LUCKY MAN – part one.

with North Shields actor & musician Tony Hodge.

Leaving school and taking up a job as a Chef led Tony Hodge down a path that he couldn’t imagine

I’ve been very lucky as a chef, drummer, actor and company director plus a rocker in the famous ‘60s era of mods and rockers. Looking back they were great years, it’s been a blast. I’ve been a lucky man said 75 year old Tony.

Did you come from a musical family ?

My family weren’t musical as such, although my parents sang in the church choir and my brother plays guitar. When I was a chef in 1961 at the Park Hotel in Tynemouth, the hotel had a resident band with a drum kit. I had an urge to play and that started a career that spanned over 30 years. Mind you many wouldn’t class my drumming as musical. Then I went with Ray Laidlaw (Lindisfarne) to see Ginger Baker and Cream at the Club A Go-Go in Newcastle, that changed my style of playing – I became known as Animal.

Can you remember your first bands and gigs?

My first band, I was 16, we only played a few gigs then I joined Dominion Aces, then Turm with John Lawton singing, he later sang for Uriah Heep. Next was Arctic Rainbow with Kenny Mountain (Beckett) and Micky Balls on guitar. Venues included the famous Rex Hotel, Whitley Bay and the Cellar Club in South Shields.

Then there was Tex Leon and the Tynesiders and finally The Piranha Brothers who had a huge following and never stopped filling clubs for the 10 years we played in the North East. We had a four part singing line up in many songs and some of a set at the Birtley Rex is on my You Tube page.

The Pirahna Brothers line up was two lead vocalists in Geordie Scott and Allen Matthews, lead guitar & vocals from both Paul Simmons & Mac Norris. During their time they had three bass players – founder Bill French, then Paul Allen and finally Dave Wightman. On drums was Tony Hodge.

Where did The Piranha Brothers play ?

Venues were mainly social clubs as they were hundreds around then and all the agents used them. We weren’t a typical social club band though, as our act was largely made up from our own songs written by Paul Simmons our lead guitarist. Most bands played covers as I had in the Tynesiders, but we had an act that worked in clubs and other venues.

One night we played Newcastle Mayfair with three other bands to a 3000 plus audience and The Piranhas played several open air concerts in the early ‘80s at Gypsies Green stadium in South Shields.

The most popular Piranhas venue was Heaton Buffs in Newcastle. Our Christmas concerts sold out the year previous. The original single night ended up as three nights, and we had guest bands playing along with the brilliant resident band Burlesque.

The Christmas nights were themed with ideas being thought up by our singers… ‘St Trinians’, ‘The Young Ones’, ‘WWII’ and the final one ‘The Nativity’ and Burlesque always joined in the game. I still wonder though how some of the guys always thought women’s nylons had to be included.

The guest bands never knew what to expect and one time a guest band was 747 with the late brilliant musician Dave Black. This band was really cool, all good looking and right up to date. We hired a topless dancer to come on stage mid set and serve drinks on a tray to the band.

Dave was singing in full swing and she was out of his eyesight. The rest of the band saw her and were laughing but Dave was oblivious. When she stood in front of him he was speechless – literally – and his face was a picture. The audience loved it though.

We often had many famous faces in the audience such as John Miles, Brian Johnston (Geordie) and Hylton Valentine (The Animals) so it must have had some appeal.

Pictured above is the Newcastle Mayfair competition final. The room was packed with over 3000 people. Two bands had the biggest following, that was Burlesque and us. All bands were great on the night but the audience were very unhappy when neither won. A riot erupted with plastic glasses being thrown and Alan Hull (Lindisfarne) could not provide the prize.

Alan and Brian, the Mayfair manager, asked if anyone from the Piranhas or Burlesque could try and do something. Paul from Burlesque and I went on stage to try and calm the audience down and the anger turned to cheers.

Alan Hull presented the prize with a bowl on his head to everyone’s delight. One of the judges, Chas Chandler (The Animals), invited us to go to Abbey Road studios and record our songs which we did.

Have you any memories from those North East gigs ?

Piranhas were known for the two main singers in Geordie Scott and Alan Mathews, pulling many stunts like pretend fights and blood capsules. They had funny routines without in any way being a comic band. This night to a packed room we counted four beats and the usual very loud intro to First Bite powered out. As always Geordie jumped up fists in the air and hit the deck, Alan started to dart around the stage.

This time however Geordie didn’t get up. This seemed ok, these guys were up for anything after all, however the intro was over and Alan wasn’t joined by Geordie. We played on but after a few more bars we realised something was wrong. It was…Geordie had dislocated his knee and ended up being taken to hospital in an ambulance. In the true showbiz style of the show must go on, Alan and the rest of us finished the night.

Another night at the Birtley Rex. A guy called Liddle Towers had recently died in police custody in Birtley and the police were none too popular.

(Liddle Towers was an amateur boxing coach who died in police custody, in 1978 South Shields punk band The Angelic Upstarts wrote a song about the incident The Murder of Liddle Towers).

This night our first set was our own material only, but second set we were finishing our final set with a couple of punk covers. A wedding party had been trouble through the night and a fight broke out. The police were called and a young Police Constable plus an overweight Sergeant arrived. When they entered the whole club erupted against them, chairs, tables, glasses all went flying.

A roadie got cut and I ran from the dressing room to the stage yelling to the police to run to the dressing room. The guys dragged them in and the glasses hitting the doors sounded like a battlefield. Suddenly there was silence and out of the tiny window was a wall of blue lights as far as you could see, police were everywhere.

Eventually, I ventured to the stage and the club was empty. Wrecked but empty. Never have I ever seen a club clear so fast.

Did you record any of your material ?

