THE GREAT GEORDIE SONGBOOK – in conversation with North East playwright Ed Waugh

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Ed’s company Wisecrack Productions have booked a November date at The Sage in Gateshead. The show features classic North East songs and comedy…Not much working class history is documented so we try our best to help in a little way said Ed.

The Great Geordie Songbook is a celebration of local songwriters including Lindisfarne’s Alan Hull and Billy Mitchell, 19th century concert hall entertainers Joe Wilson and Ned Corvan…Ned would have been great to talk to. I think I would of got on really well with him. In the 1800’s he had his music hall next to the old South Shields ferry landing on the river Tyne. Apparently it was a den of iniquity and the magistrates were constantly trying to close him down (laughs). But yeah he was a fantastic singer-songwriter and it’s brilliant being in this game because you come across some great stories.

How did the songbook idea come about ? I was approached by Ray Laidlaw of Lindisfarne and Brian Mawson boss of Windows music shop in Newcastle. Brian has a real passion for Geordie comedy and songs. The Geordie heritage really comes across when you talk to him. He has recorded all the stand up comedians like the Little Waster himself, Bobby Thompson.

They had just seen my play Hadaway Harry about the rower Harry Clasper. After the show they asked if I’d heard of Ned Corvan and Joe Wilson, both singer-songwriters performing in the North East during Victorian times. Much to my shame I hadn’t and they asked would I write something about Ned.

How much research did you do for the project ? For the Ned Covan play I done about 40 talk’s with Dave Harker, he’s a North East historian who wrote a book Catgut Jim. The play was based on that. I couldn’t have done it without him. His research was fantastic.

Ned’s songs had great lyrics like the Cullercoats Fish Lass and Mally by the Shore, these were testaments in the 19th century to working class women. He also wrote song’s about workers on strike supporting seafarers. Song’s with lyric’s about day to day working class life. The more research we done we found it was a good story and it’s all about the story isn’t it.

It was a huge success and got a fantastic response which led us onto a play about Joe Wilson. That toured last September and that also got a great response. Both Joe and Ned show’s played at The Sage so after the success they asked us what you got next ? The Great Geordie Songbook was put forward, along with a tribute to Alan Hull so there will be a few Lindisfarne song’s.

The show features some of the region’s biggest theatre stars, Micky Cochrane, Sarah Boulter and Jamie Brown who all appeared in The Great Joe Wilson with Jordan Miller from Sunderland band The Lake PoetsTop musician Rachael McShane from English folk band Bellowhead who also appeared in Mr Corvan’s Music Hall plus musical comedy from Gavin Webster and Josh Daniels…We work with top professional’s, we have a really good team and work well together and enjoy it. To be fair we don’t have the time or the money to muck about. But yes it’s a laugh from start to finish. Our last show was Carrying David about the boxer Glenn McCrory. I told him it was really good to work on a play about someone who isn’t dead (laughs).

Off the back of all this we worked with Newcastle Council and got some blue plaque’s put around Newcastle. They’re all about leaving a legacy for what was achieved. There is one for Harry Clasper on the Guildhall over-looking the Tyne, one for Joe on Stowell Street where he was born and a plaque on the Central Station where 2,700 people came to see Ned at the Olympic Theatre. That was the venue where Joe saw Ned, where he was inspired to write about working class life.

When the chip’s were down they really nailed their colour’s to the mast. We want to keep their legacy going for young people and for the next generation to be inspired. I think for protest song’s young songwriter’s will go and raid the songbook’s of Alan Hull, Joe Wilson and Ned Corvan. And that’s what we want, we need to hear those great song’s again.

Tickets for The Great Geordie Songbook are on sale now only £20. There are two performances on Sunday 3rd November 2019 with the first curtain up at 4pm and then 8pm.

Contact www.sagegateshead.com or

www.wisecrackproductions.co.uk

 Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2019.

BOBBY ROBSON SAVED MY LIFE – a New Play by Tom Kelly

Theatre and football come together in a new play about the life of one of football’s most successful and well-known personalities. Sir Bobby Robson’s story has been written by North East playwright Tom Kelly (Geordie the Musical, The Dolly Mixtures, Nothing Like The Wooden Horse)….‘The play looks at three characters and how Sir Bobby has had a real and lasting influence upon their lives’ explained Tom. ‘This is not only about football and Tyneside but hopefully underlines we each have a responsibility to care for one another.’

