The Roksnaps feature on this blog has photographs sent in by concert goers who captured the atmosphere of gigs at Newcastle City Hall and the Mayfair. Among the many bands pictured were Whitesnake, Motorhead, Scorpions and North East band, Fist.
Whitley Bay’s Tygers of Pan Tang were snapped by John Edward Spence who told me “I used to go to loads of gigs at the Newcastle City Hall and Mayfair. I was lucky enough to see the bands associated with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal – just loved the music around then”.
John’s pics are from 1980/81 with Jess Cox on vocals who was eventually replaced by Welsh frontman Jon Deverill, and a second guitarist John Sykes joined Thin Lizzy and was replaced by former Penetration guitarist Fred Purser. The original Tygers engine room of guitarist Robb Weir, bassist Rocky Laws and Brian Dick on drums completed the line-up.
In 1982 the five piece band recorded one of their most successful albums, The Cage. On the subsequent tour I remember catching them live on their home patch at a packed Newcastle Mayfair on Friday 3rd September 1982.
Recently the Tygers management issued a plea “40 years ago this month The Cage tour began at Newcastle’s Mayfair Ballroom. At the time it was the bands most successful outing and we visited the best venues in the country including Manchester Apollo and Hammersmith Odeon. Support came from our old mate Kev Riddles’ Tytan. It’s a pity we have no photos from The Cage tour, unless of course anyone out there has any?”
“We realise it was 40 years ago but if you can help with the request for any pic’s – maybe they’re in the loft or in a box at the back of the garage – there’s got to be some out there”.
If you can help please don’t hesitate to get in touch. All emails will be passed onto the Tygers management or contact the official website:
In an interview Angelic Upstarts singer/songwriter/leader/chief, Mensi Mensforth (RIP) told me that ‘To be in a band you don’t have to be a prolific musician or go to art school you can just bang a dustbin lid and you’re away mate’.
Over 40 years ago in a working class pit village in County Durham a gang of brothers crashed into each other and were named The Sadistic Slobs.
To sift through the damage I met up with Paddy (vocals) and Gran (bass) in The Littlehaven Hotel, South Shields.
Gran: Me and Paddy first met after I was locked up at Roker Park, Sunderland football ground. What happened was a lad standing next to me had a butchers knife and was banging it on the gates, he saw police coming so passed it to me.
Well I got marched around the pitch and put in a cell, and who else did I find there ? it was only Paddy’s brother. I told him my story wanting to be in a band and you know what he said ? ‘Don’t let our young ‘un sing…..he can’t’. But he’s still here now and doing a great job.
Where did it all begin ?
Paddy: In the ‘70s we were living in Fencehouses near Sunderland and nothing much was happening. I was into glam rock first then suddenly got hit by punk.
Gran:Never Mind the Bollocks changed everything, it opened my eyes, that Pistols album cannot be beaten, then I started listening to The Clash who I still play to this day.
Paddy: Suddenly around the village it was like an institution to be in a band, everybody was wanting to start or be in a group. Bands like The Carpettes were around, The Proles had just put out a single and we all thought ‘we want to do that’. I remember buying the 7” in a record shop in Houghton le spring.
Then starting a band there was lots of comings and goings of different line ups, someone once turned up with only a cymbal and a snare drum.
Gran: We started rehearsing one song and said ‘right that’s in the set’. All the songs were like that, done very fast.
Paddy: I remember our drummer used to bring his kit in a wheelbarrow.
Gran: Yeah we had a roadie as well, and his younger brother came along and made it two roadies!
Paddy: But eventually we got a settled line up in 1982.
Gran: Unlike other punk bands we weren’t political, we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
Paddy: We did play some Rock Against Racism gigs and done stuff for Animal Charity’s. Funny enough these days we are a lot more popular than we were back then, we have a decent following and the new album is out.
Gran: Five year ago we got back together and added more catchy songs to our set and we’ve recorded an album.
Where did you gig in the early days ?
Paddy: Places like Peterlee football club, Fowlers Yard in Durham, Chester le Street and Ferryhill supporting GBH. We played in the Robin Adair pub, it was notorious as one of the roughest pubs in Newcastle and eventually got burned down. It was a sort of workingmen’s club.
Gran: On the night of the gig we went in with our mohicans and the poster on the wall advertised us as a comedy show group!
Paddy: There were only a few people there, I’m sure one of them had a dog.
Gran: Aye when we finished the committee guy popped his head around the door and said ‘you can rehearse here again next week’.
We played the famous Old 29 pub in Sunderland and a band called Animated Coathangers supported us. When we were on stage our friends were jumping about, the floor was bouncing and going to collapse. The manager ran out threatening them with a baseball bat shouting ‘will ya’ stop pogoing’ (laughs).
Paddy: It was like walking on a sheet of glass with all the broken bottles on the floor.
Gran: Rock bands played there on a Saturday afternoon, I remember before a Sunderland match we went in and two lads were pissing on the fire – imagine the stench! But yeah saw the Toy Dolls in there and The Proles of course who are still very good friends of ours. Aye really good days.
What other bands were around at the time?
Gran: There was and still is Uproar who we played with recently.
Paddy: Red Alert, Red London and we played in a band in the early days with Steve Straughan who’s in the UK Subs now. All good lads you know.
In the North East during the early ‘80s as the shipyards and pits were being closing down and the Miners strike was boiling over did you get involved in any fund raising for the miners families ?
Gran: No but we were pinching coal from the coke works ! We didn’t play any Miners Benefit gigs or charities to be honest we were just happy being in a band. You see its all about enjoying it for us, being with mates, not taking it too seriously and definitely no egos.
Paddy: We were never a protest band and we’re keeping it light hearted even now. A lot of songs are tongue in cheek. We’re nearly 60 year old we can’t be jumping all over the place you know.
