A dozen teenage metallers from South Shields wearing bike jackets, denim and long hair jumped on a coach to travel 200 mile south of Tyneside. In honour of our Viking ancestors we burned down the highway, raised mighty hell and invaded… Stoke.
Before the driver put his pedal to the metal a shout went up from the back ‘Me ma washed me jeans last night and I think me ticket was in the pocket’.
The Heavy Metal Holocaust was on 1 August 1981 at Port Vale football ground, but from the off the neighbours tried to get the festival banned. The council gave the go ahead after the promoter offered a free coach trip to Blackpool for elderly residents.
In the first issue of Kerrang, the all-day metal extravaganza was originally planned for Milton Keynes Bowl, in what would have been the first of two shows that year.
The year previously, UB40, Squeeze and headliners The Police were on the bill. Later years saw Queen, Genesis and Bowie headline the bowl which became a regular on the festival circuit.
Rock at the Bowl on 8 August ’81 featured headliners Thin Lizzy, the Ian Hunter band, the mainstream sound of Judie Tzuke and Q Tips. Reviews say the gig was poorly attended.
In 11 July issue of Sounds it was full steam ahead to Port Vale with Black Sabbath and Motorhead advertised as double headliners – with a monster PA in tow.
A ‘major band’ was to be announced with rumours circulating that Ted Nugent was being added to the bill – now Ted as we know isn’t exactly the Ken Barlow of Metal, so this might get messy.
A week later in Sounds, Sabbath had pulled, and a full page advert read Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Oz had stepped in. No surprise a deal had been struck as that summer Motorhead were opening for Ozzy on a North American tour.
But with only one album behind him might the band have to rely on old Sabbath favourites to stop a train wreck coming down the track ?
Why did Sabbath pull out ? Tony Iommi doesn’t talk about it in his biography, he mentions that summer the band were in Los Angeles recording new album Mob Rules, the follow up to the very successful Heaven & Hell.
The Nugent rumour appeared in the first issue of Kerrang, but it was just that, a rumour, and the eventual axeman who played on the day was Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush.
The day was propped up by NWOBHM band Vardis, who were hot, frustrated and angry, and looking for a groove. As the gears began to crunch and click, suddenly it was all over. Out on the field the disciples were still gathering around the stage, sensing something special was in the air.
Up came a middle order of two Canadians and one American fighting it out between each other. The slick American rock band Riot glide through their set with guile and finesse. Next up was Triumph who searched for magic only to get caught in the crossfire, and manage to hang on bravely during the bottle wars.
A solid performance from Marino, not giving up or giving in, earned a glowing respect from the sweltering hordes gathering at the altar.
As the sun set the High Priest of Rock n Roll, Lemmy, invites Ozzy and Randy Rhoads to plug in for the ride and amp it up high and loud. They leave no room for doubts delivering a blistering set, a crazy train rumbling down the line, just hot enough to light a bonfire.
Then an eerie silence falls as dark clouds gather overhead, lights spark in the night sky and through the smoke headliners Motorhead in all their glory, own the stage. Gun’s blazing it’s a lightning strike as they look to steal the show opening with Ace of Spades – but the night belonged to Overkill.
Research: Sounds, Set List, Kerrang & UK Rock Festivals.
Guardian Sound Studios were based in a small village called Pity Me in County Durham, North East UK. There are various theories on the origin of the unusual name of the village – a desolate area, exposed and difficult to cultivate or a place where monks sang ‘Pity me o God’ as they were chased by the Vikings.
Whatever is behind the name it was what happened in two terraced houses over 30 years ago that is the focus of this blog – they were home to a recording studio.
From 1978 some bands who recorded in Guardian were – Neon, Deep Freeze and Mike Mason & the Little People. A year later The Pirahna Brothers recorded a 7”, 1979 saw an E.P from Mythra and releases in 1980 from Hollow Ground, Hellanbach and a compilation album, Roksnax.
From ‘82 to ‘85 bands including Red Alert, Toy Dolls, Prefab Sprout, Satan, Battleaxe and Spartan Warrior made singles or albums. On this blog there is a number of musicians who have memories of recording in Guardian including stories of a ghost of a young girl who was knocked down outside the studio.
