Is the Raven Metal Machine ready to bust a gut and get back out on the road again ? John Gallagher let’s rip with a short, sharp message to the Raven Lunatics in America…
**** absolutely, we can’t wait to get into that groove, getting out there and go nuts. It’s been way too long and people need a dose of good music!
When was the last time the band gigged ?
We played the Alcatraz festival in Belgium on August 15 which was the first gig we played since the Monsters of Rock cruise in February 2020. So it’s been 18 month between shows and we played ‘The Power’ from the Metal City album too – it was a great gig for us.
Will the set list be made up from the recent album ‘Metal City’ ?
We will do three or four Metal City tracks and a selection of older tunes a few of which we haven’t played in a zillion years so that’s gonna be fun!
Are you stopping off in any towns you’ve never played ?
The States is so big there’s always somewhere new to play! Petaluma, California and Lincoln, Nebraska to name just two.
The ‘Metal City’ 20+ date tour stops off in cities including Akron, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, San Diego, Salt Lake City and Brooklyn.
If you are going to see the band leave a message and include comments about the gig and where you saw them.
Part two of a conversation with Jeff Brown in The Customs House, South Shields.
I’ve appeared in a few Sunday for Sammy shows at Newcastle City Hall and the Arena. I’ve loved taking part in that. In fact, the first time I was on telly was with Sammy Johnson – I was an extra in Spender.
I was in the background of a pub scene in The Ship in Byker and had to walk past him then order a pint at the bar. There was a couple either side of me with the woman saying quietly ‘Do you think we’re on ? I said ‘if you lean in a bit further you might get into shot’. I got £50 for that! (laughs).
Theatre and the arts have always been a huge part of my life, and being on TV is the nearest thing of being an actor in a way. My daughter had her first professional break here on stage at the Customs House. We’re big supporters of this theatre with spending most of my life just up the road in Jarrow.
A couple of year ago I took a play writing course at Live Theatre, Newcastle, and came up with an idea based on a true story about a Sunderland footballer, David Corner. He gave away a goal in the Milk Cup final against Norwich City at Wembley in 1985. He was 19 years old, and it was only his third game.
Dave is six foot and ginger so he was very visible, and a lot of people blamed him for costing Sunderland the final. The ball was running towards the corner flag and instead of kicking it out he tried to shield it and let it run out for a goal kick. Someone nicked the ball off him and scored – and that one mistake had a huge effect on the rest of his life.
In the years afterwards he got a lot of abuse – a broken jaw, broken eye socket among other things – so it was trying to get him a bit of redemption, really. Everyone makes a mistake but this poor guy was pilloried for it – and even now, people see him in Sunderland and shout: Are you Davey Corner? You cost us the cup final!
I loved seeing the play come to life. It was a monologue, with a great actor called Steve Arnott playing the part of Davey. He wasn’t a football fan and I thought he would’ve had to be to ‘get’ what the show was about. First night Steve said ‘No I’m an actor Jeff, that’s what I do – act characters that I’m not’. I thought – fair point, Steve!
It ran three nights here, then toured at Washington Arts Centre and the Gala in Durham. It was also on at The Peacock pub in Sunderland – where Davey had his jaw broken, so it was quite poignant, really.
I’m still in touch with him now, and he’s a lovely guy. He became a policeman after football, and said he never thought he would find a job where he was hated even more than when he was a footballer! He is retired now, as a result of all the knee operations he had in football.
We turned it into an audio book where I recorded it myself, absolutely loved it. We put it out last year during UK Anti-Bullying week, to raise money for the Foundation of Light, the charity connected to Sunderland Football Club.
ENTER STAGE LEFT
I’ve written a couple of plays since which I’m still hoping to have produced. One is based on a Premier League footballer, originally from the Republic of Congo but brought up in France. The play is set in the North East, where he meets a single mum. She’s a lost soul with no money, and he is a lost soul with a lot of money – so there is a clash of cultures. I’m hoping it’ll see the light of day eventually!
Trying to get people back to the theatre is hard, and trying to get them back for untried new writing is doubly hard. I’m a huge supporter of the arts and can’t understand Governments not thinking the arts are important. They’re a huge part of life.
Soon as I get up I listen to the radio but I’m still a big newspaper fan, although it is a dying industry and I would hesitate to tell kids to get into it like I did. I still love physically reading an article in a paper, rather than trying to look at it on a phone. When I get in the office at work I flick through the papers, Northern Echo, Journal and Chronicle to see what’s going on locally.
People have been nice about us working on Look North during the pandemic. I was stopped in Morrisons in Jarrow a few weeks back and some people said thanks for everything you’ve done during lockdown. I’ve just being doing my job really but they said no it’s just lovely to see the same faces and hear a familiar voice every night.
I never thought about it like that – but some people have been stuck in the house all through lockdown not seeing anybody, so a regular news outlet with a familiar voice and face has helped in a small way. If we have brought some comfort to people, that’s nice.
