MUSIC MATTERS – interview with Les Tones and Arthur Ramm founder members of Beckett.

The 70’s and 80’s saw bands playing every night around the North East at mainly workingmens clubs…’Mostly it was two clubs a night with yer first set starting at 8pm. Then travelling to another club, loading in, setting up, playing a set and finishing for 2am. Finally back home and bed. Before you know it yer ma was shouting up the stairs it was time to get the bus for work. Aye them were the days ha ha’….remembers Arthur Ramm. Stories like these have been told many times before in smokey bars and clubs of the North East. But here we are sitting in The Word, a brand new cultural venue in South Shields.  A large circular building with huge glass walls and what looks like a floating staircase. As far removed as you can get from bingo, beer and bands. The stories were pouring out from Les Tones and Arthur Ramm founding members of Beckett. A band which changed line up many times until they called it a day in 1974. During their time Beckett had played countless gigs around the North East with stand out support slots with Rod Stewart and the Faces. There was a two week residency in the Top Ten Club in Hamburg, Germany. They notched up 25 UK dates with Captain Beefheart, 33 with Alex Harvey and 25 with Slade. Signed with major labels Warner Brothers and CBS. Released a single and a self titled album.  They also found time to appear on BBC TV music show the Old Grey Whistle Test, and a slot at the Reading Festival. We talked about music in general and the sounds travelling across the Atlantic – Elvis, Chuck Berry, Rock n Roll USA how they influenced a generation of British musicians. Turning on the Led Zepps, Deep Purples, Eric Claptons, who in turn put their stamp on the sound. British rock came out the other end.  Although they were referring to nearly 50 years ago, like a relay team passing the baton, stories from Les and Arthur still sounded fresh and told with good humour. Music really does matter.

When did you first get interested in music ? 

Les: ‘My dad was a piano player, my uncles were keyboard players for the cinema. When I was 14 my brother and cousin had acoustic guitars and my sister played all the 50’s records. I’ve always had music around me. I used to go to the local fairgrounds and there I heard Love Me Do and other songs by The Beatles. I just loved the sound and that changed my direction of what I wanted to do. I got a guitar and I was approached by a fella called Tommy Stead who was in a popular blues band called The Jump. So I joined the band at 15 and learned loads from them’.

Arthur: ‘I was aware of The Shadows but I wasn’t really interested in that, like Les it was The Beatles that kicked me off. It was Paul McCartney, I loved the way he played, he sang, he looked. I just loved The Beatles music’.

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Les Tones aged around 14.

When did you get your first guitar ? 

Les: ‘I was serving my time as a sheet metal worker in Hebburn Palmers shipyard when I bought a Hoffner Galaxy on tick, a loan you know. Then I exchanged it for a Burns guitar until my dad bought me a Gibson 335 for £150. That was great, wish I still had it’.

Arthur: ‘There was a shop called Savilles Brothers in South Shields and there it was in the shop window with a card stuck next to it with £7 10shillings written on. Eventually after a few weeks of pestering my mother, she relented and gave me the money ‘But you’ll have to pay it back’ she said. That’s where I bought not a bass, but my first 6 string guitar.  We had no money for amps so we first started with radios which had valves inside. That could amplify the sound and it had a speaker in so we used the output. But the 5 watts wasn’t loud enough cos when you were in rehearsal with a drum kit banging away you needed something louder. So we got what The Beatles and The Stones were using that was AC 30’s. They were the biggest amplifier at the time and then Eric Clapton started using a 50 watt Marshall. That became the norm until Pete Townsend said he wanted bigger. He wanted 100watt because they were playing big places and no one could hear them at the back of the hall. Suddenly it’s getting bigger and louder with 4 x 12 cabinets and everybodys ear’s gettting used to that level of sound. I remember we were playing Annabels Club in Sunderland  and to load the gear in you used the back stairs. We were loading in 4×12’s and they were so big you couldn’t see your feet’.

Les: ‘It was good having a full house and using all that gear at that volume because people absorbed the sound but if you had a venue a third full it was very different. But now a lot of people are returning to AC 30’s and using larger PA’s’.

Arthur: ‘I’m still using a Marshall now because I’m used to the sound and Les uses a Messa Boogie which is smaller in size but has plenty of power. The technology has changed over the years. We were playing the Birtley club one time and I had just bought my Marshall 100watt head. We were loading the gear in up the steep stairs at the back and I think it was our singer Terry Slesser who said ‘I’ll carry that up for you’. My brand new Marshall head slips out of his hand and goes boink, boink, boink, down the steps to the bottom. The side of the box fell away. I was distraught. We got the gear on stage and thought do I switch it on? Will it go pop! Eventually I turned it on and it worked perfectly. When I got it home I used some glue to stick the side back on. Marshall amp’s are made solidly you know’. 

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Arthur Ramm

Where did you rehearse and play your first gig ?

Les: ‘Around 1964 The Jump used to have house rehearsals at Tommy Steads and played on a Sunday at Aloysius Church Hall in Hebburn. The church ran it and they had bands on every Sunday and served soft drinks. The atmosphere was brilliant we used to look forward to it. When we played I used to push my amplifier up the street to get into the hall, we loved it. Tommy who is still playing today, was all genned up with the American music cos he had the records so we played a lot of soul and blues. But then Tommy moved to London so I left the band and joined Hedgehog Pie. We were classed as an underground band. But yeah that’s how I started’.

Arthur: ’We got a school band together and I was playing sort of bass notes on the heavy strings of my 6 string guitar. Sounded nothing like a bass really but that’s what I was after. So I got one out of the local magazine for £35 and I was away then. Then what changed for me was when I heard John Mayalls Bluesbreakers featuring Eric Clapton and I thought wow I want to learn how to play like that. My first gig was at a wedding in Careme House in South Shields. It was for the guitarists cousin and we done about half an hour of bluesy songs’.

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The Shadey Kases with Arthur Ramm on the left.

How did Beckett form and where did the band rehearse ?

Arthur: ‘I was in a band called The Shadey Kases, who I joined around 65 or 66. I was the rhythm player, just a lonely strummer. One night Les was playing with his band in Sunderland with this great sounding guitar ‘Who is that playing, sounds fantastic’ I said. I was normally a shy person but afterwards went up to Les and said how did you get that sound, your playing is excellent. He was so friendly and showed me the amp and all that. We really got on because some people can be a bit stand off’ish. When Beckett started he was the guy to ask to play guitar and he said yes’.

Les: ’I was in Societys Child and we used to get a lot of work at the Hedworth Hall in South Shields. Alf Josephs from there used to manage us. But the band split over the singer and keyboardist arguing over petty things. The Hedworth Hall was a place all the bands would go to after a gig because it was open till 2am and we’d get in free of charge. There I met up with Arthur who had just left the John Miles band. ‘How would you like to join me and Alan’ (Craig, drummer). So yeah we are the three founding members of Beckett. We got Bill Cambell in on bass. Rehearsals were in a pre-fab building near St Francis Church in South Shields. Alan Craig got it cos he knew someone from the church. We used to go 2-3 times a week to rehearse and we done some Kinks stuff, some Deep Purple’. 

How did the name of the band come about ?

Arthur: ‘When we were talking about what we are going to call ourselves I said why not Becket ? There had been a film made called Becket starring Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole and I just liked the name.  Sounds good. Just the one word. So yeah we all went with that. If you look at Ringo Starr’s drumkit just the way they write the name Beatles, the style of the writing you know it just worked. The two t’s at the end came about because Ted Hooper suggested we should write it that way. Ted was always hanging around and had a brother who was playing guitar in West One, another Shields band we knew. Next we saw an advert for a gig we were doing at the Golden Slipper in South Shields and we were advertised with the two t’s. From then on in, it just stuck’.

 

Where did you gig and what venues did you play ?

Arthur: ‘We ended up being very successful starting off around the pubs and clubs. Usually there would be 2x 45minute sets. Early days we’d have lots of current stuff that was in the charts, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Beatles, Stones that sort of stuff. A blessing was the Bailey Organisation because they had the Latino club in South Shields and they would get us to guest before the main artist came on like Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdink, whoever had been on Top of the Pops. There were venues like Wetheralls, La Bamba in Darlington, La Ronde in Billingham, La Dolce Vita, The Cavendish Club there was so many. Only problem was it wasn’t till 2am when we finished then we had to get back home and we still had day jobs. I was an apprentice tool maker and had to get up for the bus to work at 6.30’.

Les: ‘The band used to play around the North East nearly every night of the week, quite often two bookings a night. We’d be sort of living two lives cos we’d be in a bubble on stage, going down well and everything was great. Then I’d get in at 4 in the morning and my mother would be dragging me out of bed at 6. Then not much later you’d be walking to work in the snow. The band was a job, we’d pay the stamp every Friday and get pay packets every Sunday. Arthur would get a cheque off Mel Unsworth the promoter then share it out. We would only have Tuesday off cos we had girlfriends’.

Arthur: ‘Good thing was you’d have the extra money from the gigs so you could buy an extra pedal or better guitar. One of our first gigs was at a nightclub in Darlington and the stage was big, we were right at the back and the singer was way out at the front. It was an area where all of the audience could see the artist. The lights dimmed, we went on and played an instrumental first called Supernatural. Our singer Rob Turner came on twirling the mic stand, giving it everything and there was only a dozen people there but he got them clapping. We were playing at the back in the shadows and were amazed because at rehearsals he’d just sit on a seat sort of crouched over and sing! When he was on stage his demeanour changed he was a totally different person. I always remember that gig. But I always remember the day he died. We were playing a gig at La Ronde in Billingham and were just coming up to 2am. He said let’s do a blues thing, Les you just kick it off, so we started to play. He started to sing ‘If I Knew You were Coming I would have Baked a Cake for You’ it was a blues song and that’s the last one he sang with us’.

