GROWING UP BIPOLAR with Scottish writer & musician Mark Fleming

Mark Fleming is based in Edinburgh, his work has appeared in a number of published books and magazines including the Big Issue. He’s run workshops across Scotland and given talks on creative writing and mental health in schools and prisons.

After spending time in a Psychiatric Care Unit, Mark rediscovered his love for creative writing and music.

As well as documenting my experiences of mental illness in my 20s, my story focuses on the cathartic power of music – said Mark.

I write regular blogs about the revitalising impact of nature and music, the blog promotes positivity through writing about mental health, wellbeing and popular culture.

What is your experience of being in bands?

My first band The Seduced, were formed in 1979 at the tail end of the first wave of punk. We mustered about three songs, including a passable version of X-Ray-Spex’s ‘Art-I-Ficial’ – chosen because we had a female singer called Pauline, just like Penetration. We never played live but did get as far as spray painting our name on our local launderette!

I joined my first ‘serious’ band a year later – 4 Minute Warning, named after a lyric by our biggest inspiration, Killing Joke, and outlining our anti-nuclear/pro-CND political stance.

4 Minute Warning

At the turn of the decade a far more interesting post-punk scene began emerging. Many bands were breaking free of the three-chord, shout-along template – The Slits, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Wire, PiL, Punishment of Luxury, Gang of Four, Joy Division/New Order, Scars, A Certain Ratio, The Fall, et al – and using punk as a springboard into a whole new sonic universe.

As our music became more funk than punk we evolved into Desperation AM – named after a Gang of Four lyric. By the mid ‘80s my next band was Little Big Dig, melding post-punk, pop and Can, making it as far as a session on BBC Radio 1.

We never gigged beyond Edinburgh – and once in Glasgow, but did get a residency during the ‘85 Edinburgh Festival, in an ‘open until the wee small hours’ bar, La Sorbonne.

Gig poster for 4 Minute Warning

Mental health issues, recovery, marriage, and starting a family brought a lengthy hiatus until around 2002 when I reunited with mates from an old Edinburgh punk band, The Axidents. We covered everyone from The Ruts to Magazine then started writing our own stuff, supporting UK Subs, 999, Eddie and the Hot Rods and Tenpole Tudor.

Desperation AM reformed and were joined by Paul Research (ex-Scars) on violin, leading to another post-punk band, Noniconic. Then Covid struck. I’m currently mucking about with more ambient soundtracks under the moniker Giant Household Names – overheard in an interview with Wire.

Where did you grow up and what type of kid where you – playing football/in a gang/a member of a youth club ?

I grew up in Shandon on Edinburgh’s west side – traditionally the Hearts side of the capital although my dad was from Monaghan in Ireland, so I chose Hibernian. But I was always more into music than football.

In the late ‘70s uptown Edinburgh was a no-go zone, we were too young for pubs, and spiky hair/badges/ripped jeans were a red rag for ‘punk bashing’ by the far more prevalent ‘trendies’ who preferred disco music.

We’d stick to hanging around youth clubs where you could take your own records to pogo to. Youth was much more tribal back then, so if you were into punk, it was like being in a gang. But nothing like the Edinburgh street gangs, with names like Young Leith Team and Gorgie Jungle, where the emphasis was on violent ‘turf wars’ – it was always about the music for us.

North East band Punishment of Luxury.

By the ‘80s the stubborn punks who refused to embrace post-punk did become much more aggressive. Sporting cockatoo hairstyles and studded biker jacket uniforms, the bands they were now listening to, typified by local exponents The Exploited, resembled heavy metal being played at 78 rpm.

By that time we were into Punishment of Luxury, the North East’s finest sons since Penetration, Angelic Upstarts and The Carpettes!

Check out the interviews with these bands on the Alikivi blog.

What does music mean to you?

Music means everything to me. In my 20s, I struggled with bipolar disorder, and was sectioned in 1987 spending time in intensive psychiatric care. My wee sister Anne, bringing in cassettes of my John Peel recordings during visiting hours, was a pivotal moment in my recovery. I’ve only recently come off long-term medication (lithium) and music remains crucial to my wellbeing.

BBC Radio 6 presenters.

I’m an avid listener of BBC Radio 6 whose DJ’s include many long-standing musical heroes of mine – Iggy Pop, Marc Riley and Tom Robinson, along with a host of enthusiastic presenters like Craig Charles, Elbow’s Guy Garvey, Steve Lamacq, Mary Ann Hobbs, Stuart Maconie and others.

