AUTOLEISURELAND – new album by ex-Kane Gang duo

Paul Woods & David Brewis

Autoleisureland is the new project by former Kane Gang members Dave Brewis and Paul Woods.

The Kane Gang, with Martin Brammer completing the line-up, formed in the former coal mining town of Seaham on the North East coast in 1982, and signed to Kitchenware Records.

The pop soul band notched up several UK and USA hits including Respect Yourself, Closest Thing to Heaven and Gun Law.

I asked Dave and Paul how did the project come about ?

PW: It started a few years ago when Dave was working on his instrumental album.

Every week before we popped out for a pint he’d drop off a new mix or new track. I really liked them and started on lyrics to turn them into songs. It snowballed and I started giving him lyrics and ideas for new ones.

DB: Paul and myself have remained in touch and seen each other regularly over the years since the Kane Gang was active. When I quit lecturing at Gateshead College I was still doing session gigs, but fancied writing again.

I recorded a set of tunes, and Paul thought he would write lyrics, so that got the ball rolling. Before long we were full on writing and recording, something we always enjoyed. So we thought we’d name ourselves and start a band project.

PW: Eventually we came up with the song Autoleisureland and that was the catalyst for the sound we were going for in our heads. Sort of all of our influences coming together.

After that we were off and running. I’ve never enjoyed working on something so much.

Have you a best time for song writing ?

DB: Definitely not in the mornings. A few days a week we work two to three hours at a time in the afternoon on recording.

After that length of time we lose our judgement so we stop, but evenings are when we usually write and that is done separately. Then we exchange ideas and continue. It’s quite efficient as we usually know what we are after. But it can take time.

PW: I tend to have the best ideas at night for hook lines, titles and choruses. Sometimes when I’m listening to some other music and I mishear the lyrics, it sets me on a different train of thought. The rest of the daytime is used for the mundane lengthy task of actually finishing it.

Autoleisureland album released 25 November 2022.

What do you consider for the final running order of the songs on the new album ?

PW: We had a number of catchy songs that kept going, all rather upbeat and positive and we didn’t want to break the mood. So, we didn’t really want a slow number until about the seventh track in.

DB: We start with something upbeat that is representative of the album – Autoleisureland, then try to run four or five strong bangers in a row. Pop in a slow one then kick off again.

We have a few reflective ones but we finish this album with the title track Infiniti Drive, as it bookends with the first track Autoleisureland.

Do conversations ever turn to ‘remember in the ‘80s when this happened’ ?

DB: Yes sometimes. The odd daft thing that happened with taxis, airports, interviews. For me, thinking back to studio work mainly. That was very enjoyable, I think we preferred that side of it.

PW: The Kane Gang was and is a big part of our lives so it’s natural we have some thoughts about it. Obviously, the older you get, the less you remember.

For instance, a few weeks ago a thought came to me and I asked Dave, ‘were we on Soul Train?’. All of a sudden I had a flashback of the dancers and the show’s set. We performed Motortown.

However, on its official website it says we were never on. They mustn’t have used it, I guess.

What does music mean to you ?

DB: Music is a part of my life. I feel somewhat frustrated if I haven’t played or written something for a while. We can create and shape something out of nothing that entertains and feels worthwhile. 

PW: This is difficult. For Dave, I believe it’s simpler. He’s a musician. That’s what he studied for, that’s what he practised for, that’s what he does, that’s who he is. He doesn’t think about it. And then there’s me.

When it comes to music I’ve always had imposter syndrome. Never believing I’m good enough to sing, write, record. All the time I was in The Kane Gang I was plagued by that.

It was only until this latest project that I thought, ‘yeah this IS what I do, and I’m going to keep doing it’, so I apologise in advance.

What are your hopes for the new album ?

PW: Who knows anymore. I’m just pleased it’s done, out, finished. I’m prouder of this than anything I’ve done. So I’m pleased it’s out, people can hear it and then we can get more stuff out and even more recorded.

DB: We hope we can reach a lot of people who like this style of music, worldwide. Obviously some Kane Gang fans, but also the people who listen to our contemporaries like Tears for Fears, China Crisis, Prefab Sprout.

And people who like some of the more interesting newer bands. It’s good to try to be fresh but ultimately do what you do.

Autoleisureland is released on 25th November 2022 on all digital streaming and download platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube & Bandcamp.

Alikivi    November 2022

RHYTHM KINGS part two with Bob Porteous & Dave Robson from ‘70s Newcastle band FOGG.

Bob and Dave ‘Can you remember the time when…’

Part one of the interview featured stories of gigs in working men’s clubs and recording in Abbey Road, in this second part Bob and Dave remember more shenanigans in ‘70s band Fogg.

