When I was younger in the ’70s the first time I heard the Queen song Brighton Rock it was an absolute humdinger with guitar ‘n’ drums blistering through a tunnel melting me ears – there was magic in the air alright. Reaching that euphoric moment when you want a song to instantly repeat is a fantastic feeling.
Music also has an incredible power to pick you up, light a fire in yer belly and head off any shit storm coming your way. And there are plenty hard times ahead courtesy of the snivelling Tory party shovelling shit hot off the shovel. When are some grown up’s gonna take over?
But how has music affected me ? Music has always been there it’s been a constant through my life. Looking back my early listening days were a great comfort and education. My first lesson was hearing my mams Country & Western records on the stereo in the sitting room.
I have two older brothers and a sister, one brother was an apprentice chippie (joiner) and our house needed extra room so his woodworking skills created a partition to make extra bedrooms where they would turn on and turn up their record players for my second lesson.
The eldest brother would be playing Dylan or Neil Young, the chippie would be Queen or Elvis Costello, and coming out of my sisters room was a collection of pop singles – I would sit on the stairs and listen to an eclectic mix of music for young ears.
Fast forward to today where I don’t download music, for my fix I visit the South Shields market and charity shops who have an ever increasing stock of cd’s. There’s a buzz to who you might find. The latest booty has included Country & Western compilations. One day when I was searching through a rack there was an old feller next to me, I said to him…
‘These aren’t in alphabetical order so hopefully I might hit lucky and find something by Tammy Wynette’, he shot back ‘Best get the ferry over to North Shields there’s plenty of Country and Western in their charity shops, they love their twang’.
Would the music of today provide an education as strong as those bands I listened to back in the day ? In 30, 40 or 50 year time would Ed Sheeran and all the others who, make radio adverts sound interesting, be remembered ?
It’s said that some things are best left broken, I can agree with that, but in times of extreme worry or stress it’s comforting to know that music is always there in the background ready to step in if needed – it’s good to know there’s still a little magic in the air.
The Roksnaps feature on this blog has photographs sent in by concert goers who captured the atmosphere of gigs at Newcastle City Hall and the Mayfair. Among the many bands pictured were Whitesnake, Motorhead, Scorpions and North East band, Fist.
Whitley Bay’s Tygers of Pan Tang were snapped by John Edward Spence who told me “I used to go to loads of gigs at the Newcastle City Hall and Mayfair. I was lucky enough to see the bands associated with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal – just loved the music around then”.
John’s pics are from 1980/81 with Jess Cox on vocals who was eventually replaced by Welsh frontman Jon Deverill, and a second guitarist John Sykes joined Thin Lizzy and was replaced by former Penetration guitarist Fred Purser. The original Tygers engine room of guitarist Robb Weir, bassist Rocky Laws and Brian Dick on drums completed the line-up.
In 1982 the five piece band recorded one of their most successful albums, The Cage. On the subsequent tour I remember catching them live on their home patch at a packed Newcastle Mayfair on Friday 3rd September 1982.
Recently the Tygers management issued a plea “40 years ago this month The Cage tour began at Newcastle’s Mayfair Ballroom. At the time it was the bands most successful outing and we visited the best venues in the country including Manchester Apollo and Hammersmith Odeon. Support came from our old mate Kev Riddles’ Tytan. It’s a pity we have no photos from The Cage tour, unless of course anyone out there has any?”
“We realise it was 40 years ago but if you can help with the request for any pic’s – maybe they’re in the loft or in a box at the back of the garage – there’s got to be some out there”.
If you can help please don’t hesitate to get in touch. All emails will be passed onto the Tygers management or contact the official website:
In an interview Angelic Upstarts singer/songwriter/leader/chief, Mensi Mensforth (RIP) told me that ‘To be in a band you don’t have to be a prolific musician or go to art school you can just bang a dustbin lid and you’re away mate’.
Over 40 years ago in a working class pit village in County Durham a gang of brothers crashed into each other and were named The Sadistic Slobs.
To sift through the damage I met up with Paddy (vocals) and Gran (bass) in The Littlehaven Hotel, South Shields.
Gran: Me and Paddy first met after I was locked up at Roker Park, Sunderland football ground. What happened was a lad standing next to me had a butchers knife and was banging it on the gates, he saw police coming so passed it to me.
Well I got marched around the pitch and put in a cell, and who else did I find there ? it was only Paddy’s brother. I told him my story wanting to be in a band and you know what he said ? ‘Don’t let our young ‘un sing…..he can’t’. But he’s still here now and doing a great job.
Where did it all begin ?
Paddy: In the ‘70s we were living in Fencehouses near Sunderland and nothing much was happening. I was into glam rock first then suddenly got hit by punk.
Gran:Never Mind the Bollocks changed everything, it opened my eyes, that Pistols album cannot be beaten, then I started listening to The Clash who I still play to this day.
