TUNED UP – with Sound Engineer, Stu Keeble

Dingwalls was a live venue in Newcastle operating in the early ‘80s and many signed and unsigned bands played there. Pages from a 1983 diary and booking list for the venue were posted on-line and some of those pages are pictured here.

I got in touch with Stu Keeble who was sound engineer at the Newcastle venue at that time….I think my first gig at Dingwalls was John Martyn in 1983. After the venue closed and re-opened as the Bear Pit I was still the engineer. I then did 3 years with the Bay City Rollers!

Have you any road stories with the Rollers ?  Apart from the sex, drugs and rock and roll plus the large amount of whisky they consumed,  I’ve lots of stories but I’m not sure how many are fit for public consumption (laughs).

The story we remember was a nightmare journey. The van broke down on the way to Ayr in Scotland, we were about 10 miles away from the gig. We had AA cover so they came and towed us to the venue and we did the show. That wasn’t too bad but now the big problem was getting back.

I phoned my mate Barry Hodgson from Stanley in County Durham, Barry hired a 7.5 ton Ford Cargo which he drove all the way up to Ayr and towed the van back – a nightmare journey as the engine had blown up in the Transit. We hadn’t thought that the battery wouldn’t last the return trip – the lights died as we passed Carlisle.

I had to call on a friend in Haltwhistle to borrow the battery out of his Mini which just got us back. Unfortunately this was in the days before cameras in the mobile phone so there are no photos of the nightmare !

How did you get interested in sound engineering and what were your first jobs ? I was a Hi-Fi nut and loved music. I used to go to a lot of gigs, mostly names like Sabbath and The Who, but I was also into west coast American acts so bands like CSNY, Poco, America and Jackson Browne. 1979 was my first paid sound engineering job with a band called 747 in the North East workingmen’s clubs. I’d only done amateur stuff before that.

Did you engineer for any North East bands ? My first tour was with Tysondog, I also mixed for Warrior, there is a live record – For Europe Only.  I worked with Danceclass and did a few shows with the Toy Dolls in fact most North East bands even Prefab Sprout.

When you were at Dingwalls what was the plan for your day ? A day at Dingwalls would start around 11-12noon depending on the bands arrival time and how much gear they had. We would load them in – I had a stage tech called Kremen, who’s sadly no longer with us. Then sound check them once the offices upstairs in the building had finished work. We would have something to eat before it would be time for the doors to open, can’t remember when that was maybe 7.30/8.00 pm.

The gig would happen and when it finished we would get ready to pack up and load out. It would take us another hour or so to get the band out. We would get a taxi so maybe get home by 2am.

What are your highlights from your career ? As for highlights I have a few, a couple at Dingwalls/Bear Pit where Man – what a band, they were awesome, and the time Roy Harper came in with a young girl looking like he had slept in a shop doorway. He proceeded to give the young house engineer a lesson in compression, when the song is quiet it’s meant to be quiet ‘DO NOT COMPRESS MY SOUND’. That was easy to do as in the early ’80s compressors weren’t as common as they are now and we didn’t have any!

I got the call to do a Christmas party for TV show The Tube at the Jewish Mother pub in Newcastle and after setting up the system Joe Cocker turned up to sound check – that was a gig to remember.

I had the contract for the Northumbria Uni/Poly for the best part of 30 years and I was house engineer at the Astoria in London for a couple of years too. I did playback for Wet Wet Wet’s first Tube video and I appeared in Crocodile Shoes (TV drama with Jimmy Nail) as the sound engineer at the live show.

There have been a few gigs to remember over the 40 odd years but they all sort of merge into one. Friends of Harry at the Radio One roadshow in Exhibition Park, Newcastle when the mixing desk was behind the stage and I had to produce a PA mix, 5 monitor mixes and a broadcast mix was a lot of fun ! The bands single that I had mixed at High Level Studio, Newcastle was the record of the week.

Doing PA for the Queen Mother at Team Valley Trading Estate, Gateshead in 1986 was an eye opener when Special Branch wanted to look inside the speaker cabinets or Alexi Sayle at Newcastle City Hall for the miners strike in ‘84 was a laugh when he walked on stage and said hello you c@#*s and half the audience left.

But two great moments were at The London Astoria meeting and mixing for Bruce Willis and Mike and the Mechanics.

What are you doing now ? I’m still working, currently doing the Northumberland Live festival in Blyth. I’m really enjoying helping to bring quality acts to Blyth for a free festival. I’ve really enjoyed my time as a sound engineer and I wouldn’t have been happy doing anything else.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2020.

ISOLATION BLUES

Noted members of the UK Blues and Roots community have come together to produce Songs of Isolation. A fabulous one-off 17 track compilation in aid of NHS Charity + Heroes.

Mike Rivers, promoter at The Crawdaddy Club, Richmond, London, famous for it’s connection to early gigs by the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds…Everyone involved has generously donated their songs in aid of the charity, + Heroes. A small charity set up by NHS staff helping them obtain much needed PPE, childcare, food, financial and emotional support.

In the early days of Covid 19 and the lockdown I had the idea inspired by musician Adam Norsworthy for our musician friends to create a virtual album. We asked contacts in our music community to write and record a song related to the lockdown.

To work his mastering magic we asked music producer/engineer Jon Astley (The Who, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Tom Jones, Jools Holland) who kindly volunteered his time. The result is an album that digs deep in the sadness that we all face during these uncertain times’.

UK Blues siren Emma Wilson.

UK blues and soul siren, Emma Wilson from Teeside who has featured twice on this blog, has contributed to the album ‘I performed at The Crawdaddy a few times and promoter Mike Rivers invited me to add one of my songs. I wrote ‘Hold On’ especially for this compilation – it’s about missing my band and friends. The musicians recorded from home and the lyrics mention all the names of Club promoters where I gig, like Mike Pendergrast from Darlington, Saltburn Blues Club Harry Simpson, Pete Rafferty from Eaglescliffe and from Guisborough, Kathleen Whinyates.

