‘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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

I loved going to The Marquee to watch bands but I didn’t really enjoy playing there to be honest. We did six supports there and they were hard work – there was always a ‘Come on then, impress us’ in the air !

We played four nights in November ‘79 with The Lurkers during their residency there. Each gig would have punks sitting on the stage with their backs to us and every now and then one would look around and stare at you – and then turn back around. I much preferred London gigs like The Hope ‘n’ Anchor and The Nashville.

By the very last gig for The Carpettes in June 1981 we were a really tight live act with four years gigging experience – you can’t beat live experience for getting better on stage. It’s no good sitting in the bedroom playing guitar – not gonna get you anywhere.

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

 

 

Have you any road stories ?  In 1980 we went to Italy three times and Holland once, and we also did a short UK tour supporting The Inmates. That UK tour was probably the best two weeks of my life. I was twenty years old, travelling around the country playing music and when we arrived at the venue all the equipment would already be set up by the roadies – heaven!

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://youtu.be/LvUt7yeAepw

Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2020.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2020.

LONDON CALLING: Nights at the Marquee Club

The heart of London’s music industry was the legendary live music club the Marquee, along with CBGB’S in New York, the club has been defined as one of the most important music venues in the world.

It would provide the catalyst to launch the career of many bands – The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin – the list is endless. A&R men used to regularly visit the club to watch out for the next big thing and with plenty of bands looking to make it, the best way was to be seen on the stage of the Marquee.

Tony Iommi explained in Iron Man his auto biog…‘I was in rehearsals with Jethro Tull for the recording of their Stand Up album and one night Ian Anderson took me to see Free play at the Marquee. He introduced me to everybody as his new guitar player, so I thought, this is wonderful. I felt like a pop star. From being a nobody in Birmingham to people at the Marquee taking an interest – it seemed great’.

Graeme Thomson wrote in his biog about Phil Lynott – ‘It was do or die. Thin Lizzy were £30,000 in debt. Money was borrowed for their showcase gig for Phonogram at the Marquee on 9th July 1974. It was so hot that night that all the guitars went out of tune, but they played well enough to confirm the deal, even if the advance for a two album contract only cleared what they owed’.

Mick Wall’s biog of Lemmy featured the time Motorhead nearly called it a day. Guitarist Fast Eddie Clark remembers ‘We found ourselves in April 1977 in the situation of breaking up’.

As a farewell gift to fans they would record a live album. They had a show coming up at the Marquee that surely would be the best place for them to bow out. But when they looked into the cost, they knew they had no chance. A farewell single was recorded instead.

‘The Marquee gig was one of the best we ever did’ according to Eddie. ‘Lemmy said the sweat was climbing up the walls trying to get out’.

Thoughts of it being their last were quickly forgotten about. Two weeks later they piled into a Transit van for the drive down to Escape Studios in Kent. They recorded the bones of 13 tracks, eight of which would become the album Motorhead.

Bands from the North East of England – White Heat, Angelic Upstarts, Fist, The Showbiz Kids, Punishment of Luxury, Raven and Tygers of Pan Tang, all travelled south down the M1 to the capital. Was playing London the catalyst for a life in music, or just a road too far for some ?

John Gallagher from Chief Headbangers, Raven  ‘The running joke was – c-mon lets git in a van and gaan 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’.

Harry Hill, drummer with Fist remembers…’We played the Marquee for two nights supporting Iron Maiden. We were going down an absolute storm, the place was packed. I’m not sure what the band thought about it but their manager was kicking off – You’re just the support band. You’re not supposed to go down like that –  We won him over in the end and he came into the dressing room with a crate of beer. Yep we gave them a run for their money’.

Residencies were part of the scene and a few North East bands got on the list including Dire Straits. This advert from March ’78 with admission fee only 70p.

Select dates for North East bands listed as playing the Marquee for 1976:

Halfbreed 15 & 29th January & 3rd March.

Arbre 4th April.

Back Street Crawler 11 & 12th May with AC/DC as support.

Cirkus 15th May.

1977:

Penetration 29th June opening for Heron.

also 30th July & 1st August opening for The Vibrators.

1978:

Penetration 21st June.

Punishment of Luxury 3rd October.

1979:

Showbiz Kids 3rd February.

Punishment of Luxury 13th February.

Showbiz Kidz 21st April.

Punishment of Luxury 7th May.

Showbiz Kids 19th May & 14th June & 14th July.

Punishment of Luxury 23rd August & 31st October.

1980:

Raven 5th, 6th, or 7th November with Taurus or Diamond Head opening for Gary Moore.

1981:

White Heat 29th April.

1982:

Angelic Upstarts 18th February & 12th August.

The Marquee at Charing Cross Road finally closed it’s doors in 1996 after first establishing the club in Oxford Street, then it’s heyday in Wardour Street.

 Gary Alikivi  May 2020.

 

FUNK OFF – The Punishment of Luxury & further tales of musical adventures.

Avery, Thwaite, Red Helmet, Liquid Les and Malacabala all signed up to an adventure with Newcastle based post punk band, Punishment of Luxury. But from 1979-83 the line-up settled into a very creative recording and live unit signed to United Artists – Brian Bond (keyboard/vocals) Jimi Giro (bass) Steve Sekrit (drums) and Nev (guitar/vocals).

I got in touch with Nev to find out exactly who were Punishment of Luxury and where did the name come from ? A friend, Rob Meek visited Liverpool and sent me a postcard from the Walker gallery. It was a picture of Giovanni Segantini’s ‘Punishment of Luxury’. I thought this was a perfect title for a wonderful adventure.

How did the band first get together ? It all began in Walker Terrace, Gateshead. I’d just returned from studying music in India and Afghanistan and was sharing a house with Rob Meek. Rob created the first independent Gateshead street press, and the radical theatre company ‘Hour Glass’, which we performed with in local pubs.

This was 1975 when I met Brian Rapkin, an actor, singer and songwriter who was working with the Mad Bongo Theatre group. I had previously formed a band called Kitch 22 who experimented in a combination of theatre and music and Brian said he saw me play at the Newcastle Guildhall and liked the rendition of Wild Thing and Little Red Rooster delivered up from my tuned Hofner Galaxie and kitchen quilted Vox AC30.

One night Rob and I had a party and invited the Mad Bongo Theatre group where we offered them Garibaldi biscuits, Old Jamaica chocolate curious wine and Alien cake. We played and shared songs with electric exhilaration, the seed was planted for future ventures. We were visionary collisionaries occurring in the same space.

