ROCK ‘N’ ROLL FEVER: with ex-Sergeant & Tyger of Pan Tang, Tony Liddle 2/2

Tony featured on the Mystical album in 2001 but his first contact with the Tygers was when they were auditioning a new vocalist after the departure of Jess Cox.

In the late ’70s TV producers Malcolm Gerrie and Chris Cowey were acting as my managers when they got me an audition with The Tygers Of Pan Tang from Whitley Bay, but John Deverill got the job over me – more from them later.

Sergeant: left to right – Robb Weir, Anthony Curran, Tony Liddle & Brian Dick.

Then came heavy rock band Sergeant around ’83. Anthony Curran (bass) and former Tygers members Brian Dick (drums) and Rob Weir (guitar) were in the original line up. Brian and Robb had left the Tygers after The Cage album and tour in the early ‘80s.

As for gigging I remember a show case at Mingles rock night in Whitley Bay for Carling Publishing, we done a television promo for ‘How Dare You’, as part of the show the audience threw custard pies at us. We also toured the UK supporting German metallers Accept.

Sergeant drummer Brian Dick remembers more from the Accept gig at Newcastle City Hall than I can – for some reason I was always on a self-destruct mission, alcohol mainly to blame. I have a memory that before I went on stage I was having a long friendly chat with Fish from Marillion in a dark corner of the City Hall bar. 

Accept album cover for ‘Restless & Wild’.

The whole tour was like going on a battlefield – every gig was like that for me. I used to wind myself up to an alcoholic frenzy then with all guns blazing attack the stage. I was like a mad dog. That type of attitude I could muster up – that’s why I turned down doing backing vocals for Cliff Richard!

We got to London’s Hammersmith Odeon and I ended up vomiting all over the Kerrang photographers and music journalist’s at the front of the stage! I don’t think the Accept stage manager was too happy bringing out the mop and sick bucket where a lot of people found my stage antics funny – looking back I was a stupid ass. 

When I told Pat Thrall (guitarist, Asia/Pat Travers) the story about puking on the music journalist’s, he burst into laughter, I stared with a vacant expression as his giggled and laughed for some time.

Accept were an amazing band and as a frontman Udo Dirkschneider had an amazing stage presence. Udo was the nicest bloke I’ve met – we all loved Udo.

How did working with the Tygers come about ?

During the period of touring with The Animals in 1999-2003 (story in part one) I was commissioned by Z records to co-write new material with Rob Weir, re-form The Tygers Of Pan Tang, then produce an album at my studio, Strange Street in Durham. Rob was founding member and guitarist with the Tygers when they started in the late ‘70s.

This new Tygers Of Pan Tang line up were fished from a North East club band called Grand Slam, I sang covers with them for a short period. Craig Ellis (drums) and Brian West (bass) were in Grand Slam, I called them up and introduced them to Rob. Deano Robertson (guitar & vocals) also came in. I did suggest naming them The Tygers Of Grand Slam!

Album cover for ‘Mystical’ 2001.

The Mystical album was recorded in three months at my studio where I had a new Soundcraft Ghost 32 channel into a Tascam 8 track half inch hooked up by code to two Alesis Digital 8 tracks.

That gave me 7 tracks analogue tape – one for code – and 16 on digital tape. Plus a Tascam two track analogue 1/4 inch, then all those tracks went into two Apple Macs for massive editing giving me limitless tracks.

When I was home from touring with The Animals I got the Tygers over to the studio, then those recordings went on tour with me on an Apple lap top and headphones. Sometimes we had up to fifteen hours travel between gigs so I had lots of time to edit and make songs from the recordings and sound samples.

Once the song had taken shape from my editing and screaming the lyrics into the lap top mic in hotel rooms, I returned from touring and the band met at the studio again and listened to the demo. Not forgetting that Rob would bring over new ideas on a mini track recorder – riffs, bass and drum machine. Next day the band recorded the instruments into my analogue/digital 24 track hybrid. 

Again that went out with me on my lap top on the next tour with the process repeated until the deadline release date – corners were cut but nobody was hurt. That’s how the whole album was created, written, recorded and released in only three months.

Are you proud of the album ?

The first tracks Rob and myself wrote for the album were Secret Agent and Detonator and a re-recording of The Story So Far an old Tygers track. They were released on a compilation album including Journey and Ted Nugent and a track by Liddle, Rush & Thrall was re-mixed for it. That song was taken from the album I recorded with Billy Rush (guitarist/producer, Southside Johnny & Asbury Jukes) and Pat Thrall 15 years previous.

I wrote lyrics for Secret Agent about being on a Russian tour with The Animals. Standing in Moscow’s Red Square I felt like a secret agent – Ian Fleming or Bond, such an amazing experience. We got lots of attention, TV cameras were in my face – I felt like Eric Burdon.

I liked the lyrics for Keep this Rock Alive, one of my personal best and don’t know how I did it in such a short time. In Detonator I wrote about the rise of terrorism which was escalating back then. I was once asked ‘why have you wrote a song for terrorists’ ?  I said ‘I think you got it mixed up mate. I’m just highlighting the rise of terrorism in the world today.’

They wouldn’t let it go so I sarcastically replied ‘Well you know I was looking for a market territory for CD sales that hadn’t been tapped yet and there are a lot of terrorist’s out there – that’s a big market’ !

When I listen to Mystical I beat myself up about some of the final editing and some of the lyrics – but not a bad job overall. 

