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 Gary 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 a guy was 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 Gary 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 hasa £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.

Gary 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 year 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 Gary 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 6 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 Gary 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 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.

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/

 Gary 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 Donningtonwe 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/

Gary Alikivi  April  2020.

IT WASN’T ABOUT BECOMING ROCK STARS – in conversation with songwriter & producer Steve Thompson

An interview with Steve is on the blog (The Godfather of North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal, 27th June 2017 link below) where he talks about his songwriting and production work with Rodger Bain, Pete Waterman, Venom, Tygers of Pan Tang, The Hollies, Neat Records, Sheena Easton (!) and more.

But before that he started out as bassist in North East rock band Bullfrog, who were active during the early ‘70s. I wanted to know more about his early days in music to add to his story. In November 2019 as chance happened he was in a recording studio in my hometown South Shields, so I arranged to drop in.

Before recording with engineer Martin Trollope, we had a half hour chat an’ a cuppa where I asked Steve was he looking to ‘make it’ at being a musician, getting a record deal and moving to London ? When I left school I was working at Consett steelworks and I learnt more there on how to be a record producer. I learnt how to communicate and in particular using humour. So I don’t regret going into the steelworks. But I think not having to work there might have been the motivator.

It’s interesting to look back because we saw everything through a lot younger eyes. If I’d been armed then with what I know now I would have been invincible – but we were young and naïve. Really my motivation and maybe not the other guys in the band who were all older than me, I just wanted to get into this making music thing and I figured I just had to get into a band.

It wasn’t about becoming rock stars it was all about getting the first gig. Then get more gigs and to just do it.

How old were you then ? I was 16/17 year old and had a couple of stabs at rehearsing with people but it was going nowhere. There was another apprentice a year above me that had been at the same school so we sort of knew each other – a lad called Robin Hird. The first year you are in the training centre and the second year that Robin was in, you go out onto the plant.

We made contact and got talking about music, guitars and bands we liked such as Cream and Hendrix, then he sold me an amp. When I got it home the speaker cabinet was a drawer from a chest of drawers with some foam backing and a circular hole cut in with a speaker fixed in.

Robin said let’s form a band, I have a guitar and a bass which I’ll give to you. I agreed and then he brought a drummer, Mick Symons, to my parent’s house. I played them a few songs I’d been working on and Robin said ‘I told you he’s got talent’. I was in.

Where did you rehearse ? We got a room where the local brass band rehearsed, we shared the place for years. We started to live and breathe the band. I’m not sure that we thought about a record deal then because that was just a distant dream. The dream that was closer was to get gigging on the local circuit. So for us this was The Freemasons Arms in Consett.

We’d go there every Saturday night and watch who was on and say how much better we were. Then the obligatory fight would break loose, the glasses would fly, bodies, tables and chairs all over – that was Saturday night.

Can you remember your first gig ? We went to see a Mrs Eiley and she gave us a date for The Freemasons, it was her only gig. The week beforehand we went to the pub and got up to play with the band who were on, that was my first time on stage. I remember one of the songs we played was Sunshine of Your Love by Cream. The following week on our own show we stormed it. Afterwards I went home and told me mam, it was a life changing moment for me.

We got loads of shows after then but we always returned now and then to The Freemasons Arms. We once done a sort of homecoming gig there and the punters were queuing down the side street, along the alley – we got such a following.

Did the band talk about what you were going to wear on stage ? No, it just didn’t enter our imagination. Although we were doing some clubs we were doing them on our terms and not in sparkly suits. I suppose we would have dressed like Free, Sabbath, Deep Purple you know. The perception was that they were wearing the same clothes that they had just walked in off the street.

In those days we never played any pop stuff it was all rock, then we started introducing our own stuff and got away with it. Although when we had two sets of 45 minutes each to fill we never done a gig with just all our songs. You had to play The Hunter or Child in Time and you’d be stupid not to do them, the audience wanted to hear those songs.

Did you have a manager ? We had a few, but looking back I was doing a lot of the organizing, I wasn’t in charge but was doing a lot of stuff. This whole thing of a bunch of young guys going out on the circuit attracting the attention of some guy who might be a plumber but has more money than you and fancies a dabble in management, well we had a few of them who had no background in the music industry.

We had one guy called Skippy who said we need to have one of those moments like The Beatles on the rooftop. So one Saturday afternoon, it was reported in the Sunday Sun, we went down to Old Eldon Square in Newcastle broke into an office and ran a cable up to the monument in the middle and performed. It was the first time anybody had played there and it hit the papers. It didn’t end well for Skippy, he got arrested and deported back to Australia.

