THE GEORDIE WRECKING CREW: Forty Years since The Tube Arrived

In between YOP schemes and signing on the dole in the 1980s I remember queuing outside Newcastle’s Tyne Tees TV Studio to get free audience ticket’s for live music show The Tube.

The ground breaking programme was broadcast by Channel Four from 1982 to 1987.

The 90 glorious minutes had a massive impact on my life. Regular doses of The Tube cudda been a prescribed vaccine injected by the NHS to release built up mental pressure in a time of strikes, mass unemployment and living in a post-industrial wasteland.

Talk about pushing boundaries of what live TV can do this show was run by a Geordie Wrecking Crew creating a bigger blast than anything coming out of London.

TV bigwigs in the South making envious glances towards the North as every Friday Newcastle Airport was chocka block full of top musicians and celebrities. 

You want exciting car crash box office TV ? it’s all here, the Geordie crew really were the ducks nuts. With the launch show planned, Sunderland punks Toy Dolls were brought in to light the fuse – tune in, turn on, blast off.

Over the past couple of years some of the production team have talked on this blog about how the North East gained a reputation to produce good music shows, and how influential and important the show would become.

Chris Cowey: ‘The Tube was a real blend of old school Tyne-Tees TV expertise and young whippersnappers like me who was obsessed with music and bitten by the live music thing. I was into DJ’ing, Drama, Theatre which led to my TV break’.

‘My mentor was Producer Malcolm Gerrie, who a lot of people will remember from his Tyne-Tees days. A lot of the same gang of music fans were the nucleus of the production teams for Check It Out, Alright Now, TX45, The Tube and Razzmatazz’.

‘Tyne-Tees already did some good old entertainment shows before my time, like Geordie Scene or What Fettle, but they were obsessed about their ‘Geordieness’. The Tube wasn’t, it was all about good music because we were music obsessed.

It also had a great mix of time served TV people blended together with new people with fresh ideas, and a kind of irreverence which came out in those shows’.

Chris Phipps: ‘I was at the Tube from the start in ’82 till it’s full run to ’87. I joined as a booker and became Assistant Producer from 1985 to 1987′.

‘A band on the first show that I booked didn’t happen. The Who didn’t do it because their pa system got stuck in Mexico or somewhere. Producer Malcolm Gerrie knew Paul Weller’s 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, really said this is what The Tube is all about – that was then, this is now and off we go’.

‘After appearing 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 a pub told them to go round the corner to another pub where there is a band rehearsing ‘You might be interested in them’. It was Frankie Goes to Hollywood’.

‘The Tube filmed the original version of their single Relax and Trevor Horn saw it. He did the deal and re-recorded and produced the single. Frankie epitomised The Tube and the ‘80s – they got what it was all about’.

Gary talks to Radio One DJ, John Peel.

Gary James: ‘I was one of the original co-presenters on The Tube from Series One, which started on Friday November 5th 1982. I applied along with 5,000 other herberts who all thought they were cool, hip and groovy enough to be TV presenters’.

‘To give the programme a bit of extra thrill they wanted to put some unknown faces alongside the two main presenters Jools Holland and Paula Yates. They certainly achieved that as few of us really knew what we were doing.

It was all live, pre-watershed national networked TV and no second chances’.

‘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’.  

‘The chaos on it was quite genuine and the edginess a result of the fact that for most of the time we were left to get on with what we were doing without any strict direction or guidance to be pros.

I had a good time interviewing Ringo Starr, Eartha Kitt, Tony Visconti, Mickey Finn of T.Rex, John Peel, Kajagoogoo and loads more interesting people who had a part to play in the industry’.

Colin Rowell, Chris Phipps, Michael Metcalf.

Colin Rowell: ‘It was just five years of sheer magic. There was Geoff Brown, Chris Phipps and me sharing an office in Newcastle. They, as producers, had applied for this music television show and asked me if I was interested in joining the team as stage manager’.

‘From years working at Newcastle City Hall I knew the acts, the crews, the managers and they were all glad when they knew a familiar face and voice was going to be there running the stages in the studio’.