Paddy: Suddenly around the village it was like an institution to be in a band, everybody was wanting to start or be in a group. Bands like The Carpettes were around, The Proles had just put out a single and we all thought ‘we want to do that’. I remember buying the 7” in a record shop in Houghton le spring.
Then starting a band there was lots of comings and goings of different line ups, someone once turned up with only a cymbal and a snare drum.
Gran: We started rehearsing one song and said ‘right that’s in the set’. All the songs were like that, done very fast.
Paddy: I remember our drummer used to bring his kit in a wheelbarrow.
Gran: Yeah we had a roadie as well, and his younger brother came along and made it two roadies!
Paddy: But eventually we got a settled line up in 1982.
Gran: Unlike other punk bands we weren’t political, we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
Paddy: We did play some Rock Against Racism gigs and done stuff for Animal Charity’s. Funny enough these days we are a lot more popular than we were back then, we have a decent following and the new album is out.
Gran: Five year ago we got back together and added more catchy songs to our set and we’ve recorded an album.
Where did you gig in the early days ?
Paddy: Places like Peterlee football club, Fowlers Yard in Durham, Chester le Street and Ferryhill supporting GBH. We played in the Robin Adair pub, it was notorious as one of the roughest pubs in Newcastle and eventually got burned down. It was a sort of workingmen’s club.
Gran: On the night of the gig we went in with our mohicans and the poster on the wall advertised us as a comedy show group!
Paddy: There were only a few people there, I’m sure one of them had a dog.
Gran: Aye when we finished the committee guy popped his head around the door and said ‘you can rehearse here again next week’.
We played the famous Old 29 pub in Sunderland and a band called Animated Coathangers supported us. When we were on stage our friends were jumping about, the floor was bouncing and going to collapse. The manager ran out threatening them with a baseball bat shouting ‘will ya’ stop pogoing’ (laughs).
Paddy: It was like walking on a sheet of glass with all the broken bottles on the floor.
Gran: Rock bands played there on a Saturday afternoon, I remember before a Sunderland match we went in and two lads were pissing on the fire – imagine the stench! But yeah saw the Toy Dolls in there and The Proles of course who are still very good friends of ours. Aye really good days.
What other bands were around at the time?
Gran: There was and still is Uproar who we played with recently.
Paddy: Red Alert, Red London and we played in a band in the early days with Steve Straughan who’s in the UK Subs now. All good lads you know.
In the North East during the early ‘80s as the shipyards and pits were being closing down and the Miners strike was boiling over did you get involved in any fund raising for the miners families ?
Gran: No but we were pinching coal from the coke works ! We didn’t play any Miners Benefit gigs or charities to be honest we were just happy being in a band. You see its all about enjoying it for us, being with mates, not taking it too seriously and definitely no egos.
Paddy: We were never a protest band and we’re keeping it light hearted even now. A lot of songs are tongue in cheek. We’re nearly 60 year old we can’t be jumping all over the place you know.
Gran: In our songs we can take the piss out of each other, it’s all about having a laugh for us.
Paddy: I joined when I was 16 and probably took myself serious then but times change, life happens.
Gran: With our roadies and followers we all get on so well it’s like a family.
Paddy: Yeah it’s called The Slob Squad and not one of us are a full shilling!
Gran: Sometimes it’s like a day out for everyone like ‘last of the summer wine’. We played Rebellion Festival in August and went on stage 12.30pm, there was a couple of hundred people in the audience but more outside couldn’t get in, not sure why they were stuck outside might have been a problem with security on the main doors. But we just got on and done our thing on stage.
Paddy: We enjoyed it and had a great time, would love to go back and play again.
Where did you record the new album ?
Gran: My mate Wayne Marshall in Pelton Fell has his own digital set up at home that’s why it’s called Bedrock Studios. He was guitarist in a band I was in years ago called The Scream. It’s come out great he’s a talented lad.
Gran: We went ahead and got 500 copies printed of the album and that’s starting to sell and we are looking to record a second one. We’re not in it to make money, not that bands do anyway but to keep ticking over we’ve got a lot of merch on sale, even face masks!
Paddy: The quality is fantastic, ten songs, it’s heavy vinyl with a gatefold sleeve they’ve done a great job for us.
Gran: And on the back of the cover we’ve included a big thanks to people who’ve helped and supported us along the way.
Paddy: Yeah they’ve been with us for nearly 40 year. We done our first recording in Impulse Studio in Wallsend in 1983, I think the guy from Venom was working there then (bass & vocalist Cronos was tea maker/gofer).
What does punk mean to you ?
Both at the same time: Attitude.
Paddy: Now it’s as big as it ever was, we are getting more people at gigs than we used to. They have all grown up and their kids have grown up so they’ve time to go to gigs.