We rehearsed in a basement in Gateshead at Rawling Road, where our songs Jellyfish and Blood of Love were created. Eventually we rehearsed in a church hall in Tynemouth which I believe was also used by Lindisfarne.

What was the process for writing songs ? The writing was both a collision and collaboration of different musical styles and approaches which were amalgamated with some visual and dramatic opinions.

For example I would offer a song such as Puppet Life, All White Jack, and Brian would embellish keyboard and add lyrics. Alternatively Brian would write the main body of a song such as Obsession and we would combine musical structures and lyrics.

But commonly we would come together from two very different views and styles. This is evident in writing Brain Bomb which developed from a ballad Brian had written where I proposed the musical opposite and the idea worked, so some strange and interesting combinations were successfully created.

Jellyfish was another example of the unity of opposites whereas I would suggest a structure and some lyric or theme and Brian would apply some great lyrics, musical variations and ideas to make them unique. I think humour somehow connected us along with our range of various theatrical and visual ideas. The Message and Laughing Academy are other examples of creative unions. I think we had a very open approach which worked so well.

I remember in Tynemouth, writing the riff for Radar Bug and Jimi applied a great rhythmic phrase which lifted the idea into what it is. His bass playing offers excellent precision and very creative phrasing with invention. Stephen created some brilliant percussive pieces to compliment songs such as Secrets, he also offered massive drive and energy. While I offered many structures and concepts.

Brian also created words, images and imaginings, Jimi laid ululating foundations then Stephen wove it together. It was of course more than this and everyone was essential in creating the sound and spirit of that time.

It is worth mentioning that a great friend called Vicki who was a wonderful support to us from the Laughing Academy period, always offered us space to rehearse and develop ideas when writing new songs.  

Punishment of Luxury played their first gig at the Blue Bell in Gateshead in 1978, not long afterwards the band went to Impulse recording studio, Wallsend. How did you fund your early recordings ? We funded initial demos from our own back pockets. We recorded, Blood of Love, Let’s Get Married and Puppet Life. Rob Meek also enabled us to record and rehearse at Spectro Arts centre in Newcastle.

Signing a record deal – how did that come about, and was it successful ? After a long and tiring tour of record companies who displayed a range of disinterest, curiosity and admiration we decided in the end that we had to find a label who had some idea of what we were trying to do. We therefore embarked on our excursion to Walthamstow in London and a meeting with the owner of Small Wonder Records, Pete Stennett. Immediately after he played the tape of our first demo recording of Puppet Life, he offered us a deal.

He was certainly a visionary person who signed other bands and performers from that post punk period and gave them that all important first break to express their music. The label was small but created wonders for us in as much as our first single Puppet Life/Demon (1978) was recorded in London’s Berry Street Studio and our recording journey began.

We were pursued by a few larger record companies who after they had heard our first single, came to our gigs. Charisma and Virgin were certainly of interest to us but we thought United Artists were the best company as they offered much more artistic freedom. We all warmed to their very sincere and talented A&R scout, Tim Chacksfield. In the end we signed to them and went on to record the Laughing Academy album (1979) and several singles.

Tim could see what we were trying to do and helped us be free in our musical expression and eventually introduced us to Mike Howlett. Mike was former bassist and writer with Gong and Strontium 90 (a forerunner to The Police).

Mike helped us capture all the energy of our live set with his approach of recording many straight live takes, which embellished with the required overdubs, helped create a wonderful recording experience.

Did the band have a manager ? In the beginning a friend from Newcastle called Frank helped get us gigs and open the door to various management companies such as Quarry management and well known management such as John Arnison. Frank eventually connected us to the Asgard Agency in London who enabled us to put together UK tours. This is where we met Richard Hermitage who eventually became our manager.

Richard was a very positive, honest and fair person who managed to get us considered by several record companies and was instrumental in getting us introduced to United Artists.

Richard decided to stop managing the band and return to Agency work. We were introduced to Tony Fraser who tried to help develop the band’s vision and came on tour for some of the gigs, especially in Germany and Holland.

Did the band record any TV or radio sessions ? Soon after the release of Puppet Life (1978) we discovered that John Peel was interested in our music and we were invited to perform our first live session at the BBC in Maida Vale where we played Funk Me, Let’s Get Married, You’re So Beautiful and Babalon. We played on Tyne Tees show Alright Now, hosted by Darts singer Den Hegerty. Also on were Ian Dury & the Blockheads, Goldie and Geordie with Brian Johnson who joined AC/DC. We also played a live version of Puppett Life for a Belgian/German TV show. Laughing Academy I believe, was doing really well in their charts.

Were there any stand out gigs ? We played several Rock Against Racism gigs at Newcastle Guildhall and other local gigs in the area. We also enjoyed gigs at Newcastle City Hall with the Skids, then with Penetration. The Marquee in Wardour Street, London was another gig we played several times, it was such a great venue.

In the early period of our gigging we played the London Hope and Anchor, and on one occasion we remember a huge back line, approx. 15+ AC 30’s courtesy of Status Quo (we reckon), provided by their management company who were pursuing our scribbles at that time. It was a very full house so the crowd absorbed all the delivered frequencies. This is where we played early versions of ‘Funk Me’ and ‘Babalon’.

The following day we were driving through London and noticed these colourful headpieces being sold by a man on a corner with a cardboard box in Oxford Street. We grabbed several of these Peruvian ski masks and ended up subverting their use with fun, menace and madness in our live performances.

I recall the London Nashville gigs being excellent sharing the tiniest of dressing rooms with bands such as the Adverts, 999, Toyah and Siouxie and the Banshees.

On one occasion the National Front turned up and the lyrics at the end of ‘Puppet Life’ rang out, they started to climb onto the stage and attempt to destroy the show and muffle the message, but the band along with our tour manager, Sista Suzie and the Nashville staff, kicked them off stage which must have reinforced the song’s affirming lyric, ‘The Fascist always ends up on the floor’.

We toured the UK extensively then eventually travelled to Europe. Our first journey involved sharing a plane journey with Wishbone Ash and a brilliant band called Home, famous for their album The Alchemist, and apparently a favourite of the late John Lennon. It followed that we played our first gig together in Belgium with these bands which was quite a mysterious and unusual musical mix.

Do you have any road stories or magic moments when touring ? 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 was 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.