Although post-punk remains a major influence and I still love playing my now increasingly scratchy/jumpy 45s from 45 years ago, I prefer constructing playlists based on brand new songs introduced across the board on Radio 6. Listening to these on headphones while strolling along the Firth of Forth on my doorstep, is wonderfully therapeutic.

Book cover for ‘1976 – Growing Up Bipolar‘.

What have you got planned for the Autumn ?

I’ve just completed a memoir that takes in my bipolar experiences of low manic depression to the high of mania and psych wards set against the backdrop of electrifying post-punk scene of the ‘80s that coaxed me back towards stable mental health.  

1976 – Growing Up Bipolar’ is based on a novel I wrote a while back called BrainBomb. The title is a homage to the massively underrated and still out there being creative and inspirational – Punishment of Luxury.

I’m being interviewed about my book at the Portobello Book Festival on October 1st. Gig-wise, I’ve got tickets booked for Public Service Broadcasting and Pale Blue Eyes at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall in September.

I’m also making the trip down to Middlesborough to catch Punishment of Luxury in December. I never saw Punilux first time round so immensely looking forward to that.

Paperback copies of ‘1976 – Growing Up Bipolar’ are available to buy from Waterstones and most retailers. The ebook can be downloaded from Kobo, Nook, Scribd and Hoopla.

For further info check the site:

MARK FLEMING – CREATIVE WRITING & MENTAL HEALTH // MUSIC & PHOTOS. – Home (markjfleming.net)

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

Alikivi   September 2022

25 YEARS OF NORTH EAST RADIO BEDROCK

New Dawn Chorus by Tyneside band Beckett was the first track played on Saturday morning 5 May 1974 by presenter Dick Godfrey for Bedrock, a new radio show from BBC Newcastle.

Originally broadcast from Christina House in Jesmond, the programme featured music, reviews and candid interviews with national and local bands to give them exposure in the music industry.

The presenters ran through a weekly list of gigs booked in pubs and clubs across the region, among them were The Wax Boys at the Burglars Dog in Blyth, Satan at Spectro Arts, Southbound at the Honeysuckle in Gateshead, the Caffreys at South Shields Legion, White Heat at Balmbras Newcastle, East Side Torpedoes at Darlington Arts, Tygers of Pan Tang at Sunderland Mayfair and Raven headlining Newcastle Mayfair.

There was a local band that Bedrock used to play regular, ‘he was a good bassist with a decent voice’ said Godfrey. That was of course pre-Police Sting and his jazz influenced Last Exit who were a major band in Newcastle towards the end of the ‘70s.

Musician John Farmer, formerly of the Steve Brown Band who wrote the signature tune for the programme  ‘What was good about Bedrock was it gave unsigned bands an opportunity to get their stuff on the airwaves, it was a great thrill to do it’.

Ian Penman

One of the most familiar radio voices was Ian Penman (writing as Ian Ravendale, music journalist for Sounds).

‘I first heard about Bedrock when I read a piece in NME. Dick Godfrey called it Bedrock because most rock fans at the time of broadcast 10.30am Saturday morning, would still be in bed. At first it was only half an hour then it got moved to Monday evening’.

‘The first interviews I done were America and Mike Nesmith it was very interesting to be hanging out with American rock n roll stars in the Newcastle Holiday Inn. I interviewed Paul McCartney and had a load of clever questions to ask but when it came to it I forgot them all’.

Penman was a champion of local music regularly playing demo tapes and singles from North East bands including Raven, Mythra, Total Chaos and Penetration. ‘Sunderland punks The Toy Dolls were so keen to get their 7” single ‘Nellie the Elephant’ played on Bedrock they delivered the record to my front door’.

Left to right: Tom Noble, Arthur Hills, Rik Walton & Ian Penman.

Penman, who stayed for four years, was joined in the studio by a local guerrilla team of Rik Walton (Newcastle City Hall photographer), Tom Noble (Tygers of Pan Tang manager) and music journalist Phil Sutcliffe (interview links below).

In a recent interview Sutcliffe recalls the Bedrock team…’Ian Penman was drawn to the media and made a life within it, which must have taken a lot of gumption to prove what he could do because he wasn’t a flash bloke’.