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Former Newcastle United number 9 and England international, now Match of the Day pundit, Alan Shearer has added his support. In a video message he is really looking forward to seeing the play’ and described Sir Bobby in three words ‘passionate, committed and professionalism’.  A footballer who played for Sir Bobby at Ipswich Town was George Burley. The former Scotland international full back revealed in his message to describe Sir Bobby ‘Father-figure, determination and enthusiasm’.

I asked Tom what research he did for the play… ‘I read a great deal about Sir Bobby’s life and discovered he often sent messages of support to a wide variety of people which had a positive impact on their lives: It gave them hope. He had a real empathy for others. His life underlined, for me, the way we treat others is not just important but crucial.’  

Tickets are available for the play at South Shields’ favourite theatre, The Customs House. A portion of each ticket sold will go to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, a charity he and his wife, Lady Elsie, founded in 2008 to help find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer.

Curtain up on the first night is Tuesday 16th July at 7.30pm, running through to Saturday 20th with matinees at 2.30pm on Wednesday 17th and Saturday 20th.

Telephone 0191 454 1234 or check on-line for details https://www.customshouse.co.uk/theatre/bobby-robson-saved-my-life/

 Other shows are on July 31st at the Regent Theatre, Ipswich

https://apps.ipswich.gov.uk/en-GB/shows/bobby%20robson%20saved%20my%20life/events

And 2nd & 3rd August at the Tyne Theatre, Newcastle.

https://tynetheatreandoperahouse.uk/events/bobby-robson-saved-my-life/

 Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2019.

FOOTING IT TO EUROPE with Tyneside poet Keith Armstrong

In the week of the 50th anniversary of Newcastle United’s victory in the Fairs Cup, a 6-2 win on aggregate against Ujpest Dozsa in the final. Tyneside poet and lifelong supporter of the Magpies, Keith Armstrong, reflects on their journeys through Europe.

Bobby Moncur, Newcastle United, with the Fairs Cup

I hate to give away my age but my dad took me piggy-back to see Stanley Matthews play at St James’s Park in the days when peanuts were only a tanner a bag and the ground capacity was well over 60,000. Since then, I’ve followed the lads through thick and thin, usually thin, across Europe and back home.

It might surprise you, but United in Europe isn’t new you know. They toured Italy, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Austria, in 1929 – just after the last time they won the League, with the legendary top-scoring Hughie Gallacher at number 9. In Milan, full-back Tommy Lang had a nasty set of bite marks on his neck when he left the pitch and the club’s bus was hit with bottles and stones and the players had to barricade themselves in their hotel room. Not to worry, the team was guarded by the stalwart men of Mussolini’s blackshirts!

After an 8-1 defeat in Czechoslovakia, the lads were accused of not trying by the Czech officials and then it was off to Budapest for another ‘friendly’ where Gallacher was sent off after a punch-up and the locals spat and threw coins at him as he was escorted through the crowd by armed soldiers. The Hungarians accused Gallacher and the rest of the team of being ‘drunk and disorderly’ on the field and withheld the guaranteed fee. United left the country quickly.

A Football Association enquiry exonerated the team after Gallacher had explained that he and some of his teammates had been so thirsty in the heat that they ‘rinsed their mouths out with a drop of Scotch’. The Hungarians spotted them passing the bottle round and jumped to the surprising conclusion that the boys were on the piss! European sporting ambassadors, don’t you know!

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And, just so’s you really know how old I am, I have to say that I was ‘on the hoy’ as well in Hungary, with the Supporters’ Club back in 1969, belting out the ‘Blaydon Races’ on Budapest High Street when we last won a major trophy, the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. It never seemed to be part of a plan to win then, they just stumbled into the Final, and, with Wyn ‘The Leap’ Davies nodding the ball down to Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson, and no real midfield to speak of, we had those continentals, used to playing the ball on the ground (the mad fools!), completely baffled when faced with our Geordie ‘laeng baell’ game. A one-off but the toon went crazy when the lads came back with that Fairs Cup.