Gran: I’ve always said we are at a funny age – there’s a song in there somewhere! When we’re on stage once we stop seeing people laughing and enjoying themselves we’ll call it a day.
Paddy: In ’85 I was in The Scream we supported UK Subs at the Bunker in Sunderland there was maybe 15 people in the audience, now it’s growing because at a UK Subs gig there is easy 500 – 1,000. Always said that old punks are still punks.
Contact The Sadistic Slobs on social media for info/gigs and email email@example.com for details how to buy the album.
Well that wasn’t a bad place to do some filming. The past couple of years I’ve not been ‘on the tools’ doing as much camera work as I used to but this month was working on two video screen camera set up’s with the first at Mouth of the Tyne Festival at Tynemouth Priory where Keane headlined to a sell-out crowd (2019 pre covid was The Proclaimers and Rik Astley) plus at South Shields Bents Park on Sunday 10th July was Beth Macari supporting Will Young to an estimated 20,000+ crowd.
Both were captured by stunning drone shots which pictured the scale of the events held next to the coastline and on the North and South of the Tyne, plus the huge audiences soaking up the music and sun on a blistering hot summer weekend. Lee Davison was at Shields (with his pics making The Shields Gazette) and professional photographer Paul Appleby was at Tynemouth.
Yorkshire born Chris has authored eleven books, collaborated on two others, contributed to newspapers and magazines and written promotional material for local and international musicians.
Two of his books highlighted here are Boys in the Bands: Teesside’s Groups 1960-70 and Backstage Pass: Redcar Jazz Club.
“I felt those 1960s needed to be documented, the musical history needs preserving because once it’s gone, it’ll be lost forever”said Chris.
Saltburn born International rock star David Coverdale (Deep Purple/Whitesnake) added…
“Christopher Wilson has written and collated a genuinely touching and refreshing stroll down Memory Lane with this fabulous book. It opens so many joy filled memories of evenings spent in the breath taking company of the original Fleetwood Mac, The Who, Joe Cocker… many of whom I had the extraordinary pleasure of opening for when I was in local bands. A must have and a must read”.
What inspired you to research and put the books together ?
After writing five westerns, five local history books and a couple of historical fiction books, I wrote a piece about the band Cream in response to a request from an Australian website called Those Were The Days.
Also, two photographers who had covered Redcar Jazz Club were interested, one of them, Dennis Weller, read my piece on Cream and contacted me and proposed working together.
My initial interest in the Redcar Jazz club was ignited one night in 1966 when I sneaked in to watch a band I’d never heard of, they were billed as The Cream. That night changed my life.
I’d seen many acts at the Jazz Club so I set out to create a book I wanted to read, incorporating the club’s story, a full timeline of dates, what the headliners and support acts got paid, photographs, vignettes of the artists and ticket buyers – as many quotes as I could get.
For the designer I had a few ideas about layout and mocked up a few pages to help explain what sort of format we wanted. It was very primitive, I was flying by the seat of my pants. Eventually it was pasted up for the printer and became Backstage Pass : Redcar Jazz Club.
After publication, a big surprise was an unsolicited email out of the blue from Ed Bicknell who managed Dire Straits, Gerry Rafferty, Bryan Ferry and Scott Walker among others, and his email was headed FOREWORD (for the next edition). That in itself was proof he liked the book enough to have his name on it.
In Boys in the Band I look at the 1960’s where many pubs and workingmen’s clubs provided venues for bands who played most nights, a day off was a luxury. Most musicians were content in earning an extra few quid on their day job and having a laugh – others were more ambitious wanting to take it further. But they all started on Teesside honing their musical chops.
Chris drew on his experience as a drummer in the 1960s playing for local bands…
Yes I started playing drums in a band at school then switched to guitar, but after seeing Hendrix live at the Kirklevington Country Club and Cream twice I went back to playing drums and The Wheel played all over Teesside and North Yorkshire and as far south as Birmingham, we also played Annabel’s in Sunderland, the Quay Club in Newcastle and up to Ashington.
Late 60s early 70s I was in Candy Factory a professional club band who played workingmen’s clubs, including the infamous Downhill Social in Sunderland. Also the Bailey nightclub circuit including Change Is and La Dolce Vita in Newcastle, Latinos in South Shields and Wetherells in Sunderland when John Miles and Toby Twirl were on the circuit. We were offered work in South Africa and France but it didn’t feel right.
With a couple of line-up changes Candy Factory morphed into Pretty Like Me with a less friendly club repertoire and we were working from the Mayfair in Newcastle down to London, and picking up university gigs. But the mid-week gig staples were always those kids’ nights in the County Durham clubs when you could play heavy stuff. The mantra there was always, “Can you play The ‘unter or Born To be Wild?” Didn’t matter what else we played, we always played those.