The collective have zero costs so every penny will go to the charity, + Heroes. Mike explains ‘We ask for a minimum donation of £8.00, but hope that those of you who can afford it will give more generously. The music mirrors the feelings that only excellent musicians and songwriters can express in song. It is a present-day history of our times’.

The album is officially released on Friday 12th June 2020, and will be available to purchase via bandcamp HERE. A limited edition physical CD version is also planned.

Featured artists on the album are:
The Della Grants , Ash Wilson, Georgia Van Etten, Adam Norsworthy, Rick Cassman,
Frank Collins, Emma Wilson, Peter Harris, Sonja Allen, Ben Hemming, Mike Ross, Marcus Lazarus, Grange McKenna, Ian McHugh, Staff & Stew, Gareth Huggett and The Surreal Lockdown Experience. 

 Gary Alikivi   June 2020

PIT CHORUS

Interview with County Durham singer & songwriter Peter Lee Hammond.

The Queen, Margaret Thatcher and Paul McCartney walk into a bar in Easington mining town – sounds like an opening line of a joke but it’s a link to a song from deep down in the coal pits of the North East.

You might have heard of Easington, the town was used as the backdrop in the film Billy Elliott.

I asked the songwriter and ex-miner of 11 years, Pete Hammond, how did the single Living in a Mining Town come about ? Easington in County Durham used to hold a carnival every year to commemorate the mining community and I was asked to write a song in 1989. A lot of people got on board when they heard the rough version of the song and the Easington council committee wanted it to be made into a single for the town.

The song was originally recorded in The Studio in Hartlepool then mixed at Abbey Road studios in London. I went down and met Paul and Linda McCartney and was given a tour around the studio by Paul. He also showed me an easy way to play his song Blackbird.

Metro Radio, Radio Tees, Radio One and many others played the song and I done a few interviews for them.

The proceeds were to raise money for a local handicapped school, so they could get a hydro pool for the residents. The money from the song also went towards launching a music collective in the area for musicians. Many businesses donated money and it was supported by celebrities like Prince Charles, Her Royal Highness the Queen, Neil Kinnock MP and the Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher.

The Queen asked for a copy of the single to be sent to her and Maggie Thatcher sent me a signed photo of herself to auction and raise money. But no-one wanted to bid given the feelings the miners had for her, so I still have the photo at home.

Were you in a band then ? Yes at the time I was in a band called Just Us. I have won many song writing contests and awards over the years and cut album and cd’s. One prize for winning a contest was song writing lessons from the lead singer of the Strawbs, Dave Cousins, and guitarist Brian Willoughby.

What studio’s did you record in ? I recorded at Guardian Studios in Durham run by Terry Gavaghan. The studio was just in a normal street, it was two houses knocked together with no big sign saying recording studio, I thought I was at the wrong place at first until Terry answered the door.

What were your memories of the studio ? Terry was a great, down to earth kind of guy always made you feel at ease, which was good as it was my first time in a studio or recording a song for that matter. I remember the mixing room being very cramped full of equipment and a large mixing desk. But the session went smooth and the songs sounded great, Terry really knew what he was doing. We recorded three tracks there, Name on a Stone, Thomas Watson and I’m a Loner.

Terry was full of jokes and stories, one was that the studio was haunted by the ghost of a child that had been run over on the road outside the house. He also showed me a fur coat belonging to John Lennon, Terry said when he first started out he worked at Abbey Road studios, he let me take a piece of the lining and a clip of the fur as a keepsake. I have them in a frame at home.

Looking back what does the song mean to you ? The song gave the community a sense of pride when the single came out, I was very proud and honoured to have been asked to do this for the place where I was born and raised.

What are you doing now ? I still write songs and have over 1,000 up to now and record them on my own home studio. They can be heard on YouTube and my song writing Facebook page, you can find it by putting Hammy in the search bar.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2020

 

 

 

 

BROTHERS IN ARMS with North East songwriter Phil Caffrey

I have been so fortunate to play with not only great musicians but great people. The icing on my musical cake has been sharing the stage with my two brothers Pete and Paul.

Newcastle based The Caffreys create an original mix of rock, roots and folk. They have earned a formidable reputation based on uplifting original songs and great musicianship. The full band or the smaller acoustic set up consist of some of the North East’s most respected musicians.

Recent live performances include Newcastle’s Live Theatre, The Mouth of The Tyne Festival, Durham Gala Theatre, The Pickering Engine Rally and The Sage in Gateshead. I caught up with Phil who looked back on his early days in music….

We had many high points on stage, playing Newcastle City Hall was always great, gigs in Paris, Domefest in Durham and many great UK theatres.

In the early ‘70s we were trying to get a recording deal and in those days you had to gig in London to get record companies to come and see you. They would write to let you know if they were interested or not. We had a wooden partition in the van and we would pin up the refusals from record companies on it, this made us more determined to get a deal which we did in 1975 with DJM. We released two albums and 4 singles over the next three years, but not much success to be honest.

When did you first get interested in music ? We used to listen to our older brothers records in the late ‘50s early ‘60s – Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Little Richard and many others.

My maiden performance was when I was 7 in 1959. It was in our parent’s front garden with my two brothers Pete 10, and Paul who was 5. Pete strummed the guitar and we all sang, we loved singing in harmony. Our older brother Gerard who also played helped us. Other children would come and watch us and that gave us a good grounding and enhanced our childhood.

On 17th December 1964 we did a 30 minute performance at school and I still have the letter the headmaster sent our parents congratulating us on our performance. I have been so fortunate to make music with my brothers, this is my 8th decade making music from the late 1950’s to 2020.