We played the 19th Reading Festival on 24th August 1979 and John Peel introduced the band to what was a raucous gig. We were one of the first wave of bands to play an alternative style of music and many in the rock crowd were bemused at our musical approach, but they soon mutated and amalgamated to engage with this new expression.

Did the band run out of steam or money ? The lack of record company support to develop our musical vision punctuated by them dropping the band from their label, led us speedily to impecunity. We were rejected and bemused. United Artists had died and EMI were the new victors.

This was the period when we were recording Gigantic Days and for a moment, that awful feeling of rejection descended, but our spirits were alive, and we fought on for what we believed in. Perhaps it was because of the proposition of ‘making rockets miss’ in our songs as EMI were linked to Thorn at that time, or it could have been down to the satire ‘Money talks, money lies’. Or maybe simply that we didn’t fit into a commercial pop template.

A breakthrough came with Red Rhino, a record company based in York who liked the band. (Rob Aitch (guitar/vocals) was added to the line up during their deal with Red Rhino and for live performances, they brought in Tim Jones (guitar/vocals).

In 1983 we recorded the album 7 at Alaska and Greenhouse studios. This period marked a time when we had emerged tattered from legal lashings and management muddles with miraculously diminished funds.

What happened then ? After the album 7, Brian and I began exploring other directions this was perhaps compounded by lack of record company support and different musical and creative visions. Brian continued his brilliance and developed his theatrical roots with the application of excellent songs in a band called Punching Holes. While I continued the music with the integration of visual approaches, retaining the Punishment of Luxury theme while experimenting with different players, new collaborations and experimenting with musical inventions (Alien Contact) while living in London.

What are you up to now ? Brian will be releasing his Punching Holes album on April 17th 2020 which will be an historic record to what he was creating then along with the excellent Richard Sharpe and Tim Jones.

I am currently busy writing, and both Brian and I are exploring and assessing the possibility of creating a new album as we exchange our ideas and songs, along with Jim and Steve.

Have you any final memories from the early years of Punishment of Luxury ? We played at an event created by the adventurous pioneer  promotor John Keenan. It was called The Worlds First Science Fiction Music Festival (aka Futurama, Leeds Queens Hall, Saturday September 8th 1979). This was where we played with Joy Division and Public Image.

Our lighting system was in London and Hawkwind, who were playing the next night, kindly let our lighting maestro Rob Meek use their laser light rig. What great people, and an excellent show followed.

After watching our first official gig for many years at the Three Tuns, Gateshead in 2008, music critic Dave Simpson wrote in The Guardian about his experience at Leeds in 1979 and said it ‘changed his life’.

I went to Futurama liking Sham 69. I came out rejecting everything I knew, having realised that music could be about power, passion, psychology, even the genuinely futuristic, and be far more than “entertainment”.

That principle colours my thoughts on music to this day. If I hadn’t gone, it’s almost certain that I wouldn’t now be writing about music for a living, never mind still experiencing the unique thrill of watching bands’.

Certainly a lasting impression on Mr Simpson, and no doubt on many others in the audience. If you were at Futurama that day get in touch and let me know your memories.  

If you haven’t heard the band check out the recordings from the gigs at Nashville, Kant Kino, Hope and Anchor and Reading Festival which are on the Punishment of Luxury box set released by Cherry Red in 2019.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  March 2020.

GIVE THEM A LEADER – New single out now from Electro:Goth:Punks, Calling All Astronauts

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March 2018 was the last time I featured Calling All Astronauts. Now 2 year later Grammy Award winning producer Alan Branch (NIN, U2, Depeche Mode) has worked on their new single ‘Give Them a Leader’. How did working with Alan come about ? Alan is an old school friend of Paul’s, when we thought we’d finished mixing it Paul sent him a copy to have a listen, and Alan very kindly came round to my house and gave me a crash course in mixing like a Grammy winning producer. He mixed ‘Give Them A Leader’ while he was demonstrating to me, although he subsequently mixed it again. He gave me loads of tips and help, the album sounds fantastic thanks to him.

Is there a story behind the single ? Yeah, we see politicians from the far right and the far left fighting it out, when what the majority of people want, is a leader that looks after education, the weak, the poor, the elderly, that doesn’t treat the global corporations like Gods, but encourages people to be aspirational.

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Formed in 2013 CAA are David.B (Vocals, Programming, Keys, Producing), Paul McCrudden (Bass, Guitar, Keys), and J Browning (Guitar). They released their debut album Post Modern Conspiracy in 2013, their second album, Anti-Social Network was released in 2016. New album ‘Resist’ is released on Friday 5th June, where did you record it ?  We recorded it in the studio in my house, we spent around 3,000 hours making it, we’d be in hock for the rest of our lives if we’d gone outside to write and record it. We are very happy with it, every album we make we learn from the mistakes on the previous one, and hopefully improve.

What inspires you to write songs ? By watching the news and social media, I am a bit obsessive over politics, and find the empowerment of the far right and nationalists abhorrent, this is what inspires my lyrics.

What is the impact of the Coronavirus on the CAA plans ? It’s actually blown our plans totally out of the water. We are just going to play it by ear for the time being, and see how the singles and album go before making a decision. When people are dying, whether or not you are playing live shows really doesn’t matter.

As well as features on radio stations worldwide, the electro punks played festivals Kendal Calling, Guilfest, Beautiful Days, and opened for bands like Pop Will Eat Itself. Have you gained a following ? Yes, but when you consider the music we make, it’s quite a small pond to be a fairly popular fish in. We definitely haven’t crossed over to the mainstream yet, though that isn’t on our radar, we just enjoy making what we consider to be good tunes.

New single ‘Give Them a Leader’ out now via Supersonic Media.

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Contact Calling All Astronauts:

Facebook www.facebook.com/callingallastronauts

Twitter www.twitter.com/caa_official

Spotify  https://open.spotify.com/artist/0xqglBsPF9COYj64LNl85t

Youtube www.youtube.com/callingallastronauts

Interview by Gary Alikivi  March 2020.

 

THE KING, THE QUEEN & THE PUNK

1977 saw three big events happen in the small seaside town of South Shields in the North East of England. The boxer Muhammad Ali had his wedding blessed, the Queen visited on her Royal Silver Jubilee and three lads from a working class housing estate formed a punk band, the Angelic Upstarts – where else would you see these in a film together ?

