can’t understand these comedians now, they don’t tell jokes anymore, it’s all stories’. That’s all changed, we’ve moved on.

We’re both old enough to know a generation of people before popular music. They weren’t appalled by rap or punk, they were shocked by rock n roll. But where’s the rebellious phase now ? The Sex Pistols are over 65 – the games up.

CRACK ON

When I stumbled into this in the early ‘90s it was called Alternative Comedy so I missed out the working men’s club circuit. A friend of mine, Les Stewart took me to The Cumberland Arms in Byker in 1992 on a night called The Crack club. Tyne Tees TV were filming a documentary there. Ross Noble was doing one of his first gigs, Tony Mendoza and a few others were on. At the end of the night Les said ‘Right we’re doing this next month as a double act’.

I wasn’t sure at all but he gave me all the straight man lines to his funnies. I thought it was terrible. We were called Scarborough and Thick, like Morecambe and Wise. We ended up doing it a few times, I wasn’t keen. But we ended up doing our own night at The Barley Mow in Gateshead and I had my own 5 minutes. There was a buzz for the whole scene.

A year later Les drifted out and I reverted back to my own name and done a few more shows. It was a lot of North East gigs but you’d meet other acts from Manchester, Glasgow or Cardiff who’d pass on numbers of promoters for different venues around the country. There’d be a few opportunities and they’d lead to ringing up clubs in London. Really it was much more innocent then cos there was only 40 comics in the whole country.

ACROSS THE BORDER

When I first went to London people called you Northern, but sometimes we can be arrogant thinking everybody should know where Geordies come from. But they see you as generically Northern. For a long time people thought Newcastle was in Scotland. It’s more of a distinction now with Ant and Dec on the telly.

In 1995 I done a talent show in The Guilded Balloon in Edinburgh called ‘So You Think You’re Funny’. The organiser wanted regional heats to make it more like a proper national competition. She got me in this heat by practically twisting my arm but I didn’t get through in the end, so I thought that’s it I ‘ve had a good couple of years I’m not going to be a comic now.

The winner of our heat was Johnny Vegas (Benidorm) and the overall winner was Lee Mac (Not Going Out, Would I Lie to You). I since heard that the little competition in 1995, had by 2012 over 45,000 applications. There was preliminary heats, regional heats and eventually whittled down to semi-finals in Edinburgh and the big final. So what’s happened in society for those numbers to change ? Is it just a nice career option ?

In the North East you sometimes need a few strings to your bow to work in entertainment but on TV I don’t want to see stand-up comics presenting cookery shows. I think surely that’s not what you got into this for ?

You can just have a great Edinburgh which can lead to a BBC TV show which can be down to good marketing and hype or having a bit of good luck – or bad. Some people have got the confidence, they can make it sound like they have invented something when they didn’t – history is written by the winners as they say.

It’s the ones who can capture the imagination of the British public, not necessarily the ones that are the most original. There are loads of examples in popular culture, music and art.

NEW YORK TERROR ATTACKS 2001

I think from what I remember I worked on the Wednesday (the next night) after 9/11. It was at Manchester Comedy Store and it was for a topical satire show ironically enough.

The whole show with about five of us on the bill wasn’t so much a humorous take on the week’s news like it was every week previous for the past two years, rather it was a fairly sombre night wondering whether the world as we knew it would be intact by next week.

It was more surreal than very sad but it did have a dark cloud hanging over it and was like no other gig I’ve done before or since.

SHOW MUST GO ON

I’ve got a show at the Tyne Theatre in November, I’ve done a few for them before in the venue. I’m working on it now, nothings finalised for it, could be great – or a disaster. I’m working on new stuff and you can’t not mention what’s happened over the last 15 months it would be absurd to not talk about what’s gone on.

I’ll just talk about how its been for me you can’t pretend to get angry or tell it how it is because I’m not that type of person – you’ve just got to do your take on it.