Les: ‘I remember that gig, I remember as if it was yesterday. At the end he had a bit to drink and a girl with him. We had a policy of you go with the band you come back with the band. Then the day’s your own you know. We said your coming back with us just take her number. Arthur and I went home as usual in the Hillman Minx, that was our bassist Bill Cambell’s car and all we talked about was Rob not coming home with us. Next day was a Friday I got out of bed and went downstairs. My mam said someone’s been and left a message to phone Arthur it’s very important. The nearest phone was at the bottom of the street so I went down, phoned Arthur and he told me the bad news. I was shocked, we were upset and got the band together to talk about it. We went to see his parents’.

Arthur ‘We were told the weather conditions were very foggy that night and he was on the edge of the road near the pavement thumbing a lift. A few cars went by then he got hit. By now the girl he was with starts to thumb as Rob is on the ground. But cars just passed by because it looked like a drunken couple. Eventually someone stopped and drove him to hospital but he had too much internal bleeding’. 

Les: ‘He was only 24. The car just drove off. The person driving was caught because he put his car in a garage to have the windscreen fixed. He said to police he didn’t stop because he thought he had just hit an animal. Reports said he was under the influence of drink and drugs. He never got put in prison, just fined’.

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Terry Slesser in the middle.

Did the band make the decision to carry on ?

Les: ‘Let me tell you it wasn’t an easy decision to make. But we had gigs lined up and we knew a singer already who could fit into the band. Terry Slesser was a roadie for the John Miles band The Influence, Terry had also formed a band called Zig Zag. I had seen him a few times and thought he had a good voice. He was confident and had long hair. He joined the band eventually’. 

Arthur: ‘Yeah he learnt the songs very quickly, and fitted in. We done some great gigs especially supporting the Alex Harvey Band. They were so tight, really impressed with them’. 

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What was it that drove you on ?

Arthur: ‘It was just that the gig was so important, it was a simple as that’.

Les: ‘The time Beckett was playing it was magic. When we’d play the workingmens clubs they were queing out the door at 6pm to get a seat to see us. That’s the way it was. We’d play Middlesbrough and go to a gig in Sunderland. We’d go in a seperate car from the road crew who were in a van with all the gear. When we went in the club you would see lots of faces who were at the first gig, they’d travelled up to see us. We really appreciated that’. 

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When did Beckett start songwriting ?

Arthur: ‘Les left the band, and joined Sandgate. We got a guy called Kenny Mountain in. He was in a band called Yellow with Vic Malcolm from Geordie. They had a single out but didn’t do much. I rang Kenny who said he didn’t want to play lead but he would still be in the band. That meant I had to up my game. Kenny came up with some songs and we ended up sticking a couple in the set, then adding a few more, then a few more. That led us to meeting a guy called Geoff Docherty. He was a local promoter and saw us playing in Sunderland’. (Geoff Docherty was a very successfull North East promoter with major bands including Pink Floyd, The Who, Rod Stewart and David Bowie. One of the venues he promoted was The Locarno in Sunderland, a Mecca ballroom that held 3,000. For more information Geoff has authored two books ‘A Promoters Tale’ and ’Three Minutes of Magic’). 

Arthur: ‘Geoff approached our singer Terry Slesser. Geoff said he liked the band and said ‘I can do something for you’. We had other offers but the managers wanted too big a cut out of the money we were earning. It wouldn’t of left us with much. So we arranged a sit down meeting with Geoff, he was straight talking. We were very impressed. The clincher was when he said ‘I won’t take any money, not a penny from you until you are successful. I will have you backing people like Rod Stewart and Ten Years After’. Not long after we started travelling the country playing gigs and what a thrill it was playing in London, especially the Marquee club. He was exact to his words’.

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Did Geoff Docherty get the record companies interested in Beckett ?

Arthur: ‘Yes he got to know them all as he used to book the bands for the Top Rank Suite in Sunderland. He was very pushy. He’d tell them to come and see the band. His rhetoric and the way he put it over. Very convincing. He got us a deal with Warner Brothers and then we went to CBS. We got a £10,000 advance from Warner Brothers. Think our Mercedes van was around £4,000. But I had left before they made the album with Warner Brothers. They got Bob Barton in. The line up kept changing. All the original members had gone by then’.

 

By the time the album was released on Warners label Raft Records in 1974, the Beckett line up was Terry Wilson Slesser (vocals) Kenny Mountain (guitar) Robert Barton (guitar) Ian Murray (bass) and Keith Fisher (drums). The Iron Maiden connection is a story for another day if one of the members can get in touch. As we were about to leave The Word I asked Les and Arthur one more question.

What does music mean to you ?

Arthur: ‘Well I can’t live without music. If my hands don’t work I don’t know what will happen. I listen to music all the time and I am in a band now with Les’. 

Les: ‘When I’ve got a guitar I lose loads of time cos I can’t put it down. I’ve also been teaching music and I got into repairing and building guitars. I still play in a band now’. 

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2018.

Recommended:

Steve Dawson, THE ANIMALS: 2nd April 2017.

Harry Hill, FIST: 29th April 2017.

Trevor Sewell, 21st June 2017.

Howard Baker, WARBECK: 17th August 2017.

John Verity, ARGENT: 7th November 2017.

Dave Ditchburn, BRASS ALLEY/GEORDIE: 1st February 2018.

MAN FOR ALL SEASONS – interview with North East musician Davey Ditchburn

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Davey Ditchburn has been vocalist and songwriter in bands including Brass Alley, Geordie, Fogg, Talisman and Pilgrim – spending a lifetime in music. We arranged to meet up as I thought he would have plenty of stories to tell from his time becoming a professional musician, signing with major record labels, recording in Rockfield studio, playing The Marquee in London, but first I wanted to know what turned you onto music ? ‘I think it was just the advent of rock n roll really. I was at the High School in South Shields at the time and didn’t have any idea about what I wanted to do. Like a lot of kids I wasn’t really into school you know. Me mam bought us a guitar that I had been ogling for quite some time in Savilles Music Shop in the town. But the problem I always had and still do to this day was being left handed. Of course there was no amenities for left handed people then and no way you could get a guitar that was left handed. So I tried learning it upside down but I couldn’t do that. I changed the strings around and got away with that for a bit. But to really learn you had to go to somebody local and there wasn’t many local guitarists about. So I ended up going to this guy who lived in the cottages beside Vaux breweries in Sunderland and learnt a few chords off him. At that time skiffle was really big and I loved all those players, Dickie Bishop, Lonnie Donegan, all those people so I got a skiffle band together. We were called The Worried Men and used to play the youth clubs and over 60’s pie and pea suppers things like that.
That ran it’s course and rock n roll came round, Elvis Presley happened and that changed the whole thing. So that was the advent of proper rock n roll, like Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, I absolutely loved that era. I used to go to see every band that I could. We played with Johnny Kid and the Pirates, Gene Vincent and several other bands’.

What type of venues did you play then ? ‘Some of them would be dancehalls like The Majestic on the Sea Front at South Shields. We’d play the Picture Houses in Newcastle and one thing led to another and I met Vic Malcolm, Joe D’Ambrosie, Mickey Golden and we formed Vince King and the Stormers. That was around ’62 or ’63. We played the dances around the North East like Wheatley Hill, Low Spennymoor, Coxhoe places like that. Then of course the look was lame suits and all that tackle. We went on a while like that then The Beatles happened and the scene changed to a hippy come rocky sort of thing. The Stormers were quite successfull, we played with The Beatles in Middlesbrough we supported a lot of big bands at the time at venues around the North East. Then I met up with some other guys and one of them was Barry Alton. The other members were some of his family and they played jazz rock. It was an eight piece with sax, trumpet and guitars – we were called Brass Alley.
But the trumpet player, who worked in the shipyards, got crushed by a big pipe so he couldn’t play. The two sax players also left the band. So that left a four piece that became the real Brass Alley in 1972 and we went professional, we made a living out of it. But it wasn’t an easy decision to go pro because we had wives, kids, and steady trades. But I thought if I don’t do it now I never will and the other lads were of the same mind. So we just went for it, we were young and had confidence’.

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Brass Alley had a manager called Mike Rispoli he was a bit Mafiosi he introduced us to quite a few people in London. He was a very strange guy. Mike got us this house next to Richmond Park in Surrey. There were 13 of us living there and we’d buy a sack of spuds and it was chips every day haha. But don’t get me wrong some times we had to go the Temp Agency and get temporary jobs, one was in a wine factory. It was just to get by you know even then London cost a fortune. Because we’d have families we’d send money back home so we’d do without you know. That’s why young professional musicians are skinny as rakes, they’re emaciated you know haha.
But we used to play places like The Marquee, The Speakeasy, Colleges and Universities in the South we had some great gigs down there. Then we got a contract with RCA around 1972. They gave us an advance but we blew that all on a van and some gear, cabs, amps that sort of thing. We met a guy called Matiah Clifford who was an African songwriter and we recorded some of his songs like Mongoose and Rainbow. We had a good relationship and I’m still in touch with him now.
We recorded an album in Rockfield Studio with Dave Edmunds who at the time was part owner there. The studio is in Monmouth in Wales, it’s pretty well known. We also made an EP for the Hartrock Festival in Hartlepool and one of the songs was written by musician Kenny Mountain. It was called Pink Pills and it’s recently been picked up and released on a compilation album in Chicago – great stuff to release it, bloody awful song though !’