Jeff Brown has been a familiar face on North East TV for 25 years, delivering news and sport in his calm and self-assured way. I arranged to meet him in The Customs House, South Shields to find out what makes him tick.
Everyone is good at something it’s just finding it, it gives you tremendous focus and peace of mind and I was lucky to find mine at a young age. I was also very lucky having supportive parents so when I said at 14 that I wanted to be a sports reporter they never said everyone wants to get into football matches for nothing, why not be an accountant.
Journalism was all I wanted to do. My Dad said let’s see what we can do to make it happen. He suggested looking in the Sunderland Echo every night to see what sports stories they don’t cover and go and cover them.
First thing I did was follow some friends up to Edinburgh for a Table Tennis tournament. I wrote it all up and sent it in. It was used in the Echo and it was an absolute wow seeing it in print. This was around 1976.
I also followed Newcastle Diamonds speedway, wrote up the reports in longhand and my Dad drove miles out of his way to work to drop them off at the Echo office.
After having three or four printed and not being paid my Dad said why not drop them a line and say you are happy to supply them but payment would be good. I eventually got £1.25 for each report printed and after a few of these they started putting my name on them – giving me a by line. I knew then this is what I wanted to do.
I was desperate to start work straight after school but a teacher advised me to go to University because it would help get me further and faster in a career. Unfortunately no Media courses then so it was Economic and Social History at York.
HAVE YOU HEARD THE NEWS
In my third year I wrote off to fifty newspapers and got six replies, two interviews and one job offer. So that’s how I finished up at the Birmingham Post and Mail in 1982 as a trainee at a time when newspapers had a bit of money so they were putting you on training courses.
I did my two and a half years training and everyday I would go over to the sports desk and ask if there’s a job nobody wants to do – maybe on a weekend or evening – I’ll do it.
As my training finished a job came up on the sports desk as a junior, so I became sports reporter in January 1985 and after a year a job came up on the North East Journal. I thought I had left the North East and wanted to go to Fleet Street in London, but after talking to friends and looking at the opportunity of writing about North East sport, I came back and did ten years on the Journal.
That was mainly football, boxing and speedway plus Durham cricket who became a first class county and I got the job covering them home and away for not just the Journal but the Chronicle, Sunday Sun and the Pink. I always loved writing and did fourteen years in all on papers.
SPIRIT OF RADIO
When Durham were playing first class county matches BBC Newcastle wanted news reports from matches that I was covering. So at the end of the game I’d pick up a phone and talk about the game for a minute – and that was it.
Writing a report, you’d spend all day crafting eight hundred to a thousand words then ring the office, asking them to change a comma or paragraph – it was so much easier just talking! So I did a bit more radio broadcasting, before a job came up at Tyne Tees in 1996.
The boss, Roger Thames, got in touch and asked if I wanted to come in for a chat ? I was a bit naïve, because it was an interview really – and he asked me to do a screen test there and then.
I thought I had my best tie on, but is my hair ok ? Maybe I should say I’ll come back tomorrow, when I would have had time to prepare. But as he was talking I thought: no this is TV – it’s what you’ve got to do and be ready at a minutes notice.
I still have a copy of the screen test on tape, and if you saw it you would say ‘How did that bloke ever get on TV!’ I’m reading a news bulletin and it’s awful! I’m tense and moving nothing but my lips.
Then they asked me to talk about a sports topic for two minutes. I was wired up (through a headpiece) to the gallery and they let me know when there was a minute left, 30 seconds left, and then there was a countdown from ten seconds to zero. Timing is all important – especially on ITV, because you have to hit the advertising breaks.
For the two minute sports topic I talked about Durham cricket, and as I wound the piece up I came out bang on zero. That’s when Roger Thames said ‘that’s the guy for the job’. Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat and think what if I did say I’ll come back tomorrow?
You’ve got to take opportunities when they come along. What’s the worst that could happen ? Changed my life that did – and that was twenty five years ago this month.
The Kevin Keegan and Peter Reid times were great for sport in the North East. ITV had Premier League rights to use the football highlights, and at its height we had a team of eleven in the sports department.
We did sport every night on Tyne Tees, and on a Monday and Friday there were separate sports desks in City Road, Newcastle and at the Belasis studio in Billingham.
We did a Saturday tea-time results service called ‘Full Time’, a weekly magazine programme called Café Sport, and Football Flashback – an archive programme. We had our own football shows with studio guests, built around Highlights of big Cup ties, and I even travelled to do features in Italy, Holland and the States – it was a great time.
I had six and a half years at Tyne Tees, but then in 2003 I had an appraisal with Roger where he asked what do I want to do? I said ‘I want to do your job, Head of Tyne Tees Sport.’
But he told me his job would be gone in a few years and there wouldn’t be a separate department – it will all be under one roof. It was just the way ITV was developing. Instead of eighteen separate regions – Tyne Tees, Yorkshire, Granada etc – it would all be just one big ITV company.
It broke my heart to leave but BBC Look North were looking to compete by having a sports night every night. And everything Roger said about the way ITV was changing came to pass.