At the time Tyne Tees TV were building a team to produce music shows resulting in the ground breaking Tube exploding on our tv screens in November 1982, but before The Tube was a programme called Geordie Scene.

Dave: We were on the Geordie Scene a few times. One time we were on with the band Geordie, Brian Johnson (AC/DC) was their singer. On the last song both bands got up and jammed on Blue Suede Shoes, we were the daaarlings of the North East scene (laughs). There was a party afterwards, it was great, both bands got on really well.

Bob: Yes, we did a few shows. Heidi Esser from EMI Electrola flew us out to Cologne to do a TV show and we stayed in a beautiful hotel all expenses paid. Boney M and Gilbert O Sullivan were on the bill too.

After the show we wanted a drink but like most bands we didn’t have any money. However there was a mini bar in our room which we’d been told was off limits. Chris and me looked at each other and said well just the one! 

I’m ashamed to say that we disgraced ourselves by drinking it dry by 4am. I was told that it cost a fortune. Apologies to Heidi and EMI. It’s no excuse but we were just young lads and were very very thirsty!

Bob: The excellent Vaingloriousuk site does have many of our TV performances on video. (link below)

Mind the result of a little known FOGG/Geordie football match is still a sore point for us. Tom Hill, Geordie bass player ‘It’ll just be a quiet kickabout’. Aye that’ll be right Tom. (laughs)

Dave: Geordie were signed to Red Bus Records. I’ve got three songs on a Geordie album, and never had a penny. But that’s the music business.

Bob: Thinking back about that we were lucky to have John Reed and Derek McCormick on our team, they were dead straight with us. In fact they still look out for us. The re-release of the album This is it is their project.

How did the re-release of the album come about ?

Bob: Over the years John Reed stayed in touch with Mike Heatley at EMI who had worked on the initial This is it release and was a huge fan of Fogg. Cut to the present day and the new CEO at Warners music is Mike’s friend and ex colleague.

Our manager Derek McCormick has been beavering away on the legal side whilst John and Mike discussed a digital release with Warners. Success – what a team.

Guitarist & songwriter Dek Rootham

Talking about team members, our guitarist and main songwriter was Dek Rootham. Dek had a great sense of humour which certainly enlivened long journeys. He was often seen with Archie, a ventriloquists dummy.

We once had a small fire in the back of our Ford Transit whilst flying down the A1 at 70 mph. We are all thinking like Basil Fawlty ‘F-F-F-Fire!’ but Dek just turned around, warmed his hands on the blaze, turned back and continued reading his newspaper. What a guy. (laughs)

What caused the band to call it a day ?

Bob: A number of things really. In the mid-70s a few things were happening around the UK – recession, middle east oil shocks, venues closing down, three day weeks, power cuts. Just lots of things that really added up.  But we gamely carried on playing gigs for a while surviving on the money from them.

We eventually decided to wrap it in. Chris went on to form his own band Shooter. Dave, Dek and I worked the clubs for a few months as a trio named Jingles (laughs).

Dave: By the late ‘70s Brian Johnson was re-forming Geordie to play the clubs, he already had a drummer and he asked me and Dek to join. We joined and had a great time with gigs pouring in. We had a few with Slade as Brian knew Chas (Chandler, ex Animal, Slade manager) quite well.

Then 1980 came round, Brian left for an audition in London, my wife was in hospital giving birth to my son, and I got a call from an American called Peter Mensch.

‘Hello is that Dave Robson, my name is Peter Mensch, I own AC/DC. I believe you have some contracts ?’

I said best to ring me back as my wife has just given birth. Well really I was devastated, Geordie had being doing well, now suddenly I was out of work. We continued with other singers but it was hard to replace Brian, he was very funny and had an instant connection to the audience soon as he got on stage.

(Along with many tales about the band Geordie, Brian Johnson’s story of the AC/DC audition can be read in the new book ‘The Lives of Brian – A Memoir by Brian Johnson’).

Bob: I went on to work with other bands and really enjoyed working on several unique projects with Steve Daggett (Lindisfarne). After studying at Newcastle University I joined Raw Spirit again for a while who I was in before Fogg.

Sadly Chris (vocals) passed away in 2014. He is still greatly loved and missed by the lads and indeed by all who met him. Dave, Dek and myself still do occasional gigs in our respective bands. Music is always in your blood I guess

.

Dave: But looking back it was a fantastic time.

Bob: Yeah such a magnificent period in our lives. We are so blessed to have experienced it and have This is it come to light once again.

Dave: And you can always dine out on the stories (laughs). Although some don’t believe you about Abbey Road.

