YOU KNOW IT’S ONLY ROCK ‘N’ ROLL – in conversation with current Geordie guitarist Steve Dawson

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How did the Geordie reformation come about?

Peter Barton from ‘Rock Artist Management’, who handled The Animals when I was a member during the ’90s and early 2000’s, called me and asked, ‘What are the Geordie guys up to these days?’ I told him I wasn’t sure, but said I’d have a word with Tom Hill (original bass player) to see if he was up for a reformation.

Tom was interested, but said we’ll need a singer who can handle the dynamics and range of original vocalist Brian Johnson, now of course with AC/DC. Both bands occupy the same stable and play in the same keys (laughs).

I last saw Brian Johnson on TV interviewing fellow musicians on ‘Life on the Road’. A great show including an episode with Dolly Parton who revealed she wrote ‘I Will Always Love You’ and ‘Jolene’ in the same session. Kerching. Back to Geordie. Johnna might be a bit busy for this job? 

Indeed. We went to see a few local guys but didn’t really feel we’d found a match for what we required. It’s not an easy gig to sing. Then Peter came up with this guy from Lancashire called Mark Wright, now an honorary Geordie (laughs).

He was singing in Bon, an AC/DC tribute band. Peter sent us a link to some YouTube videos. We weren’t immediately convinced.

However, Peter was and persuaded us to come down to Clitheroe, to audition Mark with four songs of our choosing, at his expense. Just to have a run through, see what we thought in the flesh as it were.

We were shocked how good it sounded, and so relieved we didn’t judge Mark on the YouTube videos alone (laughs).

So, now suitably convinced, Tom got in touch with Brian Gibson (original drummer) to see if he wanted to be part of this new venture. Brian said he was happy to step behind the drum kit once again. We did our first rehearsal and the band sounded great from the get-go.

Was original guitarist Vic Malcolm interested in the reformation?

We got in touch with Vic in Cyprus and asked, if it became practical in the future, would he be interested in joining in with live work. He declared that some annoying health issues meant he couldn’t commit to that but would be on board for any new writing and recording. That was great as he was the main songwriter. He’s still a prolific songwriter to this day.

We’ve already started writing new material because we don’t just want to keep trading on Geordie’s back catalogue alone. We want to avoid the nostalgia trap.

How did you set about working in Geordie?

I was already familiar with their music, just good old rock n roll, classic rock, simple hooks. It’s all about capturing that magical vibe. Really enjoyable to play, with some great tongue in cheek ‘70s lyrics which are of their time.

Much of today’s music can be a bit serious, sometimes people want songs to distract them from the stark reality of life.

What type of venues are you looking to play?

We’re looking at festivals, theatres and typical rock music venues. These days, package tours are very popular, so we’re looking in that direction as well. That sort of thing would be great, as getting on something like that would expose us to other bands’ fans.

In Germany they’re still very much into bands like Geordie and welcome them with open arms. It’s a shame the band stopped playing a while back, as it takes a concerted effort to get the wheels in motion again. We just need to get out there and show what we can do.

We booked a gig at The Cluny a few months ago, and we asked Dee Dowling from Ginger Music Company in Pelaw, where we were rehearsing, to come along and record it.

The intention was to put together a promo package. We had the backdrop, photographer, merch, the lot. It was a fantastic gig and the money we made from it paid for everything.

We’ve just released the promo video, because it’s very difficult to get gigs on the circuit we’re aiming for, if you don’t have any kind of professional package to sell yourself.

After only one month it’s had thousands of views on social media so it’s doing its job. We are very pleased with how it turned out.

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Can you remember watching music programmes broadcast on Tyne Tees Television, like Alright Now and The Tube?  

Yeah, both those programmes. I think Alright Now was presented by Chris Cowey and Lynn Spencer. I remember The Geordie Scene more than Alright Now. That was around 1973-75 and I think it was the first music programme from the Tyne Tees stable.

I saw many local bands on there as well as the popular bands of the day and it was the first time I saw Dr Feelgood, who were very impressive.

What does music mean to you?  

I’ve always had a major passion for music. I lost my dad when I was 12, so throughout my teens I was on my own because my mother had to go out and work as a barmaid. Music got me through all that.

I totally immersed myself in playing the guitar. I still have a passion for playing and could quite happily do it for a living again.