‘Rik Walton was a good friend and 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. Rik’s pix are still valuable in every sense and he’s still the man for images of that time and place’.

Angelic Upstarts (Mond & Mensi) pic by Rik Walton.

South Shields punks Angelic Upstarts brought their own energy to the North East music scene, Dick Godfrey recalls a Bedrock promoted gig at Newcastle Guildhall where the Upstarts had a pigs head on stage.

They were really giving it welly, chewing and gnawing at it, then threw it in the audience where it hit someone and knocked them over, they were laid out for a few minutes’.

When Phil Sutcliffe announced he was leaving for a job at Sounds, Norman Baker joined Bedrock ‘It was the essence of music, getting to terms with it and sussing it out. Bedrock was such good fun and some interviews were spectacular’.

Baker told Godfrey the Angelic Upstarts first single released in 1978 ‘Liddle Towers’ was still on jukeboxes in South Shields and a bit of an anthem. After 25 years the last Bedrock programme broadcast 5 May 1999 and Godfrey played in all its glory ‘Liddle Towers’.

Gary Alikivi  January 2022

Thanks to Jimmy McKenna & Rik Walton for Ian Penman’s Bedrock radio tapes. More articles will be added in future posts.

Ian Penman 2018

WRITING ON THE WALL – in conversation with North East music journalist, broadcaster & producer Ian Ravendale | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Rik Walton 2019

EYES WIDE OPEN – in conversation with photographer Rik Walton | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Phil Sutcliffe 2021

MORE THAN WORDS: with Chief music writer, Phil Sutcliffe | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

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

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

CLOSEST THING TO HEAVEN – New Book on ’70s-’80s Newcastle Music Scene

New book ‘Closest Thing to Heaven’ produced by MiE Fielding and Simon McKay captures ‘70s & ’80s Newcastle music scene.

The 96 page book is a photographic montage of fashion, faces, venues, record shops and home-made flyers – and readers of this blog will be familiar to some of the bands featured.

‘We refer to Newcastle having more of a ‘village’ feel to it back then as everyone seemed to know everyone else. Thing is, how were those gigs organised as they were often well attended.

There are faces that I’m sure will be remembered, and not a tattoo or mobile phone in sight…explained Mick.

The main focus of the book are black & white photographs of North East bands Raven, Danceclass, Venom, White Heat, Angelic Upstarts and Tygers of Pan Tang tightly packed in with The Fauves, The Carpettes and Punishment of Luxury.

Mick added…As well as established acts playing in front of large audiences we tried to reflect the increase in energy as punk, new wave and electronica caught hold.

What unites them all is that they were performing in Newcastle in an era that has to be the most creative in the city’s illustrious history’.

There’s even a couple of early shots of Prefab Sprout in a pub in Jesmond, a young Jimmy Nail before TV fame as Oz in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, and is that a snap of Neil Tennant pre Pet Shop Boys?

How did the idea come together Mick?

Closest Thing to Heaven was very much a side project as it’s not the kind of thing I generally get involved with as I’m heavily into the avant-garde in both music and art.

I’m a member of dumdum SCORE previously known as Ju JU Pell Mell pictured in the book. Simon was a member of the band The Said Liquidator and runs the fanzine Eccentric Sleeve Notes, he also DJ’s on Post Punk Britain.

I put the idea of a book forward to Simon who I’ve known for many years and he agreed to get involved immediately. We needed a ‘reason’ to do the book and decided we’d like to raise money for a music charity.

That lead me to fellow Northumbrian musician Kathryn Tickell who had set up the Young musicians fund with the aim of providing money for instruments for kids who couldn’t afford their own. So it was arranged that our royalties would go directly to the fund.

What was the inspiration behind the project ?

Like Simon I was part of that Newcastle scene, plus I had a number of 35mm negatives and photographs that were taken during the late ‘70s and ‘80s.

I knew Simon was also a meticulous collector of artefacts of the time. He saw the importance of stuff back then so he also came up with a treasure trove of related material.

Once we’d put our collective resources together it was a case of trying to contact other musicians who had been active during that period – many are still going – and asking for help. Luckily everyone was extremely helpful including rock photographer Rik Walton.

How long did the project take ?

The book came together over a period of around 18 months in which time a lot of the pictures needed restoration so I spent many hours on photoshop.

The next problem was how to present the book whilst avoiding the need for accuracy of names of band members as we soon realised that including individual names would be an impossible task after all these years.

