TV DINNERS – with Nev Atkinson from Punishment of Luxury

It’s over a year since Nev featured on this blog where he told great stories about signing record deals, Radio One sessions, London, Amsterdam, Berlin gigs, and playing Leeds with Joy Division and Public Image Limited – all with Newcastle based post punk band Punishment of Luxury.

Later there is news of new creative adventures from Punilux, but first, Nev invites us to tune in….

The first Punilux album The Laughing Academy, will be unfolded during a SKY Arts programme on Friday 14th May at 9pm courtesy of musician Matt Deighton (Mother Earth, Paul Weller). The programme is dedicated to Matt’s exceptional creative journey, and once again he shows his support and love of the band, by mentioning Punishment of Luxury in a short excerpt of his musical inspirations.

Matt Deighton.

BABY DON’T JUMP

I first communicated with Matt a couple of years ago on the Punishment of Luxury Fans Facebook page when I responded to his question about lyrics to ‘Baby Don’t Jump’. It was an interesting question and it was then that I discovered Matt is a gifted writer, musician and performer with a notable history with his band Mother Earth, along with collaborations with Oasis and Paul Weller.  

He asked me if the band would like to release all of their material in a compilation, so after a band chat we all decided it was a great idea, so he arranged a meeting with Cherry Red, hence the Puppet Life box set so a big thank you Matt.

In time Matt shared his work, CDs and vinyl’s with me which in turn encouraged me to look again at some of my own approaches to music resulting in the revisiting of guitar tunings and to the creation of a new collection of acoustic excursions. This inspired period also prompted me to return to work and develop some of my contemporary musical and media writing, embodied within stories, some of which I aim to complete and reveal this year.

The debut Punishment of Luxury album, Laughing Academy.

DIGITAL DECAY

During all of this creative inferno I received an unpleasant dose of digital decay which resulted in the loss of a large part of that music which I planned to share with the band in hope of contributing to the release of a new album.

Thankfully I am an old school practitioner and print off all my words and practice almost every day so I can recall much of the work. Brian Bond (vocals/keys) and Jimmy Giro (bass) have been busy too and shared some of their songs, and I have applied the Brain Bomb methodology to one of them. Fortunately I captured this on my phone but lost all of the other additions.

One song about A message and an Alien – territorial rather than terrestrial, survived, and as Brian and I used to share lead vocal on songs such as All White Jack and Metropolis, this one I envisage could help revisit our strength with new vitality and topical relevance.

NEW ENERGY

However, we have all been separated for a while now, and I think the band always work best while meeting face to face and sharing ideas, where the best songs can be tested, rehearsed and then gigged, because for me, this is where the fun and energy lives.

There is much to do, ponder and hope for in the near future and we will share and keep you updated on the band web and Facebook pages.

Matt Deighton – Overshadowed on Sky Arts is on Friday 14th May 9pm.

Check out previous Punishment of Luxury interviews:

FUNK OFF – The Punishment of Luxury & further tales of musical adventures. | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

FROM NEWCASTLE WITH LOVE part 3/4 with actor & musician Brian Rapkin | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Gary Alikivi  May 2021.

SHINE A LIGHT – Snapshot of Stockton born singer & songwriter Lesley Duncan (1943-2010)

Previous Snapshot posts have featured North East musicians linked to international artists. South Shields born Kathy Stobbart on a festival bill with Radiohead, also from Shields, Jack Brymer, and his day in the studio with The Beatles recording A Day in the Life, plus Newcastle born Animal bassist Chas Chandler, who managed Jimi Hendrix and Slade.

This post focuses on another North East musician linked to three of the biggest names in music today – Elton John, David Bowie and Pink Floyd.

Lesley Duncan was born 12 August 1943, by her teenage years she had travelled down to London with her brother Jimmy to work in the music business. Jimmy went on to achieve production and song writing credits including recording South Shields band The Answer who feature in the previous post with Vincent Edwards.

In 1964 Jimmy wrote Rosalyn, the first Pretty Things single, reaching #41 in the UK charts. The track was covered by David Bowie, appearing on his 1973 album Pin Ups.

The first London stop for Lesley was working in a cafe, then taking her songs to record companies – EMI recognised potential and gave her a contract. She wrote songs for a number of performers including The Walker brothers.