‘First off started with two stages, ended up with four and I did the deal with ENTEC who were a big sound company. They ran Reading Festival and owned The Marquee. It was a smooth operation with them providing all the sound and crew.

The PA was flown in (hung from ceiling) off the stage making it easier for cameramen to have floor space and no big speakers in their way’.

‘One time me and Geoff Brown were sent to London to check out Grandmaster Flash. It was the first time The Tube were going to have on stage a set-up of a band playing all the scratchy stuff’.  

‘We got to the venue and there was a support band on so we went to a Steak house but it was dreadful and we didn’t eat it so we went back to the venue. The support act were still on and we listened in this time. This was good stuff. It was Paul Young and the Royal Family.’

‘We got back to Newcastle and in a meeting with one of the head guy’s at The Tube, Malcolm Gerrie, I banged the table and said ‘let’s get him on’. And we did. But Malcolm and I felt Paul didn’t get a good crack of the whip first time so we invited him back on again and the rest is history’.

Michael Metcalf: ‘I worked as Personal Assistant to a lot of freelance directors, one of which was Geoff Wonfor who was the husband of Andrea Wonfor, Executive Producer on the Tube’.

‘When the Tube began I continued working with Geoff for the first few years then applied for a vacancy to become a Director and got the job for most of Series Four.  

It’s important to remember that at that time we were a bunch of Geordie guys who were working with some amazing people and having the time of our lives’.

‘I remember one trip to New York we hired a helicopter to fly around the Statue of Liberty. I sat in the helicopter alongside the pilot, Geoff was in the row behind and the cameraman was strapped in but hanging out of the side of the helicopter, the door had been taken off’.

‘I had the headset to communicate with the pilot, going down the Hudson, he asked if we wanted to go under or over the bridges, I asked if we could do both, which we ended up doing.

It is hard to imagine getting away with that now but we had the time of our life. Every day the job was an adventure’.

Gary James: ‘Because it was live I only ever saw the programmes I didn’t work on. My parents told me they had recorded shows on VHS tape and did I want them? I stuck them in a box and put them in the attic’.

‘There they stayed for years until I watched them from behind the sofa for the first time. The performances blew me away. I can now finally see what everyone was going on about – but until then I genuinely had no idea’.

Chris Cowey: ‘It was really important that it came from the North-East because of the passion the swagger and total commitment. It’s not just that Geordies like showing off – although they undoubtedly do! – it’s because the history and attitude of the region can be really inspiring, creative and hugely fun. That’s how it worked so well’.

Chris Phipps: ‘You can never bring The Tube back. It’s of its time. Chris Evans on TFI Friday in the ‘90s near enough had it, the set was just like The Tube. So yeah it’s had an incredible influence’.

To read the full interviews type in the name in the white search box.  

Alikivi   October 2022

VAN HALEN RISING with author & historian Greg Renoff

Greg was brought up in New Jersey, USA

“I grew up loving history, and eventually got a PhD in the discipline. I spent about two decades in academia, and was a college professor for over a decade. All that time, my childhood love for rock music remained strong”. 

In 2020, Greg released the authorized autobiography of Grammy winning record producer Ted Templeman (Van Halen, Van Morrison, Doobie Brothers, Little Feat). His latest book is ‘Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal’.

Van Halen toured the UK in 1978 opening for Black Sabbath did you come across any stories from that tour?

“I write about the VH/Sabbath UK tour a lot in Van Halen Rising. One of the main reasons I wrote the book and looked at Van Halen’s ‘pre-fame’ years was I wanted to know – how did Van Halen become a band good enough to blow Black Sabbath off the stage?

Those questions couldn’t be answered by focusing on 1981 or 1982. It had to be focusing on earlier years”.

Van Halen debut album released 1978.

What inspired you to write Van Halen Rising?

“I grew up a big Van Halen fan, and by the time I became a historian, I was struck by how little info was available about their early beginnings. There hadn’t been a book that had looked at those years”.

“If I wanted to learn the details of how The Detours became the Who, I could read that story in any number of books, if I wanted to learn the details of how the New Yardbirds became Led Zeppelin, a group that stormed the globe and released some of the best albums in rock history, I could read that story in any number of books”.