Ironically, these days I seldom enjoy just listening to music. I rarely have music on the radio in the house or car and hardly ever listen to CD’s or albums at home. I’d rather just play music. I think it’s been so long since I heard anything that inspired me.

The last time I remember being affected by something I heard, was back in the early ‘90s with The Black Crowes. Their first album had just come out, it sounded really organic, what I would call a proper performance recording, not a layered production like a Def Leppard sort of thing. But yeah, nothing’s really turned my head since in terms of an epiphanic moment (laughs).

Are you looking forward to any gigs this year?

In January this year we played ‘The Giants of Rock’ in Minehead and the ‘Rock and Blues Festival’ in Skegness and we really stormed both of those, we did the business. This confirmed what we already felt about the band. There were a lot of reviews from the press and punters raving about us.

We’re currently talking to journalists in London about which venues to play down there and in particular, which ones are best for getting the band exposure. It’s hard to get gigs, you can’t just turn up and expect a crowd. You’ve got to do the groundwork first.

Contact details:

geordiebandofficial@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/geordiebandofficial/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y57t79VYvwc

 Interview by Gary Alikivi    August 2019.

RUNNING MAN in conversation with Lindisfarne drummer, Ray Laidlaw

We’re in Tyneside Cinema Café in Newcastle and Ray asks why I write the blog ’I put it together because we all like hearing musician’s stories’. Ray fires back Do drummers count ?’

We both live on either side of the banks of the River Tyne, so does he think the river has an influence on who we are and what we do…

Oh yes, the river is a means of communication. Everything came in and out of the river. It is a barrier but also a conduit for ideas from other people from different parts of the UK and all over the world.

Geordies have always been receptive to new ideas……and if they really like them they pretend they were theirs (laughs).

Paul Irwin and I started Tyne Idols. We are big fans of the region and it’s creativity so we came up with an idea of a bus tour around Tyneside celebrating music, TV and visit film locations.

We often invite a guest on the bus, maybe an actor, comedian or musician. Last year we had Dick Clements and Ian Le Frenais, and went around locations of their show The Likely Lads. It’s a celebration of the area really.

Can you remember the music TV shows that came out of Tyne Tees studio in Newcastle ? 

Yeah we played a few, Lindisfarne were on the Geordie Scene. We also had a half hour show to ourselves on Alright Now. That was around ’78/79 when we were making our comeback.

We came up with a few ideas, in the first half we did a few songs and links in various locations then the second half was all live. Loved it. That was with producers Geoff and Andrea Wonfor. But sadly Lindisfarne never appeared on The Tube. Ray Jackson had a song on where we all backed him but not as Lindisfarne.

The Tube was great. Not just music but comedy as well. Stephen Fry, Dawn French and many others all got their breaks at The Tube. It was influenced by the 1960’s TV show Ready, Steady, Go. I’ve been working on a programme about that with Geoff Wonfor.

It tells the story of the groundbreaking programme which was one of the first that had the cameras in view. The cameramen were brought in from the sports programmes because they were used to following action. That brought up the excitement when the bands were on stage. The documentary will be on BBC4 later this year.

Lindisfarne played Top of the Pops a few times, what did you think of the show ?

It was ok, you just mimed. But the best thing was meeting other musicians. Most of the time you are touring on your own. It was like the early 1970’s festivals. We loved doing festivals because of the other bands you could meet.  Bands like The Faces, Medicine Head, The Beach Boys, Rory Gallagher, Humble Pie.

We played our first festival down in Devon in summer 1970 and on that occasion Free were top of the bill, they were just breaking then. They were supposed to close the show at 9pm with us playing just before them. At 10pm we hadn’t been on. Free had to be back in London for the next morning so they went on while we were backstage having a few drinks.

We finally got on at 11pm and opened with Lady Eleanor. It’s a song which creeps in. A guitar, mandolin bit, a bass bit, drums, then guitar harmonics at regular intervals. Waited for guitar part…. no guitar part. In those days Simon Cowe used to play sitting down so Hully had to go and kick him up the arse cos he’d fallen asleep (laughs).

Do bands have their time, maybe an album or two then come back in the spotlight years later ?

Yes there is a bit of that. But when we broke through it was the perfect time because we were so different from everybody else. Also having three great songwriters in the band, most have just one, we had three.

