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

RHYTHM KINGS with Bob Porteous & Dave Robson from Newcastle ’70s band FOGG (part one).

I met up with rhythm players Bob and Dave to get a clear picture of the FOGG story, but first let’s find out where the name come from…

Dave: It had something to do with the book about Phileas Fogg and his travels around the world in 80 days didn’t it ?

Bob: Nah it stands for Fairly Old Grumpy Geriatrics (laughs).

Bob Porteous (drums) & Dave Robson (bass).

During the 1970s FOGG were based in Newcastle and signed for EMI and Warner Brothers. They released four singles and an album ‘THIS IS IT’ recorded at Abbey Road. Warners are now re-releasing the remastered album (links below).

Bob: I would say This is It…is really a mix of hard rock, boogie, pop stompers and even a smidge of prog. Very tight instrumentally with great vocals, harmonies and guitar. Warners have remastered and digitised the album. To my ears it sounds quite contemporary and hasn’t dated. Ok I’m biased but I love it all over again.

Dave: The album sounds very fresh today, I really like it. I’m proud of what we did. We were just a little band playing workingmen’s clubs who were suddenly catapulted onto a higher level and suddenly recording in the world famous Abbey Road studios.

The first version of Fogg started in 1971 and was formed by guitarist Dek Rootham ex-Sect, and bassist Dave Robson ex-Toby Twirl. They played the working men’s club circuit with drummer Ronny Levey and Colin Anderson on guitar.

By 1973 Ronny and Colin had moved on and were replaced by ex-Raw Spirit drummer Bob Porteous and Chris McPherson on vocals.

Dave: I was playing bass when I first joined a band at 19, they were called Toby Twirl who were a pro band doing gigs every day and night all over the UK. The drummer was John Reed, John was also a songwriter, later he moved from Sunderland to London but we stayed in touch.

Don’t wanna get ahead of myself here but he was very influential in Fogg because he got management involved and to this day is fully committed to the band. John called Derek McCormick from Corus Music who had pedigree because he used to manage The Moody Blues and had a lot of industry contacts.  

Bob: That was around 1973, we were playing the clubs at first then the work expanded via Derek and John and their contacts. Dek Rootham and John Reed began to write songs together.

Chris McPherson sounded like Noddy Holder from Slade, and was a  charismatic front man. He took a break for a short while so we got Davey Ditchburn in on vocals during Chris’s time out.

We did several shows on Tyne Tees TV for the Geordie Scene. A You Tube channel dedicated to North East music called VainGloriousUK has several videos of Fogg performing on the show. My personal favourites are Ask No Questions and Captain Moonshine but there are many more to choose from.

Dave: Then later on Chris re-joined the fold. I remember Chris was a great character, god bless him he passed away a number of years ago.

Bob: He owned every stage he walked on. We all loved him.

Bob: Fogg worked hard on the College circuit, did a tour of Finland and TV & Radio work. By this time the band was developing a great synergy and the competition with other pro bands on the circuit had created a highly charged performance involving great audience rapport.

Dave: Yeah yer’ had to ! It was sink or swim.

Bob: Jumping in at that level generated massive confidence and camaraderie within the band.

Dave: We also did a lot work in the Bailey Clubs run by Stan Henry, a friend of our manager.

Sadly, Stan Henry died in September this year. From their South Shields headquarters Stan and business partner John Smith ran the Bailey Organisation. They opened a number of clubs around the UK. Notably The New Cellar Club in South Shields where Cream opened the venue on 2nd December ’66 and Hendrix played on 1st February ’67.

Chris (vocals), Bob (drums) & Dave (bass).

Bob: One night we played the Bailey club in Watford and the top act was Dana (Hugely popular Irish winner of Eurovision song contest in 1970 with ‘All Kinds of Everything’).

She was absolutely lovely and invited us to her dressing room which was a different world. She was like a beautiful Queen with her make up and wardrobe people swanning around offering drinks and even lighting up other people’s cigarettes.