Yes I have a couple of singles they are in the attic collecting dust, unfortunately no turntable. I last heard one of them on You Tube as a fan must have uploaded it.

In 1979 The Piranha Brothers had a single on the Durham record label, Guardian. The song was called Too Much of Wanting You and studio owner Terry Gavaghan wrote that and Paul Simmons and Iwrote the b-side Dancing Time.

At one point Brian Johnston (Geordie/AC/DC) was a big fan. We recorded a single in his Newcastle studio Lynx, the song was called A Woman Like You. But it went to the USA and nothing happened. Chas Chandler (The Animals) got us recording in Abbey Road studio – but major fame alluded us.

Next time on the blog read the second part of Tony’s story, where he sees an opportunity to prolong his career in entertainment.

I didn’t think I could be playing drums in my 40s and 50s and I thought I would have a longer career in acting than music. It was a surprise because I never thought I would get as far as I did.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   February 2021.

A SONG FOR EVERYONE

with former Southbound drummer, Mick Kelly

North East pubs and clubs were covered in a smoky haze as thick as yer ma’s pea soup, Broon Ale bottles clinked and a chorus of Geordie voices cheered along to Southbound when they hit the stage at Ashington Excelsior, Bedlington Lucifers, Dunston Excelsior, then over to Heaton Buffs. Down to Hartlepool Clippies, back up to Morpeth Comrades and dropped in at The Old 29.

There was a run out to La Hacienda in Prudhoe, with next stop Sunderland Boilermakers, and not forgetting Wingate Constitutional – oh those glory nights in working men’s clubs that would bring a lump in yer throat and a tear in the glassy eye of the hardest riveter in the shipyard.

People would come early and fill the place, it made it all worthwhile said Mick.

We played a lot of gig’s and wherever we went, we went down really well.

The Thrill of it All and All Right Now are previous interviews with Alan Burke and Mick Kelly, former members of Southbound. They talk about their background in music, early gigs, recording in Impulse studio and how proud they are of the songs the band wrote. (links below)

Would they have been successful if they were signed up by a record company ? In a new interview I put that question to drummer Mick Kelly….

I felt if we had the right amount of backing to support us, our outcome would have been totally different. We were trying to get a record deal and we managed to get in touch with Brian Oliver from State Records. He came up to see us and tried to sort something out.

Some forty years later I got to chat with Brian Oliver via Steve Thompson (songwriter/producer). After I showed Brian a copy of the letter Southbound got from him back in the day, he got in touch…

Brian OliverWow, seeing that letter again is like entering a time machine. I obviously heard something in the band or I wouldn’t have come up to the Gosforth Hotel. Unfortunately, Wayne Bickerton decided which acts were signed to the record label. Sorry we weren’t able to help the band in the end‘.

We were then offered a track to record written by Steve Thompson and Gary Maughan called Front Page News, but unfortunately that never transpired. But Southbound did write some of their songs. Our two guitarists were more than capable of writing their own material.

George Lamb on the left with Alan Burke at Newcastle Mayfair 1980.

Some of the songs that were written did have personal meanings to them and some were inspired by the sound and style of West Coast music at that time. One of our favourite songs was Keep on Winding which made it on an RCA compilation album as we won a Battle of the Bands competition in 1982.

Keep on Winding was a direct result from playing at the Mayfair in Newcastle. In the lyric it says ‘You look around and see your friends are all beside you’. The song Don’t Deny Me was written about a relationship that one of the band members had. Another one was inspired by an Allman Brothers track Jessica, our song was called Joanne.

In 1977 the Melody Maker music mag was running a Pop/Rock competition so we entered. We were asked to play at Dunelm House in Durham City along with at least another 20 bands. We were first of the band section to play after the solo/acoustic artists.

We set up and were waiting for the judges to return from their tea break, we asked the packed crowd if they would like a song. They said yes so we broke into one of our own numbers Love is a Strange Thing.

On hearing this the judges ran down stairs to see us getting stuck into our song. Then one of them jumped onto the stage and started leaping around like some person possessed. After the song he came across to me and said ‘That was fantastic but don’t say anything’.

The judges said we will be judged on our next three songs. The competition carried on and we left soon after to play a gig somewhere else but didn’t get to know what the result was until the next day when we played Wheatley Hill Club, Durham. My brother, who had stayed at the competition, came and told us we had won the competition. We were absolutely ecstatic.

Southbound at Newcastle Mayfair supporting Tygers of Pan Tang Feb.1980.

As well as gigging in the North East, Southbound visited the likes of Berwick, Richmond, Dudley, Edinburgh, London, Manchester and Northampton. They knew how important stage time was….

I think many bands in the ‘70s and ‘80s playing regular gigs was a key for development and agents played a great part, which we don’t have now. Once we got onto the working man’s club circuit around the North East playing other people’s material, it gave us an idea of what went down well and which songs didn’t.

Some support gigs had been arranged with bands like Cado Belle, George Hackett band, Alberto y lost trios Paranoias, Tyger’s of Pang Tang, Last Exit, The Junco’s, Shakin Stevens and The Sunsets. Plus playing alongside bands on the music festivals like the Newcastle Music festival and Domefest which we played at least three times.

I remember one night when we played Newcastle Mayfair we supported Babe Ruth, not with the usual member Jenny Haan, but with a girl called Elle Hope who went on to sing the disco song Dance Yourself Dizzy in the band Liquid Gold.

We actually headlined a couple of gigs at the Mecca in Sunderland and Newcastle Mayfair, and one time with Raven at the Mayfair. At the time Raven used to fill in for us at The Gosforth which later helped them get a foot hold on the pub rock circuit. We also had the obligatory gig at Newcastle Labour club on a Sunday morning for the female lady who removed her clothes. 