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The Brass Alley time was the best as in terms of still having hopes and dreams when you’re young and getting that one big break. You get that beaten out of you after a while and become just another muso. We always did well, played great gigs, we got radio play through Johnnie Walker, Dave Lee Travis, he had us on his Radio One roadshow but the band did great live but never managed to transfer that to the studio and make that one great record. We travelled all over the country and made a few records with RCA and Alaska but never had much success’.

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‘It lasted until 1976 and I formed another band with Vic Malcolm who had just left Geordie. We were a Brass Alley 2/Geordie 2 but we couldn’t use the Geordie name because it was copyright of the Red Bus record company. We ended up as Brass Alley 2. We had George Defty on drums, Vic on guitar, Frankie Gibbon on bass, Alan Clark on keyboards who went on to be in Dire Straits and me on vocals. Jonna (Brian Johnson ex AC/DC) was hanging around as he was original singer for Geordie, and we sang together. But I was having all sorts of problems at home and the band split up after a year’.

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Davey (far left sitting) Brian Johnson (far right).

‘Next I got a knock from a guy called Dek Rootham who had a band called Fogg. I’d known him for a few year and their singer was struck down by an illness so I joined the band. We recorded a few records and were on TV show The Geordie Scene which can be watched via You Tube’.

‘But that band fizzled out and I was kicking about with Jonna when he had just joined AC/DC and he said why don’t you get a band together and I’ll see who I can introduce you to. So in came Paul Thompson from Roxy Music on drums, a guy called Peter Morrison on guitar, again Frankie Gibbon on bass and Alan Clark on keyboards. We were called Armageddon and we got picked up by this American who shall I say was a bit shadey ha ha. He used to met us in his room at The Ritz in London and bring a suitcase full of money out from underneath the bed, it was stuffed with dollar bills haha. He used to give us quite a lot of money for our gear and wages. We’d get paid more for rehearsing than some of our gigs haha. He said he was gonna do this and that for us, then one day he just disappeared. But again that band didn’t last long and I was at a loose end until I met up with former Armageddon guitarist Peter Morrison and we cracked on and formed Talisman. This was around the 1980’s’.

STILL BELIEVE IN LOVE 1989OTISRECORDS

‘We were together for 8 or 9 years and it was the most successful band that I’ve been in. We done some stuff on North East Radio and TV with people like Mike Neville. We played a lot, some festivals in the North East like Gypsies Green on the seafront in South Shields, Budgie headlined. In fact I’m busy recording an album with Talisman now. We’ve all accumalated songs over the years so we have loads to choose from. We’re not intending to play live but want to make a decent album. We’re using First Avenue studio in Newcastle, when they have a slot we can jump in there’.

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What happened after Talisman ? ‘When we split I joined Three’s A Crowd which was quite sucessful locally then after that I had time off and went to sea and travelled. When I came back I formed Pilgrim with my son Dean. Loosely still in them now as we play once or twice every six month. In fact I’m also playing in a Ukele band now, I’m not a music snob, I enjoy any music’.

Any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Well theres a few but I’m not sure they are suitable here haha’.

Did you use any stage effects ? ‘Yes Talisman once smoked out a venue we were playing. I remember we were at Sacriston Club and Merv the roadie/engineer was rat arsed on Brown Ale. He was an electronic whizz, and worked for Bill White in Sunderland who sold all the amplifiers. Anyway he pumped out far too much smoke from the machine and the whole club had too be evacuated haha’.

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Lastly, what has music given you ? ‘I can’t imagine life without it really. It’s what I exist for I guess. Really I’ve done a few other things in life and enjoyed them but still every night I sit down and play the guitar and write songs. I listen to The Eagles or Ry Cooder, all sorts of music I have wide tastes really. I go to see bands, just saw Chris Rea at Newcastle City Hall, he’s struggling now cos I remember how he was but he’s still getting up there playing his music. Got loads of happy memories, I would never change it you know’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi December 2017.

Recommended:

Steve Dawson (THE ANIMALS): Long Live Rock n Roll, 2nd April 2017.

Harry Hill (FIST): Turn the Hell On, 29th April 2017.

Steve Dawson (SAXON): Men at Work, 28th May 2017.

Trevor Sewell, Still Got the Blues, 21st June 2017.

Kev Charlton (HELLANBACH): The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

John Verity, (ARGENT): Blue to His Soul 7th November 2017.

 

 

BLUE TO HIS SOUL – with musician John Verity

‘I recall one night I left the stage during a keyboard solo in Argent and couldn’t find my way back! I was very popular with the band that night!!! ….but I did make it back in the end’.

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Rod Argent and Russ Ballard formed rock band Argent in 1969 and are known for the hit singles Hold Your Head Up and God Gave Rock n Roll to You a song covered by American rock band Kiss in 1991. In 1973 John Verity joined Argent, I asked him where was the audition and how did you find out about it ?
‘There was no audition. I toured supporting Argent around the time of Russ Ballard deciding to quit. They asked me if I would consider replacing him and I said yes!
John has had a full career since then…’Right now I am just completing an 80 date tour of the UK promoting the My Religion album, with another busy year planned for 2018. My next album, Blue to My Soul is planned for release in November this year. We also released a live DVD earlier this year, shot at our show at the Jim Marshall Auditorium, The Stables Theatre, Wavendon, Milton Keynes’.

Since he first picked up a guitar in the early 60’s John has had a very prolific and distinguished career in music… ‘I was in various local bands in the 60’s around my home town of Bradford, West Yorkshire, playing pubs, clubs and youth clubs until I joined my first fully professional band in ’68. This was the Richard Kent Style from Manchester, a 6-piece with brass section. Pretty soon we were playing up to 14 gigs a week, twice a night, up and down the country and often abroad. In ’69 we changed our name to Tunnel when we were offered a gig at a rock club in Freeport, Grand Bahama – close to the U.S coast and frequented by American college kids. During our time at the club we were approached by a U.S promoter and relocated to North Miami Beach to seek our fortune!
Tunnel opened for many major U.S acts as they passed through Florida, but unfortunately there were pressures developing in the band resulting in a split. Everyone left town, except me. I felt that the opportunities were too good to waste and set about forming my own band using American musicians from the Miami area, with the aim of fulfilling the dates already planned for Tunnel. We had Teddy Napoleon on drums, and Mark Troisi on bass. The very first John Verity Band !
So, to the present JV Band – a revolving line-up depending on availability.
Either Liam James Gray, Bob Henrit or Steve Rodford on drums. Either Bob Skeat, Jamie Mallender, John Gordon, Roger Inniss or Russell Rodford on bass. When it comes to recording, everyone features in some way or another, along with various guest musicians/singers’.

Who were your influences in music ? ‘My earliest influences were American blues and R&B artists but also the obvious ones for a young aspiring guitarist at the time – Chuck Berry, Hank B Marvin, Duane Eddy, Elvis. I loved and still do, the music of BB King, Aretha Franklin, Albert King, and Muddy Waters. The first Led Zep album was a major milestone’.

How did you get involved in playing music. Was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ? ‘I can’t really remember how I first got started. Once I’d discovered the guitar I really wasn’t interested in anything else – except girls of course, but they seemed to come hand-in-hand with the guitarist thing. A defining moment for me was much later. Up until this I had always been the guitar player in the band, who would sing the occasional harmony’.

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‘My voice has always been high and that didn’t seem to be very fashionable on the 60’s music scene here in the UK. Then we were booked to open a show in Redcar, at The Coatham. The headline band was The Who, and special guest was Terry Reid. There was a buzz in the industry about Terry Reid but I hadn’t seen him. He absolutely blew me away that night. His voice was out of this world but what really hit me was that he had a really high voice – sort of in the same ballpark as mine. From that night onwards I was determined to be a singer. A guitarist/singer that is! A while later in Miami I got my chance, and took it’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Probably far too much to mention everything, my earliest experience was EMI Studios in Manchester Square, London in the mid 60’s. Then various independent studios as they sprang up, including Advision, Olympic, Roundhouse. I started recording my own stuff early on. I wrote and demo’d all the songs for my first album in a cupboard in the apartment in Miami!
The demos for the first Saxon album were recorded in Chalk Farm, London. The album itself was recorded at Livingston Studios. I went on to record many projects there’.

(Nerd alert: Saxon was released in 1979 on the Carrere label. Clocking in at just under 30 mins it contained singles Big Teaser/Stallions of the Highway and Backs to the Wall/Militia Guard. The album helped put Saxon on the heavy metal map).

Was heavy metal a big departure from the music you had done ? ‘Not really a big departure. It wasn’t really ‘Metal’ yet – just heavy British rock. It was great fun working with the lads, though record company and management problems managed to screw it up in the end. Biff Byford and Paul Quinn had been in the very final John Verity Band before I joined Argent’.

After Argent split up John formed Phoenix and recorded 2 albums, the debut on CBS records in 1976 and ‘In Full View’ on Charisma in 1979.
‘There was some gigs with Phoenix. We did a few impromptu gigs in the UK before a European tour with Aerosmith to support our first album but from then on it became a studio project’.

A stint with London based band Charlie followed, they released an album ‘Good Morning America’ on RCA/Victor records.
‘There were no gigs with Charlie during my time’.

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That lasted until 1982 when the lead vocal spot was taken up by South Shields musician, Terry Wilson-Slesser (pic.above). The music video for ‘It’s Inevitable’ with Slesser is worth checking out on You Tube – it ends in a pie fight. Next for John was a tour with former Sweet vocalist Brian Connolly where they supported American female rock singer Pat Benatar on her 1983 ‘Get Nervous’ tour.