Dave King (vocals, Battleaxe): Yeah still remember the story of the Guardian ghost sitting at the piano. Terry would say can’t you see it lads ? No was our answer (laughs). He told us to be quiet and still and then go and sit on the wall outside while the ghost was sat at the piano in the live room playing a silent tune. He would then disappear for half an hour to his other house next door. He was recently married at the time so was a young virile bloke like all of us back then (laughs).
His stories were great, he told us he had been given a guitar from Paul McCartney, and an old flying jacket of John Lennon given to him from the Beatles. Terry liked nowt like taking the piss (laughs).
I found him a really nice guy, very helpful with young and naive bands. But for recording he could never get the drum sound we were asking from him and that was with all the fantastic gear he had in there – although we did have a crap kit at the time. We never stayed overnight as some bands did cos we only lived a few miles away.
We recorded our single Burn This Town and Battleaxe in one long day and Terry took half a day to mix it. Think it cost us around £200, we all chipped in £50 quid each and Terry pressed 500 x 7 inch singles. It was an amazing feeling to have the band’s music published and out on vinyl.
Roger Lewis, a great Heavy Metal DJ pioneer at Radio Tees, was first to let rip Burn this Town over the airwaves. For some unknown reason Alan Robson from Radio Metro never took a shine to us at all, in fact blatantly slagged us off live on his Hot and Heavy Radio show.
However that single and the Burn This Town album got us a BBC Radio One session with Tommy Vance and interest from a host of other radio stations.
Some TV programmes can numb the viewer into searching for the remote. But for me music shows were about tuning in rather than turning over. Broadcast from Newcastle was live music show The Tube who were undoubtably the top dogs leaving in their wake a dusty Old Grey Whistle Test.
Where the velvet tones of Bob Harris whispered on what was essentially an album show in the 70s – the BBC’s Whistle Test provided a much needed alternative to chart shows. Up on the bridge in the ‘80s, Annie Nightingale, then Andy Kershaw and team, fired more passion and energy into the show before it sunk in ’88.
The Tube was produced off the back of Tyne Tees music and youth shows Alright Now and Check it Out. The first band to play live was Sunderland punks, The Toy Dolls, and the first show was 5th November 1982 presented by Jools Holland and Paula Yeats.
In an interview for this blog former presenter Gary James talked about that first night…
‘I was one of the original co-presenters from Series 1. None of us on the presenter side, perhaps with the exception of Jools and Paula who breezed through it all without a care in the world, could have had any idea that the show would be as seminal as it was.
We certainly knew we were part of the ‘new wave’ and that we didn’t want to be all BBC and Top of the Pops-ish. It was all live, pre-watershed national networked TV and no second chances’.
Even when setbacks happened, the Tube squad were able to show a strength in depth and capture the now.
Back in August 2019 I spoke with author and TV producer Chris Phipps…..
’I joined in ’82 as a booker and became Assistant Producer from ’85-’87. A band on the first show that I booked didn’t happen. The Who’s p.a. system got stuck in Mexico or somewhere. Producer Malcolm Gerrie knew Paul Wellers father and got The Jam to do it.
In a way I’m glad that he did because The Jam playing their last TV gig ever, said this is what The Tube is all about – that was then, this is now and off we go’.
Before the show finally checked out in ’87, an appearance raised the profile of a band and record companies came calling. From the same interview with Chris Phipps, he confirmed that…
‘Fine Young Cannibals got signed, The Proclaimers got signed. and there was a time when the Tube crew went to Liverpool to film Dead or Alive but they weren’t around. Someone in the pub told them to go round the corner to another pub where there is a band rehearsing. ‘You might be interested in them‘ he said.
It was Frankie Goes to Hollywood’.
You know what happened next. A triple smash of huge number one hit singles Relax,Two Tribes and The Power of Love plus a number 1 album Welcome to the Pleasuredome produced by Durham born Trevor Horn. Shoulda’ had a t shirt made – Frankie Made in Liverpool via the North East.