There are some photos from when we played Newcastle Mayfair on 15 February 1980, supporting Tygers Of Pang Tang. Not the best quality but they have a bit of atmosphere about them. This is when we were a four piece, personally our best time.

Southbound at Newcastle Mayfair supporting Tygers of Pan Tang Feb.1980.

Have you any road stories to share ?

We had some hilarious times on the road. One is when we were playing Catterick Garrison which was a high brow affair with food from caviar to curry and numerous amounts of liquid. The night went on forever with a stand-up comedian, Bob Richie, a solo singer, a jazz quartet and us.

We ended up finishing the night a little worse for wear and having a Champagne breakfast. On the way back we spotted a hedgehog running round a roundabout, so we stopped, got out and tried to get it back on to the grass when the police showed up.

They asked what we were doing at 6:30 in the morning. None of us thought about getting breathalysed or arrested as the police officer just said ‘get off the roundabout and get yourselves home’. I don’t know how we managed to get home.

We played Hartlepool Quoits club, if the band played too loud the orange light flashed and the sound system would cut out the electrics on stage. So we hooked all our equipment into the dressing room sockets and when the orange light would flash away the committee looked puzzled why it didn’t cut out. A few other bands quickly caught on and did the same.

Not a story from the road but funny all the same – while we were recording, the studio had a 16-track recording tape machine. One band member was speaking to someone on the phone about recording, and the person on the other end of the phone asked what kind of tape machine it was.

The reply came quickly…‘It’s a Hotpoint’. In which the band member quickly said to the person on the other end of the phone. ‘They said it’s a Hotpoint’…..oops he fell for it.

I’m sure there were plenty of other occasions but they have faded beyond memory. But having said that a song or another piece of history will trigger things off.

Check the earlier interviews with Mick Kelly and Alan Burke:

ALL RIGHT NOW with Michael Kelly former drummer with North East band Southbound | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

THE THRILL OF IT ALL | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Gary Alikivi   February 2021.

ROCK OF AGES

with Fist vocalist, Glenn Coates.

I was reminded of the night the New Wave of British Heavy Metal came in to South Shields. What happened was I was flicking through my records and I come across the Hollow Ground EP which was kindly given to me by Lou Taylor (Satan/Blind Fury) after I lost my copy.

I originally bought one from Second Time Around Record Shop in South Shields after watching Hollow Ground play live at Tyne Dock Youth Club in 1980 – my very first LOUD gig. They certainly gave the place some welly and was one of the first NWOBHM gigs I went to – Hellanbach and Satan followed over the years.

Glenn Coates was vocalist that night, but later he left the rock hard granite sound of Hollow Ground, and became frontman for another South Shields plug in an’ play no frills outfit, Fist…Yeah we used to play so loud, one gig I jumped onto the drum riser at the very same time that the drummer hit his crash cymbal and I nearly lost my balance, I think I have tinnitus now (laughs).

I saw Fist at venues like South Shields British Legion, and Newcastle Mayfair on 4 June 1982 on the Y & T Earthshaker tour….

I remember they brought all their gear in flight cases. One of the cases was like a very tall chest, and when they opened it, it was full of cans of beer. We had a great time opening for them, good memories.

Later that year I saw Y & T again, this time opening for AC/DC in Newcastle. The Americans warmed up the City Hall enough for DC to land on stage with their huge backline. They were fronted by ex-Geordie singer Brian Johnson. During the ‘70s & ‘80s a lot of rock/metal bands came from the North East – The Animals, Geordie, Raven and the Tygers of Pan Tang….

I remember Fist supported the Tygers at Warrington Park Hall, which is the same set up as Newcastle City Hall…said Glenn.

The Tygers were doing well at the time with arctic’s full of sound gear parked outside. But our van with all our gear decides to pack up on the M62. We eventually got to the hall just in time – we pulled up outside at 6pm with our backline in a horsebox (laughs). 

If we go back to the start, how did the job in Hollow Ground come about ?

You mentioned that Tyne Dock gig, well we have fond memories of playing there because before Hollow Ground I was in a band that used to rehearse in that youth club. There was Brian Rickman (bass) and myself in a band with guitarist Steve Dawson (Saracen/The Animals/Geordie). That fizzled out around ’78 so Brian and me got together with Martin Metcalf (guitar) and John Lockney (drums), that was the beginning of Hollow Ground.

We also rehearsed in a backroom at the Adam & Eve pub in South Shields and all day on a Sunday in a hut in West Park. We used to give the caretaker a fiver and he’d let us in. We’d always record our rehearsals then listen to it back during the week, then rearrange the songs.We had started to write our own stuff and went in a studio to get it down on tape.

Studio work was financed by playing covers in pubs and working men’s clubs around the North East. The first studio we went into was Impulse Studio where Neat records were based, and we recorded an hour long live demo. It turned out quite good, I thought the vocals and drum sound was better there than at our other recording for the EP at Guardian Studio in Durham.

What was your experience of Guardian studio ?

Terry Gavaghan was owner and producer there and it was exciting to make a record at Guardian. We were still pretty naïve about it all you know – making a record to get noticed by a record company. Then we put some tracks together for a compilation album called Roksnax. Other bands on the record were Saracen from South Shields and Samurai who I think were Newcastle based. We all contributed four tracks each.

How did joining Fist come about ?

At first Hollow Ground were like sponges taking everything in, playing gigs wherever and whenever we could, at pubs and clubs doing covers to pay for the studio time. Learning all the time, it was a great energy to write the songs and it came about quite easy and quickly.

