SANTAS BAG O’ SWAG

If yer lookin’ for a Chrissy present to buy why not take a butchers at these goodies that have appeared on the blog this year. 2019 has seen nearly 100 interviews posted mostly musicians and also featured authors, artists, poets and TV presenters…. Gary James from The Tube, spills the beans on the ground breaking ‘80s TV music show in his autobiography ‘Spangles, Glam, Gaywaves & Tubes’…. ‘It’s a fabulous main present for ‘70s & ‘80s music and fashion fans you love, or a stocking filler for those you don’t. All for a paltry £12.99 (or cheaper if you can be arsed to shop around). Some bad language (he says ‘sod’ in it)’. Contact  http://www.bookguild.co.uk

Lowfeye are musician/producer Alan Rowland and song writer Carol Nichol…’Some songs on our album POW can be political or critical of society. I find the mainstream music scene along with TV celebrities really awful. It’s bland, it’s beige, it’s plastic and unfortunately we are spoon fed this crap by radio and TV’. Contact Carol via Facebook and get yer copy at only £5 from paypal.me/lowfeye

The Fauves punk band formed in South Shields in 1978 and got back together 2016, bassist Bri Smith…I’ve got the perfect stocking filler for xmas for all you punks out there – The Fauves latest cd album ‘Back off World’. Most of the songs were written between 1978-81. There is a couple of new tracks and we think it has come out really well. Have a wonderful xmas you won’t be disappointed’. Get yer copy from Goldies opposite South Shields Town Hall or contact The Fauves on their official website  thefauves.wordpress.com

The Attention Seekers have a regional feel about some of their songs which gain’s regular play on local radio and at St James’ Park. Guitarist, Alan Fish…If you’re looking for a chilled Xmas why not relax to the sounds of the latest CD from The Attention Seekers ‘A Song for Tomorrow’. Or if you’re looking for something more action-packed why not start Xmas Day singing along with ‘The Fans’ version of ‘The Blaydon Races’. Physical copy of ‘A Song for Tomorrow’ available from  

http://www.the-attention-seekers.co.uk/shop.html 

or download from the iTunes store.

‘The Blaydon Races’ at https://open.spotify.com/album/6RdXvJhnJxwgPubsFU0cvz 

Gary Alikivi  December 2019.

 

HOWAY THE LADS in conversation with North East songwriter Alan Fish

In 2016 representatives from Newcastle United were looking to recreate a new version of The Blaydon Races that would capture the fan’s imagination. Rob Byron the announcer at St James’ Park had been playing some pre – match tracks by The Attention Seekers, so got in touch with the songwriter Alan Fish….The version of Blaydon Races that they’d been playing for the past 20 years had originally been copied from vinyl so the quality wasn’t great. Rob asked if I was interested in coming up with a new version. The biggest challenge was every version I heard was a jolly, lightweight novelty song and sitting playing it on guitar or piano just added to that, The song didn’t have any of the dynamics that fans give it!

With Rob Byron St. James'

Alan (left) with match announcer at St James’ Park, Rob Byron.

What was your initial idea about recording a new version of the song ? At the games we attended during the research phase of the project it was evident that the fans rarely sing the song, so what I wanted was to reach back to the nostalgia of how I heard it back when I first started going to the matches and try to create a fan’s version.

I’m thinking back to 1968 in the Leazes End covered stand where it sounded really powerful and loud like through a loudspeaker. You would get to the match early to get your place and sing with all the other fans, it was a real communal thing and helped pass the time before kick-off. Now people can walk in 5 minutes before because they know they have their seat.

How did you put your idea into practice ? I had a chat with representatives of the club and they wanted a single voice to create a sense of unity and pride, Rob added that the fans only sing one verse, I thought this is going to be short then (laughs). But it was one of those 4am thoughts when I got the idea how I was going to put it together, not have one voice but 50,000 voices as one. That’s where the challenge was, to make it sound like that.