Read more Tygers stories on: About | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Interview with Tygers & Sergeant drummer Brian Dick at: 

RAISED ON ROCK – with Tygers of Pan Tang former drummer, Brian Dick | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Interview by Gary Alikivi   October 2021

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL FEVER: with Durham musician Tony Liddle part 1/2

For over 50 years Tony Liddle has been in the music business recording and playing with bands including The Animals, Tygers of Pan Tang, Sargeant and AOR band Strangeways.

I don’t think there’s enough space to mention all the bands I’ve been in but I’ll try. The fact is after 50 years of fighting the world as hard as I could and eventually achieving my personal goals, when I start looking back through my memories I’m worn out thinking about it – with hotel room after hotel room, airport after airport and alcohol abuse. Many times on my road to success I wondered why I was doing what I was.

I’m pulling some memories out now like working on the road with Steve Lukather (Toto) Larry Carlton (Steely Dan), jamming with Cozy Powell and John Sykes for Screaming Blue Murder, radio interviews and live TV in Russia, tours with stars including Roy Wood of Wizard. Las Vegas gigs with Jefferson Airplane – yes we went to the desert on a horse with no name !

Going further back there was all those Northern working men’s clubs and bands. I was in Six of the Best for five years covering Boston’s More than a Feeling, Juke Box Hero…up and down the motorway till 6am five nights a week. Not forgetting Innocent Elephant from South Shields, we went to record company in London and ended up living a year in luxury – also went to Liechtenstein with a Swiss bank account!

Where did it all start ?

I only joined a school band in 1975 cos I might get a girlfriend – LAB 9 they were called, and they didn’t even want a third guitarist.

A year earlier at 14 years old I was playing guitar in The Lance Brown Big Band, those were the days of bands with a brass section, drummer, bass, piano and a conductor at the front waving a stick. We were playing dance/Jazz post war Glen Miller music in North East dance halls. Along with a paper round on a Sunday morning it was how I made my pocket money.

Lance Brown Big Band was a great introduction into Jazz when I was doing an HND course in Jazz and popular music at Newcastle College. I studied and achieved Grade 5 Classical guitar with the Royal School of Music – then I started writing original, unpopular, rock music.

During a studio recording session in 1978 the singer didn’t show up so I sang the songs Final Rewards and Mr X and was elected the singer, a lot of doors opened for me after that demo. In the late ’70s TV producers Malcolm Gerrie and Chris Cowey were acting as my managers when they got me an audition with the Tygers of Pan Tang from Whitley Bay – but Jon Deverill got the job.

Line up for music TV programme The Tube December 1982.

From then on my career turned professional and I played a solo spot on the live music show The Tube broadcast from Tyne Tees studio in Newcastle. I don’t want to name drop but hung out with David Coverdale, Brian Johnson, Phil Lynott, Herman Rarebell (Scorpions) and Leo Sayer…the list is endless.

At The Tube I was hanging with Lemmy and Brian Robertson from Motorhead after they had just finished an interview with Paula Yates. From the off I seemed to just get along with Lemmy and before I went on stage he waved me off and gave me a tall glass of bubbling dry ice.

The song I played was called Cold Mourning but titled wrong as Cold Morning on the credits but in fairness my spelling was bad and that’s what I probably wrote on the Channel 4 pink slip for royalties. It’s about a narcistic view of death of your own confidence and self-worth – mental illness they call it today. Sounds clever but really it was about the time I found my pet tortoise dead.

Iggy Pop was resting on a big sofa keeping his energy for the TV gig as you know he really goes for it on stage, full on. He is excellent and was, still is an idol of mine and my stage show copied him sometimes.

Lemmy is still one of my favourite lyricists and I loved his voice and attitude. I met him again few times in London at an exclusive club for ‘them in the know’. A lot of recording artists used to hang out at Frank’s Funny Farm – a secret bar open all night where I used to bump into Terry Slesser (Beckett/Back Street Crawler).

After that I got a free invite to all shows at The Tube, I remember standing next to Michael Hutchins from INXS when Paula Yates interviewed him. You can spot me on the playbacks and when Paula passed away and Michael passed away that interview clip was shown many times as it was the time they met and started an affair.

Then came heavy rock band Sergeant with Robb Weir, Anthony Curran and Brian Dick touring the UK supporting German metallers Accept and recording with Tygers of Pan Tang (covered in part two).

Tony second from left in AOR band Strangeways.

I wrote songs in a band called Frontier and when I went to London and formed AOR band Strangeways, I took the Frontier tape down and tried to get a few tracks published. In 1985 our first self-titled album and single was released with Kevin Elson as producer.

I also fronted Oliver Dawson’s Saxon before completing a new line up of Newcastle’s finest band The Animals  including three original members who had recorded their hit records.  

They were a great band worthy of Eric Burdon’s great talent and reputation – Hilton Valentine (guitar), John Steel (drums), Dave Rowberry (keys) joined on bass by Jim Rodford (bass) ex-Zombies/Argent /Kinks, replacing the late Chas Chandler. It couldn’t have been a better line up than that, I’d previously met and worked in my studio with the legend Chas Chandler.

There was stretch limos for many gigs when I toured America with The Animals, Coachman Park was an amazing gig in Florida and we toured all over Europe, Ukraine and Scandinavia. Most gigs in Russia were excellent and sponsored by Vodka companies.

Each tour was from two weeks to two month long. I got home from an Animals tour from Hungary and the next day The Tygers of Pan Tang tour bus picked me up outside my house for a two day drive to Germany and the bus had three other bands on it – Vaughn, Blow Up and Danny Danzi I think.