But thing was Terry Gavaghan said EMI were interested in signing us so we were waiting for that, but really I didn’t believe it and I’ve heard he told lots of bands the same. The band had stopped playing live so with no gigs happening I wasn’t doing much.

Fist came along and asked about me joining, I took it because they had things to offer. This was around ’81 and in the summer we played the Rock on the Tyne festival at Gateshead Stadium with Rory Gallagher and a few others. U2 were on the day before us.

The night before we played in Manchester and someone had smashed the whole back window of our car. I remember being freezing cold travelling on the motorway finally getting back to the North East about 4 in the morning. Not the best preparation cos we had to do a soundcheck and the first band on stage at 12 noon. With hindsight shouldn’t have played Manchester, but had a good time the rest of the day playing to a very large audience at Gateshead stadium.

Did you go in the studio with Fist ?

Yes we recorded the Back With a Vengeance album and the feeling then around the band and the songs was great. There was magic in the air. We also recorded a single on Neat records in 1982, it was an easy going pop song called The Wanderer with Too Hot on the b side. The Wanderer was just a laugh really, I don’t think we even played it live.

But some people thought we had mellowed and gone poppy by releasing it, but no, it was never meant to be a serious record. Then about a year later Status Quo recorded a version and got it in the charts. The picture on the front cover is me with my long hair – I haven’t got that now but I still think I’ve got that jacket (laughs).

When did Fist call it a day ?

We didn’t call it a day as such, it just kind of fizzled out. We were still rehearsing new stuff in Harry’s pub (Hill, drummer) as he had got into the pub game by then. But I don’t think any live dates were coming in. It’s a hard game to keep going.

But Fist played some memorable gigs. On 7 May 1984 we opened for Motorhead at Hammersmith Odeon on their No Remorse tour. It was great they had the Bomber lighting rig. I just remember seeing the first two or three rows singing along to songs we had wrote, it was such a buzz.

Afterwards we were upstairs in the Green Room drinking, Motorhead were there and Young Blood, the other band who were on. Lemmys son was also there, who is a good looking lad – all the lasses fancied him (laughs).

What are you doing now ?

Fist are still active. We’ve got Mark Jackson in on drums because unfortunately Harry Hill had to retire due to health problems. Last year we were still gigging and ready to go in the studio, but the March lockdown came so that put a stop to it.

We’ve got an albums worth of new material so when we can, Covid permitting, we will go in the studio and record the songs cos they can’t be left on the shelf.

Interview by Gary Alikivi    February 2021.

ROCK n ROLL DREAMS

with Dean ‘Deano’ Robertson former guitarist with Tygers of Pan Tang.

How long were you a member of the Tygers ?

I was in the band just over 12 years. After Robb (Weir), I’m the longest serving guitarist.

Why did you leave ?

At that time I wanted more from the band including more gigs and I felt my writing ideas were stifled by the Tygers style. I could write typical Tygers style songs but a lot of my songs needed a different outlet – but the grass ain’t always greener and all that. I’ll always be grateful for my time with Robb and the Tygers.

Dean has an impressive list of recordings from his time in the Tygers – Mystical (2001), Noises from the Cathouse (2003), Animal Instinct (2008) and Ambush (2012).

Two live albums, In the Roar in 2003 and 2005’s Leg of the Boot, recorded in Holland. Plus a couple of EP’s, Back and Beyond in 2007, Wildcat Sessions in 2010 and the Spellbound Sessions  in 2011.

There was also a compilation album produced in 2003, Second Wave – 25 years of NWOBHM, which included five songs each from Tygers, Girlschool and Oliver/Dawson Saxon.

What was your experience of studio work ?

Everything with the Tygers was fun – studio, rehearsals, travelling and gigs. It all seemed fairly relaxed to me. The days working with producer Chris Tsangarides in his studio was fun and a memory I’ll cherish.

I worked with Chris at a studio in London for the Second Wave album with Girlschool and OD Saxon. Plus we recorded the album Ambush in his own studio in Dover. He was a great guy, up for any suggestions and would give his advice when he thought it was needed or asked for.

His walls were covered in gold and platinum discs by some great inspiring bands, plus a few strange ones – I remember him making a point of showing us the Samantha Fox one (laughs). 

I remember him sat at his desk with a guitar in his hand while we were recording, and when we would come back in, he would be playing a version of the riff or wanting to know a part he couldn’t work out. We could have easily spent the first week just chatting, he had some amazing stories.

The best for me was Judas Priest, he talked about how Rob Halford was just incredible and had perfect pitch every session and the music from the metal gods was intense. But he would listen to the band chatting in the studio and their Brummie accents made him laugh.

When did you pick up the guitar & what were your early days like in music ?

I live in the North East now, but I’m originally from London and I got my first guitar when I was around 9 year old from my cousins future husband. At the stag party I pestered my Dad all day for him to buy it, he waited till the groom was drunk and offered him £10. Then he came home with a Zenta Strat copy and a Leo 6 watt amp. It was nice he came to see me in the Tygers years later. 

Playing live in bands in the early days was the usual pub and club circuit, then I joined a club rock band where I met up with Craig Ellis (drums) and Brian West (bass). Eventually our friendship took us into the Tygers.

How did the job come about ?

Brian West was the first of us to join the Tygers, who at that time were just Robb Weir (guitarist) and vocalist Tony Liddle. Brian got a call from Tony who he knew and had worked with before. The Tygers had almost completed the Mystical album (2001) and needed second guitar and drums for live work. I came in and played a couple of solos for the album.

When I ran through a few old tracks with Robb in the studio he seemed quite pleased that I had done my homework on the songs. We then booked a rehearsal studio for a week and jammed through most tracks. I’m not sure Robb was that interested in spending time auditioning after that cos basically we hit it off instantly and he was happy with my playing. Gigs were already lined up and Robb wanted to get out there again.