Her big break came with her track, Love Song. Elton John picked it up for his album Tumbleweed Connection in 1970 and Duncan provided backing vocals on the record produced by Gus Dudgeon. The song went on to live a new life being covered by many artists including David Bowie, Barry White and Olivia Newton-John.

Through the ‘70s she released singles in the UK and USA with a number of record companies notably CBS, Mercury and Parlophone. On some of her records backing vocals were provided by Dusty Springfield – in return for featuring on her records.

Lesley was still in great demand as a session singer and provided backing vocals for Pink Floyd on their 1973 multi-million selling album Dark Side of the Moon.

Worth checking out is Lesley’s 1971 appearance on the BBC Old Grey Whistle Test, singer & songwriters playing Chain of Love.

Summer ’73  she was in America opening for Daryl Hall & John Oates at the Roxy in California, and featured on the Reading Festival weekend bill including Rory Gallagher, The Faces, Steve Harley, Status Quo and from the North East – Lindisfarne and Beckett. Lesley played on the Sunday with headliners Genesis.

Duncan also released several critically acclaimed albums, despite radio play failed to break through to any commercial success, and suffered from low sales. She continued providing backing vocal for a number of British artists including Donovan, Kiki Dee and Ringo Starr. She can even be heard in the chorus on the Jesus Christ Superstar album.

In 1976 Lesley signed to MCA in America and played a short tour there releasing the album Moon Bathing, which again featured Elton John on piano.

Duncan appeared on a 1979 album by the Alan Parsons Project where she sang If I Could Change Your Mind. Parsons being the engineer on the earlier mentioned Pink Floyds album Dark Side of the Moon, Lesley added her voice to Time, Eclipse and Brain Damage.

By the ‘80s Lesley had retired from the music business and was content living a more private life, she moved to Cornwall then finally the Isle of Mull in Scotland. As for her albums, the original masters were lost in a fire, but copies have been found and re-releases are now available.

Sadly after a long illness Lesley Duncan died on 12 March 2010.

Links to previous Snapshots:

BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND – snapshot of musician & teacher Jack Brymer (1915–2003) | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

ALL THAT JAZZ – snapshot from the life of professional musician Kathy Stobart (1925 – 2014). | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

HOME NEWCASTLE – snapshot from the life of musician, manager and record producer Chas Chandler 1938-96. | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Gary Alikivi  May 2021.

SOUL TRAIN – with South Shields born singer & songwriter Vincent Edwards

From his home in Germany, singer &  songwriter Vincent Edwards has been looking back at his 1970’s chart pop singles. Recent posts have featured stories behind Right Back Where We Started From, Love Hit Me and Run for the Sun. European audiences have been kind to Edwards with many re-releases of his records in Belgium, Italy and Germany.

Edwards was born and brought up in the seaside town of South Shields in the North East of England. After hearing Sam Cooke on the radio he knew what he wanted to do with his life and went for an audition at a youth club to be a singer.

I was in a band called The Invictors, who were a Shields band, and they evolved into The Answers where I played drums and was singer. We played a lot of soul and blues, our lead guitarist Tony Hill wrote the songs. We learnt our trade working on American military bases in France, that was around ’63 to ’66. We played a lot around the UK including London and getting over to Paris, plus Shields of course.

We were living in London and recorded two records for Columbia records in the UK. Just a Fear was recorded at Central Studios in London, it was heavily played on the pirate stations in 1966. The second single That’s What You’re Doing to Me, was recorded in a studio in Putney, South London. It’s a bit softer than the first and again it was played a lot on pirate radio. We recorded both in three hours including the b sides. Our record producer was Jimmy Duncan, the brother of late singer Leslie Duncan.

Stockton born Leslie Duncan’s most notable work was during the 1970’s when she performed backing vocals or wrote songs for musicians including Elton John, Dusty Springfield, Scott Walker and Pink Floyd. The next post will look at the music career of Duncan more closely.

At the time we were managed by Tony Stratton-Smith who was also looking after The Kubers and Creation. As for promotion I can’t remember any TV then, that came later.