It was all way too confusing and the main toilet was blocked – piled up over onto the floor with sausages, well it looked like sausages…hundreds of them! Never cook another sausage. The promotors laid a huge BBQ party for us when we arrived in Mannheim and I opted for the cheese burgers.

What are you doing now?

I’m currently fronting a local North East hard rock band playing two hour shows  – Zeppelin/AC-DC/Ozzy/Nazareth – a proper old school rocking band. On the original side I’ve been busy building a new recording studio and can’t wait to get the band in to record. I’ve wrote some great new original songs but as yet no idea what we’ll call the band.

I’ve just put a huge Swim Spar in my house – think I’ll go for a swim now, just chill out and leave the past behind. I only live in the present and look to the future.

I’m lucky to still be alive and enjoy today, and through music have thankfully received escapism, purpose and the gift of wisdom.

Next up on the blog is part two of the interview with Tony and his time as a member of Tygers of Pan Tang.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   October 2021

SOUNDS CLIPS : PENETRATION

I’ve come across some grand postings on social media by archivist, Stig Chivers. He’s added articles from Sounds music paper 1975-80, some have featured bands from the North East.

Penetration & Lindisfarne at Reading Festival 1978.

In 18 June 1977 issue music writer Phil Sutcliffe met County Durham punks Penetration. In a favourable interview he asked are the Northern outsiders ready to walk the same path as the London based crew of Clash, Damned and Stranglers ? In a recent interview (October 2021) Phil told me…

‘Penetration, were a quite brilliant sophistopunk band from Ferryhill, dazzling in every way with a natural star singer, Pauline Murray. Great ideas men in Gary Chaplin and Robert Blamire, plus drummer Gary Smallman and out-there’ish guitarist Fred Purser. They almost made it’.

When I interviewed Fred Purser back in December 2018 he told me…

‘When I met Penetration they had a real chemistry, the atmosphere was good so I gave it a go and we played The Marquee. It was really exciting, loved it and Virgin signed us that night on an album deal’.

Penetration in Sounds 18 June 77

A live review of a Penetration gig in Manchester appeared in 18 June 1977 issue, notable for the support band Stiff Kittens who changed name to Warsaw then changed up again and produced two great albums securing a place in rock immortality. They are widely known for their classic ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ – yes we’re talking about Joy Division.

Next on the bill was John Cooper Clarke, reviewer Ian Wood labels him ‘a genius’, Wood warms up – or necks a few more beers – and calls for ‘A&R men to take note’ of Penetration as this band ‘are killers’. Buzzcocks close the (New Wave) show.

The review is illustrated by a great Penetration pic by Rik Walton – who else! In a previously mentioned interview with Phil Sutcliffe… Rik was a good friend and the photographer of the Newcastle scene, one who worked via mild manner rather than being pushy and sharp-elbowed’.

‘You wanted Newcastle music pix, Rik was the man – except when the weeklies sent up one of the big names from London. But Rik’s pix are still valuable in every sense and he’s still the man for images of that time and place’.

For more articles from Sounds Magazine 1975-80 by archivist, Steve ‘Stig’ Chivers check twitter:  @SoundsClips.

For further posts about Sounds type in ‘Raw Meat in the Sonic Mincer’ in the blog search bar.

Read ‘Square One’ the full Fred Purser interview at:

SQUARE ONE in conversation with songwriter & producer Fred Purser | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Gary Alikivi  September 2021

SOUNDS CLIPS : ANGELIC UPSTARTS

I’ve come across some grand postings on social media by archivist, Stig Chivers. He’s added articles from Sounds music paper 1975-80, some have featured bands from the North East.

In the 18 August 1979 edition is a Garry Bushell live review of the Angelic Upstarts gig at the Nashville in London.

Angelic Upstarts in Sounds 18 August 79

In a recent interview with music journalist Phil Sutcliffe, Phil talked about the Upstarts and remembers a gig in Newcastle which was a spin off from the Bedrock programme broadcast by BBC radio Newcastle.

‘Putting the Angelic Upstarts on before North East band Neon at the Bedrock festival proved to be a mis-judgment as a huge fight ensued, a rather one-sided affair given Neon fans were student’ish and Upstarts fans were from South Shields’.

Brian Rapkin from Punishment of Luxury remembers that infamous gig…

‘We were bottom of the bill and during our set someone lobbed a can at the stage. I caught the can and put it in my pocket. Later the Upstarts charged the stage. There was carnage, people beaten up, blood everywhere, the police came and made the rioters walk home to South Shields without their shoes’.

For more articles from Sounds Magazine 1975-80 by archivist, Steve ‘Stig’ Chivers check twitter:  @SoundsClips.

For further posts about Sounds type in: ‘Raw Meat in the Sonic Mincer’ in the blog search bar.

Read about the Angelic Upstarts in ‘The Butchers of Bolingbroke’ here:

THE BUTCHERS OF BOLINGBROKE – Pigs, Gigs and Prisons with Angelic Upstarts | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Gary Alikivi  September 2021

SOUNDS CLIPS : PUNISHMENT OF LUXURY

You will find some grand postings on social media by archivist, Steve ‘Stig’ Chivers. He’s added articles from Sounds music paper 1975-80, some have featured bands from the North East.

Sounds singles review 9/6/79.

9 June 1979 issue carries a singles review featuring Newcastle post punk band Punishment of Luxury’s ‘Jellyfish’. Not a favourable review to put it mildly ‘Pathetic attempt to capture early seventies quirkiness’ ouch!