It worries me a bit just how crazy the toon will gan should we ever bring another bit of silverware home – not that that’s likely, let’s be honest, a trophy is never on the packing list, if you’re following Newcastle United.

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Captain Bobby Moncur with the cup in Newcastle.

FAIR’S FAIR

The Blue Star shone in Budapest

as West met East on Europe’s streets;

the night the Magpies skinned the Magyars

and the Fairs Cup was ours.

Across the desert of fifty years,

the Inter Cities trophy glitters,

like a beacon in the wilderness,

all that burnt energy, just this success.

And what a crazy night it was;

the shorts flowed in black and white bars:

away goals, of course, counted double

and, after a few, we were seeing double!

We’d danced through Feyenoord and Zaragoza,

skipped from Setubal to downtown Glasgae;

and we came back singing through it all,

with Clarkie, Craigie and McFaul.

It was the golden day of three goal Moncur,

of Scottie, Gibb, Sinclair,

of Wyn the Leap and Bryan Pop,

and little Benny Arentoft.

Finally, we had a Cup to show

and the Toon’s faces shone aglow;

no longer drowning in our self pity,

at last, Fair’s fair, Newcassel’s a European City !

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Tyneside poet Keith Armstrong was born in Newcastle. He has travelled throughout Europe to read his poetry and is widely published and broadcast. He is available for events and functions.

tel: 0191 2529531.

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2019.

PRESSING ISSUES with Peter Dixon & Keith Armstrong

Peter Dixon & Keith Armstrong.

Northern Voices Community Projects were set up in 1986 to give people who are denied a voice, a platform to express their views and experiences of living in the North East.

Peter Dixon and Keith Armstrong are behind NVCP and we arranged to meet in a pub along the River Tyne to find out more. The Alum House sit’s next to South Shields ferry, a handy place to meet as they are both from the North side of the Tyne. I recently talked to Keith and featured his interview on this blog, in it he talks about his writing and poetry. In this new blog Peter pick’s out some highlights and tell’s a few stories from his background.

I mentioned that the last time I interviewed anyone here it was Antony Bray, drummer of black metal band Venom…I remember Tygers of Pan Tang and all that heavy metal said Peter. But I’ll tell you about the time I worked during the day’s of the last gasps of hot metal (laughs).

From 1975-80 I worked for Northern Press newspapers which included the Wallsend News, Whitley Bay Guardian, Blyth News and where I was based, The Shields Gazette art department. We produced the graphics for adverts and things like that. This was in the day when old presses were still being used, it really was the last gasp of hot metal!

What people tend to forget is that in The Shields Gazette you had a major employer situated right in the town centre that produced the whole newspaper under one roof. About 250 people were working there with proper jobs and getting proper money. All buying their sandwiches, birthday cards and whatever in the shop’s right there in the centre of town. There was a little squad of us would regularly get in The Stags Head and the Dougie Vaults spending our money on a few beers. Sadly all those workers have gone now.

Before Northern Press I done some stuff for Vince Rea at The Bede Art Gallery in Jarrow and also designed single and album record covers for the Newcastle band Punishment of Luxury.

How did you get involved with them ? I was doing background scenery for The Mad Bongo Theatre Company and a member of the band, Brian Bond got in touch. Then I met Neville Luxury and the drummer Red Helmet. They done a single called Puppet of Life and Tony Visconti (Bowie, Bolan & Morrissey producer) reviewed it for Sounds newspaper. He described the sleeve that I done and said I was sick (laughs).

I also co-edited a monthly magazine called The Informer. That was distributed around the North East from Hexham, up to Blyth and down to Tyneside. We done around 10,000 copies a month and it ran from 2000-2010. It was originally for The Tyne Theatre but it became too expensive to run so became a magazine in it’s own right. It was a What’s On and live performance mag. It was meant as a gig guide that you could roll up and put in your pocket.

I ran it with my co-editor. He collated the live dates and information where I designed and wrote the press releases and interviews. We both used to sell advertising. Again running it became expensive so it folded.

