Music can spring unexpected surprises when it pulls you in and holds your breath. It was the early ‘80s when I hired out albums from the local library and sampled songs from bands I’d only read about in Sounds music weekly. There were stacks of misses but big hitters like the first time hearing the sublime poetic lyrics of Leonard Cohen.
‘When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon. Don’t turn on the lights you can read their address by the moon’.
Or Pete Murphy spitting out white hot haunting claustrophobic tunes from post punk band Bauhaus ‘Yin and yang lumber punch, go taste a tart, then eat my lunch. And force my slender, thin and lean, in this solemn place of fill-wetting dreams’.
Live gig’s also brought surprises, I remember in November 1981 self-proclaimed UK Metal Gods Judas Priest were at Newcastle City Hall primed to deliver the goods. Before the big boys played with their bigger toys the support band are usually given 40 minutes to say their piece, unfortunately some crumble in front of the headliners crowd, but word shot around ‘the openers are supposed to be canny’.
It was a cold night outside as winter closed in and in the warmth of the ‘Haal’ the lights went down and a few shouts went out. From the balcony I looked down to see the short, stocky blond haired vocalist plant himself at the front of the stage. Udo Dirkschneider. The leader of the pack.
Sounding like they’ve brought the Panza division with them, the twin guitar attack of German metallers Accept announced their arrival in Newcastle and rock ‘n’ rolled thunder till the end. In the wings Priest looked on, sharpened their set and Rob Halford screamed for vengeance.
‘80s live music show The Tube had something and someone new and fresh every week. Big Country, The Alarm, The Cult, they all made a big, beautiful noise, and a surprise on the programme was Pat Benatar – the little American lady with a huge, huge voice.
On one show a duo delivered power from what at first looked like an unlikely source. A young skinny lad with floppy hair stood ready, at a game of football he would have been the last picked, then on walked someone who could of been a school dinner lady.
The stage was bare – with no drums, no Marshall stacks, no guitars, I was prepared for disappointment. I didn’t catch their name, with only a keyboard and microphone set up – how loud could a synth pop duo go ?
A clunky pop sound fired up, then the voice, and what a voice. Making one of her first TV appearances was Alison Moyet who went on to sell millions of albums, a bucket load of top ten UK hits, a host of singer and songwriter awards, Live Aid, and more, and more, you get the picture – not bad for a dinner lady.
I’ve got a Dolly Parton greatest hits cd on the shelf which I pick out now and then, but recently I’ve been listening to more country & western. Yep the whole pluckin’ banjo hillbilly heartbreak songs – my neighbour even looks like Willie Nelson – here’s to music springing more surprises.
Tony featured on the Mystical album in 2001 but his first contact with the Tygers was when they were auditioning a new vocalist after the departure of Jess Cox.
In the late ’70s TV producers Malcolm Gerrie and Chris Cowey were acting as my managers when they got me an audition with The Tygers Of Pan Tang from Whitley Bay, but John Deverill got the job over me – more from them later.
Then came heavy rock band Sergeant around ’83. Anthony Curran (bass) and former Tygers members Brian Dick (drums) and Rob Weir (guitar) were in the original line up. Brian and Robb had left the Tygers after The Cage album and tour in the early ‘80s.
As for gigging I remember a show case at Mingles rock night in Whitley Bay for Carling Publishing, we done a television promo for ‘How Dare You’, as part of the show the audience threw custard pies at us. We also toured the UK supporting German metallers Accept.
Sergeant drummer Brian Dick remembers more from the Accept gig at Newcastle City Hall than I can – for some reason I was always on a self-destruct mission, alcohol mainly to blame. I have a memory that before I went on stage I was having a long friendly chat with Fish from Marillion in a dark corner of the City Hall bar.
The whole tour was like going on a battlefield – every gig was like that for me. I used to wind myself up to an alcoholic frenzy then with all guns blazing attack the stage. I was like a mad dog. That type of attitude I could muster up – that’s why I turned down doing backing vocals for Cliff Richard!
We got to London’s Hammersmith Odeon and I ended up vomiting all over the Kerrang photographers and music journalist’s at the front of the stage! I don’t think the Accept stage manager was too happy bringing out the mop and sick bucket where a lot of people found my stage antics funny – looking back I was a stupid ass.
