HAVE YOU HEARD THIS ONE #4

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.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2020/05/20/the-vicar-locked-us-in-the-back-room-they-were-banging-on-the-door-wanting-to-beat-us-up-with-neil-thompson-from-the-carpettes/

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.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2020/04/08/it-wasnt-about-becoming-rock-stars-in-conversation-with-songwriter-producer-steve-thompson/

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).

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/03/23/strike-up-the-band-in-conversation-with-gary-miller-and-mick-tyas-from-the-whisky-priests/

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.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/05/01/song-for-the-siren-blues-soul-from-teeside-with-emma-wilson/

Interviews by Gary Alikivi.

More stories on the blog with a full list of interviews on the about page:

https://garyalikivi.com/about/

HAVE YOU HEARD THIS ONE ? (#3)

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’

Full interview from June 2019

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/06/28/the-flame-burns-on-for-davy-little-ex-guitarist-with-nwobhm-band-axis/

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.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/05/11/pipes-of-peace-with-northumberland-musician-chris-ormston/

 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.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2020/04/06/funk-off-the-punishment-of-luxury-further-tales-of-musical-adventures/

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.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2018/12/30/square-one-in-conversation-with-songwriter-producer-fred-purser/

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.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/10/09/heeds-doon-with-john-gallagher-from-chief-heabangers-raven/

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.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/03/13/all-right-now-with-michael-kelly-former-drummer-with-north-east-band-southbound/

Interviews by Gary Alikivi.

More stories on the blog with a full list of interviews on the about page:

https://garyalikivi.com/about/

 

 

 

THE LAUNCH

North Shields alt/folk rock band HECTOR GANNET reveal the video for their new single ‘The Launch’ and talk about their debut album.  

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.

The album is available to pre-order now from: https://hectorgannet.bandcamp.com/

 Watch The Launch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPlUyb8fuz4

06.09.20 –Bobiks, Newcastle (solo headline show).
18.10.20 -Hit The North 2020, Newcastle.
26.03.21 -Newcastle (w/ Lanterns On The Lake)
29.05.21 -Northern Kin Festival, Stanhope.
30.05.21 -This Is Tomorrow, Newcastle.
02.07.21 -Corbridge Festival.

Previous interview with Hector Gannett:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/10/18/all-hands-on-deck-interview-with-north-tyneside-musician-aaron-duff-from-alt-folk-rock-band-hector-gannet/

Interview by Gary Alikivi  August 2020.

HAVE YOU HEARD THIS ONE ? (#2)

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).

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/03/01/here-come-the-drums-in-conversation-with-harry-hill-drummer-of-north-east-rock-legends-fist/

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’!

Full interview: https://garyalikivi.com/2020/03/09/whats-cookin-with-les-tones-and-arthur-ramm-former-guitarists-with-north-east-band-beckett/

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.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2020/05/11/the-day-i-was-told-off-by-freddie-fing-mercury-with-singer-songwriter-sam-blue/

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’.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/09/13/no-ordinary-joe-in-conversation-with-alan-fish-former-guitarist-with-white-heat/

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.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/09/03/running-man-in-conversation-with-lindisfarne-drummer-ray-laidlaw/

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.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2020/08/03/turning-japanese-with-tokyo-rose-songwriter-derek-buckham/

Interviews by Gary Alikivi.

More stories on the blog with a full list of interviews on the about page:

https://garyalikivi.com/about/

TURNING JAPANESE – with Tokyo Rose songwriter Derek Buckham

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 My Life and The Year That Never Was.

Would I do it again ? Don’t need too, I’m still doing it !

For more information check the official website:

www.tokyorose.biz

Interview by Gary Alikivi  July 2020.

 

POPTASTIC BUBBLEGUM – Back Where He Started From with singer & songwriter Vinny Edwards

‘Sky High’ by Jigsaw or Kim Carnes ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ are classic pop songs built on great hooks or a chorus – poptastic bubblegum made for radio. In the same bracket is the ‘70s hit ‘Back Where We Started From’ reaching number 8 in the UK charts and number 2 in the USA, an international song co-written by a lad from South Shields – not bad for a Sand Dancer.

A quick rundown of the career of singer/songwriter J. Vincent Edwards tells us he was born in 1947 and went on to make a number of records including the hit novelty song ‘Pump Up the Bitter’ in 1988.

I came across Vinny when I was reading the excellent blog ‘Ready Steady Gone’, authored by Roger Smith. He wrote that Vinny was born only 5 minutes away from the beach – a real Sand Dancer – if you’re not familiar with the term it refers to a native of South Shields.