Tickets available from Tyne Theatre & Opera House NOW for 12th November 2021.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2021

NORTHERN MELODY with North East musician & ex- Kane Gang member, David Brewis

I’d been dining on a mix of punk/rock/metal so when The Tube came kicking and screaming onto our TV sets on 5 November 1982 it opened up a gateway to a world of different sounds – and sights.

Broadcast from Newcastle, I was lucky to get audience tickets for the live music show and a band who appeared a few times were The Kane Gang, who in 1984 released three classic singles. I got in touch with Dave Brewis from the Gang who remembers those times.

Martin Brammer, Dave Brewis & Paul Woods.

We played live on The Tube a number of times, four I think. But the music video for Respect Yourself was filmed partly on the River Tyne at Wallsend near Swan Hunter’s, also on Newcastle Quayside during Sunday market and maybe in a room at Kitchenware. I think they did some camera shots on the Metro going over the bridge from Gateshead. I was wearing my Dad’s heavy overcoat that he bought in 1953.

Smalltown Creed was filmed in Seaham Harbour and at the Vane Tempest social club along the road where as 15 year olds we once rehearsed. Some other shots were done in and around Seaham, like on the Avenue and around and about. It was very true to our roots I suppose. Top of the Pops had to wait until our third single Closest Thing to Heaven, which we did twice.

One Tube show included Newcastle based independent label Kitchenware records. The programme featured interviews with Keith Armstrong from the label management team and performances from Hurrah, Martin Stephenson & the Daintees, an earliest known TV appearance from Prefab Sprout and The Kane Gang.

That first Tube thing was filmed in the Barn restaurant in Leazes Park Road. We had nobody managing us until our friends in Prefab Sprout mentioned Keith Armstrong who had already formed Kitchenware Records with some partners. He offered them a record and management arrangement, and originally our two bands were going to work on a label together.

So if Keith liked us we would go along with him, apparently he knew the business on a national level. Kitchenware were also established at promoting gigs that were seen as hip or different, so that was good – eventually he offered to work with us.

FIRST STRIKE

When I was three or four I heard a song on the radio called Singing the Blues, possibly Tommy Steele’s UK hit, Guy Mitchell also done a USA version. But that was it for me I wanted a guitar and wanted to play Singing the Blues. My cousin loaned me a plywood guitar, it was taller than me and it made a noise.

Then I heard The Beatles and I wanted a bass like Paul McCartney’s, then when I saw The Who on the telly I wanted to do all that. Then Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac and so on.

There was a school band that included a lad from Seaham called Martin Brammer who was a really great singer. We were maybe 15 and talked about writing our own stuff. We were serious.

Around the late 70’s early ‘80s I was offered a gig with North East band The Showbiz Kids – going to London to make it. I didn’t know them or why I was asked, so it seemed a crazy idea and definitely not up my street. Plus no way was I going to abandon what we were already doing.

I always hated the idea of going to London, it seemed really old fashioned and rock-ist. Nothing against London, but sharing rooms and having no money to live on was not my idea of being a musician. It seemed to be a rite of passage for a lot of bands who were the music press darlings, so we were against the grain. Plus we held the opinion that the London scene wasn’t what it used to be. It was changing and going through a dull patch.

GANG OF THREE

Maybe we were a generation that didn’t think that playing rock n roll for a pub audience was something with an artistic future. Although I thought we were a great live band, it just wasn’t all about the live thing for us. We wanted to make records, get on radio and in magazines.

After listening to Roxy Music, 10cc, Steely Dan, and Hall & Oates, live work for its own sake was not on the menu. But making a great album was. We figured we could do it if we didn’t compromise. I don’t think we ever doubted we could do it. We worked hard at writing our own songs and trying to be as good at it as the artists we admired.

Over the years Martin Brammer and I wrote together under various names then hooked up with Paul Woods and some other musicians and did some North East gigs. I had been to college in Newcastle and picked up work playing bass for local dance bands – four hour gigs after a full day’s work.