Lindisfarne had a number of members but when the band recorded the number one album ’Fog on the Tyne’ the personnel were the original five, Alan Hull (vocals, guitars, keyboards) Ray Jackson (vocals, mandolin, harmonica) Rod Clements (bass, violin) Simon Cowe (lead, acoustic, 12 string guitars, mandolin, vocals) and Ray Laidlaw (drums).

We had the biggest selling album of ’71 in Fog on the Tyne. Everyone had that record. We had lots of our own fans but we were also other music fans second favourite group, like Newcastle United in the Keegan era.

The Fog album was such a huge success that everything after that was going to be perceived as failure. So the third album only got to number six in the charts. Yes, only (laughs).

But we weren’t prepared for that. Management didn’t sit us down and say whatever happens it’s going to be a hard act to follow. Plus the record was put out too quick as we were the only band making money on the label. Maybe we should have taken six month off after Fog on the Tyne.

Who was your manager ?

Tony Stratton Smith who owned the record company, Charisma. It was a big mistake. Basically Tony was talking to himself (laughs). ‘Do you want an advance’…’No’ (laughs).

Charisma was a wacky label with Van Der Graf Generator, Monty Python, the poet Sir John Betjeman, us…where else would you get that ? Fantastically creative but had it’s drawbacks. So the band split in two because we couldn’t agree what to do after the third record.

The band with the same personnel, released the album ‘Dingly Dell’ and charted in the top 10. What recording studios did you use for the album ?

In the early days the majority of our records were done in Trident Studios off Wardour Street in London. We used that studio for Nicely Out of Tune and Fog on the Tyne.

We also recorded some stuff in Olympic and Island studios and then when we got back together again in 1978 we used residential studios like Gus Dudgeon’s place in Maidenhead, we also went to Rockfield, Chipping Norton and Ridge Farm.

By that time we all had young families so using residential studios worked out better as the wives and kids could visit.

Were some songs recorded just for the studio or all written to play live ?

I think everything we did we at least attempted to play live. We had a guide that if a song works with one man and a guitar or piano it’ll work with the band.

The song has to have a strength of it’s own first, almost with no supporting instrumentation. Live you try different arrangements, build it up or strip it back.

Some songs you would only do on one tour then put it back in the box. Some you have to play because the longer you survive the more material you have. It’s the early one’s that made your name. They have to be in the set list.

Do you come from a musical family ?

Me Grandad was a pub singer and could play piano. It was a good way of not buying his own beer. His daughter, my mam, was a good dancer but was a bit nervous to leave home so she never did it professionally. That’s the only bit of a showbiz background.

But it was me Granda that bought me my first drumkit. I just liked the look of drum sets, a bit like some folks like motorbikes. A couple of mates had guitars. I was getting interested in music about 1960 and it was a perfect time because there was so much great stuff about.

When I first started in a group, I was with Simon Cowe who was also in Lindisfarne with me. Our first group was a three piece, just instrumentals, we couldn’t afford a microphone. We were just learning, playing instrumentals.

We did a couple of gigs in social clubs, only during school holidays because Simon was at boarding school in Edinburgh.

Where did you rehearse ?

Simon’s family lived in a big old Georgian house, the poshest street in North Shields. His dad was an architect. There were loads of rooms and we set up in one of the spare rooms downstairs.

Music wasn’t the only thing we got up to. We also made homemade fireworks and stole fruit out of people’s gardens (laughs).

But yeah I was a bit of a show-off really but didn’t have the confidence to be a singer or guitar player. Just had an affinity with drums and was pretty good at it.

After that I was in a band called The Druids with Bob Sergeant who went on to be a producer on BBC radio for John Peel, The Clash, stuff like that. The Druids were playing all covers and gigged youth clubs for about a year.

Then I met Rod Clements who was another posh lad from North Shields. His band had just packed in and we got into the blues via the Stones and John Mayall. We loved the Yardbirds. All fast and furious – we decided to get a band together.

We used to watch The Junco Partners and they were the first band we had seen that listened to each other, didn’t all play at once, they realised they all had a part to play within the group.

We were inspired and looked for people who had to be as good as they were. It took four or five years to finally get our dream band together.

How much were Downtown Faction influenced by the folk scene on Tyneside ?

We weren’t at first, that all came later. We were into the blues, it wasn’t until we started writing our own songs that we developed that bluesy/folk and rootsy sound.

Simon was a great guitar player, finger picking style like Bert Jansch and we started listening to early Fairport Convention, Dylan, intelligent song writing.