Bob: Yeah there are a wealth of tales which are true but usually met with disbelief. Did we tell you about the time the Duchess of Devonshire asked us to pop in for tea, or Freddie Mercury’s market stall, or our near fatal adventures on Aberystwyth beach or when recording the album This is it, Olivia Newton John walked by and simply gave us a dazzling smile ?

Dave: She did. And she was absolutely stunning.

The FOGG album This is it is available from:

Amazon: https://music.amazon.com/albums/B0BGSN3Q93

Spotify: http://open.spotify.com/album/2jG2Qb7hHHFHC2hskrPPGY

Apple: https://music.apple.com/us/album/1647553016

FOGG TV appearances  can be found at VainGloriousUK:   

Home | VainGloriousUK

Alikivi  October 2022

MASTER OF PUPPETS with WAVIS O’SHAVE ON THE TUBE

Ground breaking ‘80s live music show The Tube was broadcast from Tyne Tees studios in Newcastle for Channel Four from 1982 to 1987. The last post featured Wavis O’Shave who appeared regularly on the programme.

For one of the shows some filming was scheduled at the South Marine Park, South Shields and Wavis asked his mate Phil Whale to accompany him. Phil was a miner who lived on the Whiteleas council estate, South Shields.

Wavis: ‘I took Phil with me because he was the leader of the Whiteleas Massive and as a miner pissed off being involved in the Miners Strike. Thought I’d cheer him up!’

Phil Whale: ‘If there is one thing having a mate like Wavis has taught me is to always expect the unexpected. I’ve had hilarious times in his presence and witnessed surreal bizarre events’.

‘At that time Wavis was a regular on the show with his character The Hard who in essence was a delightfully exaggerated alpha male tough guy who was on a quest to demonstrate that he was the hardest guy on the planet’.

The Hard in his Hard backyard, South Shields.

‘I remember feeling excited at the prospect of watching him undertake his TV work, yet also feeling nervous at what he may do to challenge the norms and expectations of those in attendance because that is one of the things that he’s about. Funnily enough I do remember him having a glint in his eyes’.

‘We met a camera crew all wearing Barbour jackets and talking in middle class accents. Wavis politely explained to them that he was going to present new characters to the cameras such as Mr Ordinary Powder, Mr Starey Oot and a hand puppet scene called the Non Sweary Puppet Show’.

The Tube crew were expecting The Hard to turn up as that character was starting to make a big impression on their viewers. Even the staff in production meetings used to do impersonations of The Hard. But on the day Wavis had other ideas.

Filming Mr Ordinary Powder in the South Marine Park, South Shields.

Phil remembers ‘The director begged him to do The Hard and asked him if he would consider doing six episodes for Channel 4, but Wavey was having none of it stating that the Hard was now consigned to the past and as an artist he wanted to move on’. 

‘It was just mental watching Wavis perform these new surreal characters in a public park with Mr Ordinary Powder who was naked apart from a loin cloth, carrying a shopping basket containing a talking loaf of bread, and Mr Starey Oot just staring everyone and everything out – in a manner that the Hard would be proud of’.

‘Mind you the best part of the day had to go to the Non Sweary Puppet Show which involved Wavis hiding behind a wall then up popped glove puppets arguing and screaming at each other that included loud explicit references to sex and constant use of the F word – all in Geordie!

The crew and gathering members of the public stood in a stunned silence at what was happening.

‘Wavis maintained a rock steady face in between takes which added to the surreal nature. I remember experiencing a wide range of thoughts ranging from ‘what the feck this is brilliant’ to ‘Get in Wavis’. 

‘At the end of the day payment was discussed with the director, at first Wavis refused money but after haggling was pleased to get a brand new Scotland football strip.’

Phil wraps up his feelings about the day… ‘To cap it all off Wavis asked if I would accompany him to the Tube Studio for the editing. Was he valuing my comedic opinion or was he sticking two fingers up to the producers expectations?’

‘I suppose I will never know but it didn’t matter to me as the experience was priceless. Oh and by the way you won’t be surprised to hear that The Non Sweary Puppet Show didn’t survive the cuts which was a shame but not unexpected’.

It’s reported on good authority that while the Non-Swearies Puppet Show was unsuitable for terrestrial TV broadcast it was a huge favourite in The Tube Office.

‘The Non-Swearies…even I’ve lost the original demo VHS performance’ remembers Wavis.

Alikivi   October 2022

WAVIS O’SHAVE on ’80s LIVE MUSIC SHOW THE TUBE

Ground breaking live music TV show The Tube was broadcast from Tyne Tees studios in Newcastle upon Tyne for Channel Four from 1982 to 1987. The show was broadcast for 90 minutes on a Friday and I was lucky enough to be in the audience for a number of shows which had a big impact on my life.