In an interview back in April 2021 Brian Rapkin (Bond) told me…

‘The first single after we signed was supposed to be ‘Jellyfish’, but the board at United Artists didn’t like it as an A-side so we reluctantly agreed to ‘Engine of Excess’ as the A-side’.

‘Then we signed to Screen Gems-EMI Publishing who gave UA a bollocking about the choice of A-side. So UA re-released ‘Jellyfish’ as the A-side. But by then it was too late to get airplay. The momentum was lost’.

The diamond in the dust amongst the reviews is a favourite in my top singles list – Babylons Burning from The Ruts – ‘Music to riot too’ shouts this week’s reviewer Garry Bushell. Yer got that right Gazza.

Also came across some pages from the Reading 1979 official programme, or the official title – 19th National Jazz, Blues & Rock Festival. The Jags are on the 3pm Friday slot with Punilux at 4.30pm. Motorhead take the stage as the sun goes down. Scorpions and Ramones headliners on Saturday and Sunday.

Look out for Penetration and Angelic Upstarts on the next Sounds Clips posts.

Full interviews with Punishment of Luxury:

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

FROM NEWCASTLE WITH LOVE – part one of an interview with actor & musician Brian Rapkin. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

More Sounds Magazine 1975-80 articles by archivist, Steve ‘Stig’ Chivers check twitter:  @SoundsClips.

Further posts about Sounds type in ‘Raw Meat in the Sonic Mincer’ in the blog search bar.

Gary Alikivi  September 2021

MORE THAN WORDS: with Chief music writer, Phil Sutcliffe

The blog has featured some people who stuck a flag in the ground for the North East – Chris Phipps, Chris Cowey, David Wood, Colin Rowell, Ian Penman and Rik Walton for the pix.

The latest addition to the squad is a man who used words to create a colourful landscape and painted pictures in the minds of thousands of teenage music lovers.

London born Phil Sutcliffe, looks back on 40 years of music journalism for Sounds, Q, Mojo and The Face.

He interviewed a world of musicians including Stewart Copeland, Joni Mitchell, Nick Cave, Sheryl Crow, Eric Clapton…

Thom Yorke for Los Angeles Times and for Mojo, 15 minutes on the phone with Dolly Parton, truly that can set you up for a year or two.

Where did Sutcliffe find his love for words, and what’s his connection to the North East ?

I always wanted to be a journalist so in 1969 when I finished my A-levels and had a degree in English & American Literature from Manchester University, I applied for journo jobs and got a training course followed by an apprenticeship at Newcastle Evening Chronicle.

That was in the new training centre in an office above the Bigg Market doing just about everything – local councils, sports desk, feature writing, a spell as a columnist, the subs desk, and in court where the 15-year-old kid who pleaded guilty to burglary and asked for 153 other offences to be taken into account.

There was stints in district offices – Gateshead, Consett and North Shields – ah, the morning fishing report of how much, by weight and type of fish each boat had landed! From the outset writing heaps, hard, fast and fascinating all the time.

How did the job with Sounds come about ?

I’d always said I wanted to work freelance but it happened sooner than intended. After three years mainly on the Chronicle I did the usual thing of trying to get my second job, 175 rejections later I went freelance.

September 1974 I was 27 my first marriage had just broken up, a bit late to start writing about rock’n’pop so not much in the way of a plan, but thought maybe I could earn part of a living on one of the five weekly rock/pop papers – as ‘our man in the North East’.

While still doing a bit of local news for Newcastle papers and Radio Newcastle, plus a couple of non-musical feature items for Woman’s Hour! I wrote off to NME, Melody Maker, Sounds and Record Mirror.

With so many band tours starting in the North East you could get the first review in, and I got a sniff from Melody Maker, but really hit it off with Sounds.

Within the next year I started doing feature interviews and making a slightly more decent living – Gentle Giant might have been the first as I tended to get ecstatic about their wild prog adventures.

But my first rock interview I think was Sparks backstage at Newcastle City Hall for Radio Newcastle’s late-night programme, Bedrock. The show was DJ’d by my friend Dick Godfrey with a strictly non-rowdy zoo of other voices – Ian Penman/Ravendale, Arthur Hills, the Out Now fanzine team, me, and other enthusiasts, all of us unpaid but enjoying ourselves meeting stars.

Also dozens of local bands from Sting’s Last Exit to Bob Smeaton’s White Heat, the veteran Junco Partners, Southbound, Gale Force Ten (with singer-saxist Joy Askew) and Wavis O’Shave.

There was a lot of local stuff about and loads of it good in what might well have been a culture – Tyneside pub rock. Very diverse, and not what Londoners called pub rock – Ducks Deluxe, Chilli Willy and such, Brit R&B-rooted – but it did happen in pubs quite a bit.

The Cooperage, The Bridge, The Gosforth – Last Exit every Weds if I recall. That one out in Heaton, Andy Hudson’s wine bar for a bit, a cellar near the Civic Centre – he played trumpet for the Grimethorpe Colliery Band when he were a lad you know, and then the more obviously culture-centred Jesmond Theatre.

We met on a Saturday lunchtime in a pub near the Tyne river and chatted and plotted, me and Dick Godfrey, promoter-musos like Chris Murtagh and Angus, er, sorry lost his surname but nice bloke with a moustache.

Even the odd sympathetic older star like Hilton Valentine from The Animals who could show us all a thing or two, though I can’t remember what. It was good.

Angelic Upstarts pic. Rik Walton.

Once in a while the Guildhall down by the Tyne river, scene of the Bedrock festival that spun off from the radio programme – all of this encouraged by a loose collective of bands and fans.