Usually there’s a story behind why I made the film, how did I come across these events and put them together ? The answer is I can’t remember. Just before this I made Designs for Life, a documentary about tattoo’s – did I come across the story then ? Usually there’s a spark and I write a few notes on planning the film – but the only thing I remember is I didn’t work too much on it, some projects take a lot of digging around, numerous scripts are written, but on this one each contact lead to another making the process easier. Maybe I’ll remember more by the next post.

This blog features stories and soundbites from contributors to the documentary made in 2013. The short film was narrated by Alistair Robinson, music from The Panic Report and the Dipsomaniacs, with excellent photographs by South Shields photographer Freddie Mudditt (Fietscher Fotos) and Derek Cajiao.

Start.

Narration: 1977 was an extraordinary year of royalty and revolution. It was the storm that followed the calm. We’d had the long hot summer of ’76 and the high water mark of disco and glam rock.

Trevor Cajiao: The glam thing happened when I was 12/13 year old and I loved all that stuff Slade, Sweet and Mud.

Neil Newton: I remember Wizzard coming on and the bloke with the big hair his face all painted and being mesmerized by that.

Narration: Many 1970’s teenagers were enjoying their first live gigs from such established and diverse acts as Chuck Berry and Black Sabbath.

Richard Barber: My first gig was February 1977 I went to see Black Sabbath at Newcastle City Hall on the Technical Ecstasy tour. We were second row from the back and as soon as Ozzy came on he went ‘Everyone go fuckin’ wild’ and everyone piled down the front. One kid had a big wooden cross and that just got chucked somewhere.

Trevor Cajiao: When I heard rock n roll that’s what I realised that I wanted to get into. I saw Chuck Berry at the City Hall in 1976, it was fantastic, blew me away.

Narration: 1977 was a sad time for fans of Marc Bolan and Elvis Presley. Both stars died young.

Colin Smoult: The death of Elvis was a big impact on everybody, even if you were into Elvis or not because he was such an iconic figure.

Neil Newton: My mam was a big fan of Elvis I remember the day he died it didn’t really have much of an impact on us cos I wasn’t particularly a fan – but he had some canny tunes.

Narration: In the North East we saw a visit from the American president Jimmy Carter and in the same year the Queen came to South Shields on Friday 15th July as part of her Silver Jubilee. The very next day a King came to town.

Derek Cajiao: I’d been given a camera for my birthday I hadn’t had much experience using the camera but I went down to take some photographs and I managed to catch Ali as he passed the fairground and the Sea Hotel. I got some great shots of him on the bus and it was fairly apparent he was playing the crowd, pointing at people, threatening to jump out of the bus and chin somebody, really working the crowd.

Pat Robinson: (Her husband Sepp Robinson was Mayor). We were on the top of the bus and at one point it rained so at one of the pubs we passed I said to my husband go and get a bottle of whisky, we passed it round cos we were so cold and wet, at least it warmed us through for a few minutes. Muhammad Ali’s wedding was blessed and we all went to the mosque and these incredibly beautiful people arrived, they were both stunning and dressed in white. Afterwards we went to Gosforth Park for a fantastic lunch and right through the two days when the cameras were on Ali turned on the big lip but when he wasn’t doing that he was a sensitive, pleasant, attentive man. He was absolutely charming.

Narration: But away from the glamour and celebrity a sense of frustration was taking hold. The soundtrack was one of anger, the future seemed bleak and the music was reflecting that.

Colin Smoult: I think the music change in 1977 was down to the blandness being presented in the charts, novelty singles, very middle of the road stuff. Bands appearing on Top of the Pops that were no better than a cabaret act. There was no wonder that the punk revolution came along.

Neil Newton: When punk came along I was much more aware of it because it was so direct.

Trevor Cajiao: A lot of people were saying the whole punk thing was like the rock n roll of the ‘50s as it was a rebellious type of thing but as a kid I didn’t understand that because I was just using my ears and The Clash don’t sound like the Johnny Burnett Trio, but in hindsight what they were getting at was the actual energy, the guitar music, rebelling against stuff.

Narration: In South Shields three friends from the Brockley Whins Estate started a punk band The Angelic Upstarts and little did they know where it would lead them.

Mensi: The nucleus of the band really was me, Decca and Mond.

Mond: We had known each other since we were kids, we used to hang around the shops at Brockley Whins.

Decca: They said here Decca we’re forming a band and you’re gonna be the drummer.

Mond: We found you can hire the Bolingbroke Hall and we used to get about 300 people in.

Decca: I think that’s when we started to take it serious, we all got our heads together. I mean Mensi was a prolific song writer.

Mensi: I just write about what’s happening around us.

Decca: He came out with Murder of Liddle Towers, the song that made us famous. Next you know you’re on Top of the Pops and the rest is history.

Narration: The end of the 1970’s saw people looking forward to a new decade. Would we ever see a year like 1977 again.

Closing music & credits.

 DVD’s of The King, The Queen & The Punk (25 mins 2013) are available, along with other South Tyneside documentaries, to buy from The Word and South Shields Museum or watch the edited version on the Alikivi You Tube channel.

Gary Alikivi   February 2020.

 

 

SANTAS BIGGER BAG O’SWAG

If yer lookin’ for a Christmas present to buy why not take a butchers at these goodies that have appeared on the blog this year. 2019 has seen nearly 100 musicians interviewed and also featured authors and artists….

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On ‘Live & Acoustic’, Blues Siren Emma Wilson sings 4 favourites from her live set plus her original blues break up song ‘Wish Her Well’. With guitar accompaniment from Al Harrington, Emma’s raw and dynamic vocals shine through ‘I used to sing sweeter soul style but learned and developed a big voice. It was get big or get off’. The 5 track EP reached no.12 in the Independent Blues Broadcasters charts and received rave reviews from Blues Matters magazine and several American Blues stations.

For a hard copy on CD email Emma at  emmawilsonbluesband@gmail.com or contact the official website : www.emmawilson.net or via Facebook.

bloody well everything icon bandcamp

Gary Miller from folk rockers The Whisky Priests….‘Leaving school in the mid-80’s, being in a band meant having a voice and a sense of hope and purpose during the dark era of Thatcherism. So, The Whisky Priests kind of evolved out of that and initially became a vehicle for expressing all my frustrations and passion at that time’. Get yer copy of Whisky Priests – ‘Bloody Well Everything’ 12-disc CD Box Set contact: https://whiskypriests.bandcamp.com/merch/chistmas-2019-offer-bloody-well-everything-limited-edition-box-set-only-300-numbered-copies-free-tour-t-shirt

THOMPSON

The Steve Thompson band recorded an album earlier this year…’The Long Fade really is my life’s work. After 50 years of being a backroom boy writing songs for other people I finally recorded them in my own name with a fantastic group of musicians and singers. Making the album was a fantastic adventure with lots of laughs with old friends’. You can download and stream links at http://www.thelongfade.xyx

Gary Alikivi December 2019.