What is the background to the Northern Voices project ? I worked with Keith who was a Community Arts worker in Peterlee and we always had some kind of publishing activity going on. It was an end result to our work in design, poetry and writing. Back in the ‘70s we were involved with Tyneside Street Press which was a bit radical. There was a whole collective of people working on it. A bit like your punk fanzines, printed on A4 but it was news stories we were doing.

Yeah it was a time when people could make their own papers and booklets said Keith. The idea was we could control the whole process from writing, printing and publish it all ourselves. It was a place where people could express themselves in their own words. We had connections with other city’s that were bringing out alternative newspapers.

Peter added A lot of poetry was going on then plus the art stuff. It was part of the pop culture, challenging the existing order and critical of what was happening. But there was always an interest of the indigenous population and what was going on.

Yeah said Keith it was the spirit of the ‘60s and ‘70s, the alternative idea’s sprouting up a bit like the music that was around then. There was a distinct northern voice, we always had something to say. It’s a fundamental idea and very democratic.

Keith talked about an earlier version they produced called Strong Words he said it lasted a few years and done a number of publications… It sold around 3,500 copies which was really good for us then, we sold it worldwide (laughs)…including South Shields. We used to go around interviewing people rather like what you are doing now for your blog. Some people were quite chuffed you know…Somebody’s bothered to knock on my door and asked about my life. Otherwise it would go unrecorded.

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Did you receive any funding ? We didn’t go to funding bodies then, we were autonomous. It gave us a freedom. We put together a publication called Missile Village which was about Spadeadam, a military test base, and it’s impact on the village of Gilsland in Northumberland. The Blue Streak Missile was tested there and at Woomera in Australia during the ‘70s. The general ethos is to give people a voice so we talked to the local villagers about the idea that the Government had decided to have a missile on their doorsteps. A farmer told us that it’s nowt but a puff of smoke.

Peter brings the story up to date and talks about work they are doing now… Mostly it’s history books funded by North Tyneside Council. Things on The Hartley Pit disaster, George Stephenson, the Wooden Dollie’s of North Shields and writer Jack Common. To an extent it’s easier now to do the whole thing yourself rather than farming it out to someone else. Not like the old days of laying it out for typesetting. The difference from the old days to now is that we are doing full colour. Back then a lot of it was single colour. To an extent there is a satisfaction of producing it yourself.

Keith checks his watch Well we’ve missed the ferry we’ll have to wait for the next one, might as well get another pint in. As for Northern Voices, yes we’ll keep plugging away.

For further information contact

http://www.northernvoicescommunityprojects.co.uk/Northern_Voices_Community_Projects/Welcome.html

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2019.

NIGHT OF THE TUBE with former TV music producer Chris Phipps

How Frankie Goes to Hollywood were discovered by default, why Tina Turner was nearly not on, what was a life changing career appearance for her. Also, what was Ozzy doing in a coffin on City Road ? Hear all the backstage stories from ‘80s music show The Tube at a free talk by Chris Phipps.

The Tube was broadcast from Tyne Tees Television Studio 5 in Newcastle and hosted by Jools Holland and Paula Yates. It showcased everyone from Madonna, French and Saunders to Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I was in the audience for the early shows and watched some great bands including Thin Lizzy, Big Country, The Alarm and American rock singer Pat Benatar.

Chris will be talking about the sights and sounds from behind the scenes when he worked on the show. ‘As an ex-BBC producer I initially only signed up for 3 months on this unknown programme and it became 5 years! I was mainly hired because of my track record for producing rock and reggae shows in the Midlands. On the night I’ll be telling of my Jamaican exploits’.

Chris will also have copies of his new book ‘Namedropper’ for sale at a special price.

Newcastle City Library (opposite Trillians Bar) 8pm Saturday 18th May 2019. Free entry.

Namedropper Cover

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2019.

MORE THAN WORDS with North East poet Keith Armstrong

I’m standing at the bar in The Bridge Hotel in Newcastle waiting for poet and writer Keith Armstrong. If you imagine someone looking like the actor Bill Nighy, you’re not far wrong. He breezes in and before you know it we are sitting in a quiet corner and after his first sip of cider he tells me a story…

I took the train down to London with a mate of mine, it was 1977. We had third row tickets for the Rainbow Theatre to see Bob Marley and the Wailers. We were frisked as we went in, everyone was, but through a heavy fog of ganja smoke we saw a fantastic show. He had such a presence on stage. It was pretty much the best concert I’ve been to in my life.