Putting the Angelic Upstarts on before Neon at the Bedrock festival proved to be a misjudgment as a huge fight ensued, a rather one-sided affair given Neon fans were student’ish and Upstarts fans were from South Shields.

I jest in retrospect, but it was a shame and in part my fault thinking in a hippie way that music brought us all together. We didn’t do that again.

However, the Upstarts – and their fans – were fine on their own territory which is where I met them generally, starting with a gig at Jarrow Town Hall when punk had reached the North East and they’d released their single, Who Killed Liddle Towers?

Which was a drama and a campaign in itself, with police brutality played out by cop-hatted singer Mensi, going at a real pig’s head fresh from the butcher with a bloody great axe. That was a night.

Also a double-page spread in Sounds, Mensi and Mond had plenty to say for themselves and we got on, up to some point where me coming from another planet got unfeasibly less brotherly. I always liked them.

My Sounds colleague Dave McCullough didn’t though and he invented a great word for the rolling profanity Mensi deployed – fuckverballing. What came in between worked pretty well though, speaking for a life much harder that most rock writers knew anything about.

I did cover heavy metal/hard rock quite a lot, but missed the North East bands, but pretty sure Ian Penman did a feature.

(Penman writing as Ian Ravendale in Sounds, May 1980, featured the North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal with interviews from Mythra, Fist, Raven, White Spirit, Tygers of Pan Tang).

Penetration feature in Sounds 18/6/77

My other ‘discoveries’, as we used to say were Penetration, a quite brilliant sophistopunk band from Ferryhill, dazzling in every way with a natural star singer, Pauline Murray.

Great ideas men in Gary Chaplin and Robert Blamire, plus drummer Gary Smallman and out-there’ish guitarist Fred Purser. They almost made it. As did the rude theatricals, Punishment Of Luxury, with their panto villain frontman Brian Rapkin and his small band of wild-witty anarchs.

Reading festival 1979 line-up with Punishment of Luxury and headliners, The Police.

Meanwhile, I loved Last Exit to bits, jazz-rock and soul and their own stuff, often saw them twice a week, and eventually got them in Sounds. A big feature on Geordie boys trying the London move – and this despite editor Alan Lewis saying “God that singer’s awful” when I played him a cassette.

But this was just after I happened to introduce Sting to Stewart Copeland, passing through as Curved Air played the Poly in ’76 – he had a lightbulb moment all right and somehow persuaded Sting to give up the music he loved, come to London and play the music he hated – punk – until it freed him to find reggae and write, Roxanne onwards.

Stewart and Andy Summers played to their optimum pop potential and they become the biggest band in the world for quite a while.

Read part two featuring Phil’s memorable interviews, books on The Police and AC/DC and a Springsteen biography.

Thanks to ‘Soundclips’ on twitter for the articles from Sounds Magazine 1975 – 1980, archivist, Steve ‘Stig’ Chivers.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  September 2021

A FISTFULL OF MELODIES : Durham band Lowfeye

A potion of Velvets/Stooges/Morricone/Springfield – that’s Dusty not the Boss (Steen!) – two self-produced albums behind them, and a third on its way – Lowfeye are a perfect antidote to pop gunk blocking the airwaves.

Durham’s deadly duo are musician & producer Alan Rowland, and vocalist & songwriter Carol Nichol who I arranged to meet in Newcastle’s Centurion bar.

Before 12 noon it’s quiet as travellers with their cabin cases wait in anticipation to board trains and whisk them off around the country.

But today it’s a Friday, and there’s a stag do on heat, one bloke dressed as a crocodile and another in a silky white wedding dress. We search for a quiet corner.

What came out the blue was we had done a Ennio Morricone type track. I love his soundtracks on the Spaghetti Western films with Clint Eastwood. We shared it on a Quentin Tarrantino website (Reservoir Dogs/ Jackie Brown/Inglorious Basterds) and a label in Europe picked it up.

They said a Swedish director is making a five part drama for TV called The Partisan, he’s looking for analogue sounding, quirky stuff and really like’s your track. We got in contact and a year later he signed it up and added it to the programme.

In The Partisan the leading actor is an undercover cop (played by Fares Fares) living in an idyllic part of Sweden. Some dramas are very grey and set in the city, but he wanted to capture how beautiful the country was with the darkness lying beneath the cornfields. The actor reflected that with a lot of skeletons in his cupboard.

The track was played around his character and had that spaghetti western feel, that was great because I’m obsessed with The Good, The Bad & the Ugly type films. Since I was young I‘ve been obsessed with Ennio Morricone. Forget your Mama bloody Mia I’m into cowboys and old films.

Afterwards, the Director got in touch and personally thanked me for the track saying it was very Sergio Leonne (A Fistfull of Dollars/Once Upon a Time in America). 

It’s been shown in Sweden, France, Australia and America but not the UK yet. I got some footage and watched it, I’ve been in music since I was 14 and it was surreal hearing your track on something as good as this. One of the best days of my life.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO

I love the sound and films from the ‘60s and ‘70s and had an overload of pictures and music when I was young. Written on the back of my biker jacket was Black Sabbath and underneath The Stranglers, people would say how do they go together ?

But I also like tracks by Chic, the bass playing is excellent. Then the Russian classical composers, and Sabbath who have a really heavy sound that I love, the riffs from Toni Iommi were very original for their time. I also loved punk, Pistols, Damned then got into Joy Division and Magazine.