We had a bit of arrogance about us, ambitious yes, and we looked down our noses at bands doing nothing but covers. We did play a few covers but we chose unusual tracks, Bob Dylan, Moby Grape, Frank Zappa tunes.

We were looking to be original, wanted to be better than everyone else, putting the band together was organic… we gradually found the right people, there was no speedy plan.

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What year was this ?

Around ‘67/68. We were the support band on Led Zeppelins first ever UK gig at Newcastle Mayfair. They were still called The New Yardbirds then and had only been going two weeks.

Can you remember much about that time ?

Well we used to be on at the Mayfair a lot then, Tuesday would be a couple of local bands and other nights would be a big band who wanted local support. I used to see a lot of bands there, I was always in the Mayfair. I remember that Yardbirds gig but it didn’t make a massive mark.

How old were you then and did you have a proper job ?

20 year old and a window dresser at Shepherds department store in Gateshead. I’d dropped out of art college and needed a job. I got on well at the store so was able to juggle my time with gigs and work.

Simon was a photographer at Turners in Newcastle so that was great for arty publicity shots that we could put up in a shop window in the Haymarket. They became a bit of a talking point, we always tried to be creative with what we did.

What else was happening on the music scene ?

We did a gig New Year’s Day 1969 at Newcastle old town hall. Somebody had the brainwave of putting on a blues and poetry day. There was no heating in the place, so it was freezing. Two bands played, four or five poets were on and about 100 people there.

The street poetry was astonishing, I’d never heard anything like it. Poets like Tom Pickard and Tony Jackson, pre cursor to today’s Benjamin Zephaniah and people like that. Very working class, very political.

After that there was a few blues evenings, all very arty, hippy, sit on the floor pay what you can sort of deal.

Did the band have a manager or agent  ?

Ivan Burchill was the main agent in Newcastle then, but we wouldn’t compromise about our music so didn’t get as many gigs as some bands. Plus at our gigs we never got the lasses you know, we’d get all the muso’s turning up.

A guy called Joe Robertson got us gigs when we changed our name from Downtown Faction to Brethren. That was when people were taking notice, we were headlining a few shows and Joe was also managing The Junco Partners.

That was when Alan Hull joined and his manager at the time Dave Woods from Impulse Studio came in on joint management with Joe. Inroads to record companies started to happen then.

Did you know Alan previously ?

He was in a band The Chosen Few who along with The Junco Partners were the big bands in Newcastle. After his band crashed and burned, he took a break then began song writing again.

He used to play in the folk clubs where the tradition was they’d let newcomers play three songs early in the night. He used to try his stuff out there and so did we because you didn’t want to try new stuff in front of a blues/rock audience.

Beginning as Downtown Faction, the band changed their name again from Brethren to Lindisfarne and were signed to Charisma records in 1970.

Was it an emerging scene then…

Yeah it was a bit of an underground song-writing scene on Tyneside that was parallel to the more pop based groups. Bit underground because there were musos coming down from Scotland – Rab Noakes and the JSD Band, there was Prelude from Low Fell, Milesy (John Miles) and his group The Influence from South Shields, many others.

Folk guys were influencing the rock guys and vice versa. We were listening to Music from Big Pink by the Band (Bob Dylan’s backing band). They were doing stuff from American roots music with a rock rhythm section and that’s what we wanted to do.

Fairport Convention were another band playing rock’n’roll versions of English folk tunes. Now here was music with a bit more history and depth, more gravitas. This is more like it. We loved that.

Our group all had different tastes but agreed on one thing. We loved The Beatles and we loved the way they treated every song as an individual piece of work. It wasn’t a problem for us to leave a guitar or drums off a track. It was all about the song.

We were a song-writing band and we had to treat each individual song right.

We could write something and if it was alright for Top of the Pops we were ok with that. We didn’t have a problem about being commercial. Some of the songs we had were great pop songs but we never set out to write singles.

Same with an album, every song had to count…no fillers. If there was a single in there, great, if not, no worries.

Have you got any road stories ?

Lindisfarne had a break from 1973-76, we had a few successful one-off gigs then made a new album in ’78. The opening night on the tour was Leeds University were The Who recorded their album Live at Leeds.

We broke their attendance record that night. Two weeks later the fire brigade came in and told the University ‘With the number of fire escapes you’ve got, you got to cut the capacity by 400’. So our record will never be beaten (laughs).