This, coupled with our week long soiree at a Hampshire health farm where we met the legendary Ava Gardner gave us a little glimpse into ‘70s fame.

Dave: The Bailey clubs were great, very pro, but I remember a lot of the CIU workingmen’s clubs were also run really well, Concert Chairmen keeping things right, great audiences, yeah loved them.

Bob: They always gave you a round of applause and there was always a dressing room, no changing in the toilets. And being paid well.

Dave: I wish they were back.

Bob: Concert chairmen had a bad rep but often they were smashing guys. There was a chairman called Edgar at one of the clubs and he would like to sing the last song of the night with the band.

‘What do you want to sing Edgar?’ ‘Blaydon Races’ he replied. We found that the song had about 20 verses and he knew them all! Still shiver and feel apprehensive to this day when someone says Blaydon Races (laughs).

How did the band get signed ?

Dave: As well as song writing with Dek, John Reed was the band manager and got us a gig in a Covent Garden pub where he invited Derek McCormick and various music industry people.

Derek was very impressed and we signed a management contract with him. John arranged a session in the EMI recording studio in Manchester Square and we did a successful demo there.

Bob: This was during the late summer of ’73. Derek was friends with Joop Visser, a lovely Dutch A&R guy in EMI and this opened the door to a recording contract.

In 1974 the band went into the legendary Abbey Road studios where The Beatles had recorded. They produced several singles, one of which Water in my Wine had significant sales in Germany and Japan.

EMI then helped realise the bands ambition by recording a full album at Abbey Road. This is It…was produced by Wally Allen from the Pretty Things.

Dave: It was like ‘yeh just going into the recording studio today’, that’s just what you did in those days you know.

Bob: Back then it was the arrogance of youth! (laughs)

Deep down though, we were ecstatic to be at Abbey Road even though we were being outwardly cool and professional about it.

Dave: Now it’s revered as a holy place but don’t get me wrong it really was a fantastic place to be.

Bob: The first single was Doing the Best I Can which got a few radio plays when released in 1974 but nothing major. All the band were involved in writing for the album but it was Dek and John Reed on the majority of songs.

Our first producer was Ian McClintock who we thought was good but not entirely tuned in to our music.

Dave: We needed more direction from him as we hadn’t been in a 16 track recording studio before.

Bob: When you are new to studios and the red light goes on it can be nerve wracking but we must have done ok because if I remember rightly we only did a max of three takes on most songs .

Dave: Eventually McClintock was replaced by Wally Allen who was bassist with The Pretty Things – he was brilliant. We moved into The Beatles studio and the sounds were fabulous there. You go into the control room to hear back what you’ve recorded and it’s a genuine ‘Is that us !’

Bob: That was Studio Two where the whole thing had a different vibe.

Dave: And the harmonies had a much better sound.

Bob: I don’t believe in ghosts but you could just feel an atmosphere of all the other musicians who had passed through there.

Dave: And on the piano there was the marks where (Paul) McCartney had left his tab burning!

Bob: One day the others were laying down some overdubs so I went for a wander around the other studios. I went into the huge Studio Three where I started playing a wonderful set of timpani drums. A severe looking security guard heard this and popped his head in and asked what I was doing in there.

‘Just from the band recording in the other studio’. After hearing my accent he asked where I’m from ‘Newcastle’ I replied. He let out a delighted laugh ‘Wey I’m from Gateshead man!’

 We really felt a part of the Abbey Road family. Incidentally a couple of tracks from the album have a real North East vibe, Northern Song and Water in my Wine.

In 1975 the band moved on from EMI, signed to Warner Brothers and released two singles Dancing to the Music and Rock n Roll Star.

Next up read Rhythm Kings part two with more FOGG stories from Bob and Dave.

The remastered FOGG album ‘THIS IS IT...’ is now available in digital format from:

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

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

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

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

NORTHERN DIAMOND in conversation with performer Lorraine Crosby

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

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

The North East has a pedigree for strong woman, do you think you fit into that ?