I saw The Stranglers, Smiths then Nirvana with Cobain at the Newcastle Riverside, who were really good but unheard of at the time. They ended up giving the ‘90s a kick up the arse. I remember I wasn’t allowed to go see Ozzy with his wild reputation but I did see AC/DC with Bon Scott. I’ve seen lots of local bands at Fowlers Yard in Durham and small venues in Newcastle.

HOME GROWN

I fronted a punk band and got some good gigs and support slots but didn’t want to keep on playing live so decided to concentrate more on working at home in a studio. We’ve got a good little set up now. We work from an eight track, a computer and instruments.

I’m a melody writer and bring up the ideas, Alan’s a great arranger and musician. The melodies just pop in really, anytime of the day, I play guitar or keyboard and record them on my phone. It comes quickly we never slog at it.

We love the old analogue stuff, as Lowfeye we try to get that warmer analogue sound. We experiment a lot with the soundtracks we are doing and get away from the digital sound.

MAGIC NUMBER

We’ve recorded our third album, just need to mix it. I love Raw on the second album (Poor Little Rich Girl) it’s a really heavy song and we’re looking at getting heavy tracks on the new one.

The last three month we’ve also been working on soundtracks and The Partisan are doing a second series. the Director gave us a brief about what it is about, so we sent him six soundtracks and he said there is two he might use in the new series.

Poor Little Rich Girl is available from Lowfeye via Facebook

or email cnichol66@btinternet.com

Check this link for review of the album:

POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL -new album by LOWFEYE | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Check this link for review of their first album Pow:

LOWFEYE – Deadly duo trip hop into the sunset on their debut album | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Link to music videos via You Tube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhdNiSGr3ho

Interview by Gary Alikivi   September 2021

CHATTERBOX: with musician Drew Gallon 2/2.

In this second part Drew talks about recording with Forgodsake and Automatic, plus bringing his story up to date with new band Dawn after Dark.

At the same time as Shotgun Brides was ending, I was doing a few gigs with our former singer Kev Wilkinson’s new band – Drill. They were a wall of sound. Three guitars, bass and a drum machine. All on full volume.

Very entertaining and great fun, but I like having a drummer to bounce off so after a while I backed out and made way for Simon Moore to take up the reins and I left to concentrate on the new band I was in.

The new one had a different sound and feel to The Shotgun Brides, more rock focused with everyone’s influences coming to the fore, so we decide to leave the past behind and changed the name to Forgodsake.

We started writing songs and quickly went into the studio. The early demos got picked up by the rock press and independent radio stations and we got good coverage across Europe.

With influences that spanned punk, heavy rock, rock ‘n’ roll and the new grunge bands, Forgodsake played a load of styles all blended into one, it worked well. We toured with Skyclad, Dogs D’Amour and Mr Big among others, and headlining shows in various places around the country.

Also one-offs with the likes of Neds Automic Dustbin, Honeycrack and The Wildhearts. An eclectic mix, but some great bands and some really sound people. We also did a Marquee show with Johnny Thunders to close the circle.

As well as gigs out of town we played lots of local gigs, two of which were the pre- and opening nights at Trillians. The first night was for the brewery staff and we put the vocals through the CD PA – the Public Address system the pub played their Compact Discs through.

We were asked to advise the pub on what PA to get in to make it a viable gig for touring bands and we gave them the PA specs, but they decided to save money and put the band through their CD player. Luckily the free alcohol got us through the night.

The Vaux management were there and we told them it was utterly shit, so we got them to hire in Don Morton’s rig for the first public night and pinned everyone to the back wall. It was loud as. They then upgraded the in-house spec immediately so there was a decent PA there.

Forgodsake made two albums for Bleeding Hearts record label managed by Venom’s management company Bear Dawn. It was a subsidiary of Music For Nations I think, or was it licensed through them? They owned Lynx Studios in Shieldfield, Newcastle which had previously been owned by AC/DC’s Brian Johnson.

Both albums were self-produced as our vocalist Kev Ridley was their studio engineer. The first with the original five-piece line up of Wallace/Binns/Gallon/ Ridley/McCormack on guitar. And the second record with me, Gary Binns and Kev Ridley singing and on guitar.

They got great reviews and I think both stand up after all this time. I was, and am, proud of the two albums, but we didn’t have that bit of luck you need, so nothing sold in great quantities.

I also recorded a few tracks on a Venom tribute album around this time, adding the bass to the tracks recorded to Abaddon’s (Antony Bray) original drum tracks by Kreator, Nuclear Assault, Candlemass and Paradise Lost. The album was called In The Name Of Satan. I enjoyed giving my mum a copy of that one. 

And then that was it for Forgodsake. Kev Ridley went on to sing for Skyclad, Chris McCormack formed 3 Colours Red, Steve Wallace put a new band together, Automatic, with his brother Mal on drums and a guy called Weeb on vocals.

Steve asked me to join Automatic, around ‘96, and we were back to our earliest roots. A high energy punk influenced band, with nods to the Clash and Compulsion.

Part way through my time in the band we got in Billy Gilbert as a second guitarist. The gigs were great and the audiences seemed to take to it well. We didn’t tour as such but played gigs around the country with a couple of Marquee shows thrown in and did local gigs with China Drum, Feeder and A, and a few with Stiff Little Fingers, including two Riverside shows and one at Newcastle Mayfair.

Automatic released one four track ep for Dental Records which Dave Hills, who manages Newcastle Trillians, may have recorded – not sure. We certainly recorded some stuff with him. Another album which unfortunately didn’t get released.