LIFE IN A NORTHERN TOWN
In 2008 our main Look North news presenter, Carol Malia, went on maternity leave and a national advert went out for the post. I thought ‘I’ve done sport for around twenty years now – I might just give it a go’. I was in my comfort zone, and thought I should try something different.
I had being doing sport on Look North five years so knew I wouldn’t be a new face to viewers. My boss said ‘You didn’t give the best but we’ll take a chance!’ So I started on news, and when Carol came back I filled in on some days. Now she does three days a week hosting Look North and I do two, plus two days of sport.
Most of the programme is done in advance with a planning team. The order of news stories is decided on the day. On Monday we spend most of our time churning out the weekend sport. But we also plan ahead for the rest of the week so we know we have something every night. At the same time you’re always ready to drop everything and go chasing after a breaking news story.
There is a high degree of flexibility because of the way the industry has changed. Initially it would take five people to put a story on telly. When I started there was a cameraman, sound engineer, reporter, video editor and another sound engineer for recording a voice over.
Now I can be a video journalist (VJ) where I film something, digitize it, choose the pictures, write the voice over and record that, then edit the whole package and finally present it – which is why there aren’t as many jobs as there used to be, despite there being loads more channels!
Being able to edit pictures can give you great flexibility. If a story breaks at 6pm I can write it, choose the pictures, edit it all together then bang – it’s there to use at 6.30pm.
One time I was just putting my phone in the locker and I picked up a text that the Sunderland manager at the time – Steve Bruce – had just been sacked. We had half an hour to reshape the whole programme, which began with Carol asking me questions while we floated in some pictures of Steve and I talked about it for 2-3 minutes. It’s that immediacy which makes it so exciting.
The day after this interview Newcastle United were sold to new owners becoming one of the richest football club’s on the planet. Jeff was called in for a special live broadcast from St James’ Park and Newcastle manager Steve Bruce again was in line to be sacked.
Read part two about Jeff’s involvement in theatre and arts and what he is doing now.
‘I was born in 1932 and been in the business since I was 14 years old. When I was 18 I had to do National Service for a couple of year, you had to do that after the Second World War’.
London born Ray remembers his roots and where his life on stage began…
‘Originally the family were Irish and came over to Jarrow in the North East where my Dad was born, then he hitch hiked down to London to get work. After I completed my National Service I went up north and joined a repertory company in Blackburn for a couple of year, before auditioning for Brian Rix at London’s Whitehall Theatre where I ended up staying for seven years’.
Comedy and farce are the backbone of Ray’s work but a rock n roll swerve in 1977 saw a musical celebrating the life of Elvis Presley. The show opened at London’s Astoria Theatre with pop stars Shakin’ Stevens and PJ Proby playing the Elvis role in different stages of his life. Europe, Australia, Canada and Japan tours quickly followed.
‘I enjoyed the Elvis show so much. We got in touch with his agent and asked to put a show on about his life and he said sure go for it. So we went ahead and here we are over 40 years later talking about it’.
‘Having previously written with Tony Hilton and John Chapman, I then started to write my first solo play which was ‘Run For Your Wife’, that ended up running for nine years in London. We also had a six week run in New York and that went well, really delightful’.
Various TV and film stars appeared in the 1982 and 83 productions of ‘Run For Your Wife’ including Richard Briers (The Good Life, Ever Decreasing Circles), Bernard Cribbins (Carry On, Tales of the Unexpected) Bill Pertwee (Dad’s Army) and Carol Gill (Robin’s Nest, Carry On).
The show was first performed at the Windsor then promoted to the Shaftsbury Theatre, London.
‘My process is I write the play, then have a rehearsed reading which we do in my house or garden, I always play in it, and that’s where I get a real good feel for it. I do a re-write then we go to Guildford or Windsor Theatre and do a three week production’.
‘After that I do a re-write then a short six week tour and another re-write. By the time we come to do it in the West End it’s really, really polished and the play is then set in stone’.
‘The premise is basically simple and that’s why they play so well, in fact my plays are played all around the world, and in Poland ‘Run For Your Wife’ has been playing for over 27 years and is still running’.
‘Also in Russia my plays, play for months and months and they love them – because the basic premise is so easy to understand’.
‘The well-known actors who I’ve worked with in the past, like Richard Briers and Donald Sindon, know what I’ve done with the play so respect it and rehearsals are really fun. Plus any producer who does them knows what would have gone in to them’.
With a skill set of actor, writer and director, Ray added producer, with west end credits including Chicago, Andy Capp, Elvis, Jack the Ripper and Birds of Paradise.Is he thinking of slowing down ?
‘I’m not writing anymore, I don’t have the feeling to write, but there is a lovely little dinner theatre near Reading called The Mill at Sonning Theatre. They love doing my plays there and I always go down to see them’.
‘I’ve directed a couple there and even though they were written years ago they still play wonderfully well. They do dinner before the show and it’s around £60 a ticket – it’s always packed out’.
