HEARTBREAKER :in conversation with Lee Robertson, guitarist/keys with ‘80s rock band SHE (2/2)

Were any major record labels sniffing about ?

The single with Neat was a one record only deal, it sold around 6,000 copies and the tracks appeared on compilation albums and a few major labels initially showed interest after we touted the single around.

We played a couple of showcase gigs at London’s Marquee, at one of them IRS label boss Miles Copeland, musician Neil Murray (Whitesnake, Black Sabbath), Michael Schenker and a few other label guys were there. We knew we had to blast it and we did, we had a storming gig but never got any firm interest.

We were advised to stay away from publishing offers we got offered as that was signing away your rights to your song royalties. There was a label interested but when we broke it down into how much it was to record an album and take it out on tour, we would’ve been massively in debt. What we’d get initially wasn’t enough to cover an album and promotion.

Did you appear in any of the music weeklies ?

There was a few live reviews in Kerrang, Karen done a photo shoot for them called Lady Killers. I’ll never forget those couple of days.

We went down to London and supported UK rock band FM on their last night of the tour at the Astoria. That was a blast sharing the stage with them as they were my favourite band then.

On stage I remember kids at the front grabbing onto your legs it was unbelievable. After the gig we came off to a massive dressing room with tables full of food and beer and the FM drummer said our show was awesome.

He invited us to a big end of tour party at a flashy cocktail bar where we ended up partying all night but we had to get up early to go to the photo shoot for Kerrang – we were hungover and wrecked. Then had to race over to the Marquee to soundcheck as we were headlining that night.

Karen McInulty in a video still from TV music show E.C.T.

Was this the time when you thought we have made it this far someone will sign us now ?

We were working hard – we went into Neat and pushed out a double A side single with local songwriter Phil Caffery on epic backing vocals. Then more support slots at Newcastle University with bands like Robin George and Girlschool, we also went down to London to open for Girlschool and ended up in Kim McAuliffe’s flat on her birthday.

More nights at the Marquee followed where we got free entry into the San Moritz bar and one night hung out with Thunder and Rock Goddess. Lemmy was really friendly remembering us ‘There’s the Geordie lot come an’ ‘av a drink’.

Yes everything had been going well but we still didn’t get any firm interest and after a period of the band making no progress we decided to call it a day in 1989.

Did the band want to reform ?

We did kick the idea about of doing something as a band, we were rehearsing at Red Nose Studio in North Shields – we couldn’t hear much as ‘Venom’ were rehearsing next door ! We auditioned a few singers but it was plain it was never going to work. Karen was unique and anybody else at the front of the band just wasn’t working.

When Karen was in the band did she get any solo offers ?

If she did I didn’t know. Karen was the focal point of the band her voice was amazing. We weren’t perfect there was disagreements that sometimes were on the edge of turning physical, show me a band that doesn’t, but they were all storms in a tea cup, generally we all got on.

There was a rumour that it was a yes or no decision between us and T’Pau and their song China in your Hand swung the pendulum in their favour – how true that whole record deal was I don’t know, but every time I hear that classic pop song I do wonder what if.

What did you do then ?

After the band I gave up music for a few years then got back playing again with some friends in a couple of rock cover bands. They were mates having a good laugh, getting paid for strings and beer money. Ended up playing all over the North East and The Newcastle Cluny a few times.

I remember the first gig with the Media Junkies was in the Bebside in Blyth and the guys were setting the P.A. and the soundman was Stosh – I couldn’t believe it. He used to do sound on all the big She gigs back in the ‘80s – the Marquees, Mayfairs, and he was our sound engineer on the E.C.T Channel 4 show. Now here he was doing my sound again!

When I started living as an adult (laughs)….I trained in I.T. Computer Programming and worked for various companies in the UK and Europe. I went where the money was for 30 years.

But that was really stressful so ended up working for Northumberland Cheese Company as a cheesemaker at the ‘Make Me Rich’ Farm on Blagdon Estate in Northumberland – seriously – I won a silver medal for my smoked cow’s cheese at the International Cheese Awards in 2019 (laughs).

I loved that job but when the Covid virus hit I went on furlough in 2020 and enjoyed it so much I retired, also by the first Covid lockdown in 2020 I had finished playing live.

She featured on a number of compilation albums. This one from NEAT records.

What are the other members of She doing now ?

Paul still plays drums, not quite sure who for, I think it was mostly show bands doing holiday parks and the like but I know he played in Qween (Queen tribute) for a bit.

Billy gave up music after the band, Ken Riley found God and formed a successful Christian rock band YFriday who recorded and toured for a while. I believe he is a full time minister now, not sure where.

Karen was very religious, a Roman Catholic, after the band she made the decision to go into a convent and become a nun. I couldn’t tell you more about that because we didn’t have any contact with her then, only that she stayed a few years and then turned to social work.

The last time Karen and I talked was in 2012, I was working in Germany, she was living in the North East and we were talking about meeting up. Sadly in October that year I got a call to say that she’d passed away after suffering several health problems, it was a very sad time.

I’ve always said without a doubt we wouldn’t have got as far as we did without Karen, those days in She were the best of my life. Everything you ever dreamt of when you’re 17 is unfolding into reality. It was amazing playing the Newcastle Mayfair, recording studios, TV shows and gigs at the original Marquee.

I remember looking on the dressing room wall where every band who played there wrote their name, Queen were my idols when I was a kid and I spent ages looking for them and eventually there they were – of course we wrote our name up on the wall.

Looking back the whole thing was an incredible ride, it was living the dream……the memories will stay with me forever.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  November 2021.

Never Surrender

7″ Neat Records (1985) NEAT 50
12″ Neat Records (1985) NEAT 50

1. Never Surrender 2. Breaking Away 3. On My Way

*Track 3 on the 12″ only
*Same catalogue number for both releases

Captured 7″ Elle Records (1986) SHE 001

1. Captured 2. New Start

Compilation albums:

Heavy Metal Collection 2 ‘Never Surrender’
The Flame Burns On – The Best Of Neat Records ‘Never Surrender’
The Neat Singles Collection Volume Three ‘Never Surrender’, ‘Breakin’ Away’ and ‘On My Way’
Lightnin’ To The Nations NWOBHM 25th Anniversary Collection ‘Never Surrender’