What are your aims for the book ?

I think we’ve done a pretty good job in reflecting the Newcastle scene around that era and hopefully it will bring back some great memories for people as it did for Simon and myself, and above all it will raise cash for the Young Musicians Fund.

Looking ahead, the book was to be launched with an exhibition in Newcastle City Library, and an event featuring some music and associated art.

However like many other things of 2020 they had to be cancelled but hopefully we’ll have a proper launch in the Spring of 2021.

The book was available from 3rd December 2020 in all high street shops, and available online through Amazon or direct from Tyne Bridge Publishing at Tyne Bridge Publishing | Newcastle City Council

Note that Tyne Bridge (Newcastle City Libraries) operate a skeleton staff because of Covid. To date they have shipped 100+ advanced orders, any potential buyer would need to be patient if ordering direct from them.

To contact Simon McKay go to the following links:

Home | Eccentric Sleeve Notes | Post-Punk Interviews, Photos & Music

Post Punk Britain | Free Listening on SoundCloud

Interview by Alikivi  December 2020.

HAVE YOU HEARD THIS ONE ? (#3)

Following on from the last batch of HYHTO stories here’s a few more from Fred Purser (Penetration/Tygers of Pan Tang), John Gallagher (Raven), Michael Kelly (Southbound), Chris Ormston and Nev (Punishment of Luxury).

First up is a story from former Axis guitarist Davey Little…..

When supporting former Thin Lizzy guitarist Eric Bell at a local gig we’re in at midday to set up a huge wall of Marshalls, drum riser, lights, smoke bombs the whole nonsense. Hey, we were local heroes (laughs).

Then Mr Bell and band arrived. You can imagine the headliner walking in and seeing this mountain of shit on stage.

But what a gentleman – we were young and full of it. He was very gently spoken and just said ‘This isn’t really the way it works lads’. Then much to our relief he said ‘but it’s fine, we don’t need much room, not bothered about a sound check’.

I remember it was packed to the rafters for Eric Bell, not for us, but we did ok. His drummer set up after us. Bass player rolled his amp on, Eric Bell rolled either a Vox AC30 or a Fender Twin on to the stage and blitzed the place.

No arsing about, no demands, just played like true pro’s. What a lesson, what a professional.

Of course we thought he was brilliant, his band were brilliant, his last words… ‘Pleased you enjoyed it, now you know there is no need for all that shit on stage, and don’t ever fucking set up before the main band gets there’.

A year later went to see him at the Redcar Bowl and he introduced us to his new band with…

‘These are the cheeky bastards who set up before we even got to the gig’

Full interview from June 2019

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/06/28/the-flame-burns-on-for-davy-little-ex-guitarist-with-nwobhm-band-axis/

In May 2019 was an interview with folk musician Chris Ormston……

I’ve recorded various compilations of Northumbrian music but my first big break if you like was when I got a phone call one night in 1990… ‘Hello, it’s Peter Gabriel here’. There is a rumour going round that I told him to f*** off because I never believed him (laughs).

But it was him and he was after some piping on his next recording. So I agreed to go down to his studio in Bath. He wasn’t really sure what he wanted and just said bring every pipe you’ve got.

We worked in the studio until he found the sound he liked, which was Highland Pipes.

The pipes were mixed down and recorded onto the first song on the album Come Talk to Me. Sinead O’Connor sang on the track although I never saw her.

He had brought in various musicians and sounds to add to what he had already recorded. That’s the way he worked. I got a credit and a flat fee for the work and really enjoyed the experience.

Gabriel I found was very thoughtful and reserved unlike his stage performances, as a lot of musicians are.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/05/11/pipes-of-peace-with-northumberland-musician-chris-ormston/

 In April this year I spoke with Nev (PUNISHMENT OF LUXURY)……

When our Laughing Academy album was being released endless gigging ensued and part of our excursion took us to The Milky Way and Paradiso venues in Amsterdam, and eventually via Cologne and Dusseldorf to the great city of Berlin.

The Wall still stood and divided East and West Germany, so great things could happen here! Although our Berlin Wall encounter at Checkpoint Charlie was a bit scary.

Steve Sekrit now had long hair and a strange beard, which didn’t balance with his passport photo and only after a long exchange with an authoritarian, now in possession of a copy of our album Laughing Academy, were we able to pass across the border.