Thanks to Roger I received an email from Vinny, and with correspondence over the next few days plus checking his songs on You Tube, a colourful picture of his music career emerged…Although I don’t live in the UK now I was born in Shortridge Street just off Ocean Road near the beach – I used to play there and the Marine Park – they were bloody cold!

I remember when I was 10 year old I got into music after hearing the American singer Sam Cooke – I was in! If God ever wanted to become a recording artist he would use the voice of Sam Cooke.

My first band was The Tyneside Skiffle Group featuring Vic Malcolm who was also in The Stormers and later started Geordie who had chart success. Then I was in The Invictors and then The Answers. I remember my audition for the Invictors at Tyne Dock Youth Club, I sang Stay by Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs – blew them away !

In my early years we played all the North East working mens clubs. If you check out a group I was in during the ‘80s called Star Turn on 45 Pints – that was all based on playing the clubs especially Brigham & Cowans in South Shields. In fact we filmed some of the video there for our hit Pump Up the Bitter.

Did you have a manager or agent ? In the late ‘60s we were represented by Richard Harris and his company Limbridge Music. This was the time we moved to London and France with a band called The Answers who were signed to American label Colombia.

‘Right Back Where We Started From’ by British soul singer Maxine Nightingale was a hit in 1976, how did it come about ? I wrote that in Austria in 1972 while my darling wife Ursulla Skalla was in front of the mirror drying her hair! Thing was I didn’t have a title until one day I met an old mate and songwriter Pierre Tubbs and he came out with the title which fitted perfectly. We finished writing the song the next day when we were in his car driving over to Hammersmith Hospital to meet his wife who was having a baby!

Where did you take the song next ? Well Pierre worked at United Artists record company and Maxine Nightingale was around at this time, I knew her from our work in the musical Hair. We thought about a duet first but I had just signed to Privit Stock Records so I produced it myself and added backing vocals. I insisted that Maxine got royalties from the song and not just a session fee.

But I loved the recording studio, all the musicians we got in were wonderful. We appeared on TV all over the world, then with different songs from Hair, a song called Thanks plus a few others – there was a lot and I loved it all!

I was always asked to sign for various record companies they must have thought I was somebody else (laughs).

Check out Vinny’s impressive release of singles and albums throughout his career on CBS, United Artists, Hans, Pye, Polydor and many other record labels at discogs.

What does music mean to you ? Everything, fun, humanity, love and peace – just everything really.

What are you doing now ?  I’m caring for my wife’s parents, drinking good German beer and waiting for the Labour Party to get back in!

I’ll leave you with this song I wrote Keep on Trying from 1974, my band at the time The Usual Suspects played on we also had on bass the AC/DC and Def Leppard producer Mutt Lange – who hasn’t he produced, and he produced our single – happy days! Why not check it out on You Tube.

Link to Roger Smith’s blog Ready Steady Gone: http://www.readysteadygone.co.uk/

Interview by Gary Alikivi  July 2020.

METAL CITY – new album from Chief Headbangers, RAVEN

First time I came across Raven was around 1980/81 when I saw them playing live on TV through the window of a Chinese take away. I went in to see if the old woman knew who they were. She popped up from behind the counter and fired back screaming above the music ‘They very loud. They Raven’.

40 year later the Chinese take away isn’t there now but our Chief Head bangers are still hard at it in the mix.

I got in touch with John Gallagher (bass/vocals) and asked him what can we expect from the new album ? The album is a quantum leap forward for us with a brace of killer new songs linking that ‘Wiped Out’ energy and feel to a 21st Century state of the art production. It’s the first studio album that our new drummer Mike Heller has played on and he’s just off the charts on this!

You sound very pleased with the results… Yeah the songs and playing are a definite step up – we really raised our game and are extremely pleased with how it’s turned out. The new album will be released on September 18th. We’ll also have a single out very shortly too.

Have you any live plans going forward ? If all goes well we are looking at Euro dates in February 2021.

No holding back then ? Can’t wait!

Interview Gary Alikivi  July 2020.

Check the official website for details: http://www.ravenlunatics.com/

Follow on twitter : @official_raven

Links to previous interviews:

https://garyalikivi.com/2017/05/03/staring-into-the-fire/

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/10/09/heeds-doon-with-john-gallagher-from-chief-heabangers-raven/

 

CHECK THAT SOCKET

with David Clasper, former electrician at Newcastle City Hall.