We had a hard upbringing living in sheer poverty, so there was a fight to get out of that. My father died when I was only two so my mother was a young widow with four kids to bring up.

On a Friday we’d have a box of food arrive from the shop and that would have to last a week, when all that was gone, and we were starving literally we went in the garden as we had a rhubarb patch at the bottom.

I used to break off sticks of it and dip them in a bag of sugar…..diarrhea for the weekend (laughs).

We’re laughing about this but really, I used to walk into the kitchen and clap my hands to scare the mice off. That was my youth. We had absolutely nothing.

Yes, they were hard times, and you had to be strong to get through it, but through sheer determination I dragged myself out of it, it makes you very resilient.

What does music mean to you ?

I think music saved my life. It was pure escapism. I remember being at school and sneaking off to the hall to put classical music on the record player then dancing around like Margo Fonteyn,

I got caught and given the belt. These days they would suggest drama class or dance class to embrace the passion not reprimand you !

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

Was music in your family ?

No don’t think so, New Year’s Eve you’d have the family and friends getting out the banjos and accordion, singing along and it was a magical time I so looked forward to going there and singing

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

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

Lorraine on stage with Spike from The Quireboys.

Is that where you feel most comfortable ?

Yes, and as long as people are coming to see me, I won’t retire. I’m still rockin’, Tina Turner did till she was 77 so why can’t I ? I’ve even done panto.

Five year ago I was asked and told them ‘Yes but don’t let me make a fool of myself’. Only a small role they told me, turned out to be the Queen in Snow White (laughs). But I embraced it and loved my time there.

I thank my mentor Leah Bell for turning me into a West End Wendy.

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

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

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

First time I saw Lorraine Crosby was on a Meatloaf documentary I watched a few weeks ago. Meatloaf and musician Jim Steinman told stories about the first album Bat Out of Hell but it was the second album where Lorraine appeared.

A single ‘I’d Do Anything for Love’ was released in 1993 and was a massive hit, would you say that was a magic moment in your career ?

Just getting to do the Meatloaf song was great. What happened was Stu my husband and songwriter, knew a guy called Dan Priest in London and he sent our tape to Jim Steinman – he loved us and wanted to be our manager, so we moved to New York to work with him.

Jim was recording Bat Out of Hell 2 and one day he called me up ‘Lorraine can you come along to the studio and sing this part?’

Well Meatloaf is like a method actor he wanted to hear the female voice so he can react off it, so originally, I sang on just a demo of the song that’s why I wasn’t credited on the track.

We recorded some more songs and he played it to the record company who gave me a deal off the back of them.

Then a phone call came in saying what I’d recorded on the demo they were putting on the record and releasing it as a single. Originally, they were going to get someone else in to sing the part, but yeah that was a defining moment for me.

Not long after, we were driving down to Venice Beach and the song came on the radio it was just like, wow, crazy ! We knew it was gonna be big.

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

Does that story follow you around ?

Number 1 in 28 countries, sold 15 million records, won a Grammy…It’s a hell of a claim to fame isn’t it ? You gotta shout about it. As I said when we were in America we signed as a song writing duo Emerson/Crosby and Jim Steinman got us a big deal with MCA.

We went in Power Station studio in New York city with Bernard Edwards from Chic, there was the Bon Jovi bass player, keyboard player with Bowie, you know they were all in there when recording our album.

My husband Stu has always been my backbone, he has supported me and is a great songwriter.

His early band back on Tyneside were called Emerson, they were part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and recorded a single on Neat records and were on the brink of getting somewhere but split as some of the band joined Samson just before their big break.

We thought we were really getting on and putting things together over there. Steinman was mentoring and helping us with our writing and as he was based in Los Angeles we ended up moving to L.A. living in his house in the Hollywood Hills at first and recording in Ocean Way studio.

The record company then paid for apartments in Hollywood and San Fernando valley, that house had a studio in it where Earth, Wind and Fire recorded, Harry Neilson had been there, it was a real old ‘70s studio.