We were always working on our own stuff until 1982 when we became The Kane Gang and played an open air gig on Newcastle’s Town Moor as a three piece with backing tapes.

The Kane Gang didn’t want to tour until we were ready to headline, we didn’t fancy the thankless slog of being a support band, so it was after our first couple of records, just before our first album when we did tour, although we did several local one off headline gigs before that, like Newcastle Tiffany’s.

Single cover for ‘Respect Yourself’.

WELCOME TO THE MACHINE

First experience in a recording studio was fascinating and a little intimidating. When I was 18 I used to rent a couple of hours now and again in Spectro Arts Centre, Newcastle, where they had a synthesiser and a four track machine.

Our first real recording experience as The Kane Gang was in Palladium Studios, Edinburgh. It was run by a musician so very easy to fit in. Everything seemed to have a million different coloured knobs, and looked very complicated but I knew how tracking and overdubs worked from listening to records.

I could pick out different guitar and keyboard lines and figure out harmonies. I had studied arranging too, so that side of it was ok. I knew how to play along with tracks and layer sounds, but I had little idea about shaping the sounds, in those days the engineer did that for you.

We recorded our first single there in a day, three tracks and mixed a week later. These days it’s easy recording on a laptop, and costs nothing. Thirty odd years ago it cost serious money per day and was concentrated work. You had to get it right on the day, no fixing it later. And it had to sound great.

SONGS FOR EVERYONE

Sometimes writing came quickly or was a lot of work. Martin and I wrote and re-wrote Brother to Brother the first Kane Gang single, several times. That was our first proper song that was original to us. Then we found a style to work on and wrote when we could.

Smalltown Creed was a lot quicker but a different kind of thing – more funk and hip hop than anything. One day Martin had a piece of paper that had the words Papa papa, ooh ooh on which I thought was great and took to it immediately. It was unlike anything else.

Closest Thing to Heaven existed as lyrics first, Martin based it on a title suggested by Paul. We were trying to write a different song one night when we came upon a musical idea that worked for that lyric. It fitted really quickly and we had the basics of a song in an evening. It was developed and finished off over a few other sessions.

But the song in recognisable form took under an hour – we were certainly in the pub for 9.30pm. I know you don’t get awards for writing a song in half an hour but it would be great if you did. I thought it was a cracking record.

Having said that the more you write the smoother the process, but most songs took quite a few sessions and quite a bit of homework and fine tuning to get them to a state where we were happy.

CAPITAL GAINS

Kitchenware manager Keith Armstrong asked if we could re-mix Brother, Brother and the label would release it as an indie single. We did and Keith got us a singles deal with London Records.

The record went from a local pressing of 1,000 copies to major national distribution within a couple of months. That led to more songs being recorded and after a couple of hits our first album was planned, which seemed hard to get organised with London Records.

It seemed a no brainer to us, we already had two hits and six more songs recorded, and there was only a few more tracks to finish the album. The album was almost ready for November 1984 but was delayed, and the planned release was April ‘85 as there’s always a three month build up for reviews, interviews etc.

But seeing the finished thing was really nice, I think I popped into every shop I knew to see it in the racks or a poster on the wall advertising it. Yeah very satisfying after years of imagining to see it there.

CIRCUIT DASH

By now we had London Records promo team, what an incredible and nice bunch they were. The promotion was all over Europe and we always seemed to be going to a TV studio or a radio interview. We did TV shows for Brother, Brother and on Channel 4 which seemed amazing. Then on the second single Smalltown Creed, we did lunchtime BBC1 shows and more Channel 4 and got lots of radio plays.

We made a video for most singles and filmed a couple in the United States where we also done a Top of the Pops version, and Soul Train. Looking back it happened pretty fast – it was surreal at times.