I contacted sports radio stations to see if any audio of the fans singing the song without being contaminated by the match commentary existed. One person got back to me, Chris Watson used to be in a Sheffield electronica band called Cabaret Voltaire, now he’s a top sound engineer who has worked with everyone including Sir David Attenborough. With him living up here now, he had taken sound gear into the ground and got loads of recordings. I bought quite a bit of audio off him. Chris is also a big NUFC fan!

I also set up an evening where members of fan clubs Wor Hyem 1982 and Gallowgate Flags came to a pub and we recorded them singing The Blaydon Races. Then back in the studio, to build the track we mixed in the audio from Chris Watson’s ‘Toon Army’ chants, referee whistles, cheers, goals, crowd reactions….. in place of conventional instrumentation. We then added Stu’s tribal drumming.

All of this was to stay away from the jolly, comedy feel. However listening back it still didn’t sound how I wanted, so we then asked for full access to the Stadium and pitch side areas in order to pump the track through the St James’ sound system, then re- record the mixes of the fans singing, from different areas of the stadium. RESULT! Sounded great!

Originally the club wanted Jason Isaacs to sing it, he’s like the Michael Buble of the North (laughs). We met up and got on well and agreed we needed someone to lead the song, but this was going to be a fan’s version not a celebrity version so I asked him not to sing it but be ‘five pints in’ belting it out (laughs). He loved the idea ‘I go to the match and sing along so it’s no problem’. He done a brilliant job and belted it out like a fan – five pints in!

How do you feel about the song now ? It’s still being played at St James’ and I see it as an ongoing project which I can add to. Using photos and visuals of matches from past to present is an idea I’ve been looking at, and how The Blaydon Races has been sung at matches over the years. I would love to have recordings of The Blaydon Races from the 50’s, 60’s, 70s…. to mix in to the track and create an audio/visual exhibition. (anybody out there with any recordings?)

Stu Haikney was my co-producer on this and he’s done a brilliant job. Stu is also a big Newcastle fan and we felt it had to be right. We wanted to get it to transition from a music hall song to a real football chant. We wanted the true authentic sound of fans singing at St. James’ Park and not take the easy option of using a ‘stadium simulation’ studio plug- in. Football fans spot that sort of thing a mile off (laughs).

It’s like a call to arms, a Northern anthem which captures the tribal spirit of the beautiful game and the roars at St James’ on a match day.

More stories soon from Alan about The Loud Guitars and current band The Attention Seekers.

For further info contact the official website

the-attention-seekers.co.uk 

where the track is available as a download/stream on Spotify, Amazon & iTunes.

Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2019.

BOBBY ROBSON SAVED MY LIFE – a New Play by Tom Kelly

Theatre and football come together in a new play about the life of one of football’s most successful and well-known personalities. Sir Bobby Robson’s story has been written by North East playwright Tom Kelly (Geordie the Musical, The Dolly Mixtures, Nothing Like The Wooden Horse)….‘The play looks at three characters and how Sir Bobby has had a real and lasting influence upon their lives’ explained Tom. ‘This is not only about football and Tyneside but hopefully underlines we each have a responsibility to care for one another.’

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Former Newcastle United number 9 and England international, now Match of the Day pundit, Alan Shearer has added his support. In a video message he is really looking forward to seeing the play’ and described Sir Bobby in three words ‘passionate, committed and professionalism’.  A footballer who played for Sir Bobby at Ipswich Town was George Burley. The former Scotland international full back revealed in his message to describe Sir Bobby ‘Father-figure, determination and enthusiasm’.

I asked Tom what research he did for the play… ‘I read a great deal about Sir Bobby’s life and discovered he often sent messages of support to a wide variety of people which had a positive impact on their lives: It gave them hope. He had a real empathy for others. His life underlined, for me, the way we treat others is not just important but crucial.’  