Covid times are keeping interviews to a minimum, with no face to face meetings arranged yet just a few emails, but there has been a story recorded using old school interview techniques – a couple of crackly phone calls and a letter written by David sent from his home in the Northumberland village of Heddon-on-the-Wall.

I am retired now but I used to work for Dougal & Railtons that were  based in New Bridge Street, Newcastle and one of their contracts was supplying standby electricians for Newcastle City Council. We would attend to any electrical problems at schools, community centres and the like. That would entail any re-wiring that needed to be done, replaced sockets, and repaired lights. One of the jobs was for the City Hall where I worked for over 10 year from the late 1970’s onward.

I would start around 8 in the morning attending to any paperwork in the office then about 9.30am get over to the City Hall. There I would check for problems, do any repairs, change lights and make sure the power was on stage. As you may know there were lots of great acts that went on stage there. In fact one of the first standby jobs I done was for the David Bowie concerts in 1978 over three nights. It was the Isolar 2 tour.

(Newcastle, UK dates were 14,15 &16 June. The Isolar 2 World Tour opened in USA, March ’78, finished in Japan, December ‘78).

I was very fortunate as I was asked to take up a position beside the stage and make sure everything went ok. It was a highlight for myself and one I will never forget because not only was it a great show, but before he went on stage he would have a bit of a chat with me.

Another memory from my time there was carrying out the standby job for Leo Sayer. When he was rehearsing his songs and going through his routine on stage I was repairing a flashing light not far away from him. The next thing I was aware of was Leo bursting out in laughter, so much so that the crew came around to see what was going on. When everything calmed down and the laughing stopped it turned out that he was rehearsing one of his songs, strangely enough called Flashing Lights.

Among other standby jobs I was fortunate enough to be involved in were Lindisfarne and Wings with Paul McCartney, all great shows. Yes it was a long day finishing around 11.30pm but looking back on my time at Dougal & Railtons, the Newcastle City Hall was the best job that I had, loved my time there.

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2020.

TOON TUNES – with former Newcastle Dingwalls manager Chris Murtagh

A comprehensive list of gigs at North East venues are being put together, and recently to add to the growing list, pages out of a booking list and diary from gigs at Dingwalls in 1983 turned up on line. Entries included:

26.3.83 – Big Country Fee: £240 – 282 @ £1.50. Excellent band and performance. Perfect timing with release of single. Excellent debut in the North-East.

3.3.83 – Raven & Hellanbach Fee: Raven £300 – Hellanbach £60 – 269 @ £1.50 Terrific stage show. Very good heavy rock band with good repertoire. Good following.

Raven bassist John Gallagher told me about the night… ‘I just remember the place being chilly…at least until we got started! There was a decent turnout and we were promoting the ‘All for One’ album. I don’t remember much more to be honest !’ …well it was nearly 40 years ago. But to find out more I contacted the manager at the time and owner of the book, Chris Murtagh….I don’t have the diary now as I’ve sold it but have a digital copy of the acts who appeared. Like the other Bierkellers around the UK the entertainment promoter Harvey Goldsmith bought all the venues for £1 and re-christened them Dingwalls. Yes only a £1 but Harvey had to service their debts and running costs. They were in the basement of office blocks, mine was in Waterloo Street, Newcastle. It had a capacity of 1200.

I was manager of the venue during 1983, it was Dingwalls from January to June when it went into liquidation and reverted to Vaux Breweries, the biggest creditor. Then from June to December Vaux changed the name to the Bear Pit but I was retained as manager.

How did you get the managers job ? I’d done several promotions there and had threatened to sue Goldsmith for breach of a contract for cancelling one of them. Turned out his General Manager offered me the job instead. I was the only manager who was also a promoter. All the other Bierkeller managers at Sheffield, Hull, Liverpool, Bristol and London were ex-Mecca managers and older than me. They got two for the price of one in me being manager/promoter and Chris Donald from very early Viz comics did all my publicity.

What was the Newcastle venue like ? It was like being buried in a hole in the ground for months without seeing daylight. When we closed and tidied-up well after midnight, we’d go and chill out at Rockshots upstairs till about 3am. Then back at work about 4pm the same day. My bar manager once dragged me to the City baths for a massage which connected me back to my body that I’d totally lost track of.

Martha Reeves was booked for May ’83 and your diary entry reads….Martha chatted me up in the office. Didn’t know where to put myself. She could have eaten me for breakfast. Motown comes to Dingwalls. Brilliant professional show.

What can you remember from that day ? Martha Reeves terrified me as I must have been the youngest manager she’d come across and she was a very experienced older woman.