ROAD RACING

As our single Respect Yourself was going up the charts we almost didn’t make the first gig of our premier UK tour in 1984. It was all planned for Edinburgh on Friday then Glasgow on Saturday – what could go wrong ?

We were booked on BBC1 TV show Crackerjack live with presenter Stu Francis, other guests were Keith Harris and his duck Orville. After we played the production team let us out early. The limo raced down to Heathrow because we were late – then the Friday rush hour ground to a halt as the airport was fogbound – great.

Eventually we got there and after jumping the queue we got on our flight which was a Tristar plane which luckily could take off in fog. We arrived in Edinburgh and went for a taxi but there were dozens of people ahead of us. Thing was the show had a curfew where you had to be on and off at a certain time and that was 30 minutes from where we were – and about 5 miles.

Next in line for a taxi was Billy McKenzie of The Associates and he heard our distress as we were offering anyone with a car £50 to get us to the show. Kindly he gave us his cab and we arrived exactly the time we were due on stage. We ran on still in our coats and started playing. I can’t remember the show – I think I was toast by then.

A week later it happened again at a Top of the Pops live appearance, we had to be in Sheffield the same night. Seven of us in a car screaming up the M1. 5 minutes to spare.

GUITAR WORLD

Now I’m recording some tracks with Paul Woods as Autoleisureland, a new project we hope to get out there soon. We haven’t worked together much, it was around 2018 when we met up and talked about recording and writing together again. Prior to that I was lecturing on a degree course at Gateshead College, and doing sessions and theatre shows, plus buying and selling guitars.

I’ve also made an instrumental album and two other Leisureland albums with Dean Newsome. I played bass for the lovely Ben E. King on his very last UK tour – that kickstarted me into wanting to write and record again.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   June 2021.

GOOD OLD TYNESIDE with Local History Collector, Norman Dunn

77 year old Norman from Hebburn, who started work as a fitter at Wardley & Follonsby Collieries in the ‘60s, has been collecting Tyneside photographs and postcards for over 20 year.

I started collecting because I asked my old aunt if she had any old photos and she said ‘We had a lot of photos, but when we moved to a new Council house, we just binned them’. How many other families did that when they moved home, not realising the value of a photo ?’

‘Over the years I’ve helped three authors with photos for their books, and I’ve often sent photos to be used in the Shields Gazette and Evening Chronicle. Now it’s my time to publish, but not just one book – I’ve published four’.

‘I’ve wanted to compile this set of books whilst my enthusiasm and memory is still good. I’ve always been interested in local history that’s why I decided to compile the photo’s into books’ explained Norman.

Tram and St Mary’s Church, Heworth.

A number of years ago I volunteered on a South Shields Library project digitizing thousands of photographs from their archive, so recognise some of the images.

Photographers Amy Flagg, James Cleet and William Emmett done an excellent job capturing Tyneside images and left behind a marvellous legacy.

A glaring omission in this book is apart from Dunn’s family photos, no photographer’s names are credited or where they were obtained originally. South Tyneside Council hold a lot of the original images and are available to view on their official website. https://southtynesidehistory.co.uk/

St Oswalds Church, Hebburn c.1900

‘I’ve collected photos for many years but unfortunately never kept a list of people who loaned me them. I just want to share them with people’ said Norman.

‘I always told my contributors that their photos are valuable. They want to share their photos with others, and often said ‘what use is a photo stuck in a drawer under the bed or in a cupboard’.

‘If they sell I might do another set of books. So far I’ve had marvellous feedback from people who’ve already bought books. They all said fantastic value with so many photos in it’.

‘Good Old Shields’, ‘Good old Hebburn’, ‘Good old Jarrow’ & ‘Good old Bill Quay, Pelaw, Wardley, Felling & Heworth’ are priced at £15 each plus £3 p&p.