First time I travelled abroad was in 1966. I went with a friend, we took a Melody Maker trip to the Berlin Jazz Festival. Flew over there then got a coach past Checkpoint Charlie to the venue. It was afternoon gigs, avant garde stuff and the big jazz guys of the day like Miles Davis, Stan Getz and Sonny Rollins were on the bill. We got back to London and walking down Carnaby Street we bumped into two of the Beach Boys who we went to see in concert that night at Hammersmith Odeon.

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What is your background ? I was born and bred in Newcastle and my father worked in the shipyards. Absolutely steeped in the tradition. School days were spent at Heaton Grammar and it taught me to be a rebel because I couldn’t stand the confinement of the place. Just being edgy, wanting things to change – haven’t lost it.

First job I ever had was at Newcastle University Library I got paid 6 pounds 14 shillings and threepence a week. I was always bookish at school so libraries was good to get into. Plus I was the only boy amongst 15 women librarians – I learnt a lot. Gateshead College was another library I worked at in the early ‘70s. Within that I was developing an interest in the arts and arranged events with poets and theatre. From 1980-86 I was a Community Arts worker in Peterlee, County Durham then went freelance as a writer. I was glad to escape the 9 to 5 into an alternative prison of freelance (laughs).

I was interested in people like Dylan Thomas, the rhythm of his poetry. Actors like Richard Harris, hell raisers like Oliver Reed – all good role models! Yeah in my early days I loved the old bohemian lifestyle of reading poetry and getting tanked up (laughs). Listening to The Beatles, Bob Dylan, they were all there and I wrote poetry but always felt that I wanted to make them song-like. That’s why I ended up working with Gary Miller and The Whisky Priests. (Featured on the blog March 23rd 2019).

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Keith with North East musician Gary Miller.

How did that come about ? I was writing lyrics and I see very little difference in poetry to song lyrics. Around the early ‘90s I cottoned on to The Whisky Priests. I was looking for a band that had an edge, a bit of anger, you know a bit of an attitude. Also one steeped in the working class tradition of the North East. So I asked this guy Ross Forbes who was press officer at the NUM and he mentioned The Whisky Priests. I found they were playing at The Rose Tree in Durham. I went along and I knew this was what I was after, even I got up dancing (laughs).

It was really important for me and my poetry as it’s a different audience for what I write. And they weren’t playing in just the backroom of a Folk Club. They were taking it forward, for a younger audience. We also travelled a bit to Germany, Holland and Ireland. I always admired the fact Gary could write songs and was quite prolific about it as seen on The Whisky Priests anthology box set. But yeah I wrote some lyrics, they recorded Bleeding Sketches and it came out in 1995.

 

What does writing mean to you ? When I do write it’s to express my emotions and follow my heart. That’s why I like Gary Miller because he is like that. We worked on a project together called The Mad Martins. They were three brothers one of which has his paintings in the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle. I researched the story and asked Gary to write some stuff for it, that’s how it kicked off. It’s a special story that we put out on a triple CD. But writing, I couldn’t live without it.

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What you working on now ? Well I’m just forcing myself to write at the minute. Emotionally I’m a bit sapped with things going on around me you know, personal stuff. There are plans to go out to Tuebingen near Stuttgart with Northumbrian piper Chris Ormston as part of a Cultural Exchange arranged with County Durham. That’ll be in July. Originally they sent me over there in ‘87 as Poet in Residence and I’ve been going back there ever since. Then in October it’s same again for Limerick over in Ireland, fell in love with the place and they keep inviting me back.

But I could still be reading my poetry to 10 people in the back room of a pub in Penrith. Why do it ? I don’t know. But I’m keeping my options open (laughs).

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2019.

LOST IN THE SUPERMARKET

What price music ? Is it just another product on the shelf ? Is the value of music being overlooked, and do we need to handle it with more care ?

Three North East musicians, Carol Nichol (Lowfeye/The Relitics), Paul Binyon (Mandora) and John Clavering (Cortney Dixon band) are passionate about music and reflect on what it means to them today.