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Around this time Pat and her band played on the live TV music programme The Tube, the studio was in Newcastle. I was lucky to be in the audience for that show and witnessed a fantastic performance by Benatar. Again worth checking out on You Tube. But back to the story…‘Yes the Benatar tour was great and a sell out – but no crazy stories I’m afraid. All very well-organised and straight! The early 80’s I had been very busy recording in Livingston Studio’s in London with Brian Connolly, Russ Ballard, Charley, Phoenix, and my own album Interrupted Journey’.

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That band, simply called Verity, had rubbed shoulders with AOR giants Journey/Foreigner. Included was the track ‘Rescue Me’ which was a regular on the early years of MTV.
‘I then built my own studio back in Yorkshire where I wrote and recorded with many people including The Searchers, Mike Rutherford and Steve Thompson. (Steve is featured in an earlier blog The Godfather of North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal June 27.)

‘Around the mid-80’s I recorded with the Rolling Stones mobile – there was some live Motorhead tracks with Brian Robertson and Pete Gill in the line-up. I recorded 4 gigs I think, and mixed a selection from those’.

Looking around on You Tube there is some good footage of your band Phoenix on Saturday morning UK TV show Supersonic. Did you record many TV appearences or music videos ? ‘Yep, there was lots of TV here in the UK including Old Grey Whistle Test, Top of the Pops and Supersonic. The Argent ‘Circus’ film was one of the first to feature on MTV. To arrange the appearences there were various management companies around that time, but usually the record labels arranged TV slots’.

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Do you find the internet a help for musicians ? ’I used to be horrified when I spotted someone filming us with a ‘phone but now it’s just a regular occurrence that we put up with. Lots of poor quality stuff on the net but you could waste your life away getting it taken down. I just leave it. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity’.

What has music given you ? ‘Music has given me everything – but at times it has taken everything away too. It means everything to me. I have a very long-suffering wife, Carole. She lets me be what I am despite the faults and that’s amazing, the way she accepts my obsession with all things music related. Just amazing…’

Launch dates for the new album at Dreadnought Rock in Bathgate, Scotland are November 10th & Ripley Live in North Yorkshire on the 11th November.

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For more info, tour dates, merchandise, photo’s and video contact the official website johnverity.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2017.

Recommended:

Bernie Torme, The Dentist, 21st March 2017.

Steve Dawson (Animals), Long Live Rock n Roll, 2nd April 2017.

Steve Dawson (Saxon) Men at Work, 28th May 2017.

Trevor Sewell (The Revillos) Still Got the Blues, 21st June 2017.

Jon Dalton, California Dreaming, 18th October 2017.

Robb Weir, Doctor Rock, 5th November 2017.

 

CALIFORNIA DREAMING – Jon Dalton on his journey from Glastonbury to L.A.

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A call came in from Los Angeles ‘Hello Gary, it’s Jon here how you doing, I received a message that you have been asking about Gold. Well here is the story’.
Before we go any further let me give you some background. Gold were formed in 1979 in Bristol, UK by guitarists Jon Dalton and Pete Willey. Like many of their contemporaries, Gold had grown up listening to first generation rock and metal bands Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Free and later Thin Lizzy and Queen. Gold’s music was a combination of space and glam mixed with heavy rock. Jon has lived in USA for 20 years as a professional musician. ‘I moved out to the US in 1999, I have Native American roots so it was like coming home. I also wanted to move my jazz career along. It seems that was a good call. I got signed to Innervision Records in 2003 and they released my first CD with them The Gift, and it did very well. The title track reached number 1 on New York’s CIM jazz chart. I spent some time over 2006-2007 back in the UK touring and recording with a jazz organ trio with my friend John-Paul Gard on Hammond organ. I released the resulting album in the US in 2009 and it’s been very well received among people who like that kind of jazz. I still come back to the UK from time to time for mini-tours with John-Paul and I love doing that. Gives me a chance to catch up with my UK friends and my family’s mostly over here these days’.

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‘I keep myself busy playing live with a residency in Los Angeles. I also have a YouTube channel dedicated to jazz guitar with performance videos, instrument reviews and playing tutorials, that kind of thing. I just got done completing the first track of my next CD with producer Richard E. Richard has done a wonderful job on that and a performance video cut will be up on YouTube soon. If things go according to plan, that CD will release on Innervision in 2018’.

When did you pick up a guitar and who were your influences ? ‘We had an 8 track player in the house and I’d listen to the Stones, Bowie, The Doors anything I could get my hands on, I was really into my music. I was already playing a bit of rock guitar but I was mostly into progressive rock like Yes. Then around 1975 I met Pete Willey and we hit it off straight away. Pete and I formed a school band called Grafitti we did a few school gigs and played in some pubs in Bristol. One memorable gig was in The Naval Volunteer. My chemistry teacher came into the pub and saw me playing. Next day at school he said you were quite good last night, maybe that’s why you never do your homework haha.
That band split up after the summer holidays and I started hanging out on the free festival circuit in the west country. I used to like Steve Hillage and the band Gong and they were heavily involved in these festivals. I think it was 7th day of the 7th month in ’77 when I first went to a festival, yes very mystical ! And there was Tim Blake’s Crystal Machine ’79 Glastonbury with a laser light show I’d never seen anything like it – blew my mind. I was a complete dyed in the wool Gong fan I couldn’t think of a better thing to do than sit in a damp field and watch them play at a free festival ! I may be wrong on the dates but I think it was 1979 when they started charging, it was a fiver to get in but Tim Blake’s Crystal Machine, Steve Hillage and Mother Gong were on the bill so I think it was probably the best fiver I spent’.

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Did you form a band again and what venues did you play ? ’I met up with Pete Willey again, he was more of a straight ahead rocker. He liked bands like Thin Lizzy, Queen but in common we liked songs from Free and Bad Company. Pete also had good knowledge of what was in the charts at the time. He liked a bit pop music, I was a bit more of a rock snob really. We brought this sound together and that formed the early version of Gold.
We started getting a few gigs one was at The Granary where all the top rock bands played. There was Tiffanys, The Locarno, we did have a good following for our spacey rock. This was at the end of the hippy rock era just before the tables turned and in came punk’.

What were your first experiences of recording ? ‘We recorded a 3 track demo Mountain Queen part one – I think the idea behind this song was a trilogy, but I can’t remember a bloody note of parts 2 and 3 haha. Other tracks were Change for the Better and Is My Love in Vain that was a really popular song a sort of love ballad with a guitar solo in the middle. We then changed our bass player, the first was Andy Scott who was more of a new waver he played on that demo but he really wanted to do more new wave stuff. We got another guy in Paul Summerill he was more of a rocker listening to bands like Rush and played a Rickenbacker bass. We had a guy called Steve Dawson on drums. There was a guy called Al Read who used to run a rock show on Radio Bristol and he played our stuff a lot and get us on for a few live chats’.

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‘But that line up of Gold split up and I started playing in a jazz funk band Climax. I still liked my rock though. I went to see AC/DC on one of their first tours in the UK and I remember the guy on the radio saying they were like a rock band but quite punky. I couldn’t see how the two would work together and I went more out of curiosity really and wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it. But by the end of the concert I was dancing and jumping around, they were great. The name of the band at the time was quite daring plus they were breaking all the rules with this punk thing. Walking outside I thought that’s the future of rock. The sound was edgier, harder and I could see that society was going that way, politics were changing, Thatcher got in power 1979 the whole landscape was changing and not in a good way. Bristol had around 250,000 people and in the whole city there were a handfull of homeless people. Then suddenly there was a big rise in people living on the streets, it became a different world. There was a sense that everything had hardened and that transfered over to music with the start of NWOBHM with Iron Maiden and Saxon’.

Were you aware then and now, the impact of the music scene – heavy rock/metal/nwobhm ? ‘Well, I can say that, at the time, music was incredibly important to a lot of young people. What you listened to defined who you were, where you hung out and who your friends were likely to be. Right down to every little sub-set of every kind of music you can think of. Back then, if you bought an album, that could be the central talking point of your life for months. People would come to your house and listen to and discuss it. How it sounded in itself, how it compared to previous releases, where the act might be going. I can’t stress how important that kind of thing was to us. It was our lifeblood.

I think today, with the Internet and access to a gazillion tunes at your finger tips rather than having to go out and buy it, people are more eclectic in their tastes. That means that they tend to be less tribal but it also results in a sense of a greater loss of community. People are much more individual and isolated today than they were back in the day. Many of my friends from Gold days, are still in touch now and we still have the same core interests that we used to have back then. I’m still a Heavy Metal hippie/biker underneath despite the fact that these days, I’m more likely to do a gig in a dinner jacket than a cut-off t shirt and spandex pants’.

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‘I would add that, here in the States young people still really revere the classic rock acts of the 70’s. Led Zep, The Who, Pink Floyd. They’re still seen as the classics, rather than that stuff your Dad used to listen too. That may just have something to do with the sheer size of the place. New ideas take longer to roll out here to the extent it affects the culture. For instance dance music and electronica never really took off in the US at all beyond a small cult following. I can remember in the UK that you had to be really on top of things or people would laugh at you for being dated or old hat. That never bothered me because I couldn’t care less about trends and fashions. Americans don’t seem to care so much about that. If something’s good, it’s good regardless of when and where it was made or who made it. I guess you need both angles to make the world work’.