A former sports journalist, Tony Stratton-Smith is best known as founder of independent label Charisma Records in 1969. He released records by The Nice, Lindisfarne, Genesis, and Monty Python’s comedy albums.

Vincent Edwards.

Eventually we drifted apart but stayed good friends. Tony is living in south London playing in a band called Friction. Our bass player Bob Calder who became sound engineer for the musical Hair, sadly he’s passed away. I’ve lost touch with Ron our second guitarist. I’m still writing and a track I wrote, Soul Train, you never know somebody might record it.

‘Just a Fear’  (link below) has been called a ‘bona fide freakbeat classic with incisive, driving raga-like fretwork from Tony Hill, it’s a dance floor stomper, pounding drums and frenetic finish with soulful vocals from Vincent Edwards’.

The Answers – It’s Just A Fear – 1966 45rpm – YouTube

Interview from August 2020: BACK WHERE HE STARTED FROM with singer & songwriter Vinny Edwards | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2021.

LOVE HIT ME – with South Shields born singer & songwriter Vincent Edwards

Over a steaming hot curry Vincent Edwards recalls his days back in South Shields nipping along Ocean Road to get fish and chips at Colmans.

Yes I really miss them, I was brought up nearby in Shortridge Street and used to play in the Marine Park and the beach.

Edwards featured in August 2020 talking about his music career and living in Germany. In the last post he added another story about his European chart single Run to the Sun. In this post he talks about another European chart hit – Love Hit Me, and it’s extra life with British soul singer Maxine Nightingale.

I wrote the song in 1975 in London for my beautiful late wife Angel Uschi when we lived there. It was recorded and produced at Pye Studios in London. Later I sent it over to Maxine Nightingale who I shared a stage with in the musical Hair, she also sang my top UK hit Right Back Where We Started From, and done a great job. Again she recorded a great version of Love Hit Me for release in America.

It was out in ’76 and charted all over Europe. There was a load of promo slots on TV shows in the UK and around Europe where I had hits in most countries as did darling Maxine.

In 1977, with a Top of the Pops appearance, Maxine took the song to #11 in the UK charts. It was also released in Ireland, Belgium, Germany, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

The video (link below) of the live TV appearance was a few years ago in Ostend, Belgium, I think it was number one at the time. Paul Young was also on the show, we had a few beers after.

You Tube link to TV show:

LOVE HIT ME – J. VINCENT EDWARDS – YouTube

Interview from August 2020: BACK WHERE HE STARTED FROM with singer & songwriter Vinny Edwards | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Chart information from Discogs.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2021.

POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL -new album by LOWFEYE 

Durham band Lowfeye deliver a mix of Stooges, Dusty Springfield and Velvet Underground – the deadly duo don’t write songs they make potions. Their first album Pow oozed creative energy, new album Poor Little Rich Girl has fired up more toxic tunes vocalist/songwriter Carol Nichol set’s the record straight…and hits play.

Basically I’m a melody nut, the songs I write are usually written on acoustic guitar or piano and my melodies determine the style of music. The songs evolve from experimenting with sounds and different styles. I then paint the story visually with words, but being dyslexic I can’t always read my lyrics (laughs).

The arrangements are then brought together by Alan Rowland who is a self-taught multi-talented instrumentalist. Using basic equipment, the recordings and production are all done at our home. We’ve created a really diverse DIY album featuring everything from dark folk, post punk, heavy pop, cinematic, to metal, psyche and garage rock.

POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL

The title of the album is taken from the song of the same name. It’s a dig at the music world dominated by middle class artists, with lines like ‘And your daddy buys the world that I can’t feel, as you float in silver bubbles and your world is not a struggle, you’re not real’.

Being working class and juggling jobs to find free time to create independently as well as fund it, is a struggle, it’s very different to artists who go to Brit school and have money and privilege to pay others to create, produce, record and fund tours. It’s all manufactured. They pay their way into the industry without actually creating anything themselves. Then we are banged over the head with songs with no meaning singing about sunshine and utopia.

GASOLINE

The album opens with Gasoline. A murder ballad I wrote in contrast to the typical run of the mill love songs. Their fate meets a dramatic end, swilled down with gasoline and blown to smithereens.

