AUTOLEISURELAND – new album by ex-Kane Gang duo

Paul Woods & David Brewis

Autoleisureland is the new project by former Kane Gang members Dave Brewis and Paul Woods.

The Kane Gang, with Martin Brammer completing the line-up, formed in the former coal mining town of Seaham on the North East coast in 1982, and signed to Kitchenware Records.

The pop soul band notched up several UK and USA hits including Respect Yourself, Closest Thing to Heaven and Gun Law.

I asked Dave and Paul how did the project come about ?

PW: It started a few years ago when Dave was working on his instrumental album.

Every week before we popped out for a pint he’d drop off a new mix or new track. I really liked them and started on lyrics to turn them into songs. It snowballed and I started giving him lyrics and ideas for new ones.

DB: Paul and myself have remained in touch and seen each other regularly over the years since the Kane Gang was active. When I quit lecturing at Gateshead College I was still doing session gigs, but fancied writing again.

I recorded a set of tunes, and Paul thought he would write lyrics, so that got the ball rolling. Before long we were full on writing and recording, something we always enjoyed. So we thought we’d name ourselves and start a band project.

PW: Eventually we came up with the song Autoleisureland and that was the catalyst for the sound we were going for in our heads. Sort of all of our influences coming together.

After that we were off and running. I’ve never enjoyed working on something so much.

Have you a best time for song writing ?

DB: Definitely not in the mornings. A few days a week we work two to three hours at a time in the afternoon on recording.

After that length of time we lose our judgement so we stop, but evenings are when we usually write and that is done separately. Then we exchange ideas and continue. It’s quite efficient as we usually know what we are after. But it can take time.

PW: I tend to have the best ideas at night for hook lines, titles and choruses. Sometimes when I’m listening to some other music and I mishear the lyrics, it sets me on a different train of thought. The rest of the daytime is used for the mundane lengthy task of actually finishing it.

Autoleisureland album released 25 November 2022.

What do you consider for the final running order of the songs on the new album ?

PW: We had a number of catchy songs that kept going, all rather upbeat and positive and we didn’t want to break the mood. So, we didn’t really want a slow number until about the seventh track in.

DB: We start with something upbeat that is representative of the album – Autoleisureland, then try to run four or five strong bangers in a row. Pop in a slow one then kick off again.

We have a few reflective ones but we finish this album with the title track Infiniti Drive, as it bookends with the first track Autoleisureland.

Do conversations ever turn to ‘remember in the ‘80s when this happened’ ?

DB: Yes sometimes. The odd daft thing that happened with taxis, airports, interviews. For me, thinking back to studio work mainly. That was very enjoyable, I think we preferred that side of it.

PW: The Kane Gang was and is a big part of our lives so it’s natural we have some thoughts about it. Obviously, the older you get, the less you remember.

For instance, a few weeks ago a thought came to me and I asked Dave, ‘were we on Soul Train?’. All of a sudden I had a flashback of the dancers and the show’s set. We performed Motortown.

However, on its official website it says we were never on. They mustn’t have used it, I guess.

What does music mean to you ?

DB: Music is a part of my life. I feel somewhat frustrated if I haven’t played or written something for a while. We can create and shape something out of nothing that entertains and feels worthwhile. 

PW: This is difficult. For Dave, I believe it’s simpler. He’s a musician. That’s what he studied for, that’s what he practised for, that’s what he does, that’s who he is. He doesn’t think about it. And then there’s me.

When it comes to music I’ve always had imposter syndrome. Never believing I’m good enough to sing, write, record. All the time I was in The Kane Gang I was plagued by that.

It was only until this latest project that I thought, ‘yeah this IS what I do, and I’m going to keep doing it’, so I apologise in advance.

What are your hopes for the new album ?

PW: Who knows anymore. I’m just pleased it’s done, out, finished. I’m prouder of this than anything I’ve done. So I’m pleased it’s out, people can hear it and then we can get more stuff out and even more recorded.