EYES WIDE OPEN – in conversation with photographer Rik Walton

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The only time I had a press pass was when David Bowie was on and only 6 were given out. When Paul McCartney came to the hall, I was a big fan, I phoned up his press agent and he was great, ‘See you at the stage door 7.30pm’ he said. But anxiously I turned up 2 hours early and his press agent was really nice and let me in. I spent the next hour and a half in the dressing room with Paul and Linda McCartney, Henry McCulloch and Denny Laine. I used up all my film in the dressing room. Looking back I made very little money photographing bands at Newcastle City Hall, but I did get in for free (laughs).

How did you get interested in music ? I saw Bob Dylan in 1965 in the City Hall when they filmed Don’t Look Now and a year later at Newcastle Odeon on his electric tour. A friend of mine’s father was manager of the Odeon. One day he said we have this actor coming over from USA promoting his second film and I don’t know what to do with him, can you take him to a pub. So we did and we took Clint Eastwood to The Lord Crewe in Blanchland. He was a lovely man and was quite worried about the level of violence in the two movies – A Fistful of Dollars and A Few Dollars More.

You were involved in the earliest photo sessions with the Tygers of Pan Tang, how did that come about ? I was involved in a show called Bedrock at Radio Newcastle. Back then the radio shut down at 10pm so Dick Godfrey, local journalist, got a remit to play local bands and interviews. It would go on for hours. The team was Arthur Brown, Ian Penman, myself and Tom Noble who was manager of Tygers of Pan Tang. We took some of the earliest photograph’s of the band at Whitley Bay. I went to Reading rock festival with them, I was their driver and we stayed in the Mount Pleasant Hotel or as it become known the Unpleasant.

Did you get on well with the bands or did any of them give you any grief ? I photographed bands over a long time and I never became really friendly, I wanted to be the fly on the wall. To become too friendly made my job more difficult in a way. I started 2 magazines and done a lot of interviews backstage at Newcastle City Hall with some ‘famous’ people and early on I realised you don’t gush or pretend to be their best mate. Looking back Captain Beefheart was a really interesting guy and a good interview and to my surprise when I next met him he picked up the conversation from before, that was very interesting.

I was asked to photograph the Newcastle Jazz festival then started working for Folkworks so the music really changed for me – rock to jazz to folk. I got to know Sting through photographing the big band in the early 70’s. I lived in Jesmond and across the road lived Andy Hudson, conductor of the Newcastle Jazz Big Band. I photographed them in The Guildhall during the first Newcastle Jazz Festival. They used the photo for the cover of their album. I then went onto photograph Stings band, Last Exit and of course The Police.

Motorhead were playing in Newcastle, can’t remember where, but I was going to take some photographs of the soundcheck and I walked into the place and Lemmy was having a meltdown on the stage, a real strop about something. I wasn’t sure what it was about but I got out there quickly.

The first time I cried at a rock concert was when I heard Peter Gabriel sing ‘Biko’ for the first time. A couple of years later I went along with journalist Phil Sutcliffe on a Gabriel tour for a few days doing an in depth story about him for Sounds. I remember playing croquet with Peter at 1am outside our hotel, being a public schoolboy he carried a croquet set around with him on tour. He was a very nice guy I found him very shy compared to his on stage persona. I did get to know him but always keeping a slight distance.

How did you get access to take photographs front row in Newcastle City Hall ? One of the first bands I took photos of was Downtown Faction who were playing in the Polytechnic. Then a few year later I fell in with a guy called Joe Robertson. Joe was an entrepreneur with an office in Handyside Arcade. He opened bars in Newcastle and was very much the man ‘in the know’. He’d seen my photos and one day said ‘I’m going to go into pirate pop posters I will give you £10 for each picture I use and here’s a ticket for the Rolling Stones in 1972’.

So I went on the night but my seat was right at the back so I went to the front and asked the stewards if I could take pictures there and they said fine. So for the next 12 years I never paid to get into the City Hall and most times got in by the stage door as the stewards got to know me. When a punk band was on they even made a cordon around me to stop me getting pogo’d to death.

You worked on some great early photographs of North East bands. Can you remember the sessions with Venom, Raven, Angelic Upstarts or Penetration ? Yes the Venom session was arranged through Dave Wood at Neat records. We went around the back of Neat where there was some wasteland. One of them had white make up and was putting it on as it started to rain so it was just dripping down his face. We hid under a bush until it stopped.

The Upstarts were doing a gig in Tynemouth and Phil Sutcliffe from Sounds was doing an interview with the band. Their manager, who had a fearsome reputation, came up to me and said very calmly ‘Rik, I like you, and I want you to know that if you have any problems me and the lads will sort it out’. I felt that he’d be true to his word.

I photographed Raven just around the corner from here (we’re in Newcastle City Library) at Spectro Arts. That is where they rehearsed I think, I can’t remember taking any live shots of them. Again like a lot of the bands they were nice lads and through Neat records I would get passed from one band to another but always retaining a distance to let them get on and do what they do.

For my entire professional life I’ve been zooming in on things and sometimes you can take away the atmosphere, you might get a great shot of someone in action but miss some surroundings. I got a great shot of Pauline Murray and Penetration, on stage kneeling down surrounded by some punk lads, great shot. Bizarrely before I moved to Canada 2 years ago (one of) the last things I did was to photograph Penetration for the first time in 37 years.

What got you started in photography ? After I left school I worked on a building site as a plumber, I really wanted to be an airline pilot but for various reasons that never worked out either. My grandfather and father were interested in photography and when my father died, I was only 13, one of the things he left me was a camera. I started taking photos and my then girlfriend’s father was a chemist so I got free developing and printing. She also knew of a Visual Communications course at Sunderland College of Art so I went on that. From that experience I learnt the language needed for design, typography and photography.

At this time I worked alongside another photographer, Ian Dixon, on the Newcastle Festival in 1972. That’s pretty much how it started and then I got a job as photography technician at the polytechnic where I stayed until 1988. Teaching came into it at the college after then and I really enjoyed it.