GUN

The track Gun was based on characters from TV series Peaky Blinders and one of the main cast from the show saw potential in the track, but as we are unknowns it wasn’t used.

EMILY’S TREE

Emily’s Tree the second murder ballad is about a haunting, a ghost of a child tormenting the killer. In this dark period folk track it draws you in but at the end of the track the landscape leads into the heavy track Raw which was written by Alan and features our friend Neil Tunstall on bass putting some heavy bass on with roaring backing vocals which work great.

VERTIGO

A Lowfeye album wouldn’t be complete without a post punk track and Vertigo is it. The tapestry of my life has the art and music of Bowie in everything so this track is about a feeling I had when he died. I had a feeling of losing balance and looking down on the world with dread, thinking this isn’t real. A Bowie riff is played in the end of the song as a tribute.

STAY

Stay is a personal haunting ballad I wrote, with the loss of my father very young, the line I use ‘savage silence’ was written by my mother who wrote a poem after his death. Her poem was published under her maiden name Elsa Bunting, a distant relation to Basil Bunting the poet.

SNOWFLAKE GENERATION

A bit like Beautiful World the last song on previous album Pow, we close out with a critical song – Snow Flake Generation. It’s a criticism of the now, the 21st century snowflake in the times of political correctness. A world that hammers out any opinions and free speech. A world where we are spoon-fed what the media want you to read and hear.

You had Richard Hell (Television/The Heartbreakers) singing about a Blank Generation well we are singing about a snowflake generation who think they have it so hard and get offended very easily, this begins to silence people from voicing their opinion and squashing healthy debate.

What I can see in the future is the music industry ticking boxes so not to offend anyone, and real DIY bands who have a voice, getting it hammered out on radio – yet they sell out their gigs.

So our track Snowflake Generation wasn’t going to be played on BBC Introducing, because you’re not allowed to swear and we do in this track. We were not prepared to take swearing out as it’s real and from the heart.

NORDIC TUNE

We are both into ‘60s and ‘70s music with the old analogue sounds and mellotron. I am also a big film lover of soundtracks from that period. When we finished the album I’d written the Ennio Morricone (The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in America) style track Vaquero. It was picked up by a Swedish record label who wanted to publish it and sync it in the Warner Brothers Swedish drama, Partisan, in August 2020.

The track was featured heavily around the main actor Fare Fares and won best at Cannes – serious. We took the track off the running list for the album as its now signed to the Swedish label who manage it.

The drama has been played on TV screens across Europe, Australia, the Nordics and is going to America. They are hoping it comes to the UK.

NEXT UP FOR LOWFEYE

We have no plans of going out live as Lowfeye yet – but never say never. At the moment we are concentrating on soundtracks for Europe, as well as a third Lowfeye DIY album, it will be full of different styles of music both intimate and widescreen, also some very critical of the times we live in.

Lowfeye do it for the love of music, we are not in a box. For even one person to get what we are about is great for us and drives us on as independent DIY artists.

The album on CD is available from Lowfeye/Carol Nichol via Facebook or email  cnichol66@btinternet.com at £7 including p&p.

Released on digital platforms May 2nd 2021.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  April 2021.

MAKING TRACKS #4 with songwriter & producer Steve Thompson

In the fourth and final part part of an interview with Teesside based Thompson, he talks about MCA records, Pete Waterman and mainstream success.

SELL RECORDS, SHIFT UNITS

I was working in several different genres but I still had a healthy grounding in rock. In 1981 I came up with a little slushy ballad which didn’t fit the NEAT stuff although I played it to Dave Wood and he said uh it’s ok. So I was determined my future lay elsewhere. Within six month it was a Top 20 hit for a band called Wavelength, it was Hurry Home and it was in the charts for three month.

At roughly the same time the Tygers put out Paris By Air which was a minor hit so I had some credibility on both sides of the coin. My publishing was with Neon and I had a hit with Sheena Easton on her Madness, Money and Music album which went Top 20. Celine Dion also recorded the Sheena Easton song in French. It was a hit single in Canada going Gold. The album sold 400,000 units in Canada and 700,000 units in France.

Lorraine Crosby

One day I got a call from a management company who said they had just signed a young guy who wanted to come and work with me on some tracks. ‘No mate, I’m not into that’. They said ‘we’ll pay you’ and quick as a flash I said ‘cool, send him round this afternoon’. The young guy was Stu Emerson.