Entrance to The Tube at Tyne Tees Television studios City Road, Newcastle.

When I didn’t get tickets I’d be at home with me tea on me lap watching great performances and being introduced to different sounds and styles of music. Someone new and fresh were on every week and the show always delivered a surprise.

There was one week when a duo delivered huge power from what at first looked like an unlikely source. With only a keyboard and microphone set up on stage how loud could a synth pop duo go ?

A young skinny lad with floppy hair stood ready, at a game of football he would have been the last picked, then on walked someone who could of been a school dinner lady. A clunky pop sound fired up, then the voice, and what a voice. Making one of her first TV appearances was Alison Moyet.

Wavis meets The Hard next to his Hard hut in his Hard backyard.

I mentioned the show liked to pull a surprise and someone who featured regularly on the show and tangled with some of the Tube’s Big Wigs was – insert your own description here/eccentric/circus performer/recording artist/surreal South Shields showman, whisper it quietly – Wavis O’Shave.

“When the Tube crew came back from filming me they would run straight off to Malcolm Gerrie (Producer) and tell him ‘You won’t believe what he did!’ Malcolm would reply ‘I would’. Despite my controversial antics it didn’t stop Producer Gavin Taylor candidly telling my wife that I was the most decent person he had ever known!”

“Sometimes I would witness disputes in the Tube office like when Queen reckoned the show should pay them for a ten grand filming bill, and the show thought that they should be coughing up. I was there when Elvis Costello sent a life size photo of himself with a signed apology after he wrecked his dressing room the week before”.

One of the many faces of Wavis was The Hard, an exaggerated tough working class Geordie possibly the hardest man in the world. Other faces were Mr Ordinary Powder, Mr Starey Oot, Foffo Spearjig, but it was The Hard that got the show’s attention.

“During a live Christmas Eve show Muriel Gray (presenter) hit me over the head with one of those pretend bottles they use in Spaghetti westerns. I was told afterwards that she’d thought she’d killed me!”

“I told her earlier in the day to give me a right good belt and you’d better believe she did. There’s still some doubt as to whether there had been a cock up and it was a real bottle, it sounded like it, it did cut me and there was blood. The show were crapping themselves thinking ‘Insurance’. I felt nowt though”.

Letter from TV Executive Producer, Andrea Wonfor.

Wavis remembers the day he was carpeted by Executive Producer, Andrea Wonfor.

“The BIG boss of the show was Andrea Wonfor, a lovely lady and a huge Wavey fan. I remember when I was first given the freedom of The Tube studio. Andrea had me in her office where I was made to assure her that I would behave”.

“As you can see in her fond recollection I’d asked her – she was a big-wig at Granada at the time – if she would be ref for me in my proposed fight with Chris Eubank for Children In Need or something like that. I had the challenge put thru Chris’ letter box in Brighton but he never came back to me.” 

When you were in the studio did you get along with any of the musicians, celebrities or TV crew ?

“Being anti-social and elusive I stayed clear of everyone. I guess this became part of my expected ‘image’. I couldn’t help but see a few in passing like Lemmy and Jim Diamond, but in fact I think most people were quite wary of me and would prefer I kept my distance”.

“When Paula Yates (presenter) wanted my dressing room which was nearer the stage as at the time she was pregnant, she didn’t approach me directly to ask. Think she was well wary of me. Either that or she fancied me rotten”. 

“I rarely would turn up at the Friday shows despite having a VIP pass. On one such rare occasion I was invited to go over and say hello to a shy young American girl. I glanced over, and because I had this elusive but anti-social reputation I didn’t bother. Turns out it was Madonna, so I guess I can claim I blew her out”.

(Madge’s first TV performance was on The Tube broadcast from The Manchester Hacienda in 1984.)

What are your memories as The Tube finally closed up shop in 1987 ?

“The last Tube show was aired on its regular Friday slot. I was disappointed as a week before I had filmed The Hard ‘Final Felt nowt feeler’ with my missus in it but it wasn’t included. On the Sunday, when the repeat was aired, there I was edited in as a personal tribute to The Hard and his popularity on the show. That was the very last ever Tube show not the Friday one. It’s gone missing and remains to this day the Holy Grail of lost Tube shows”.

THE HARD features on ‘Best of the Tube’ DVD.

Alikivi   October 2022

THE KANE GANG: On ‘80s Live Music Show The Tube

Martin Brammer, Paul Woods & Dave Brewis.