I worked as photographer at The Newcastle University Theatre, now called Northern Stage, for 15 years photographing the dress rehearsals and getting the prints on the wall for opening night. I realised then that my job was to be in front of the stage recording what was happening. The only person who ruined that was Bob Geldof. I was photographing The Boomtown Rats in the City Hall and you might remember they done a song called Photograph where they grab someone from the audience and pull them onstage – guess who they grabbed! I was hauled up on stage where I froze. That’s when I realised my place is down there and they do their stuff up here.

Were there any photograph sessions that turned into a nightmare ? No because with music photography there was never any pressure on me, I got in free at the City hall and I enjoyed doing it. Nothing unpleasant from the bands in fact it was The Beach Boys who taught me to frisbee in the Newcastle City Hall. I was there to interview Mike Love for Out Now, a magazine I helped to start. But to my questions I only got 5 yes’s and 2 no’s because the questions were too long and basically contained the answer.

Has photography given you anything unexpected ? I was in the West Bank in Palestine 3 years ago teaching photography in a refugee camp. Freedom Theatre company runs video, photography and theatre courses, it’s to take people away from the things that are happening around them, and to give them useable skills. The founder was a lovely man, he was a half Arab half Jewish guy that wanted to give people an alternative to what was happening around them. Sadly he was murdered outside the theatre.

Everyday going to work I had to walk across the ground were he was killed. That gives you a profound sense of where you are and who you are. I learnt an enormous amount when I was there and it was an amazing experience, would love to go back.

You know Gary there was no plan, it’s just been a series of bumping into things and one thing leading to another. You can hit a groove you know. I started taking photographs of musicians because I loved music. I didn’t go in thinking I would have a career as a photographer.

For further information contact the official website:    http://www.rikwalton.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi  October 2019.

 

BURNING ON THE INSIDE with Bill Newton former guitarist of ‘80s post punk band SILENT SCREAM

Silent Scream were very much influenced by what was going on around us. There was so much fantastic music in the late 70’s and early 80’s: punk, post-punk, new wave, futurism, new romanticism, Bowie’s Berlin stuff and really fresh sounding early hip-hop and disco-pop such as Grandmaster Flash and Was (Not Was).

We all loved bands like The Only Ones, The Scars, Psychedelic Furs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Wah! Heat, Japan and The Associates.

Silent Scream were alive between ‘80-82. The line up was Stephen ‘Stesh’ Miller (vocals) Steve Newton (bass) Steve Bell (drums 80-81) Bobby Greenland (drums 81-82) and Bill Newton (guitar)…..

There was a vibrant music scene in Newcastle during the early 80’s with some excellent bands, like Deda, Rival Savages and Treatment Room. I’m surprised things didn’t explode like it did in Manchester and Liverpool. Silent Scream did attract quite a following as we were very much part of the developing new romantic/futurist scene. People came to see us to hang out, pose and be seen. The audience were an intrinsic part of the movement and were as important as the bands at that time.

When did you start gigging ? Around 1980 I had been playing guitar in a band with my brother, Steve on bass, and a friend from school, Steve Bell on drums. I met Stesh at a Chelsea punk gig in Newcastle and decided to form a band there and then.

I remember that Silent Scream had this idea of wanting to be elusive and mysterious so we only played a small handful of gigs between ‘80-81. We played our debut at Newcastle University and I’m ashamed to admit I don’t remember much about this apart from being really nervous. Bauhaus had just played a storming gig at the same venue and I remember thinking, ‘How the f*** are we supposed to follow that?’

We played The Cooperage, where we were awful, Balmbras in The Bigg Market, Newcastle, twice where we were pretty good, and Rumours in Sunderland which I thought was our best gig mainly due to a sterling performance by Steve Bell on drums.

We also traveled to London to play at the renowned Moonlight Club in Hampstead as part of a showcase of North East bands. We shared the bill with Zap! and Red Performance. Stesh was sadly lost to us some years ago. He was such a creative talent. He could turn his hand to anything and was acclaimed as an influential DJ in Newcastle after Silent Scream split up. There was also talk of us supporting The Psychedelic Furs at Newcastle Mayfair on their 1980 album tour but unfortunately this fell through.

Who were your influences in music ? Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ?  Seeing Bowie perform ‘Starman’ on Top of the Pops in 1972 made me want to be a musician. I’d been playing guitar pretty badly from the age of 13. Punk exploded when I was 15 and gave me that DIY ‘you-don’t-need-to-be-Carlos Santana’ confidence to explore the guitar with a different mind set.

I was massively influenced by the spiky, staccato energies of John McGeoch, Keith Levene, Will Sergeant, Wire, Gang of Four etc. Hearing Magazine’sShot By Both Sides’ in 1978 was a pretty defining moment, and my favorite album of all time is ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’.

Did the band have a manager ? We were managed by Dave Baird who was a guiding influence. He arranged gigs, studio time, photo shoots etc. Dave is still in the business today producing new music.

What were your experiences of recording ? Silent Scream recorded two demos. The first at Impulse Studios in Wallsend in 1980 with Steve Bell on drums. The cost of this would have been laughably cheap by today’s standards and we were so young and naïve. I don’t think we really knew what we were doing or how to get the most out of the experience.

Stesh had already recorded a marvelous single, ‘I Don’t Wanna Know’, with his previous band, The Voice Of The Puppets so he had a bit of savvy. He was also a little bit older than the rest of us so we looked up to him.

The track list of the first demo was Deadline, Fate, All the Promise, Thin Ice, Trapped and Pantomime. Copies have mysteriously disappeared over the years and I haven’t heard it  in ages. Maybe someone reading this will have a copy.

Our second demo was recorded at Guardian Studios in Pity Me, County Durham over two days in October 1981 with Terry Gavaghan as producer. Bobby was drumming at this point and three songs were recorded. This became known simply as ‘EP’. The tracks are: The Maze, Drown and Join Together.

Did you get any press or appear on radio ? Our recorded material and gigs were well reviewed in the local press and I remember we featured in an early edition of i-D magazine. The demo was sent to various labels and was picked up by The Shadows guitarist, Bruce Welch, who loved our sound. We also had interest from various record labels. Unfortunately, before we could even negotiate any kind of deal we had split up.

