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!’


‘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’.


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’.


‘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 that’s 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

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.


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. 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’.

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 Rolling 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’.


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’.

‘We started rehearsing then had our first gig at St Hilda’s 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 that’s in yer blood, yer can’t give it up. I can’t get enough of it’.


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’.

‘Then we went down to take some photos for the cover, it was on a bridge near the Burn beside Brockley Whins, the photo’s still look good today!

The whole thing was a great experience the feeling of listening to the playback thinking that’s 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’.


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.’

‘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 Keith Nichol. I remember getting the first copy of the album, taking it into work thinking this might be me leaving the shipyards’.


‘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 shipyard 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’.


Where did you go with Hellanbach then ?

‘In 1984 we recorded another album The Big H which I’m really 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’.


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 kids 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’.


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


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 guitarist 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.

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’.


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’.


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’.


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’.


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 six or seven 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 it’s a fantastic place’.


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 people’s 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’.


Tickets are still available from 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.


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 ’60s icons The Animals.

A. Steve at The Star Inn 01-12-16
I met up with Steve at his workshop in South Shields and Lou Taylor (Saracen, Satan, Blind Fury vocals) 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!


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’.


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’.


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’.


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’.

‘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’.


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’.


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!’

SDAWSONBordello in rehearsal at Druids 2 copy

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.