What was your experience of being in a band in the beginning and when was your first time in a recording studio ? I was in local bands and school bands until we formed Arbre in 1971. We played a gig on July 11th 1971 at Change night club in Newcastle. We invited loads of friends and made £25, this allowed us to go into Impulse Studio to record an album of original songs.

It was a sunny Sunday in August, we rehearsed the songs to the point that we recorded everything in one take. It was our first experience in a studio and we really enjoyed it. I still have the only copy of that album, it’s where it all started.

Another time in the studio was in 1980 where Pete, Paul and myself had a single released on Phonogram records. The song was written by local song writer Steve Thompson and produced by the late great Gus Dudgeon (Elton John). Some great local musicians played on it including Alan Clark, Barry Spence and Paul Smith.

Did you support any name bands ? In 1972 we played in Tynemouth Priory with another North East band, Prelude, on a rainy July day, we all got on well. Then we supported Fairport Convention and Jim Capaldi on nationwide UK tours playing in Scotland right down to Brighton.

We also supported Martha Reeves and the Vandellas at Blackpool Tiffanys, Sutherland Brothers and Quiver at Liverpool boxing stadium, where the ring was the actual stage. From ‘75 to ‘78 we played mainly colleges and universities as well as City Halls.

The Caffrey Brothers played the Mouth of the Tyne festival in Tynemouth Priory and Bents Park in South Shields where we supported The Hollies and Lindisfarne.

What other musicians have you worked with ? In 1985 local musician and great friend George Lamb and I signed a publishing deal with Axis Music. Over the next three years we wrote songs with Keith Emerson and for Kiki Dee. We also sang backing vocals on Saxon’s Destiny album. I also sang backing vocals on albums by Vow Wow and Onslaught.

In 1987 George and I sang backing vocals for a Steve Thompson song called I Want You. This was one of ten songs entered into a competition to see which one would represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest. Sadly we didn’t win but it was another episode in my musical journey.

In 1989 I went to Miami to work with Yngwie Malmsteen (Swedish guitarist/song writer). We worked on some songs but nothing came of them.

Have you any road stories ? We went to Paris in ‘77 and played the Nashville Rooms. Steve Marriott of The Small Faces came along on two nights, we chatted with him and he seemed to like the band. One of the nights was the day Elvis died, I will never forget it.

On one occasion we were going on a tour to Germany and set off to drive for the ferry. We stopped on our way for a cuppa and Roger our lead guitarist made a quick phone call to make sure everything was ok. He came back to the van to tell us the tour was off, there was a problem with the tour organiser, that was a bit of a downer to say the least.

What are you doing now ? Now to 2020 the journey continues. I am still in a band called The Caffreys and we still perform original songs. We only play gigs we want to, we don’t play many gigs as there are not many opportunities out there at the moment.

In 2016 we entered UK’s Best Part Time band competition. It was great fun and out of 1200 bands we made the final 6 in Manchester.

What does music mean to you ? Music means more than I can put into words to be honest. The fact that I am still teaching and playing is testament to that. I never get tired of it and I feel really fortunate to still be part of it after all these years. My son said that I live in a musical bubble, I think he’s right, how lucky I am.

 The Caffreys line up:

Phil Caffrey: vocals, guitar
Michael Bailey: bass, vocals
Rachael Bailey: violin, accordion, vocals
Mark Anderson: guitar, vocals.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2020  

 

‘IN 1971 WE SIGNED TO THE BEATLES COMPANY, APPLE RECORDS’ – interview with former Halfbreed guitarist Pete Dodds

I first picked up a guitar when I was twelve years old. My influences were Lonnie Donegan, Buddy Holly, Beatles, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.  My first gig was in 1964 at The Portland Hotel in Ashington, Northumberland. After that it was gigs in clubs, pubs and village halls.

What band were you playing in then ? Played in a band called Halfbreed and the line-up was Bill Elliot, Colin Mason, Les Connolly, Tom Farrier and Bob Purvis – who was a non- playing songwriter. I was a member of the band until 1974 when things happened, but unfortunately the group split. Bob and Billy went on to become Splinter who were famous for the single Costafine Town that was on George Harrison’s label Dark Horse Records.

What was your experiences in a recording studio ? In 1971 we had signed to Apple records and the first time in a studio we recorded demos for  The Beatles company. We did an 8 track demo with George Martin and Mal Evans as producers. I have a copy of the tracks, they have been cleaned up ready for further work.

My first album was recorded in 1987, that was Full Circle. The studio was Baker Street in Jarrow. It was run by Howard Baker who used to be vocalist with Warbeck. I’ve recorded a couple more albums in various North East studio’s since then, like The Cluny. The latest was in 2016.

Have you any road stories ? I was playing a gig when my guitar touched the mic stand, next thing I knew I woke up in the hospital. There was a fault in the electrical system – I must have lit up like a Christmas tree.

We were rehearsing for a gig at the Marquee club in London when my amp blew up. The Beatles roadie Mal Evans, sent our roadies round to Apple to pick up an amp. They came back with John Lennon’s gear – a 200 watt Marshal amp and two Sunn cabinets. One of the cabinets had a revolving speaker, that was an insight into Johns sound.

What are you doing now ? After my mother’s death I came out to Spain to clear my head, write a book and record a new album which I have now finished. My book is finished and is now being proof read and checked for grammar plus just waiting on the art work.

What does music mean to you ? Music has been with me most of my life I hope it will still be there after everything and everyone has gone.

 Interview by Gary Alikivi  April 2020.

 

 

 

‘PERSUADING BIG GROUPS TO APPEAR WAS IN THE LAP OF THE GODS’ Highlights from the book ‘Rock at the Sharp End’ by Sunderland author Geoff Docherty.

Docherty talks about his life from being doorman, club promoter and band manager. He remembers some of the big names that he attracted to Sunderland’s Bay Hotel ’The door leading to Marc Bolan’s dressing room was jammed with female admirers desperate to meet him. Some were crying with emotion. Others waited to meet their new heroes, Free, especially Paul Rodgers. I’d never experienced female adulation of this intensity and found it impossible to empty The Bay that night’.