In 1999 I called it a day, but Automatic kept going for a while after. I headed south, working in Indonesia as a diving instructor for a while, then going to London and then Brighton where I now live.

Although I did do some recording with a group of musicians who came together for a week and hired a studio to see what we could come up with – Jef Streatfield from the Wildhearts, Paul Bate from Plan A, and Nathan Maddison from Hydra Vein. And that should have been it.

But earlier this year I was approached by Howard Johnson from Dawn After Dark, the ’80’s goth/groove/rock band who I saw back in the dim and distant past.

Howard is a journalist and had written one of the first Forgodsake reviews and we had become good mates after I moved down to London. So I’m now playing in a band again.

The first single came out on 27 August. We’ve got an album, headlining gigs and a short tour with Balaam And The Angel all before the end of the year with more planned for 2022.

I go to as many gigs as I can. Once you’re hooked it’s always part of your being, I just love live music. I tried to get bands together in Brighton, but it never seemed quite the same without Steve and Gary.

Steve is in Penetration and Gary is working with Pauline Murray and Rob Blamire in The Invisible Girls. Maybe we will get up on a stage together one day – never say never.

To get a free download of the new single Maximum Overdrive join the mailing list at www.thedawners.com

Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/M6dbQajOwsI.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  September 2021

CHATTERBOX: with musician Drew Gallon part 1/2

Now based in Brighton, Gallon originally lived in Newcastle playing on the music scene during ‘80/90s. This first part features his time in glam punk bands Sweet Trash and Shotgun Brides.

A group of mates from Walbottle High School in the west end formed a band in 1982. We were young and punk influenced, and briefly toyed with the name Razor Cuts after the last line of a Buzzcocks song.

My dad wanted us to call ourselves Luke Puke and the Sickeners ? He’d obviously read the wrong press when he formed his opinion on punk rock. But it was never going to last because we had four guitarists and a synth player.

Eventually everyone went their own way leaving just me and Steve Wallace to soldier on, Steve now plays guitar for Penetration. We were in most bands together and he thinks I’ve got a crap memory so he’ll no doubt tell me I’ve got the timeline wrong and bands muddled up. 

I decided to swap a guitar for bass, and Steve and I looked around for other kindred spirits and found a lad in our local pub, Mickey Parris. We also found a local drummer called Gary Binns. He was playing in a heavy rock band but as soon as we heard him we knew we had to have him in the band, so we convinced him that his future lay with us.

We were listening to New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders Heartbreakers, Hollywood Brats, and that’s where the band name stemmed from. English glam, The Sweet, and a term used for American glam, Trash Rock.

Drew and guitarist Steve Wallace.

So the first band I was in was Sweet Trash who rehearsed at a place called The Scout Hut. It was a lonely building in the middle of a field. An old two-storey house which had the rooms downstairs knocked into one. We could play as loud as we wanted for as long as we wanted without disturbing anyone – it was perfect.

We started off playing covers. Some never made it to a gig, like Time Warped Garden Of Love by Cuddly Toys, but others did. First gig we played The Stones Get Off My Cloud, The Pistols No Feelings and Bodies.

Over time we played stuff by New York Dolls, Hanoi Rocks, and in later bands R.E.M. and The Clash. Towards the end of Shotgun Brides we played one that Sounds magazine referred to as our ‘rapidly becoming famous encore’ which was one of our songs – Stop Looking – into bits of Whole Lotta Love, Babylon’s Burning, Silver Machine and Bomber, then back to Stop Looking to finish off. It was quite long.

We did a couple of gigs then Mickey departed and was soon replaced by a singer called Carl Smith who I spotted on the #73 bus. He looked right for the band, but unfortunately only lasted for a little while then left. 

We played as a three-piece for a gig or two around this period, which would have been mid-’84, then we got a lad called Keith ‘Cosmic’ Forster in as second guitarist and he and Steve shared vocal duties. The jigsaw was finally completed when we got Kev Wilkinson in as singer.

We played loads of gigs in pubs around the area. The Mitre in Benwell, The Cyprus in South Shields, Talk of the Tyne in Gateshead. We played the opening nights of Edwards Bar at the Crest Hotel and that started things moving for the band as it used to get packed.

We also played at Sunderland Mayfair and did a few gigs at Newcastle Tiffanys with The Vibrators and one with Guana Batz, as well as headlining gigs.

We were managed at the time by Tony Fiddes who ran The Monday Club in Tiffanys and The Drum Club in Sunderland Mayfair and I think it was him who got some of the North East TV crew Malcolm Gerrie and – I think – Chris Cowey to come down to see us play in Newcastle’s Edwards Bar.

Our gigs were always raucous affairs with a load of weirdly dressed overly enthusiastic northerners going for it in the audience, with the band very much the same. So that was how we got the slot on TX45, the local show filmed in The Tube studios at Tyne Tees.

Looking back on it now we calmed down a bit for the programme and it looks quite tame compared to how I remember the gigs, but they did get a great shot of Kev diving into the audience at the end of the two-song set to close the show.

With Tony managing we did a self-financed single called Burn It Down which was recorded at Steve Daggett’s (ex Lindisfarne) studio in Gosforth. I think it might have been the first single cover designed by the lads at Viz records, but unfortunately they took a sensible approach and there aren’t any Viz characters lurking in the background.

We also played out of the area, about the time of TX45 we did our first decent London gig, on the same bill as Flesh for Lulu, Turkey Bones and the Wild Dogs, and Dogs D’Amour.