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ?  I am writing and recording under the name Psykobilly and have recorded a number of songs at Smiley Barnard’s Sunshine Corner Studios. The man himself plays drums, bass and produces. Smiley is, among others, ex-Joe Strummers Mescaleros and is currently drumming with The Alarm and Archive. I’ve released a single ‘Leave It All Behind’ and a low key, lo-fi EP ‘Social Media Influenza’ on all major digital platforms. I’m releasing my first album, with a working title of ‘Black Candle’ in early 2020.

It’s taken a long time for me to do this on my own as I don’t have much confidence in my singing voice and have produced, mixed and engineered over half of the album independently, learning on the go really. I try to write in a way that doesn’t make me easily pigeonholed or categorized. It’s broadly dark pop, but a mix of ballads, rock ‘n roll and ‘80s influenced synth pop.

I’m lucky to have the very talented Trevor Johnson working with me. Trevor has produced official videos for the songs and we like to think of our project as a way of marrying sound and image in a deeper, kind of dark cinematic style. Trevor is influenced by the Situationist movement. His visuals are an important part of my work as they bring new and challenging perspectives to the soundscape.

You can watch all of the official Silent Scream and available Psykobilly videos on You Tube. French label, The Evil Has Landed, is in the process of releasing the Silent Scream EP on vinyl although I think copies might be pretty rare. Worth checking on Discogs. The demo is also available digitally on Bandcamp

The first track on the EP, ’The Maze’, is going to be included on the marvellous compilation album series ‘Killed By Deathrock Vol. 3’ on the Sacred Bones label based in New York, USA.

There has always been an appetite for lost, hard to find and enigmatic stuff that came out in the post-punk explosion, way before the invention of smartphones and social media. The EP is pretty widely available on various YouTube channels and has almost 10,000 views.

These days of course, everything is captured and can be stored for posterity. But in 1981 it was a different story. Thank God photos and footage were taken and kept, and good people like yourself Gary are archiving some of these independent treasures from almost 40 years ago.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  October 2019.

GROUND ZERO – in conversation with Bri Smith & Bob Rowland from Tyneside punks THE FAUVES

The Ground Zero for Punk on Tyneside was 1977. For many kids there was no work, no hope and no future as the Queen drove by celebrating her Silver Jubilee. The only highlight that summer was when the King came to town – Muhammed Ali had his wedding blessed. But on one notorious night at the Civic Hall in Jarrow, a major turf war descended into chaos. It was a night that changed lives.

Out of the ashes came a band that signified all the anger and frustration on Tyneside. We know the story of the main protagonists, the Angelic Upstarts went on to Top of the Pops, gigs in New York and notoriety. But what happened to the others who were on stage that night ? First we need to go back and find out who lit the fuse of punk. On the east coast of USA the sound of raw guitar driven rock n roll was making a noise, and the UK was listening.……

Bri: It all seemed to happen so quickly. After listening to rock music in the early 70s Hodge, an old school mate introduced me to The Stooges, MC5, Ramones etc That stuff knocked me out. Hodge, who was learning to play guitar, was down London when the punk scene kicked off. He came back to Shields and told us about this punk thing happening down there with bands like the Pistols, Damned and The Clash. Another school mate Ski invited me round to his house to listen to the Pistols single ‘Anarchy in the UK’. It was so good we played it 10 times. Ski knew I had a bass, he had some drums, so we had an idea to start a band

One Friday night we met in the Mermaids Tale a pub in Shields, Mensi was always in there and we had a good bit crack with him about the punk scene that was kickin’ off. We arranged to go to Seaburn Hall near Sunderland to see The Jam. They were absolutely brilliant. Then we saw The Clash on the White Riot tour those two bands really influenced us. We saw lots of other bands around that time but those two stood out. So that was it, we all said ‘Let’s get this band together’. Hodge called the band the Upstarts and Mensi added the Angelic bit.

(The Jam played the Seaburn Hall on 17th June 1977, £1.00 entry. Price for act was £670. Vibrators & Penetration played 1st July £1.00 entry and on the bill for 8th July were The Saints & Straw Dogs £1.00 entry. Taken from the excellent book ‘A Promoters Tale – Rock at the Sharp End’ by Geoff Docherty with a forward by John Peel).

Bri: There was a DJ from Shields called Billy Cooper and he used to run disco’s around the town. He had a disco at Jarra’ Civic Hall and arranged for us to play our first gig there. A week beforehand some of the band and friends checked out the venue to see what gear was needed but when the lads got to the hall a gang attacked them. Next day The Shields Gazette reported that our mate Skin Brown had to get four stitches above his eye. At first we thought about calling it off but we said stuff it, and went ahead with the gig.

Bob: It was reported that they were attacked cos the way they dressed. What people forget is at that time if you walked around dressed like a punk you got filled in. If you had straight drainpipe pants and short spikey hair you got a strange look.

Bri: On the night of the gig the place was packed – you could say there was a bit of an atmosphere when we arrived. It was the Angelic Upstarts first and only gig with the line-up of Tommy Mensforth up front, Col Hodgson and Mond Cowie on guitars, Leon Slawinski on drums, John Halliday on sax and me on bass. You couldn’t hear the sax much that night but I can remember Hal wearing a white boiler suit. The place was packed full of Jarra lads we also brought a big squad up from Shields.

During our set Skin Brown turned Hodge’s guitar up really loud so Mond pulled his lead out and Hodge walked off stage. Then the fighting broke out. It ended up a riot because of the previous trouble. I spotted me mate Kev Charlton in the audience and pulled him out. We got most of the Shields lads backstage cos they were getting battered off the Jarra’s. It looked like they had it all planned. Next day word got round and the whole night and band became more notorious with the punk and violence thing. We weren’t asked back.

After that gig Mensi and Mond went down a different path, got signed to big record labels and lived in London. Our band The Fauves were formed and we played mostly in the North East but were finished around 81. Nowadays Hal lives in Los Angeles he’s a top film producer and Ski lives in Spain, he’s an electrical engineer.

Who were your early influences in music ?

Bob: We knew each other from the shipyards, we were apprentices together. I had been playing in other bands for a few years so it was good to hear Bri was in a band looking to do something. By then I’d heard the Damned and The Clash and thought they were amazing. It changed peoples consciousness of you didn’t have to sit and play in your bedroom for four years until you were a virtuoso. It’s a cliché but put three chords together and make a band, then it is all about getting the confidence to put a band together.