Sunderland born Chris Cowey is now a successful TV director & producer with a CV including The Tube, The White Room & Top of the Pops. Back in ‘79 when he was a teenage presenter sharpening his skills on Tyne Tees programme Check it Out, he interviewed punk band Public Image Limited, featuring a confrontational ex-Pistol Johnny Rotten (Lydon). He spoke about it on the blog in October 2019…
‘The infamous P.I.L chat was a real baptism of fire. My memory is that the band got themselves ‘relaxed’ by the time the studio session started, and they were ready to do their usual argumentative schtick.
The whole pantomime was their way of getting themselves noticed and being in the press, which sells records. The point of the interview was that they’d just brought out their Metal Box album.
Anyway, everyone won, they sold records, the Check It Out show was on the map, and I did about seven series of it’.
Top of the Pops chart show was broadcast at prime time on the BBC to millions of viewers, and some acts considered it a privilege to appear on the programme. But during summer ’79 one band who weren’t impressed was South Shields punks Angelic Upstarts. In an interview in 2013 vocalist Mensi Mensforth told me…
‘We were on once. It was like, nothing. There was no atmosphere. The only good thing was I sang live. They wanted us to mime but I wouldn’t, so that was something’.
Guitarist, Mond Cowie added ‘I remember we did ‘Teenage Warning’ it went in around number 29 on the chart. It was a horrible cold studio with four stages in it. There was only 20-30 people there. It was like playing a big warehouse. It was horrible really, not a nice experience’.
Bands would pop up on Saturday morning kids shows like Tiswas and get huge exposure to new audiences. Gillan, Iron Maiden, The Clash and even Lemmy from Motorhead – who received a pie splat from the phantom flinger –couldn’t turn down an interview with the gorgeous presenter Sally James.
North East based broadcaster & producer Ian Ravendale worked on the weekend kids show Get Fresh…
‘Most guests came up to Carlisle the night before so I’d take them out. People like Rat Scabies and Captain Sensible from The Damned. We’d go into the music pubs and clubs around Carlisle and people would love seeing them there. Rat got up a few times to play with some local bands’.
A music slot was also available in the running order of alternative comedy show The Young Ones featuring Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson. The programme was broadcast for two series in ’82 and ’84. Nine Below Zero, Madness and Dexys Midnight Runners were some of the bands that played in the first series.
Ace of Spades by Motorhead kicked off the second series broadcast on 8 May. The Damned, Amazulu and Madness again featured on the second, but sadly, last series.
Talking of Motorhead, the band started a UK tour in autumn ‘79. In between live dates a Top of the Pops appearance was booked to air the new single Bomber which was in the charts. The show was broadcast 6 December.
The band already had form on the programme. Their first appearance was in October ’78 with Louie, Louie. The following singles Overkill and Leavin’ Here, provided dirty, loud, no compromise rock n roll, opposed to the chicken feed pop that was on show most weeks. Motorhead had once again been brought into the nations living rooms.
The weekly chart show and kids TV wasn’t their target audience, but this was prime time exposure providing a welcome boost to record sales – and fear not Motorheadbangers, set lists on the Bomber tour have them opening the gig with the intensely majestic Overkill – their reputation for leaving a stain on the soul of everyone that came within one thousand yards was still intact.
Looking through back issues of the UK music weeklies for a mention of North East bands, I came across a screaming headline from a Motorhead gig review – Raw Meat in the Sonic Mincer – Yep, that be ‘reet for the ‘heed.
Sounds or NME was always knocking about our house, pocket money bought a copy for 25p. We could read exclusive interviews with bands out on tour promoting their latest album, check forthcoming UK gig dates or look at artwork for new albums. The music weeklies were always something to look forward to – even though half the print rubbed off on your fingers.
Sounds had a mix of rock and punk interviews with Ozzy/Halen/Upstarts. NME featured alternative and post punk bands like Damned/Cramps/Costello. Take your pick of front covers splashed with Strummer/Coverdale or Debbie Harry.
Journalist Garry Bushell became a household name for his interviews with Ozzy and the Angelic Upstarts. Mond Cowie from Tyneside band the Upstarts told me….
‘At one time the Sounds used to be called the Upstarts weekly because there was something about the Upstarts in every week, without fail. If it wasn’t a single review, it was an album or gig review. If there wasn’t any new records out we used to phone Garry up and give him stories, we used to just make them up’.