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How did Gold get back together ? ’I bumped into Pete we had always been good mates, and he said come and have a jam well I thought ok. I’ve seen AC/DC lets have a harder, rockier sound. There was Phil Williams on drums who had a great laid back powerful sound and thats what we needed to move forward, it’s what we were looking for. We went out with this new version of Gold and the crowds we were playing to then were headbangers in their late teen’s. We bought a pa system and rented it out to other bands to make a bit of money because we were broke. It was all coming together, we got a van and toured around the country. We got all over, up to Reading, Southend, Doncaster we were out a lot and picking up some interest. I heard we were watched by scouts for the management team from Motorhead and Girlschool, they were looking for a support band for the tours. But one night we got back home at 4am after playing and for once we decided not to unpack our van. It got pinched. All our cabs, pa, the lot. We didn’t have the money to replace the gear, we had no idea who had done it or where it had gone. Sadly, that was the end of Gold. That’s the story in a nutshell really’.

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‘We really had a blast but listening back to recordings just before that happened I got the feeling I had enough, and it was time to move on. Although that loss of equipment was a trajedy I didn’t want to be stuck being a rock musician. I admired great guitar players like Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads. They were brilliant guitarists but some became these crazy virtuosos, and hair metal bored the pants of me. A band was at it’s best when you had team players, cammerdarie of playing in a group is what I like’.

Compared to the GOLD days what is the feeling you get today going on stage to perform? ’Well I’m a lot less nervous now than I used to be. I’ve always been a bit shy about performing which is odd because I get on well with people and I’m not exactly an introvert. But my hands used to shake like jelly and I could barely hold a guitar pick for the first few songs. I did do about 8 years on what we used to call the Cabaret circuit, that would be playing covers around the world in bars and hotels and on military bases. After sometimes, playing five, forty-five minute sets per night every week and six on Saturdays that kind of work tends to knock that out of you.
I still get the heebee geebees a little today but nowhere near as much because I’ve kind of trained that out of me. I also realize that it’s only a gig. There will be another one tomorrow or maybe their won’t. As for the upside, that’s never changed. Every now and again you get a stonking gig. You can never tell or anticipate when that’s going to happen, it just does. Your playing kicks up a notch. The audience senses that something’s going on and focuses more clearly on what you’re doing and something transformational happens. It’s moments like that, that keeps us musicians chasing the dragon in terms of live music. There’s nothing like that sensation and I’m as much a sucker for it now as I was 40 years ago’.

Jon Now

What has music given you ? ’Music is my life. It has been since as long as I can remember. It’s defined me as a person. Taken me around the world, paid my bills, introduced me to my greatest friends and provided me with years of beauty, solace and wonder. My greatest inspiration has always been watching my grandmother Ada Dalton who would get up, every year, on her annual church bash on the stage of the Methodist Central Hall in Bristol and sing When I Grow Too Old To Dream in memory  of her husband John-Francis who died between the wars from complications of being a soldier. She passed on in 1974 at the age of 88. She never had much, but her love and passion expressed through music, kept her going. I learned a big lesson from that. Mostly that you should never give up, whatever the cost. Some things in life are just too important to let slip away. To be honest, I’m still chasing that level of heart and conviction in my work. I know I’ll never come close but it gives me a reason to get up in the morning. That’s what music’s given me. Thanks for taking the time to investigate Gold. I’ve really enjoyed sharing these experiences’.

For more information contact the official website jondaltonjazz.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

PLAYED HIS CARDS RIGHT – celebrating a 45 year career with vocalist Pete Allenby

‘Every 5 years or so I still get very small royalty checks… about enough to buy a bag of chips!’ New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Tarot came from South Yorkshire. They formed in 1979 but folded in late 82′ ‘There are no plans to reform. I have a four piece rock band called The Method and we play covers of band’s like Toto, Rush, The Who and Queen. We do about 30 gigs a year, we do it for the love !’

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Who were your influences and how did you get involved in playing music ? Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? ‘I first got involved in music when I was asked to join a band soon after leaving school, and realised I wasn’t that bad at it! My main influences then were The Who, Queen, Joe Cocker and Alex Harvey. My defining music moment was probably when I first heard Won’t Get Fooled Again then I bought the album, Who’s Next and played it to death! Also when I first heard Seven Seas of Rye by Queen. I’d never really heard anything quite like it before!’

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play. Was it in the immediate area or travelling long distances, and did you support name touring bands ? ‘I started playing in ’72 but my first gig’s with Tarot started in 1979 in working mens club’s. The line up was me on vocals, Malc King on guitars, on bass we had Brian Redfern and Andy Simpson on drums. We quickly started playing at recognised rock gigs of the day, Ford Green in Leeds, Boilermakers in Sunderland, in Halifax was The White Lion then over to Jenks bar in Blackpool’.

 


‘We also supported bands like The Jags, John Parr, Fischer Z, Frankie Miller and Def Leppard -whatever happened to them haha. On those gig’s we played the Universities, Newcastle Mayfair, Queen’s Hall in Bradford, we got to Doncaster, played The Cock and Lion in Bridlington and The Pier at Lowestoft. Back in those day’s we got around the North a lot, we covered a lot of miles’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘From 1979-81 Tarot recorded three demo sessions, first was in Halifax where we recorded five tracks in one day. I can’t remember the studio name but I do recall it was on the fourth floor cos I nearly had a coronary carrying the kit up there ! Our second and third recordings were at September Studios in Huddersfield, where we recorded 6 tracks in all, 3 at each session. I can’t remember how much the sessions in the recording studio cost, but coming from Yorkshire I guess it wasn’t mega expensive. HOW MUCH! Being the Yorkshire man’s mantra haha’.

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‘The only published song from these sessions was Feel the Power which appeared on the compilation album – New Electric Warriors released in 1980. I remember seeing the album in the local record shop, was a bit disappointed with the cover. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen it. How that came about was someone got in touch with us via Sounds magazine I think, they had checked our name as we were in the metal chart most weeks. Streetfighter were also on the album, I met their manager a few times. We did a gig with them at Leeds Uni and the BBC came to film some of it including us. I’m sure it was something to do with Peter Sutcliffe the Yorkshire Ripper not sure why. I don’t remember it being shown on tv’.

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‘We also done a mini promotional tour for the album. To be honest I don’t know how many copies of the album were sold back then. It was re-released as part of a triple box set of NWOBHM, which I bought a copy of. I managed to by a cd version a few years back of New Electric Warrior’s and also a vinyl copy too! I still get very small royalty checks every 5 year or so, about enough to buy a bag of chips !’

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‘All the Tarot material has just been released for the first time, on a remastered cd Rough and Ready. To order a cd you can contact me directly at horacedog@talktalk.net or the band via facebook page’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

 

HOWARDS WAY- interview with North East musician Howard Baker

‘In Warbeck we were playing Germany for seven weeks doing 4 x 45 minute sets a night, and 5 on a weekend, that’s how we learnt our trade. In ’85 we got a record deal with EMI. But that went tits up. More of that later’.

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Howard has spent most of his life in the music business from performing to owning a studio. From early influences, gigs, experiences in recording studio’s, high’s and lows, to the present day – this interview uncovers most of the stories in his career – but some of the riskier one’s might never make print you’ll have to go and see him he might tell you. ‘I still do a lot of gigs a year and continue to work over in Tenerife and France. Currently we are working on pulling together a show with songs from the 1960’s, not a tribute as such more of putting our own stamp on the tracks. So really looking forward to taking that out to the theatres’.

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 Who were your influences ? ‘When we were young everybody liked Elvis Presley but I was more of a rebel, I liked Little Richard. I just loved his antics, I loved Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino a bit bluesy you know. But my voice was always geared up to the likes of Coverdale and Rodgers, more rocky, that style you know, my tones were that way. When I was in Warbeck we toured with Free and Argent. Our friends Beckett and Brass Alley were the same, you’d also have John Miles Set on the bill at the Locarno or The Mayfair. I remember playing the Mayfair and supporting Back Street Crawler. I loved that time. I remember recording at Impulse Studio with Warbeck and after the session Keith Satchfield leaving his black beauty Les Paul guitar outside, it was there all night. Luckiest guy in the world because it was still there next day !’

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What venues did Warbeck play? ‘We worked through Mel Unsworth Agency then, it was not uncommon for us to do ten shows a week, clubs like Annabels, Zhivagos, Dontino’s in Hexham. You were doing workingmens clubs, three half hours and finishing half past ten. Then on stage in Hexham for 12.30 or Julies up in Sunderland.
For the support work the agent was Ivan Burchill he had all the contracts for Mayfairs and City Hall’s. I remember supporting The Pink Fairies, a strange rock punky sort of band. (Nerd Alert: While still a member of the Pink Fairies, in May 1975 Larry Wallis joined a new band, Motörhead with Lemmy and Lucas Fox. In September 1975 Fox left the band and Motörhead recruited a new drummer, Phil Taylor. Wallis recorded an album with the band, ‘On Parole’. It remained unreleased until 1979 when Motörhead had established some reputation for themselves. In February 1976 Wallis was joined by Fast Eddie Clarke on guitar. Later in the same month Wallis left Motörhead.)

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‘The best laugh was doing the City Hall with Alvin Stardust and it was the craziest line up ever. We were a full on rock band supporting the pop star. His single out at the time was My Coo Ca Choo. Anyway we were in the dressing room while 2,000 kids were screaming outside wanting Alvin. We were worried but he came up to us and said just do your show lads, and don’t worry the fan’s are screaming so loud they can’t hear what you’re playing anyway haha. Afterwards he came back to us and said that was brilliant lad’s. Then I watched him and the way he controlled the whole show was completely different from us, we were head’s down rock you know. I must admit he was really good, a great showman’.

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‘Around 1975 a guy called Roberto Donova came up North from London to see us play. He was interested in signing us. We were playing the Barmston Club in Washington and he turned up in his Rolls Royce and parked it outside. He wandered in, heard us play five songs, bought us a round of drinks and said see ya in my studio in a couple of weeks’.