Gran: In our songs we can take the piss out of each other, it’s all about having a laugh for us.
Paddy: I joined when I was 16 and probably took myself serious then but times change, life happens.
Gran: With our roadies and followers we all get on so well it’s like a family.
Paddy: Yeah it’s called The Slob Squad and not one of us are a full shilling!
Gran: Sometimes it’s like a day out for everyone like ‘last of the summer wine’. We played Rebellion Festival in August and went on stage 12.30pm, there was a couple of hundred people in the audience but more outside couldn’t get in, not sure why they were stuck outside might have been a problem with security on the main doors. But we just got on and done our thing on stage.
Paddy: We enjoyed it and had a great time, would love to go back and play again.
Where did you record the new album ?
Gran: My mate Wayne Marshall in Pelton Fell has his own digital set up at home that’s why it’s called Bedrock Studios. He was guitarist in a band I was in years ago called The Scream. It’s come out great he’s a talented lad.
Gran: We went ahead and got 500 copies printed of the album and that’s starting to sell and we are looking to record a second one. We’re not in it to make money, not that bands do anyway but to keep ticking over we’ve got a lot of merch on sale, even face masks!
Paddy: The quality is fantastic, ten songs, it’s heavy vinyl with a gatefold sleeve they’ve done a great job for us.
Gran: And on the back of the cover we’ve included a big thanks to people who’ve helped and supported us along the way.
Paddy: Yeah they’ve been with us for nearly 40 year. We done our first recording in Impulse Studio in Wallsend in 1983, I think the guy from Venom was working there then (bass & vocalist Cronos was tea maker/gofer).
What does punk mean to you ?
Both at the same time: Attitude.
Paddy: Now it’s as big as it ever was, we are getting more people at gigs than we used to. They have all grown up and their kids have grown up so they’ve time to go to gigs.
Gran: I’ve always said we are at a funny age – there’s a song in there somewhere! When we’re on stage once we stop seeing people laughing and enjoying themselves we’ll call it a day.
Paddy: In ’85 I was in The Scream we supported UK Subs at the Bunker in Sunderland there was maybe 15 people in the audience, now it’s growing because at a UK Subs gig there is easy 500 – 1,000. Always said that old punks are still punks.
Contact The Sadistic Slobs on social media for info/gigs and email email@example.com for details how to buy the album.
Yorkshire born Chris has authored eleven books, collaborated on two others, contributed to newspapers and magazines and written promotional material for local and international musicians.
Two of his books highlighted here are Boys in the Bands: Teesside’s Groups 1960-70 and Backstage Pass: Redcar Jazz Club.
“I felt those 1960s needed to be documented, the musical history needs preserving because once it’s gone, it’ll be lost forever”said Chris.
Saltburn born International rock star David Coverdale (Deep Purple/Whitesnake) added…
“Christopher Wilson has written and collated a genuinely touching and refreshing stroll down Memory Lane with this fabulous book. It opens so many joy filled memories of evenings spent in the breath taking company of the original Fleetwood Mac, The Who, Joe Cocker… many of whom I had the extraordinary pleasure of opening for when I was in local bands. A must have and a must read”.
What inspired you to research and put the books together ?
After writing five westerns, five local history books and a couple of historical fiction books, I wrote a piece about the band Cream in response to a request from an Australian website called Those Were The Days.
Also, two photographers who had covered Redcar Jazz Club were interested, one of them, Dennis Weller, read my piece on Cream and contacted me and proposed working together.
My initial interest in the Redcar Jazz club was ignited one night in 1966 when I sneaked in to watch a band I’d never heard of, they were billed as The Cream. That night changed my life.
I’d seen many acts at the Jazz Club so I set out to create a book I wanted to read, incorporating the club’s story, a full timeline of dates, what the headliners and support acts got paid, photographs, vignettes of the artists and ticket buyers – as many quotes as I could get.
For the designer I had a few ideas about layout and mocked up a few pages to help explain what sort of format we wanted. It was very primitive, I was flying by the seat of my pants. Eventually it was pasted up for the printer and became Backstage Pass : Redcar Jazz Club.
After publication, a big surprise was an unsolicited email out of the blue from Ed Bicknell who managed Dire Straits, Gerry Rafferty, Bryan Ferry and Scott Walker among others, and his email was headed FOREWORD (for the next edition). That in itself was proof he liked the book enough to have his name on it.
In Boys in the Band I look at the 1960’s where many pubs and workingmen’s clubs provided venues for bands who played most nights, a day off was a luxury. Most musicians were content in earning an extra few quid on their day job and having a laugh – others were more ambitious wanting to take it further. But they all started on Teesside honing their musical chops.
Chris drew on his experience as a drummer in the 1960s playing for local bands…
Yes I started playing drums in a band at school then switched to guitar, but after seeing Hendrix live at the Kirklevington Country Club and Cream twice I went back to playing drums and The Wheel played all over Teesside and North Yorkshire and as far south as Birmingham, we also played Annabel’s in Sunderland, the Quay Club in Newcastle and up to Ashington.
Late 60s early 70s I was in Candy Factory a professional club band who played workingmen’s clubs, including the infamous Downhill Social in Sunderland. Also the Bailey nightclub circuit including Change Is and La Dolce Vita in Newcastle, Latinos in South Shields and Wetherells in Sunderland when John Miles and Toby Twirl were on the circuit. We were offered work in South Africa and France but it didn’t feel right.
With a couple of line-up changes Candy Factory morphed into Pretty Like Me with a less friendly club repertoire and we were working from the Mayfair in Newcastle down to London, and picking up university gigs. But the mid-week gig staples were always those kids’ nights in the County Durham clubs when you could play heavy stuff. The mantra there was always, “Can you play The ‘unter or Born To be Wild?” Didn’t matter what else we played, we always played those.