This next story doesn’t have a connection to the North East, but it’s an example how a band would plant or maybe sweeten up a dry story. American glam metal band Motley Crue benefited in the 17 April 1982 edition.
This came at a time when UK tours saw heavy double bills, overseas support bands and suitable opening acts with audiences enjoying the first band onstage, as well as the headliner.
I was just a kid in 1978 so too young to see the Sabbath/Halen eruption shake the foundations of Newcastle City Hall, but I did catch many big ‘rumble in the toon’ shows. I remember the night German power metallers Accept went toe to toe with Judas Priest, polished American rock band Riot turned up the heat for Saxon and Canadian speed metal merchants Anvil, kept their heeds doon an’ rolled the way for Motorhead.
The story in Sounds was ‘70s English rock band Wishbone Ash were looking for a support act for their upcoming UK tour. L.A Glam Metal band Motley Crue, were rumoured to be in line as the openers. Who would put those bands together on the same bill and where did the story originate ?
The report stated an official Wishbone Ash source said the band ‘disliked’ the Crue image, and ‘unofficial’ sources quoted they were ‘wary of the competition’. Of course there was no tour, but the report got a picture of the Crue top left on page 4 – result. During autumn ’82 Wishbone Ash toured the UK, loyal Ash followers recall Spider or Mamas Boys opening, both bands on a similar dial.
If a band weren’t touring or didn’t have a record to promote they would find it difficult to get in the paper. So to keep up a presence they would feed trivial gossip to the news staff, and gain a few column inches. A small article on Page 3 of the 4th October 1980 issue has ‘a £10 fine at Marleybone Magistrates for Motorhead drummer Phil Taylor for being drunk and disorderly’.
Apparently he was having a ‘playful’ fight outside a pub with guitarist Eddy Clarke. The report finished off with‘Only problem was, Phil was hit on the elbow by the stomach of the arresting officer’. A sense of humour always helped to get your stories printed.
Sellers on EBay are flogging pre-owned copies of music weeklies. They go for anything from £2.99 to £35 depending on who is on the front cover and featured inside. What you waiting for, get yer bids in and take a step back in time.
New single Metal City with a glorious big chorus is quickly followed by a ballsy, catchy Battlescarred, with a cry of ‘Raise your hands, to the sky, stand and fall, You and I’. Added to a Gallagher trademark scream the song builds and reaches out for better times. Surely a future live favourite?
Slick, tricky guitar from Mark Gallagher with balanced precision drumming by Mike Heller rattle and crunch tracks and pound them into submission. It’s all tightly packed like a mighty coiled spring. There’s even a Motorhead/Lemmy tribute – nice touch lads!
The wide and expansive closer, When Worlds Collide with ‘You meet your maker on the other side’ has turned a potential plod into a triumph. The trio look back over Metal City and watch the sunset. Credits roll.
On this evidence Raven consolidate their title of Chief Headbangers.
I could write about the times I’ve seen them absolutely pound the Newcastle City Hall into submission, or their blistering attack at the Heavy Metal Holocaust at Port Vale in ’81. But no, this is about a more recent time when I caught sight of some remarkable photographs of the band live on stage.
It was a Saturday, I had been working all day and was tired and looking forward to watching some football on the telly. I thought to check on my emails before shutting down the lap top. There was only one unread and written in bold, it was from a guy called Dave Curry and labelled ‘Motorhead pics’.
A few months beforehand I asked live music fans for any photos they had taken at gigs in the ‘80s and I would post them on the blog with a bit of blurb – who took them, where and when, just a short description because the main focus was the photos – and some belters came in which captured the atmosphere and excitement of watching a band.
I clicked on the message and a small thumbnail photo appeared. Well I’ve taken, sent, received and edited tens of thousands of photo’s over the years so quickly recognise when the image is good or not. And this was.
After downloading the rest of the photos and clicking on each one they appeared full size on the screen – while pointing at the lap top shouting ‘That’s the mighty Motorhead in all their f***ing glory destroying the City Hall’. And that’s the title right there.
The heart of London’s music industry was the legendary live music club the Marquee, along with CBGB’S in New York, the club has been defined as one of the most important music venues in the world.