Tickets are available for the play at South Shields’ favourite theatre, The Customs House. A portion of each ticket sold will go to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, a charity he and his wife, Lady Elsie, founded in 2008 to help find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer.

Curtain up on the first night is Tuesday 16th July at 7.30pm, running through to Saturday 20th with matinees at 2.30pm on Wednesday 17th and Saturday 20th.

Telephone 0191 454 1234 or check on-line for details https://www.customshouse.co.uk/theatre/bobby-robson-saved-my-life/

 Other shows are on July 31st at the Regent Theatre, Ipswich

https://apps.ipswich.gov.uk/en-GB/shows/bobby%20robson%20saved%20my%20life/events

And 2nd & 3rd August at the Tyne Theatre, Newcastle.

https://tynetheatreandoperahouse.uk/events/bobby-robson-saved-my-life/

 Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2019.

GATESHEAD GET RHYTHM with drummer Steve Laidlaw

One of our strangest gigs was when Pyramid supported the Welsh heavy rock band Budgie at the Newcastle Guildhall. They and the crowd were all denim and long hair. But we were playing Glam Rock, Bay City Rollers, Mud, that sort of stuff… but went down a bomb!

From the 1960’s to the late 80’s Steve played for many North East bands including Pyramid, Busker, Backshift, Flicks and Smokestack. Recently he has returned to the stool… Last year I got back together with Chris Batty from one of my first band’s. We done some busker nights, got my mojo back, and we are getting a band going. My son Andrew is a record producer and is signed to Slam Jam Records owned by Chuck D from Public Enemy. Chris and I are doing drum and bass tracks for his new album. Can you believe it. Talk about being down with the kids (laughs).

When did you first get interested in music ? My dad was a commercial artist who played guitar and piano at home, thing’s like New Year parties. So when growing up music was around the house. When I was about 14 I got friendly with two lads who lived on the next Gateshead estate, Richie Close and Steve Davidson. Richie was already an accomplished musician playing piano and guitar. He later played with major bands such as Camel and was MD for Tony Christie.

We started messing around and Richie suggested I try drums. One day we went to his mate’s house and he had a kit. I got on and found I could separate my hands and feet and whack out a rhythm. We used to record little tapes, it was a hobby.

I remember being influenced by listening to straight four on the floor players like Mick Avory and Mick Fleetwood. No fancy complex stuff for me ! I was never technically gifted as a drummer. I was influenced in my early days by watching the great John Woods from the Junco Partners, Ray Laidlaw (no relation) with Downtown Faction and Brian Gibson of Sneeze (later with Geordie).

Later I met a lad called Peter Chrisp who played bass. He was a blues man and we formed a band with John Gormley (vocals), Ronnie Harris (guitar) and me on drums.

Can you remember your first gig ? My first gig was at the Wesley Memorial Church Hall in Low Fell in 1967. Ronnie could play the John Mayall album ‘Beano’ note for note, so were ostensibly a blues band. We did The Quay Club, Bay Hotel in Sunderland loads of youth clubs and schools. But the band sort of lost interest so I formed my own called Tycho Brahe, with my mate’s Chris Batty, George Curry and Stan Rankin. This was late 1969.

We did the Bowling Alley in Gateshead and the usual round of schools, but only lasted a few months. Then in 1970 I got a call from a guy called Jim Campbell. He was managing a club band which became The Paul Dene Set. I got Chris Batty from my previous band in on bass, but we were only 19, and the other guys were 26/27, a lot older and very experienced. I went from playing Cream/Mayall to Tom Jones and Elvis with dickie bows and velvet jackets.

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Did you have a manager or agent ? Most of my time in bands we were managed by Ivan Birchall or Mel Unsworth who were always fair with us. We started getting regular work in the clubs, and had a van and good PA. We got gigs like the Airport Hotel, Top Hat, Guildhall, these were really decent clubs. That lasted until ‘73 until I formed a band called Smokestack featuring Stu Burns and Steve Daggett. He played a blinder by stepping in at the last minute with no rehearsal, it worked out great.