Did you record any of your songs ?
We did cut a couple of demos of self-penned material. First was in a studio in a basement in Newcastle and another in Redcar, but we weren’t satisfied with them. They never seemed to capture what we thought we had. No cassettes then or CDs to bombard A&R guys with, we got a few expensive acetates which all seem to have disappeared now.
When the band later imploded I had to get a ‘proper job’ and working shifts in heavy industry, albeit mostly in laboratories, not conducive to a musical lifestyle. With not playing I needed a creative output and started writing, short stories at first, then books.
Where you surprised about the feedback for Backstage Pass and Boys in the Bands ?
I worried how many people were interested enough to buy a copy of Backstage Pass. In fact I was astonished at how well received it was. There is something to be said for timing, maybe we hit the right moment – after seven years it’s still selling.
It was launched at Kirkleatham Old Hall Museum and the photographers – Dennis Weller, Graham Lowe and I did signing sessions at bookshops. That book had been built around the photographs, which were extraordinary, but there were no images of the support bands except one, who had been personal friends of Graham. I insisted on including a few pages explaining who the support acts were and including them on the gig timeline.
After Backstage Pass was published, several local musicians hinted there had never been anything produced specifically about them, and although many of them had settled for a steady working lifestyle, their playing years, often only a handful, had been a big part of their lives – a big adventure.
I felt exactly like them. I had told stories of how it was – both the good and the bad, and the more I thought about it, more memories came back. I wanted to kick-start their memories too. Since Boys In The Bands has been released…well the comments from local musicians on my website reveal what they thought of it.
What are you working on now ?
I’m putting together a book about the Redcar Coatham Bowl which was open 1973 – 2014.Information and gig records are patchy, especially support bands, I think it’s important to include local musicians who worked just as hard as the headliners, and for a lot less.
At present I’m trying to confirm dates – and as a support bands’ name get mentioned I’m trying to contact them to confirm they played, and if they played other dates in the Bowl as yet unrecorded. This becomes especially difficult when bands are long disbanded and don’t maintain social media pages or websites.
If you have any information that will help Chris in his research or would like to buy his books contact him at his official website:http://www.chrisscottwilson.co.uk
“Don Airey was in my year at Bede Grammar school and each year there was a concert with the highlight being a band playing pop songs. I remember being impressed with Don playing the school organ on ‘House of the Rising Sun’. Little did we know he would go on to play with Deep Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake, and Black Sabbath while also playing on over 300 albums” said Trevor.
An excerpt taken from a book produced in Sunderland by retired teacher Ray Dobson and semi-retired accountant Trevor Thorne. Ray also brought his background as a local music photographer while Trevor has written several local history books.
They hit on a method of working with one taking the lead on a subject and the other chipping in with their own knowledge of different genres from skiffle to rock to punk and bringing it up to date with Sunderland bands Field Music, The Futureheads and The Lake Poets.
The book also highlights the work of Geoff Docherty “Geoff’s forthright and honest manner endeared him to his audiences and the performers. He is today, remembered for his huge contribution to the musical culture of the North East”.
Ray added “Geoff is primarily known as the most successful rock music promoter in the North East. He was determined to bring quality live music to the area and his first venue was the Bay Hotel in Sunderland where he began by booking Family for the huge fee of £150”.
”The gig was a success and was followed the next week by an unknown band called Free – Geoff remembers people arriving under the illusion that they wouldn’t have to pay an entry fee”.
The Bay continued to attract huge stars including Pink Floyd, Tyrannosaurus Rex and The Who. In 1969 Docherty moved to a larger venue and a who’s who of legendary rock bands such as Mott the Hoople, The Kinks and Bowie followed.
“Perhaps Geoff’s greatest achievement was to bring one of the world’s top bands to town. He used his powers of persuasion to talk the rather daunting Peter Grant (manager) around to allow Led Zeppelin to perform at the venue, but on the eve of the event he was told the band would not be coming”.
“This only served to increase his determination and after numerous attempts to impress on Grant that he owed him a gig, it was eventually agreed he could have Zeppelin – twice”.
“Geoff also had a secondary career in band management. The best known of which was Beckett which included Terry Slesser – who later formed Back Street Crawler along with Paul Kossoff. Kossoff even lived with Geoff, under his care, while recovering from addiction”.
“Beckett performed on the Old Grey Whistle Test and had an acclaimed, though not commercially successful album, to their name. Unfortunately, they parted ways on the eve of an American tour and the chance of stardom faded away”.
Trevor added“One of the most intriguing bands we came across was Juice. From posters and online information, they seemed to be everywhere. The band supported Pink Floyd, Free, Blondie, Deep Purple, The Faces, Terry Reid, and Black Sabbath as well as many others. We eventually tracked down the drummer Kelly Davis, who had a fund of tales to tell”.
“It seems they were the go-to support band during the 1970s. Kelly was particularly complimentary about Ian Paice, the Deep Purple sticksman. While they were waiting for their gig to start, Paice went through the drumming routine for ‘Black Night’ with Kelly, taking up an hour and a half of his time to pass on tips on that and other songs. In 2011 Juice got together again and still record songs”.
Ray recalls a story about American born songwriter & musician Sean Delaney who is often referred to as ‘The Fifth member of rock band Kiss’and “had worked with the likes of John Lennon, Cher, Clive Davis and many others. He played a key part in designing the Kiss stage make-up, choreography and pyrotechnics”.
“Seanwas raised in Utah but moved to New York where he became involved in the music scene. An accomplished musician in his own right, Sean met producer Bill Aucoin in Max’s Kansas City, it was here the two spotted a new band and, took them under their wing. Under their guidance the band were to become one of the most famous rock bands in the world – Kiss”.