‘We had a big monitor system, four huge bins we bought off Jethro Tull. First club we played it in was so loud we blew the polystyrene tiles of the ceiling. It took a few gigs to get used to it haha.
We had some pyro to put on a bit of a show. We used to put the bombs in two small waste paper bins, but one gig we forgot them so went outside in the backlane and got a big rubbish bin. We put both bombs in there and set it up behind Craigy (Alan Craig) the drummer. End of the first set the roadies set it off and a big boom ! But they never cleaned the bin out first so there was rubbish, banana skins all sorts all over the stage, haha’.

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‘Another pyro story was we were playing Usworth Social Club and we forgot to bring smoke flares. We liked a bit of smoke around the stage. So we went out and bought some flares nearby. These were for boats, like distress flares. Again they were set up behind the drums and were set off at the end of the set just as we played Smoke on the Water. Well at first they didn’t look much but the smoke coming out of them just kept on coming until it filled the concert room. Our eyes were streaming, the concert chairman was up in arms but the worst thing was the smoke was orange. There was so much smoke we couldn’t see a thing, they rang the fire brigade who eventually found the bin and hoyed it outside. The concert room was covered in orange stains, all over the chairs, everywhere. Ended up we never got paid just a massive cleaning bill’.

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‘Around ’78 Warbeck travelled down to London in our own transit van to support AC/DC at the Marquee. Bon Scott was thin as a rake then and Angus was just a tiny fella but you could just tell they had something about them. A great sound with a solid rhythm section for Angus to play with. They had a real presence. We also supported Whitesnake up at Ashington. I remember it was a November, absolutely freezing and the place was chocka block. Our dressing room was tiny with a little radiator and Coverdale’s room was all soft chairs, heaters with lobster thermadore. I knew him from when he was in a band called Government and he said hello. I thought I need to be at that level. We got close but through bad circumstances, didn’t quite get there. There was a lot of talent up here in the North East. Some of them should have made it bigger you know. Really good writers and great players I worked with, some wonderful performers up here’.

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‘All the Northern rock bands have worked bloody hard but a lot got ripped off. Some had a self destruct button though, it’s part of the make up. When we were signed suddenly we thought we were rock stars, but we had no money. The record company drove us from the house to the recording studio in Roll’s Royce’s. It was called RG Jones’ studio in Wimbledon. A guy I mentioned earlier Roberto Danova, he was composer, arranger, the producer there. In the studio next door was the Average White Band recording, across the hall was Queen. But we were missing recording sessions, the producers saying what’s going on here you know. The studio was £1,000 per day. But it was a case of self destruct from one of the band, drinking was involved. There was a tour with Whitesnake lined up. That should have happened. I had worked to get that far but I left in the end and opened a studio’.

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‘I had a record deal with Warner Bros in France with my band Nightwalker that was around 1990. A friend of mine called Guierc, he was a big shot in a private hospital, manager I think, but he was a rock star at night haha. He was in a music shop in Paris and there were two guys talking one of them was Dominic Ruiz who amongst others, wrote songs for rock band Krokus. He was saying he could do with an English singer and my friend Gieric butted in and said I know just the guy who can help you. Within two days I had plane tickets to fly to France. When I got there I met Dominic Ruize, he said I like your voice do you want to do some writing. All this through an interpreter because he only knew a few English words, and two of them were McEwans Scotch and Brown Ale haha’.

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‘We came back to my studio Baker Street in Jarrow and wrote together for five weeks, we done about about fifteen songs. He went back to France and set up some recording sessions with some really top players. It was brilliant, a great experience. It was all going well. I thought hey all the North East bands Warbeck, Brass Alley, Lucas Tyson all them bands who worked their socks off and thought we knew our stuff, but I learned a whole lot more when I went to their studio. I worked with Vanessa Paradis, she said Howard never start a song with a letter P, because it pop’s on the mic and using an S in lyrics. Just little things like that, they were a big help’.

‘We done a video and the single was ready for release. Our producer, John Ducusse who worked out of Harrison Studio, was with Warner Bros who had just been taken over by Sony. He had an album out, it was doing really well in Europe and he asked for another 25,000 copies of his album, they said no. He had been with the company for years. After a big row they said John, you’re sacked and you can take your bands with you. Well we were one of his bands. So they called us on December 23rd to say they had dropped us. I thought the call was going to be about the release of the single because they had already sent the acetates to radio stations. It’s a horrible feeling because I’d worked for years to get to that point. I was gutted’.

‘Around that time we put together a track and entered it into the Eurovision song contest. Sadly not succesful but reached the final 20. We recorded a few sessions with notable North East musicians, Ted Hunter and Shaun Taylor. I played in a band with guitarist Steve Dawson for about three years, that was Riff Raff. I was also in Ramm with Arthur Ramm from Beckett. Then the JPM Band with a guy called Mark Taylor who went on to play with Simple Minds.
When I had the studio a few people came in and recorded bits and pieces, former Hellanbach members Kev Charlton and Davey Patton came in for a session. The band Pariah came through here, Russ Tippins and Shaun Taylor he ended up in Nightwalker with me. Also guitarist Dale Carson who is now playing with Borderland. All really good players.
Some did go on to bigger things like Steve Robson he’s wrote stuff for Take That, One Direction, Christina Aguilera, a long list of them, now he’s head producer at Northern Sky Studio’s in London’.

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Bringing your story up to date what are you doing now ? ’I released a blues album in Summer 2015 The Paris Files recorded in a studio in Montmagny, north of the French capital.   Now I record a lot in Richmond Studio in Durham then send it to producer MrHardearly in Paris who gets in good musicians. This new album is more laid back and bluesy compared to my rock voice. That went really well. I’m still very busy doing nearly 200 gig’s a year, we’re currently putting a new sixties show together to tour. I would like to take this opportunity to thank every one of the musician’s, producers, promoters that I’ve worked with through my career. The likes of Eric Moutard, Kevin Twedddle at Richmond Studio, Shirly Teasdale who was with me in Riff Raff for 17 years. You know, music, I would do it all again. It’s given me a house, a lovely lifestyle, yes I would do it all again’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

Recommended:

Lou Taylor SATAN/BLIND FURY: Rock the Knight, 26th February & 5th March 2017.

Steve Dawson SARACEN/THE ANIMALS: Long Live Rock n Roll, 2nd April 2017.

Harry Hill, FIST: Turn the Hell On, 29th April 2017.

Martin Metcalfe HOLLOW GROUND: Hungry for Rock, 18th June 2017.

Kev Charlton, HELLANBACH/BESSIE & THE ZINC BUCKETS: The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

Steve Thompson,( NEAT Producer) Godfather of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, 27th June 2017.

 

 

ROCKY ROAD FROM DUBLIN – but Bernie Torme has travelled well.

I was last in touch with Bernie Torme in March this year just before his gig in South Shields. (The Dentist, March 2017) He had just released a triple album Dublin Cowboy and was starting a UK tour to promote the record. I asked him how did it go, were there any stand out gig’s or surprises ? ‘It went really well, which was great for new boy Sy Morton on bass. The boy done good. Stand out gigs? Well for political reasons since you’re from the North East I’ll say South Shields! It was, but actually they were all fucking brilliant!’

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‘Edinburgh was a blast, we had my old bass player Phil Spalding from The Bernie Torme Band back in ’77 -’78 play one of our punk classics Secret Service and the great Doogie White got up to sing Smoke on The Water. That was wild’.

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What was the initial feedback from supporters to Dublin Cowboy ? ‘Really good, different people had different favourites, everyone seemed to dig the Dublin Cowboy track lots, and the acoustic album and live album. It was one of the best reactions I’ve had to any album, pretty pleased about that’.

In 1988 you worked with ex Twisted Sister vocalist Dee Snider in the band Desperado, how did that come about, what was it like writing with Dee and did you play live ? ‘It was great working with Dee, I love the guy, he’s one of a kind, great guy, great front man, awesome singer. The singer bit often gets ignored because he’s such a huge personality, but that man could sing the ass off anyone’.

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‘He asked me to do it initially because he had heard the lead guitar work I had done on the Mammoth album (I was the potential Mammoth that just wasn’t fat enough!) it was an interesting time, just before the bubble burst on the mega deals for rock stuff in the music biz. I couldn’t have given a fuck about all that, but it was important to Dee and his management.
So we careered through a few years of huge money and chaos. Dee on Atlantic being sued by Bill Graham (of Filmore fame), chapter 11 bankruptcy and out of the Atlantic deal. A new deal with Elektra, turned out a bad mistake! We recorded the album, which they initially loved, then they dropped the band after having a million dollars spent on us because someone had a bad weekend or something. That’s the politics of New York cokehead music industry execs…. Fuckin eejits! Quite traumatic at the time, but you survive and ride on free’.

‘Dee was great to work with, huge talent, good writer, always loads of ideas, sometimes a bit of a control freak, but thats understandable, he was the guy who had to carry the can. Fucking giant, I love the man’.

‘Only gig we ever did was in Birmingham, I think it was the International club or something? Maybe wrong about the name, but it was definitely Brum. It was a showcase for Atlantic, but with an audience. Good gig. Motorhead wanted us as special guest on their Euro tour in ’88 or early ’89 but Dee wouldn’t do it. I really wanted to, I still think not doing it was a big mistake, it would have put a real world value on the band’.

Bringing your story up to date what are your future plans, any touring in 2018 ? ‘Thinking about that one….not sure, maybe end of the year. Perhaps not, life is a bit complicated right now’.