Then I answered an advert in local newspaper The Chronicle, that was for a band called Pyramid who had been on the go for a while. At first we just rehearsed in a basement in Gateshead as one of the members was ill so the band were off the road. At first the agents didn’t want to know but eventually we got a couple of gigs and literally tore the places apart with comedy and chart music. Straight away we got repeat bookings and our agent Mel Unsworth started giving us work. Subsequently we started to build up what became a huge following and some people had seen us a hundred times.

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Have you any stories from the road ? We auditioned for TV talent show ‘New Faces’ in 1974 – and got on. The panel were made up of Micky Most, Tony Hatch and Clifford Davis who were not keen on us. Arthur Askey was there and he was a lovely gentleman. I remember the night we were on. We recorded the show in Birmingham on a Tuesday and the night it was broadcast we were booked for a club in Ashington, The Central I think, and we watched the show before we went on stage. There were no videos in those days. We got a load of gig’s after that and the work went off the richter scale, doubling our pay from £40 to £80 a night (laughs).

The band went full time but I continued to work. I was working in sales through the day and got very little sleep. We would be doing a club then maybe The Sands which was above the bus station in Whitley Bay or the Burgundy Cobbler also in Whitley Bay. We’d get to Palace of Varieties over in Prudhoe, then a few places in Newcastle like the Cavendish, Stage Door and the Rainbow Rooms. I’d fall into bed around 3 or 4am, then back up at 7 (laughs). We once did 93 consecutive one nighters, but by this time we had two full time roadies, and we went in our cars.

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In 1975 I got married so left the band as my new wife wanted to see me (laughs). But re-joined a couple of year later and did a tour of Germany with the comedian Chubby Brown. I remember being stopped at the East German Checkpoint and they got really funny with us. To get to Berlin we were told to ask for a Russian Officer, who we had to pay off to get through (laughs).

A story from one night involved Allen Mechen, who was the front man and guitarist Brian Pick. We used to start the act with me and Brian on stage and Allen used to run out of the gents. One night we started playing and were going over and over the song with no sign of Allen. After 5 minutes our roadie went to find him. He was asleep on the bog with the door jammed (laughs). John poured some water over him.

Incidentally Brian used to be in well known Tyneside band The Sundowners and Allen ended up playing the character Terry in the Tudor Crisps adverts. After recording an EP I left the band again, then went back for their last gigs in 1983.

What studio did you record in ? We recorded the EP at Soundlink in Newcastle and sold it in the clubs, but I haven’t got one cos I gave my copy away. We also recorded a couple of tracks at Impulse Studio in Wallsend. That was for  North East TV show Geordie Scene, but in the end they decided not to put us on. We recorded a new single at Impulse but it was scrapped at the last minute for some legal issues.

Not long after Pyramid I played in a band called Flicks. Terry, the keyboard player, was asked to join another recording band called Busker who had a huge hit with ‘Home Newcastle’. The song was a massive hit locally, and is still played at St.James’ Park. The band didn’t really exist but songwriter Ronnie Lambert wanted to put a band on the road. He also played guitar and harmonica. He asked us if we could get a few of our old mate’s in and do a few gigs, so we did. We also recorded a new single, and a new version of ‘Home Newcastle’ with a few different lyrics but the band drifted apart. I think Ronnie just wanted to be a recording entity.

After that I joined Backshift, who became an 8 piece soul band, fronted by legendary Junco Partner, Ronnie Barker. This went on for several years, we done some good gig’s and had a great laugh, but finished about ‘88. I always meant to go back to playing but had two kids and things just drifted. I had 23 years in bands by then.

What does music mean to you ? I always felt music should entertain and not educate. The general public are bored shitless by drum solos. As Brian Gibson from Geordie always said, get the girls dancing then you are ok (laughs).

 Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2019.