“Several successful years later, having personally produced and co-written songs for both the band and their solo recordings, Sean moved to Arizona. There he was impressed by an English/American band named Smith and Jackson. When the English contingent returned to the UK, Sean resolved to follow them and manage the band”.
“Much to everyone’s amazement, he arrived in Sunderland a few weeks later where he lived with singer Paul Jackson and his family. He became a great friend to many locals and would often stay with my wife Sue and I. Sean fell in love with the local pubs and became a popular figure on the local music scene, where his outrageous eccentricity endeared him to everyone”.
“While in town, Sean produced an excellent album for Smith and Jackson to which he contributed two of his songs. The album was released on RGF Records and was intended for the ears of Gene Simmons (Kiss)”.
“I remember on Christmas Day 2002, at about 4 am, my wife Sue woke me up to ask if I could hear singing downstairs. On closer listening, we realised that it was Sean, who was sleeping on the sofa. Next morning after he left, we found an empty chocolate box with some lyrics scribbled on it. This was probably Sean’s last attempt at song-writing.”
“Sean flew back to the US with some demos of the album but, within a day or so he had a stroke. On 13th April we received a call from Sean’s nephew to say he had passed away. Paul Jackson went home and wrote a song called ‘Ballad of Sean Delaney”.
“Sean left an indelible mark on those lucky enough to be his friends during that last period of his life spent in Sunderland. His funeral took place in Utah and written on the bottom of the gravestone are the four names of Kiss members – Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter”.
More stories and features in ‘Music in Sunderland – Past, Present & Futureheads’ is out now (£9.99 plus £2.80 UK postage) and available at Waterstones (Sunderland), Clays Nursery (Washington), Sunderland Museum, also from Trevor firstname.lastname@example.org
Music can spring unexpected surprises when it pulls you in and holds your breath. It was the early ‘80s when I hired out albums from the local library and sampled songs from bands I’d only read about in Sounds music weekly. There were stacks of misses but big hitters like the first time hearing the sublime poetic lyrics of Leonard Cohen.
‘When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon. Don’t turn on the lights you can read their address by the moon’.
Or Pete Murphy spitting out white hot haunting claustrophobic tunes from post punk band Bauhaus ‘Yin and yang lumber punch, go taste a tart, then eat my lunch. And force my slender, thin and lean, in this solemn place of fill-wetting dreams’.
Live gig’s also brought surprises, I remember in November 1981 self-proclaimed UK Metal Gods Judas Priest were at Newcastle City Hall primed to deliver the goods. Before the big boys played with their bigger toys the support band are usually given 40 minutes to say their piece, unfortunately some crumble in front of the headliners crowd, but word shot around ‘the openers are supposed to be canny’.
It was a cold night outside as winter closed in and in the warmth of the ‘Haal’ the lights went down and a few shouts went out. From the balcony I looked down to see the short, stocky blond haired vocalist plant himself at the front of the stage. Udo Dirkschneider. The leader of the pack.
Sounding like they’ve brought the Panza division with them, the twin guitar attack of German metallers Accept announced their arrival in Newcastle and rock ‘n’ rolled thunder till the end. In the wings Priest looked on, sharpened their set and Rob Halford screamed for vengeance.
‘80s live music show The Tube had something and someone new and fresh every week. Big Country, The Alarm, The Cult, they all made a big, beautiful noise, and a surprise on the programme was Pat Benatar – the little American lady with a huge, huge voice.
On one show a duo delivered power from what at first looked like an unlikely source. A young skinny lad with floppy hair stood ready, at a game of football he would have been the last picked, then on walked someone who could of been a school dinner lady.
The stage was bare – with no drums, no Marshall stacks, no guitars, I was prepared for disappointment. I didn’t catch their name, with only a keyboard and microphone set up – how loud could a synth pop duo go ?
A clunky pop sound fired up, then the voice, and what a voice. Making one of her first TV appearances was Alison Moyet who went on to sell millions of albums, a bucket load of top ten UK hits, a host of singer and songwriter awards, Live Aid, and more, and more, you get the picture – not bad for a dinner lady.
I’ve got a Dolly Parton greatest hits cd on the shelf which I pick out now and then, but recently I’ve been listening to more country & western. Yep the whole pluckin’ banjo hillbilly heartbreak songs – my neighbour even looks like Willie Nelson – here’s to music springing more surprises.
HYHTO first appeared on the blog in December 2017 it included some of the best stories from interviews during that year, so for this batch there’s a few to choose from. Here’s four of them and first up is Neil Thompson (The Carpettes) from May this year…..I loved going to The Marquee to watch bands but I didn’t really enjoy playing there to be honest. We did six supports there and they were hard work – there was always an attitude in the air ‘Come on then, impress us’ !
We played four nights in November ‘79 with The Lurkers during their residency there. Each gig would have punks sitting on the stage with their backs to us and every now and then one would look around and stare at you – and then turn back around. I much preferred London gigs like The Hope ‘n’ Anchor and The Nashville.
In 1980 we went to Italy three times and Holland once, we also did a short UK tour supporting The Inmates. That UK tour was probably the best two weeks of my life. I was twenty years old, travelling around the country playing music and when we arrived at the venue all the equipment would already be set up by the roadies – heaven! You can’t beat live experience for getting better on stage. It’s no good sitting in the bedroom playing guitar – not gonna get you anywhere.
In April this year I got in touch with Steve Thompson (Songwriter/Producer)……We had one manager guy called Skippy who said we need to have one of those moments like The Beatles on the rooftop. So one Saturday afternoon we went down to Old Eldon Square in Newcastle broke into an office and ran a cable up to the monument in the middle and performed. It was the first time anybody had played there and it hit the papers. It didn’t end well for Skippy, he got arrested and deported back to Australia.