I told Stu I was looking for a good female vocalist and he introduced me to Lorraine Crosby who went on to sing with Meatloaf on one of his hit singles. I recorded loads of tracks with Lorraine. She recorded all the backing vocals on some stuff I was recording with a guy called Pete Adshead. Pete’s management company had sent him up from London to work with me in Whitley Bay.

When the stuff started to get released Pete changed his name to Baby Ford. I had a couple of hits with him in the style of Acid House and one of them Chiki Chiki Ah Ah earned a BBC ban. I’m very proud of that.

HOLLYWOOD NEED SOMETHING SNAPPY

On quitting NEAT Records as producer I had a shed load of releases as a writer. In the early ‘80s I was signed to MCA Music as a songwriter. One day I got a call from my mentor there, Pete Waterman. Pete said there was a big-shot movie producer in town and I was urgently needed in London to meet up with him.

So the next day I flew down and arrived in Pete’s office around midday. Pete introduced me to an American guy who’s name now escapes me. He was one of the producers of the movie Jaws 3D which was nearing completion.

Anyway, this guy treated me to the story of his wonderful new movie and told me all it needs is a killer song. Apparently it’s a ‘boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl’ theme. Except in this case there are no boys and girls involved, the lovers in question are dolphins. He says they have Barbara Streisand lined up to sing this yet to be written song.

Pete has put me in the frame to write the lyrics and makes his office available to conduct my work. Pete and the American guy went off to lunch saying they will check my progress on their return. As they were leaving the American called back over his shoulder ‘Hey kid, gimme a lurve song for two dolphins’.

Alone in the office I slid the cassette into the machine. Shit!!!!! How on earth could I turn this orchestral pomp into a song. Still I had been charged with the task so I had to try. I spent the next two hours racking my brain and writing one liners and drawing doodles.

SINK OR SWIM

The guys arrived back and the American says ‘OK kid, whaddyah got?’  I said ‘not much’ and passed over the piece of paper and waited to be well and truly spanked. Pete – ever the bullshitter, went into overdrive. ‘What did I tell you about my boy, F***ing brilliant, just look at this, sink or swim, I will follow him, that’s a killer line’.

It was just about the only line but Pete was leaving no room for contradiction. He was already on the phone booking a studio for that evening. Then he dashed out of the office and grabbed another MCA staff writer who had a good singing voice. This hapless guy was named Simon Jeffries and he was going to have to sing this crap. Like me, Simon was not going to say no to the guy responsible for signing his yearly salary cheque – a publishers advance.

I was therefore obliged to spend the rest of the day making words fit to soaring violins and trumpets. The pain of this was nothing compared to the recording session that evening. I think we nearly killed the poor vocalist. Unsurprisingly, I never heard another thing about my entry into the world of movie themes and as it happens I never saw Simon again either.

Steve’s latest album is available on Cherry Red  www.thelongfade.xyz

For more details check the official site:

The Steve Thompson Band – Steve Thompson: Songwriter (steve-thompson.org.uk)

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2017.

MAKING TRACKS #3 with Teesside based songwriter & producer Steve Thompson.

In the third part of Steve Thompson’s story he is working at Impulse studio/NEAT records and recording with Tygers of Pan Tang.

FIRST OUT THE BLOCKS

They had no sophistication then but I guess they made up for that with raw energy. I was looking at this from a songwriter’s perspective and suggested they shorten intro’s and reduce repetition of dead wood and get to the hooks quicker.

I mixed the tracks and worked on the drum sound and a few other bits and pieces, we got it ready and the A side of their first single was Don’t Touch Me There. We put it out and it started to really sell. MCA got interested so they picked it up, re-released it and went on to do their first album. 

I was also signed to MCA in their stable of writers and my mentor was Pete Waterman, he was crackers. It was Pete who suggested the Tygers should do Love Potion No 9 as a single. Great idea.

At that time I was sharing a rented flat in Whitley Bay with the band, it’s a sitcom waiting to be written. Bizarrely the original Tygers vocalist Jess Cox and his replacement Jon Deverill both lived at the flat. Lead guitarist John Sykes lived there as well. So I would go off to Impulse studio in the mornings and John would stay in the house playing guitar constantly.