‘Looking back I’ve been very fortunate over the years because my plays are done all over the world. I’ve been really, really lucky – you betcha’.
For more info on Ray check his official website, Facebook and Twitter accounts:
The poem ‘Mask of Anarchy’ by Percy Shelly inspired Writer and Theatre producer Ed Waugh to write lyrics for a new song ‘For the Many, Not the Few’.
Ed recently got in touch… ‘We are delighted to launch our new song and you can watch it on You Tube, it can also be downloaded from various platforms – Facebook, Spotify and Amazon (link below)’.
‘The song is to launch Boris Out! A show of socialist comedy and entertainment – comedy sketches, satire, stand up, songs and poetry written and performed by some of the region’s top writers and actors. It is also a precursor to the political earthquake that is about to engulf the world’.
‘If you like it please share the song and the Boris Out!leaflet on social media.
If you don’t like it, still share it but say it’s by Duran Duran……
See you all at Boris Out! at the Tyneside Irish Centre on November 14’.
Due to demand, only tickets for the 3pm show are available.
The 7pm show is sold out (returns only) – only 50 remain for the 3pm show.
Buy your tickets for only £10 from:borisout.eventbrite.com
In this second post with music journalist and author Phil Sutcliffe, he talks about working with some of the biggest bands on the planet.
I knew AC/DC somewhat when they’d just come to London. Bon was the best storyteller and his narration of the Whole Lotta Rosie legend was a treat – 19 stone, Bon the 32nd bloke she’d had that month, the ‘Climb on top’ – although I don’t think it was her who’d got the jack.
The Police had a famous story of one of those early career gigs that Sting told me about, I mean famous once they were getting interviewed. They were in Poughkeepsie, upstate New York, their first US gig after their CBGBs debut, and the story goes that six people showed up.
The band played full-on regardless, broke off to introduce the ‘crowd’ to one another, all had a good time despite circumstances and one of the six was a DJ who played, Roxanne, and world conquest began right there!
The Police book I did in ’81 with Hugh Fielder was the real thing, mid-story right-there excitement, the Springsteen biography will be the best I can do, skill and enthusiasm on a long creative life – his I mean, though mine will be in there too. From that English and American Lit degree to the old retired music journo, exploring still – not necessarily getting anywhere.
In the Springsteen biography have you found anything you were surprised at ?
My approach is connections and that makes for a wide reach and the surprises you ask about. For months I’ve been reading about Elvis, racism and the south, and that has extended to books on MLK, Mahalia Jackson, Gospel, plus infinite circles around Elvis, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Odetta, Dylan, Stax – all occurring when Bruce was 8-20 year old.
So the title might be a sonorous BS and The Great Tradition, if I ever get there, fun en route though. Regardless, it all interests me and other fans, beyond that probably no readers.
Throughout your career who were your memorable interviews with ?
That’s the question very old music writers don’t want. My disappointing answer is they were more or less all enjoyable, including Lemmy for Sounds. Flying to France in a bigger-than-small plane his manager Gerry Bron owned. He was remarkably direct and engaged with anyone who looked him in the eye, so another different-planet interview that worked very well.
AC/DC for Sounds, my first and favourite being at the house they rented in London. The Youngs and Bon Scott being nothing but their down-to-earth – with a touch of python-round-the-neck – selves and storytelling till the teabags ran out.
Springsteen in Mojo, my lifetime fave, who I first heard through Bedrock (BBC Newcastle radio programme). To interview, no one I met has ever combined such clarity, such heart, such ideas, such grasp of the sweat-and-blood inner lives – well, we’ve been travelling over rocky ground you know.
In sum though, through all these blessings, I’d just state musicians all have a lot to say and I’m happy to take notes and tell the story. Never met a stupid musician, never.
Vocabularies vary according to background, but the ability to express themselves verbally seems pretty consistent to me, whether or not they’re wordsmith lyricists by trade – the creative, artistic instinct and inclination carry over into speech – fortunately for us music writers.
What are you doing now?
Meandering through semi-retirement writing a much-needed Springsteen biography which pleases me – if the Bruce book counts as professional work.
Still very active in my union the National Union Of Journalists, whereof I’m a Member Of Honour. My only honour! But a good one.
Lived with my wife Gayle in the same south London flat since we left Newcastle in 1979. No reason to move, never saw the ladder. Lucky, lucky, lucky as the lovely Kylie said.
Thanks to ‘Soundclips’ on twitter for articles from Sounds 1975-80, archivist Steve ‘Stig’ Chivers.
The blog has featured some people who stuck a flag in the ground for the North East – Chris Phipps, Chris Cowey, David Wood, Colin Rowell, Ian Penman and Rik Walton for the pix.
The latest addition to the squad is a man who used words to create a colourful landscape and painted pictures in the minds of thousands of teenage music lovers.
London born Phil Sutcliffe, looks back on 40 years of music journalism for Sounds, Q, Mojo and The Face.