To buy a copy contact Norman on  07958 120 972  or email norman@dunn247.co.uk 

Interview by Gary Alikivi   June 2021

Snapshot of Tyneside born Film Director John Irvin

Recently watched TV mini-series Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and was gripped by its suspense, sharp script and deadly silences. The show had a gritty, claustrophobic look and used shadows to ramp up the pressure.

Shot on old (1979) TV sized 4:3 format, the tight camera angles had no flabby interior widescreen shots. Rather than just watching a scene happen you were brought into the film, making a closer connection to the characters who weaved in and out of the programme.

Office meetings were held where another piece of the jigsaw was revealed, and this old boys network was tearing itself apart looking for the mole. As the credits rolled I noticed the director was John Irvin.

Around 2000 I went to the basement theatre in Central Library, South Shields, for a talk by film director John Irvin, who was born in 1940. A search on Ancestry doesn’t reveal the exact town, but in interview on You Tube, Irvin refers to himself as a Geordie.

South Shields residents may recognise the name as his brother had an estate agents shop near the Town Hall – Finn & Irvin. That’s where I bought my ticket for only a couple of quid – we all like a bargain. And it was.

Before he went on stage John was greeting people in the foyer, a striking six foot figure in a smart black overcoat, pink shirt and grey wavy slicked back hair. In front of the audience John talked about his career starting in TV in ‘60s London, then Hollywood came calling where he directed over 30 films.

He finished off by telling a story about a film he directed with actor Harvey Keitel. They were about to film a difficult scene so to relax the actors John told Harvey to do something he doesn’t usually do. ‘Yes, but only if you do something’, replied Harvey as he danced awkwardly in front of all the film crew. Next was John’s turn and he started to sing. The song ? Blaydon Races.

I’ve pulled some information and highlights from various on-line sources about his career with some big names starring in his movies.      

                                                                                  

Scene from The Dogs of War (1980) with Christopher Walken.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy 1979 TV 7 episodes with Alec Guinness, Hywell Bennett, Beryl Reid.

The Dogs of War 1980 film with Christopher Walken, Tom Berenger.

Ghost Story 1981 film with Fed Astaire, Douglas Fairbanks Jnr.

Champions 1984 film with John Hurt.

Hamburger Hill 1987 film with Don Cheadle, Michael Boatman.

Next of Kin 1989 film with Liam Neeson, Patrick Swayze.

A Month by the Lake 1994 film with Vanessa Redgrave, Edward Fox, Uma Thurman.

City of Industry 1997 film with Harvey Keitel, Stephen Dorff.

Shiner 2000 film with Michael Caine.

The Garden of Eden film 2008 with Mena Suvari, Richard E. Grant.

Gary Alikivi   June 2021

COUNTY DURHAM DREAM with South Shields born singer & songwriter Vinny Edwards

Vincent Edwards.

From his home in Germany, Edwards recently got in touch and talked about his career in the music biz. Earlier posts have featured his 1976 chart hit Right Back Where We Started From and his smash in Europe Love Hit Me.

Vinny was brought up in the seaside town of South Shields where he listened to the ‘60s sounds of Sam Cooke before he joined his first band The Invictors. Then he joined The Answers who recorded two singles and were managed by Tony Stratton Smith.

‘Just after The Answers parted, amicably I might add, United Artists record company signed me and I went into a studio in Tin Pan Alley, London and recorded the track ‘County Durham Dream’, that was 1967. In fact it was the first song I wrote when I left South Shields, it reminds me as a kid every day at Shields beach looking out to sea – still makes me emotional’.

’Recording in the studio on drums we had the great Clem Cattini, on guitar was Big Jim Sullivan who later played with Elvis. Loved that time. You know ‘County Durham Dream’ achieved everything I wanted – it opened lots of doors and most of all let me know where I come from, still does now’.

The choice for the b-side ‘It’s the Same Old Song’ was written by Holland/Dozier/Holland. During the ‘60s they were the masters of Motown who wrote classics recorded by Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Martha & the Vandellas and The Four Tops to name a few.