DB: We hope we can reach a lot of people who like this style of music, worldwide. Obviously some Kane Gang fans, but also the people who listen to our contemporaries like Tears for Fears, China Crisis, Prefab Sprout.

And people who like some of the more interesting newer bands. It’s good to try to be fresh but ultimately do what you do.

Autoleisureland is released on 25th November 2022 on all digital streaming and download platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube & Bandcamp.

Alikivi    November 2022

RHYTHM KINGS with Bob Porteous & Dave Robson from Newcastle ’70s band FOGG (part one).

I met up with rhythm players Bob and Dave to get a clear picture of the FOGG story, but first let’s find out where the name come from…

Dave: It had something to do with the book about Phileas Fogg and his travels around the world in 80 days didn’t it ?

Bob: Nah it stands for Fairly Old Grumpy Geriatrics (laughs).

Bob Porteous (drums) & Dave Robson (bass).

During the 1970s FOGG were based in Newcastle and signed for EMI and Warner Brothers. They released four singles and an album ‘THIS IS IT’ recorded at Abbey Road. Warners are now re-releasing the remastered album (links below).

Bob: I would say This is It…is really a mix of hard rock, boogie, pop stompers and even a smidge of prog. Very tight instrumentally with great vocals, harmonies and guitar. Warners have remastered and digitised the album.

To my ears it sounds quite contemporary and hasn’t dated. Ok I’m biased but I love it all over again.

Dave: The album sounds very fresh today, I really like it. I’m proud of what we did. We were just a little band playing workingmen’s clubs who were suddenly catapulted onto a higher level and suddenly recording in the world famous Abbey Road studios.

The first version of Fogg started in 1971 and was formed by guitarist Dek Rootham ex-Sect, and bassist Dave Robson ex-Toby Twirl. They played the working men’s club circuit with drummer Ronny Levey and Colin Anderson on guitar.

By 1973 Ronny and Colin had moved on and were replaced by ex-Raw Spirit drummer Bob Porteous and Chris McPherson on vocals.

Dave: I was playing bass when I first joined a band at 19, they were called Toby Twirl who were a pro band doing gigs every day and night all over the UK. The drummer was John Reed, John was also a songwriter, later he moved from Sunderland to London but we stayed in touch.

Don’t wanna get ahead of myself here but he was very influential in Fogg because he got management involved and to this day is fully committed to the band.

John called Derek McCormick from Corus Music who had pedigree because he used to manage The Moody Blues and had a lot of industry contacts.  

Bob: That was around 1973, we were playing the clubs at first then the work expanded via Derek and John and their contacts. Dek Rootham and John Reed began to write songs together.

Chris McPherson sounded like Noddy Holder from Slade, and was a  charismatic front man. He took a break for a short while so we got Davey Ditchburn in on vocals during Chris’s time out.

We did several shows on Tyne Tees TV for the Geordie Scene. A You Tube channel dedicated to North East music called VainGloriousUK has several videos of Fogg performing on the show. My personal favourites are Ask No Questions and Captain Moonshine but there are many more to choose from.

Dave: Then later on Chris re-joined the fold. I remember Chris was a great character, god bless him he passed away a number of years ago.

Bob: He owned every stage he walked on. We all loved him.

Bob: Fogg worked hard on the College circuit, did a tour of Finland and TV & Radio work. By this time the band was developing a great synergy and the competition with other pro bands on the circuit had created a highly charged performance involving great audience rapport.

Dave: Yeah yer’ had to ! It was sink or swim.

Bob: Jumping in at that level generated massive confidence and camaraderie within the band.

Dave: We also did a lot work in the Bailey Clubs run by Stan Henry, a friend of our manager.

Sadly, Stan Henry died in September this year. From their South Shields headquarters Stan and business partner John Smith ran the Bailey Organisation. They opened a number of clubs around the UK.

Notably The New Cellar Club in South Shields where Cream opened the venue on 2nd December ’66 and Hendrix played on 1st February ’67.

Chris (vocals), Bob (drums) & Dave (bass).