He interviewed a world of musicians including Stewart Copeland, Joni Mitchell, Nick Cave, Sheryl Crow, Eric Clapton…
Thom Yorke for Los Angeles Times and for Mojo, 15 minutes on the phone with Dolly Parton, truly that can set you up for a year or two.
Where did Sutcliffe find his love for words, and what’s his connection to the North East ?
I always wanted to be a journalist so in 1969 when I finished my A-levels and had a degree in English & American Literature from Manchester University, I applied for journo jobs and got a training course followed by an apprenticeship at Newcastle Evening Chronicle.
That was in the new training centre in an office above the Bigg Market doing just about everything – local councils, sports desk, feature writing, a spell as a columnist, the subs desk, and in court where the 15-year-old kid who pleaded guilty to burglary and asked for 153 other offences to be taken into account.
There was stints in district offices – Gateshead, Consett and North Shields – ah, the morning fishing report of how much, by weight and type of fish each boat had landed! From the outset writing heaps, hard, fast and fascinating all the time.
How did the job with Sounds come about ?
I’d always said I wanted to work freelance but it happened sooner than intended. After three years mainly on the Chronicle I did the usual thing of trying to get my second job, 175 rejections later I went freelance.
September 1974 I was 27 my first marriage had just broken up, a bit late to start writing about rock’n’pop so not much in the way of a plan, but thought maybe I could earn part of a living on one of the five weekly rock/pop papers – as ‘our man in the North East’.
While still doing a bit of local news for Newcastle papers and Radio Newcastle, plus a couple of non-musical feature items for Woman’s Hour! I wrote off to NME, Melody Maker, Sounds and Record Mirror.
With so many band tours starting in the North East you could get the first review in, and I got a sniff from Melody Maker, but really hit it off with Sounds.
Within the next year I started doing feature interviews and making a slightly more decent living – Gentle Giant might have been the first as I tended to get ecstatic about their wild prog adventures.
But my first rock interview I think was Sparks backstage at Newcastle City Hall for Radio Newcastle’s late-night programme, Bedrock. The show was DJ’d by my friend Dick Godfrey with a strictly non-rowdy zoo of other voices – Ian Penman/Ravendale, Arthur Hills, the Out Now fanzine team, me, and other enthusiasts, all of us unpaid but enjoying ourselves meeting stars.
Also dozens of local bands from Sting’s Last Exit to Bob Smeaton’s White Heat, the veteran Junco Partners, Southbound, Gale Force Ten (with singer-saxist Joy Askew) and Wavis O’Shave.
There was a lot of local stuff about and loads of it good in what might well have been a culture – Tyneside pub rock. Very diverse, and not what Londoners called pub rock – Ducks Deluxe, Chilli Willy and such, Brit R&B-rooted – but it did happen in pubs quite a bit.
The Cooperage, The Bridge, The Gosforth – Last Exit every Weds if I recall. That one out in Heaton, Andy Hudson’s wine bar for a bit, a cellar near the Civic Centre – he played trumpet for the Grimethorpe Colliery Band when he were a lad you know, and then the more obviously culture-centred Jesmond Theatre.
We met on a Saturday lunchtime in a pub near the Tyne river and chatted and plotted, me and Dick Godfrey, promoter-musos like Chris Murtagh and Angus, er, sorry lost his surname but nice bloke with a moustache.
Even the odd sympathetic older star like Hilton Valentine from The Animals who could show us all a thing or two, though I can’t remember what. It was good.
Once in a while the Guildhall down by the Tyne river, scene of the Bedrock festival that spun off from the radio programme – all of this encouraged by a loose collective of bands and fans.
Putting the Angelic Upstarts on before Neon at the Bedrock festival proved to be a misjudgment as a huge fight ensued, a rather one-sided affair given Neon fans were student’ish and Upstarts fans were from South Shields.
I jest in retrospect, but it was a shame and in part my fault thinking in a hippie way that music brought us all together. We didn’t do that again.
However, the Upstarts – and their fans – were fine on their own territory which is where I met them generally, starting with a gig at Jarrow Town Hall when punk had reached the North East and they’d released their single, Who Killed Liddle Towers?
Which was a drama and a campaign in itself, with police brutality played out by cop-hatted singer Mensi, going at a real pig’s head fresh from the butcher with a bloody great axe. That was a night.
Also a double-page spread in Sounds, Mensi and Mond had plenty to say for themselves and we got on, up to some point where me coming from another planet got unfeasibly less brotherly. I always liked them.
My Sounds colleague Dave McCullough didn’t though and he invented a great word for the rolling profanity Mensi deployed – fuckverballing. What came in between worked pretty well though, speaking for a life much harder that most rock writers knew anything about.
I did cover heavy metal/hard rock quite a lot, but missed the North East bands, but pretty sure Ian Penman did a feature.
(Penman writing as Ian Ravendale in Sounds, May 1980, featured the North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal with interviews from Mythra, Fist, Raven, White Spirit, Tygers of Pan Tang).