“But if I wanted to learn about how Van Halen, a band that recorded one of the most successful debuts in rock history, wowed stadium crowds in 1978, and became giants, I couldn’t read that story anywhere”.

Where and when did you first hear Van Halen ?

“I was 14 in 1984 and for me once I heard ‘Jump’ that was it. Then I was able to see Van Halen on the ‘1984’ album tour – a guy in my homeroom class had scalped a ticket.

I paid 50 bucks for it in ’84, but was just so desperate to go. And that was it. I became a big fan”.

“So, I saw Van Halen on a Monday night, April 2, 1984. That night, the band was just so larger than life. I’d seen a couple of concerts but the stage was so much bigger, the lights were brighter, it was louder and it was so much more energetic and just a spectacle”.

“Roth jumping off the drum riser and the other thing I remember he stood on the edge of the stage and said “F— the rest of the concert. Let’s go to the bar across the street and get drunk”.

“He was just doing whatever he wanted and I thought it was amazing. And of course Eddie’s guitar playing. You left with your ears ringing and you were so overwhelmed by the whole sensation of the band”.

Researching for the book did you come across any funny or surprising stories ?

“So many, but one comes to mind. There was a huge backyard party in November 1974 in Pasadena. The kids who threw the party went to high school with the Van Halen brothers and they just loved the band”.

“Their parents went off to Mexico so they threw this massive party at their home that Van Halen played at. There were hundreds of kids in attendance. It ended up that the riot police from one of the sheriff’s departments broke up the party!”

‘Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal’ out now.

For more information contact Greg at the official website:

Van Halen Rising – How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal | Greg Renoff | ECW Press

Alikivi  June 2022

MUSIC SURPRISES FROM UDO, PAT & ALF

Music can spring unexpected surprises when it pulls you in and holds your breath.

It was the early ‘80s when I hired out albums from the local library and sampled songs from bands I’d only read about in Sounds music weekly. There were stacks of misses but big hitters like the first time hearing the sublime poetic lyrics of Leonard Cohen.

‘When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon. Don’t turn on the lights you can read their address by the moon’.

Or Pete Murphy spitting out white hot haunting claustrophobic tunes from post punk band Bauhaus ‘Yin and yang lumber punch, go taste a tart, then eat my lunch. And force my slender, thin and lean, in this solemn place of fill-wetting dreams’.

Live gig’s also brought surprises, I remember in November 1981 self-proclaimed UK Metal Gods Judas Priest were at Newcastle City Hall primed to deliver the goods.

Before the big boys played with their bigger toys the support band are usually given 40 minutes to say their piece, unfortunately some crumble in front of the headliners crowd, but word shot around ‘the openers are supposed to be canny’.

It was a cold night outside as winter closed in and in the warmth of the ‘Haal’ the lights went down and a few shouts went out.

From the balcony I looked down to see the short, stocky blond haired vocalist plant himself at the front of the stage. Udo Dirkschneider. The leader of the pack.

Sounding like they’ve brought the Panza division with them, the twin guitar attack of German metallers Accept announced their arrival in Newcastle and rock ‘n’ rolled thunder till the end. In the wings Priest looked on, sharpened their set and Rob Halford screamed for vengeance.

My ticket stub from Judas Priest & Accept, Newcastle City Hall 17 November 1981.

‘80s live music show The Tube had something and someone new and fresh every week. Big Country, The Alarm, The Cult, they all made a big, beautiful noise, and a surprise on the programme was Pat Benatar – the little American lady with a huge, huge voice.

On one show a duo delivered power from what at first looked like an unlikely source. A young skinny lad with floppy hair stood ready, at a game of football he would have been the last picked, then on walked someone who could of been a school dinner lady.

The stage was bare – with no drums, no Marshall stacks, no guitars, I was prepared for disappointment. I didn’t catch their name, with only a keyboard and microphone set up – how loud could a synth pop duo go ?