Did you record any of your songs ?
We did cut a couple of demos of self-penned material. First was in a studio in a basement in Newcastle and another in Redcar, but we weren’t satisfied with them. They never seemed to capture what we thought we had. No cassettes then or CDs to bombard A&R guys with, we got a few expensive acetates which all seem to have disappeared now.
When the band later imploded I had to get a ‘proper job’ and working shifts in heavy industry, albeit mostly in laboratories, not conducive to a musical lifestyle. With not playing I needed a creative output and started writing, short stories at first, then books.
Where you surprised about the feedback for Backstage Pass and Boys in the Bands ?
I worried how many people were interested enough to buy a copy of Backstage Pass. In fact I was astonished at how well received it was. There is something to be said for timing, maybe we hit the right moment – after seven years it’s still selling.
It was launched at Kirkleatham Old Hall Museum and the photographers – Dennis Weller, Graham Lowe and I did signing sessions at bookshops. That book had been built around the photographs, which were extraordinary, but there were no images of the support bands except one, who had been personal friends of Graham. I insisted on including a few pages explaining who the support acts were and including them on the gig timeline.
After Backstage Pass was published, several local musicians hinted there had never been anything produced specifically about them, and although many of them had settled for a steady working lifestyle, their playing years, often only a handful, had been a big part of their lives – a big adventure.
I felt exactly like them. I had told stories of how it was – both the good and the bad, and the more I thought about it, more memories came back. I wanted to kick-start their memories too. Since Boys In The Bands has been released…well the comments from local musicians on my website reveal what they thought of it.
What are you working on now ?
I’m putting together a book about the Redcar Coatham Bowl which was open 1973 – 2014.Information and gig records are patchy, especially support bands, I think it’s important to include local musicians who worked just as hard as the headliners, and for a lot less.
At present I’m trying to confirm dates – and as a support bands’ name get mentioned I’m trying to contact them to confirm they played, and if they played other dates in the Bowl as yet unrecorded. This becomes especially difficult when bands are long disbanded and don’t maintain social media pages or websites.
If you have any information that will help Chris in his research or would like to buy his books contact him at his official website:http://www.chrisscottwilson.co.uk
The ep ‘A New Heartbeat’ is released this week is it a follow on in style from the last album ? The songs are classic Tygers and obviously new guitarist Franco has added a different dimension, but the Tygers are not looking to do a Jazz fusion reggae album – its Metal!
Did you listen to the Tygers when you were young and have you a favourite album ?
I loved the first three, production on ‘The Cage’ (1982) was a bit to “modern” for me with synth drums etc – but the songs were great. The last four albums have been incredible and that’s the reason I wanted to be part of the Tygers.
Unlike other bands of that era they aren’t living in the past, the newer albums are as good as, or arguably even better than their 80’s stuff.
I lived in Durham since I was 3 or 4 and the Tygers have a strong connection with Durham, their first gig was at the Coach and 8 in Durham. I saw them at Dunelm House when I was maybe 11, my sister was a big Tygers fan so that was passed onto me. I can also remember watching them on music TV shows E.C.T and the Whistle Test.
The street where I lived was full of teenage rock fans and at weekends used to have camp fires on the field next to me and play rock metal stuff – mainly Motorhead, Hawkwind and Sabbath.
We also had Guardian Studio’s in Pity Me village where me and my fledgling musician mates used to get music lessons at the time when the Tygers were doing the Spellbound demos at the studio, although I never met them.
I still see Terry Gavaghan (former owner/producer) and chat to him about his recollections of the Tygers, Terry loved working with the Tygers and got on well with Robb.
Huw learnt his trade playing in the North East with a number of bands before joining metal outfits Avenger and Blitzkreig.
I was asked to join Avenger in 2006 then a few year ago Brian Ross (vocals) got in touch and asked if I was interested in playing on a Blitzkrieg album as bassist Bill Baxter had left and they were about to sign a record contract. I agreed because at the time Avenger were not busy and it was my perception that Gary Young (drums) was doing a lot of work with his Death Metal project Repulsive Visions.
But Gary decided that my agreement with Blitzkrieg would limit Avenger’s opportunities so I was replaced. I have to say this was a business decision and there was no personal fall out, I’m still friends with all the Avenger boys.
In retrospect I’ve mixed feelings about my decision to join Blitzkrieg, but equally if I hadn’t joined I wouldn’t be with the Tygers now, and I wouldn’t have become good friends with Ken Johnson (guitar, Abaddon) he was ex-Blitzkrieg and principle song writer for the last 20 years, also Matthew Graham who is a great drummer and a fabulous chap, despite looking like a cheap tart.
After bassist Gav Grey left the Tygers last year to pursue other musical interests – then got the gig with NWOBHM band Tank – Huw stepped up to the plate.