FOR THE RECORD

When I’d come back from the studio he’d still be playing. He was a really friendly guy and he’d ask what I’d been doing that day and sometimes I’d have rough mixes and play him stuff. That particular day Tygers bass player Rocky Laws was there and I played them Paris By Air and Rocky loved it, the song stayed with him a few years.

Coming up to start recording their fourth album The Cage, there’d been a few changes in the Tygers camp and that made a big dent in the song writing team. Jon Deverill was already in, and Fred Purser from Penetration was brought in to replace John Sykes.

The band were looking for some songs and Rocky suggested we should do the track I’d played to them a few year ago called Paris By Air. OK I said I’ll re-write the lyric as it was originally for a female.

I also played a brand new song called Lonely at the Top to their managers. It was unfinished and I played it on acoustic guitar, stamping my feet and vocally trying to make noise that indicated how it would become a loud rock song. They asked me to make a full demo and I did. It was also selected for the album.

I also asked the Tygers management if anyone wants to come along to my new gaff in Tynemouth for co-writes. Jon Deverill said yes so we knocked off a few tunes. Letter to L.A. was put together using a Casio synthesiser played through a fuzzbox. That song was just prior to them going into the studio so it really was down to the wire with unfinished lyrics.

DEADLINES

They were in the studio when I got a call from Jon Deverill, he said in his lovely little Welsh accent ‘I’m having a bit difficulty with these lyrics’. I said ‘ok what you got’. Well it turned out he didn’t have much at all. I said I’ll put some lyrics together, how long you got ?

‘Oh well, we’re having a little break then I’m going in the studio to sing it in 20 minutes’. So phoning in a second verse in double quick time was challenging.

The Cage was a success but sadly the band broke up. I don’t know why, maybe some of the guys thought we had been a touch too much in the commercial arena. 

OLD FRIENDS, NEW SONGS

After that I started working with Jon Deverill on a solo album. To begin with I was using a little porta studio but decided to go large with an eight track demo studio in my new house in Whitley Bay.

I met up with John Sykes again when we used his studio to record the album. He had this huge place in the middle of a housing estate in Blackpool, where he was originally from. So when we were there he popped in and met everyone. I co-wrote all the songs on that album with Jon Deverill.

TOKYO CALLING

When John Sykes was touring Japan with Whitesnake we got a call from him saying the Tygers are huge in Japan why not get out here and tour. Well at the same time we were about to get a record deal from Music for Nations so we decided to make this the fifth Tygers album, rather than a Deverill solo album.

Because it was going to be a Tygers album we needed another Tyger to validate the band, who wants to see a band with no original members ? So original drummer Brian Dick came back in, there was Jon, and on guitar a guy was brought in called Neil Sheppard. I was asked to play keyboards.

I didn’t tour with them but we did a live TV rock show called ECT, Gary Moore and Robin George were also on – I was heavily disguised.

Read Making Tracks #4, when Steve gains mainstream success.

Steve’s latest album is available on Cherry Red  www.thelongfade.xyz

For more details check the official site:

The Steve Thompson Band – Steve Thompson: Songwriter (steve-thompson.org.uk)

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2017.

MAKING TRACKS #2 with songwriter & producer Steve Thompson. Impulse studio/NEAT records

In the second part of an interview with Teesside based songwriter & producer Steve Thompson, he talks about his time as in-house producer at Impulse studio/NEAT records and crossing swords with Northern metal maniacs Raven, Venom & Tygers of Pan Tang.

Raven

METAL CITY

The basic idea at Impulse was to have an in-house producer. Some places just had an engineer but I would be on hand to help in song construction, production and putting product out on vinyl and releasing it.

There was quite a scene with muso’s getting together in some bars on the North East coast of England. Part of the scene was a club called Mingles in Whitley Bay. This was the place I checked out Raven, they were due in Impulse studio so I wanted to get a feel of what they were about. I’ll never forget the first time I met bassist John Gallagher.

I was standing at the back of the room with my back against the wall watching the band on stage, which must have only been six inches high. John took his bass and pointed it at me like a javelin, he raced toward me and only stopped right at my throat. I didn’t flinch. He gave me a wink as though to say, yeah you’ll do for us.