A clunky pop sound fired up, then the voice, and what a voice. Making one of her first TV appearances was Alison Moyet who went on to sell millions of albums, a bucket load of top ten UK hits, a host of singer and songwriter awards, Live Aid, and more, and more, you get the picture – not bad for a dinner lady.

I’ve got a Dolly Parton greatest hits cd on the shelf which I pick out now and then, but recently I’ve been listening to more country & western. Yep the whole pluckin’ banjo hillbilly heartbreak songs – my neighbour even looks like Willie Nelson – here’s to music springing more surprises.

Alikivi   April 2022.

MORE THAN WORDS: with Chief music writer, Phil Sutcliffe

The blog has featured some people who stuck a flag in the ground for the North East – Chris Phipps, Chris Cowey, David Wood, Colin Rowell, Ian Penman and Rik Walton for the pix.

The latest addition to the squad is a man who used words to create a colourful landscape and painted pictures in the minds of thousands of teenage music lovers.

London born Phil Sutcliffe, looks back on 40 years of music journalism for Sounds, Q, Mojo and The Face.

He interviewed a world of musicians including Stewart Copeland, Joni Mitchell, Nick Cave, Sheryl Crow, Eric Clapton…

Thom Yorke for Los Angeles Times and for Mojo, 15 minutes on the phone with Dolly Parton, truly that can set you up for a year or two.

Where did Sutcliffe find his love for words, and what’s his connection to the North East ?

I always wanted to be a journalist so in 1969 when I finished my A-levels and had a degree in English & American Literature from Manchester University, I applied for journo jobs and got a training course followed by an apprenticeship at Newcastle Evening Chronicle.

That was in the new training centre in an office above the Bigg Market doing just about everything – local councils, sports desk, feature writing, a spell as a columnist, the subs desk, and in court where the 15-year-old kid who pleaded guilty to burglary and asked for 153 other offences to be taken into account.

There was stints in district offices – Gateshead, Consett and North Shields – ah, the morning fishing report of how much, by weight and type of fish each boat had landed! From the outset writing heaps, hard, fast and fascinating all the time.

How did the job with Sounds come about ?

I’d always said I wanted to work freelance but it happened sooner than intended. After three years mainly on the Chronicle I did the usual thing of trying to get my second job, 175 rejections later I went freelance.

September 1974 I was 27 my first marriage had just broken up, a bit late to start writing about rock’n’pop so not much in the way of a plan, but thought maybe I could earn part of a living on one of the five weekly rock/pop papers – as ‘our man in the North East’.

While still doing a bit of local news for Newcastle papers and Radio Newcastle, plus a couple of non-musical feature items for Woman’s Hour! I wrote off to NME, Melody Maker, Sounds and Record Mirror.

With so many band tours starting in the North East you could get the first review in, and I got a sniff from Melody Maker, but really hit it off with Sounds.

Within the next year I started doing feature interviews and making a slightly more decent living – Gentle Giant might have been the first as I tended to get ecstatic about their wild prog adventures.

But my first rock interview I think was Sparks backstage at Newcastle City Hall for Radio Newcastle’s late-night programme, Bedrock.

The show was DJ’d by my friend Dick Godfrey with a strictly non-rowdy zoo of other voices – Ian Penman/Ravendale, Arthur Hills, the Out Now fanzine team, me, and other enthusiasts, all of us unpaid but enjoying ourselves meeting stars.

Also dozens of local bands from Sting’s Last Exit to Bob Smeaton’s White Heat, the veteran Junco Partners, Southbound, Gale Force Ten (with singer-saxist Joy Askew) and Wavis O’Shave.

There was a lot of local stuff about and loads of it good in what might well have been a culture – Tyneside pub rock. Very diverse, and not what Londoners called pub rock – Ducks Deluxe, Chilli Willy and such, Brit R&B-rooted – but it did happen in pubs quite a bit.

The Cooperage, The Bridge, The Gosforth – Last Exit every Weds if I recall. That one out in Heaton, Andy Hudson’s wine bar for a bit, a cellar near the Civic Centre – he played trumpet for the Grimethorpe Colliery Band when he were a lad you know, and then the more obviously culture-centred Jesmond Theatre.