Jim is one of the most incredible genius’ I’ve ever met. I remember we didn’t see him much during the day, he was very nocturnal with his silver foil at the windows to stop the light coming in.

But he had his own career and it had really taken off so he couldn’t devote the time to us.

Meanwhile the second Meatloaf album which I sang on, went over budget so the record company sacked the guy who we were dealing with, and every band on his roster including us, went with him.

So, no manager, being dropped by the label and no money left, we reluctantly moved back to the UK. We heard three month later the last house we were in was destroyed in an earthquake.

What state of mind were you in when you returned to the North East ?

I was gutted, there was a number One album I was on and everyone thinking I was earning millions!

So, looking for a new manager I found Smallwood and Taylor, Rod Smallwood was Iron Maiden’s manager. I was with him for a couple of years, and he got me a couple of development deals with Chrysalis, Hansa and some others but unfortunately nothing seemed to gel with the songwriters I worked with.

I was based in the North East and travelling down to London to try and get things going.

One time I went out to L.A and worked with Andy Taylor from Duran Duran, we recorded a few songs, but they weren’t pop enough for the label, I’m more rock and blues.

So that time with Rod Smallwood ran out, no hard feelings involved, he had exhausted all the avenues and we parted.

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

Did you have a wow moment listening to a song when you said ‘I want to do that’ ?

Yeah Lene Lovich. I heard her song Lucky Number on the radio and thought it was so bad anybody can be a singer. My mam said ‘Well why don’t ya’.

There was a music shop in town called Rock City and it had a notice board with adverts on for bands looking for singers. Me and a friend chose a country and western band first then left them to join a group called Time Out.

We played the working men’s club circuit for a year, but I was only backing and not developing my voice so with a couple of other guys I formed my own band, Foxy.

This was the early ‘80s and with a few agents working for us we did American Military bases all over the world.

Who else have you worked with ?

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

What’s next Lorraine ?

I was at the same charity event as Producer Geoff Wonfor and we got chatting and he said why not do Sunday for Sammy ?

This year it’s the 20th Anniversary of the popular live entertainment show featuring North East actors and performers.

Not long after I got a call asking me to do a duet with Tim Healey (Benidorm, Auf Weidersehen Pet) and we did Anything for Love. So that was my first time, then I became a member of the house band and I love it.

Where else would you see a show that’s had AC/DC’s Brian Johnson (He was in a sketch rebuilding the roman wall when I was at the show at Newcastle City Hall 2004) or Brenda Blethyn (Vera) Johnny Vegas, Trevor Horn, Joe McElderry all these people who wouldn’t normally perform together, it’s just magical.

The show is a charity that helps people in the arts and it’s very important now as funding for the arts is being cut. So yeah, it’s really special and the whole show has adapted to the size of the Arena, it hasn’t lost its feel from the City Hall.

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

I was also asked by Spotlight TV to present a music video show called On Demand Country, people request songs from artists like Dolly Parton and we play the video.

The studio is Jam Jar Studios in Gateshead where we film it with a green screen behind me so we can project the video onto that. The techies do a great job behind the camera.

First time I’ve done it and really love it, so looking forward to doing more shows.

 Interview by Alikivi  2020.

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

When I was in Ya Ya we recorded some of the album at Maison Rouge in Fulham. Next door Roger Taylor was recording The Cross album. So we used to regularly meet the Queen guys.

There was a bar in Maison Rouge – part of its appeal – and one night I was sitting there on my own with a drink and Freddie Mercury plonks himself down on the stool next to me.

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

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

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

You know what, I’ve never said I was bored since, because he was right. We had a drink and chatted about all things singing, which singers love to do, what a wonderful person.

Turns out, he knew lots of people I knew and worked with, some of them part of Freddie’s inner circle – funny old world isn’t it.

To the tune of ‘Once in a Lifetime’ (Talking Heads) You may ask yourself how did a boy from Tyneside end up here ?