Carol Nichol: Being creative, writing and recording your own material is worth nothing now in society. It’s a struggle for any working class artist or band to survive. Apart from middle class students from the Brit Acadamy and their connections in the music industry, does anyone have a voice now ?

Paul Binyon: Tyneside has always been a hot bed for musical creativity and over the years has produced some outstanding musicians/bands. I do however feel more concerned for originality these days. Original music has always been of the utmost importance to me.

Although I’ve been involved with cover bands too it’s always the shear buzz of creativity that excites me most. To see an audience enjoy and respond to songs that you’ve written is the ultimate reward and of course I thoroughly enjoy being in the audience appreciating other bands original music.

John Clavering: Up here in the North East you’ve got The Cluny, The Star and Shadow who promote original stuff. But there is hundreds of pubs who would only pay for a cover band. I’ve been offered gigs on keyboards with cover bands but I’m just not interested. Bands playing Queen covers at a wedding – it’s an industry itself. That is ok there is a need for that but I don’t think it encourages creativity and new music. Pubs don’t want to take the risk of a band playing it’s own stuff.

Carol Nichol: When you hear of the venues closing which had character especially the decor of old ballrooms, it’s heart breaking.

The independent music scene is extremely important for the survival of original bands to exist and be discovered. For decade’s this has always been a great platform for a lot of bands. There is nothing more exciting than a small intimate venue when a band are level with a crowd.

Paul Binyon: My concern is the lack of independant venues. They seem few and far between these days. Even the few that we have tend to lean more toward the covers and tribute scene than original. I understand that there’s a risk involved with booking original bands for fear that there’ll be a small turn out and the venue won’t make any profit or lose money. But this is catch 22 because more venues need to support original bands so that they can build a following and fill rooms.

Carol Nichol: I think the future of independent venues looks very bleak especially with a younger generation who are more obsessed with social media and computer games. Kids don’t venture out as much and are too obsessed with reality music programmes on tv or should I say karaoke shows. People are more into mainstream and cover bands so aren’t willing to discover something new.

Paul Binyon: With it getting harder to secure gigs and with the amount of pub closures I’m afraid one day, originality on the local scene will become a thing of the past.

Without working together to try and fix the current situation, I gotta say it looks bleak. But I live in hope that sooner rather than later it goes back to somewhere close to what it was like in the mid 80’s where the choice was a difficult one to make as to which venue you went to, and to see which band because there was so many.

John Clavering: There are original bands out there who use the internet as their only outlet. A lot of niche stuff getting heard on Soundcloud and Spotify. But there is nothing like standing in the front row of a gig. You will never get that feeling from watching You Tube on your phone (laughs).

Got a music story to tell ? Get in touch and leave a message.

Interviews by Gary Alikivi January 2019.

MANTRA FOR THE MASSES with Nod the Geordie Poet

These days semi-retired university lecturer Alan Clark is married with two grown up kids and lives near BBC studios in Borehamwood, London. But back in the late 70s he was on the dole living in a house full punks in Jesmond, Newcastle… We lived in Chester Crescent which must have been grand at one time but some of the houses were decaying and the council took them over and let them out cheaply. One of the first Northern punk bands, the Big G used to practice in our living room. I think we lived next door to a vicar and he may have complained from time to time.

When the Big G split in 1979, The Weights formed and played Newcastle, the Edinburgh festival and gigs in London… I used to perform at their gigs and then got opportunities all over the place, including the telly.

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Allen Ginsberg

Who were your influences ? I was really interested in the Liverpool Poets, especially Adrian Henri. I thought that punk needed poetry as Adrian Henris generation of freaks and hippies did. I was also reading Allen Ginsberg poems and in fact met him at Newcastle Uni when he did a gig there.

I always liked writing at school and wrote daft things just to amuse my mates. About ‘78 I wrote a poem about Daz and one of my housemates Walter from The Weights said I should come and do a gig.

Where was your first gig ? That was at The Guildhall on the Quayside. It was a Weights gig with other bands on too. They played backing for some of my poems, including 12 bar blues for Daz and a trippy poem about magic mushrooms.