‘This led me to the next single which was ‘Aquarius’. That record was also on United Artists and I got a contract to open the musical ‘Hair’ at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London’.

Hair is a musical focusing on the long haired hippie culture and sexual revolution of the late ‘60s. The focus is a tribe of politically active hippies living a bohemian lifestyle in New York City fighting against conscription to the US army and the Vietnam war. The show has been staged worldwide with a Broadway revival in 2009, a West End revival in 2010 and in 2019 the production staged a UK tour.

‘That 18 month run was the greatest time of my life. There was Paul Nicholas, Elaine Page, Maxine Nightingale – who sang my hit, ‘Right Back Where We Started From’. Tim Curry was in with Olivier Tobias, Marsha Hunt, Sonja Christina and many more’.

‘I remember the opening night like it was yesterday – I danced with Princess Anne on stage. Yeah ‘Hair’ led to more show biz doors opening as a performer, writer and record producer. It’s still performed around the world today. Check it out on You Tube’.

Link to previous interviews:

RUN TO THE SUN with South Shields born singer & songwriter Vincent Edwards | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2021

VICTORIA CROSS WAR HEROES #10 GEORGE BRADFORD & A DEADLY RAID ON ZEEBRUGGE

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of an enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

George Bradford was awarded a posthumous VC in 1919, his mother attended Buckingham Palace to receive the family’s second VC from King George V, as George’s brother Roland was also awarded the medal. The Bradford’s were the only brothers to receive the honour in the Great War. (see previous post)

For years after, his sacrifice was remembered every St George’s Day by a memoriam notice in The Times. It was placed there every year until his mother’s death, she used to take part in the Armistice Day services wearing the two VCs of her dead sons. Later, when she was too frail to attend, her place was taken by her daughter. This is George’s story.

I was born on 23 April 1887 at Witton Park, County Durham, my parents were George and Amy. I had three brothers and a sister. We all loved sport and games, it was all fair play. I particularly like boxing. My father was a mining engineer, he had risen through the ranks to colliery manager, mine owner and eventually Chairman of a group of collieries in South Wales and a steel company in Darlington.

I was educated at Darlington Grammar School, the Royal Naval School, Eltham. I joined HMS Britannia in 1902 where I became officers’ welterweight boxing champion and twice reached the finals of championships.

I was promoted through the ranks to Lieutenant Commander in 1917. I served as midshipman in the battleships Revenge and Exmouth, and alternated between destroyer and big ship appointments. I was promoted to Lieutenant the following year for saving a crewman from drowning. I then joined battleships Vanguard, the destroyer Amazon and in 1914, appointed to the Orion.

For the first couple of years of war the Germans were reluctant to engage with the Grand Fleet, which meant little action for me. Sadly, my brothers were heavily involved. Thomas, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order medal in 1916, James, in the 18th Durham Light Infantry, died of his wounds in 1917, two months after earning the Military Cross medal, the most outstanding of all, was Roland.

He was awarded the MC in 1915 and a VC on the Somme a year later, at 25 he was the youngest Brigadier in the British Army before his death in action on 30 November 1917.

On one night in  April 1918 I was in command of the Naval Storming Parties on HMS Iris II. We were trying to land at Zeebrugge in Belgium when we went up alongside the Mole (a stone pier), but it was very difficult to place the anchors because of the motion of the ship – and we were under fire.

Before the ship was fully secured we tried to land by using ladders. Lieutenant Hawkings managed to get one ladder in position and got over just in time as the ladder was crushed to pieces just as he stepped off. This very brave young officer was last seen defending himself with his revolver – he was killed on the parapet.

I climbed up the derrick and tried to secure the ship, all while it was surging up and down and the derrick was crashing onto the Mole. I jumped on to the Mole with the anchor and placed it in position.

Immediately after, George was riddled with bullets from machine guns and fell into the sea between the Mole and HMS Iris II. His body was not recovered until it washed up a few days later three miles down the coast at Blankenberghe. He was buried by the Germans in the Communal Cemetery.

