IRON MAN OF NORTON – with Teesside songwriter & producer Steve Thompson

Thompson releases two compilation albums this month, the first Iron Man of Norton on Friday 20 and another to follow, Second Shipment  on 27 August.

Iron Man is my cycling name and it speaks of the prowess of my ability to go for miles and miles (laughs)’.

Toward the end of last year Thompson signed a licensing deal with Cherry Red Records and since the turn of 2021 has been busy releasing his back catalogue of songs.

‘The Bullfrog stuff (Steve’s first band) gave me the idea of a boxed set, then tracks I produced for Southbound 30 odd years ago, plus some stuff I did with Alvin Stardust and other bits and pieces’.

Thompson first appeared on the radar working at Impulse Studio in Wallsend, the home of Heavy Metal label Neat records – he produced the first singles by Raven and Tygers of Pan Tang.

‘When I quit as Godfather of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal I moved out of Impulse Studio and needed somewhere to create. Luck would have it six month later I had a massive hit with ‘Hurry Home’. Not long after that an even bigger one with Celine Dion – that’s a whole other story’.

After the band Wavelength went on Top of the Pops with ‘Hurry Home’, the royalties started piling in and Thompson bailed out of Wallsend and set up a new base further along the North East coast in Whitley Bay.

Demo’s were made of the Tygers of Pan Tang albums ‘The Wreckage’ and ‘Burning in the Shade.

‘That studio became the ‘Brill’ building in Whitley Bay for several years with a lot of muso friends dropping in and adding bits and pieces. A lot of tracks have ended up on these two compilation albums’.

‘We recorded a bunch of tracks with a guy who became Baby Ford. There was one track from those sessions, I don’t know what it referred to but it got us a BBC ban – although it didn’t stop it becoming a chart hit. Actually Lorraine Crosby (who sang on the Meatloaf hit ‘I’d Do Anything for Love’) sang a lot of backing vocals on those’.

Tygers fans will be interested in the original version of Paris By Air that appears on the Second Shipment album. The Tygers covered the song and had a hit with the track, it also appeared on their top 20 album The Cage.  

‘On the second album is the original sung by Toni Halliday, she was only 16 at the time. There was another young 16 year old guy who hung around the studio called Andy Taylor. He played on some Toni Halliday stuff, he was one of my session guys. You could see he was soaking it all in’.

Recently, Taylor recorded an interview on Planet Rock radio where he gave credit to Thompson for giving him his first break in production.

‘It’s really nice of him to do that as it was a while ago’.

(link: www.bit.ly/andyplanet)

‘I was 25 then and Andy used to call me and the other muso’s around who were my contemporaries – boring old farts. He said he was going to be a major rock star. He wanted to cut a couple of tracks on vocals and guitar’.

‘Toni Halliday talked a lot about her life and ambitions while living a hum drum life on a council estate in Washington. Out of that the story of ‘Paris By Air’ emerged…..

‘I don’t know a soul in this neighbourhood, who can afford the fair, and I’m stuck here for good’.

‘But I didn’t know much about Andy’s background other than how ambitious he was’.

‘A guitarist friend of mine, Stu Burns, God bless him he’s not with us now, was in a band called The Squad. I was taken by their ballsy, Phil Spector type songs. They had a song ‘Hey Gene’ and I thought that would be good for Andy’.

‘It was written by John Farmer of The Squad. Stu engineered the session for me in the bands makeshift basement studio’.

‘Hey Gene’ is on the Iron Man of Norton album, the original b side of that record Catch a Fast Train can be found on Second Shipment. Thompson remembers one unforgettable day in the studio with Andy Taylor.

‘He looked in The Melody Maker and he saw a notice bigger than all the others and said… ‘I’m gonna audition for this’. So he went to Birmingham to audition for this band. He came back and said…

‘I got the gig’. We said ‘what they called ?’  

We all fell about laughing saying ‘you’re going to get nowhere with a band called Duran, Duran’. How wrong can you be.

Both compilation albums contain a couple of tracks by Tony McPhee of The Groundhogs.

‘Tony called me up one day to record in the studio. He wanted me to record two songs in one day but also wanted a drummer and a bass player for the session.

I got in Paul Smith who I used a lot, I played bass, we were the Geordie Groundhogs. He paid Smithy, and for the day session. I played and produced for free’.

‘When the session was over he said have you got a bed to put me up for the night ? I phoned up my wife and said we’re going to put this guy up but he says he’s a vegetarian. We hadn’t a clue what he ate’.

‘Anyway he did sleep over but next day he woke up and just pissed off without saying goodbye – I might hear from him when these tracks come out (laughs)’.

Find both albums here:

Iron Man Of Norton: Boxed Set out on Friday 20 August 2021.

http://steve-thompson.org.uk/iron-man-of-norton-boxed-set-various-artists/

Iron Man of Norton: ‘Second Shipment’ out on Friday 27 August 2021.

http://steve-thompson.org.uk/iron-man-of-norton-second-shipment-various-artists/

Gary Alikivi   August 2021