Anyway the opening night we had some pyrotechnics, we went a bit showbiz like, and they would go off at the end of the show. Balloons and confetti cannons. The big ending you know. At that point the soundman was to mute every channel – and he forgot.

So it went down every microphone, the monitors were like tissue paper, the speakers blew out as did the windows behind the stage. We weren’t invited back (laughs).

Did you play any gigs that turned out to be a nightmare ?

Some of the usual rock ‘n’ roll stories where the promoter won’t pay you. And you’ve already played the gig. One time we had to get our crew to park our truck across the path of the headliners truck so they couldn’t shift it. Then the word would go out about dodgy promoters so you would ask for half the money up front.

Some tours were great fun with other bands. Genesis were on the same label as us in the early days so we used to be on the same bill along with Van Der Graaf Generator. Depending on what city we were in and who had the biggest following we would take turns headlining. But we used to finish the gig doing a song together.

We’d play The Battle of New Orleans a Lonnie Donegan song, with Alan Hull, Ray Jackson, Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel singing a verse each. All the bands singing together. And nobody recorded it!

What does music mean to you ? 

It’s given me my life. If I hadn’t been enthusiastic about music and taken the plunge, I probably would have ended up being a not very good teacher. I’ve had a really exciting life and it still is, you never know what the next phone call is gonna be.

I’m still a music fan and that’s how I maintain my enthusiasm. So many good times with music. I’m just glad me Granda got us me first set of drums.

What are you doing now ?

We’ve been putting together Sunday for Sammy concerts. Our dear friend the actor, Sammy Johnson died in 1998 and we didn’t just want a plaque for him, we wanted to do more so we came up with a concert idea.

I’ve been involved with Sammy since the beginning in 2000 with Lindisfarne, then drummer for the house-band and from 2006 producing the show. The proceeds of the show are put towards the start of creative careers for young people. To date we’ve raised around half a million pound.

It’s fun to do and the audience laugh along with it. We had Mark Knopfler on one year and the running gag was he never got to do his song.

He comes on stage playing the opening bars of Money for Nothing and Tim Healy runs on shouting ‘No, not yet’. After repeating the gag Mark comes on later and this time Alan Shearer shouts ’Knopfler, play yer hit man’ (laughs). So, he never got to sing but eventually played ‘Local Hero’.

Yeah, we have great fun and so do the crowd seeing some well-known faces doing things they don’t normally do on stage – singers in sketches, Brian Johnson played an angel once, actors singing and TV presenters accidently swearing.

It’s a family show but we recommend 14 years plus because sometimes people forget their lines and you never know what they’re going to say.

Who scripts the shows ?

We have a few people. Dick Clements and Ian Le Frenais who wrote The Likely Lads and Auf Wiedersehen Pet, they write us a new sketch every time. Geordie comedian Jason Cook, Ed Waugh from South Shields. We also have a sketch writing competition for new writers, A Sketch for Sammy, we used two winners on the 2018 show.

Are you looking forward to the 20th Anniversary show ?

To be honest I’m terrified and excited in equal measures.

https://www.sundayforsammy.org/home/blog/sunday-for-sammy-2020-ticket-news

Interview by Gary Alikivi   August 2019.

 

 

 

NAMEDROPPER – in conversation with freelance author/TV producer Chris Phipps

Being on the dole during the ‘80s had its advantages. We queued up outside Tyne Tees TV Studio every Wednesday to get free audience tickets for the following Friday’s edition of live music show The Tube.

If I was working, I wouldn’t have got the chance to be part of what became a groundbreaking TV programme and something that changed my life.

Looking back, it took a couple of years to seep through, but it was one of the magical moments I experienced that massively helped me in my work today.

In one of the programmes, I was standing on the gantry looking across the studio with the stage and drummer below, another stage was to my left, there was a bar at the back, pink and blue lighting all around, Pat Benatar at the front of the stage – a little lady with a big voice. And cameras on the studio floor catching the buzz.

Something clicked. It was the first time I thought ‘I would love to be involved in something like this’. I knew I was onto something.  

So, a chance to interview a man who was part of that show was a great opportunity and one that I wasn’t going to miss. Take it away Chris…..

It’s interesting you mentioned Pat Benatar because I booked her, the drummer was fantastic and she was incredible.