What venues were you playing ? The North East agent Ivan Birchall got us masses of gigs supporting name bands. Venues like Newcastle Mayfair, The Viking in Seahouses and the thing was I never drove the van so I just got picked up and we drove out into the wilds.

At The Viking we loved that gig it was a big trek to get there. There was Bellingham Village Hall and a really good one was St Johns Chapel in Weardale. I can only imagine that the populous was starved of entertainment because they went crackers when a decent band turned up.

I remember we supported Suzi Quatro at the Mayfair and this was just before she cracked it and everybody was gobsmacked at not only a girl playing the bass but she was really rocking it out.

We nearly always got booked into the right places but eventually got a gig where we ended up in a place where no matter how quiet you turned down they were going to hate you. We really should of seen it coming and not got up to play. The concert chairman came up to us and said I’ll give you half your money lads and off you go. The thing I remember was the shame of carrying yer kit out from a packed club.

Every now and then you would do a gig where there would be two bands. One night we played The Rex Hotel in Whitley Bay and there are two stages there. Now this was a sign of our ambition cos we used to try and arrive later than the other band so we could headline the gig – we were top of the bill at The Rex (laughs).

The other bands would do it as well cos we saw them driving slowly along the back lanes. Beckett were one of the bands cos I recognised their posh Merc – we only had a van. We done a gig with a band called Jasper Hart. The singer was Brian Johnson, the band must have been the forerunner to Geordie, and of course he ended up in AC/DC.

Most times we’d be out gigging and finish around 2am in the morning and coming back we’d go to a cafe near Central Station in Newcastle that was open all night. All the bands would go there, we discovered we didn’t need sleep

I remember visiting Ivan Birchall one day and up on the wall he had lists of the bands he had on his books. There was an A list and a B list. We were on the B list and I wasn’t happy. He said the A list are his priority bands, if a show comes in at short notice I go to my A list and as priority they pay me 15%, and the B list pay me 10%.

Do you wanna be on the A list ?’ I replied ‘I insist’. In one fell swoop I gave him 50% more commission (laughs).

Did you meet with any record companies ? Well it was a struggle. We had some demos and we were going to set the world alight so we went down to London, our first time there. To save money Robin and I booked return rail tickets travelling on a weekend cos it was cheaper then.

But as we found out it was the day’s when record companies were shut (laughs). So we just had a weekend in London, the closest we got was Orange had a music store selling amplifiers and they also had a record label so we gave them a tape.

I remember typing hundreds of letters sending them out one at a time cos there was no photocopiers them days, I must have been a mug and the rest of the band were having a life ! I have some of the responses and out of the blue got a nice letter from Brian Auger, he was organ player with Julie Driscoll (Wheels On Fire). So clearly I wasn’t just sending to record companies.

I think I went through the Melody Maker yearbook getting address’ and pitching stuff left, right and centre. It was a tape I sent out that finally got us a deal.

How did that come about ? Cube Records who were formerly the Fly record label based in Soho, London with Joan Armatrading, T.Rex, Procul Harem on their roster, so they had a big track record, then we came along (laughs).

They ran an advertising campaign looking for bands so I sent them a tape about the same time we had won 3rd prize in a competition run by EMI. We went to a recording studio in Manchester Square, EMI’s headquarters in London, yes we had two record companies chasing us.

Cube told us that at EMI we would only be a small part of a big machine. But on the day of going to the EMI reception we thought we couldn’t make it cos we had a gig in Durham on the same night, but they organised a flight for us to get to London and make it back to Durham for the gig. Our roadies had set the gear up and just as we were going on stage we saw the concert chairman and told him we’d just made it here as we have flown up from London. I don’t think he believed us (laughs).

Cube Records were really keen and they came up to Durham to watch us live and we couldn’t have arranged it better. The punters were swinging from the rafters going ape shit, after our first set Cube came into the dressing room and they were gobsmacked. They signed us there and then.

Now we signed everything, publishing, recording, management to that one company and the one gig that came from that was for the Newcastle Odeon supporting Wishbone Ash.

What did you record on Cube Records ? I remember taking a guitar lick into the rehearsal room it was a Jazz sort of thing and Pete the singer said it sounded like riddly, tiddly, tum. So we wrote a joke song called that. Cube were looking for the first single and we had done some recordings with Rodger Bain (Black Sabbath) and Hugh Murphy who done a lot of Gerry Rafferty stuff but when they heard Riddly, Tiddly, Tum they said that’s the single. We were mortified, it was only done as a joke. No it’ll be a hit they said.