Autoleisureland is a new project by North East musicians Dave Brewis and Paul Woods, but in the 1980s along with vocalist Martin Brammer, they were with Seaham soul trio The Kane Gang.

Originally signed to Newcastle label Kitchenware Records, they released two albums and scored UK hits in Closest Thing to Heaven, Respect Yourself and Motortown in the USA.

‘When we had London Records promo team the promotion was all over Europe and we always seemed to be going to a TV studio or Radio interview. We were once booked on the the live BBC teatime show Crackerjack with Stu Francis, other guests were Keith Harris and his duck Orville’.

‘We made a video for most singles and filmed a couple in the USA. Looking back it happened pretty fast – it was surreal at times’ said Dave Brewis.

The Kane Gang’s existence was smack bang in the middle of The Tube’s dominance of live music programming. I asked Dave how did you get the call ?

‘The Tube production team contacted Kitchenware Records to set up special filming for the four bands that were on the labels roster – The Kane Gang, Prefab Sprout, Hurrah! and the Daintees’.

‘Each band was filmed in a different location in Newcastle. We were filmed performing Smalltown Creed in the Barn restaurant at the end of Leazes Terrace and Prefab Sprout were filmed outside the Holy Jesus Hospital on the Swan House roundabout. It was broadcast in November 1983’.

What can you remember of filming your live appearance on The Tube ?

‘In April 1984 we recorded Smalltown Creed and Closest Thing To Heaven. We used live vocals over the instrumental tracks from the finished records that we had just recorded with producer Pete Wingfield’.

‘When broadcast, the balance of the microphones on Smalltown Creed was all over the place and you couldn’t really hear Paul Woods, although it sounded fine in the studio at the time. On Closest Thing To Heaven the vocal balance was fine and the sound was good’.

‘I’d seen this happen to a couple of other bands when I was in the audience in the early days, and it seemed a peril of live TV. It wasn’t unique to Tyne Tees studio’.

‘In November ‘84 we were on live, this time with our full touring band, and the crew got an excellent sound. We did Respect Yourself and Gun Law, and I remember Al Jarreau having a crack live band including Steve Gadd, and David Sanborn was there. Afterwards we may have gone to the pub next door, certainly went to the Big Market for a curry’.

Did nerves play a part in your live appearances ?

‘With the show being live and featuring so much stuff every week we just had to be ready to go whenever we were told, so until we had been on, we couldn’t really mix or relax’.

Did you meet any other musicians backstage or in the studio ?

‘I remember Grandmaster Flash & Co. being incredibly jet-lagged and half asleep on their dressing room floor, and in the corridors. But they did a dynamite performance, it looked great. Jeffrey Osborne was really good live, too’.

‘I remember talking to Roy Wood in the green room on one show. Anyone flying home on a Friday to Newcastle from Heathrow was bound to see a few bands on board’.

You can find most of The Kane Gang performances on the official YouTube channel.

The Kane Gang Official – YouTube

For more info on Autoleisureland check the official website :

AutoLeisureLand Home

Alikivi  October 2022

THE GEORDIE WRECKING CREW: Forty Years since The Tube Arrived

In between YOP schemes and signing on the dole in the 1980s I remember queuing outside Newcastle’s Tyne Tees TV Studio to get free audience ticket’s for live music show The Tube. The ground breaking programme was broadcast by Channel Four from 1982 to 1987.

The 90 glorious minutes had a massive impact on my life. Regular doses of The Tube cudda been a prescribed vaccine injected by the NHS to release built up mental pressure in a time of strikes, mass unemployment and living in a post-industrial wasteland.

Talk about pushing boundaries of what live TV can do this show was run by a Geordie Wrecking Crew creating a bigger blast than anything coming out of London. TV bigwigs in the South making envious glances towards the North as every Friday Newcastle Airport was chocka block full of top musicians and celebrities. 

You want exciting car crash box office TV ? it’s all here, the Geordie crew really were the ducks nuts. With the launch show planned, Sunderland punks Toy Dolls were brought in to light the fuse – tune in, turn on, blast off.

Over the past couple of years some of the production team have talked on this blog about how the North East gained a reputation to produce good music shows, and how influential and important the show would become.

Chris Cowey: ‘The Tube was a real blend of old school Tyne-Tees TV expertise and young whippersnappers like me who was obsessed with music and bitten by the live music thing. I was into DJ’ing, Drama, Theatre which led to my TV break’.

‘My mentor was Producer Malcolm Gerrie, who a lot of people will remember from his Tyne-Tees days. A lot of the same gang of music fans were the nucleus of the production teams for Check It Out, Alright Now, TX45, The Tube and Razzmatazz’.