Where was your first gig in the Tygers ?

I always reminded Robb that my second gig I ever went to was the Tygers/Magnum and Def Leppard concert at Newcastle City Hall – I still have the ticket stub. (Wild Cat tour April 20 1980).

We were signed to Z Records who asked us to headline a Z Rock festival in Wigan. Robb had asked if we could be further down the bill with it being our first gig and at short notice, but it was already advertised as a Tygers comeback show.

Our singer Tony was also working in another band and was in Russia while we were in rehearsals. Therefore we only had one day with Tony and he wanted to change the songs and order. It was a shambles – definitely one to try and forget.

(Set list.com have the gig on 26 August 2001 featuring Tyketo, Contagious, Jaded Heart).

Blimey ? Can’t remember the date, somewhere I have a video from the show. I think the gig was at a venue called Maximes, I only remember Tyketo being on the bill, Danny Vaughan is such a good vocalist.

A few weeks later we went to Germany for another Z Rock Festival and that was a lot better. However Z Management were not happy with Tony on vocals, so after two gigs we were looking for a new singer.

Gav Gray, Robb Weir, Jack Meille, Craig Ellis & Deano.

Have you any road stories from gigging with the Tygers ?

I’ve so many great memories, and met so many great people. We used to get up to a lot of mischief in hotels, even two minutes before walking onstage there was always something going on.

Once Robb nearly crashed our van in Germany and almost ended up fighting with the other driver because of Craig. Craig and I were always the last to bed and our ‘Tygers Night Game Compendium’ became famous for all the wrong reasons – say no more about that.

Robb, Craig, Gav and Me sat with our trousers round our ankles watching the 50 second beat the clock Babestation challenge as a set up for our Manager and vocalist Jack – don’t think they were impressed !

Were there any songs you looked forward to playing in the live set ?

I liked playing Hellbound and when we put a new album track into the set. Unfortunately never got to play any Ambush tracks live, would have loved to play the song I wrote Rock n Roll Dream.

What are you doing now and do you keep in touch with the Tygers ?

I was playing in top AC/DC tribute Live Wire – The AC/DC Show for a few years after I left the Tygers. I started playing bass and singing in a trio where we rehearsed up a few of my Tygers tracks and wrote new material but it never made it to the stage. 

I speak regularly to Craig and Robb, and Micky (Crystal) who took my place in the Tygers.  When this year finally gets going again I hope to meet up with the Tygers again at a venue and say hello to the new boy Francesco, be nice if you were there too Gary.

But yeah I’m still writing, mainly lyrics and the odd riff. I have a few old ideas that might rear their ugly heads at some point, you never know.

Finally, what does music mean to you ?

It was an escape. Really, just a way of life.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  February 2021

Check the official Tygers of Pan Tang website for a full discography:

Tygers Of Pan Tang – The Official Site

THE THRILL OF IT ALL

with former Southbound vocalist/guitarist, Alan Burke.

Back in 2019 I interviewed drummer Michael Kelly (link below). He talked about his time playing in North East bands The Virgins, Stampede and Southbound. This post features another member of that band….

I know you’ve had a comprehensive conversation with Mick Kelly so not sure how much I can add to the Southbound story but I’ve put a few things down. To be fair Mick certainly has the best memory and was careful to record and document things – a real organiser! Anyway here goes.

When did you first pick up the guitar and play live ?

I started playing at an early age and was pushed into a first gig without any experience of playing on stage with a group called Arabesque in a club called Stormont Main in Gateshead. I was 17, and at some points I didn’t know what the hell I was doing – a real baptism of fire.

Then a band called Southbound came knocking. George Lamb (guitar) asked if I wanted to join him in a band with Keith Nicholson (bass) and Alan Gordon (drums). Mal Troughton was the singer. After intensive rehearsals we started gigging in pubs and clubs doing covers. George and I were focused on developing strong three part harmonies and twin lead guitar which became a signature sound.

We became established quickly and George and I started to compose our own songs, a couple of the first ones being High Time and Summer Sound. Davy Giles (bass) and Mick Kelly (drums) came along and joined a little later.

We started playing more of our own songs than anything else and we’re still proud of them today. Bill Sharpe joined as singer for a short time and Richard Archibald towards the end, but there was a long period when George and I played guitar and shared lead vocals/harmonies – a time I really enjoyed. I felt it pushed me on a professional and personal level.

What other bands were around at the time ?

Bands like Junco Partners, Kip, Scratchband, Young Bucks, Eastcoast Sidekick to name but a few.

Alan in white t shirt, Malcolm Troughton with tambourine, Davy Giles on bass and George Lamb at opposite end to Alan. Can’t see Mick Kelly on drums.

Can you remember what venues you were playing ?

We played North East pubs and working men’s clubs such as Wheatley Hill, Thornley, West Cornforth, High Pit, Forest Hall and many others. We travelled across country also getting down to London. A few stand out gigs are Sunderland Mecca, Newcastle Mayfair, Newcastle Poly (now Northumbria), Cooperage and Guild Hall in Newcastle. I remember supporting Def Leppard the night they got signed up.

We did the Durham Domefest for a few years working our way up the bill each year and I really enjoyed our weekly residency at the Gosforth Hotel in Gosforth High Street. We took over from Last Exit, Sting’s band at the time. I remember a packed house every time, they even stood on the stairs.

What I didn’t enjoy was lugging equipment up and down stairs alongside our dedicated roadies/fans. Mick was hoping to organise a get together at the Gosforth Hotel in 2020 but Covid put paid to that.

Did you record any of your songs ?