Bob: One night we played the Bailey club in Watford and the top act was Dana (Hugely popular Irish winner of Eurovision song contest in 1970 with ‘All Kinds of Everything’).

She was absolutely lovely and invited us to her dressing room which was a different world. She was like a beautiful Queen with her make up and wardrobe people swanning around offering drinks and even lighting up other people’s cigarettes.

This, coupled with our week long soiree at a Hampshire health farm where we met the legendary Ava Gardner gave us a little glimpse into ‘70s fame.

Dave: The Bailey clubs were great, very pro, but I remember a lot of the CIU workingmen’s clubs were also run really well, Concert Chairmen keeping things right, great audiences, yeah loved them.

Bob: They always gave you a round of applause and there was always a dressing room, no changing in the toilets. And being paid well.

Dave: I wish they were back.

Bob: Concert chairmen had a bad rep but often they were smashing guys. There was a chairman called Edgar at one of the clubs and he would like to sing the last song of the night with the band.

‘What do you want to sing Edgar?’ ‘Blaydon Races’ he replied. We found that the song had about 20 verses and he knew them all! Still shiver and feel apprehensive to this day when someone says Blaydon Races (laughs).

How did the band get signed ?

Dave: As well as song writing with Dek, John Reed was the band manager and got us a gig in a Covent Garden pub where he invited Derek McCormick and various music industry people.

Derek was very impressed and we signed a management contract with him. John arranged a session in the EMI recording studio in Manchester Square and we did a successful demo there.

Bob: This was during the late summer of ’73. Derek was friends with Joop Visser, a lovely Dutch A&R guy in EMI and this opened the door to a recording contract.

In 1974 the band went into the legendary Abbey Road studios where The Beatles had recorded. They produced several singles, one of which Water in my Wine had significant sales in Germany and Japan.

EMI then helped realise the bands ambition by recording a full album at Abbey Road. This is It…was produced by Wally Allen from the Pretty Things.

Dave: It was like ‘yeh just going into the recording studio today’, that’s just what you did in those days you know.

Bob: Back then it was the arrogance of youth! (laughs)

Deep down though, we were ecstatic to be at Abbey Road even though we were being outwardly cool and professional about it.

Dave: Now it’s revered as a holy place but don’t get me wrong it really was a fantastic place to be.

Bob: The first single was Doing the Best I Can which got a few radio plays when released in 1974 but nothing major. All the band were involved in writing for the album but it was Dek and John Reed on the majority of songs.

Our first producer was Ian McClintock who we thought was good but not entirely tuned in to our music.

Dave: We needed more direction from him as we hadn’t been in a 16 track recording studio before.

Bob: When you are new to studios and the red light goes on it can be nerve wracking but we must have done ok because if I remember rightly we only did a max of three takes on most songs .

Dave: Eventually McClintock was replaced by Wally Allen who was bassist with The Pretty Things – he was brilliant. We moved into The Beatles studio and the sounds were fabulous there. You go into the control room to hear back what you’ve recorded and it’s a genuine ‘Is that us !’

Bob: That was Studio Two where the whole thing had a different vibe.

Dave: And the harmonies had a much better sound.

Bob: I don’t believe in ghosts but you could just feel an atmosphere of all the other musicians who had passed through there.

Dave: And on the piano there was the marks where (Paul) McCartney had left his tab burning!

Bob: One day the others were laying down some overdubs so I went for a wander around the other studios. I went into the huge Studio Three where I started playing a wonderful set of timpani drums. A severe looking security guard heard this and popped his head in and asked what I was doing in there.

‘Just from the band recording in the other studio’. After hearing my accent he asked where I’m from ‘Newcastle’ I replied. He let out a delighted laugh ‘Wey I’m from Gateshead man!’

 We really felt a part of the Abbey Road family. Incidentally a couple of tracks from the album have a real North East vibe, Northern Song and Water in my Wine.

In 1975 the band moved on from EMI, signed to Warner Brothers and released two singles Dancing to the Music and Rock n Roll Star.

Next up read Rhythm Kings part two with more FOGG stories from Bob and Dave.