Docherty fills the book with stories about bands on their way to making it, and groups already there, but next he needed a bigger venue….’During negotiations involved in moving to The Locarno, there were important hurdles to overcome. The first was the name. Over in the States were two highly respected venues called Filmore West and East. I unashamedly plagiarised the name by renaming the Sunderland Locarno, The Fillmore North, on the night I hired it. Whether I could persuade the best groups to appear was in the lap of the Gods’.

He did – and the book contains a chronology of gigs that Geoff promoted from the Bay Hotel – Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and The Who – to the Locarno – T.Rex, Mott the Hoople, Kinks and Bowie – admission and price paid for the act are included in the details, £150 for Bowie and 10 shilling to get in.

 

After a visit to a local nightclub, Annabels, he spotted a band who were playing and ended up being their manager…’In the three years I managed them, Beckett did two John Peel radio shows, 33 dates supporting The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, 19 dates supporting Captain Beefheart, 22 dates supporting Slade, five supporting Wizzard, three supporting Ten Years After and countless University and College gigs. They also made an appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test’.

Docherty gives great detail of the meeting with Peter Grant and the subsequent Newcastle Mayfair booking of Led Zeppelin on the 18th March 1971. Not short on anecdotes and how the music world affected his personal life, Rock at the Sharp End is a must read for any fan of North East music.

Gary Alikivi  May 2020

FIGHT AMONGST YOURSELVES – interview with Neil Thompson from The Carpettes

 

When did you first get interested in music ? When I was a kid I loved listening to records and watching singers like Billy Fury and Joe Brown on TV. I had my first single when I was 2 – and I also saw my first gig when I was 2, which was Billy Fury at Sunderland Odeon in March 1962. By the time I was 11 I had about 150 singles in my collection.

I saw The Kinks at Sunderland Empire in 1969 and that was the start of me going to gigs in the North East – Led Zep at Newcastle City Hall, Queen at Sunderland Locarno, Sabbath, Genesis, Lizzy, Budgie, Nazareth, absolutely loved them all.

When was your first gig in a band ? My first gig playing in a band was as a drummer. We were called Brown Sugar and it was on the 22nd November 1974 at Newbottle Church Hall, County Durham. We played Chuck Berry and Rolling Stones songs to kids that wanted Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath – we went down terrible. When we finished the vicar locked us in the back room cos they were banging on the door wanting to beat us up.

I played drums in that band for another four gigs and in the meantime started playing guitar/vocals in another band. We were doing Status Quo/Thin Lizzy covers and I played nine gigs with that band. The last one was my first pub gig at the Sunderland Royalty in March ‘77.

By this time I was getting into the punk scene and one night I was in The White Lion in Houghton, County Durham and George was there – bassist from Brown Sugar. We hadn’t seen each other for a good while and first thing he said was ‘Have you got the Ramones album’. I said I did, so he said ‘Well do you wanna be in a punk band then’. The problem was that I was a drummer, but he’d seen one of the gigs where I played guitar and sang and thought I was good enough. We did our first gig as The Carpettes in June 1977.

What was your first experience in a recording studio ? We did our first recording at Impulse in Wallsend that was in the summer of ‘77.  The demo is available on The Early Years, a CD released in 1997 on Overground Records.

Did you support any name bands ?  While we were living in the North East we gigged with Penetration, Punishment of Luxury and Angelic Upstarts. We also supported The Vibrators at Redcar Coatham Bowl. Among all this we played one gig in London at Leytonstone Red Lion in March ‘78 supporting The Leyton Buzzards. This was the only time, thank goodness, that I was spat at during a gig.

(The Carpettes released six singles and two albums from 1977 to 1980 including a 4 track EP in 1977 & ‘Small Wonder’ 7” both on the Small Wonder label. Two albums, Frustration Paradise & Fight Amongst Yourselves on Beggars Banquet).

How did signing with those labels come about ? We were on the Small Wonder label while we were living in the North East. That came about when we answered an advert in the Sounds music weekly for new bands and they liked us.

Me and the bassist, George, moved down to London in October 1978 and found a new drummer. But it was like starting from scratch when we moved down there but we signed to Beggar’s Banquet in June 1979. We stayed there until 1981 then moved back up North.

Did you appear on TV or radio ? We were on tour with The Inmates at the time and had to cancel one of the gigs at London to travel up to Manchester to record The Old Grey Whistle Test. They’d already played a track from the album on a previous show. The other band that was on was The Blues Band.

Did you have any high points in the band ? I don’t know about high or low points – all I know is that we got better and better as we gigged. Our new drummer, Tim Wilder, was a really solid drummer, he was from Oxford but he’d been a student at Newcastle University and was the drummer in The Young Bucks while living up North.

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 a ‘Come on then, impress us’ in the air !

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.

By the very last gig for The Carpettes in June 1981 we were a really tight live act with four years gigging experience – 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.

One story to tell is that one of our first gigs was supporting Penetration at Newcastle University in November ‘77 – and we were terrible ! It was far too early to be playing gigs like that but we supported them again at Middlesbrough Rock Garden in August ‘78 and went down a storm.

Have you any road stories ?  In 1980 we went to Italy three times and Holland once, and 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!

What are you doing now ? Well I’ve spent most of my life down London. I was in my own band called The Only Alternative – all my ideas and songs which was a bit selfish. But we had some laughs for a couple of years between the summer of ‘84 to the summer of ’86. We released an album in 1985 on the Midnight Music label.

Then with the 20th anniversary of punk happening in 1996 I got both bands back together, well sort of with different line-ups. Both bands gigged on and off until the end of 2003. During this time The Only Alternative recorded two more albums and two singles. I played drums on all of these recordings – as well as being the singer. The Carpettes released a single in 2002 and an album in 2003.