We wrote a lot of songs and Mick saved a lot of live recordings. We did a more formal recording in Impulse studio, Wallsend, which was exciting at the time. When the studio closed down they discovered some recordings and they digitally remastered them which was really unexpected. Even today I am still proud of the songs we wrote.

Mal and Alan on guitar.

Looking back to those times does it bring back any stand out memories ?

Gigging with Southbound always felt like a great night out with my mates. They were great lads and we were always laughing even though we took our music very seriously. There were no egos and we all got on well.

I remember a gig in Seahouses when we picked up a former GI from America who was hitch-hiking. He came to the gig and a big fight broke out. We had to stop playing while the GI got stuck in along with a well-known North East actor. (Alan wouldn’t say who, but my money’s on that 6 ft brickie with a chipped tooth, his wife was called Marjorie).

One night we got snowed in during a gig in Wes Cornforth and stayed overnight at the concert chairman’s house. I remember he had crossed swords hanging on the wall. He removed one and started chasing us with it trying to jab us – I hid in the toilet.

Basically I had the time of my life. It was always a great laugh. It still surprises me today how well we got on and still do. I often think about how we would have done if we had got signed up.

Do you come from a musical family ?

My parents used to sing at ‘Go As You Please’ venues, as they were called then, but I wouldn’t say we were a musical family. They always encouraged me and I was sent to piano lessons as a child however I knew it was the guitar for me. I used a guitar belonging to a guy who lived on my estate. He taught me the basics sitting on the steps outside his house, but I’m mostly self-taught.

I used the Fender Telecaster my Dad bought for me in 1976 from a small music store in Jarrow. I’d been searching Newcastle shops but just couldn’t find the right one. As soon as I played the Telecaster I knew it was for me and I used it right up until I had to stop playing due to illness in 2014.

My telecaster changed appearance over the time in terms of colour, pick-ups and other additions, but for me it always gave me the wide range of guitar sound required during my career. I bought different guitars but it was always the telecaster.

What does music mean to you ?

Music has essentially been my life’s passion and allowed me to form great lasting friendships. I went on to play with musicians who are well regarded locally including Pat McMahon (Idle Hands), Ray Stubbs and the All Stars during which time I honed my ability to play blues. The Annie Orwin Band, when we played versions of some unusual and interesting songs and with Paddy Doughty in the Rain Kings, who I consider to have a great blues voice.

At 40 I went to University to become a music teacher and worked in high schools and finally a great little school called Southlands in Tynemouth. At the same time I worked as a guitar tutor in a private school in Sunderland and got children and adults through their exams with sustained success.

What are you doing now ?

I have a rare medical disorder called Amyloidosis Polyneuropathy which means I can’t use my hands to play guitar. I did some singing but my vocal chords were affected too. During lockdown I was encouraged to take up the harmonica which I’m loving. I use a neck rack which slows me a little but I’m working hard so you never know.

Not sure if this was any good to you but I enjoyed remembering the Southbound experience.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  January 2021.

ALL RIGHT NOW with Michael Kelly former drummer with North East band Southbound | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

VOTE FOR THE VELVET TONES OF TEESSIDE

with North East UK Blues artist, Emma Wilson

Votes are being cast for the 2021 Finals of the UK Blues Awards. The finalists were nominated by 1000 influential people on the UK Blues scene and now it’s down to the public to vote who they want to win.

This year Emma ‘Velvet Tones of Teesside’ Wilson, is after your vote in the Emerging Artist of The Year category. This category is for an artist who has significantly raised their profile, experience and presence on the UK blues scene.

Emma, who learnt her craft gigging around the Teesside and North Yorkshire area, is the sole representative from the North East…

‘Yeah I am and it’s down to the support of the Blues community particularly on my home turf here in the North East that my records have done so well and I have been noticed’.

Emma explained… I’m delighted to be in the Emerging Artist category. I was able to release two records in 2020 during lockdown simply using piano accompaniment.

Dean Stockdale recorded his piano parts from home as I was unable to get my band in the studio. The fact my voice is so exposed has struck a chord with DJs and Journalists – they seem to like it.

I was lucky to have great reviews and lots of airplay for my ‘Feelgood’ album which hit No1 on UK Independent Blues Broadcasters Association and received 4 stars in Music News. It also charted in the USA and Holland.

My ‘LoveHeart’ album reached No.7 in the UK Independent Blues Broadcasters and my single specially recorded for lockdown, ‘Hold On’, received UK and International airplay’.

‘I don’t have a big PR machine working for me, I do everything from home. Every vote for me counts because I’m up against some bands with huge followings. Thank you for your support, I really appreciate it. I hope everyone is doing ok and staying well, we’ll get there. Love, Emma x’

The voting is from 1st to 15th Feb inclusive.

Vote for your North East Blues Queen here

www.ukbluesawards.com 

Interview by Gary Alikivi  February 2021

Check out Emma’s official website:  www.emmawilson.net

THE ITALIAN JOB

with new Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist, Francesco Marras

We’re in a fast moving situation with a pandemic that changes daily – nothing is certain resulting in no hard planning. Live events have been cancelled or tour dates rescheduled for later in the year, or in some cases 2022. The entertainment industry is being starved and left in the red.

Bands are waiting for a message to ping – it’s back on, off you go and normal life resumes – or maybe not. Like being stuck in a holding pattern waiting for permission to go. Forever on amber?

But the Tygers are preparing themselves for the green light. After the departure of guitarist Micky Crystal in April 2020 – a member for seven years and releasing one of their best albums in Ritual – time has come for someone else to step up, and into the cage.