We were all into Frank Zappa. Micky Emerson aka Red Helmet was the experimental lead guitarist. Norman, his brother, was the drummer, Walter aka Peter Howard was and still is a well-known man about the Toon and Anth Martin was the singer and main songwriter. He went on to do a literature degree at Oxford.

As for my experience, well I was quite nervous, but the alcohol and herb helped. I remember I nearly got in a fight with some squaddies for being critical of the government and the army!

You supported The Clash at Newcastle City Hall in 1982. Was this the highlight ? I enjoyed doing the gig with The Clash and meeting and joking around with them afterwards. But they were strange times for me. I was badly beaten trying to get in to the City Hall. I explained on the door that I was the support act and they didn’t believe me. I saw one of the roadies and lurched in to get his attention but was set upon by a mob of City Hall stewards. They got me on the floor and kicked the shit out of me.

By the time I got on stage I was bruised and bewildered. I performed mostly with a backing track. One poem was War On The Scroungers, and in parts, I mimicked a posh Tory accent. I had a distinct impression that people didn’t really get the satire!

Curiously, I’d worked at the City Hall as a steward in the early 70s and knew the head guy Ivor, who looked very apologetic afterward, but wouldn’t say so. I took a case all the way to the council committee in charge of the Hall and explained to them I had done some non-violence training. The stewards said I was foaming at the mouth and that was their excuse. The council committee agreed and I never got an apology.

You mentioned TV opportunities…I was on John Walters programme on BBC Radio 1, you may remember him as John Peel’s producer. I was on local culture programmes for BBC North East and Tyne Tees around 1980-82. I performed Daz on location in Wallsend. They filmed me in front of an old washing machine with Swan Hunters shipyard in the background.

Then I recorded some work in the BBC studio, and a performance for Come In If You Can Get In on Tyne Tees. I was pursued by The Tube at one stage, but didn’t have a manager and was a bit too disorganised to follow up.

What were your poems dealing with ? I was quite political and involved in anti-nuke politics. I was fascinated by nuclear issues and went to CND meetings in Newcastle, but also got involved in the campaign to stop Torness nuclear reactor which is just over the England-Scotland border.

I lived as part of the occupation for a while and travelled up and down to Newcastle. I also went on big marches in London and actually got invited to play at the womens peace camp at Greenham Common.

What was the attraction to nuclear issues ? I had a strange experience when I was young. I was standing at a bus stop waiting to go to school when the whole sky lit up bright pink. I traced the date and it looks like I was seeing effects from what is called the Tsar Bomba. The 50 megaton largest nuke ever let off in Russia. Tyneside is nearly 2,000 miles from where it was set off on Novaya-Zemlya island. Neither the UK or any other European nations set off a nuke in Europe. The Tsar Bomba was the only explanation I could ever find for what happened. I have yet to meet another person who can confirm that they saw it.

Was performing taking a back seat to protest ? I moved to Whitby in pursuit of love, then after falling out of love, moved to Corbridge. I was living in an old pottery and used to practice guitar and singing in the large kiln chimneys. I was busking all over the North East, and made good money in the Monument Metro in Newcastle. I kept on performing in various venues and events and would regularly work at The Cooperage and did some recording with The Weights.

By 1984 the rock and roll lifestyle was taking it’s toll. I decided to give up the material world and ran away to join the Hare Krishnas who I’d met when doing a gig in Suffolk. I went cold turkey working in a restaurant at the Krishna temple in Leicester.

Being a Hare Krishna involved a lot more than chanting on Oxford Street and I was eventually involved in the running of the movement in the UK. I met some very kind and thoughtful people, but also, some people for whom the religion seemed to be a cover for extreme selfishness.

I was lucky to make friends with some of the original devotees who came to the UK in 1968. Through them I met George Harrison a few times at his house in Henley and we had a few chats about gardening.

I began to have doubts about the philosophy of the movement and after an extended period in India I stopped being so involved. One of the main benefits was meeting my wife Akinchana, who is Indian. We have a daughter who is 27 now and a son who is 21.

When I left the movement, I ended up doing a degree, as a very mature student and then an MA, getting work as a lecturer in media at the University of Hertfordshire.

What are you doing now ? I’m still teaching, although cutting back as I’m close to retirement. It means I have more time for writing and recording. I’d like to do some performing one day. The most recent track I recorded and mixed was just over a year ago and is on soundcloud.