It would provide the catalyst to launch the career of many bands – The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin – the list is endless. A&R men used to regularly visit the club to watch out for the next big thing and with plenty of bands looking to make it, the best way was to be seen on the stage of the Marquee.
Tony Iommi explained in Iron Man his auto biog…‘I was in rehearsals with Jethro Tull for the recording of their Stand Up album and one night Ian Anderson took me to see Free play at the Marquee. He introduced me to everybody as his new guitar player, so I thought, this is wonderful. I felt like a pop star. From being a nobody in Birmingham to people at the Marquee taking an interest – it seemed great’.
Graeme Thomson wrote in his biog about Phil Lynott – ‘It was do or die. Thin Lizzy were £30,000 in debt. Money was borrowed for their showcase gig for Phonogram at the Marquee on 9th July 1974. It was so hot that night that all the guitars went out of tune, but they played well enough to confirm the deal, even if the advance for a two album contract only cleared what they owed’.
Mick Wall’s biog of Lemmy featured the time Motorhead nearly called it a day. Guitarist Fast Eddie Clark remembers ‘We found ourselves in April 1977 in the situation of breaking up’.
As a farewell gift to fans they would record a live album. Motorhead had a show coming up at the Marquee that surely would be the best place for them to bow out. But when they looked into the cost, they knew they had no chance. A farewell single was recorded instead.
‘The Marquee gig was one of the best we ever did’ according to Eddie. ‘Lemmy said the sweat was climbing up the walls trying to get out’.
Thoughts of it being their last were quickly forgotten about. Two weeks later they piled into a Transit van for the drive down to Escape Studios in Kent. They recorded the bones of 13 tracks, eight of which would become the album Motorhead.
Bands from the North East of England – White Heat, Angelic Upstarts, Fist, The Showbiz Kids, Punishment of Luxury, Raven and Tygers of Pan Tang, all travelled south down the M1 to the capital. Was playing London the catalyst for a life in music, or just a road too far for some ?
John Gallagher from Chief Headbangers,Raven ‘The running joke was – c-mon lets git in a van and gaan doon t’London ! We did quite a few one off support gigs. It was in the back of the truck, drive down to London, play the Marquee with Iron Maiden and drive back straight after the gig’.
Harry Hill, drummer with Fist remembers…’We played the Marquee for two nights supporting Iron Maiden. We were going down an absolute storm, the place was packed. I’m not sure what the band thought about it but their manager was kicking off – You’re just the support band. You’re not supposed to go down like that – We won him over in the end and he came into the dressing room with a crate of beer. Yep we gave them a run for their money’.
Residencies were part of the scene and a few North East bands got on the list including Dire Straits. This advert from March ’78 with admission fee only 70p.
Select dates for North East bands listed as playing the Marquee:
On the road to making their dreams come true heavy metal band Anvil knew they had to work hard and make sacrifices – there’s no substitute for rehearsal…
‘We done 7 days a week, 8 hours a day rehearsal for 10 month before the first gig. We played every shithole in Ontario and Quebec. It wasn’t easy back in the day being an original band. And we were loud as f***’ remembered guitarist Dave Allison in an earlier interview. (link below)
In his book The Story of Anvil, guitarist & vocalist Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow talked about the time when they saw Van Halen support Black Sabbath at Niagra Falls. Halen were an up and coming band with an intense excitement surrounding them. It had an effect on them
‘Robb and I wanted success more than anything. It wasn’t about financial reward, success would mean recognition for our music’.
To give themselves a chance to make it, Anvil knew they had to fly from their home in Canada and play London. Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow looks back on the days when forming Anvil, he and childhood friend Robb (drums) always talked aboutplaying London
‘it was one of our goals, to play in the same places that The Who and The Beatles played’.
A dream was about to come true as their record company Attic sent them to England ‘on a trip that would prove life changing’. Attic agreed to finance a trip to the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donnington ‘we were bottom of the bill headed by Status Quo, a privilege that cost us 30,000 dollars. We were already on the red line with Attic for life, so another 30 grand wasn’t going to make a whole heap of difference’.
Guitarist Dave Allison told me in a previous interview…‘Monsters of Rock ! What an experience. It was surreal, couldn’t believe we were actually there. By that time we were a well-oiled, road hardened, very confident bunch of guys. I think we were a little heavy given the rest of the line-up, but still the biggest thing we had done’.