Welcome Francesco Marras originally from the warm Meditteranean island, Sardinia, but now based in Germany… Yes, I live in Germany now. I love my country but it’s not the best place to live for a musician. Everything happened for me in Sardinia, I was born and raised there. I got into music at first because of my older brother. I started to listen to heavy metal with Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind album when I was only 8. The music inspired me to learn to play guitar at 11. I’ve been playing for 27 years now.

Francesco started playing guitar by jamming with friends then formed a band….I always wrote my own music and founded a classic metal band that later became Screaming Shadows and we recorded four albums.

In the Name of God (2006)

So you know your way around a studio ?

Yes the first album Behind the Mask was released in 2003 and was self-produced.

Both In the Name of God (2006) and New Era of Shadows (2009) came out for the Italian label, My Graveyard Productions, and were recorded mainly in my recording studio in Sardinia. Night Keeper was recorded between my studio and Mattia (drummer), Elnor Studio. We mixed the album and it came out in 2011 for Jolly Roger Records.

Then in 2011 I started my solo career where I recorded two more albums and worked as a session musician.

Now you’ve joined the Tygers will you be looking to use that studio experience ?

Yes in the last few month we have worked very hard writing new songs for the next album and I can say that we are very happy about the results. We will start the production soon and we are going to release an EP to open the road towards the new album.

How did the job in the Tygers come about ?

Growing up listening to English heavy metal I knew of the band, and thanks to a dear friend of mine, who told me they were looking for a guitar player, I read the post on the Tygers’ official Facebook page and sent in a video of the two songs they requested – Don’t Stop By and Hellbound, both from the Spellbound album.

For a long time I didn’t get any answer so I wasn’t expecting to get the job – but here I am in the end.

How do you feel about following in the footsteps of Sykes/Purser/Robertson/Crystal, and what will you bring to the table ?

It is a great honor for me to follow them, the band has a long tradition of great guitar players and I’m here to keep the tradition alive. The basics of Tygers music are great solos and powerful guitar riffs, and that is what the fans will have with the new album.

At this time I am recording a lot of new material as I have the possibility to work from home but the thing I miss most is playing live. I really can’t wait to share the stage with my new band mates and meet all the Tygers’ fans around the world – Rock’n’roll!  

Check the official Tygers website for new releases and news:

Tygers Of Pan Tang – The Official Site

Interview by Gary Alikivi January 2021.

RAW MEAT IN THE SONIC MINCER #3

Looking back at the Music weeklies:

OZZY, TYGERS & NWOBHM.

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.

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 Pat Benatar.

Pat Benatar, front cover Sounds 20.12.80.

In the early ‘80s North East based music journalist Ian Ravendale worked for Sounds, when I interviewed him in August 2018 he talked about that time…

‘I was freelancing at Sounds, writing articles and reviewing gigs, some of which were of local bands. One time the Tygers of Pan Tang were supporting Saxon and I’d gone along. I’d previously written a review of Saxon which included something along the lines of ‘in six month time they’ll be back playing social clubs’.

At the gig, Tygers guitarist Robb Weir came up to me and said ‘Biff (Byford, Saxon vocalist) is looking for you’. Fortunately he didn’t find me….Not yet, anyway.’

North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal feature by Ian Ravendale, Sounds May 1980.

An edition of Sounds in May 1980 featured a renowned NWOBHM article that Ravendale wrote featuring Tyneside metal bands Mythra, Fist, Raven, Tygers  and White Spirit…

‘A lot of local bands I reviewed were from Sunderland, Newcastle and South Shields. I’d already written articles about the Tygers, Fist and Raven. Geoff Barton, the assistant editor at Sounds, asked me to source a few more bands for a 4,000 word article. ‘The North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ was born’.

Back in November 2017 I asked Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist Robb Weir if he was aware of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal…

‘Only when I read about it in Sounds, a two page spread by Geoff Barton. He had started writing about the music – he may have coined the phrase ? Reading it I thought, so we’re NWOBHM eh (laughs).

Robb also talked about how a review of their first single in Sounds was instrumental in the early success of the band, and had no idea about the fierce storm ahead…

‘In 1979 we went into Impulse Studio in Wallsend and recorded ‘Don’t Touch Me There’. They took a chance and pressed 1,000 copies. We got the single reviewed in Sounds newspaper so the next pressing was 4,000. Then Neat label owner Dave Woods was approached by MCA and did a deal. MCA pressed around 50,000 copies. But our success still hadn’t sunk in. You’re just in it you know, the musical blender getting whizzed around’.

Tygers of Pan Tang – Wildcat tour dates.

Weir added that the music press helped create a good feeling about the band, but change was in the air….

‘We had done the Wildcat tour, a sell out across the UK. There was a buzz in the music press, full page adverts in Sounds, NME, Melody Maker and Record Mirror. It was all going really well. But a meeting with management said ‘with the singer you have we can’t further your career outside the UK’.

After seeing a notice in a music weekly, vocalist Jon Deveril made his way up North and was made an offer he couldn’t refuse. He told me about that time…

‘I was gigging around South Wales with Persian Risk and saw an ad in Melody Maker about the Tygers looking for a new singer. I very much wanted to join them. I got in touch and came up to Newcastle for an audition and got the job. My life changed forever. A once in a lifetime chance, I still can’t believe my good fortune’.

Music journalist Ian Ravendale continued slogging around the North reviewing bands. He told me about an Ozzy gig he worked at…

I found metal bands easy to take the piss out of – and I did. I remember my opening line ‘What I want to know is, how is Ozzy Osbourne so cabaret?’. This stimulated very angry letters like ‘How dare Ian Ravendale slag off Ozzy. I’ve seen him and he was great’  

Geoff (Barton, Sounds Assistant Editor) never said to me, ‘We’ve got a big metal readership can you go easy on them’ He never wanted me to do that.