We met on a Saturday lunchtime in a pub near the Tyne River and chatted and plotted, me and Dick Godfrey, promoter-musos like Chris Murtagh and Angus, er, sorry lost his surname but nice bloke with a moustache.

Even the odd sympathetic older star like Hilton Valentine from The Animals who could show us all a thing or two, though I can’t remember what. It was good.

Angelic Upstarts pic. Rik Walton.

Once in a while the Guildhall down by the Tyne River, scene of the Bedrock festival that spun off from the radio programme – all of this encouraged by a loose collective of bands and fans.

Putting the Angelic Upstarts on before Neon at the Bedrock festival proved to be a misjudgment as a huge fight ensued, a rather one-sided affair given Neon fans were student’ish and Upstarts fans were from South Shields.

I jest in retrospect, but it was a shame and in part my fault thinking in a hippie way that music brought us all together. We didn’t do that again.

However, the Upstarts – and their fans – were fine on their own territory, which is where I met them generally, starting with a gig at Jarrow Town Hall when punk had reached the North East and they’d released their single, Who Killed Liddle Towers?

Which was a drama and a campaign in itself, with police brutality played out by cop-hatted singer Mensi, going at a real pig’s head fresh from the butcher with a bloody great axe. That was a night.

Also, a double page spread in Sounds, Mensi and Mond had plenty to say for themselves and we got on, up to some point where me coming from another planet got unfeasibly less brotherly. I always liked them.

My Sounds colleague Dave McCullough didn’t though, and he invented a great word for the rolling profanity Mensi deployed – fuckverballing.

What came in between worked pretty well though, speaking for a life much harder that most rock writers knew anything about.

I did cover heavy metal/hard rock quite a lot, but missed the North East bands, but pretty sure Ian Penman did a feature.

(Penman writing as Ian Ravendale in Sounds, May 1980, featured the North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal with interviews from Mythra, Fist, Raven, White Spirit, Tygers of Pan Tang).

Penetration feature in Sounds 18/6/77

My other ‘discoveries’, as we used to say were Penetration, a quite brilliant sophistopunk band from Ferryhill, dazzling in every way with a natural star singer, Pauline Murray.

Great ideas men in Gary Chaplin and Robert Blamire, plus drummer Gary Smallman and out-there’ish guitarist Fred Purser. They almost made it.

As did the rude theatricals, Punishment Of Luxury, with their panto villain frontman Brian Rapkin and his small band of wild-witty anarchs.

Reading festival 1979 line-up with Punishment of Luxury and headliners, The Police.

Meanwhile, I loved Last Exit to bits, jazz-rock and soul and their own stuff, often saw them twice a week, and eventually got them in Sounds.

A big feature on Geordie boys trying the London move – and this despite editor Alan Lewis saying “God that singer’s awful” when I played him a cassette.

But this was just after I happened to introduce Sting to Stewart Copeland, passing through as Curved Air played the Poly in ’76 – he had a lightbulb moment all right and somehow persuaded Sting to give up the music he loved, come to London and play the music he hated – punk – until it freed him to find reggae and write, Roxanne onwards.

Stewart and Andy Summers played to their optimum pop potential, and they become the biggest band in the world for quite a while.

Read part two featuring Phil’s memorable interviews, books on The Police and AC/DC and a Springsteen biography.

Thanks to ‘Soundclips’ on twitter for the articles from Sounds Magazine 1975 – 1980, archivist, Steve ‘Stig’ Chivers.

Interview by Alikivi  September 2021

MAKING TRACKS #3 with Teesside based songwriter & producer Steve Thompson.

In the third part of Steve Thompson’s story he is working at Impulse studio/NEAT records and recording with Tygers of Pan Tang.

FIRST OUT THE BLOCKS

They had no sophistication then but I guess they made up for that with raw energy. I was looking at this from a songwriter’s perspective and suggested they shorten intro’s and reduce repetition of dead wood and get to the hooks quicker.

I mixed the tracks and worked on the drum sound and a few other bits and pieces, we got it ready and the A side of their first single was Don’t Touch Me There. We put it out and it started to really sell.