Every now and then you would do a gig where there would be two bands. One night we played The Rex Hotel in Whitley Bay and there are two stages there. Now this was a sign of our ambition cos we used to try and arrive later than the other band so we could headline the gig – we were top of the bill at The Rex (laughs).
The other bands would do it as well cos we saw them driving slowly along the back lanes. Beckett were one of the bands cos I recognised their posh Merc – we only had a van.
Most times we’d be out gigging and finish around 2am in the morning and coming back we’d go to a cafe near Central Station in Newcastle that was open all night. All the bands would go there, we discovered we didn’t need sleep.
I met up with Gary Miller (Whisky Priests) in March 2019…..Our first gig was in October ’85 and the band were just in a fledgling state, none of us were full-time then and were holding down day jobs. We had a loyal following and one of them was called Nigel Wreford, and his dad had a dairy farm. He used to deliver milk and one of the houses on his route belonged to a guy at Tyne Tees Television who produced The Tube, his name was Malcolm Gerrie.
We hadn’t released any records by then but we did have some demo tapes. On his next round the farmer dropped off the milk as usual but put a tape next to the bottles with a note attached saying…Have a listen to this, think you might like it.
This was early ’86 and I was working my first job as a clerical assistant in Social Services at Durham County Hall when the phone rang and my colleague shouted over… Gary, it’s for you… I thought it must have been someone ringing from one of the care homes when someone on the other end said… It’s Tyne Tees Television can you come and do The Tube this Friday. This was at five-to-five on a Wednesday afternoon (laughs).
I did meet Malcolm Gerrie later and he said he was driving in his car when he remembered the tape, listened to it and thought I must get these guys on The Tube. We loved the experience and opportunity for what was a young band then. We were sat in the studio canteen seeing all these famous people off the telly…I recognise him he does the news (laughs).
May 2019 saw an interview with Emma Wilson (Blues Band)…….My first experience of recording was epic! My brother and cousin were signed as 29 Palms by Miles Copeland to IRS Records in 1991. I was asked to sing backing vocal on both their albums. I went from singing in pubs to recording in The Chapel Studio in Lincolnshire with producer Mick Glossop. Mick had worked with musicians with the calibre of Van Morrison, John Lee Hooker and The Waterboys.
Mick was brilliant I basically got a masterclass from one of the legends of record making. He’s an amazing musician who knows how to put a sound together. I was so lucky to work with him at such an early point in my career. Vocals on the 29 Palms album required a much more intimate and harmonically complex sound than I had ever used vocally. I done 6 or sometimes 8 layered vocal track’s all on tape not digital. I still use the techniques he taught me today.
In 2002 I toured the UK supporting Fine Young Cannibals. After the first couple of gigs I noticed the audience were mostly made up of women who were big fans of the singer Roland Gift. They saw the support act as just more time to have to wait and see him.
So I started to mention him in my set Oh I’ve just seen Roland getting his dinner things like that and they loved it. They’d just made a connection. After that they listened to my set and it made the gig easier and more fun. Roland thought it was hilarious and was extremely sweet to us.
Following on from the last batch of HYHTO stories here’s a few more from Fred Purser (Penetration/Tygers of Pan Tang), John Gallagher (Raven), Michael Kelly (Southbound), Chris Ormston and Nev (Punishment of Luxury). First up is a story from former Axis guitarist Davey Little…..When supporting former Thin Lizzy guitarist Eric Bell at a local gig we’re in at midday to set up a huge wall of Marshalls, drum riser, lights, smoke bombs the whole nonsense. Hey, we were local heroes (laughs). Then Mr Bell and band arrived. You can imagine the headliner walking in and seeing this mountain of shit on stage.
But what a gentleman – we were young and full of it. He was very gently spoken and just said ‘This isn’t really the way it works lads’. Then much to our relief he said ‘but it’s fine, we don’t need much room, not bothered about a sound check’.
I remember it was packed to the rafters for Eric Bell, not for us, but we did ok. His drummer set up after us. Bass player rolled his amp on, Eric Bell rolled either a Vox AC30 or a Fender Twin on to the stage and blitzed the place. No arsing about, no demands, just played like true pro’s. What a lesson, what a professional.
Of course we thought he was brilliant, his band were brilliant, his last words… ‘Pleased you enjoyed it, now you know there is no need for all that shit on stage, and don’t ever fucking set up before the main band gets there’.
A year later went to see him at the Redcar Bowl and he introduced us to his new band with ‘These are the cheeky bastards who set up before we even got to the gig’
In May 2019 was an interview with folk musician Chris Ormston……I’ve recorded various compilations of Northumbrian music but my first big break if you like was when I got a phone call one night in 1990… ‘Hello, it’s Peter Gabriel here’. There is a rumour going round that I told him to f*** off because I never believed him (laughs).
But it was him and he was after some piping on his next recording. So I agreed to go down to his studio in Bath. He wasn’t really sure what he wanted and just said bring every pipe you’ve got. We worked in the studio until he found the sound he liked, which was Highland Pipes.
The pipes were mixed down and recorded onto the first song on the album Come Talk to Me. Sinead O’Connor sang on the track although I never saw her. He had brought in various musicians and sounds to add to what he had already recorded. That’s the way he worked. I got a credit and a flat fee for the work and really enjoyed the experience. Gabriel I found was very thoughtful and reserved unlike his stage performances, as a lot of musicians are.
In April this year I spoke with Nev (PUNISHMENT OF LUXURY)……When our Laughing Academy album was being released endless gigging ensued and part of our excursion took us to The Milky Way and Paradiso venues in Amsterdam, and eventually via Cologne and Dusseldorf to the great city of Berlin. The Wall still stood and divided East and West Germany, so great things could happen here! Although our Berlin Wall encounter at Checkpoint Charlie was a bit scary.