Interview by Gary Alikivi February 2019.

TWO YEAR LATER…. Alikivi blog in the news.

A 2 year milestone for the blog is four articles which featured in local newspaper The Shields Gazette in the last few weeks. Included in the articles are extracts from some of the interviews I’ve done with musicians.

https://www.shieldsgazette.com/lifestyle/nostalgia/hair-raising-adventures-of-a-south-tyneside-musician-1-9573698

https://www.shieldsgazette.com/lifestyle/nostalgia/hanging-bed-sheet-from-south-shields-bridge-to-promote-gig-1-9560464

https://www.shieldsgazette.com/lifestyle/nostalgia/how-guitar-present-led-to-a-life-of-music-1-9547817

https://www.shieldsgazette.com/lifestyle/nostalgia/when-south-shields-had-a-thriving-rock-scene-1-9535098

Gary Alikivi  February 2019

 

SOUNDS ALIVE: The Power of Music

The adrenalin rush of the thunderclap from Icelandic football fans. The guitar intro to Alternative Ulster by Stiff Little Fingers. Kurt Cobains anger on the Nirvana anthem Smells Like Teen Spirit. And what about John Bonhams bombastic drums on When the Levee Breaks ? Sound has a real strength and songs have unforgetable moments. What’s yours ? 

orig 2000

Music has a power to ignite and heal. Rewind to the 80s. A charity single aimed at raising money for famine relief in Ethiopia. Pop and rock stars of the day including the Durans, Spandau, Quo, Sting, Bono and not forgetting Bananarama crammed into Sarm West studio in London. Songwriters Bob Geldoff and Midge Ure realised they didn’t have a nice little charity single on their hands but a major pop record when George Michael and Boy George laid down their vocal tracks on ‘Do They Know it’s Christmas’. The song raised millions and the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium followed. Bono becoming Bono. Freddy’s Big Night Out. And Geldof salutes ‘The lesson today is how to die’. History was made. The power of music.

The shelves in my local library are full of music related books. Lately I’ve read biographies by Judas Priest guitarist K.K. Downing and the Russian classical composer, Prokofiev. Complete contrasts ? Prokofiev has his lighter moments but listen to Dance of the Pagan Master. That’s Heavy Metal from way back. You’ll also find a bit of Prokofiev in Greg Lakes ‘I Believe in Father Christmas’. Check out the horse drawn sleigh in ’Troika’. Wonderful sound. What am I saying here ? Well, not only do we want to listen to music, but read about it and talk about it. That’s the power of music.

Of course we all have our own tastes and top ten lists. But music is a leveller and it can be used to sum up our feelings at any given moment. After the England football team were beaten in the Euro 96 semi finals Walk Away by Cast was played on TV over pictures of the manager Terry Venables head down, hands in pockets walking down the touch line. Knowing this was probably his last match in charge. In that team Geordies Gazza and Shearer stood tall. But football didn’t come home that day. 

orig 1999

 

The internet in the late 90s. Is that when music started to lose it’s value ? I’m not talking about value that rings the till. More of a value that can be considered important. Even cherished. In interviews guitarist Noel Gallagher talked of Oasis not being the most popular band in the 90s, but the most important. Blur might have something to say on that one, but they never had quarter of a million at Knebworth.

What is the attraction of music ? Some songs have great stories. You’ll have your own favourites like the first records you bought. The songs that marked important moments in your life. The inspiration behind them, who wrote the lyrics and what it means to you. And finally your funeral song. Yep, some people have their favourites ready for when they finally check out. Music really is the soundtrack to our lives. From beginning to the end.

Well the music is your special friend. Dance on fire as it intends 

Music is your only friend. Until the end.  (Jim Morrison, When the Music’s Over). 

Gary Alikivi October 2018.

ALIKIVI

Recommended:

1980 The Year Metal was Forged on Tyneside   11th Feb. 2018.

Rockin’ All Over the Toon  22nd May 2018.

Rockin’ All Over the Toon Again  14th Sept. 2018.

When the Music’s (not) Over 24th Sept. 2018.

For more Tyneside stories why not subscribe to the ALIKIVI You Tube channel.