In the diary for June, Murtagh booked female group Girlschool with support from North East heavy metal band Satan. His notes of the gig included… Girlschool arrived for their first headline tour after supporting Motorhead. They didn’t have any money and asked if I could help them out which I did. Nice girls who put on a good show but treated rubbish by their record company.

Satan a good local heavy metal band with a good following. I’d previously promoted them, famously at the St James & St Basil’s Church in Fenham where the posters read ‘Appearing live on stage, Satan.’ That pulled in a good congregation.

Also that month Dr Feelgood came to Newcastle with support from North East band R & B Spitfires….Full on red-hot rock band with commitment and attitude. Real pros – no messing about with sound checks – Brilliant. Wilko went to college up here so he had his own following.  Local band Spitfires acquitted themselves well in such company.

More entries to the diary with some excellent comments about the bands and gigs….22.4.83 – Gun Club + Sisters of Mercy. Fee: £511.25 – 548 @ £1.50. Sisters, good appreciative following, hypnotic beat with drum machine, bass and guitar. Led by Joey Ramone lookalike. Effective visual presence.

Gun Club, should have been called ‘Gin Club’, Jim Morrison just before he died. Good presence, good songs, terrible sound.

6.5.83 – Miami Steve. Brilliant American band. Shame about Steve and the material. Bruce Springsteen can keep him. Stayed in the tour bus only coming in to play the gig. Oh and don’t touch his bandana. Precious bastard, up his own arse.

10.5.83 – Bad Brains. Turned up 6 hours late so most of the audience left. Refused to pay them which set-up a stand-off between the band and my security. Lots of martial arts posturing until it finally dawned on them they would get severely plastered if they stayed. Bad brains indeed.  

16.5.83 – The Vibrators + Red Alert. Not overly impressed by the reformed Vibrators. Canny lads though. Their guitars were nicked before they went on, then retrieved by Red Alert, who were themselves a very impressive act.  

After you left what happened with the venue ? Harvey Goldsmith owned Dingwalls but his CEO was Peter Gross, an accountant, who’d run a chain of restaurants called The Great American Disaster in London. At each of the venues he’d bring a brewery in as sponsor. In Newcastle’s case it was Vaux Brewery who gave him three quarters of a million pounds. When the receivers Ernst Whinney were brought in because Harvey was going into liquidation for about the seventh time, I talked to him on the phone. ‘You’ll be alright my boy’, were the last words he spoke to me.

The venue reverted to Vaux Breweries with them being the biggest creditor. When Paul Nicholson CEO of Vaux arrived, he asked what Harvey had done with all the money. I said he’d stuck a black plastic crow on the wall and extended the stage. You’ll notice every poster advertising a Goldsmith promotion has a little fat man in the corner. That’s Harvey. He also used a black crow as the logo for Dingwalls. ‘I hope that bloody crow lays golden eggs’ was Paul’s reply.

Basically, Harvey used all the money for running costs. If he’d taken the time to run the venues himself it might have worked, but he was too busy touring the Stones, Dylan, Bowie etc and left the running to Peter Gross, who was clueless about the music industry. Vaux wanted to appoint their own manager of what they now branded ‘The Bear Pit’. My staff refused to work for them so I was retained as manager.

Murtagh came across North East manager and promoter Geoff DochertyMy first encounter with Geoff Docherty was when he was looking after Preacher, a band led by Tony Ions. I needed a rehearsal place for my new band Fan Heater and Tony who I’d played with in Slaughter House, suggested I approach Geoff to see if I could share their rehearsal rooms in the derelict Hydraulic Crane pub on Scotswood Road, Newcastle.

Not only did Geoff give us the pub but he said he’d get us a gig at the Marquee Club and Rock Garden in London supporting The Showbiz Kids who he also managed. ‘Oh yes, of course you will’ I thought being very sceptical. I couldn’t believe it when he was as good as his word. Total respect.

What did you do after Dingwalls ? After leaving there I continued promoting in Newcastle, Leeds and tours around the UK, including with my own band. 1994 I became a director of the pan-European touring organisation the Newcastle Free Festival inaugurating Cities of Culture, including being the first festival to perform under the Berlin Wall when it came down in 1989.

That same year, as part of the festival, I brought over the Peruvian band APU. 30 years later I’m still their manager. This also drew me into World Music which I’ve promoted ever since. As part of being a promoter, I worked as an A Level sponsor for the Home Office for over 25 years issuing visas for non-EEC artists to tour the UK. I still enjoy playing all over the world and organise festivals and events internationally.

Contact Chris on the official website:

www.line-up.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi   June 2020.

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.