BINGO ! NORTH EAST CULTURE BLOG HITS QUARTER MILLION

Big thank you to all readers of the blog – very much appreciated. Some of the messages you sent will be posted soon. Reaching the milestone people said why not interview yourself you must have an interesting story ? I thought ok why not – here goes.

Leaving school in the 1980’s there weren’t many options for a working class kid on Tyneside, I drifted aimlessly from Government employment schemes, factory work and signing on the dole – one time I found myself packing blocks of cheese!

Eventually I found the peace of mind I was searching for after studying photography and video production at Gateshead college. Then I dove straight in at the deep end – no art grants or funding just full time self-employment. Since then my life has been dedicated to photography, video production, making social documentaries and the past five years writing the blog.

It can be relentless forming ideas from the minute you wake up to working seven days a week – but to be honest it’s the only way to do it. If you’re not prepared to put the time in you might as well shut up shop and hand the keys in.

The Tube was broadcast from 1982-87 at Tyne Tees Studio, Newcastle.

There were a number of big moments that inspired me. I was fortunate enough to get audience tickets for live TV music show The Tube – looking around the studio I was surrounded by cameras, lights and stages – that was a buzz right there.

The first time I developed one of my photographs was magic, I had a similar reaction when I first saw a videotape editing machine. Plus I was and still am, curious about stuff – Who made that ? How does it work ? When did that happen ? All very useful when talking to people and searching for the sharp end.

Why call the blog Alikivi ?

I was looking for a short, original name and discovered my Great Uncle Alexander Alikivi was born in Russia around 1880 and left the country around the time of the revolution. He came to live in South Shields as a merchant seaman. His name is pronounced Ally-kivy.  

Why did you start writing a blog ? At first I didn’t have a theme it was to be another outlet for interviews I’d filmed over ten year ago with South Tyneside musicians called We Sold Our Soul for Rock n Roll.

I thought they still had some juice in them so I updated them, contacted more musicians, added more stories and in February 2017 the blog went live.

The next few years snowballed as the blog covered culture across the North East – writers, artists, photographers – all very popular as the amount of hits show. I never thought I would end up talking to actors from Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and producers of The Tube.

Have you got an interview style ? I try to make it a relaxed, light conversation, and being genuinely interested in what they have to say. It seems to work as hundreds of interviews later the blog has hit over quarter million views worldwide.

The Angelic Upstarts, pic. by Rik Walton.

Have you any highlights ? There is so many but in one Mond Cowie, former guitarist with Angelic Upstarts, remembers being on a USA tour in 1983.

‘We walked on stage, the lights blazed and Mensi screamed ‘We’re the Upstarts, we’re from England, 1,2,3,4’ – then bang there was a huge power cut’.

Another highlight was Danny McCormack from The Wildhearts, he told me his parents were only convinced he had a real job when they saw him on telly.

‘Being in a band with a plank of wood and four wires hanging around your neck doesn’t cut it with your parents. After we’d done Top of the Pops my mam and dad stopped asking if I was going to get a proper job’.

A lot of stories were bands trying to ‘make it’ and one band who set alight to the Tyne but unfortunately not the Thames, was White Heat. Former singer and songwriter Bob Smeaton, now award winning music documentary maker, told me…

‘I was working as a welder at Swan Hunters shipyard when punk and new wave happened in ‘76,’77, that’s when I started thinking I could possibly make a career out of music’.

Lesley Saint John with Bill Patterson in series two of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. pic by Newcastle Chronicle.

Who else have you featured on the blog ? One show that had me glued to the telly on a Friday night during the ‘80s was ‘Auf Wiedersehen Pet’. So I didn’t miss the opportunity to talk to one of the stars of the show, Lesley Saint John.

‘You wouldn’t believe how much attention the show attracts. I done five years on Byker Grove, and a Catherine Cookson film, but Auf Wiedersehen is the one that’s talked about the most’.

South Shields born Eileen O’Shaughnessy.

‘Wildflower’ was a documentary I made about South Shields born Eileen O’Shaughnessy, George Orwell’s first wife. I interviewed his son Richard Blair who revealed Eileen’s influence on George.

‘She done some re-writing of his manuscripts, certainly when he was writing ‘Animal Farm’ he would read out what he had written during the day and she would pass comment on certain aspects’.

I was proud to hear The Orwell Society screened the documentary on the Isle of Jura where Orwell wrote his masterpiece ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’.

The late Chris Phipps, author & TV Producer.

One man I interviewed, sadly just a few weeks before he passed away, was author and TV Producer Chris Phipps who worked on live TV music programme The Tube. I told Chris it was being in the audience of the programme that inspired me, Chris offered bags of encouragement ‘to go and dig out more stories, there’s plenty out there’.

Are you proud of the number of hits ? Aye can’t smile wide enough.

How long do you plan to keep the blog going ? I suppose I’ll keep going until the juice runs out.

Check out the You Tube channel : ALIKIVI – YouTube

MORE THAN WORDS: with Chief music writer, Phil Sutcliffe

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.

Angelic Upstarts pic. Rik Walton.

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).

Penetration feature in Sounds 18/6/77

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.