‘Tyne-Tees already did some good old entertainment shows before my time, like Geordie Scene or What Fettle, but they were obsessed about their ‘Geordieness’. The Tube wasn’t, it was all about good music because we were music obsessed. It also had a great mix of time served TV people blended together with new people with fresh ideas, and a kind of irreverence which came out in those shows’.

Chris Phipps: ‘I was at the Tube from the start in ’82 till it’s full run to ’87. I joined as a booker and became Assistant Producer from 1985 to 1987′.

‘A band on the first show that I booked didn’t happen. The Who didn’t do it because their pa system got stuck in Mexico or somewhere. Producer Malcolm Gerrie knew Paul Weller’s father and got The Jam to do it. In a way I’m glad that he did because The Jam playing their last TV gig ever, really said this is what The Tube is all about – that was then, this is now and off we go’.

‘After appearing Fine Young Cannibals got signed, The Proclaimers got signed and there was a time when the Tube crew went to Liverpool to film Dead or Alive. But they weren’t around, someone in a pub told them to go round the corner to another pub where there is a band rehearsing ‘You might be interested in them’. It was Frankie Goes to Hollywood’.

‘The Tube filmed the original version of their single ‘Relax’ and Trevor Horn saw it. He did the deal and re-recorded and produced the single. Frankie epitomised The Tube and the ‘80s – they got what it was all about’.

Gary talks to Radio One DJ, John Peel.

Gary James: ‘I was one of the original co-presenters on The Tube from Series One, which started on Friday November 5th 1982. I applied along with 5,000 other herberts who all thought they were cool, hip and groovy enough to be TV presenters’.

‘To give the programme a bit of extra thrill they wanted to put some unknown faces alongside the two main presenters Jools Holland and Paula Yates. They certainly achieved that as few of us really knew what we were doing. It was all live, pre-watershed national networked TV and no second chances’.

‘None of us on the presenter side, perhaps with the exception of Jools and Paula who breezed through it all without a care in the world, could have had any idea that the show would be as seminal as it was. We certainly knew we were part of the ‘new wave’ and that we didn’t want to be all BBC and Top of the Pops-ish’.  

‘The chaos on it was quite genuine and the edginess a result of the fact that for most of the time we were left to get on with what we were doing without any strict direction or guidance to be pros. I had a good time interviewing Ringo Starr, Eartha Kitt, Tony Visconti, Mickey Finn of T.Rex, John Peel, Kajagoogoo and loads more interesting people who had a part to play in the industry’.

Colin Rowell, Chris Phipps, Michael Metcalf.

Colin Rowell: ‘It was just five years of sheer magic. There was Geoff Brown, Chris Phipps and me sharing an office in Newcastle. They, as producers, had applied for this music television show and asked me if I was interested in joining the team as stage manager’.

‘From years working at Newcastle City Hall I knew the acts, the crews, the managers and they were all glad when they knew a familiar face and voice was going to be there running the stages in the studio’.

‘First off started with two stages, ended up with four and I did the deal with ENTEC who were a big sound company. They ran Reading Festival and owned The Marquee. It was a smooth operation with them providing all the sound and crew. The PA was flown in (hung from ceiling) off the stage making it easier for cameramen to have floor space and no big speakers in their way’.

‘One time me and Geoff Brown were sent to London to check out Grandmaster Flash. It was the first time The Tube were going to have on stage a set-up of a band playing all the scratchy stuff’.  

‘We got to the venue and there was a support band on so we went to a Steak house but it was dreadful and we didn’t eat it so we went back to the venue. The support act were still on and we listened in this time. This was good stuff. It was Paul Young and the Royal Family.’

‘We got back to Newcastle and in a meeting with one of the head guy’s at The Tube, Malcolm Gerrie, I banged the table and said ‘let’s get him on’. And we did. But Malcolm and I felt Paul didn’t get a good crack of the whip first time so we invited him back on again and the rest is history’.

Michael Metcalf: ‘I worked as Personal Assistant to a lot of freelance directors, one of which was Geoff Wonfor who was the husband of Andrea Wonfor, Executive Producer on the Tube’.

‘When the Tube began I continued working with Geoff for the first few years then applied for a vacancy to become a Director and got the job for most of Series Four.  It’s important to remember that at that time we were a bunch of Geordie guys who were working with some amazing people and having the time of our lives’.

‘I remember one trip to New York we hired a helicopter to fly around the Statue of Liberty. I sat in the helicopter alongside the pilot, Geoff was in the row behind and the cameraman was strapped in but hanging out of the side of the helicopter, the door had been taken off’.