Now living on a houseboat in Twickenham, west London, Sam Blewitt has great stories from his life in music including Ultravox, Dizzee Rascal at Glastonbury, hitting number One with Mike Skinner & the Streets and not forgetting his formative years singing in rock bands in the North East.

But first I asked him what got you interested in music and are you from a musical family ?

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

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

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

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

There was music everywhere – or so I thought.

Can you remember your first gig ?

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

Moulin Rouge gigged anywhere we could to be honest – The Newton Park Hotel with Newcastle band White Heat, The Mayfair, the Old 69 and the Locarno in Sunderland and some workingmen’s clubs.

I remember playing a few times in Whitley Bay sharing headline slots with The Tygers of Pan Tang and supporting Geordie at the Mayfair. The line-up changed a few times and we eventually recruited Rob Hunter on drums, who was also a great singer and songwriter. He left to join Raven.

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

 Did you travel out of Tyneside ?

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

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

Once again, we picked up gigs wherever we could like the Whitley Bay Esplanade and some cool ones supporting bands like Nazareth, Budgie, Robin George and Heavy Pettin’.

We got quite a few slots in the capital at the Royal Standard, Dingwalls and the Marquee, this led to a lot of interest from the industry in London.

But the band started to break up after a year or two, Bri left and I started getting offers from bands in London. We kept the band going for a while with Norman Appleby replacing Bri Emerson.

I eventually left and joined LA Secrets, after a short stint with them I joined Paul Samson’s Empire, that was fun but again only lasted a few months before I joined a band called Ya Ya.

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

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

Where there any offers after Ya Ya ?

I worked as a session singer and songwriter for a few years, working with some amazing writers and producers, trying to form new projects.

Then in 1992 I joined Ultravox and stayed with them until 1996. In that time we released one studio album Ingenuity, and one live album.

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

Then came my time as a ‘hired gun’ session singer, I sang the Phat Beach/Naughty Boy version of The Baywatch theme I’ll Be Ready, which reached the top 30.

Plus I sang for Mike Skinner & the Streets on ‘Dry Your Eyes’ which went to number 1 in the UK. This attracted the interest of many hip hop/grime artists and producers.

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

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

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

What was your first recording experience ?

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

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

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

Did you have a manager ?

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

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

What were your high points on stage – any magic moments ?

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

In Ultravox we played some cool festivals too, one in particular in Bielefeld, Germany on the same bill as Roger Chapman, one of my musical heroes.

One festival we played we were given a one-hour slot to play, this was cut short, but we weren’t told, and we hadn’t played any of the big songs like Vienna and Dancing with Tears in My Eyes, then we were pulled off stage by the promoter and stage manager after about 45 minutes. I don’t think the audience were too happy, we made the promoter explain the situation – still don’t know if he did or not. It happens.

Have you any road stories ?

One of my favourites was myself and Vinny Burns getting a bit merry after a gig, we went back to watch Asia who were headlining, they had lots of dry ice, so we took it upon ourselves to crawl across the stage under the dry ice without being seen.

It was all going well until we ended up behind Geoff Downs (the keyboard player) and couldn’t see where we were going but we managed to get back across the stage without being seen. It’s an old UFO trick, great fun.

When Ya Ya was in LA to shoot our video for When the World Cried with Nigel Dick, who also filmed Toto and Guns n Roses, we agreed to meet him at our hotel to have a chat.

Ray the guitarist fancied a dip in the hot tub on the roof, we had put a whole bottle of shampoo in the hot tub, we switched on the jacuzzi and he got in just for a laugh.

Nigel pulled up and looked up at the roof, all you could see was foam sliding down the side of the building. He said you could see it about a mile away. The hotel weren’t too happy – it was only soap !

There was a time I was backstage at Glastonbury when Bobby Womack walks up to me and says, ‘You remind me of that mutherfucker used to sing with Slade!’

Before I could answer his trumpet player declared…’No man, he remind me of that mutherfucker used to sing with Led Zeppelin!’….then they both walked of, it was hilarious.