Thankfully he looked at the images on the outer sleeve cover as the inner gate fold sleeve would have offered no means of verification.

Our gig in Berlin that evening was at the Kant Kino and access to the famous venue was a long walk across a suspended structure overlooking parts of the bustling street below.

It was a brilliant, receptive, bouncing crowd, full of anticipation – it was a very memorable gig.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2020/04/06/funk-off-the-punishment-of-luxury-further-tales-of-musical-adventures/

Next is a story from Fred Purser (ex-Penetration/Tygers of Pan Tang) taken from an interview in December 2018…..

We were on tour in the USA, and I turned 21 in Boston. It was a blast. Great fun. We were out there on the same tour that The Police had done, they had done the circuit twice and they broke. Squeeze had done it, they broke. Unfortunatley after the first circuit of that tour we were over worked, burnt out.

Virgin were a great label but turn over for albums was quicker in those days and they wanted another one quickly. Just too much. Sadly we split. In hindsight if we had just taken a holiday maybe four weeks off and come back refreshed, that would of worked.

The perception is that it can be a glittering world, we didn’t complain about it then because it was a great opportunity. But looking back it was very tiring travelling hundreds of miles every day sitting on your backside for 8-9 hours in the back of a van.

When I was young, I used to read the Sounds and read the back of albums and think it would be very glamourous. But the reality is it can be quite mundane.

When I joined Penetration we were getting £25 a week. Before we played The Marquee we got a telegram from Ian Dury to wish us luck. But he was only on £25 a week when Hit Me with Your Rythm Stick was number one in the charts!

Obviously that money would filter in later on, but the record company put a lot of money into the band and until you reach that break even line your just on the recoupment phase. They want their loan repaid before you see any money.

So, they would pay you per diems of £10 per day so you can get food and essentials.

There would be bands in great recording studios impressed by it all, rightly so, but in the background is the ching, ching sound of the money register. They are accruing a debt to the record company, and they want it back.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2018/12/30/square-one-in-conversation-with-songwriter-producer-fred-purser/

I spoke to John Gallagher from Chief Headbangers RAVEN in October 2019…….

For young lads like us there was only two ways out of Newcastle…..and we weren’t good footballers.

The running joke was ‘C’mon let’s git in a van and gan doon  t’ London!’. We did quite a few one off support gigs. It was, in the back of the truck, drive down to London, play the Marquee with Iron Maiden and drive back straight after the gig.

We just worked, playing shows, writing songs. One thing we’ve never had is a lack of song ideas. Often a riff from a sound check turns into a song.

We had worked hard for years so when the opportunity arrived, we dove in headfirst. Getting the Neat deal changed everything totally then when we made contacts in the US and did our first tour with a young rag tag outfit called Metallica opening for us.

It was great to get to play a stadium show with them in São Paulo a few years back and hear James (Hetfield) tell the crowd how much they appreciated Raven taking a chance back in 1983 and taking Metallica on tour with them. That meant a lot to us.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/10/09/heeds-doon-with-john-gallagher-from-chief-heabangers-raven/

Next is a story from Michael Kelly (SOUTHBOUND) in March 2019……

We recorded some songs at Impulse Studio’s in Wallsend. We done several tracks to send to record companies and also arranged to go to London, appointments had been made to approach Virgin, Rocket, A&M, Decca, Island, WEA and others. We thought that someone must take a liking to us.

I remember going into one record company’s office and I Feel Love by Donna Summer was playing and another office was playing Watching the Detectives by Elvis Costello. This doesn’t sound like us as we were playing AOR music.

After days of stumbling around the streets of London we headed home with hope that someone might pick up on what we left them.

When we got back to the North East we were offered an interview on Radio Newcastle. The interview was filled with jabs about New Wave/Punk taking over from normal rock music. I must have had blinkers on because we were in the middle of a musical revolution that was sweeping across the country.

Our music was becoming old hat and as one record company said…You’re two years out.

We had lots of replies from other record companies like …We have to pass on this…or Our label has its full quota of artists. It was very frustrating.

Full interview:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/03/13/all-right-now-with-michael-kelly-former-drummer-with-north-east-band-southbound/

Interviews by Alikivi.

More stories on the blog with a full list of interviews on the ABOUT page:

https://garyalikivi.com/about/

 

 

THE LAUNCH – North Shields alt/folk rock band HECTOR GANNET reveal the video for their new single ‘The Launch’ & talk about their debut album.