The remastered FOGG album ‘THIS IS IT...’ is now available in digital format from:

Amazon: https://music.amazon.com/albums/B0BGSN3Q93

Spotify: http://open.spotify.com/album/2jG2Qb7hHHFHC2hskrPPGY

Apple: https://music.apple.com/us/album/1647553016

Alikivi  October 2022

‘SEVEN BRIDGES’ new album from The Attention Seekers

During Covid lockdowns some musicians took time out to reboot ideas and produced new music, guitarist Alan Fish was no different.

‘Against all odds I managed to produce a new collection of songs. It’s been quite a journey. This pandemic has reminded us how fragile and precious life is and it’s in this spirit of gratitude that we are releasing a new album which is a tribute to my home town Newcastle upon Tyne’.

‘We’ are a collection of musicians trading under the moniker The Attention Seekers who went into Newcastle Cluny studio and with engineering skills of Tony Davis, recorded new album Seven Bridges – also the name of a track with its infectious chorus…

It’s a beautiful city I know, from the steps to the quayside, and I can still see Seven bridges to carry me home, to the streets of Newcastle tonight’.

The album is Tyne soaked in a positive acoustic feel with vocals on the eleven tracks shared between Jesse Terry, Romaana Shakir, Sam Blewitt and Alan who had different plans back in 2020.

‘Everything stopped in March 2020. The world as we know it ground to a halt. Covid made the future uncertain. The plan had been to return to the USA to promote the previous album A Song for Tomorrow. We had promo in place but gigs and radio interviews had to be put on hold’.

‘Fast forward to 2022 and some semblance of normality is gradually returning, most importantly my family, friends, bandmates and I have our health intact. There are too many who have not been so fortunate’.

When did you start putting the Seven Bridges ideas together ?

‘I travelled back in time to revisit songs from my days in North East rock bands White Heat and The Loud Guitars in Do Me A Favour, Chain Reaction and Is it Too Late? Keeping in that frame of mind I wrote a letter to my younger self in Daydreaming’.

‘Romaana Shakir provides great vocals on the track Mr Coastguard which is a letter of thanks to The Turkish Coastguard Service. What happened was my wife Viv and I spent a night in a tiny speedboat lost in rough seas and with no fuel. An experience Viv and I will not be repeating’.

‘And there is a ‘what if’ song called Money In His Pocket. The lyrics covered the story of a musician trying to ‘make it’ in the music biz’…

He put some money in his pocket, grabbed a bag and picked up his guitar. He took off in the middle of the night in his beat up car. He left behind the prettiest girl, to find his way in the big wide world’

‘That’s about walking away from ‘the deal’ which was one of the best decisions I ever made. In 1989 White Heat reformed for a one-off festival appearance alongside Aswaad and Nick Hayward.

After our set we were approached by Don Arden ‘notorious’ owner of Jet Records, manager of ELO, Dio and Black Sabbath, father of Sharon Osbourne, and father in law of Ozzy’.

‘He expressed an interest in managing us (White Heat), although I had long put aside any thoughts of a full time career in the music business, I was interested in what he had to say and I agreed to meet with Don the next day’.

‘His plan was to put us out on tour after tour in the states supporting his bands – ELO, Black Sabbath to name but two, until we ‘broke the market’. He was aware I was married with a young family and said “you have a decision to make”. I kindly declined the offer, ‘Money In His Pocket’ is a fictitious story where in a parallel universe I accepted the deal’.

A full interview with Alan was posted on 13 September 2019. (Link below)

A track on the new album was originally by a band with its roots firmly in the North East – Lindisfarne.

‘The Alan Hull (Lindisfarne) track Winter Song was suggested to me by New York radio presenter Charlie Backfish, many thanks Charlie! Both Sam Blewitt and Jesse Terry share lead vocals and I think their voices work incredibly well together, I am planning to repeat this combination in the future’.

Passing Ships is a dip into the murky waters of Greek Mythology and The Girl with the Jukebox Mind was after a chance encounter with someone in New York, she definitely had the Woodstock look, she described herself as having a ‘Jukebox mind’ – a brilliant title for a song!’