My other ‘discoveries’, as we used to say were Penetration, a quite brilliant sophistopunk band from Ferryhill, dazzling in every way with a natural star singer, Pauline Murray.
Great ideas men in Gary Chaplin and Robert Blamire, plus drummer Gary Smallman and out-there’ish guitarist Fred Purser. They almost made it. As did the rude theatricals, Punishment Of Luxury, with their panto villain frontman Brian Rapkin and his small band of wild-witty anarchs.
Meanwhile, I loved Last Exit to bits, jazz-rock and soul and their own stuff, often saw them twice a week, and eventually got them in Sounds. A big feature on Geordie boys trying the London move – and this despite editor Alan Lewis saying “God that singer’s awful” when I played him a cassette.
But this was just after I happened to introduce Sting to Stewart Copeland, passing through as Curved Air played the Poly in ’76 – he had a lightbulb moment all right and somehow persuaded Sting to give up the music he loved, come to London and play the music he hated – punk – until it freed him to find reggae and write, Roxanne onwards.
Stewart and Andy Summers played to their optimum pop potential and they become the biggest band in the world for quite a while.
A potion of Velvets/Stooges/Morricone/Springfield – that’s Dusty not the Boss (Steen!) – two self-produced albums behind them, and a third on its way – Lowfeye are a perfect antidote to pop gunk blocking the airwaves.
Durham’s deadly duo are musician & producer Alan Rowland, and vocalist & songwriter Carol Nichol who I arranged to meet in Newcastle’s Centurion bar.
Before 12 noon it’s quiet as travellers with their cabin cases wait in anticipation to board trains and whisk them off around the country.
But today it’s a Friday, and there’s a stag do on heat, one bloke dressed as a crocodile and another in a silky white wedding dress. We search for a quiet corner.
What came out the blue was we had done a Ennio Morricone type track. I love his soundtracks on the Spaghetti Western films with Clint Eastwood. We shared it on a Quentin Tarrantino website (Reservoir Dogs/ Jackie Brown/Inglorious Basterds) and a label in Europe picked it up.
They said a Swedish director is making a five part drama for TV called The Partisan, he’s looking for analogue sounding, quirky stuff and really like’s your track. We got in contact and a year later he signed it up and added it to the programme.
In The Partisan the leading actor is an undercover cop (played by Fares Fares) living in an idyllic part of Sweden. Some dramas are very grey and set in the city, but he wanted to capture how beautiful the country was with the darkness lying beneath the cornfields. The actor reflected that with a lot of skeletons in his cupboard.
The track was played around his character and had that spaghetti western feel, that was great because I’m obsessed with The Good, The Bad & the Ugly type films. Since I was young I‘ve been obsessed with Ennio Morricone. Forget your Mama bloody Mia I’m into cowboys and old films.
Afterwards, the Director got in touch and personally thanked me for the track saying it was very Sergio Leonne (A Fistfull of Dollars/Once Upon a Time in America).
It’s been shown in Sweden, France, Australia and America but not the UK yet. I got some footage and watched it, I’ve been in music since I was 14 and it was surreal hearing your track on something as good as this. One of the best days of my life.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO
I love the sound and films from the ‘60s and ‘70s and had an overload of pictures and music when I was young. Written on the back of my biker jacket was Black Sabbath and underneath The Stranglers, people would say how do they go together ?
But I also like tracks by Chic, the bass playing is excellent. Then the Russian classical composers, and Sabbath who have a really heavy sound that I love, the riffs from Toni Iommi were very original for their time. I also loved punk, Pistols, Damned then got into Joy Division and Magazine.
I saw The Stranglers, Smiths then Nirvana with Cobain at the Newcastle Riverside, who were really good but unheard of at the time. They ended up giving the ‘90s a kick up the arse. I remember I wasn’t allowed to go see Ozzy with his wild reputation but I did see AC/DC with Bon Scott. I’ve seen lots of local bands at Fowlers Yard in Durham and small venues in Newcastle.
I fronted a punk band and got some good gigs and support slots but didn’t want to keep on playing live so decided to concentrate more on working at home in a studio. We’ve got a good little set up now. We work from an eight track, a computer and instruments.
I’m a melody writer and bring up the ideas, Alan’s a great arranger and musician. The melodies just pop in really, anytime of the day, I play guitar or keyboard and record them on my phone. It comes quickly we never slog at it.
We love the old analogue stuff, as Lowfeye we try to get that warmer analogue sound. We experiment a lot with the soundtracks we are doing and get away from the digital sound.
We’ve recorded our third album, just need to mix it. I love Raw on the second album (Poor Little Rich Girl) it’s a really heavy song and we’re looking at getting heavy tracks on the new one.
The last three month we’ve also been working on soundtracks and The Partisan are doing a second series. the Director gave us a brief about what it is about, so we sent him six soundtracks and he said there is two he might use in the new series.
Poor Little Rich Girl is available from Lowfeye via Facebook
In this second part Drew talks about recording with Forgodsake and Automatic, plus bringing his story up to date with new band Dawn after Dark.