  

Songwriter Aaron Duff was born in North Shields, and like many in the Tyneside region hails from a family steeped in the industries of fishing and shipbuilding….

The Launch was influenced by viewing old footage of shipbuilding on the Tyne. So many Tynesiders are connected to this industry in some way, and such was its reach among the community the launching of ships were very big occasions.

Archive footage from the Tyne shipbuilding industry is weaved into the video…

Yeah, I visualized the build, and the structure of the tune kind of mirrors that. Starting from the foundations it builds up to the final push as the song reaches a crescendo when a ship is finally launched. I really wanted the piece to reflect the anticipation and ultimate sense of pride and elation when the hard work is completed.

Even in these uncertain times the band, who have been together since 2017, are steaming ahead with their plans to release their debut album, Big Harcar, in October.

The record was produced and mixed by Paul Gregory and engineered by Alex Blamire, the son of Rob Blamire and Pauline Murray, (Pauline is a member of North East punks Penetration)….

The whole album was recorded in Polestar Studios in Byker, Newcastle, run by Rob and Pauline. Once we’d done the first couple of tunes it was a no brainer to go back and do the rest of the album there – we all got on absolutely great.

Polestar has a great edge and atmosphere and a brilliant Trident 75 mixing console that gives a wonderfully unique sound. I think with Paul and Alex working on the record they allowed us to create something special which I don’t think we would have got anywhere else.

Along with the album released on CD there is also a vinyl version, was that important to the band ?

Yeah, we wanted to have vinyl as it’s not just trendy, but it looks and feels much better to have a full package, by adding the artwork and sleeve notes said guitarist Martin Wann, and Aaron added they were lucky to get two great artists to work with….

Dale Maloney did the front cover, he runs the brilliant Old School Gallery in Alnmouth up the Northumberland coast, Dale used to be in Lo-Fi Allstars.

The internal gatefold has been done by Woody, the drummer from British Sea Power. The work they’ve produced is absolutely fantastic and we’re so proud to have them work with us.

Can’t wait for people to see the artwork, it’s great; very colourful and captures the essence of the album perfectly.

Plus, we wanted to give the people who’ve supported us a chance to be involved so we have done a special short run of heavyweight 180gm Gannet White vinyl, and people who have ordered will have their name on the sleeve notes.

After the special run it’s black vinyl only, but still 180gm heavyweight.

The band have several festival appearances already confirmed for 2020/21, alongside further support slots with Lanterns on The Lake and Sam Fender (dates below).

Are the band looking to include all the album tracks in any future live gigs ?

We intend to play all of the album whenever possible said Aaron. It’s not over long at nine tracks, not including the two bonus tracks, and it’s all do able in the set …that is if we ever get to play live again!

With all this lockdown stuff it’s pretty crazy just now, for everyone not just us. The sound engineers and promoters are all feeling it. Covid is affecting the music industry massively, and that will be permanently, unless something is done to support everyone involved.

The album is available to pre-order now from: https://hectorgannet.bandcamp.com/

 Watch The Launch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPlUyb8fuz4

06.09.20 –Bobiks, Newcastle (solo headline show).
18.10.20 -Hit The North 2020, Newcastle.
26.03.21 -Newcastle (w/ Lanterns On The Lake)
29.05.21 -Northern Kin Festival, Stanhope.
30.05.21 -This Is Tomorrow, Newcastle.
02.07.21 -Corbridge Festival.

Previous interview with Hector Gannett:

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/10/18/all-hands-on-deck-interview-with-north-tyneside-musician-aaron-duff-from-alt-folk-rock-band-hector-gannet/

Interview by Alikivi  August 2020.

FIGHT AMONGST YOURSELVES – interview with Neil Thompson from The Carpettes

When did you first get interested in music ?

When I was a kid, I loved listening to records and watching singers like Billy Fury and Joe Brown on TV. I had my first single when I was two.

I also saw my first gig when I was two, which was Billy Fury at Sunderland Odeon in March 1962. By the time I was eleven I had about 150 singles in my collection.

I saw The Kinks at Sunderland Empire in 1969 and that was the start of me going to gigs in the North East – Led Zep at Newcastle City Hall, Queen at Sunderland Locarno, Sabbath, Genesis, Lizzy, Budgie, Nazareth, absolutely loved them all.