I joined the band in August 2021, but on quite a few occasions before that I met the Tygers when I performed on the same bill at festivals when I was with Avenger or Blitzkrieg.
After submitting a demo I was invited for an audition on 31st July. I can remember the date because it was the day after my birthday, so instead of having a night out I stayed in to make sure I knew the tracks well.
For the demo I had to play along to Damn You from the last album ‘Ritual’ and Slave to Freedom from ‘Wildcat’ their debut. At the audition we done a few songs, the two tracks from the demo plus Love Don’t Stay from ‘Crazy Nights’ and Take It from ‘Spellbound’, we also played Gangland which I already knew from my younger years.
How’s it going recording the new album ? The new album is going great. It’s been quite hard work because I had to learn the full 20 song set list while also working out bass lines for the songs. The new songs had already been written before I joined so my contribution has only been to add to them. The band have been happy to include my favourites into the set list which was great.
As for the recording process I had to adapt to modern technology cos of Covid restrictions and play along to the demos using my home recording gear then email to the band members who say what they like or don’t like.
Once I got through quality control I then recorded the bass directly over the drums with a guide guitar from Franco. This is then sent to the studio who can ‘Re Amp’ my bass and Robb does his stuff.
Have you any live dates scheduled this year ? We had to reschedule dates that we had to cancel in late 2021 and early 2022, at the same time we need to keep time available for recording – yes we have a busy time ahead.
In the early 1980s the North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal included the big five of Raven, Fist, Venom, Satan and Tygers of Pan Tang. After a load of gigs played, records made and over 40 year experience in the music biz you’d think Tygers guitarist Robb Weir had seen it all.
The last three live shows the Tygers played were back in March 2020 when we went to Holland, Belgium and in Germany with Saxon. When we returned back to the UK a national lock down was imposed and that meant no more live appearances for a few months, or so we thought.
Here we are in February 2022 nearly two years on and our live shows are still being postponed, what is really going on? If you know please tell me as I have run out of patience!
How did you handle the lockdown ?
I write music all the time so when we were confined to our ‘living spaces’ I took the opportunity to demo some of the ideas I had with thoughts of the next album in mind.
Along with all this lock down caper we changed our guitar player and welcomed the amazing fretboard talents of Mr Francesco Marras into the Ambush – if you didn’t already know an ‘Ambush’ is the name for a gathering or group of tigers in the wild!
What was the recording process ?
I demoed about twenty songs and sent them to Francesco to get his input and fresh ideas on them. Francesco re-recorded them in his studio and with his musical additions took them to the next level. The only problem we had was deciding which ones were going to make the final cut onto the new album as they were all contenders.
At the same time we also decided to record an EP to give everyone a taste of what’s to come, also to showcase Francesco’s ability to play a lovely melodic guitar solo, so two new tracks were written.
We also asked Francesco which was his favourite track from Wildcat our first LP in 1980. He said ‘Killers’ was always one of his favourites and I had a bit of a passion to re-vamp ‘Fireclown’.
We set about recording these four tracks remotely in our own studios, I recorded my parts in Gav Gray’s studio as mine is out of the ark. The finished tracks were sent to Marco Angioni, at Angioni Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark to be mixed and then across to Harry Hess in Canada to be mastered.
Is there a release date for the record ?
‘A New Heartbeat,’ is officially released World Wide on February 25th with an accompanying video but can be purchased pre-release online now from the Tygers web shop (link below) also our record company’s web shop Target Records.
What’s next for the Tygers ?
Gav Gray (bass) decided he wanted to visit ‘pastures new’ after we finished the new recordings so we have now welcomed a new bass player into the Tygers family, Huw Holding.
I’m very excited about the new Tygers material as I feel it’s the strongest yet, but we’ll let you be the judge of that….best Tyger wishes to you all!
Music journalist Ian Penman (RIP), Newcastle City Hall photographer Rik Walton and Tygers of Pan Tang manager Tom Noble presented the Bedrock radio show on BBC Newcastle during the late 70’s and early ‘80s. The programme featured music, a gig guide and interviews with local and international bands.
I was sent some copies of the shows and one programme featured an interview with guitarists Robb Weir and John Sykes from Whitley Bay band Tygers of Pan Tang. Sykes had just been added to the Tygers line up.
IanPenman talks to Robb Weir and asks him how do you feel about John joining the band?
‘I didn’t like the idea at first, but Tom (Tygers manager) said when we were playing with the Scorpions and Saxon the sound lacked and we needed to do something about it. I’ve got enough confidence in the guy, I’ve known him a long time and he doesn’t often come out with bad ideas so I went along with his suggestion.’
‘When we’ve recorded in the past I’ve done a backing track no matter how far down in the mix it is, it’s always there. Rocky’s never wanted another guitarist, it might steal a bit of thunder in his bass lines, we’ve never considered one and we’ve never wanted a keyboard player’.