At the moment I have a three piece band called The Alternative Carpettes which play some of my songs from The Carpettes with some Only Alternative ones thrown in.

What does music mean to you ? Music means everything to me. All my life has revolved around music. I love all sorts of music. I love orchestral music like Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. Love the ‘30s and ‘40s swing bands like Basie and Ellington. Rock ‘n’ roll, country, rhythm and blues of the ‘50s. I have a radio show playing ‘50s music every day.

I also love punk, metal, indie, 78’s, cassettes, records, CD’s.  I love it all. I don’t like TV or read books – my whole life is music!

Check out The Carpettes from this 1980 episode of the Old Grey Whistle Test.

https://youtu.be/LvUt7yeAepw

Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2020.

 

‘I TOOK MY BASS OFF & SWUNG IT AROUND. NOT SURE IF IT HIT HIM BUT HE DONE A RUNNER’ with Bri Smith from North East punks The Fauves

The Fauves reformed in 2016 but they first got together in South Shields in 1978. Bassist, and original member Bri Smith looks back on some gigs they played in the late ‘70s….Out of all the gigs back then we played a gig in Hebburn. I’ve got no posters for this one but this was something else. About 20 of us turned up from (South) Shields and we met in a pub near Hebburn town centre. The gig was at a youth club and I can remember it being like a church hall, the atmosphere was unreal.

About the third song in this lad came right up to me and spat in my face. I remember taking my bass off and swinging it around. I’m not sure if it hit him or not but he done a runner. A few skuffles broke out but it settled down. We couldn’t get out there quick enough even though we went down well!  Happy days (laughs).

 

The North Eastern gig organised by Rebel music was upstairs on a Friday night. It was quite small, 40p to get in, the place was full and we went on early. The Condemned were on last but our mates the Whiteleas Estate Aggro Boys (The WEAB) turned up late and shouted for us to go back on – so we did. It ended up a great night for us.

Another gig organised by Rebel music was at The Neptune in South Shields. It was 40p to get in and we had a great turn out. Hodge our singer had left the band by then so we drafted in Abbo (Carl Abernethy). He only had a couple of days to learn the songs.

Murder the Disturbed played really well that night but when we went on I thought we played shite but managed to get through it. To our surprise we went down great.

We played twice at the West Park gig in South Shields. This poster is from the second gig, it was 35p to get in. We organised this gig so what money we made on the door was ours. It was another great turn out and just before Christmas. I can remember the police turning up at this gig as there was quite a bit of bother but we managed to calm things down.

This was the first gig our mate Micky Warkcup who bought himself a double turntable put on a punk disco and got everyone in the mood. He used to travel around with us back then.

The Gosforth Park Hotel gig was 50p to get in and put on by Anti Pop from Newcastle. We supported The Noise Toys and Arthur 2 Stroke, it was a cracking night and always a good crowd there. We went down well and met some good contacts through Gosforth. Ended up playing there on many occasions, we were always welcome.

This Sunderland Echo newspaper cutting is from the War for Work interview around 1980. Me, Bob and Chris shared a place in Washington around this time. Ski and Abbo had left the band. A journalist called Mark Rough was interviewing local bands about the punk scene and came round to our place after watching us live. He had been in a band himself on vocals called Disorder. After the interview we said we were looking for a singer he said he was looking for a band ‘I’m your man’. He joined us, it was as simple as that.

The Upstarts contacted us as they were living down London and they asked if they could borrow our gear – drums and amps. It was a Saturday afternoon and they were supposed to play on the roof of the shop but the police put a stop to it so we set the gear up inside. The place was packed and the Upstarts were brilliant that day.

After the gig we ended up on the drink with Decca, Mensi and Mond. Then Decca took us through to Sunderland for more – it was a class day from what I can remember.

Leon (Ski) made a lot of the early posters. We used to sit in his bedroom with the guitars working on new songs and planning gigs. We photocopied the posters then drove around the North East or wherever we were playing and stuck them all over.

We also used to spray paint The Fauves name all over the town. Once it was even mentioned on the local news and in the Shields Gazette about the graffiti. They were trying to find out who was writing The Fauves all over the town. Hey it wasn’t us (laughs). Great days.

The band had lined up some gigs for May but Bri told me the dates have been cancelled due to the virus pandemic, and are being re-scheduled for later in the year. Check their Facebook page for more details.

Link to ‘Ground Zero’ my first interview with The Fauves:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/10/03/ground-zero-in-conversation-with-bri-smith-bob-rowland-from-tyneside-punks-the-fauves/

 Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2020.

NORTHERN DIAMOND in conversation with performer Lorraine Crosby

‘Through Thick and Thin’ is the new single released today by Bonnie Tyler and Lorraine Crosby in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust…By releasing the record and helping to raise money we hope it makes a huge difference to teenagers with cancer.

I worked with Bonnie on another recording a few years ago in a studio down in Battle where Def Leppard recorded Hysteria. We get on really well, she’s fantastic, one day I went to her house and we had the same clothes on! She’s another one in the business who really works her socks off.  

The North East has a pedigree for strong woman, do you think you fit into that ? We had a hard upbringing living in sheer poverty, so there was a fight to get out of that. My father died when I was only 2 so my mother was a young widow with 4 kids to bring up. On a Friday we’d have a box of food arrive from the shop and that would have to last a week, when all that was gone and we were starving literally we went in the garden as we had a rhubarb patch at the bottom. I used to break off sticks of it and dip them in a bag of sugar…..diarrhea for the weekend (laughs).

We’re laughing about this but really I used to walk into the kitchen and clap my hands to scare the mice off. That was my youth. We had absolutely nothing. Yes they were hard times, and you had to be strong to get through it, but through sheer determination I dragged myself out of it, it makes you very resilient.