The appearance at Castle Donnington with Hawkwind, Uriah Heep, Gillan, Saxon and headliners Status Quo was followed by two sold out dates at the legendary Marquee Club, Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow remembers‘This dark, sweaty venue in Soho in the heart of London was a legend in Heavy Metal circles. The gig was awesome, we blew people away. The energy in the room was totally intense. The dream I carried since my dad bought me my first guitar had come true. That night I felt I’d really made it’.
There was some downtime and relaxation for the band as they were invited to the Reading Festival ‘like Monsters of Rock another shrine to heavy metal. We weren’t playing but went along to hang out and watch the bands like headliners Iron Maiden and Michael Schenker’.
Feeding the media is part of the game and Attic set an interview up with music journalist Malcolm Dome. Rock photographer Ross Halfin was sent to capture a few shots for the article….
‘Ross was a real kook, always trying to push the boundaries by getting musicians to do outrageous things. He said let’s get a picture of you opening the door and you’re naked just holding your guitar’.
The photo was published in Kerrang magazine with a sign hanging off him Please Don’t Disturb.
In the chapter headed Big Time, Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow reveals the moment that Anvil’s fortunes were changed ‘Signing with David Krebs, within a short time of putting our names on the dotted line, we were off to Britain for a tour with Motorhead. A week before that we played the Heavy Sounds festival in Bruges, where the overwhelming response from the crowd convinced me I’d found an audience that would stick with us forever.
I had their first three albums and went to see them at Leeds Queens Hall in May 1983 with Saxon, Twisted Sister, Girlschool and Spider. Hearing they were opening for Motorhead I got a ticket for the Newcastle City Hall gig, and what I can remember they went down well.Looking back on that time was bitter sweet, as Lips remembers
‘During the UK tour with Motorhead in June and July ’83 we blew the crowd away. But by the time the 30 date tour culminated with three nights at the Marquee Club in London we were thousands of dollars in debt. One of our crew was carrying severe addiction problems and he blew all the money we were making on cocaine’.
Extracts from The Story of Anvil by Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow and Robb Reiner.
The late ‘70s saw Vardis slogging around the Northern workingmen’s club circuit – vital experience for what was to come. In 1980 they released a live album ‘100mph’ and embarked on a brutal touring schedule.
Starting on a hot summer day at the Heavy Metal Barndance held in Stafford’s Bingley Hall with Motorhead, Saxon, Girlschool, Angel Witch and South Shields metal band Mythra, this was the high point for the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal – What did you think of that time ?
Very pleased and proud to be part of the scene, however we are just a rock n roll band really. We played hundreds of clubs and UK gigs travelling around in a van. We also played with many different bands over the years, like Hawkwind and Slade.
1981 was a year of momentum with total commitment from the band, they recorded and toured their first studio album ‘The Worlds Insane’, then got a call from BBC radio DJ Tommy Vance inviting them to record a session on the Friday Rock Show, they were regulars in the Heavy Metal singles charts and in August saw them opening the legendary Heavy Metal Holocaust festival held at Port Vale football ground.
Vardis at Port Vale 1981.
I have great memories of all the bands who played, Riot, Triumph, Frank Marino, Ozzy and Motorhead. What are your memories of the day ? I remember that it was a very hot day. We opened the show and it seemed to pass in a few seconds. The crowd enjoyed it and so did we. Afterwards I said hello and had a brief chat with most of the others on the bill, however I had met most of them before at other events or in studios.
Did you hit the road in Europe and have you a following in any country ? Recently we’ve played in most EU countries, and gigged there during the 80’s. We also had releases in Japan but never visited. We still get fan mail from all over the world.
Did you have a manager and how did you get on with the record company ? Yes we had a few managers and they all took too much, too soon. They all let us down in the end and that’s the main reason why I walked away from the business for 30 years.
The early ‘80s saw a vicious two year court battle where Steve finally won back the rights to his songs, and in ’86 released the album ‘Vigilante’. It all went silent for nearly three decades until in 2014 the album was re-released on Hoplite Records and a headlining slot at Brofest and festival dates in England and Germany had the band back on form. They also played an emotional show in Wakefield, Northern England were it all began.