George’s medals, the VC, the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19 were eventually sold at auction in 1988 and purchased by Michael Ashcroft and form part of the Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum.

Research: Commonwealth War Graves.

Comprehensive Guide to Victoria Cross.

Gary Alikivi  May 2021   

VICTORIA CROSS WAR HEROES #9 FAMILY HEARTBREAK for BRIGADIER GENERAL ROLAND BOYS BRADFORD

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of an enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Brigadier General Roland Boys Bradford was presented with the VC by King George V in Hyde Park on 2 June 1917.

On his return to the front he ordered that the hymn ‘Abide with Me’ be sung every night by his men. The tradition grew and was taken up by the entire Durham Light Infantry (DLI), it remains the hymn of the regiment to this day. 

At 25 he was the youngest Brigadier General in the modern history of the British Army to lead a combat formation. But on 30 November 1917, during the Battle of Cambrai he was killed. On hearing the news the Durham Light Infantry sang ‘Abide With Me’ in respect for their former commander.

Unfortunately the Bradford story doesn’t end there. Two of Roland’s brothers -Second Lieutenant James Bradford died of wounds during the Battle of Arras in 1917 and a year later Lieutenant Commander George Bradford died during the Zeebrugge Raid, he was also awarded the Victoria Cross.

Roland and George are the only brothers to both be awarded the Victoria Cross and no other family is more highly decorated in the history of the British Army. This is Roland’s story.


I was born on 23 February 1892 in Carwood House, Bishop Auckland in County Durham. My parents were George, a mining engineer and Amy, originally from Kent, they married in 1885. I had three brothers and one sister.

I was educated in Darlington at Bondgate Wesleyan School, and went on to Epsom College, Surrey where I captained the Rugby team and was Lance Corporal in the Epsom Cadet Corps.

In 1910 I joined the Territorial Army and two years later transferred to the regular army, serving with the 5th Durham Light Infantry. I was enjoying military life so much I changed my mind about a medical degree and stayed in the Army.

At the start of the war we sailed from Southampton for France on 9 September 1914 landing at St Nazaire the following day. I got on really well with the men and showed tactical awareness so was fast-tracked for promotion. In 1915, we saw action on the Aisne, I was promoted to Lieutenant and awarded the Military Cross.

One year later I was promoted to Major and transferred to the 1st/9th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. I was given full command of the battalion. I led them in combat throughout 1916 and much of 1917 and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel aged 24.

On 1 October 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, the 50th Division was ordered into action on the Northern coast of France. It was for his actions during this battle that Bradford would be awarded the Victoria Cross. 

A leading Battalion had suffered very severe casualties, and the Commander was wounded, its flank became dangerously exposed to the enemy and was raked by machine-gun fire, the situation was critical. I asked permission to command the exposed Battalion in addition to my own. Permission was granted.

At once, the two Battalions proceeded to the front lines, we were under fire of all description but succeeded in rallying the attack, we captured and defended the objective, and in the end secured the flank.

Bradford led another attack and captured over 300 prisoners, two howitzers and machine guns with a minimum of casualties. His Battalion penetrated the enemy’s second line and captured Cherisey near the German border.

The following day, he was appointed Temporary Brigadier General, the youngest in the Army, at just 25, he assumed command of 186th Brigade.

He returned to the front after receiving his VC award in June 1917. Sadly, on 30 November, he was visiting his Brigade’s positions alone at Graincourt near the Belgian border, when during a German counterattack he was killed. Finally, Roland was buried in Hermies British Cemetery 100 mile south of Dunkirk.

In addition to his VC and MC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with ‘Mons’ clasp, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. The medals are held by the Durham Light Infantry.

Research: Commonwealth War Graves.

Comprehensive Guide to Victoria Cross.

Gary Alikivi  May 2021