CRASH, BANG & DON’T FORGET THE WALLOP

Producing their album was an intense but rewarding experience. When I agreed to produce the album it was only on a three-day week basis. I figured I would need time out to recover from the sessions. I’ve heard these guys described as ‘athletic rock’, and that’s just about right.

In fact they were so energetic that I was obliged to gaffa tape the headphones to their heads otherwise they were just bouncing off as their heads where banging ten to the dozen as they recorded.

When I first heard them I thought yeah this is heavy as hell, not what I’m writing at the moment but it was constructed, well thought out and clever with a huge sound for a three piece.

You know some studio work is psychology, getting the best out of people. For instance the harder I pushed Raven the better the output was. Some people you have to be gentler with and try not to make a mistake. Most of the time humour was what worked best. They have since said one of the things they remember about our time in the studio was how much they laughed.

THROW THE KITCHEN SINK AT IT MAN

We experimented a bit, we decided we wanted a marching sound to bring in the Rock Until You Drop track so we mic’d up the toilet floor next to the studio and went in there and marched. It wasn’t right though.

I took a coffee break to ponder the problem and then it struck me. The disposable plastic coffee cups had just that crunch factor we needed. We spread a hundred or so and stomped on them. We then did several takes but had to keep replenishing the cups. In the end we used the entire supply of three thousand.

Venom

SEDUCED BY THE DEVIL

I remember being in the studio when our tape op was a young guy called Conrad. It was his job to fetch and carry, make coffee, thread the tapes onto the machines, make tape copies and cassettes. Conrad fitted in well.  He was a good tape op and got on well with everyone. He was always going on about his own band.

It seemed they saved up for about three months until they could afford enough pyrotechnics to blow up half a city, then had to save up to do another show. Conrad said very little about the music, it was mostly about the explosions. Nearly forgot to mention, Conrad’s band was called Venom.  And what about the time I gave Venom the Devil (laughs).

The Devil is a nick name for a musical interlude called the Tritone. And it’s heavily discordant if you crank the volume up, basically the sound of The Devil. I remember in the studio I loaned them my bass and Conrad played it through a Marshall stack and a fuzz box. Apparently the loan of that bass gave birth to Black Metal. I’m responsible. Sorry.

They were very unrefined but had absolutely bags of enthusiasm, but that was the last thing I recorded there. I never took a production royalty, just said ‘There’s the tapes lad’s, I’m off’.

Eventually I sold Conrad that bass – a Gibson EB3. I said ‘I have no use for it now but you must take care of it’. Next I saw it had an upside down effigy of Christ nailed to it and holes drilled through it. Some years later I asked him did he still have it, he replied ‘It died in L.A.’

Tygers of Pan Tang

A BIG TIDE AT TYGER BAY

One of the earlier times in Impulse, Dave Woods – NEAT label owner – came in and said there’s a band out there making a big noise why not get them in and sell a few records? So in came Tygers of Pan Tang to cut three tracks. Incidentally it was to be the third single I’d produced for NEAT – the first two releases were not heavy metal.

We recorded their first single Don’t Touch Me There, now we know it was the start of what is known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), and the tide was coming in that very evening (laughs).

Anyway we put it out and it started to really sell. MCA got interested so they picked it up, re-released it and went on to do their first album. Our paths parted then, but sometime later I was looking for somewhere to live, and the Tygers had a spare room for me to move into.

Next up read Making Tracks #3, where Steve talks about song writing & recording with Tygers of Pan Tang.

Steve’s latest album is available on Cherry Red  www.thelongfade.xyz

For more details check the official site:

The Steve Thompson Band – Steve Thompson: Songwriter (steve-thompson.org.uk)

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2017

MAKING TRACKS #1 with songwriter & producer, Steve Thompson. From Consett to Wallsend.

Teesside based songwriter & producer Steve Thompson has had a hell of a career in the music biz, from producing heavy metal bands Venom, Raven and Tygers of Pan Tang, to mainstream artists Sheena Easton, Elkie Brooks and Celine Dion recording his songs, plus working with Pete Waterman, Gus Dudgeon, and The Hollies. Here he talks about his early influences and forming Bullfrog.