They allowed us to change the title to Glancy, Mick Glancy was our original singer who had been replaced by Pete McDonald. To promote it we pulled a stunt with Tyne Tees TV where we were driven around Newcastle in an open topped car, but we promoted the B side of the record, In the City, we were embarrassed about the A side. That put a nail in our coffin as far as the record company were concerned.

Unfortunately that was when the dream became muddied by what the music business is about. They had the means to get our songs out there but they weren’t as clever as they thought they were. Maybe releasing a novelty song was going to be a good idea but I’m glad I’m not saddled with it – and having to do a follow up (laughs).

About 10 years ago Glancy ended up on a compilation album called 20 Powerglam Incendiaries and went to the lower regions of the album charts.

How long did Bullfrog last ? Initially we started out as Mandrake until we found another band was going out under that name so we changed it fairly quickly. It got to the point where it became our lives. We were gigging every Friday and Saturday plus some mid-week nights. I’ve still got my diaries from then and we were going out for £15-£20. It was really exciting to be out there.

Our first gig was in 1969 and we were at it until ’74. We sort of got a taste of the big time making demo recordings and sending them out to the record companies, we did have a burning ambition. There were other local bands getting record deals and the scene was really vibrant.

Eventually we took to drugs, our drummer introduced us, there was a certain brand of cough medicine and if you drank the whole bottle it would send you crackers, we all done it bar the singer.

I remember doing a show in the Amble Ballroom and that was a strange one cos the stage sloped to the front so the vibrations off my bass amp pushed it towards the edge. Anyway we finished what we thought was a great gig and when we got off stage the singer said ‘Guy’s lay off that cough medicine cos I can’t sing those songs at that speed’. Apparently we played all the songs at double speed (laughs).

When did you know the dream was over ? I remember doing TV show The Geordie Scene twice. One live and the other miming, and I felt really silly miming. I always hated seeing bands giving it what fettle and not even being plugged in. So I plugged mine in to make it look at least legit.

But I was embarrassed and you’re not rock star material if you are embarrassed flaunting yersel in front of TV cameras. We almost cracked it but I wonder if I was cut out for it cos I went on to become more of a backroom boy – song writing and producing.

But there was also another North East band, Kestrel, who signed to the label and the label put their guitarist Dave Black together with our singer Pete McDonald essentially destroying two bands.

We reformed as Bullfrog 2 adding keyboards and a female singer but my heart wasn’t in it. I had lived this thing from being a kid, it was all consuming, but now at 22 after working with producers Hugh Murphy and Rodger Bain, who also introduced me to Gus Dudgeon, I thought I’m gonna pull back from this thing.

I could of kept going at it but wanted to switch to song writing which led me to production. And that is where I was meant to be because here we are today in a recording studio talking about it and I’m getting ready to record some of my new stuff.

New album ‘The Long Fade’ is available here: http://thelongfade.xyz/

Read the first interview here:

https://garyalikivi.com/2017/06/27/the-godfather-of-the-north-east-new-wave-of-british-heavy-metal/

Gary Alikivi November 2019.

ART OF NOISE from the Tygers of Pan Tang new album ‘Ritual’.

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Just when you thought it was safe the aptly titled ‘Art of Noise’ comes at you head on, and returns for another bite. Opening with thick treacly rock sound ‘Worlds Apart’ to ‘Spoils of War’ and the single ‘White Lines’ with plenty of room for ‘Words Cut Like Knives’.

Then the MONSTER thunder of ‘Let’s turn up the sound and gather around, To hear…the art of noise’. Deafining indeed. Album closer ‘Sail On’ is a breeze after that.

The Tygers of Pan Tang, engineer Fred Purser and additional production from Soren Andersen are the creative team behind the new album ‘Ritual’ which can be added to any hard rock playlist in 2020.

For further info contact the official website:

http://www.tygersofpantang.com/official/

Gary Alikivi  March 2020.

CENTRE STAGE in conversation with North East entertainer Pete Peverly

Have you ever had a proper job ? I’ve never done a day’s work in my life as me da’ would say (laughs). I’ve never worked in a bar, or had a day job, there were times when I maybe should have. It’s tough not knowing when or if the next job is coming. I’ve always earned enough.

I’m not rich but I’ve got a house, a family, four kids. I’ve managed. When things have got tough I’ve tried busking a few times, and that get’s you your £25 or so in really difficult times. I’ve had some great jobs, I keep positive and always have something nice to look forward too. Keep optimistic is how to go on.

In the 80s did you watch live music show The Tube ? Yes definitely. I look back at clips of the show on You Tube. One night I had a ticket to see Ozzy Osbourne at Newcastle Mayfair and beforehand he was on The Tube. I watched it with me dad and Ozzy can be a bit ropey singing live. Well me da’ said How much did yapay to see him ! (laughs).