When was your first gig in a band ?

My first gig playing in a band was as a drummer. We were called Brown Sugar and it was on the 22nd November 1974 at Newbottle Church Hall, County Durham.

We played Chuck Berry and Rolling Stones songs to kids that wanted Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath – we went down terrible. When we finished the vicar locked us in the back room cos they were banging on the door wanting to beat us up.

I played drums in that band for another four gigs and in the meantime started playing guitar/vocals in another band. We were doing Status Quo/Thin Lizzy covers and I played nine gigs with that band.

The last one was my first pub gig at the Sunderland Royalty in March ‘77.

By this time I was getting into the punk scene and one night I was in The White Lion in Houghton, County Durham and George was there – bassist from Brown Sugar.

We hadn’t seen each other for a good while and first thing he said was ‘Have you got the Ramones album’. I said I did, so he said ‘Well do you wanna be in a punk band then’.

The problem was that I was a drummer, but he’d seen one of the gigs where I played guitar and sang and thought I was good enough. We did our first gig as The Carpettes in June 1977.

What was your first experience in a recording studio ?

We did our first recording at Impulse in Wallsend that was in the summer of ‘77.  The demo is available on The Early Years, a CD released in 1997 on Overground Records.

Did you support any name bands ?

While we were living in the North East we gigged with Penetration, Punishment of Luxury and Angelic Upstarts. We also supported The Vibrators at Redcar Coatham Bowl.

Among all this we played one gig in London at Leytonstone Red Lion in March ‘78 supporting The Leyton Buzzards. This was the only time, thank goodness, that I was spat at during a gig.

The Carpettes released six singles and two albums from 1977 to 1980 including a 4 track EP in 1977 & ‘Small Wonder’ 7” both on the Small Wonder label.

Two albums, Frustration Paradise & Fight Amongst Yourselves on Beggars Banquet.

How did signing with those labels come about ?

We were on the Small Wonder label while we were living in the North East. That came about when we answered an advert in the Sounds music weekly for new bands and they liked us.

Me and the bassist, George, moved down to London in October 1978 and found a new drummer. But it was like starting from scratch when we moved down there but we signed to Beggar’s Banquet in June 1979.

We stayed there until 1981 then moved back up North.

Did you appear on TV or radio ?

We were on tour with The Inmates at the time and had to cancel one of the gigs at London to travel up to Manchester to record The Old Grey Whistle Test. They’d already played a track from the album on a previous show. The other band that was on was The Blues Band.

Did you have any high points in the band ?

I don’t know about high or low points – all I know is that we got better and better as we gigged. Our new drummer, Tim Wilder, was a really solid drummer, he was from Oxford but he’d been a student at Newcastle University and was the drummer in The Young Bucks while living up North.

I loved going to The Marquee to watch bands, but I didn’t really enjoy playing there to be honest. We did six supports there and they were hard work – there was always a ‘Come on then, impress us’ in the air !

We played four nights in November ‘79 with The Lurkers during their residency there. Each gig would have punks sitting on the stage with their backs to us and every now and then one would look around and stare at you – and then turn back around.

I much preferred London gigs like The Hope ‘n’ Anchor and The Nashville.

By the very last gig for The Carpettes in June 1981 we were a really tight live act with four years gigging experience – you can’t beat live experience for getting better on stage. It’s no good sitting in the bedroom playing guitar – not gonna get you anywhere.

One story to tell is that one of our first gigs was supporting Penetration at Newcastle University in November ‘77 – and we were terrible !

It was far too early to be playing gigs like that, but we supported them again at Middlesbrough Rock Garden in August ‘78 and went down a storm.

Have you any road stories ?

In 1980 we went to Italy three times and Holland once, and we also did a short UK tour supporting The Inmates. That UK tour was probably the best two weeks of my life.

I was twenty years old, travelling around the country playing music and when we arrived at the venue all the equipment would already be set up by the roadies – heaven!

What are you doing now ?

Well I’ve spent most of my life down London. I was in my own band called The Only Alternative – all my ideas and songs which was a bit selfish.

But we had some laughs for a couple of years between the summer of ‘84 to the summer of ’86. We released an album in 1985 on the Midnight Music label.

Then with the 20th anniversary of punk happening in 1996 I got both bands back together, well sort of with different line-ups. Both bands gigged on and off until the end of 2003.