Steve Sekrit now had long hair and a strange beard, which didn’t balance with his passport photo and only after a long exchange with an authoritarian, now in possession of a copy of our album Laughing Academy, were we able to pass across the border.
Thankfully he looked at the images on the outer sleeve cover as the inner gate fold sleeve would have offered no means of verification.
Our gig in Berlin that evening was at the Kant Kino and access to the famous venue was a long walk across a suspended structure overlooking parts of the bustling street below. It was a brilliant, receptive, bouncing crowd, full of anticipation – it was a very memorable gig.
Next is a story from Fred Purser (ex-Penetration/Tygers of Pan Tang) taken from an interview in December 2018……We were on tour in the USA and I turned 21 in Boston. It was a blast. Great fun. We were out there on the same tour that The Police had done, they had done the circuit twice and they broke. Squeeze had done it, they broke. Unfortunatley after the first circuit of that tour we were over worked, burnt out.
Virgin were a great label but turn over for albums was quicker in those days and they wanted another one quickly. Just too much. Sadly we split. In hindsight if we had just taken a holiday maybe four weeks off and come back refreshed, that would of worked.
The perception is that it can be a glittering world, we didn’t complain about it then because it was a great opportunity. But looking back it was very tiring travelling hundreds of miles every day sitting on your backside for 8-9 hours in the back of a van. When I was young I used to read the Sounds and read the back of albums and think it would be very glamourous. But the reality is it can be quite mundane.
When I joined Penetration we were getting £25 a week. Before we played The Marquee we got a telegram from Ian Dury to wish us luck. But he was only on £25 a week when Hit Me with Your Rythm Stick was number one in the charts! Obviously that money would filter in later on but the record company put a lot of money into the band and until you reach that break even line your just on the recoupment phase. They want their loan repayed before you see any money. So they would pay you per diems of £10 per day so you can get food and essentials.
There would be bands in great recording studios impressed by it all, rightly so, but in the background is the ching, ching sound of the money register. They are accruing a debt to the record company, and they want it back.
I spoke to John Gallagher from Chief Headbangers RAVEN in October 2019…….For young lads like us there was only two ways out of Newcastle…..and we weren’t good footballers.
The running joke was ‘C’mon let’s git in a van and gan doon t’ London!’. We did quite a few one off support gigs. It was, in the back of the truck, drive down to London, play the Marquee with Iron Maiden and drive back straight after the gig.
We just worked, playing shows, writing songs. One thing we’ve never had is a lack of song ideas. Often a riff from a sound check turns into a song. We had worked hard for years so when the opportunity arrived we dove in head first. Getting the Neat deal changed everything totally then when we made contacts in the US and did our first tour with a young rag tag outfit called Metallica opening for us.
It was great to get to play a stadium show with them in São Paulo a few years back and hear James (Hetfield) tell the crowd how much they appreciated Raven taking a chance back in 1983 and taking Metallica on tour with them. That meant a lot to us.
Next is a story from Michael Kelly (SOUTHBOUND) in March 2019……We recorded some songs at Impulse Studio’s in Wallsend. We done several tracks to send to record companies and also arranged to go to London, appointments had been made to approach Virgin, Rocket, A&M, Decca, Island, WEA and others. We thought that someone must take a liking to us.
I remember going into one record company’s office and I Feel Love by Donna Summer was playing and another office was playing Watching the Detectives by Elvis Costello. This doesn’t sound like us as we were playing AOR music. After days of stumbling around the streets of London we headed home with hope that someone might pick up on what we left them.
When we got back to the North East we were offered an interview on Radio Newcastle. The interview was filled with jabs about New Wave/Punk taking over from normal rock music. I must have had blinkers on because we were in the middle of a musical revolution that was sweeping across the country. Our music was becoming old hat and as one record company said…You’re 2 years out. We had lots of replies from other record companies like …We have to pass on this…or Our label has its full quota of artists. It was very frustrating.
Songwriter Aaron Duff was born in North Shields, and like many in the Tyneside region hails from a family steeped in the industries of fishing and shipbuilding….
The Launch was influenced by viewing old footage of shipbuilding on the Tyne. So many Tynesiders are connected to this industry in some way and such was its reach among the community the launching of ships were very big occasions.
Archive footage from the Tyne shipbuilding industry is weaved into the video…Yeah I visualized the build, and the structure of the tune kind of mirrors that. Starting from the foundations it builds up to the final push as the song reaches a crescendo when a ship is finally launched. I really wanted the piece to reflect the anticipation and ultimate sense of pride and elation when the hard work is completed.
Even in these uncertain times the band, who have been together since 2017, are steaming ahead with their plans to release their debut album, Big Harcar, in October. The record was produced and mixed by Paul Gregory and engineered by Alex Blamire, the son of Rob Blamire and Pauline Murray, (Pauline is a member of North East punks Penetration)….
The whole album was recorded in Polestar Studios in Byker, Newcastle, run by Rob and Pauline. Once we’d done the first couple of tunes it was a no brainer to go back and do the rest of the album there – we all got on absolutely great.
Polestar has a great edge and atmosphere and a brilliant Trident 75 mixing console that gives a wonderfully unique sound. I think with Paul and Alex working on the record they allowed us to create something special which I don’t think we would have got anywhere else.
Along with the album released on CD there is also a vinyl version, was that important to the band ? Yeah, we wanted to have vinyl as it’s not just trendy but it looks and feels much better to have a full package, by adding the artwork and sleeve notes said guitarist Martin Wann, and Aaron added they were lucky to get two great artists to work with….Dale Maloney did the front cover, he runs the brilliant Old School Gallery in Alnmouth up the Northumberland coast, Dale used to be in Lo-Fi Allstars.