I was at the Tube from the start in ’82 till it’s full run to ’87. But I started as a journalist in ’74 with three big stories happening on my patch, the Birmingham bombings, the hunt for the Black Panther and the Carl Bridgewater murder – a baptism of fire. After that I was producer at Pebble Mill at One and did a lot of regional TV and radio then.

I was doing rock shows, reggae shows and of course in the ‘70s the Midlands was Dexys Midnight Runners, UB40, Specials, Selector coming out of Coventry. It was like a nuclear reactor in terms of the music coming out of there.

And of course you had the whole New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and I was involved with a band called Diamond Head who came out of Stourbridge.

They were touted as the next Led Zeppelin which was a big mistake. They were phenomenal but for certain reasons they just went on to implode.

How were you involved with Diamond Head ?

I did two TV shows with them, both of which are very rare now. One was on Look Hear an arts programme on BBC Midlands with Toyah Wilcox. I also had them at West Bromich Further Education college, they done a student recording that was found in a loft a couple of years ago.

That whole NWOBHM was fascinating because a lot of those bands were back in their day jobs after a couple of years, apart from Iron Maiden and Def Leppard. Finally, Diamond Head were vindicated because Metallica covered some of their numbers that contributed to their financial coffers.

What are your memories of those first days at The Tube ?

I joined in ’82 as a booker and I became Assistant Producer from ’85-’87. My brief was to find bands that we could agree on to put in the show. A band on the first show that I booked didn’t happen, The Who didn’t do it because their pa system got stuck in Mexico or somewhere.

So, the producer Malcolm Gerrie knew Paul Weller’s father and got The Jam to do it. In a way I’m glad that he did because The Jam playing their last TV gig ever, really said this is what The Tube is all about – that was then, this is now and off we go.

On one show I booked a combination of Green Gartside and his band Scritti Politti, and Robert Palmer which I thought was a good mixture. Then Gartside wouldn’t do it, didn’t want to perform live or something I can’t remember now. But he pulled.

You know my job was to convince really big names to come, particularly in the first six months of the programme because it was based in Newcastle. A lot of record companies would say ‘We’re not sending anybody up there’.

There was a show in December ’82 with Iggy Pop, Tygers of Pan Tang and Twisted Sister, who famously signed a record deal after their performance..…

Now there is a story that I discovered Twisted Sister in a bar in New York when really the truth of it was, I had seen them at Reading Festival. I was just knocked out by them because I love theatrical rock. They were on a label called Metal Blade then, which was run by a friend of Toyah Wilcox.

I was interviewing Def Leppard backstage, then spoke to Twisted Sister’s manager and told him I had a gig on a TV music channel in the UK called The Tube. He said if you can gaurantee us a booking we will finance our own trip over.

So yeah, they turned up in a van outside The Tube studio direct from New York, played the show, and in the audience was Mick Jones from Foreigner, his manager and UK supremo from Atlantic records Phil Carson. Phil signed them the next day.

Actually, I don’t think I was too popular with the Tygers because I had to cut one of their numbers. At the time they had a great album out The Cage, but they were another band that imploded.

Incidentally, first time I saw the Tygers was at JB’s club in Dudley. They were supporting Robert Plant and his rock n roll band The Honeydrippers.

Why did you ask the Tygers to cut a song from their set ?

Lemmy wanted to jam with Twisted Sister at the end. In fact the guy who directed that show and all of The Tube, Gavin Taylor, who sadly died a few year ago, said his two favourite moments he directed were U2 at Red Rocks and Twisted Sister jamming with Motorhead. And this from the guy who directed Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis.

So, after that every time I saw the presenter Paula Yates she used to impersonate my Birmingham accent and go ‘Chris Phipps Twisted Sister’ (laughs). God love her. They sent me a platinum disc as a thanks which I still have, and a manhole cover with the Twisted Sister logo on it.

Also on that programme was Iggy Pop what are your memories from then ?

Yeah, he was a wild one. No one could find him just prior to his performance, he completely disappeared. I got a call from reception, and they said there was something in the reception area spinning round and looking like a mummy. He was bandaged from head to foot (laughs).

Did the show help the careers of other bands ?

Fine Young Cannibals got signed, although they already had a publishing deal. The Proclaimers got signed and there was a time when a researcher called Mick Sawyer and some of the Tube crew went to Liverpool to film Dead or Alive.

But they weren’t around, then someone in a pub told them to go round the corner to another pub where there is a band rehearsing ‘You might be interested in them’. It was Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

The Tube filmed the original version of Relax, that was shown, and Trevor Horn saw it. He did the deal and re-recorded and produced the single.