‘But having John in is good because he’s a tremendous guitarist and a much better guitarist than I am at playing lead guitar. I’m not resentful whatsoever, he adds to the sound in the band and seems very grateful to be in the Tygers as we have an LP out and are selling out shows.’
‘I took an open line with him saying I’m happy for you to play what you feel fits with my original guitar parts. If you have any more ideas chuck them in! I was very keen for us to share guitar solos with the likes of ‘Don’t Touch Me There’ where John plays the first I play the second. In ‘Rock n Roll Man’ he plays the first half of the guitar solo and I play the second and so on’.
‘Because he’s so good I’m not going to keep him down and restrict him to a couple of solos in the set. I wrote them all but he’s shit hot. We were having a game of space invaders and I said to him don’t worry if there’s any other guitarists out there who think they’re better than you, they won’t be! A big smile came across his face. The guy is very, very good, you can be the best guitarist in the world but if you haven’t got the songs then you are nobody’.
Penman: Will John be writing any songs?
‘Yes definitely we’re going to write together then take them to the band and if we all like them we’ll develop them further. Writing songs is not an exact process for example with ‘Rock n Roll Man’ I wrote five riffs took them to the band and chose one, the other four went to the wind’.
Penman: There’s a swagger in your walk, like a star before you’re a star…
‘I’m very sure of myself, things are looking very good at the moment, but if it all goes down the drain and fails and I didn’t have this bit of thunder now, I would never have had it in my life. So if it goes from strength to strength and I get stronger, we do another album, a headline tour and go further up the ladder I’ll get more cocky (laughs)’.
Penman talks to John Sykes: What did the band ask you to do at the audition?
‘They gave me a chance to get my guitar out and tune it up. Brian sat on his drums and said to me what we’re gonna do is play a beat on the drums and we want you to just improvise along with it’.
‘He started off with a slow rhythm, when I was improvising I gradually got faster and faster then Rocky got up off his chair and walked over to his bass and started playing along. Then Robb joined in and we really started rocking it sounded tremendous’.
‘A couple of days before the audition the band invited me down for a chat to see what I was like’.
Penman: How did you end up in Blackpool?
‘I come from Reading originally but I was in Blackpool working on a building site. I left Reading when I was 14 and moved up to Blackpool with my family. I’m 21 now, but when I was 14 we moved to Spain for three years, I came back when I was 17 and got a job labouring on a building site in Blackpool, it was good money’
‘As time went on things just got worse, I used to dread 8 o’clock in the morning going to work I hated it and one day I just thought I’m wasting my time here, I’ll have to do something. I had a look in the music paper’s and saw an ad for the Tygers auditioning for an additional guitar player. It was just what I was looking for and the timing couldn’t have been better’.
Penman: How often was your previous band Streetfighter playing?
‘I was playing about two or three times a week and it was going ok. We had a track coming out on a compilation album before I left. It was something to do with Geoff Barton and Des Moines it was called the ‘New Electric Warriors’. I don’t think Streetfighter were going hit the big time, but the Tygers….’
Unfortunately some of the programmes are incomplete and the interview cut off here.
Gary Alikivi, January 2022
Thanks to Jimmy McKenna & Rik Walton for Ian Penman’s Bedrock radio tapes. More articles will be added in future posts.
Did you think you would get signed to a major label ? The first line-up of Secret Sam nearly got us signed with a big advance, but it fell through during Christmas ‘85, we were gutted when we found out. When I think back to those times I’m not proud of myself either. I was, and still am, pretty difficult to work with sometimes.
Russ Thompson (guitar/vocals) and I really laid the law down about arrangements and harmonies, I ended up falling out with some really nice people. It got ridiculous in the end, Russ sacked himself and a dozen other people came through the band before I finally wrapped it up in late ‘86.
A year later Mick McKnight (guitar) and Paul Bateson (keys) had a club act and ended up doing Stars In Your Eyes, a big show on TV at the time. They got ripped apart by journalist Nina Myskow, that was fun to watch, but I did feel for them.
I mentioned being in the Jess Cox band, we did the first series of TX45 (music TV show filmed in Newcastle at the time of The Tube) and a couple of shows in London with Les Cheatham on guitar and a couple of great guys from down south, this was around ‘84-86.
Working with Jess (vocals) was a good learning experience, he’d had some success with The Tygers of Pan Tang so he sort of knew what he was talking about, even though he was clearly tainted by the music industry at that point.
In rehearsals for the TV show, he helped me refine my playing by offering suggestions like ‘can you put a blanket over those f**king drums’ and ‘don’t do drum fills’. Of course I will be forever grateful for that advice!