What does music mean to you ? I think music saved my life. It was pure escapism. I remember being at school and sneaking off to the hall to put classical music on the record player then dancing around like Margo Fonteyn, I got caught and given the belt. These days they would suggest drama class or dance class to embrace the passion not reprimand you !

I played clarinet and violin but got bullied because of it so I bullied back as a form of self-protection, I only realise that now and how wrong it was but when you’re young and don’t really have any parental guidance you just survive the best you can.

Was music in your family ? No don’t think so, New Years Eve you’d have the family and friends getting out the banjo’s and accordion, singing along and it was a magical time I so looked forward to going there and singing

I was in the church choir at Walker school so I think my desire to be a singer came from there. I’ve been told that I was an outgoing kid and at my Dad’s funeral I got up singing and dancing to cheer everyone up because they were all crying, so yeah something triggered in me then at just 2 years old !

When I left school in Newcastle I trained as a hairdresser, but when I found the stage I didn’t stay for long, yeah always been a performer.

Lorraine on stage with Spike from The Quireboys.

Is that where you feel most comfortable ? Yes and as long as people are coming to see me I won’t retire. I’m still rockin’, Tina Turner did till she was 77 so why can’t I ? I’ve even done panto. 5 year ago I was asked and told them ‘Yes but don’t let me make a fool of myself’. Only a small role they told me, turned out to be the Queen in Snow White (laughs). But I embraced it and loved my time there. I thank my mentor Leah Bell for turning me into a West End Wendy.

We’ve supported Status Quo many times and I’ve been on stage with Spike from The Quireboys. I’ve just been on an album with Elton John, Rod Stewart, Paul Carrack, Willie Nelson to name a few.

I’ve sang on cruise ships, and have done shows on American Military bases when I lived out in Japan in the early ‘80s, that was a real culture shock. We did four 45 minute sets, on a weekend it was six shows, I retain thousands of songs up here (points to head).

Japan was hard going but the alcohol afterwards might not have helped as we drank the local hooch, it was wild. After Japan I came back to the UK that’s when I met my husband Stu Emerson, formed a band and ended up in America recording with Meatloaf.

First time I saw Lorraine Crosby was on a Meatloaf documentary I watched a few weeks ago. Meatloaf and musician Jim Steinman told stories about the first album Bat Out of Hell but it was the second album where Lorraine appeared. A single ‘I’d Do Anything for Love’ was released in 1993 and was a massive hit, would you say that was a magic moment in your career ? Just getting to do the Meatloaf song was great. What happened was Stu my husband and songwriter, knew a guy called Dan Priest in London and he sent our tape to Jim Steinman – he loved us and wanted to be our manager so we moved to New York to work with him.

Jim was recording Bat Out of Hell 2 and one day he called me up ‘Lorraine can you come along to the studio and sing this part?’ Well Meatloaf is like a method actor he wanted to hear the female voice so he can react off it, so originally I sang on just a demo of the song that’s why I wasn’t credited on the track. We recorded some more songs and he played it to the record company who gave me a deal off the back of them.

Then a phone call came in saying what I’d recorded on the demo they were putting on the record and releasing it as a single. Originally they were going to get someone else in to sing the part, but yeah that was a defining moment for me. Not long after, we were driving down to Venice Beach and the song came on the radio it was just like, wow, crazy ! We knew it was gonna be big.

Then walking on stage at Whitley Bay Ice Rink singing it live with Meatloaf was a great moment, like scoring a goal at St James’ Park. I also appeared on Broadway with him, so yeah a couple of really big moments. Great memories.

Does that story follow you around ? Number 1 in 28 countries, sold 15 million records, won a Grammy…It’s a hell of a claim to fame isn’t it ? You gotta shout about it. As I said when we were in America we signed as a song writing duo Emerson/Crosby and Jim Steinman got us a big deal with MCA. We went in Power Station studio in New York city with Bernard Edwards from Chic, there was the Bon Jovi bass player, keyboard player with Bowie, you know they were all in there when recording our album.

My husband Stu has always been my backbone, he has supported me and is a great songwriter. His early band back on Tyneside were called Emerson, they were part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and recorded a single on Neat records and were on the brink of getting somewhere but split as some of the band joined Samson just before their big break.

We thought we were really getting on and putting things together over there. Steinman was mentoring and helping us with our writing and as he was based in Los Angeles we ended up moving to L.A. living in his house in the Hollywood Hills at first, and recording in Ocean Way studio. The record company then paid for apartments in Hollywood and San Fernando valley, that house had a studio in it where Earth, Wind and Fire recorded, Harry Neilson had been there, it was a real old ‘70s studio.

Jim is one of the most incredible genius’ I’ve ever met. I remember we didn’t see him much during the day, he was very nocturnal with his silver foil at the windows to stop the light coming in. But he had his own career and it had really taken off so he couldn’t devote the time to us.

Meanwhile the second Meatloaf album which I sang on, went over budget so the record company sacked the guy who we were dealing with, and every band on his roster including us, went with him. So no manager, being dropped by the label and no money left, we reluctantly moved back to the UK. We heard 3 month later the last house we were in was destroyed in an earthquake.

What state of mind were you in when you returned to the North East ? I was gutted, there was a number 1 album I was on and everyone thinking I was earning millions! So looking for a new manager I found Smallwood and Taylor, Rod Smallwood was Iron Maiden’s manager. I was with him for a couple of years and he got me a couple of development deals with Chrysalis, Hansa and some others but unfortunately nothing seemed to gel with the songwriters I worked with. I was based in the North East and travelling down to London to try and get things going.

One time I went out to L.A and worked with Andy Taylor from Duran Duran, we recorded a few songs but they weren’t pop enough for the label, I’m more rock and blues. So that time with Rod Smallwood ran out, no hard feelings involved, he had exhausted all the avenues and we parted.