MCA got interested so they picked it up, re-released it and went on to do their first album. 

I was also signed to MCA in their stable of writers and my mentor was Pete Waterman, he was crackers. It was Pete who suggested the Tygers should do Love Potion No 9 as a single. Great idea.

At that time I was sharing a rented flat in Whitley Bay with the band, it’s a sitcom waiting to be written. Bizarrely the original Tygers vocalist Jess Cox and his replacement Jon Deverill both lived at the flat. Lead guitarist John Sykes lived there as well.

So, I would go off to Impulse studio in the mornings and John would stay in the house playing guitar constantly.

FOR THE RECORD

When I’d come back from the studio he’d still be playing. He was a really friendly guy and he’d ask what I’d been doing that day and sometimes I’d have rough mixes and play him stuff.

That particular day Tygers bass player Rocky Laws was there, and I played them Paris by Air and Rocky loved it, the song stayed with him a few years.

Coming up to start recording their fourth album The Cage, there’d been a few changes in the Tygers camp and that made a big dent in the song writing team. Jon Deverill was already in, and Fred Purser from Penetration was brought in to replace John Sykes.

The band were looking for some songs and Rocky suggested we should do the track I’d played to them a few year ago called Paris By Air. OK I said I’ll re-write the lyric as it was originally for a female.

I also played a brand new song called Lonely at the Top to their managers. It was unfinished and I played it on acoustic guitar, stamping my feet and vocally trying to make noise that indicated how it would become a loud rock song.

They asked me to make a full demo and I did. It was also selected for the album.

I also asked the Tygers management if anyone wants to come along to my new gaff in Tynemouth for co-writes. Jon Deverill said yes so we knocked off a few tunes. Letter to L.A. was put together using a Casio synthesiser played through a fuzzbox.

That song was just prior to them going into the studio so it really was down to the wire with unfinished lyrics.

DEADLINES

They were in the studio when I got a call from Jon Deverill, he said in his lovely little Welsh accent ‘I’m having a bit difficulty with these lyrics’. I said ‘ok what you got’.

Well, it turned out he didn’t have much at all. I said I’ll put some lyrics together, how long you got ?

‘Oh well, we’re having a little break then I’m going in the studio to sing it in 20 minutes’. So phoning in a second verse in double quick time was challenging.

The Cage was a success but sadly the band broke up. I don’t know why, maybe some of the guys thought we had been a touch too much in the commercial arena. 

OLD FRIENDS, NEW SONGS

After that I started working with Jon Deverill on a solo album. To begin with I was using a little porta studio but decided to go large with an eight track demo studio in my new house in Whitley Bay.

I met up with John Sykes again when we used his studio to record the album. He had this huge place in the middle of a housing estate in Blackpool, where he was originally from.

So, when we were there he popped in and met everyone. I co-wrote all the songs on that album with Jon Deverill.

TOKYO CALLING

When John Sykes was touring Japan with Whitesnake we got a call from him saying the Tygers are huge in Japan why not get out here and tour.

Well at the same time we were about to get a record deal from Music for Nations, so we decided to make this the fifth Tygers album, rather than a Deverill solo album.

Because it was going to be a Tygers album we needed another Tyger to validate the band, who wants to see a band with no original members ?

So original drummer Brian Dick came back in, there was Jon, and on guitar was a guy brought in called Neil Sheppard. I was asked to play keyboards.

I didn’t tour with them but we did a live TV rock show called ECT, Gary Moore and Robin George were also on – I was heavily disguised.

Read Making Tracks #4, when Steve gains mainstream success.

Steve’s latest album is available on Cherry Red  www.thelongfade.xyz

For more details check the official site:

The Steve Thompson Band – Steve Thompson: Songwriter (steve-thompson.org.uk)

Interview by Alikivi  June 2017.

RAW MEAT IN THE SONIC MINCER #1 – Looking back at music weeklies.

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 theheed.

Motorhead review in Melody Maker 31.3.79.

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.

David Coverdale (Whitesnake) front cover Sounds 20.11.82.

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.