Ozzy Osbourne back page apology in Sounds 19.12.81.

In 19 December 1981 issue, a full back page apology from Ozzy appeared. He cancelled his British tour and a full explanation was offered promising to return with ‘a show like you’ve never seen before’.

His fans were disappointed but the apology through Sounds was a good move. His popularity didn’t suffer and returned to a sell-out tour exactly a year later where I saw the band at Newcastle and Leeds.

Ozzy and ‘Ronnie’ the dwarf. Sounds interview 24.4.82.

The Speak of the Devil tour controversially featured a dwarf he named Ronnie – a reference to the new Sabbath vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Ozzy would bring the dwarf on stage and hang him. Ozzy was right, I’d never seen that before.

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.

RAW MEAT IN THE SONIC MINCER #2

Looking back at Sounds Music weekly 4th October 1980.

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.

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 Damned/Cramps/Costello. Take your pick of front covers splashed with Strummer/Coverdale or Kate Bush.

Kate Bush, Sounds front cover 30.8.80

This post highlights Sounds issue 4th October 1980. The music weekly has a Geoff Barton interview with Ozzy Osbourne who had just been sacked by Black Sabbath. With Ozzy in a full blown howling blizzard of cocaine and alcohol, he formed a new band – Blizzard of Oz with Randy Rhoads, Lee Kerslake and Bob Daisley.

Ozzy said in the pieceI was panicking, wondering whether my voice would pack in, whether I could still handle it’. He had nothing to worry about as he still toured and recorded for 40 years leading up to Covid.

Ozzy Osbourne, Sounds front cover 4.10.80.

On page 2 among stories of another tour date for XTC, there was a piece about Ian Gillan

putting the mockers on suggestions that he will be taking part in a Deep Purple reunion’.

Further down the page the article mentions a connection to the North East, this one really close to home with The Customs House in South Shields nearby. A close look sees a paragraph on

South Tyneside Arts and Music Association buying the Customs and Excise building for £1. Trouble is it’s going to cost £400,000 to renovate’.

To raise funds the South Tyneside Arts & Music Association set about organising gigs. The article added They are staging gigs this month at South Shields New Crown Hotel with Raven on the 9th, and Erogenous Zones with Night Flight on the 23rd’.

The Association also held a festival headlined by The Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. Unfortunately the challenge proved too great and Tyne & Wear Development Corporation took over renovations with a Government grant.

Today, The Customs House is a theatre, cinema and arts centre. Latest bookings at the venue have been bands on the tribute circuit, Tina Turner Experience, The Carpenters Gold and the ELO show. Over the years the centre has seen gigs by Ray Davies, Ian Hunter, Judie Tzuke and Belinda Carlisle.

10 mile up the Tyne in Gateshead is The Sage which opened in 2004, it has developed into a top class venue. I talked to Ray Spencer back in September 2018 and asked him what changes had he seen since becoming Director of the Customs House in 2000 ?

‘In terms of music programming the thing that impacted most was The Sage. When Customs House opened there was no Gala in Durham, there was no Exchange in North Shields, there was no Sage or Baltic in Gateshead and no 10 screen multi-plex up the road in Boldon.

When The Sage opened it just destroyed our guitar festival, a lot of musical acts that used to come here simply stopped. They were going there to play a big shiny building. So our music content has been damaged’.

Singles review, Sounds 4.10.80.

Included in the music weekly is a regular feature reviewing new singles. The record of the week is Change/Requiem by Killing Joke. The reviewer was not too kind on Thin Lizzy single Killer on the Loose, Disapointing, highly predictable’ or Army Dreamers by Kate Bush ‘Poor little rich girl having another breath of social comment. Any message is effectively obliterated by Miss Bush’s dentist drill warbles’ ouch!

Page 36 has the albums review. Four out of five stars for Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police featuring Wallsend born Stingit’s a record that comes truly from three diverse experienced men without any pandering to their status’ (Phil Sutcliffe).

A five star review for The Plasmatics, ‘Buy this record, it firmly establishes The Plasmatics as Americas foremost bozo punk band (Steve Keaton).

There is four and a half stars for a very young looking U2 and their new record Boymaybe their multi-layered sound might steer them off the chartwise course, but if it’s plain simple feeling you want – there’s cupfulls in here’ (Betty Page).

Gig dates including Tygers of Pan Tang, White Spirit & The Carpettes. Sounds 4.10.80.

Flicking through the back pages the UK gig list has dates at London venues for two NWOBHM bands from the North East. Tygers of Pan Tang from Whitley Bay, are on at the Marquee, and White Spirit from Teesside, opening for Gillan at Hammersmith Odeon.

On Monday 6th,Tyneside rock band Fist, opened for UFO at Bristol Colston Hall. I interviewed drummer Harry Hill back in March 2019, and asked him about his memory of that UK tour…

’We had a great time. I remember we were playing Hammersmith Odeon and a guy was heckling us. Really pissed me off. So I put my sticks down, jumped off stage and chased him into the foyer to give him a good kicking. Thinking back, the Hammersmith had a high stage so I must have been fit to get down and run after him (laughs)’.

In support of their new album on Beggars Banquet, Fight Amongst Yourselves, The Carpettes, who formed in Houghton-le-Spring, have four dates with one at Newcastle Cooperage on October 8th. I got in touch with guitarist Neil Thompson who remembers that time…

‘It was our second gig at the Cooperage. We never played there while we were living in the North East. We were living in London in August when we came up to play then. I remember we went down well both times and on the October date Treatment Room were support’.

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.

RAW MEAT IN THE SONIC MINCER #1

Looking back at the 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