‘I had the headset to communicate with the pilot, going down the Hudson, he asked if we wanted to go under or over the bridges, I asked if we could do both, which we ended up doing. It is hard to imagine getting away with that now but we had the time of our life. Every day the job was an adventure’.

Gary James: ‘Because it was live I only ever saw the programmes I didn’t work on. My parents told me they had recorded shows on VHS tape and did I want them? I stuck them in a box and put them in the attic’.

‘There they stayed for years until I watched them from behind the sofa for the first time. The performances blew me away. I can now finally see what everyone was going on about – but until then I genuinely had no idea’.

Chris Cowey: ‘It was really important that it came from the North-East because of the passion the swagger and total commitment. It’s not just that Geordies like showing off – although they undoubtedly do! – it’s because the history and attitude of the region can be really inspiring, creative and hugely fun. That’s how it worked so well’.

Chris Phipps: ‘You can never bring The Tube back. It’s of its time. Chris Evans on TFI Friday in the ‘90s near enough had it, the set was just like The Tube. So yeah it’s had an incredible influence’.

To read the full interviews type in the name in the white search box.  

Alikivi   October 2022

MUSIC SURPRISES FROM UDO, PAT & ALF

Music can spring unexpected surprises when it pulls you in and holds your breath. It was the early ‘80s when I hired out albums from the local library and sampled songs from bands I’d only read about in Sounds music weekly. There were stacks of misses but big hitters like the first time hearing the sublime poetic lyrics of Leonard Cohen.

‘When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon. Don’t turn on the lights you can read their address by the moon’.

Or Pete Murphy spitting out white hot haunting claustrophobic tunes from post punk band Bauhaus ‘Yin and yang lumber punch, go taste a tart, then eat my lunch. And force my slender, thin and lean, in this solemn place of fill-wetting dreams’.

Live gig’s also brought surprises, I remember in November 1981 self-proclaimed UK Metal Gods Judas Priest were at Newcastle City Hall primed to deliver the goods. Before the big boys played with their bigger toys the support band are usually given 40 minutes to say their piece, unfortunately some crumble in front of the headliners crowd, but word shot around ‘the openers are supposed to be canny’.

It was a cold night outside as winter closed in and in the warmth of the ‘Haal’ the lights went down and a few shouts went out. From the balcony I looked down to see the short, stocky blond haired vocalist plant himself at the front of the stage. Udo Dirkschneider. The leader of the pack.

Sounding like they’ve brought the Panza division with them, the twin guitar attack of German metallers Accept announced their arrival in Newcastle and rock ‘n’ rolled thunder till the end. In the wings Priest looked on, sharpened their set and Rob Halford screamed for vengeance.

My ticket stub from Judas Priest & Accept, Newcastle City Hall 17 November 1981.

‘80s live music show The Tube had something and someone new and fresh every week. Big Country, The Alarm, The Cult, they all made a big, beautiful noise, and a surprise on the programme was Pat Benatar – the little American lady with a huge, huge voice.

On one show a duo delivered power from what at first looked like an unlikely source. A young skinny lad with floppy hair stood ready, at a game of football he would have been the last picked, then on walked someone who could of been a school dinner lady.

The stage was bare – with no drums, no Marshall stacks, no guitars, I was prepared for disappointment. I didn’t catch their name, with only a keyboard and microphone set up – how loud could a synth pop duo go ?

A clunky pop sound fired up, then the voice, and what a voice. Making one of her first TV appearances was Alison Moyet who went on to sell millions of albums, a bucket load of top ten UK hits, a host of singer and songwriter awards, Live Aid, and more, and more, you get the picture – not bad for a dinner lady.

I’ve got a Dolly Parton greatest hits cd on the shelf which I pick out now and then, but recently I’ve been listening to more country & western. Yep the whole pluckin’ banjo hillbilly heartbreak songs – my neighbour even looks like Willie Nelson – here’s to music springing more surprises.

Alikivi   April 2022.

TUNED UP – with Sound Engineer, Stu Keeble

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did you get interested in sound engineering and what were your first jobs ? I was a Hi-Fi nut and loved music. I used to go to a lot of gigs, mostly names like Sabbath and The Who, but I was also into west coast American acts so bands like CSNY, Poco, America and Jackson Browne.

1979 was my first paid sound engineering job with a band called 747 in the North East workingmen’s clubs. I’d only done amateur stuff before that.

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

When you were at Dingwalls what was the plan for your day ? A day at Dingwalls would start around 11-12noon depending on the bands arrival time and how much gear they had. We would load them in – I had a stage tech called Kremen, who’s sadly no longer with us.

Then sound check them once the offices upstairs in the building had finished work. We would have something to eat before it would be time for the doors to open, can’t remember when that was maybe 7.30/8.00 pm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2020.