Reading festival 1979 line-up with Punishment of Luxury and headliners, The Police.

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.

Read part two featuring Phil’s memorable interviews, books on The Police and AC/DC and a Springsteen biography.

Thanks to ‘Soundclips’ on twitter for the articles from Sounds Magazine 1975 – 1980, archivist, Steve ‘Stig’ Chivers.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  September 2021

RAW MEAT IN THE SONIC MINCER #6 – Looking back at Sounds Music weekly: Record Adverts

Looking through back issues of the UK music weeklies for a mention of North East bands, I came across a screaming headline from a Motorhead gig review – Raw Meat in the Sonic Mincer – Yep, that be ‘reet for theheed.

Sounds or NME was always knocking about our house, pocket money bought a copy for 25p. We could read exclusive interviews with bands out on tour promoting their latest album, check forthcoming UK gig dates or look at artwork for new albums. The music weeklies were always something to look forward to – even though half the print rubbed off on your fingers.

Sounds mixed rock and punk interviews with Ozzy/Halen/Upstarts. NME featured alternative and post punk bands Damned/Cramps/Costello. Take your pick of front covers splashed with David Coverdale Kate Bush or Def Leppard.

Zoom in above the header to see what bands are featured – Madness, Wild Horses and South Shields punks, Angelic Upstarts.

Album and tour adverts were a feature of Sounds. Renowned artists and graphic designers were employed by record companies to attract our attention with eye popping images. Budgets from the big wigs might not have been forthcoming or were stretched so far that quality suffered.

Some album covers went along the lines of ‘so bad it’s good’. One that will fit that slot is Black Sabbath album Born Again. The image was a purple cover with an ugly red baby on the front with devil horns and pointed claws.

In his biography, guitarist Tony Iommi I was in stitches when I first saw the image’.

Manager Don Arden  ‘I think it will cause a lot of problems, a lot of interest, people will talk about it’.

Iommi added ‘we eventually agreed to have it, and people did talk about it’ .

Full pages have colour kerb appeal but smaller adverts can be just as effective when sharing a page with a known musician/band interview. Using a live photograph is used to full effect by Gary Moore for his 1978 album Back on the Streets. The advert includes the band line up heading off any problems with members not being credited.

Heavy metal have more striking images, and a band who have instantly recognisable covers are Iron Maiden with their mascot Eddie who appears on most if not all of their albums, posters and merch.

Sellers on EBay are flogging pre-owned copies of music weeklies. They go for anything from £2.99 to £35 depending on who is on the front cover and featured inside. What you waiting for, get yer bids in and take a step back in time.

Gary Alikivi  April 2021.

FROM NEWCASTLE WITH LOVE part 3/4 with actor & musician Brian Rapkin

Part three of Brian Rapkin’s (Brian Bond) memories of being a member of Newcastle post punk band Punishment of Luxury and recording in London studio’s.

We never lived in London but we stayed when recording or touring there. When we recorded Laughing Academy we stayed at a house in Fulham. Recording in London was brilliant.

The first single on Small Wonder we produced ourselves at Berry Street studio with an engineer but when the line-up was almost stabilised, we signed to UA and then the singles were produced by Mike Howlett, a lovely man and brilliant producer, prematurely grey with a calm outlook and a great sense of humour.

DEBUT SINGLE

The first single after we signed up was supposed to be Jellyfish, but the board at UA didn’t like it as an A-side. Tim, the A & R man, said “Look guys, I’m up against a brick wall here!”  We reluctantly agreed to Engine of Excess as the A-side.

Then we signed to Screen Gems-EMI Publishing who gave UA a bollocking about the choice of A-side. So UA re-released the single with Jellyfish as the A-side but by then it was too late to get airplay. The momentum was lost. So that side of it was frustrating. But recording the songs was still magic.

At Eden Studios in Chiswick, Lene Lovich was packing away her sax as we came in. At Wessex Studios, Public Image Ltd were silently sat on a bench facing us as we came in, giggling at our long-haired roadies as they struggled with the equipment. Joe Jackson was playing pool in the rest room. 

LONDON MARQUEE

When UA were about to sign us, Tim the A&R man saw us there and loved the gig, especially All White Jack. He was on cloud nine as we were. That was a highly charged night and a great venue full of atmosphere. It had such a history with the Rolling Stones and so many other great bands. It was an honour to be there, the crowd were superb.

STAGE DEBUT

Our first trial gig was as the Luxury Bastards at Gatsby’s, Whitley Bay ‘77. We were terrible. Our bassist, Badger, didn’t turn up but he hadn’t rehearsed with us, so it’s no surprise. It was before Jimmy, so Nev and Mal kept swapping guitar and bass for different songs, Les pounded the drums and I gurned for England, pulling faces as we died a death in dim lighting.

When the Big G started, whoosh, on came the bright lights and each with one foot on a low brass rail (except drummer Norman) they looked professional and slick. That taught us a lesson. Get sorted.

The first gig at the Blue Bell, Gateshead in 1977. We had to change into our stage gear in the toilets, avoiding puddles. We were so nervous, we hid behind amps while the first band The Carpettes played, and then raced through our songs at double the normal speed.