But Sweet Trash had ran its course and we were getting into other types of music. So one October night in 1985 we went on stage as Sweet Trash and then changed our name to The Shotgun Brides for the encore.

The Shotgun Brides played quite a few gigs around Bradford and Leeds playing with the likes of Salvation and Loud and ended up being managed by Andy Farrow at Far North Music.

We signed to Neat Records and did an album that was never released, and a single called Restless, both with Keith Nichol at the controls. We lasted about three or four years with various line-ups, playing gigs around the North East and further afield, but eventually the usual musical differences raised its head and The Shotgun Brides played their last gig at the end of the ‘80s.

It was still me, Steve and Gary, but with Kev Ridley on vocals and Chris McCormack on guitar. We thought that keeping the name would attract some people in, and we still had some t-shirts left over to sell.

I’m not sure where Shotgun Brides last Shields gig was. Some social club I think. We probably did play The Venue in South Shields, and I’m sure Forgodsake did too.

Read the second part of the interview where Drew talks about recording with Forgodsake and Automatic, plus bringing his story up to date with Dawn after Dark.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  September 2021

TYNESIDE ON MY MIND with musician Ed James

In the Newcastle music scene in the ‘70s we used to go to The Gosforth Hotel and watch Last Exit with Sting before he went off to London. A great musician Dave Black, had a band called Kestrel, was also in the Spiders from Mars, and had a big chart hit with Goldie, I knew him well, he used to call me ‘cop oot’ because I spent more time on my day job than music.

(Ed’s day job was C.E.O of a global construction company, he stepped down to run his own business which is now in the safe hands of his son Chris).

Sadly, Dave died a few year ago so that’s when I retired the ‘suit’ and went full time in music and producing a podcast with my writing partner, Ed Thompson.

I’ve always played over the years, I was very shy when I first started playing I played with my back to the audience. But being on stage and playing live you push it and tend to play a bit faster. It’s all about rehearsing and when you arrive on stage you are very comfortable with the rest of the band.

In the ‘90s I was working in Denmark where I got a regular gig in one of the bars, they called me the ‘Singing Suit’ owing to my daytime job. It was all Irish songs, stuff like ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ you know.

Around 2004 I was playing guitar and harmonies in an original folk rock band, Morgan La Fey, we went on a small European tour. I was too busy working to follow it through full time but I was still writing songs and have a book full of lyrics.

I wrote a song called ‘Love Will See Us Through’ for the diabetic research charity because my Grandson is a Type 1 diabetic and it’s a serious disease, no child should have to deal with that.

A few of my songs have been picked up by charities, Cancer research took up ‘This Sweet Life of Mine’. I wrote it for a friend of mine who died of cancer a few years ago.

When he was told he had terminal cancer he said he was going to carry on working. But he said when you see people and they know you are ill they have that look in their eyes which says they are seeing a pitiful person. He said I will not let that define me. I thought that was a brave sentiment.

TOON TUNES

Currently I’m putting together a number of songs called ‘Together Alone’ about lockdown and the sentiments around it, it’s on a personal level but will appeal to people because of what we have all been through. That will be out in the next month or so.

For recording I was after an analogue type sound and we worked hard at that. I like Irish music with my Irish roots but I also like to change things around and get different sounds.

Earlier albums I played lots of different instruments, some influences were flamenco and then I’d play the Irish bouzouki. It can have a middle eastern sound, almost world music.

PRESS RECORD

I record with Tony Davis at Newcastle’s Cluny Studio. We brought in a few session musicians when we needed them. I had everything written and ready to go when entering the studio.

I ultra-rehearse a song, you’ve got to put the time in. We recorded one or two songs per day then you have mixing and mastering.

I love the recording process it’s almost as good as playing live when you hear the whole song coming together after laying down a guide vocal or guitar and adding the layers. Although there comes a time when you stop adding sounds or harmonies because you can make a bit of a mess.

Tony is an excellent engineer he can cut it and fix the piece that sometimes you just can’t get right – in the end he used to say ‘Fuck it, we’re there!’

HEAR & NOW

For live gigs I’m making contact to 300 community concerts where venues are out in the sticks and can hold from 50-150 people, it can be big back gardens or community fields. They come out of their houses to really listen to you, they love it.

I have three different sets I’ll be playing. Ed James Sings will be covering a number of Car Stevens songs, Ed James in Concert where I will be playing my original songs and Jammin’ with James where I put on shows with guests and we all take to the stage for the finale.

 Link to the show:  https://www.ents24.com/north-shields-events/cullercoats-crescent-club/ed-james/6293966

Next year I will be looking to add UK festivals to that list. I’m a planner for these things and have a few friends around the country so will be able to stay overnight at someone’s house near the venue.

HOWAY THE LADS

After seeing Ed Waugh’s show The Geordie Songbook about Ned Corvan and Geordie Ridley, my writing partner, Ed Thompson sent me a few poems and one of them was ‘Howay woman, man Howay’ about his Dad going to working men’s clubs. I put a bit of piano to it and it worked well.

We also done a song about the three Cullercoats brothers who went off to World War One and never came back. That worked well so we decided to make an album of Geordie songs.

Some have serious subjects, some recount events that have happened on Tyneside while others are reflections of Geordie life. There are some great stories out there. The album should be out next year.

I have a radio plugger who gets me on local BBC radio around the country so that opens up our music to a new audience which is great – although I doubt I’ll get 2 million streams on Spotify to make a hundred quid (laughs).

For more info/pics/gigs/discography check the official website: https://edjamesmusic.co.uk/

Interview by Gary Alikivi  July 2021.