Anvil front cover Sounds 17.5.82.

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.

Motorhead front cover Sounds 21.2.81.

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.

Alikivi  January 2021

CHECK THAT SOCKET – with David Clasper, former electrician at Newcastle City Hall.

Covid times are keeping interviews to a minimum, with no face to face meetings arranged yet just a few emails, but there has been a story recorded using old school interview techniques – a couple of crackly phone calls and a letter written by David sent from his home in the Northumberland village of Heddon-on-the-Wall.

I am retired now but I used to work for Dougal & Railtons that were based in New Bridge Street, Newcastle and one of their contracts was supplying standby electricians for Newcastle City Council.

We would attend to any electrical problems at schools, community centres and the like. That would entail any re-wiring that needed to be done, replaced sockets, and repaired lights.

One of the jobs was for the City Hall where I worked for over 10 years from the late 1970’s onward.

I would start around 8 in the morning attending to any paperwork in the office then about 9.30am get over to the City Hall. There I would check for problems, do any repairs, change lights and make sure the power was on stage.

As you may know there were lots of great acts that went on stage there. In fact one of the first standby jobs I done was for the David Bowie concerts in 1978 over three nights. It was the Isolar 2 tour.

Newcastle, UK dates were 14, 15 & 16 June. The Isolar 2 World Tour opened in USA, March ’78, finished in Japan, December ‘78.

I was very fortunate as I was asked to take up a position beside the stage and make sure everything went ok. It was a highlight for myself and one I will never forget because not only was it a great show, but before he went on stage he would have a bit of a chat with me.

Another memory from my time there was carrying out the standby job for Leo Sayer.

When he was rehearsing his songs and going through his routine on stage I was repairing a flashing light not far away from him. The next thing I was aware of was Leo bursting out in laughter, so much so that the crew came around to see what was going on.

When everything calmed down and the laughing stopped it turned out that he was rehearsing one of his songs, strangely enough called Flashing Lights.

Among other standby jobs I was fortunate enough to be involved in were Lindisfarne and Wings with Paul McCartney, all great shows.

Yes, it was a long day finishing around 11.30pm but looking back on my time at Dougal & Railtons, the Newcastle City Hall was the best job that I had, loved my time there.

Interview by Alikivi July 2020.

BROTHERS IN ARMS with North East songwriter Phil Caffrey

I have been so fortunate to play with not only great musicians but great people. The icing on my musical cake has been sharing the stage with my two brothers Pete and Paul said Phil.

Newcastle based The Caffreys create an original mix of rock, roots and folk. They have earned a formidable reputation based on uplifting original songs and great musicianship.

The full band or the smaller acoustic set up consist of some of the North East’s most respected musicians.

Recent live performances include Newcastle’s Live Theatre, The Mouth of The Tyne Festival, Durham Gala Theatre, The Pickering Engine Rally and The Sage in Gateshead.

I caught up with Phil who looked back on his early days in music….

We had many high points on stage, playing Newcastle City Hall was always great, gigs in Paris, Domefest in Durham and many great UK theatres.

In the early ‘70s we were trying to get a recording deal and in those days you had to gig in London to get record companies to come and see you. They would write to let you know if they were interested or not.

We had a wooden partition in the van and we would pin up the refusals from record companies on it, this made us more determined to get a deal which we did in 1975 with DJM. We released two albums and 4 singles over the next three years, but not much success to be honest.

When did you first get interested in music ?

We used to listen to our older brothers records in the late ‘50s early ‘60s – Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Little Richard and many others.

My maiden performance was when I was 7 in 1959. It was in our parent’s front garden with my two brothers Pete 10, and Paul who was 5. Pete strummed the guitar and we all sang, we loved singing in harmony.

Our older brother Gerard who also played helped us. Other children would come and watch us and that gave us a good grounding and enhanced our childhood.

On 17th December 1964 we did a 30 minute performance at school and I still have the letter the headmaster sent our parents congratulating us on our performance. I have been so fortunate to make music with my brothers, this is my 8th decade making music from the late 1950’s to 2020.

What was your experience of being in a band in the beginning and when was your first time in a recording studio ?