I remember watching a show with the Tygers of Pan Tang and Twisted Sister, I was still at school and on that night we had a rock disco and a heavy metal band playing. It was wow you know. Loved it.

When I started working on dramas in Tyne Tees TV it was great to just be in the same studio where all those iconic performances happened.

When were you at Tyne Tees ? It was the early ‘90s. I had trained as an actor at Newcastle College from ’88 -’90 and there was quite a lot of TV and theatre happening in the region. Writers were working, Byker Grove was starting and a season of new dramas were scheduled so I ended up doing a couple of those.

They were like period crime dramas and some were filmed at Beamish Museum. I done a few seasons on Byker Grove, a few days here and there on Emmerdale and Spender but TV’s not something I’ve been able to get a foothold in because I got really busy with theatre.

I was with the Northern Stage Ensemble for 15 years, working on big tours for months at a time rather than being a jobbing actor getting work here and there. That’s the choice I made while being a jobbing actor has worked well for others.

In 2004 I was at a Sunday for Sammy concert at Newcastle City Hall and you performed a tribute to Bobby Thompson. How did that come about ? A bunch of friends got together and formed the Red and White Theatre Company and we produced a musical about Bobby’s life. We were young and looking back we might cringe a bit (laughs).

We toured it around clubs and community venues and we were nominated for a Northern Arts award in 1990. We appeared on the  Northern Arts awards show. It was hosted by Melvyn Bragg in Tyne Tees studio.

Previous to that we put together a show about the history of Sunderland and in that I performed a tribute to Bobby. It was very popular so that’s where the idea came from to do a musical about his life. For research we met Bobby’s family, it was just after he died, and started a friendship with Keith his son.

How is the show received by the family ? Bobby had two sons. Sadly Michael passed away about 5 years ago but Keith supports it fully. I always ask him about any new stuff going into the show, it’s important to let him know what I’m up to with his Dad’s memory.

Do you think the Bobby Thompson story would travel to audiences around the country ? I’m putting together a short project for the Tyne Idols bus tours around Newcastle so I’ve been thinking about the whole Bobby story again and his accent wasn’t just Geordie it was Pitmatic. That’s very strong and yes it was a barrier but one of the reasons why he didn’t make it outside the region was because I think he didn’t want to, he had everything up here.

He might have had more ambition in the early part of his career when he was doing Wot Cheor Geordie for the BBC. Maybe he thought about pushing it further but certainly not during the ‘70s.

All of the other regional comics and entertainers who made it nationally were all- rounders, actors, comedians, song and dance men, Bobby wasn’t. He was a pit comedian from the Durham coalfields talking specifically to that community.

Over the years the tribute show has been very popular but lately the audiences are not there as much now, they are getting much older. He will survive in North East culture as The Little Waster, just like Cushy Butterfield and all those characters, but as for a modern audience I haven’t got the skills as a comedy writer to create strong enough material to bring him up to the modern era.

Somebody could do that, the last Sunday for Sammy concert, with the help of writers Jason Cook and Steffen Peddie, we had him as an angel talking about modern day stuff like Brexit and Donald Trump. So who knows it might work.

How did you start in entertainment ? My dad was in bands playing the clubs so I just got into playing in bands when I was a teenager. There was a brilliant scene down at Washington Arts Centre of a music collective, a vibrant theatre group and talented writers.

So as well as being a musician I got involved in theatre and really enjoyed it. But it was like spinning plates, I was making a living playing music in the clubs and enjoying the theatre side of things.

In the end I decided to go to college and do drama because in 1988, I got invited for a month to perform in the Furness Mystery plays at Furness Abby in Barrow and really enjoyed, it so that swung it for me. Still kept my hand in playing in bands and after finishing the course I got my first job at Live Theatre.

Who were you listening to when you were younger ? In my teens I was playing guitar and it was rock music, typical ‘80s stuff like Ozzy, Y&T, Journey but then started learning other instruments like clarinet so went through a sort of Jazz phase. Then harmony stuff like The Beatles and The Eagles, today I like a bit of modern country music that’s out now.

As a songwriter I try to listen to modern stuff to see what’s going on. Music has always been there and I write, record and perform today.

What made you want to play guitar ? When I was young I wanted to play the drums. I’d mime along with knitting needles to War of the Worlds (laughs). But then I heard Queen and Brian May’s guitar had an amazing sound. The big ‘Brighton Rock guitar solo with the echo’s. I just fell in love with it.