Bri:  I was into the rock scene but the Stooges, Ramones, Clash etc really influenced me in the early days. Kev Charlton (Hellanbach/Bessie & the Zinc Buckets) was living next door. I was always buying records Kev was never away from the door ‘Can I borrow this, can I borrow that’ ya knaa. Then when I got a bass he was around again, knocking on my door ‘Right I’m getting one of them’ (laughs). We used to blast out records and play guitars in my bedroom. This was maybe around ‘75 or ‘76 just before the punk scene. We had a great time when we were young ‘un’s, listening to music constantly. Kev’s not a bad bass player now, he’s left me for dead hasn’t he (laughs).

In the early days where did the Upstarts rehearse ?

Bri: We started rehearsing at The Dougie Vaults in Shields, we got chucked out so we went to the West Park pub and they chucked us out as well. This was a time when people didn’t want anything to do with punk you know, we ended up rehearsing in Percy Hudson Youth Club. In the early days Hal (John Halliday) and Mensi wrote most of the lyrics and everyone mucked in with the riffs. Hodge (Col Hodgson) was struggling a bit on guitar so Mensi brought Mond Cowie in. That’s when we started rehearsing a few times a week.

The Jarrow gig caused a split in the band. Who went with who ?

Bri: After the gig Hodge was a bit pissed off and wanted out. I was good friends with Ski and Hodge so stayed with them and we called ourselves The Fauves. Mensi and Mond went their way, got Micky Burns in on bass and Decka Wade in on drums. There were no hard feelings and we all remained friends. Sadly Hodge died last year and Mensi said if it wasn’t for Hodge there wouldn’t have been any Upstarts. Which was good to hear him say that and remember Hodge.

After the Jarra Civic Hall gig the Upstarts started gigging regularly around the North East and at Bolingbroke Hall in South Shields where we were lined up to support them. We couldn’t find a good guitarist so we got a hippy lad called Micky Carr to help us out. Micky had long hair so to hide it we put a bathing cap on him (laughs). But in the end we were pulled from the gig. To this day I don’t know why.

I left the band for a while and two lads from Newcastle came in, and eventually supported the Upstarts at Bolingbroke Hall and the pigs head made it’s appearance. (See previous interview with Angelic Upstarts, ‘The Butchers of Bolingbroke June 1st 2017)

Did The Fauves have a manager to arrange gigs?

Bob: Nah we didn’t even have a van. We used to pile our gear in a car. When the Upstarts left for London and got signed there was a vacuum left in Shields. People came to see us and we built up a bit of a following. We had a rehearsal place in the upstairs of The Neptune Hotel in Shields. It’s not there now but it was a massive pub and we used to put on gigs downstairs. It was great that the manageress let us have the run of those rooms.

Bri: We used to play a lot then and get support bands in. One of the bands said The Neptune was the worst place they had ever played. One guitarist told me he went to plug his amp into the wall and it still had like an old fashioned coil connection, he had to sort out an extension cos it was that old (laughs).

Bob: I remember we decided to play our own gig at Boldon Lane Community Centre in Shields. We booked the hall, hired p.a, got a support band, posters, the lot. We were amazed when hundred’s turned up.

Bri: We were playing regular gigs around ‘79 and used to contact Gary Bushell at Sounds newspaper and he printed some good stories about the band. He helped us out a lot. Then we started to play the Gosforth Hotel in Newcastle. A small punk scene was starting to happen up there.

Bob: We also became mates with a label in Newcastle called Anti-Pop who promoted gigs and made a few singles. We supported Arthur 2 Stroke and The Noise Toys up there. One Saturday afternoon we played a great gig at The Casablanca in Newcastle. There was three bands on, it used to attract quite a crowd ya’ kna’. Inside it was done out with wicker chairs, palm trees, ceiling mounted fans and a picture of Humphrey Bogart on the wall.

Bri: Yeah it was a great gig, really popular, but we didn’t know it was a gay club (laughs).

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Did The Fauves go in the studio ?

Bob: We always planned to do some cos it was the days of do it yourself. But we didn’t really have the money for it. Studios were expensive then. It’s one of my main regret’s that we didn’t record anything from that time.

Bri: We booked a session at Impulse Studio in Wallsend for a Monday and we picked two songs we were going to put out on a single. We went to our last rehearsal on the Saturday night and it ended up in a big argument.

What was that over ?

Bri: Nothing really.

Bob: We were just kids.

Bri: It was like ‘Hey we’ve got to get this right we’re in the studio Monda’.

Bob: I think it was a bit of frustration at the lack of getting nowhere. We weren’t making progress. We wanted to get signed and move on.

Bri: I remember going outside with Abbo, who was singer then, and just saying ‘Hey this isn’t working is it’. We drove home that night, you could hear a pin drop no one spoke a word.

That night in total silence the band left their rehearsal room under the railway arches in Newcastle. Next day a phone call was made to Impulse Studio cancelling the session. But Bri remembers a recording……

Bri: There was a reel to reel three track demo that was made at Impulse Studio. I think it was Hodge or Ski who took hold of it and tried to get some tapes made but it disappeared. There’s also a Newcastle radio interview hosted by music journalist Phil Sutcliffe, that’s also gone so we’d love to hear them again if anyone can help.

Bob: The band had just about folded by ’81 and to be fair me and Bri did go on to play and record in many other bands but The Fauves was the best band we played in. We were always disappointed that we never recorded anything with The Fauves so when we got together again 3 years ago I had in mind to record half a dozen original tracks that we done years ago. It went really well so we thought can we put enough material together to make an album. Subsequently we’ve made 2 albums and an ep since then. We recorded tracks at The Garage Studio in South Shields and the engineer Kyle worked with us to get the sounds we were thinking off.

Bri: Most of the songs off ‘Back Off World’ were written between  1978-81. There is a couple of new tracks and theres been a few line-up changes over the years but we think it has come out really well.

Bob: We’ve played some canny gigs lately and to be fair it’s probably been more enjoyable than first time around. We have a few gigs lined up with the new line up of

Mick Smith (vocals) Allen Hughes (guitar) Bri Smith (bass) &

Bob Rowland (drums).

The first one in Newcastle at Trillians on 11th November, then The Wheatsheaf, Sunderland 23rd November and the Philadelphia Club, Houghton le Spring 14th December.

For further info, gig dates, cd releases contact   https://thefauves.wordpress.com/

or via Facebook at  The Fauves punk band

Interview by Gary Alikivi  September 2019