I was in local bands and school bands until we formed Arbre in 1971. We played a gig on July 11th 1971 at Change night club in Newcastle. We invited loads of friends and made £25, this allowed us to go into Impulse Studio to record an album of original songs.

It was a sunny Sunday in August, we rehearsed the songs to the point that we recorded everything in one take. It was our first experience in a studio and we really enjoyed it. I still have the only copy of that album, it’s where it all started.

Another time in the studio was in 1980 where Pete, Paul and myself had a single released on Phonogram records. The song was written by local song writer Steve Thompson and produced by the late great Gus Dudgeon (Elton John).

Some great local musicians played on it including Alan Clark, Barry Spence and Paul Smith.

Did you support any name bands ?

In 1972 we played in Tynemouth Priory with another North East band, Prelude, on a rainy July day, we all got on well. Then we supported Fairport Convention and Jim Capaldi on nationwide UK tours playing in Scotland right down to Brighton.

We also supported Martha Reeves and the Vandellas at Blackpool Tiffanys, Sutherland Brothers and Quiver at Liverpool boxing stadium, where the ring was the actual stage. From ‘75 to ‘78 we played mainly colleges and universities as well as City Halls.

The Caffrey Brothers played the Mouth of the Tyne festival in Tynemouth Priory and Bents Park in South Shields where we supported The Hollies and Lindisfarne.

What other musicians have you worked with ?

In 1985 local musician and great friend George Lamb and I signed a publishing deal with Axis Music. Over the next three years we wrote songs with Keith Emerson and for Kiki Dee.

We also sang backing vocals on Saxon’s Destiny album. I also sang backing vocals on albums by Vow Wow and Onslaught.

In 1987 George and I sang backing vocals for a Steve Thompson song called I Want You. This was one of ten songs entered into a competition to see which one would represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Sadly we didn’t win but it was another episode in my musical journey.

In 1989 I went to Miami to work with Yngwie Malmsteen (Swedish guitarist/song writer). We worked on some songs but nothing came of them.

Have you any road stories ?

We went to Paris in ‘77 and played the Nashville Rooms. Steve Marriott of The Small Faces came along on two nights, we chatted with him and he seemed to like the band. One of the nights was the day Elvis died, I will never forget it.

On one occasion we were going on a tour to Germany and set off to drive for the ferry. We stopped on our way for a cuppa and Roger our lead guitarist made a quick phone call to make sure everything was ok.

He came back to the van to tell us the tour was off, there was a problem with the tour organiser, that was a bit of a downer to say the least.

What are you doing now ?

Now to 2020 the journey continues. I am still in a band called The Caffreys and we still perform original songs. We only play gigs we want to, we don’t play many gigs as there are not many opportunities out there at the moment.

In 2016 we entered UK’s Best Part Time band competition. It was great fun and out of 1200 bands we made the final six in Manchester.

What does music mean to you ?

Music means more than I can put into words to be honest. The fact that I am still teaching and playing is testament to that. I never get tired of it and I feel really fortunate to still be part of it after all these years.

My son said that I live in a musical bubble, I think he’s right, how lucky I am.

 The Caffreys line up:

Phil Caffrey: vocals, guitar
Michael Bailey: bass, vocals
Rachael Bailey: violin, accordion, vocals
Mark Anderson: guitar, vocals.

Interview by Alikivi  May 2020  

8th of MAY IS MOTORHEAD DAY

Image 25

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 laptop.

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 photos 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.

To view Dave Curry’s pic’s, go to  https://garyalikivi.com/2019/03/30/roksnaps-6/

For more pic’s – Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, Twisted Sister & more go to

 https://garyalikivi.com/2018/02/18/roksnaps/

Alikivi   May 2020.

HARD ROADS & NO EASY LIVIN’ for Canadain metal band Anvil

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 about playing 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 Englandon 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.

Link to the interview with Dave Allison

https://garyalikivi.com/2017/11/12/still-hungry-dave-allison-original-rhythm-guitarist-vocalist-from-canadian-metallers-anvil/

Alikivi  April  2020.