When I told Pat Thrall (guitarist, Asia/Pat Travers) the story about puking on the music journalist’s, he burst into laughter, I stared with a vacant expression as his giggled and laughed for some time.
Accept were an amazing band and as a frontman Udo Dirkschneider had an amazing stage presence. Udo was the nicest bloke I’ve met – we all loved Udo.
How did working with the Tygers come about ?
During the period of touring with The Animals in 1999-2003 (story in part one) I was commissioned by Z records to co-write new material with Rob Weir, re-form The Tygers Of Pan Tang, then produce an album at my studio, Strange Street in Durham. Rob was founding member and guitarist with the Tygers when they started in the late ‘70s.
This new Tygers Of Pan Tang line up were fished from a North East club band called Grand Slam, I sang covers with them for a short period. Craig Ellis (drums) and Brian West (bass) were in Grand Slam, I called them up and introduced them to Rob. Deano Robertson (guitar & vocals) also came in. I did suggest naming them The Tygers Of Grand Slam!
The Mystical album was recorded in three months at my studio where I had a new Soundcraft Ghost 32 channel into a Tascam 8 track half inch hooked up by code to two Alesis Digital 8 tracks.
That gave me 7 tracks analogue tape – one for code – and 16 on digital tape. Plus a Tascam two track analogue 1/4 inch, then all those tracks went into two Apple Macs for massive editing giving me limitless tracks.
When I was home from touring with The Animals I got the Tygers over to the studio, then those recordings went on tour with me on an Apple lap top and headphones. Sometimes we had up to fifteen hours travel between gigs so I had lots of time to edit and make songs from the recordings and sound samples.
Once the song had taken shape from my editing and screaming the lyrics into the lap top mic in hotel rooms, I returned from touring and the band met at the studio again and listened to the demo. Not forgetting that Rob would bring over new ideas on a mini track recorder – riffs, bass and drum machine. Next day the band recorded the instruments into my analogue/digital 24 track hybrid.
Again that went out with me on my lap top on the next tour with the process repeated until the deadline release date – corners were cut but nobody was hurt. That’s how the whole album was created, written, recorded and released in only three months.
Are you proud of the album ?
The first tracks Rob and myself wrote for the album were Secret Agent and Detonator and a re-recording of The Story So Far an old Tygers track. They were released on a compilation album including Journey and Ted Nugent and a track by Liddle, Rush & Thrall was re-mixed for it. That song was taken from the album I recorded with Billy Rush (guitarist/producer, Southside Johnny & Asbury Jukes) and Pat Thrall 15 years previous.
I wrote lyrics for Secret Agent about being on a Russian tour with The Animals. Standing in Moscow’s Red Square I felt like a secret agent – Ian Fleming or Bond, such an amazing experience. We got lots of attention, TV cameras were in my face – I felt like Eric Burdon.
I liked the lyrics for Keep this Rock Alive, one of my personal best and don’t know how I did it in such a short time. In Detonator I wrote about the rise of terrorism which was escalating back then. I was once asked ‘why have you wrote a song for terrorists’ ? I said ‘I think you got it mixed up mate. I’m just highlighting the rise of terrorism in the world today.’
They wouldn’t let it go so I sarcastically replied ‘Well you know I was looking for a market territory for CD sales that hadn’t been tapped yet and there are a lot of terrorist’s out there – that’s a big market’ !
When I listen to Mystical I beat myself up about some of the final editing and some of the lyrics – but not a bad job overall.
New single Metal City with a glorious big chorus is quickly followed by a ballsy, catchy Battlescarred, with a cry of ‘Raise your hands, to the sky, stand and fall, You and I’. Added to a Gallagher trademark scream the song builds and reaches out for better times. Surely a future live favourite?
Slick, tricky guitar from Mark Gallagher with balanced precision drumming by Mike Heller rattle and crunch tracks and pound them into submission. It’s all tightly packed like a mighty coiled spring. There’s even a Motorhead/Lemmy tribute – nice touch lads!
The wide and expansive closer, When Worlds Collide with ‘You meet your maker on the other side’ has turned a potential plod into a triumph. The trio look back over Metal City and watch the sunset. Credits roll.
On this evidence Raven consolidate their title of Chief Headbangers.