‘And on the next track who is Alison Jones ? well everybody loves a mystery’.

Have you plans to take Seven Bridges out on tour ?

‘Firstly a huge thanks to all the talented musicians who have joined me in this venture and yes there was a mini tour in October finishing at The Cluny in Newcastle’.

‘Our next gig is at Birmingham Central Art Space on the 30th October supporting Dan Whitehouse, and more gigs to be announced soon so keep a look out on our social media page or check the official website’.

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

‘Seven Bridges’ is available to stream/download via all the usual platforms.

NO ORDINARY JOE – in conversation with Alan Fish former guitarist with WHITE HEAT | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Alikivi  October 2022

WAVIS O’SHAVE on ’80s LIVE MUSIC SHOW THE TUBE

Ground breaking live music TV show The Tube was broadcast from Tyne Tees studios in Newcastle upon Tyne for Channel Four from 1982 to 1987.

The show was broadcast for 90 minutes on a Friday and I was lucky enough to be in the audience for a number of shows which had a big impact on my life.

Entrance to The Tube at Tyne Tees Television studios City Road, Newcastle.

When I didn’t get tickets I’d be at home with me tea on me lap watching great performances and being introduced to different sounds and styles of music. Someone new and fresh were on every week and the show always delivered a surprise.

There was one week when a duo delivered huge power from what at first looked like an unlikely source. With only a keyboard and microphone set up on stage how loud could a synth pop duo go ?

A young skinny lad with floppy hair stood ready, at a game of football he would have been the last picked, then on walked someone who could of been a school dinner lady.

A clunky pop sound fired up, then the voice, and what a voice. Making one of her first TV appearances was Alison Moyet.

Wavis meets The Hard next to his Hard hut in his Hard backyard.

I mentioned the show liked to pull a surprise and someone who featured regularly on the show and tangled with some of the Tube’s Big Wigs was – insert your own description here/eccentric/circus performer/recording artist/surreal South Shields showman, whisper it quietly – Wavis O’Shave.

“When the Tube crew came back from filming me they would run straight off to Malcolm Gerrie (Producer) and tell him ‘You won’t believe what he did!’ Malcolm would reply ‘I would’.

Despite my controversial antics it didn’t stop Producer Gavin Taylor candidly telling my wife that I was the most decent person he had ever known!”

“Sometimes I would witness disputes in the Tube office like when Queen reckoned the show should pay them for a ten grand filming bill, and the show thought that they should be coughing up. I was there when Elvis Costello sent a life size photo of himself with a signed apology after he wrecked his dressing room the week before”.

One of the many faces of Wavis was The Hard, an exaggerated tough working class Geordie possibly the hardest man in the world. Other faces were Mr Ordinary Powder, Mr Starey Oot, Foffo Spearjig, but it was The Hard that got the show’s attention.

“During a live Christmas Eve show Muriel Gray (presenter) hit me over the head with one of those pretend bottles they use in Spaghetti westerns. I was told afterwards that she’d thought she’d killed me!”

“I told her earlier in the day to give me a right good belt and you’d better believe she did. There’s still some doubt as to whether there had been a cock up and it was a real bottle, it sounded like it, it did cut me and there was blood. The show were crapping themselves thinking ‘Insurance’. I felt nowt though”.

Letter from TV Executive Producer, Andrea Wonfor.

Wavis remembers the day he was carpeted by Executive Producer, Andrea Wonfor.

“The BIG boss of the show was Andrea Wonfor, a lovely lady and a huge Wavey fan. I remember when I was first given the freedom of The Tube studio. Andrea had me in her office where I was made to assure her that I would behave”.

“As you can see in her fond recollection I’d asked her – she was a big-wig at Granada at the time – if she would be ref for me in my proposed fight with Chris Eubank for Children In Need or something like that. I had the challenge put thru Chris’ letter box in Brighton but he never came back to me.” 

When you were in the studio did you get along with any of the musicians, celebrities or TV crew ?