Post soundcheck in Barcelona with The Project band in 2019.

Bringing your story up to date what are you doing now ?

I’m currently singing with The Project Band, basically the guys from the Alan Parsons Project featuring Lenny Zakatek joint vocals, Stuart Elliot on drums, Laurence Cottle on bass, Richard Cottle on keys and Dave Bainbridge on guitar.

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

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

Finally, what does music mean to you ?

Music has meant everything really. Hard work, fun, and a living. It’s a cruel mistress sometimes, some wonderful moments you never forget, days when you wonder what you’re doing there.

I’ve met some fantastic people over the years, many great friends, lots of people to look up to. There’s always a challenge to look forward to.

Interview by Alikivi   May 2020.

For more info contact the official website:

http://www.samblue.co.uk

ART OF NOISE from the Tygers of Pan Tang new album ‘Ritual’.

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Just when you thought it was safe the aptly titled ‘Art of Noise’ comes at you head on, and returns for another bite. Opening with thick treacly rock sound ‘Worlds Apart’ to ‘Spoils of War’ and the single ‘White Lines’ with plenty of room for ‘Words Cut Like Knives’.

Then the MONSTER thunder of ‘Let’s turn up the sound and gather around, To hear…the art of noise’. Deafining indeed. Album closer ‘Sail On’ is a breeze after that.

The Tygers of Pan Tang, engineer Fred Purser and additional production from Soren Andersen are the creative team behind the new album ‘Ritual’ which can be added to any hard rock playlist in 2020.

For further info contact the official website:

http://www.tygersofpantang.com/official/

Alikivi   March 2020.

SOUTH SHIELDS 1977 – THE KING, THE QUEEN & THE PUNK – film stories & soundbites.

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.

Why not put them together in a film ?

Some projects take a lot of digging around to get made but on this one each person contacted about contributing to the film lead to another and another – making the whole process easier. 

This blog features stories and soundbites from contributors to the documentary made in 2013. 

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.

The 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.

The King, The Queen & The Punk (25 mins 2013)  watch the edited version on Alikivi You Tube channel.

Gary Alikivi   February 2020.

 

TALKING PICTURES in conversation with actress Lesley Saint John

1983 I was glued to the telly on a Friday night when the first season of Auf Wiedersehen Pet hit the screen. The show proved to be popular around the UK and confirmed the programme a TV classic.

Written by Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais who already had a hit show starring North East characters in The Likely Lads.

Summer ‘85 I was upstairs in Newcastle Airport sweating it – my first time flying. I was about to go on a lad’s holiday to Ibiza when suddenly there was a commotion from the check-in area downstairs.

We ran over to the balcony to look down and see a couple of actors we recognised from the show waiting in line. I noticed the red streaks in Wayne’s (Gary Holton) black hair. The area was being roped off and they started filming a scene.

It wasn’t until season two in 1986 when I saw this episode being broadcast and there was a bit of a buzz remembering it been filmed.

So, for this blog, I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to interview one of the stars of that memorable series.

Good interviews have honesty and laughter and there was plenty of that when I met up with Lesley Saint-John who played Vicky in the second season…

Vicky was a Manicurist from South Shields. You wouldn’t believe how much attention the show attracts. I did five years on Byker Grove, a Catherine Cookson film, but Auf Wiedersehen is the one that’s talked about the most.

There is an AWP fan club, and because the show is constantly repeated on tv, people often come up to me and say Vicky’s lines, they know them off by heart. Its great people remember it.

How did the job on Auf Wiedersehen come about ?

I was just a normal jobbing actor in the North East, the majority of work I had done was up here, including tv shows, commercials and corporate training videos, as well as stage work.

I’d heard of the show because the first season had been on telly but to be honest, I didn’t really watch it. My mother rang me up one night and said, ‘Have you seen that Auf Wiedersehen Pet on the telly, you’ve gotta watch it’.

I said, ‘I’ve flicked over it, but it just seems to be men sitting in a hut’. She said it was brilliant and I should start watching it.