FOOTING IT TO EUROPE with Tyneside poet Keith Armstrong

In the week of the 50th anniversary of Newcastle United’s victory in the Fairs Cup, a 6-2 win on aggregate against Ujpest Dozsa in the final. Tyneside poet and lifelong supporter of the Magpies, Keith Armstrong, reflects on their journeys through Europe.

Bobby Moncur, Newcastle United, with the Fairs Cup

I hate to give away my age but my dad took me piggy-back to see Stanley Matthews play at St James’s Park in the days when peanuts were only a tanner a bag and the ground capacity was well over 60,000. Since then, I’ve followed the lads through thick and thin, usually thin, across Europe and back home.

It might surprise you, but United in Europe isn’t new you know. They toured Italy, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Austria, in 1929 – just after the last time they won the League, with the legendary top-scoring Hughie Gallacher at number 9. In Milan, full-back Tommy Lang had a nasty set of bite marks on his neck when he left the pitch and the club’s bus was hit with bottles and stones and the players had to barricade themselves in their hotel room. Not to worry, the team was guarded by the stalwart men of Mussolini’s blackshirts!

After an 8-1 defeat in Czechoslovakia, the lads were accused of not trying by the Czech officials and then it was off to Budapest for another ‘friendly’ where Gallacher was sent off after a punch-up and the locals spat and threw coins at him as he was escorted through the crowd by armed soldiers. The Hungarians accused Gallacher and the rest of the team of being ‘drunk and disorderly’ on the field and withheld the guaranteed fee. United left the country quickly.

A Football Association enquiry exonerated the team after Gallacher had explained that he and some of his teammates had been so thirsty in the heat that they ‘rinsed their mouths out with a drop of Scotch’. The Hungarians spotted them passing the bottle round and jumped to the surprising conclusion that the boys were on the piss! European sporting ambassadors, don’t you know!

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And, just so’s you really know how old I am, I have to say that I was ‘on the hoy’ as well in Hungary, with the Supporters’ Club back in 1969, belting out the ‘Blaydon Races’ on Budapest High Street when we last won a major trophy, the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. It never seemed to be part of a plan to win then, they just stumbled into the Final, and, with Wyn ‘The Leap’ Davies nodding the ball down to Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson, and no real midfield to speak of, we had those continentals, used to playing the ball on the ground (the mad fools!), completely baffled when faced with our Geordie ‘laeng baell’ game. A one-off but the toon went crazy when the lads came back with that Fairs Cup.

It worries me a bit just how crazy the toon will gan should we ever bring another bit of silverware home – not that that’s likely, let’s be honest, a trophy is never on the packing list, if you’re following Newcastle United.

Soccer - Newcastle United Parade The Inter-Cities Fairs Cup

Captain Bobby Moncur with the cup in Newcastle.

FAIR’S FAIR

The Blue Star shone in Budapest

as West met East on Europe’s streets;

the night the Magpies skinned the Magyars

and the Fairs Cup was ours.

Across the desert of fifty years,

the Inter Cities trophy glitters,

like a beacon in the wilderness,

all that burnt energy, just this success.

And what a crazy night it was;

the shorts flowed in black and white bars:

away goals, of course, counted double

and, after a few, we were seeing double!

We’d danced through Feyenoord and Zaragoza,

skipped from Setubal to downtown Glasgae;

and we came back singing through it all,

with Clarkie, Craigie and McFaul.

It was the golden day of three goal Moncur,

of Scottie, Gibb, Sinclair,

of Wyn the Leap and Bryan Pop,

and little Benny Arentoft.

Finally, we had a Cup to show

and the Toon’s faces shone aglow;

no longer drowning in our self pity,

at last, Fair’s fair, Newcassel’s a European City !

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Tyneside poet Keith Armstrong was born in Newcastle. He has travelled throughout Europe to read his poetry and is widely published and broadcast. He is available for events and functions.

tel: 0191 2529531.

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2019.