SOMEONE CALL THE COPS

The Guildhall 1978 with Neon and the Angelic Upstarts. We were bottom of the bill and missed the riot. During our set someone lobbed a can at the stage. We were doing a new song called World War 4 and I was wearing a dressing gown. I caught the can and put it in my pocket.

Later the Upstarts charged the stage with their fans when the headliners Neon were playing. There was carnage, blokes and girls beaten up, blood everywhere, the police came and made the rioters walk home to South Shields without their shoes.

SPITTING GAMES

Newcastle University 1978, where we were dripping from head to foot with spit, everyone gobbing at us like maniacs. Nev’s guitar, strings dripping, almost unplayable. Luckily I didn’t swallow anyone’s spit. After that gig the gobbing started to end, thankfully.

I remember headlining at the Music Machine, Camden 1978, with our name up there on the domed roof in big red letters, post-gig standing next to Lemmy from Motorhead at the bar. Members of Wire and Annie Lennox enthusing in the dressing room. Robert from Wire kept saying “You’ll make a fortune!” 

On the Friday night with The Police headlining and special guests were Motorhead.

HAZY DAY IN THE ‘DAM

We played The Milky Way (Melkweg), Amsterdam 1980. As we walked towards the entrance, we could see folk milling around, openly smoking joints. Jimmy muttered “Ah, look, they’re aal smuurr…” and his voice trailed away as the Dutch promoter welcomed us in. During the gig half the audience were lying on mattresses spread out over the vast floor. The haze of dope smoke was all around.

Then there was the heady atmosphere of Reading Festival in 1979, with John Peel introducing us after we’d been on his radio show twice. The build-up was nervy but up onstage it felt surreal and tremendous to be facing 25,000 people.

SPY IN THE CROWD

We played the Leeds Sci Fi Festival in 1979 with Public Image and other great acts like Joy Division. It took place in what was like a huge aircraft hangar but it worked so well. It was overwhelming and exciting. John Lydon had his back to the audience much of the time.

The Leeds Sci-Fi Festival in 1982 had the legendary Nico headlining and we – post Punilux band Punching Holes – were a 7-piece by then, with Richard Sharpe on synth and Jonah Sharp on percussion and sax.

I remember Berlin 1980. It was magical. Like a dream. Checkpoint Charlie then the gig. And an interview on the radio. We stayed in the legendary Hotel Steiner, but on the way out we got hopelessly lost in Potsdam, on the edge of East Berlin. It was like a scene from the Spy Who Came in from the Cold.

The dark grey cobbled streets were wet with rain. Burly Russian soldiers on motorbikes bristled with machine guns, revving up behind our minibus. We couldn’t find the route back to West Germany. We stopped to ask directions from a friendly middle-aged East German with a bushy moustache. After we got back into the van, we assumed he’d be dragged off and shot by the Stasi, or the KGB, or both. Somehow we made it back to the West.

Next up on the blog read part four of the interview with Brian when Punishment of Luxury call it a day and find out what they are up to now.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  March 2021.

ROLL UP – with vocalist/guitarist Neil Thompson from The Carpettes

Here in North East England the Wearside Bloc has given up stories from experienced musicians Ian Munro and Field Music, Sunderland punk Steve Straughan and metallers Spartan Warrior. Now the blog has more road stories from the Houghton le Spring contingent – The Carpettes.

‘Our first North East gig was in June 1977, then we went on to headline gigs with both Angelic Upstarts and Punishment of Luxury opening’ remembers Neil.

The band first featured back in May 2020 with Thompson talking about releasing two singles on the Small Wonder label, moving down south to London in ’78, and signing a record deal with Beggars Banquet – that brought a further four singles and two albums, Thompson looks back at those days.

Just after we finished recording our first album I made a phone call to Nick Austin, one of the bosses at Beggars Banquet, he told us fantastic news – we had a residency at London’s Marquee supporting The Lurkers every Wednesday in November ‘79.

I still remember Honest John in one of the soundchecks giving me a fiver to go to the off-licence to buy him a bottle of red wine.

LEAVE THIS TO HARVEY GOLDSMITH

Our drummer Tim was from Oxford and after a few London gigs he had this idea that he’d book a couple of gigs in Oxford as he knew the venues.

The first one was in February ‘79 at The Cape of Good Hope which if I remember was upstairs in a pub, and it was terrible. Hardly anyone there and it was a disco crowd – we didn’t get an encore.

The next one he booked was in March ’79 at The Corn Dolly this was an established venue. It was just so depressing, horrible and dark. They put an ad in the NME advertising the bands and we were ‘Ta Carpets’. Only a few people scattered here and there and it was a total waste of time, again, no encore.

So I picked up the NME and thought ‘leave this to Harvey Goldsmith here’. There was an Oxford pub in the gig guide called The Oranges and Lemons and they had The Ruts on that week. Perfect, a pub that has punk bands on. I phoned them up and got a gig straight away on Friday, 1st June 1979, our 50th gig.

On the night it was packed. Me and George were talking to people outside who had come from Sheffield to see us – we rarely played outside London in them days. We went down a storm and got an encore. I felt like telling Tim ‘leave it to me from now on mate’.