There was an album I did around ’85 with Jess and Rob Weir (guitar) called imaginatively – Tyger Tyger. Me and Rob programmed all drums on a Roland TR-707 then went into Impulse studio to record real hi-hats and cymbals, that was the second most awful studio experience I’ve ever had. I don’t think it ever saw the light of day, it wasn’t that good.
What did the new decade bring for you ? At the end of the ‘80s, heavy metal band Battleaxe got in touch and I started playing for them. Don’t they say any publicity is good publicity ? The singer would have crazy ideas like ‘we’re going to make a video on an oil rig and the BBC are coming down to film it’. At first I thought this is exciting, but soon realised he lived in a fantasy world.
What he forgot to mention was with all our gear we would have to sneak illegally onto one of the oil rigs being built in Sunderland docks, and start playing until news media and police turned up to arrest us.
Incidentally, from 2010-14 I returned to Battleaxe but I’ll not go there, it’s a four year horror story I’d rather forget, it includes the worst band and recording experience I’ve ever had.
By the mid ‘90s I was enjoying playing around the pubs in a little three piece band and one day got a call from the late Eric Cook who managed Venom and others. He asked if I could do a tour because the drummer they were hoping to use had dropped out. I immediately said yes, it’s a powerful word yes – the tour was the next week and the band was Skyclad.
I’d never heard of them but did sort of know Steve (Ramsey, lead guitarist) and Bean (Graeme English, bass) from the band Satan. With only four or five days to learn the set, we were off to Europe to play with Blind Guardian,Yngwie Malmsteen and Saxon.
It was great, but I felt like a fish out of water. I’d never played in a folk metal band before and I’d never done that kind of tour. Big venues, lorries full of gear, half a dozen tour coaches, catering the lot, it was like stepping into the unknown for me – totally routine for the other guys though.
One of the highlights for me was jamming with Yngwie Malmsteen’s band in the sound check in Hannover, a rare opportunity, they were brilliant players, and had to be because Yngwie would dock their pay if they made a mistake on stage.
I stayed with Skyclad for a couple of years, doing a few tours with bands like Riot, Whiplash, Subway to Sally, and recording a couple of albums at top studios like Moles in Bath and Jacobs in Surrey, but I was sick to death of being away on tour. It all came to a head for me at the end of ’96 in a snow storm and -20 degree temperatures.
Imagine spending Christmas Day in a freezing hotel in a town where nothing was open, and being away from your loved ones without any means of contacting them but a payphone in the street – totally depressing. Why anyone thought that would be a good idea was beyond me.
Things got so bad that in true rock star style Andy smashed up his hotel room causing a couple of thousand pounds worth of damage – by the way Andy was the lighting guy, it was the band who were the sensible one’s.
At this point I was in my mid-thirties and realised this is a game for the young, but I appreciated the experience and the band always treated me well.
What have you been doing the past couple of years ? From 2016-18 I was drumming for American band Bob Dee with Petro, he was a great guy, we did a couple of UK tours, one supporting Chris Holmes from ‘80s metal band Wasp.
So that’s about it, trying to make it in music brought good times and not so good times for me, it’s great to talk about it if someone’s interested in listening, but these days I find myself less inclined to.
What do you think about your time in music ? I think my ‘80s was a great time, the band scene was vibrant and anything seemed possible. I often think of people like Karen McInulty from She, Dave Donaldson from the Jess Cox Band, Eric Cook, and others who are sadly no longer with us, and loads of other people who were part of that close knit scene at the time, really fond memories.
For me it’s like telling a story about climbing a mountain, it’s easy to romanticise about it in hindsight and say it was all fantastic, when in reality it was hard work with only the odd moment when the clouds broke.
The single with Neat was a one record only deal, it sold around 6,000 copies and the tracks appeared on compilation albums and a few major labels initially showed interest after we touted the single around.
We played a couple of showcase gigs at London’s Marquee, at one of them IRS label boss Miles Copeland, musician Neil Murray (Whitesnake, Black Sabbath), Michael Schenker and a few other label guys were there. We knew we had to blast it and we did, we had a storming gig but never got any firm interest.
We were advised to stay away from publishing offers we got offered as that was signing away your rights to your song royalties. There was a label interested but when we broke it down into how much it was to record an album and take it out on tour, we would’ve been massively in debt. What we’d get initially wasn’t enough to cover an album and promotion.
Did you appear in any of the music weeklies ?
There was a few live reviews in Kerrang, Karen done a photo shoot for them called Lady Killers. I’ll never forget those couple of days.
We went down to London and supported UK rock band FM on their last night of the tour at the Astoria. That was a blast sharing the stage with them as they were my favourite band then.
On stage I remember kids at the front grabbing onto your legs it was unbelievable. After the gig we came off to a massive dressing room with tables full of food and beer and the FM drummer said our show was awesome.