Frankie epitomised The Tube and the ‘80s, they got what it was all about. You can never bring The Tube back. It’s of its time. Chris Evans on TFI Friday in the ‘90s near enough had it. The set was just like The Tube, so yeah, it’s had an incredible influence.

Last year I was on the Antiques Roadshow with memorabilia from The Tube and I thanked the BBC for banning Relax because, it not only done Frankie a load of good but The Tube as well (laughs).

Here’s the link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06b19jf

Around the time of going to The Tube I was in the audience to watch a few shows called TX45 filmed in the same studios….

Yes, TX45 ran parallel to The Tube it was a regional series it didn’t go on the network. Actually, a series by Tyne Tees Television called Alright Now got them a commission for The Tube.

When I was producing in Birmingham a lot of bands would say ’We’re off to Newcastle to do Alright Now or Razzmatazz or interviewed by Alan Robson’. He had a formidable reputation.

Newcastle had a reputation for cutting edge shows really, that’s why it got the commission from Channel Four. Back to TX 45 that was co-presented by Chris Cowey who went on to produce Top of the Pops.

What happened after The Tube ?

All the talent from The Tube just dispersed in different directions. Tyne Tees didn’t continue to do any big entertainment. They did attempt to rival Top of the Pops with a show called The Roxy but that fizzled out.

Malcolm Gerrie, the main guy went on to form Initial TV in London and made things like The Pepsi Chart Show. Now he’s got a company called Whizzkid producing big award ceremonies things like that.

Geoff Wonfor who made the films for The Tube, not the studio stuff, he went on and made The Beatles Anthology.

(An interview with Bob Smeaton who worked on the Anthology is on the blog ‘The Boy from Benwell’ Nov.5th 2018)

I went into documentary, feature film making, and my bread-and-butter work for 14 years was working on a series called The Dales Diary, which covered the Yorkshire Dales for Tyne Tees and Yorkshire.

What was interesting was that I was dealing with people who had never been in front of the camera before so I went from five years of people who couldn’t wait to get in front of the bloody camera to 14 years of people who sometimes weren’t happy to do it. Yeah I had some fantastic times working in Yorkshire.

Have you any stories that stand out from interviewing people ?

From 1973-82 I’d done a lot of entertainment stuff at Pebble Mill, but I also interviewed a lot of people with some priceless historical value. Like the 100-year-old woman who made a living from making nails from the back of her cottage near Worcester.

There was a man who helped build a storm anchor for the Titanic. I’ve kept all of them interviews and in fact the storm anchor one went for research to the director James Cameron when he was making the film Titanic.

So, I was no stranger to going to people who just wanted to get on, particularly the farming community who didn’t want people buzzing around with cameras.

Did you work on any other music programmes ?

I’m the sort of person who will come across something and say that will make a fantastic programme. I worked on a series for Dutch TV, it was like your Classic Albums series but for singles. Incredible programme to work on, it was called Single Luck.

It took me all over America tracking down songwriters, producers, and for one song the backing singers were Ashford and Simpson.

Another programme was for the song Blue Moon it profiled The Marceles, who came out of Pittsburg. The song sold I don’t know how many millions and some of them are living on the breadline you know. They got nothing, old story isn’t it.

Well I thought how do I find these people who are living in Pittsburg ? One of the singers was called Cornelius Harp. There might not be too many Harps in the phone book I’ll try that.

The one I called said ‘No I’m not Cornelius Harp, but he’s my cousin, here’s his number’. The guy who was managing them had a restaurant called Blue Moon. The producer was in California and came over to Pittsburg to re-produce the song.

So yeah found all of them and suddenly you have a 30-minute programme.

What have you been working on lately ?

After releasing the book Forget Carter in 2016 which was the first comprehensive guide to North East TV and film on screen, I’ve just released another book Namedropper full of anecdotes and stories of my time in the entertainment world. I’ve hosted quite a few talks including the evenings with Roger Daltrey and Tony Iommi at the Whitley Bay Film Festival.

Currently I’m still working as freelance producer/director based in North East specialising in entertainment and music for network and regional.

Chris is appearing at Newcastle’s Waterstones to sign his latest book ‘Namedropper’ on Saturday August 17th at 12 noon.

 Interview by Gary Alikivi   August 2019.