A QUICK WORD WITH DAVE

The boss of Warners UK when The Carpettes were being handled by them was none other than ‘60s pop star, Dave Dee. When I was a kid I loved Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich.

When we were on Beggars Banquet, one of the bosses, Martin Mills, the other was Nick Austin, eventually took us to the Warners office in June 1980 which was just off Berwick Street in London’s West End. We were told there was a gym there. There was also a sauna and table tennis, all free to use – Angelic Upstart singer Mensi was always in that gym.

Now and then I used to go in the office to talk about The Carpettes to Sharon Wheeler who was press officer, but unfortunately I never saw Dave knocking about. Fast forward 23 years to June 2003 and I’m in Camden Underworld to see the reformed Heavy Metal Kids. Dave Dee was there. He was the one that signed them to Atlantic in the ‘70s.

I watched the band and when they finished the punters were leaving but I still had a lot of my pint left and Dave Dee was standing nearby so I went over for a chat. I’d always wondered what he thought of The Carpettes and now was my chance to find out.

‘Hi Dave, I loved your band in the 60s’. ‘Aah thanks mate’ – he then goes on to talk about his band for a short while.

I tell him ‘I was in a band and we were on the Beggars Banquet label same time as Gary Numan’. So he talks about Gary Numan for a while. I’m thinking when he has a bit of a pause I’m gonna mention the Carpettes.

The next thing I hear is ‘Come on you – let’s have your drink’. I looked up and there was this big bouncer ‘Come on mate, out. We’ve got to get the club ready for the nightclub’.  ‘I’m just having a quick word with Dave here. I’ll not be long’.

‘DIDN’T YOU HEAR ME – GIVE ME YOUR GLASS AND GET OUT’. So I never found out what Dave Dee thought of the Carpettes and sadly six years later he died so I’ll never know.

IT COULDA BEEN A HIT

We nearly got in the Top 100! When we signed to Beggars Banquet they were being distributed by the mighty WEA, and they were up to some dodgy business. They had hyped The Pretenders single Brass in Pocket to number 1 – I’m not saying this record didn’t go on to sell loads but it needed WEA’s help to kickstart it.

So they got our label, Beggar’s Banquet, interested in this idea – and it was a strange one that worked sometimes. Gary Numan & Tubeway Army released their first single Down in the Park. WEA had an idea they would use this single to get the public used to the band and then whoosh – push the follow-up into the charts. Well it actually worked – Down in the Park wasn’t a hit but the follow-up – Are Friends Electric got to number 1. So what happens next ? They try the same with us.

Our single is released and is a warm-up for the next one that they thought could be a hit single – the problem is that the first one didn’t take off. It was played on daytime Radio 1 but WEA didn’t want it to be a hit so it wasn’t a hit.

The next release Johnny Won’t Hurt You – this is the one that’s pushed and hyped by WEA, it creeps into the chart at number 123. But it wasn’t getting any airplay – surely they hyped the wrong one. The next week it shoots up six places to 117 and the next week it’s out the charts altogether.

So that was that as far as WEA were concerned, we’d blown our chance. The follow up – Nothing Ever Changes, was a blinder and could have been a hit, but it was no good cos even though WEA agreed to distribute it, they’d given up on us.

Read the first interview from May 2020:

FIGHT AMONGST YOURSELVES – interview with Neil Thompson from The Carpettes | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Edited by Gary Alikivi  March 2021.

TUNE IN/TURN ON – Music TV in the 70s & 80s.

Some TV programmes can numb the viewer into searching for the remote. But for me music shows were about tuning in rather than turning over. Broadcast from Newcastle was live music show The Tube who were undoubtably the top dogs leaving in their wake a dusty Old Grey Whistle Test.

Where the velvet tones of Bob Harris whispered on what was essentially an album show in the 70s – the BBC’s Whistle Test provided a much needed alternative to chart shows. Up on the bridge in the ‘80s, Annie Nightingale, then Andy Kershaw and team, fired more passion and energy into the show before it sunk in ’88.

The Tube was produced off the back of Tyne Tees music and youth shows Alright Now and Check it Out. The first band to play live was Sunderland punks, The Toy Dolls, and the first show was 5th November 1982 presented by Jools Holland and Paula Yeats.

The Tube co-presenter Gary James interviewing John Peel on the Marc Bolan special in 1983.

In an interview for this blog former presenter Gary James talked about that first night…

‘I was one of the original co-presenters from Series 1. None of us on the presenter side, perhaps with the exception of Jools and Paula who breezed through it all without a care in the world, could have had any idea that the show would be as seminal as it was.

We certainly knew we were part of the ‘new wave’ and that we didn’t want to be all BBC and Top of the Pops-ish. It was all live, pre-watershed national networked TV and no second chances’.

Even when setbacks happened, the Tube squad were able to show a strength in depth and capture the now.

Back in August 2019 I spoke with author and TV producer Chris Phipps…..

I joined in ’82 as a booker and became Assistant Producer from ’85-’87. A band on the first show that I booked didn’t happen. The Who’s p.a. system got stuck in Mexico or somewhere. Producer Malcolm Gerrie knew Paul Wellers 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, said this is what The Tube is all about – that was then, this is now and off we go’.