Who was your first gig ? AC/DC in ’82 at Newcastle City Hall. For Those About to Rock tour when they played three nights. But I remember seeing Gary Moore around ’84 and he had a sideman called I think Neil Carter. He played guitar, keyboards, backing vocals, he was really good and I thought that looks a good gig. He done loads of sessions with other musicians and bands.

I thought that would be great working with lots of different people. So subconsciously that’s always been there so that’s why I do lots of different projects now.

Once_152

That can keep you ticking over….Yes when the theatre work slackens off I can jump into playing working men’s clubs and do acoustic gigs. Last year was a good run on theatre work with various jobs around the country then back up north at the Theatre Royal for panto.

Next year I have a big tour with a show called Once the Musical.  It’s the first time it’s toured the UK since its West End run four years ago.  It’s playing Newcastle Theatre Royal in June 2020

There are actor/muso shows happening now which are popular in theatres where actors play the instruments. Colleges have added specific courses now to specialise in this type of performance so the players are now at such a good standard.

Do you think theatre is still a big gamble though ? Yes you have to duck and dive, it’s hard to make a living, it’s not easy. I’ve done a bit drama teaching in collages and  community groups with young and older people, that’s rewarding, but you have to be dedicated to do it. Luckily it’s worked for me although at my age I couldn’t do much else now (laughs).

I was an audience member of live music show The Tube filmed in Tyne Tees studio. After a few weeks I noticed the camera, lights and stage set ups and thought I would love to be involved in something like this. Have you had moments that you can look back on that have affected your life in a big way ? Yes they happen without you realising it at the time. Those big moments in your life are only realised years later. That big year for me in theatre, 2018, they do happen but you have to be ready for them. There has been opportunities in the past which haven’t worked out but I think I wasn’t ready for them. You’ve got to learn to take the opportunities.

Around 30 year ago I was in a darkroom working on a black and white picture that I had taken, I saw the image on the photographic paper coming through the chemicals and thought it was magic. Have you had any magic moments ?  This sounds horrible and pretentious so forgive me because I’ve read accounts from actors who’ve said things like this and I thought What a wanker. (laughs)

I was at the Royal Shakespeare Company for three years and you get understudy roles. I was on a production of Romeo and Juliet in Stratford and was playing Friar Lawrence. Understudies get a full run as well. So we were playing to a full house and I was going full throttle Shakespearean actor, giving it the welly and I had that feeling that I’d read about, the wanker actors sayingI was shaking with emotion, with those words, how they were coming out, they were just so’. You know how pretentious is that. But it did happen to me. It really was an amazing moment.

Last year I did a show called Beyond the End of the Road with the company November Club, touring village hall’s in Northumberland. Stripped back stage, a couple of lights, I mean where’s the glamour in that ? (laughs). But we had some really amazing moments on that tour. The sharing of telling stories is really magic no matter where you are. It doesn’t have to be profile job that gives you that magic.

Another time was when I put together a Playhouse Theatre band for one evening.  One of our guests was Brian Johnson from AC/DC. He was there with the late Brendon Healy and Paul Thompson, who was the drummer from Roxy Music. I had just worked with Brian on the Sunday for Sammy concert and when he arrived he was very complimentary about the band which was nice.

Later in the evening he said ‘Pete I might fancy getting up and doing a couple of songs with ya’ if you don’t mind‘. Wow! Absolutely! So towards the end of the night Brian, Brendon and Paul got up. It was a rock and roll dream come true to play with Brian ‘Johnna‘ Johnson from AC/DC. The first band I’d seen live. Amazing!

Have you had any nightmare moments on stage ? I think we’ve all had moments on stage when we’ve thought we’d rather not be there. I was doing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in London in 2012, I was having a bad time cos I lost my dad not long before that. You’ve got to go on and do the biz tho’. Audiences have paid for it.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve had some great times but the working men’s clubs can be tough. Sometimes you think it’s not where you planned to be, but you have to be disciplined enough to give it your best it terms of your vocals and sound, production. You can just be tired or have a cold, or it’s a Sunday night gig after a long week and in your darkest moment you think I’m 50 I don’t wanna be here, but you are so you have to deliver.

Have you noticed the changes to working mens clubs ? I played the clubs in the ‘80s and saw the changes when I came back around 2007. They are still changing now. I played the Whitley Bay Comrades club last Sunday afternoon. People don’t want to be out on the night now, they have the bingo on, an entertainer, yeah it’s good.

Have you any last thoughts ? As you get older you value the good times even more.  Working in theatre you more often than not are working with amazing people.  The company becomes like a family. Those jobs might not come around again for a couple of years so you have to make the most of them.

The Stratford job was great but I was away from home for three years but my kids came down for holidays and loved it. You value those times.

Contact Pete on the official website:

petepev.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi  September 2019.