At the same time as Shotgun Brides was ending, I was doing a few gigs with our former singer Kev Wilkinson’s new band – Drill. They were a wall of sound. Three guitars, bass and a drum machine. All on full volume.
Very entertaining and great fun, but I like having a drummer to bounce off so after a while I backed out and made way for Simon Moore to take up the reins and I left to concentrate on the new band I was in.
The new one had a different sound and feel to The Shotgun Brides, more rock focused with everyone’s influences coming to the fore, so we decide to leave the past behind and changed the name to Forgodsake.
We started writing songs and quickly went into the studio. The early demos got picked up by the rock press and independent radio stations and we got good coverage across Europe.
With influences that spanned punk, heavy rock, rock ‘n’ roll and the new grunge bands, Forgodsake played a load of styles all blended into one, it worked well. We toured with Skyclad, Dogs D’Amour and Mr Big among others, and headlining shows in various places around the country.
Also one-offs with the likes of Neds Automic Dustbin, Honeycrack and The Wildhearts. An eclectic mix, but some great bands and some really sound people. We also did a Marquee show with Johnny Thunders to close the circle.
As well as gigs out of town we played lots of local gigs, two of which were the pre- and opening nights at Trillians. The first night was for the brewery staff and we put the vocals through the CD PA – the Public Address system the pub played their Compact Discs through.
We were asked to advise the pub on what PA to get in to make it a viable gig for touring bands and we gave them the PA specs, but they decided to save money and put the band through their CD player. Luckily the free alcohol got us through the night.
The Vaux management were there and we told them it was utterly shit, so we got them to hire in Don Morton’s rig for the first public night and pinned everyone to the back wall. It was loud as. They then upgraded the in-house spec immediately so there was a decent PA there.
Forgodsake made two albums for Bleeding Hearts record label managed by Venom’s management company Bear Dawn. It was a subsidiary of Music For Nations I think, or was it licensed through them? They owned Lynx Studios in Shieldfield, Newcastle which had previously been owned by AC/DC’s Brian Johnson.
Both albums were self-produced as our vocalist Kev Ridley was their studio engineer. The first with the original five-piece line up of Wallace/Binns/Gallon/ Ridley/McCormack on guitar. And the second record with me, Gary Binns and Kev Ridley singing and on guitar.
They got great reviews and I think both stand up after all this time. I was, and am, proud of the two albums, but we didn’t have that bit of luck you need, so nothing sold in great quantities.
I also recorded a few tracks on a Venom tribute album around this time, adding the bass to the tracks recorded to Abaddon’s (Antony Bray) original drum tracks by Kreator, Nuclear Assault, Candlemass and Paradise Lost. The album was called In The Name Of Satan. I enjoyed giving my mum a copy of that one.
And then that was it for Forgodsake. Kev Ridley went on to sing for Skyclad, Chris McCormack formed 3 Colours Red, Steve Wallace put a new band together, Automatic, with his brother Mal on drums and a guy called Weeb on vocals.
Steve asked me to join Automatic, around ‘96, and we were back to our earliest roots. A high energy punk influenced band, with nods to the Clash and Compulsion.
Part way through my time in the band we got in Billy Gilbert as a second guitarist. The gigs were great and the audiences seemed to take to it well. We didn’t tour as such but played gigs around the country with a couple of Marquee shows thrown in and did local gigs with China Drum, Feeder and A, and a few with Stiff Little Fingers, including two Riverside shows and one at Newcastle Mayfair.
Automatic released one four track ep for Dental Records which Dave Hills, who manages Newcastle Trillians, may have recorded – not sure. We certainly recorded some stuff with him. Another album which unfortunately didn’t get released.
In 1999 I called it a day, but Automatic kept going for a while after. I headed south, working in Indonesia as a diving instructor for a while, then going to London and then Brighton where I now live.
Although I did do some recording with a group of musicians who came together for a week and hired a studio to see what we could come up with – Jef Streatfield from the Wildhearts, Paul Bate from Plan A, and Nathan Maddison from Hydra Vein. And that should have been it.
But earlier this year I was approached by Howard Johnson from Dawn After Dark, the ’80’s goth/groove/rock band who I saw back in the dim and distant past.
Howard is a journalist and had written one of the first Forgodsake reviews and we had become good mates after I moved down to London. So I’m now playing in a band again.
The first single came out on 27 August. We’ve got an album, headlining gigs and a short tour with Balaam And The Angel all before the end of the year with more planned for 2022.
I go to as many gigs as I can. Once you’re hooked it’s always part of your being, I just love live music. I tried to get bands together in Brighton, but it never seemed quite the same without Steve and Gary.
Steve is in Penetration and Gary is working with Pauline Murray and Rob Blamire in The Invisible Girls. Maybe we will get up on a stage together one day – never say never.
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Now based in Brighton, Gallon originally lived in Newcastle playing on the music scene during ‘80/90s. This first part features his time in glam punk bands Sweet Trash and Shotgun Brides.