Before the show finally checked out in ’87, an appearance raised the profile of a band and record companies came calling. From the same interview with Chris Phipps, he confirmed that…

‘Fine Young Cannibals got signed, The Proclaimers got signed. and there was a time when the Tube crew went to Liverpool to film Dead or Alive but they weren’t around. Someone in the pub told them to go round the corner to another pub where there is a band rehearsing. ‘You might be interested in them‘ he said.

It was Frankie Goes to Hollywood’.

You know what happened next. A triple smash of huge number one hit singles Relax, Two Tribes and The Power of Love plus a number 1 album Welcome to the Pleasuredome produced by Durham born Trevor Horn. Shoulda’ had a t shirt made – Frankie Made in Liverpool via the North East.

Chris Cowey and co-presenter Lynn Spencer interviewing P.I.L. on Tyne Tees programme Check it Out.

Sunderland born Chris Cowey is now a successful TV director & producer with a CV including The Tube, The White Room & Top of the Pops. Back in ‘79 when he was a teenage presenter sharpening his skills on Tyne Tees programme Check it Out, he interviewed punk band Public Image Limited, featuring a confrontational ex-Pistol Johnny Rotten (Lydon). He spoke about it on the blog in October 2019…

The infamous P.I.L chat was a real baptism of fire. My memory is that the band got themselves ‘relaxed’ by the time the studio session started, and they were ready to do their usual argumentative schtick.

The whole pantomime was their way of getting themselves noticed and being in the press, which sells records. The point of the interview was that they’d just brought out their Metal Box album.

Anyway, everyone won, they sold records, the Check It Out show was on the map, and I did about seven series of it’.

Top of the Pops chart show was broadcast at prime time on the BBC to millions of viewers, and some acts considered it a privilege to appear on the programme. But during summer ’79 one band who weren’t impressed was South Shields punks Angelic Upstarts. In an interview in 2013 vocalist Mensi Mensforth told me…

‘We were on once. It was like, nothing. There was no atmosphere. The only good thing was I sang live. They wanted us to mime but I wouldn’t, so that was something’.

Guitarist, Mond Cowie added I remember we did ‘Teenage Warning’ it went in around number 29 on the chart. It was a horrible cold studio with four stages in it. There was only 20-30 people there. It was like playing a big warehouse. It was horrible really, not a nice experience’.

Bands would pop up on Saturday morning kids shows like Tiswas and get huge exposure to new audiences. Gillan, Iron Maiden, The Clash and even Lemmy from Motorhead – who received a pie splat from the phantom flinger –couldn’t turn down an interview with the gorgeous presenter Sally James.

North East based broadcaster & producer Ian Ravendale worked on the weekend kids show Get Fresh

 Most guests came up to Carlisle the night before so I’d take them out. People like Rat Scabies and Captain Sensible from The Damned. We’d go into the music pubs and clubs around Carlisle and people would love seeing them there. Rat got up a few times to play with some local bands’.

The Young Ones with Ade Edmondson (left) and Rik Mayall (right).

A music slot was also available in the running order of alternative comedy show The Young Ones featuring Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson. The programme was broadcast for two series in ’82 and ’84. Nine Below Zero, Madness and Dexys Midnight Runners were some of the bands that played in the first series.

Ace of Spades by Motorhead kicked off the second series broadcast on 8 May. The Damned, Amazulu and Madness again featured on the second, but sadly, last series.

Talking of Motorhead, the band started a UK tour in autumn ‘79. In between live dates a Top of the Pops appearance was booked to air the new single Bomber which was in the charts. The show was broadcast 6 December.

The band already had form on the programme. Their first appearance was in October ’78 with Louie, Louie. The following singles Overkill and Leavin’ Here, provided dirty, loud, no compromise rock n roll, opposed to the chicken feed pop that was on show most weeks. Motorhead had once again been brought into the nations living rooms.

The weekly chart show and kids TV wasn’t their target audience, but this was prime time exposure providing a welcome boost to record sales – and fear not Motorheadbangers, set lists on the Bomber tour have them opening the gig with the intensely majestic Overkill – their reputation for leaving a stain on the soul of everyone that came within one thousand yards was still intact.

Gary Alikivi  January 2021.

Links to interviews:

Chris Phipps:

NAMEDROPPER – in conversation with freelance author/TV producer Chris Phipps | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Chris Cowey:

DIRECT ACTION – with TV/Media director & producer Chris Cowey. | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Angelic Upstarts:

 THE BUTCHERS OF BOLINGBROKE – Pigs, Gigs and Prisons with Angelic Upstarts | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Ian Ravendale:

WRITING ON THE WALL – in conversation with North East music journalist, broadcaster & producer Ian Ravendale | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Gary James:

GET IT ON – with Gary James former presenter of Music TV’s Top Dogs, THE TUBE | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

RAW MEAT IN THE SONIC MINCER #1 – Looking back at music weeklies.

Looking through back issues of the UK music weeklies for a mention of North East bands, I came across a screaming headline from a Motorhead gig review – Raw Meat in the Sonic Mincer – Yep, that be ‘reet for theheed.

Motorhead review in Melody Maker 31.3.79.