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Lastly, what has music given you ? ‘A life, dreams, happiness, unhappiness, friends, enemies, experiences and seeing places. Meeting great people, shit people and doing things that a shy kid with a stutter from Dublin could never have imagined in a thousand years! Gave me everything really, for which I am eternally grateful, I wouldn’t have exchanged my life for anyone else’s. It definitely did not make me rich though! Hey music are you listening???!!!’

For information about the Dublin Cowboy album and more check the official website http://www.bernietorme.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

Recommended:

Bernie Torme, The Dentist 21st March 2017.

 

THE ENTERTAINER – All the world’s a stage for Kev Charlton

Today Kev Charlton is known for being a member of North East rockabilly band Bessie and the Zinc Buckets. But in the early 1980’s he played bass for heavy metal band Hellanbach ‘Some of the shows we done around that time were great, the Newcastle Mayfair, Sunderland Mecca, the Hoffborough House. We played with Raven, who were our stablemates at NEAT, they were going great guns. People were going crazy for Hellanbach, we were caught in a whirlwind’.

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Where did it all start? ‘First off I listened to bands like Atomic Rooster and Emerson Lake and Palmer then through a neighbour I got into playing bass. Started a band with a few mates and we rehearsed in a garage. Also a big influence was seeing bands at Newcastle City Hall, I have plec’s from Michael Anthony, Edward Van Halen, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi when Van Halen supported Black Sabbath. Love collecting stuff like that I have a book full of ticket stub’s’.

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‘Then a natural progression from that was to work as one of the stagehands at the City Hall and earn a bit money. What happened was a friend of ours Mick Laheaney, who worked for The Tubes and The Roling Stones,  introduced us to a guy called Colin Rowell who was stage manager at Newcastle City Hall. So for years we worked at the Hall loading in the sound and light gear and meeting bands like Rush, Judas Priest and Motorhead. I remember we set up eight articulated lorries worth of equipment for Van Halen, all for the princely sum of £8 !’

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‘Then I got the gig working on the backline for Davey Urwin and Kieth Satchfield’s band, they were called Axe at the time, then they turned into Fist. One of my favourite bands.
That’s where it started for me really. That stuff still get’s to me I love to see bands it’s something that’s in yer blood, ya just can’t give it up. I can’t get enough of it’.

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Where were your first gigs ? ‘We called our first band Oblisque and arranged a gig at Talbot Road Youth Club in South Shields. The word got round especially with the kids in the youth club it was like, wow they are in a band. The gig went well but that band fizzled out, it didn’t get out of first gear, but it turned into a band that changed my life, that was Hellanbach’.

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‘We started rehearsing then had our first gig at St Hildas Youth Club. We started getting everything together, rehearsals, flyers, everything was going ok, until it got to the night of the gig and there was a queue all the way around the market it looked to us. Then the nerves kicked in, but when we started playing I knew we had something. I can’t put my finger on it but it was something special and drove a lot of people crazy. Basically I got hooked from then, it’s something thats in yer blood, yer can’t give it up. I can’t get enough of it’.

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What was your experience of recording ? Hellanbach really hit the ground running because in 1980 we put a four track EP together for Guardian records in Durham, the studio was owned by Terry Gavaghan. We recorded Light of the World, Out to Get You, Nobodys Fool and Lets Get this Show on the Road. But we didn’t realise that what your playing isn’t in your hands of what goes down on record. That was the job of Terry Gavaghan’.

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‘Then we went down to take some photo’s for the cover, it was on a bridge near the Burn beside Brockley Whins, the photo’s still look good today haha.
The whole thing was a great experience the feeling of listening to the playback thinking thats your music, your songs, it’s an incredible feeling. In the end we called the EP Out to Get You, put it out and it sold like hotcakes’.

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With the sales of the E.P. did you feel that the band were getting somewhere ? ‘I really felt that the band were firing on all cylinders, off the back of the EP we got a deal with NEAT records to record our first album at Impulse Studio in Wallsend. That was the best time.’

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‘After rehearsing for months getting the new songs together we recorded the album which is a very proud moment in my life. Now Hear This came out in ’83 and was produced by Kieth Nichol. I remember getting the first copy of the album, taking it into work thinking this might be me leaving the shipyards’.

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‘It really was one of the weirdest times of my life because it came out to amazing five star reviews some of the big bands weren’t even getting five stars. I remember sitting in the toilets of Wallsend slipway reading the reviews in Kerrang and Sounds, thinking this will be the last time I’ll be in the shipyard…but it wasn’t’.

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Where did you go with Hellanbach then ? ‘In 1984 we recorded another album The Big H which I’m immensley proud of. Our line up then was me, Barry Hopper on drums, Davey Patton on guitar and Jimmy Brash upfront. But looking back I’m so disappointed that we didn’t gig enough and we listened to the wrong people. It all went pear shaped with bad management and signing wrong deals, it just fell to bits. We should have been touring the States but instead I went back to the shipyards’.

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What are you up to now and are you still involved in music ?  ‘I’m still playing, making a living and having a great time. We still rock n roll like we did when we were 16 year old kid’s in a garage trying to play our first song. Which I don’t think was Smoke on the Water haha.
One thing I’m proud about is that I kept my Aria guitar, which I recorded the two Hellanbach albums on, a nice bass but doesn’t suit the rockabilly stuff that I play now. But still love it, basically it’s still my love and I set out to play music till the day I die’.

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After performing for 30 years Kev Charlton played the Newcastle City Hall in 2014  where as a teenager he worked as a roadie. Alongside playing with Bessie & the Zinc Buckets Kev has recently joined North East heavy metal legend’s Fist, who he worked for on the road crew in the 1970’s. Yes you can say his dream come true.

Interview by Gary Alikivi taken from the documentary We Sold Our Soul for Rock n Roll available to watch on You Tube.

Recommended:

Lou Taylor, SATAN/BLIND FURY: Rock the Knight, 26th February & 5th March 2017.

Steve Dawson, SARACEN/ANIMALS: Long Live Rock n Roll, 2nd April 2017.

Harry Hill, FIST: Turn the Hell On, 29th April 2017.

John Gallagher, RAVEN: Staring into the Fire, 3rd May 2017.

Richard ‘Rocky’ Laws, TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Tyger Bay, 24th August 2017.

Robb Weir, Doctor Rock, TYGERS OF PAN TANG: 5th November 2017.

 

 

STILL GOT THE BLUES – with Trevor Sewell

This Friday June 23rd, is the the launch of ‘Calling Nashville’ the new album from Trevor Sewell. If you don’t know him check this for an impressive record in the music biz; Winner of 9 major awards in the U.S.A , 4 times nominated in the British Blues Awards, his debut album ‘Calling Your Name’ spent a staggering 7 weeks at number one on the American Blues Scene Chart. His second album ‘Independence’ went on to win multiple awards and firmly establish him as a real force to be reckoned with.

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Sewell’s music has not only been recorded recently by several American artists but also featured on numerous major compilations alongside legendary artists such as Robert Johnson, B.B King and Howlin’ Wolf. The years have seen Trevor Sewell continue to go from strength to strength… ‘We have the new album coming out which features some amazing guests in the shape of the wonderful Janis Ian who is herself a multi platinum selling artist and Grammy winner. Also Tracy Nelson from the legendary Mother Earth and produced by American producer Geoff Wilbourn’.

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Rewind the tape Trevor and tell me where did it all begin and how did you get involved in playing music ? ‘The people that influenced me in the early days and really got me started playing were Jimi Hendrix, Freddie King and John Mayall with Eric Clapton and the Bluesbreakers. I have a very eclectic taste in music but it was these guys that really made me want to pick up a guitar and make a go of it. My brother brought a guitar home along with the John Mayall album and I was hooked before the intro of All Your Love had completed. I just thought how can I get a guitar, it was an amazing moment for sure’.

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Where did you rehearse and when did you start playing gigs? ‘Like most bands we started off rehearsing in each others houses and church halls, anywhere we could really. The first one I ever did was when I was 13, it was at a Drill Hall in Heaton, Newcastle in front of about 400 people. But since then I’ve played pretty much every sized venue from the very smallest to 20,000 plus’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I spent a lot of 1983 working in the major London Studios which taught me a lot and gave me a taste for recording and over the next decade or so I worked hard to learn how to do it myself and build my own studio enabling me to record my albums at home. Although I recently did one at Capitol Studios in Hollywood and have just returned from Nashville where I’ve recorded the new album’.

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘I remember touring in Norway with The Monroes who were signed to EMI Norway and had a number one album at that time. The Monroes were themselves Norwegian and wanted to take the show to places where major bands didn’t usually play so over 6 or 7 weeks we played pretty much everywhere in Norway and it is such a beautiful country. It was amazing driving through the mountains in the Arctic circle and then getting a small plane into Hammerfest, the most Northerly town in the world, it was a fantastic experience. I also love playing in America we have had our last two album launches in Los Angeles its a fantastic place’.

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What are your plans for the rest of 2017 ? ‘We played at the pre Grammy Soiree earlier this year and we are planning to go back to the U.S for the Grammys next February. I’m also lucky in that I get to play on other peoples albums sometimes particularly in the U.S. I really do think I am a very lucky person as even after all this time I still love playing’.

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Tickets are still available from http://www.thecluny.com for the launch for the new album ’Calling Nashville’ on Friday 23rd June at The Cluny in Newcastle with special guests (from Lindisfarne) Rod Clements with Ian Thomson plus Les Young of the Wall to Wall Blues Show.

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.

Recommended:

Bernie Torme, The Dentist, 21st March 2017.

Steve Dawson (ANIMALS) Long Live Rock n Roll, 2nd April 2017.

Robb Weir (TYGERS OF PAN TANG) Doctor Rock, 21st June 2017.

John Verity, (ARGENT) Blue to his Soul, 7th November 2017.