A group of mates from Walbottle High School in the west end formed a band in 1982. We were young and punk influenced, and briefly toyed with the name Razor Cuts after the last line of a Buzzcocks song.
My dad wanted us to call ourselves Luke Puke and the Sickeners ? He’d obviously read the wrong press when he formed his opinion on punk rock. But it was never going to last because we had four guitarists and a synth player.
Eventually everyone went their own way leaving just me and Steve Wallace to soldier on, Steve now plays guitar for Penetration. We were in most bands together and he thinks I’ve got a crap memory so he’ll no doubt tell me I’ve got the timeline wrong and bands muddled up.
I decided to swap a guitar for bass, and Steve and I looked around for other kindred spirits and found a lad in our local pub, Mickey Parris. We also found a local drummer called Gary Binns. He was playing in a heavy rock band but as soon as we heard him we knew we had to have him in the band, so we convinced him that his future lay with us.
We were listening to New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders Heartbreakers, Hollywood Brats, and that’s where the band name stemmed from. English glam, The Sweet, and a term used for American glam, Trash Rock.
So the first band I was in was Sweet Trash who rehearsed at a place called The Scout Hut. It was a lonely building in the middle of a field. An old two-storey house which had the rooms downstairs knocked into one. We could play as loud as we wanted for as long as we wanted without disturbing anyone – it was perfect.
We started off playing covers. Some never made it to a gig, like Time Warped Garden Of Love by Cuddly Toys, but others did. First gig we played The Stones Get Off My Cloud, The Pistols No Feelings and Bodies.
Over time we played stuff by New York Dolls, Hanoi Rocks, and in later bands R.E.M. and The Clash. Towards the end of Shotgun Brides we played one that Sounds magazine referred to as our ‘rapidly becoming famous encore’ which was one of our songs – Stop Looking – into bits of Whole Lotta Love, Babylon’s Burning, Silver Machine and Bomber, then back to Stop Looking to finish off. It was quite long.
We did a couple of gigs then Mickey departed and was soon replaced by a singer called Carl Smith who I spotted on the #73 bus. He looked right for the band, but unfortunately only lasted for a little while then left.
We played as a three-piece for a gig or two around this period, which would have been mid-’84, then we got a lad called Keith ‘Cosmic’ Forster in as second guitarist and he and Steve shared vocal duties. The jigsaw was finally completed when we got Kev Wilkinson in as singer.
We played loads of gigs in pubs around the area. The Mitre in Benwell, The Cyprus in South Shields, Talk of the Tyne in Gateshead. We played the opening nights of Edwards Bar at the Crest Hotel and that started things moving for the band as it used to get packed.
We also played at Sunderland Mayfair and did a few gigs at Newcastle Tiffanys with The Vibrators and one with Guana Batz, as well as headlining gigs.
We were managed at the time by Tony Fiddes who ran The Monday Club in Tiffanys and The Drum Club in Sunderland Mayfair and I think it was him who got some of the North East TV crew Malcolm Gerrie and – I think – Chris Cowey to come down to see us play in Newcastle’s Edwards Bar.
Our gigs were always raucous affairs with a load of weirdly dressed overly enthusiastic northerners going for it in the audience, with the band very much the same. So that was how we got the slot on TX45, the local show filmed in The Tube studios at Tyne Tees.
Looking back on it now we calmed down a bit for the programme and it looks quite tame compared to how I remember the gigs, but they did get a great shot of Kev diving into the audience at the end of the two-song set to close the show.
With Tony managing we did a self-financed single called Burn It Down which was recorded at Steve Daggett’s (ex Lindisfarne) studio in Gosforth. I think it might have been the first single cover designed by the lads at Viz records, but unfortunately they took a sensible approach and there aren’t any Viz characters lurking in the background.
We also played out of the area, about the time of TX45 we did our first decent London gig, on the same bill as Flesh for Lulu, Turkey Bones and the Wild Dogs, and Dogs D’Amour.
But Sweet Trash had ran its course and we were getting into other types of music. So one October night in 1985 we went on stage as Sweet Trash and then changed our name to The Shotgun Brides for the encore.
The ShotgunBrides played quite a few gigs around Bradford and Leeds playing with the likes of Salvation and Loud and ended up being managed by Andy Farrow at Far North Music.
We signed to Neat Records and did an album that was never released, and a single called Restless, both with Keith Nichol at the controls. We lasted about three or four years with various line-ups, playing gigs around the North East and further afield, but eventually the usual musical differences raised its head and The Shotgun Brides played their last gig at the end of the ‘80s.
It was still me, Steve and Gary, but with Kev Ridley on vocals and Chris McCormack on guitar.We thought that keeping the name would attract some people in, and we still had some t-shirts left over to sell.
I’m not sure where Shotgun Brides last Shields gig was. Some social club I think. We probably did play The Venue in South Shields, and I’m sure Forgodsake did too.
Read the second part of the interview where Drew talks about recording with Forgodsake and Automatic, plus bringing his story up to date with Dawn after Dark.