Sounds or NME was always knocking about our house, pocket money bought a copy for 25p. We could read exclusive interviews with bands out on tour promoting their latest album, check forthcoming UK gig dates or look at artwork for new albums. The music weeklies were always something to look forward to – even though half the print rubbed off on your fingers.

Sounds had a mix of rock and punk interviews with Ozzy/Halen/Upstarts. NME featured alternative and post punk bands like Damned/Cramps/Costello. Take your pick of front covers splashed with Strummer/Coverdale or Debbie Harry.

David Coverdale (Whitesnake) front cover Sounds 20.11.82.

Journalist Garry Bushell became a household name for his interviews with Ozzy and the Angelic Upstarts. Mond Cowie from Tyneside band the Upstarts told me….

At one time the Sounds used to be called the Upstarts weekly because there was something about the Upstarts in every week, without fail. If it wasn’t a single review, it was an album or gig review. If there wasn’t any new records out we used to phone Garry up and give him stories, we used to just make them up’.

This next story doesn’t have a connection to the North East, but it’s an example how a band would plant or maybe sweeten up a dry story. American glam metal band Motley Crue benefited in the 17 April 1982 edition.

This came at a time when UK tours saw heavy double bills, overseas support bands and suitable opening acts with audiences enjoying the first band onstage, as well as the headliner.

I was just a kid in 1978 so too young to see the Sabbath/Halen eruption shake the foundations of Newcastle City Hall, but I did catch many big ‘rumble in the toon’ shows. I remember the night German power metallers Accept went toe to toe with Judas Priest, polished American rock band Riot turned up the heat for Saxon and Canadian speed metal merchants Anvil, kept their heeds doon an’ rolled the way for Motorhead.

Anvil front cover Sounds 17.5.82.

The story in Sounds was ‘70s English rock band Wishbone Ash were looking for a support act for their upcoming UK tour. L.A Glam Metal band Motley Crue, were rumoured to be in line as the openers. Who would put those bands together on the same bill and where did the story originate ?

The report stated an official Wishbone Ash source said the band ‘disliked’ the Crue image, and ‘unofficial’ sources quoted they were ‘wary of the competition’. Of course there was no tour, but the report got a picture of the Crue top left on page 4 – result. During autumn ’82 Wishbone Ash toured the UK, loyal Ash followers recall Spider or Mamas Boys opening, both bands on a similar dial.

Motorhead front cover Sounds 21.2.81.

If a band weren’t touring or didn’t have a record to promote they would find it difficult to get in the paper. So to keep up a presence they would feed trivial gossip to the news staff, and gain a few column inches. A small article on Page 3 of the 4th October 1980 issue hasa £10 fine at Marleybone Magistrates for Motorhead drummer Phil Taylor for being drunk and disorderly’.

Apparently he was having a ‘playful’ fight outside a pub with guitarist Eddy Clarke. The report finished off with ‘Only problem was, Phil was hit on the elbow by the stomach of the arresting officer’. A sense of humour always helped to get your stories printed.

Sellers on EBay are flogging pre-owned copies of music weeklies. They go for anything from £2.99 to £35 depending on who is on the front cover and featured inside. What you waiting for, get yer bids in and take a step back in time.

Gary Alikivi  January 2021

HANGING ON THE TELEPHONE – with Robert Mills, director & founder of Rock Music Concert Promotions.

‘In the old days you used to spend all day on the phone but now it works out that I spend half the time in the office and half on the road with tours. In the office I mainly spend the day on the computer organizing shows and fighting with agents over sensible fees – there is a lot of competition now.

I’m possibly the only promoter here that hires for Spain and we deal directly with the main agencies in Britain, USA, Sweden, Germany and some other countries’.

Robert got in touch after reading the interview with former Tygers of Pan Tang vocalist Jon Deverill (22nd January 2019). I asked Rob what can he remember of the Tygers tour…… It was very early days for me as a promoter but I can remember the Tygers perfectly. The tour was in 1985, they were a great band and very nice people. We walked around Barcelona and I went up the hundreds of steps of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Jon was the only member that came up with me!

You are based in Barcelona, Spain, how long have you been there and did you work in the UK before that ? Yeah I’ve been in Spain since 1983, before that I worked in the UK as a corresponder for music magazines.

What was the intitial spark that created your interest in promoting gigs ? I just love live shows and seemed good at organizing gigs, I wanted to be a promoter since I was 14 year old. My heroes were UK promoters in the ‘70s like John Curd, Mel Bush and Harvey Goldsmith.

Looking through the impressive list of bands that you have worked with I notice there is a lot of goth rock bands – The Mission, Lords of the New Church, March Violets – plus heavy metal – all bands I saw in Newcastle during the ‘80s – can you remember dealing with any of them ?

Yes, I still work with The Mission and have done for the last 40 years. Wayne (Hussey, lead guitar & vocals) has been a friend for many years and I’m always happy to work with him. I am in touch and still friends with many of the bands from the ‘80s. I have really fond memories of then – great times. Unfortunately some bands have disappeared or I’ve lost touch with them.