LONG LIVE ROCK ‘N’ ROLL – with ex-Animals guitarist Steve Dawson.

Steve Dawson played guitar for several UK bands including Saracen, Bordello and 60’s icons The Animals.

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I met up with Steve at his workshop in South Shields and Lou Taylor happened to be there on a social visit. We all got talking about a time in the early 80’s when Lou, as well as singing, was doing the lights and pyro for a lot of bands playing around Tyneside. One such gig was for ‘Venom’ who were playing Hebburn Quay Club. ‘They used a hell of a lot of pyro and they blew the electrics in the whole club’. You’ll have to ask Lou for the full story, it’s worth hearing. We said our goodbyes to Lou who had to leave at that point, and as Steve put the kettle on he said he’ll tell me a few stories but ‘only promising the good ones, you’re not hearing the bad or the ugly haha!’
First he remembered a gig he played with Saracen back in 1981…

‘This particular gig was at West Cornforth. We always took a massive road crew, (which included a very young Glenn Howes ex-Fist vocalist and guitarist), because we had so many lights along with all our backline. We’d hired a Luton van, drove to the venue, and dropped off the equipment. Vocalist Lou Taylor and a few of the crew stayed with the gear while the rest of us decided to go into a nearby town for some ‘supplies’. I was sitting in the front of the van between Les Wilson our bass player and Dave Johnston our drummer who was driving. In the town, we got what we came for and started back to the gig.
It was a hot sunny day and Davey, typically, was acting the goat, you know, the usual rambunctious rock drummer behaviour. He was driving along this country lane doing about 10 miles an hour, jumping out the van running alongside then jumping back in. He did this maybe three times while I was talking to Les, not really paying much attention to his antics, when suddenly Les shouts ‘There’s no driver!’ I could see in the wing mirror that Davey had jumped out, lost his balance, and fallen over. Now the van was hurtling down the country lane gathering momentum and veering over to the edge!! I leapt into the driving seat and pulled the steering wheel back over and slammed the brakes on while Les was frantically pulling the handbrake.
Davey came running up seconds later as we both shouted ‘Just drive the van for Christ’s sake!’
Drummers!?!

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Who were your influences? ‘My influences were, and indeed still are, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Jimi Hendrix. The first record I bought was Voodoo Chile by Hendrix. I remember hearing it for the first time on the TV when he had died and it blew my mind, it was one of those truly inspirational moments.
When I was 11 my parents bought me an acoustic guitar for Christmas. The brand name was ‘Lark’ and it was made in China. They got it from Saville’s in Keppel Street, South Shields at a cost of £8. However, it was an electric guitar that I really wanted and a year later I got a Columbus Telecaster copy, again from Saville’s.
I also acquired a 30W amp and separate 50W cab from an uncle, it was an obscure brand and only had a very clean sound. I would later get a pedal that enabled me to get a dirty sound! Shortly after I moved on to using the popular low budget FAL Phase 50 which wasn’t much better as an amp, but it had a little more power’.

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When did you start your first band? ‘Around 1975 me and school class mate Brian Rickman started a band, it didn’t have a name at that point but he was on bass and I was of course on guitar. We were playing songs by bands like Status Quo, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath and we rehearsed in Ricks bedroom in Wenlock Road, South Shields. We had a couple of drummers and singers come and go until my friend Glenn Coates joined on vocals. Another friend, from Tyne Dock Youth Club where we all hung out, Keith Macintosh, joined on drums and we started to rehearse in a little back room in the Club.
We would later rehearse upstairs in the Lambton Arms pub in King Street after being given the heads up from another band who were friends of ours and rehearsed there themselves – Zarathrustra, who later became Mythra.
By then I was using my new guitar, my first proper Fender Stratocaster, which I’ve still got, and my Marshall stack, (100W amp and two 4 x 12 cabs), basically what my heroes were using. It was inheritance money that enabled me to buy this equipment before leaving school.
After much rehearsal and sounding pretty sharp, we finally played our first gig in 1977 calling ourselves Midnight Lightning at The Tavern in Crossgate, South Shields. It was a 14-18 year olds disco and it turned out to be absolutely shocking because we had little experience outside our rehearsal space back at the club.
On that night though we learnt what not to do – Don’t have too much to drink before the show; monitors are essential when you’re not playing a small rehearsal room. We were so far away from each other we could only hear ourselves! We were paid off mid set and duly devastated at the time. I could go on and on about the mistakes we made, but hey, a harsh lesson about live sound that was to give us valuable experience for future gigs and we certainly took a lot in that respect from that first booking.
After recovering from the depths of despair we contacted some Youth Clubs around the town and arranged more gigs which were better suited to us.
By now my guitar sound had also evolved with the addition of a WEM copycat and Jen Phase Shifter, alongside my Colorsound Tone-Bender and Jen Cry Baby Wha.
Sadly, after about half a dozen gigs I left the band for reasons I can’t even recall. Thereafter I was asked to join a band called Kadanza with Vince High on vocals. Glenn and Brian eventually joined up with Martin Metcalf and John Lockney, later to become Hollow Ground. Kadanza weren’t together long and never gigged but I had started to write my own material by then and had acquired a second Fender Stratocaster, which I also still have. That was around 1978-79.
Sometime in ’79 I was approached by Les Wilson who in turn introduced me to Davey Johnston with the intention of forming a new band. Another school friend, Lou Taylor, brought along a tape of himself singing a Judas Priest song and it was surprisingly good, so yeah, we thought why not give it a go, let’s get this ball rolling’.

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What are your memories from your early gigs? Saracen took off at a rate of knots. Lou had a lot of connections as he worked in a Sound and Lights company and through that he got to know managers and promoters at various venues in the North East. The gigs were coming thick and fast.
We hadn’t really done any ground work with the smaller venues but we ended up going straight in and playing the Newcastle Mayfair, Tiffanies, Sunderland Mecca, Spennymoor Rec, West Cornforth which was a staple rock gig at the time. We played the legendary Legion Club in South Shields and packed it, I mean really packed it.
We also self-promoted a gig at the Bolingbroke Hall and booked a 4K PA, Lou got there early and set the lights up but when the PA Company turned up they said sorry we’ve double booked, and only brought 400 watts! Well that was woefully inadequate. The night was a total disaster! Yep that was a bad one. Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you’.

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What are your experiences of recording? ‘Right from the start Les and Dave had wanted to get in the studio but I thought we should have developed our sound a bit more, let it breathe a bit, walk before we run so to speak. But yeah, we went into Guardian Studios in Durham where our friends, Mythra, had recorded their Death and Destiny EP. We booked a day there and recorded 3 songs. Speed of Sound, Fast Living and Feel Just the Same.
After that initial recording session, we were invited to attend a meeting with the owner Terry Gavaghan who proposed an idea to us about putting our tracks on a compilation album, called Roksnax. It was going to feature local bands Saracen, Samurai and Hollow Ground. Hellanbach were also at the meeting as they too were invited to take part, but they had no money (a requirement of being a part of the project!), also they had something going with NEAT records which was an obvious conflict of interest’.

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‘Most of us were friends from school or through the scene, you know, being thrown together in this cauldron of New Wave of British Heavy Metal. So, we decided yeah, ok, let’s go for it. We needed a fourth song for the Roksnax project and booked another day to record Setting The World Ablaze. The album was basically a ‘live’ performance in the studio with minimal overdubs. I spent my 21st birthday in that place…I’ll never get it back’.

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How long did Saracen last? ‘In the end the Saracen thing burned itself out really. Also, a major contributing factor was another band from the Midlands had the same name and had already recorded an album Heroes, Saints and Fools. They were getting reviews in the music press and it would have been confusing to go on.
After that it lost its momentum and we felt it was like going back to square one. That really put the final nail in our coffin because all the work we had done was pretty much nullified. We decided to call it a day’.

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Where did you go after that? ‘Well I went to London in January 1983 where I was sharing a flat with Lou Taylor who had been there for a few months already; I’ve never eaten so many fried breakfasts in my life. Lou put me in touch with a band called Bordello doing original stuff but after a few gigs it never worked out.
I remember doing a showcase for CBS. We really went for it, putting our heart and soul into it you know. A guy called Dave Novek came along to have a look at us, we really laid it on in a good studio. But we found out that we ‘weren’t quite what they were looking for’. A couple of weeks later he signed Sigue Sigue Sputnik!’ Go figure Haha!’

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What are you doing now and are you still involved in music? ‘I came back from London in ’87 and after stints with various local bands I was playing in The Animals from ’95 with original members Hilton Valentine, John Steel and later Dave Rowberry (who replaced Alan Price) and Jim Rodford from Argent and The Kinks. I had got myself another Strat to tour with and we went all around the world which lasted until 2002. I’d never even been out the country until I joined them at 35 years old.
Not long after leaving The Animals I got a job in Marshall Amplification’s revered R&D Department in January 2005 as a design engineer utilizing my knowledge of electronics to create new amps for my favourite manufacturer of guitar amplification. Talk about leaving one dream job for another! I stayed for nearly ten years but decided to move on in 2014 a couple of years after Jim, who I’d come to know as a dear friend, passed away.
Now I am running my own amplification business and currently performing around the UK with musicians in various projects. It’s in my blood and always will be. I wouldn’t want it any other way!’.

14. Steve at The Star Inn 01-12-16

After pulling on his guitar in the rehearsal room 40 years ago, and the continued service in the music industry since, Steve isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Maybe he’ll always keep the bad and ugly locked away never to be released.

Interview by Gary Alikivi taken from the documentary ‘We Sold Our Soul for Rock n Roll’ and in conversation on 2nd February 2017.