“Being anti-social and elusive I stayed clear of everyone. I guess this became part of my expected ‘image’. I couldn’t help but see a few in passing like Lemmy and Jim Diamond, but in fact I think most people were quite wary of me and would prefer I kept my distance”.

“When Paula Yates (presenter) wanted my dressing room which was nearer the stage as at the time she was pregnant, she didn’t approach me directly to ask. Think she was well wary of me. Either that or she fancied me rotten”. 

“I rarely would turn up at the Friday shows despite having a VIP pass. On one such rare occasion I was invited to go over and say hello to a shy young American girl. I glanced over, and because I had this elusive but anti-social reputation I didn’t bother. Turns out it was Madonna, so I guess I can claim I blew her out”.

(Madge’s first TV performance was on The Tube broadcast from The Manchester Hacienda in 1984.)

What are your memories as The Tube finally closed up shop in 1987 ?

“The last Tube show was aired on its regular Friday slot. I was disappointed as a week before I had filmed The Hard ‘Final Felt nowt feeler’ with my missus in it but it wasn’t included. On the Sunday, when the repeat was aired, there I was edited in as a personal tribute to The Hard and his popularity on the show.

That was the very last ever Tube show not the Friday one. It’s gone missing and remains to this day the Holy Grail of lost Tube shows”.

THE HARD features on ‘Best of the Tube’ DVD.

Alikivi   October 2022

THE GEORDIE WRECKING CREW: Forty Years since The Tube Arrived

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘A band on the first show that I booked didn’t happen. The Who didn’t do it because their pa system got stuck in Mexico or somewhere. Producer Malcolm Gerrie knew Paul Weller’s father and got The Jam to do it.

In a way I’m glad that he did because The Jam playing their last TV gig ever, really said this is what The Tube is all about – that was then, this is now and off we go’.

‘After appearing Fine Young Cannibals got signed, The Proclaimers got signed and there was a time when the Tube crew went to Liverpool to film Dead or Alive. But they weren’t around, someone in a pub told them to go round the corner to another pub where there is a band rehearsing ‘You might be interested in them’. It was Frankie Goes to Hollywood’.

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

Gary talks to Radio One DJ, John Peel.

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

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

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

‘None of us on the presenter side, perhaps with the exception of Jools and Paula who breezed through it all without a care in the world, could have had any idea that the show would be as seminal as it was.

We certainly knew we were part of the ‘new wave’ and that we didn’t want to be all BBC and Top of the Pops-ish’.  

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

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

Colin Rowell, Chris Phipps, Michael Metcalf.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alikivi   October 2022

GOOD TO KNOW THERE’S STILL A LITTLE MAGIC IN THE AIR

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.

Alikivi  September 2022.

TYGERS OF PAN TANG TOUR PIC’S SEARCH

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.

Tygers of Pan Tang at Newcastle Mayfair 1980.

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.

Inner sleeve from The Cage album.

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:

Tygers Of Pan Tang – The Official Site

Link to Tygers of Pan Tang pic’s featured in Roksnaps:

ROKSNAPS #2 | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Alikivi  September 2022.

OLD PUNKS ARE STILL PUNKS

an evening with THE SADISTIC SLOBS

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’.

Sadistic Slobs 2022.

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.

‘Simple Songs for Like Minded Idiots’ features Paddy (vocals) Rek (guitar) Rat (drums) Gran (bass).

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.

New album available on CD & record.

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 gransarc@gmail.com for details how to buy the album.

Alikivi   September 2022

SUMMER MUSIC ON THE TYNE

Mouth of the Tyne Festival, Tynemouth Priory 2022 pic. Paul Appleby

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.

Will Young at Bent’s Park, South Shields pic. Lee Davison

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.

Keane at Tynemouth Priory pic. Paul Appleby

Check out Paul’s work at:

https://www.facebook.com/PaulApplebyPhotography

Alikivi   July 2022

BOYS IN THE BANDS with writer Chris Scott Wilson

Chris Scott Wilson

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

Alikivi    June 2022