Being from South Shields in the North East I noticed you promoted the Angelic Upstarts who started from here….Wow! Yeah, Mensi that brings back memories! I promoted a lot of punk gigs, like Chelsea, UK Subs, Exploited, Anti-Nowhere League, 999, and many, many more.

Now with over 30 year experience in the business we produce and organize all sorts of musical events and work with diverse acts from Jazz, Blues, Rock, Pop, Funk and Soul, and always internationally renowned groups.

What are you doing now regarding the corona virus problem ? Nothing at all, my last show was The Mission in March 2020, and possibly my next show will be The Mission in 2021. It’s really awful being a promoter right now, it’s the worst profession because of what’s happened, in fact all the music business is at one big standstill.

 Contact Robert on the official website: http://www.rmconcert.com/

 Interview Gary Alikivi  August 2020.

FIGHT AMONGST YOURSELVES – interview with Neil Thompson from The Carpettes

When did you first get interested in music ? When I was a kid I loved listening to records and watching singers like Billy Fury and Joe Brown on TV. I had my first single when I was 2 – and I also saw my first gig when I was 2, which was Billy Fury at Sunderland Odeon in March 1962. By the time I was 11 I had about 150 singles in my collection.

I saw The Kinks at Sunderland Empire in 1969 and that was the start of me going to gigs in the North East – Led Zep at Newcastle City Hall, Queen at Sunderland Locarno, Sabbath, Genesis, Lizzy, Budgie, Nazareth, absolutely loved them all.

When was your first gig in a band ? My first gig playing in a band was as a drummer. We were called Brown Sugar and it was on the 22nd November 1974 at Newbottle Church Hall, County Durham.

We played Chuck Berry and Rolling Stones songs to kids that wanted Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath – we went down terrible. When we finished the vicar locked us in the back room cos they were banging on the door wanting to beat us up.

I played drums in that band for another four gigs and in the meantime started playing guitar/vocals in another band. We were doing Status Quo/Thin Lizzy covers and I played nine gigs with that band. The last one was my first pub gig at the Sunderland Royalty in March ‘77.

By this time I was getting into the punk scene and one night I was in The White Lion in Houghton, County Durham and George was there – bassist from Brown Sugar. We hadn’t seen each other for a good while and first thing he said was ‘Have you got the Ramones album’. I said I did, so he said ‘Well do you wanna be in a punk band then’. The problem was that I was a drummer, but he’d seen one of the gigs where I played guitar and sang and thought I was good enough. We did our first gig as The Carpettes in June 1977.

What was your first experience in a recording studio ? We did our first recording at Impulse in Wallsend that was in the summer of ‘77.  The demo is available on The Early Years, a CD released in 1997 on Overground Records.

Did you support any name bands ?  While we were living in the North East we gigged with Penetration, Punishment of Luxury and Angelic Upstarts. We also supported The Vibrators at Redcar Coatham Bowl. Among all this we played one gig in London at Leytonstone Red Lion in March ‘78 supporting The Leyton Buzzards. This was the only time, thank goodness, that I was spat at during a gig.

(The Carpettes released six singles and two albums from 1977 to 1980 including a 4 track EP in 1977 & ‘Small Wonder’ 7” both on the Small Wonder label. Two albums, Frustration Paradise & Fight Amongst Yourselves on Beggars Banquet).

How did signing with those labels come about ? We were on the Small Wonder label while we were living in the North East. That came about when we answered an advert in the Sounds music weekly for new bands and they liked us.

Me and the bassist, George, moved down to London in October 1978 and found a new drummer. But it was like starting from scratch when we moved down there but we signed to Beggar’s Banquet in June 1979. We stayed there until 1981 then moved back up North.

Did you appear on TV or radio ? We were on tour with The Inmates at the time and had to cancel one of the gigs at London to travel up to Manchester to record The Old Grey Whistle Test. They’d already played a track from the album on a previous show. The other band that was on was The Blues Band.

Did you have any high points in the band ? I don’t know about high or low points – all I know is that we got better and better as we gigged. Our new drummer, Tim Wilder, was a really solid drummer, he was from Oxford but he’d been a student at Newcastle University and was the drummer in The Young Bucks while living up North.

I loved going to The Marquee to watch bands but I didn’t really enjoy playing there to be honest. We did six supports there and they were hard work – there was always a ‘Come on then, impress us’ in the air !

We played four nights in November ‘79 with The Lurkers during their residency there. Each gig would have punks sitting on the stage with their backs to us and every now and then one would look around and stare at you – and then turn back around. I much preferred London gigs like The Hope ‘n’ Anchor and The Nashville.

By the very last gig for The Carpettes in June 1981 we were a really tight live act with four years gigging experience – you can’t beat live experience for getting better on stage. It’s no good sitting in the bedroom playing guitar – not gonna get you anywhere.

One story to tell is that one of our first gigs was supporting Penetration at Newcastle University in November ‘77 – and we were terrible ! It was far too early to be playing gigs like that but we supported them again at Middlesbrough Rock Garden in August ‘78 and went down a storm.

Have you any road stories ?  In 1980 we went to Italy three times and Holland once, and we also did a short UK tour supporting The Inmates. That UK tour was probably the best two weeks of my life. I was twenty years old, travelling around the country playing music and when we arrived at the venue all the equipment would already be set up by the roadies – heaven!