Then my agent sent me for the audition held in Newcastle, which was great because normally a lot of auditions I would have to get on a coach or train travelling hours down to London.

How did the audition go?

It went fine there was a big panel of people, normally there is one or two with the casting director, but this was different. Sometimes auditions seem to go well but you don’t get the job, others you’re not sure of but you’re called back.

I knew the part was for someone called Vicky but didn’t know if it was for just one or two episodes, it ended up 10 out of the 13 episodes in series two.

Then I got a call again from my agent saying that they wanted me back to test with the rest of the cast in London and play a scene out with one of the characters. That turned out to be Gary Holton who played Wayne, who sadly is no longer with us.

Did you like Vicky, your character in the show?

Yeah, I think she was quite honest, maybe people thought she was a money grabber because she was with an older man with money, but she really did care for Ally.

It was Ally Fraser who was interested in money and how he could make more, Vicky was almost like the asset on his arm. It was a good relationship at the beginning but by the end it went sour.

Looking back what are your memories of the show?

The scenes in Spain were filmed around Marbella in about six weeks, I remember having a nanny out there for my daughter who was nearly four at the time.

Ally’s villa was up in the hills near Puerto Banus, and at the time we were filming it was actually a concrete shell being built, so after the guys had filmed their scenes real Spanish builders would come in the evenings, to do more work on it.

The next day it looked like the lads had put the brick and extra tiles on the pool. Now you can rent the villa and I’ve been told by fans of the show that they clubbed together for a holiday there.

People remind me of this ‘green bikini’ scene we filmed in the Costa Del Sol, which really if I hadn’t had photographic evidence, I would never have believed I was ever that slim! (laughs).

But to let you know how scenes are filmed out of order with what you see on the programme, that scene outside the villa on the terrace was filmed around August then the next scene, which continues an argument with Ally, is when we walk into the villa, and is actually January in a studio in Nottingham.

So that 20 second walk was actually four or five months apart, it was a very cold studio and I had to have false tan on (laughs).

There was a line in one of the shows where I said I was going to Annabels club, well apparently there was a problem with that because there actually was a club called Annabels in Sunderland.

So, months later I had to go down to Central Television in Nottingham where we used to film all the indoor scenes and go into a recording booth and record the line saying I was going to Cannibals because we couldn’t use the name Annabels.

It had to be something similar because we couldn’t reshoot the whole scene because it was with Gary Holton who had passed away during the production.

The whole thing was very eery because I was by myself in the recording booth, but what they didn’t tell me was the line Gary had filmed would come through my headphones first.

I was never warned and when his distinctive cockney voice came through, I was silent. It completely threw me, it was if he was in the room.

The North East has a pedigree of strong women, do you think you fit into that ?

For people living in London or the south auditions can be ten a penny, easy to get to, but for me coming down from the North East sometimes it felt like an expensive ordeal. I am strong…ish, but could definitely do with toughening up.

But when I went to London for an audition, I met someone also going for the same part, funnily enough she ended up becoming my London agent. We talked about it and me getting the part and not her, I asked how she felt, and she just said it wasn’t to be.

I want to be that philosophical about it, but I still take it personal, I still need to toughen up.

How did you get into acting?

When I was around 12 I wanted to go to stage school in London, but my parents couldn’t afford it. Today you can get a degree in performing arts there was nothing like that up here when I was growing up.

I was brought up on the stage because my parents were in Amateur Dramatics and playing the lead roles, they met at a choir in Gateshead.

They used to put on shows and concert parties in old people’s homes and I would go with them, sing a couple of songs and do my ballet or tap dancing. I’d just always knew I wanted to be on stage as some sort of performer.

I was listening to music then and when I was about eight, the first album I bought was Chopin, I can’t remember why, but I loved it.

Then as a teenager I listened to T.Rex, Status Quo, Roxy Music and Alice Cooper. I saw all of them at Newcastle City Hall except Alice Cooper who I loved.