The internal gatefold has been done by Woody, the drummer from British Sea Power. The work they’ve produced is absolutely fantastic and we’re so proud to have them work with us. Can’t wait for people to see the artwork, it’s great; very colourful and captures the essence of the album perfectly.
Plus we wanted to give the people who’ve supported us a chance to be involved so we have done a special short run of heavyweight 180gm Gannet White vinyl, and people who have ordered will have their name on the sleeve notes. After the special run it’s black vinyl only, but still 180gm heavyweight.
The band have several festival appearances already confirmed for 2020/21, alongside further support slots with Lanterns on The Lake and Sam Fender (dates below).
Are the band looking to include all the album tracks in any future live gigs ?
We intend to play all of the album whenever possible said Aaron. It’s not over long at nine tracks, not including the two bonus tracks, and it’s all do able in the set …that is if we ever get to play live again!
With all this lockdown stuff it’s pretty crazy just now, for everyone not just us. The sound engineers and promoters are all feeling it. Covid is affecting the music industry massively, and that will be permanently, unless something is done to support everyone involved.
Covid virus measures have prevented new face to face interviews so only a few are conducted by email or phone. Contacts and recommendations from previous interviewees have also helped to bring out some good stories.
Also, there are features where I dig up stories about North East photographers like Downey, Cleet and Flagg. Plus musicians who are no longer with us but have left their mark, Chas Chandler, Jack Brymer and Kathy Stobbart.
Chandler I knew about, but was interested to find out more. I hadn’t heard of Stobbart and Brymer, but linking Stobbarts career together and seeing Jack Brymer in The Beatles ‘Day in the Life’, video were great finds.
This month will feature HYHTO posts, basically ‘a best of’ compilation from the blog. So here’s some stories from musicians to tide us over till the next new one’s ping my email. First up is drummer Harry Hill from an interview back in March 2019…..
I remember playing Sunderland Locarno with Fist. That was a great Friday night gig. We played it a couple of times after that and done a few other venues in Sunderland. There was the Boilermakers Club and the Old 29 pub which was only a very long thin shaped bar. We never got much reaction and nobody clapped cos there was nowhere to put their drinks (laughs).
One Friday night we played the Newcastle Mayfair (2,000 capacity) with a 10,000 watt pa that we’d hired. We asked the sound man when the p.a. had to go back and he said not till Monday. Champion we thought, so we booked a gig for Saturday afternoon in the Old 29 pub. We knew there’d be a reaction this time. As we blasted out the p.a. in this little pub the audience were pinned against the back wall (laughs).
In March this year Arthur Ramm (Beckett) sent in a few stories, this was one of them…. We used to play regularly at nightclubs in the North East. The stage area was usually upstairs and extra help was appreciated. At one particular nightclub as the band were setting up the gear on stage, a friend of the band wandered into the restaurant kitchen and noticed some uncooked beef steaks on a plate. He realized there were no staff present in the kitchen and removed some from the plate and hid them inside his coat. In the dressing room he revealed the steaks to the band, and they told him to return them to the kitchen immediately.
He decided otherwise, and wrapped the steaks up in paper towels. Well the band used to use Vox AC30 amplification, which were designed with an open compartment in the back of the cabinets. The culprit decided to hide the steaks in the backs of the amplifiers so that he could retrieve them after the gig. However, during the performance when the amplifiers started to get hot, the band members on stage could smell the aroma of cooking meat. Thinking this was coming from the kitchen, they thought nothing of it.
All was revealed when the amplifiers were put back in the van. The consequences for the band would have been quite severe if found out! He was never invited to any gig again. Who got the steaks? We don’t know. It put a new meaning to the expression ‘The band was cooking’!
Sam Blew (Ultravox/Ya Ya) got in touch in May this year….One of my favourite road stories was myself and Vinny Burns getting a bit merry after a gig, we went back to watch Asia who were headlining, they had lots of dry ice, so we took it upon ourselves to crawl across the stage under the dry ice without being seen. It was all going well until we ended up behind Geoff Downs (the keyboard player) and couldn’t see where we were going but we managed to get back across the stage without being seen.
When Ya Ya were in LA to shoot a video with Nigel Dick, who also filmed Toto and Guns n Roses, we agreed to meet him at our hotel to have a chat. Ray the guitarist fancied a dip in the hot tub on the roof, we put a whole bottle of shampoo in the hot tub, we switched on the jacuzzi and he got in just for a laugh. Nigel pulled up and looked up at the roof, all you could see was foam sliding down the side of the building. He said you could see it about a mile away.
In September last year I spoke with Alan Fish (White Heat)….When we recorded at Townhouse Studio in Shepherds Bush it was the Virgin residential studio and there was another band there. It was the time just after Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne was getting Blizzard of Oz together.
Ozzy came in the studio to listen to one of our sessions ‘I love you guys you’re great’. He was with Sharon his girlfriend and manager, she was delighted that Ozzy had found someone to play with, not musically just to get him out of her hair (laughs).
We used to go out for a few drinks together, there were no airs or graces he just liked a good drink and a laugh. We’d go back to the residential and he’d be in the best suite, Sharon would be there and order in a Chinese meal cos she recognised we were skint and starving so they looked after us quite well. We used to distract them so we could pinch their booze out of the cupboard.
One morning Ozzy came into the studio and said in his Brummie accent ‘Ere lads we must have had a good session last night cos there’s no booze left in me cupboard’.
On the same day I met Ray Laidlaw (Lindisfarne) in Tyneside Cinema Café, Newcastle….Lindisfarne had a break from 1973-76, we had a few successful one off gigs then made a new album in ’78. The opening night on the tour was Leeds University where The Who recorded their album Live at Leeds. We broke their attendance record that night. Two weeks later the fire brigade told the University ‘With the number of fire escapes you’ve got, you got to cut the capacity by 400’. So our record will never be beaten (laughs).