Looking back it was a daft decision to start back in cabaret and clubland but you know you live an’ learn. Thing was I needed to pay the bills because I didn’t have anything then, but I’ve never stopped working, my voice gets better and my range has gone through the roof.

Did you have a wow moment listening to a song when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? Yeah Lene Lovich. I heard her song Lucky Number on the radio and thought it was so bad anybody can be a singer. My mam said ‘Well why don’t ya’. There was a music shop in town called Rock City and it had a notice board with adverts on for bands looking for singers. Me and a friend chose a country and western band first then left them to join a group called Time Out.

We played the working men’s club circuit for a year but I was only backing and not developing my voice so with a couple of other guys I formed my own band Foxy. This was the early ‘80s and with a few agents working for us we did American Military bases all over the world.

Who else have you worked with ? I’ve sang on albums featuring Rod Stewart, Kid Rock, done some backing vocals on the new album by John Parr, he’s a lovely man. I’ve worked with great musicians who have retained their skill, they aren’t like a lot in the charts now who just want to be famous, they have music in them and they still love what they do.

What’s next Lorraine ? I was at the same charity event as Producer Geoff Wonfor and we got chatting and he said why not do Sunday for Sammy ? (This year it’s the 20th Anniversary of the popular live entertainment show featuring North East actors and performers) Not long after I got a call asking me to do a duet with Tim Healey (Benidorm, Auf Weidersehen Pet) and we did Anything for Love. So that was my first time, then I became a member of the house band and I love it.

Where else would you see a show that’s had AC/DC’s Brian Johnson (He was in a sketch rebuilding the roman wall when I was at the show at Newcastle City Hall 2004) or Brenda Blethyn (Vera) Johnny Vegas, Trevor Horn, Joe McElderry all these people who wouldn’t normally perform together, it’s just magical. The show is a charity that helps people in the arts and it’s very important now as funding for the arts is being cut. So yeah it’s really special and the whole show has adapted to the size of the Arena, it hasn’t lost it’s feel from the City Hall.

After Sunday for Sammy we are recording my new album, very rock and blues stuff I’m sounding Jimmy Barnes meets Bonnie Tyler. It’s very rocky and a bit like Vintage Trouble who I’m a huge fan of.

I was also asked by Spotlight TV to present a music video show called On Demand Country, people request songs from artists like Dolly Parton and we play the video. The studio is Jam Jar Studios in Gateshead where we film it with a green screen behind me so we can project the video onto that. The techies do a great job behind the camera. First time I’ve done it and really love it, so looking forward to doing more shows.

 Interview by Gary Alikivi  2020.

 

 

 

THE DAY I WAS TOLD OFF BY FREDDIE F***ING MERCURY with singer & songwriter Sam Blue

When I was in Ya Ya we recorded some of the album at Maison Rouge in Fulham. Next door Roger Taylor was recording The Cross album. So we used to regularly meet the Queen guys. There was a bar in Maison Rouge – part of it’s appeal – and one night I was sitting there on my own with a drink and Freddie Mercury plonks himself down on the stool next to me.

He asks how it’s going, Brian and Rog said it was sounding great. I didn’t know what to say…it was Freddie ‘F***ing’ Mercury! So I just said I was a bit bored…’They’re working on guitar amp and bass sounds, so I had nothing to do’.

Freddie looked at me and said quietly, ‘Never ever say you’re bored, there’s always something to do and there are people out there who would give there left arm to do what you’re doing’.

I didn’t know what to say. I was being told off by Freddie Mercury.

You know what, I’ve never said I was bored since, because he was right. We had a drink and chatted about all things singing, which singers love to do, what a wonderful person. Turns out, he knew lots of people I knew and worked with, some of them part of Freddie’s inner circle – funny old world isn’t it.

To the tune of ‘Once in a Lifetime’ (Talking Heads) You may ask yourself how did a boy from Tyneside end up here ? Now living on a houseboat in Twickenham, west London, Sam Blewitt has great stories from his life in music including Ultravox, Dizzee Rascal at Glastonbury, hitting number 1 with Mike Skinner & the Streets and not forgetting his formative years singing in rock bands in the North East.

But first I asked him what got you interested in music and are you from a musical family ? I’m not really from a musical family, but my Dad played the guitar, he’s pretty handy on the keyboard now. What got me interested was my mates in Gosforth, where I grew up, we talked about music the majority of the time.

Also my Aunty Lily worked for a company who changed all the singles on the jukeboxes around Newcastle and Gateshead, she would drop by in her mini-van and drop off piles of singles.

This would have been around ‘68 or ‘69. Me and my sister would pile them up on the record player and listen to every song day after day. I loved the Beatles, Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Rolling Stones, Small Faces, The Animals.

We also used to watch all the Saturday night shows on TV, like Cilla, Lulu – I even remember the famous one where Jimi Hendrix starts Sunshine of your Love in the middle of Hey Joe.

There was music everywhere – or so I thought.

Can you remember your first gig ? My first proper gig was at the Cooperage near the Quayside in Newcastle with my first band Moulin Rouge. It was just a party for a friend of one of the band members. We had been rehearsing for a while and it was an ideal way of us starting out properly.

Moulin Rouge gigged anywhere we could to be honest – The Newton Park Hotel with Newcastle band White Heat, The Mayfair, the Old 69 and the Locarno in Sunderland and some workingmen’s clubs. I remember playing a few times in Whitley Bay sharing headline slots with The Tygers of Pan Tang and supporting Geordie at the Mayfair. The line-up changed a few times and we eventually recruited Rob Hunter on drums, who was also a great singer and songwriter. He left to join Raven.

I left Moulin Rouge to join Fastbreeder with Fred Purvis, Dave Drury and Andy Taylor – who later moved on to Duran Duran. They were a great little rock band and we did the Mayfair a couple of times and some workingmens clubs, but after Andy left it sort of fell apart.