What are you doing now ? Well I’ve spent most of my life down London. I was in my own band called The Only Alternative – all my ideas and songs which was a bit selfish. But we had some laughs for a couple of years between the summer of ‘84 to the summer of ’86. We released an album in 1985 on the Midnight Music label.

Then with the 20th anniversary of punk happening in 1996 I got both bands back together, well sort of with different line-ups. Both bands gigged on and off until the end of 2003. During this time The Only Alternative recorded two more albums and two singles. I played drums on all of these recordings – as well as being the singer. The Carpettes released a single in 2002 and an album in 2003.

At the moment I have a three piece band called The Alternative Carpettes which play some of my songs from The Carpettes with some Only Alternative ones thrown in.

What does music mean to you ? Music means everything to me. All my life has revolved around music. I love all sorts of music. I love orchestral music like Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. Love the ‘30s and ‘40s swing bands like Basie and Ellington. Rock ‘n’ roll, country, rhythm and blues of the ‘50s. I have a radio show playing ‘50s music every day.

I also love punk, metal, indie, 78’s, cassettes, records, CD’s.  I love it all. I don’t like TV or read books – my whole life is music!

Check out The Carpettes from this 1980 episode of the Old Grey Whistle Test.

https://youtu.be/LvUt7yeAepw

Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2020.

‘I TOOK MY BASS OFF & SWUNG IT AROUND. NOT SURE IF IT HIT HIM BUT HE DONE A RUNNER’ with Bri Smith from North East punks The Fauves

The Fauves reformed in 2016 but they first got together in South Shields in 1978. Bassist, and original member Bri Smith looks back on some gigs they played in the late ‘70s….

Out of all the gigs back then we played a gig in Hebburn. I’ve got no posters for this one but this was something else. About 20 of us turned up from (South) Shields and we met in a pub near Hebburn town centre. The gig was at a youth club and I can remember it being like a church hall, the atmosphere was unreal.

About the third song in this lad came right up to me and spat in my face. I remember taking my bass off and swinging it around. I’m not sure if it hit him or not but he done a runner. A few scuffles broke out but it settled down. We couldn’t get out there quick enough even though we went down well!  Happy days (laughs).

The North Eastern gig organised by Rebel music was upstairs on a Friday night. It was quite small, 40p to get in, the place was full and we went on early. The Condemned were on last but our mates the Whiteleas Estate Aggro Boys (The WEAB) turned up late and shouted for us to go back on – so we did. It ended up a great night for us.

Another gig organised by Rebel music was at The Neptune in South Shields. It was 40p to get in and we had a great turn out. Hodge our singer had left the band by then so we drafted in Abbo (Carl Abernethy). He only had a couple of days to learn the songs.

Murder the Disturbed played really well that night but when we went on I thought we played shite but managed to get through it. To our surprise we went down great.

We played twice at the West Park gig in South Shields. This poster is from the second gig, it was 35p to get in. We organised this gig so what money we made on the door was ours. It was another great turn out and just before Christmas. I can remember the police turning up at this gig as there was quite a bit of bother but we managed to calm things down.

This was the first gig our mate Micky Warkcup who bought himself a double turntable put on a punk disco and got everyone in the mood. He used to travel around with us back then.

The Gosforth Park Hotel gig was 50p to get in and put on by Anti Pop from Newcastle. We supported The Noise Toys and Arthur 2 Stroke, it was a cracking night and always a good crowd there. We went down well and met some good contacts through Gosforth. Ended up playing there on many occasions, we were always welcome.

This Sunderland Echo newspaper cutting is from the War for Work interview around 1980. Me, Bob and Chris shared a place in Washington around this time. Ski and Abbo had left the band.

A journalist called Mark Rough was interviewing local bands about the punk scene and came round to our place after watching us live. He had been in a band himself on vocals called Disorder. After the interview we said we were looking for a singer he said he was looking for a band ‘I’m your man’. He joined us, it was as simple as that.

The Upstarts contacted us as they were living down London and they asked if they could borrow our gear – drums and amps. It was a Saturday afternoon and they were supposed to play on the roof of the shop but the police put a stop to it so we set the gear up inside. The place was packed and the Upstarts were brilliant that day.

After the gig we ended up on the drink with Decca, Mensi and Mond. Then Decca took us through to Sunderland for more – it was a class day from what I can remember.

Leon (Ski) made a lot of the early posters. We used to sit in his bedroom with the guitars working on new songs and planning gigs. We photocopied the posters then drove around the North East or wherever we were playing and stuck them all over.

We also used to spray paint The Fauves name all over the town. Once it was even mentioned on the local news and in the Shields Gazette about the graffiti. They were trying to find out who was writing The Fauves all over the town. Hey it wasn’t us (laughs). Great days.

The band had lined up some gigs for May but Bri told me the dates have been cancelled due to the virus pandemic, and are being re-scheduled for later in the year. Check their Facebook page for more details.

Link to ‘Ground Zero’ my first interview with The Fauves:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/10/03/ground-zero-in-conversation-with-bri-smith-bob-rowland-from-tyneside-punks-the-fauves/

 Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2020.