Have you had any magic moments on stage when everything went right ? We always strive to make every show the best so our last one we do is always the most magic. Every show is special to us and we are always improving on what we do.
What have Vardis planned for 2020? We have just recorded a new live album at the 100 Club in London and hope to get it out later in the year.
By 1980 Raven had released their first single on Neat Records. The Gallagher brothers – the original pair not the lot from Manchester who wanted to live forever – made their way out of the North East …For young lads like us there was only two ways out of Newcastle…..and we weren’t good footballers.
They began slogging the hard yards and laying the foundations for speed metal…It all changed when we made contacts in the US and did our first tour with a young rag tag outfit called Metallica opening for us.
Was there a plan in the early day’s – gig loads, buy a van, get signed ? The running joke was ‘C’mon let’s git in a van and gan doon t’ London!’. Slightly impractical! We did quite a few one off support gigs. It was in the back of the truck, drive down to London, play the Marquee with Iron Maiden and drive back straight after the gig.
We just worked, playing shows, writing songs. One thing we’ve never had is a lack of song ideas. Often a riff from a sound check turns into a song. Getting the Neat deal changed everything totally. We had worked hard for years so when the opportunity arrived we dove in head first.
The other main bands on the Neat record label were Fist, Venom and Tygers of Pan Tang. Was there any rivalry ? No. We actually got on well with all of them. There was some passive aggressive crap with Venom where we thought time, resources and money were going to them, and they thought they were going to us….of course the money went elsewhere (laughs).
Did you ever play on the same bill ? We actually played two shows with the Tygers. A show pre-Neat at the Guildhall in Newcastle and a show in Wallsend which was John Sykes first gig with them. We also did at least one show with Fist at the Mayfair and a few with White Spirit. All great lads.
Raven went on a UK tour with Girlschool in 1982 where I saw them at Newcastle City Hall… Aye a 27 date ‘City Hall’ type venue tour of the U.K. was very, very good for us. Their crew treated us well and we got on great with the girls. I ‘ave no idea how it came about but we had done a few shows with Motörhead, and Girlschool had the same management.
Was it a good match up in terms of style and audiences ? It was a great fit and a great opportunity for us, they were at their peak.
Did you have any warm up routines before going on stage ? No I never bother with all the ‘la la la la la LAH’ vocal stuff. I just do it!
Did you play any festivals in the UK ? Festivals (laughs). Well we did the Wrexham festival with Motörhead and Twisted Sister. The only other rock festival then was Reading and that was a bit political I guess.
Did mainland Europe have better attended gigs or a more organised set up than UK ? Probably both. But it was the fervour of the fans that was surprising. We knew basically in England the further South you went, the fans were more reserved and thankfully that’s kinda gone by the wayside these days. But our first gigs out of the UK were in Italy and Holland…and they were just NUTS!!!
Have you any stories from meeting other bands while on tour – in motorway cafes, gigs in the same town, and you must have come across Lemmy ? Jeez.. actually no! We did run into Fast Eddie Clarke at some motorway cafe back in 2005. But that was it really.
Nearly 40 years since the US tour with Metallica. Did you ever think Raven and Metallica would still be playing in 2019 ? If back then you had told me Metallica were gonna rule the world as they subsequently did, I would have been doubtful. But they evolved fast.
It was great to get to play a stadium show with them in São Paulo a few years back and hear James (Hetfield) tell the crowd how much they appreciated Raven taking a chance back in 1983 and taking Metallica on tour with them. That meant a lot to us.
What was the impact of that tour for both bands ? Well we saw the opportunity and how huge the US really was. We knew this was where we had to be to move forward and escape the ‘indentured servitude’ at Neat.
The tour had a huge impact on us and on Metallica. Their first tour, they soaked it all up and learnt. It really was a hell of an experience !
Has there been a ‘magic’ moment on stage or in the studio when you thought ‘This is what I should be doing’….Every. Single. Night. We have given blood sweat and tears to do what we do and feel humbled and fortunate to be able to do what we love. Plus to be able to travel the world to do it!
We know we are better at it now and more importantly appreciate it more. We have a new album ready for early 2020 release and are gearing up for lots more touring!