He invited us to a big end of tour party at a flashy cocktail bar where we ended up partying all night but we had to get up early to go to the photo shoot for Kerrang – we were hungover and wrecked. Then had to race over to the Marquee to soundcheck as we were headlining that night.
Was this the time when you thought we have made it this far someone will sign us now ?
We were working hard – we went into Neat and pushed out a double A side single with local songwriter Phil Caffery on epic backing vocals. Then more support slots at Newcastle University with bands like Robin George and Girlschool, we also went down to London to open for Girlschool and ended up in Kim McAuliffe’s flat on her birthday.
More nights at the Marquee followed where we got free entry into the San Moritz bar and one night hung out with Thunder and Rock Goddess. Lemmy was really friendly remembering us ‘There’s the Geordie lot come an’ ‘av a drink’.
Yes everything had been going well but we still didn’t get any firm interest and after a period of the band making no progress we decided to call it a day in 1989.
Did the band want to reform ?
We did kick the idea about of doing something as a band, we were rehearsing at Red Nose Studio in North Shields – we couldn’t hear much as ‘Venom’ were rehearsing next door ! We auditioned a few singers but it was plain it was never going to work. Karen was unique and anybody else at the front of the band just wasn’t working.
When Karen was in the band did she get any solo offers ?
If she did I didn’t know. Karen was the focal point of the band her voice was amazing. We weren’t perfect there was disagreements that sometimes were on the edge of turning physical, show me a band that doesn’t, but they were all storms in a tea cup, generally we all got on.
There was a rumour that it was a yes or no decision between us and T’Pau and their song China in your Hand swung the pendulum in their favour – how true that whole record deal was I don’t know, but every time I hear that classic pop song I do wonder what if.
What did you do then ?
After the band I gave up music for a few years then got back playing again with some friends in a couple of rock cover bands. They were mates having a good laugh, getting paid for strings and beer money. Ended up playing all over the North East and The Newcastle Cluny a few times.
I remember the first gig with the Media Junkies was in the Bebside in Blyth and the guys were setting the P.A. and the soundman was Stosh – I couldn’t believe it. He used to do sound on all the big She gigs back in the ‘80s – the Marquees, Mayfairs, and he was our sound engineer on the E.C.T Channel 4 show. Now here he was doing my sound again!
When I started living as an adult (laughs)….I trained in I.T. Computer Programming and worked for various companies in the UK and Europe. I went where the money was for 30 years.
But that was really stressful so ended up working for Northumberland Cheese Company as a cheesemaker at the ‘Make Me Rich’ Farm on Blagdon Estate in Northumberland – seriously – I won a silver medal for my smoked cow’s cheese at the International Cheese Awards in 2019 (laughs).
I loved that job but when the Covid virus hit I went on furlough in 2020 and enjoyed it so much I retired, also by the first Covid lockdown in 2020 I had finished playing live.
What are the other members of She doing now ?
Paul still plays drums, not quite sure who for, I think it was mostly show bands doing holiday parks and the like but I know he played in Qween (Queen tribute) for a bit.
Billy gave up music after the band, Ken Riley found God and formed a successful Christian rock band YFriday who recorded and toured for a while. I believe he is a full time minister now, not sure where.
Karen was very religious, a Roman Catholic, after the band she made the decision to go into a convent and become a nun. I couldn’t tell you more about that because we didn’t have any contact with her then, only that she stayed a few years and then turned to social work.
The last time Karen and I talked was in 2012, I was working in Germany, she was living in the North East and we were talking about meeting up. Sadly in October that year I got a call to say that she’d passed away after suffering several health problems, it was a very sad time.
I’ve always said without a doubt we wouldn’t have got as far as we did without Karen, those days in She were the best of my life. Everything you ever dreamt of when you’re 17 is unfolding into reality. It was amazing playing the Newcastle Mayfair, recording studios, TV shows and gigs at the original Marquee.
I remember looking on the dressing room wall where every band who played there wrote their name, Queen were my idols when I was a kid and I spent ages looking for them and eventually there they were – of course we wrote our name up on the wall.
Looking back the whole thing was an incredible ride, it was living the dream……the memories will stay with me forever.
Interview by Gary Alikivi November 2021.
7″ Neat Records (1985) NEAT 50 12″ Neat Records (1985) NEAT 50
1. Never Surrender 2. Breaking Away 3. On My Way
*Track 3 on the 12″ only *Same catalogue number for both releases
Captured 7″ Elle Records (1986) SHE 001
1. Captured 2. New Start
Heavy Metal Collection 2 ‘Never Surrender’ The Flame Burns On – The Best Of Neat Records ‘Never Surrender’ The Neat Singles Collection Volume Three ‘Never Surrender’, ‘Breakin’ Away’ and ‘On My Way’ Lightnin’ To The Nations NWOBHM 25th Anniversary Collection ‘Never Surrender’