A BIT OF BULLY

Records I was fond of in the ‘60s were The Beach Boys. Brian Wilsons skill in making records was unbelievable. I used to listen to the radio and they were so far away like gods playing this music. But the thing that got me into playing guitar was seeing everyday guys around town playing guitars, just ordinary people.

Like all kids in my town, I went straight from school into Consett Steel Works. With three other steelworkers we formed a band called Bullfrog, and served two apprenticeships. One of them by day working in the steelworks, the other by night playing the pubs and clubs of North East England. That was my first stab at the music industry.

Bullfrog supported a lot of bands like Vinegar Joe and Edgar Broughton. On October 10th 1974 I got a call from our manager to say there was a gig going that night supporting Wishbone Ash at Newcastle’s Odeon Cinema and could I get the band together. When the call came in I had been dying my cream coloured platform boots, I fancied green. But because I was in a rush, I turned out on stage that night with one green boot and the other still cream.

Steve (in blue) in Bullfrog.

I’VE GOT A PLAN, MAN

When Bullfrog were in Island Studios in London our first producer was Roger Bain, he also produced Black Sabbath. I was introduced to his friend and record producer, Gus Dudgeon of Elton John fame, later on I did a lot of work as a songwriter with Dudgeon.

The whole process of studio and song writing really intrigued me so I knew where I was headed. I wrote a few songs put them out and a guy called Dave Wood heard about me and found a slot at Impulse Studio in Wallsend.

Next up read Making Tracks #2, when Steve is producer at Impulse Studio in Wallsend, home to New Wave of British Heavy Metal label NEAT records, and crosses swords with metal maniacs Raven, Venom & Tygers of Pan Tang.

Steve’s latest album is available on Cherry Red  www.thelongfade.xyz

For more details check the official site:

The Steve Thompson Band – Steve Thompson: Songwriter (steve-thompson.org.uk)

Interview Gary Alikivi  from June 2017.

NEAT RECORDS STORY with songwriter & producer Steve Thompson

Teesside based songwriter & producer Steve Thompson is planning an audio and video presentation of stories from his time as house producer at Neat records.

‘I’ll also add some studio out-takes and unreleased tracks’ said Steve.

In 1977 Thompson became house producer at Impulse Recording Studios in Wallsend and helped set up Neat Records earning him the title ‘Godfather of North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal’.

The first couple of releases at Neat were pop records, but with the Tygers of Pan Tang, Neat led the charge for the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM)- North East Division.

Before leaving Neat, Thompson also produced Raven and Venom. The North East trio became arguably the most influential bands of that period, especially in the USA. Metallica in particular recognising the influence the three North East bands had on them.

Steve recalled the Raven album sessions… Producing the Raven album was intense and rewarding. I’ve heard them described as ‘athletic rock’ and that’s just about right cos as they were recording I had to gaffa tape the headphones to their heads as they were just bouncing off their heads as they were banging ten to the dozen!’

Venom drummer Tony Bray said ‘When our first producer Steve Thompson heard us crashing through ‘In League with Satan’ he had the understanding that he was able to record something original and ground breaking. We didn’t, but that’s a good producer’.

What will we expect from the show Steve ?

‘This is an depth presentation of my time at the coal face of heavy metal. I want to paint a picture of what it was like to be there when these historic events happened. There are some interesting aspects to the story, some hilarious and some outrageous. This is a rock and roll story so beware if you’re easily offended’.

Thompson went on to write songs recorded by mainstream artists Sheena Easton, Elkie Brooks, Celine Dion and Wavelength who appeared on Top of the Pops with Hurry Home. The single peaked at number 17 after three month in the UK Singles chart.

In these covid times how will we be able to see the show ?

‘When lockdown eases I will present this story at a venue with reduced capacity. We’re also installing a state of the art camera and streaming system. You will be able to book tickets for the venue (limited numbers) or book a ticket for the live stream. More news will be released when I have it’.

Steve’s latest album is available on Cherry Red  www.thelongfade.xyz

For more details check the official site:

The Steve Thompson Band – Steve Thompson: Songwriter (steve-thompson.org.uk)

Gary Alikivi  March 2021.