SANTAS BAG O’ SWAG

If yer lookin’ for a Chrissy present to buy why not take a butchers at these goodies that have appeared on the blog this year. 2019 has seen nearly 100 interviews posted mostly musicians and also featured authors, artists, poets and TV presenters….

Gary James from The Tube, spills the beans on the groundbreaking ‘80s TV music show in his autobiography ‘Spangles, Glam, Gaywaves & Tubes’….

‘It’s a fabulous main present for ‘70s & ‘80s music and fashion fans you love, or a stocking filler for those you don’t. All for a paltry £12.99 (or cheaper if you can be arsed to shop around). Some bad language (he says ‘sod’ in it)’.

Contact  http://www.bookguild.co.uk

Lowfeye are musician/producer Alan Rowland and song writer Carol Nichol…

’Some songs on our album POW can be political or critical of society. I find the mainstream music scene along with TV celebrities really awful. It’s bland, it’s beige, it’s plastic and unfortunately we are spoon fed this crap by radio and TV’.

Contact Carol via Facebook and get yer copy at only £5 from paypal.me/lowfeye

The Fauves punk band formed in South Shields in 1978 and got back together 2016, bassist Bri Smith…

I’ve got the perfect stocking filler for xmas for all you punks out there – The Fauves latest cd album ‘Back off World’. Most of the songs were written between 1978-81. There is a couple of new tracks and we think it has come out really well. Have a wonderful xmas you won’t be disappointed’.

Get yer copy from Goldies opposite South Shields Town Hall or contact The Fauves on their official website  thefauves.wordpress.com

The Attention Seekers have a regional feel about some of their songs which gain’s regular play on local radio and at St James’ Park. Guitarist, Alan Fish…

If you’re looking for a chilled Xmas why not relax to the sounds of the latest CD from The Attention Seekers ‘A Song for Tomorrow’. Or if you’re looking for something more action-packed why not start Xmas Day singing along with ‘The Fans’ version of ‘The Blaydon Races’. Physical copy of ‘A Song for Tomorrow’ available from  

http://www.the-attention-seekers.co.uk/shop.html 

or download from the iTunes store.

‘The Blaydon Races’ at   https://open.spotify.com/album/6RdXvJhnJxwgPubsFU0cvz 

Gary Alikivi   December 2019.

STOCKIN’ FILLERS

If yer lookin’ for a Christmas present to buy why not have a butchers at these books that featured on the blog this year. 2019 has seen nearly 100 interviews posted mostly musicians but also featured authors and poets like Keith Armstrong

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.

Order direct from Northern Voices Community Projects, 35 Hillsden Road, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear NE25 9XF.

More than four decades after the BBC’s iconic TV series ‘When the Boat Comes In’ was first screened, ‘Jack High’ a novel by Peter Mitchell tells the story of Jack Ford’s missing years. ‘

This is a man who has found a family in war. He interacts with union men, upper crusts, politicians….all he knows is how to survive and when he see’s a chance he takes the opportunity’. ‘Jack High’ is available through Amazon.

Some authors talked about growing up in the North East, like former White Heat front man now music documentary director Bob Smeaton

I was working as a welder at Swan Hunter Shipyards at the time. When punk and new wave happened around 76/77 that’s when I started thinking I could possibly make a career out of music. The doors had been kicked wide open’.

‘From Benwell Boy to 46th Beatle & Beyond’ available on Amazon or can be ordered in Waterstones, Newcastle.

Earlier this year I read a great book ‘The Kremlin’s Geordie Spy’ and got in touch with the author Vin Arthey…

Newcastle born William Fisher turned out to be a KGB spy, he used the name Rudolf Abel and was jailed for espionage in the United States in 1957. He was exchanged across Berlin’s Glienicke Bridge for the American U-2 pilot, Francis Gary Powers. The Tom Hanks film ‘Bridge of Spies’ tells the story of how it happened.

Contact Vin at varthey@gmail.com ‘I have a few pristine copies on my shelf but with p&p, it would come out at £10 more than the Amazon price’.

A big influence on my life was watching and being in the audience of ‘80s live music show The Tube, so when I got the chance to talk to former music TV producer Chris Phipps about the program, I didn’t miss the opportunity

‘As an ex-BBC producer, I initially only signed up for 3 months on this unknown program and it became 5 years! I was mainly hired because of my track record for producing rock and reggae shows in the Midlands’. Chris released ‘Namedropper’ revealing backstage stories from the groundbreaking show.

The book is available at Newcastle City Library or through Amazon.

 Gary Alikivi   December 2019.