But the way I got into acting as a profession was singing on stage in a band to get my Equity card. You had to have 40 weeks on stage and be nominated by somebody.

So, I joined a band at 19-year-old where I did two or three solos and the rest backing vocals in workingmen’s clubs all around the North East. My songs were like Blondie and Dionne Warwick ‘If you see me walking down the street, just walk on by’ (sings).

I never thought of myself as a strong singer but that’s how I got in because you had to be in Equity in those days before you could work in tv. This is all I ever wanted to do I just never got as far as I wanted to get.

When was the time you thought you had missed an opportunity?

After Auf Wiedersehen Pet came out, my London agent asked if I was going to move to London, but I didn’t because my personal circumstances of being a single parent after my husband left made it difficult.

The practicalities of buying a house and not having my parents to support looking after my daughter might have been too much. A lot of women go away from the scene and have their kids so when they come back, if they do, people have forgotten them or moved on.

I think there is a massive amount of untapped talent here, but to get really established like, some of my colleagues from Byker Grove, Jill Halfpenny, Ant and Dec, you have to make the move down South or you will be making the journey up and down the motorway for auditions and shows.

A good thing is today there are more chances to get out there with all the social media and magazines.

So, looking back it was sort of missing a trick there, it might not have worked, but if I had my way I would have been in London when I was 12 (laughs).

How did working on Byker Grove come about?

Straight off the back of an audition I done, in the show my character Kath (Dobson) had three daughters, Jill Halfpenny was the eldest one.

What also helped was that we looked similar, we had dark hair, and I have freckles like the youngest, plus it was in the curly perm days (laughs). The guy who played my husband was Tony Hodge who was in a big North Eastern band, The Piranha Brothers.

Kath was very different from Vicky who was glamorous with the clothes and great locations. In nearly all my scenes as Kath, wardrobe gave me navy blue fuddy duddy skirts and button upped blouses to wear, and not much make up, just housewife scenes of making the meals, getting the kids to school, it was great playing a totally different role.

The Dobson’s used a real house in Newcastle where we filmed their scenes and our internal shots were set in The Mitre building in Benwell, Newcastle.

After leaving Byker Grove Lesley had a role in the tv series ‘Harry’ starring Michael Elphick, then took on another part…

In 1996 I was in the Catherine Cookson film The Girl, I played Nancy Boyle who has a daughter, wears raggy clothes and I’m dying of T.B. I go to the big house and tell the master that this is his daughter, and as I’m dying he’s got to look after her.

Typical Cookson film but I love all these different looks that I’ve done.

What’s next Lesley?

It can be 10 or 20 years when you find yourself working with people again and it’s like you’ve never been apart because I’m in a show called Moreland’s Firm, a criminal family from Newcastle where Michael Moreland is trying to become a businessman and go straight.

I play the mother Rose Moreland, and my son Michael is played by Craig Conway who in real life was married to Jill Halfpenny.

So, it’s weird to have played both their mothers. Tony Hodge, who was also in Byker Grove plays opposite me, in fact he was one of Roses clients as she starts the show as an alcoholic prostitute (laughs).

Rose Moreland swears, and I never swear in real life, I had to slap Michael’s face and tell him to f..off, his face was going really red it was like ‘We’ll just do one more’.

He said just go for it but I could see the shock on his face after I slapped him. But Rose comes good in the end (laughs).

Craig Conway who is producing it, is looking to get the programme commissioned, we shot a lot of footage, so he has got something to show rather than just an idea or bit of script.

What would be your favourite role ?

My favourite job would be one of the co-hosts on Loose Women because I love talking, and I love debating or be a character in Emmerdale. But yeah, Loose Women I’d do that in a heartbeat.

I will be performing at Newcastle Arena this weekend in ‘Sunday for Sammy’ (23 Feb) I love it as I get to catch up with loads of old friends and it’s all for Charity. I am really looking forward to that. Can’t wait!!

Interview by Gary Alikivi    February 2020.