Anyway the opening night we had some pyrotechnics, we went a bit showbiz like, and they would go off at the end of the show – balloons and confetti cannons. The big ending you know. At that point the soundman was to mute every channel – and he forgot. So the sound went down every microphone, the monitors were like tissue paper, the speakers blew out as did the windows behind the stage. We weren’t invited back.
At the end of July this year Derek Buckham (Tokyo Rose) got in touch….Me and some friends – Micky Duncan, Mary Downing and Micky Fenwick – took on Hire Purchase agreements to buy equipment for a band called Alcatraz. It was seven nights a week supporting the Bingo in working man’s clubs. One night in Hartlepool the Concert Chairman knocked over an amplifier and didn’t apologise. The bass player Mick Fenwick said Don’t worry I’ve dealt with it.
The Concert Chairman used a Bingo machine, it was a big plastic see through box and inside were ping pong balls with the numbers on, when he switched it on the balls were blown to the top by air and he would pick one out. Well I looked over and could see them floating about in the box – Mick had filled the Bingo machine with beer! The Concert Chairman turned on the machine in front of the audience – I’ve never heard a club laugh so much. In the end we were paid off and banned from Hartlepool.
Late ‘70s I recorded a track called Hang Jack about the Yorkshire Ripper who at the time was terrorising the country. The track was played in clubs throughout the country and one day the Police turned up at my house. I was interviewed and had to give a hand writing sample. My parents were also interviewed asking if I was ever away from home. Yes they said, He plays in a band and if he was responsible we would be the first to tell you.
I first started work in 1968 when I was 16, I worked with a guy who was in the Jasper Hart band here in the North East. I used to go around with them and decided I wanted to learn guitar and join a group. Then one night at the Sunderland Monkwearmouth Club the singer asked how I was getting on with learning the bass guitar, he was very encouraging.
Then half way through the set and totally out of the blue he asked if I wanted to join him on stage and do a couple of songs. Well that was it, I got the bug. The singer was AC/DC’s Brian Johnson – and that’s my claim to fame (laughs).
Alcatraz Left to Right Micky Duncan, Mary Downing, Derek Buckham, Micky Fenwick
What band were you in and where did you play your first gigs ? Me and some friends – Micky Duncan, Mary Downing and Micky Fenwick – took on Hire Purchase agreements to buy equipment for a band called Alcatraz. It was seven nights a week supporting the Bingo in working man’s clubs.
One night in Hartlepool the Concert Chairman knocked over an amplifier and didn’t apologise. The bass player Mick Fenwick said Don’t worry I’ve dealt with it. The Concert Chairman used a Bingo machine, it was a big plastic see through box and inside were ping pong balls with the numbers on, when he switched it on the balls were blown to the top by air and he would pick one out.
Well I looked over and could see them floating about in the box – Mick had filled the Bingo machine with beer! The Concert Chairman turned on the machine in front of the audience – I’ve never heard a club laugh so much. In the end we were paid off and banned from Hartlepool (laughs).
That band were out working a lot and in the end Mary left so that was the finish of Alcatraz.
Did you record any of your songs ? After the stint in the working man’s clubs I got together with a musician called Colin Lumsden – we went under the name Queer Band who were active from 1974-76. We played original music, just trying to do something really different from the club scene. The line-up was me on guitar, with bass/vocals and sax from Colin and Geoff Pybus on drums.
We recorded at Morton Sound Studios in Newcastle, it was a two track studio, and we made acetates from the recording. Then played a showcase gig for EMI at the Chelsea Cat in South Shields, but unfortunately didn’t get signed. Then Colin went on to better things when he fronted Radiation in Sheffield then went to South Africa.
I stayed in the North East, this was the late ‘70s, and recorded a track at Impulse Studios in Wallsend. The song was called Hang Jack about the Yorkshire Ripper who at the time was terrorising the country.
The track was played in clubs throughout the country and one day the Police turned up at my house. I was interviewed and had to give a hand writing sample. My parents were also interviewed asking if I was ever away from home. Yes he plays in a band and if he was responsible we would be the first to tell you.
In the early ‘80s I formed Tokyo Rose – Me, Val Ophfield, Graham Bradley, Geoff Pybus. A gig was arranged at Annabels club in Sunderland and some rep’s from CBS came all the way up from London to see us play. But nerves got the better of us and they left without saying goodbye.
Before that Tokyo Rose had recorded a single called Dry Your Eyes at Guardian Studios in Durham. Noddy Holder from Slade reviewed it for the Record Mirror. He said we were a great band but we should go to a bigger studio. This upset the producer Terry Gavaghan and we felt it was unfair as Terry was heavily involved with the track and did a brilliant job playing and producing.
Years later I heard from Vinyl Dealers that the single was selling for £100 in Japan. This prompted me to dig out the music and video and put them on social media. In the meantime I learned how to build websites so I created www.tokyorose.biz
I realised my gigging days could no longer be funded so I built a studio with Pete Barclay who used to play for North East band Lucas Tyson. We wrote and recorded songs under the name Tokyo Rose. We released them on the internet and also released a CD which featured all original songs. Our musician friends, Dave Ditchburn, Rob Foster and Dave Donaldson came in as guest vocalists.
What are you doing now ? I still write and record songs under my name Derek Buckham AKA Tokyo Rose and thoroughly enjoy it. It’s not about the past it’s about what’s happening in your life right now. I still enjoying writing hence my suite of Lockdown Songs – Angels in Blue, The Lady that Saved MyLife and The Year That Never Was.
Would I do it again ? Don’t need too, I’m still doing it !