 Did you travel out of Tyneside ? I joined a band in Cleveland called Axis, they were set up like a proper professional band, and we played a few gigs around the country. Once again a guitarist left, that was Mick Tucker he joined White Spirit.

I then joined Emerson, which included brothers Stu and Bri Emerson, Dru Irving on keys and Jon Sellers on drums, later replaced by Charlie McKenzie. We worked hard with writing sessions and rehearsals every weekend.

Once again we picked up gigs where ever we could like the Whitley Bay Esplanade and some cool ones supporting bands like Nazareth, Budgie, Robin George and Heavy Pettin’. We got quite a few slots in the capital at the Royal Standard, Dingwalls and the Marquee, this led to a lot of interest from the industry in London.

But the band started to break up after a year or two, Bri left and I started getting offers from bands in London. We kept the band going for a while with Norman Appleby replacing Bri Emerson. I eventually left and joined LA Secrets, after a short stint with them I joined Paul Samson’s Empire, that was fun but again only lasted a few months before I joined a band called  Ya Ya.

I spent 4 years with them and we were signed to Warner Brothers and released an album called Ya Ya, it got rave reviews. But unfortunately it failed to sell in great numbers. We released a few singles from the album which were fun to promote.

By this time it was 1989 and the band broke up. Looking back on my time in Ya Ya we had toured a fair bit and recorded with some great producers. We supported Roger Taylor’s band The Cross, for a whole tour of the UK, which was fun and got to meet all the Queen guys.   

Where there any offers after Ya Ya ? I worked as a session singer and songwriter for a few years, working with some amazing writers and producers, trying to form new projects. Then in 1992 I joined Ultravox and stayed with them until 1996. In that time we released one studio album Ingenuity, and one live album.

I then worked with Vinny Burns – who was the guitarist in Ultravox at that time – on his solo album The Journey. We then joined forces as Burns Blue, to write and record our own album What if.

Then came my time as a ‘hired gun’ session singer, I sang the Phat Beach/Naughty Boy version of The Baywatch theme I’ll Be Ready, which reached the top 30. Plus I sang for Mike Skinner & the Streets on ‘Dry Your Eyes’ which went to number 1 in the UK. This attracted the interest of many hip hop/grime artists and producers.

I sang with The Young Punx on their albums who were recruited to become Dizzee Rascal’s backing band for his 2009/10 tours and TV performances.

I was brought in to sing ‘fix up look sharp’, but ended up joining in with the band singing on most of the songs. We had Guthrie Govan on guitar, Hal Ritson on bass and keys, Alex Reeves on drums, Vula Malinga on vocals and a whole brass section – not too shabby.

I still collaborate with producers Hal Ritson and Richard Adlam on Young Punx, Avicci, Urban Myth and various other releases.

What was your first recording experience ? My first recording experience would have been with Moulin Rouge at Impulse studios in Wallsend. The line-up of the band was Me, Matty Rocks and Ian Wood on guitars, Ian Drury on bass and I forget the drummer’s name – it was a long time ago.

We done a 2 track recording for EMI records. They had seen us at a Melody Maker rock competition in Durham, and much to our surprise – we won, but they didn’t follow up their initial interest.

We were so naive, we didn’t really know what a demo was. The next time I recorded properly would have been with Paul Samson’s Empire, we had a day at the BBC Maida Vale studios in London, which was awesome.

Did you have a manager ? My first proper manager was Diane Wagg, when I first moved to London – we’re still mates now. Then Ira Blacker managed Ya Ya. When I joined Ultravox our managers were Simon Napier Bell and Sir Harry Cowell – a couple of real characters.

At the Jools Holland Hootenanny TV show in 2010 with Dizzee Rascal & the Young Punx.

What were your high points on stage – any magic moments ? My high points have been, playing on the Glastonbury Pyramid stage with Dizzee Rascal in 2010. I was his rock singer with his amazing band The Young Punx. We have no idea how many people were there, but something around 70,000.

In Ultravox we played some cool festivals too, one in particular in Bielefeld, Germany on the same bill as Roger Chapman, one of my musical heroes. One festival we played we were given a one hour slot to play, this was cut short, but we weren’t told and we hadn’t played any of the big songs like Vienna and Dancing with Tears in My Eyes, then we were pulled off stage by the promoter and stage manager after about 45 minutes. I don’t think the audience were too happy, we made the promoter explain the situation – still don’t know if he did or not. It happens.

Have you any road stories ? One of my favourites 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. It’s an old UFO trick, great fun.

When Ya Ya were in LA to shoot our video for When the World Cried 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 had 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. The hotel weren’t too happy – it was only soap !

There was a time I was backstage at Glastonbury when Bobby Womack walks up to me and says ‘You remind me of that mutherfucker used to sing with Slade!’  Before I could answer his trumpet player declared…’No man, he remind me of that mutherfucker used to sing with Led Zeppelin!’….then they both walked of, it was hilarious.

Post soundcheck in Barcelona with The Project band in 2019.

Bringing your story up to date what are you doing now ? I’m currently singing with The Project Band, basically the guys from the Alan Parsons Project featuring Lenny Zakatek joint vocals, Stuart Elliot on drums, Laurence Cottle on bass, Richard Cottle on keys and Dave Bainbridge on guitar.

They’re great people and amazing players, just waiting for this pandemic to clear up and we can get back out on the road. I didn’t know much about the Alan Parsons Project, but local boy John Miles was heavily involved and I rate him very highly indeed.

I’m still working as a session singer, which I really like, you never know what they’ll throw at you next.

Finally, what does music mean to you ? Music has meant everything really. Hard work, fun, and a living. It’s a cruel mistress sometimes, some wonderful moments you never forget, days when you wonder what you’re doing there. I’ve met some fantastic people over the years, many great friends, lot’s of people to look up to. There’s always a challenge to look forward to.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   May 2020.

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