During this time The Only Alternative recorded two more albums and two singles. I played drums on all of these recordings – as well as being the singer. The Carpettes released a single in 2002 and an album in 2003.

At the moment I have a three-piece band called The Alternative Carpettes which play some of my songs from The Carpettes with some Only Alternative ones thrown in.

What does music mean to you ?

Music means everything to me. All my life has revolved around music. I love all sorts of music. I love orchestral music like Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev.

Love the ‘30s and ‘40s swing bands like Basie and Ellington. Rock ‘n’ roll, country, rhythm and blues of the ‘50s. I have a radio show playing ‘50s music every day.

I also love punk, metal, indie, 78’s, cassettes, records, CD’s.  I love it all. I don’t like TV or read books – my whole life is music!

Check out The Carpettes from this 1980 episode of the Old Grey Whistle Test.

https://youtu.be/LvUt7yeAepw

Interview by Alikivi  May 2020.

NEVER MIND THE SEVENTIES – Book Planned on NE Punk Scene ’76-80

nepunk

A group of music fans got together five years ago and planned to put together a book about the North East Punk/Post-Punk scene from 1976-80.

Bands featured will include not only big names like Penetration, Angelic Upstarts, Toy Dolls, Punishment of Luxury, The Wall, The Carpettes, Red Alert and Total Chaos but also bands who were only known in the North East.

‘Since we started on the book numerous folks have been involved in one way or another, with interviews and transcribing. There are approximately 300 bands on our list, and we’ve got all of them covered to one degree or another. It’s been quite a task’ said Martin Blank.

South Shields bands covered so far include Angelic Upstarts, The Fauves, The Letters, The Rigs, Next and of course, Wavis O’Shave….’Although Wavis was never a punk by any stretch of the imagination, due to his album ‘Anna Ford’s Bum’ being on the Anti-Pop label he became known as a sort of punk-cum-loonie-cum-prankster’.

Here’s an extract from Martins interview with Wavis…..

What is your first memory ? I think they told me it was only going to be a nice ride down a slide. Seriously tho’ it was ‘Who’s just kicked me out of this low flying UFO?’

What were your main interests when you were growing-up ? At my first school, the lad who sat in front of me calling Miss Bishop ‘Miss Fish Shop’. Another lad always wetting himself and having to dry his shorts on the radiators. They smelt like fish fingers.

Everybody including the bullies liked me, so I wasn’t getting my head shoved down the bogs and the toilet flushed or thrown over the high wall into the girls school or having crap shoved up my nose on a lolly stick or having ‘**** off’ written on the back of my neck. They had high hopes for me but in what way I don’t know.

Were you ever in a band ?
Yes and no. Around 1975 I formed The Borestiffers although we were never a band in the conventional meaning of the word. Our ‘instruments’ were a suitcase, a bullworker and a kitchen sink. We performed live only once, at a church hall in South Shields. The entry fee was a slice of bread, or a stick of celery. White bread by the way. Brown was a counterfeit ticket.

Kitchen sinks aside, can you play a ‘proper’ instrument ? I can only play the fool. I can play a few chords on a guitar, but who wants to listen to a bloke wearing corduroy trousers strumming his axe? Mind you, I am a dab hand at the Theremin.
annafordsbum

Do you know if Anna got to hear ‘Anna Ford’s Bum’? Yes, Anna listened to the album and she’s confirmed that she still has it safely in a cupboard. This was related back to me years ago when she was asked by Chris Donald (Viz mag.) when they all appeared on a panel show. A lovely lady, good sport and well out of my league.

Although Wavis was (and still is) well-known in the North East, did you receive much national coverage ? I was somewhat surprised when both ‘Sounds’ and ‘NME’ wanted to claim Wavis as their own and both gave him equal coverage for quite some time. There’d be the occasional mention here and there elsewhere but I was a stickler for refusing to make myself available.

The Clive Anderson show sent one of their team to my home and hauled me down for a meeting but when I found out the show was recorded  (I thought it was live) and they were telling me things that I would have to say, I left.

thehard
The Hard became a surprising overnight sensation on The Tube. How did he come about ?
The Hard was a lampoon of the North Eastern stereotypical hard man and I had to be very careful living amidst the real deal. The hardest man in the town was actually a fan of the Hard, which I can never work out especially when everybody swore I had styled The Hard on him. I’d never be that daft, unless of course I did. I do consider myself hard and I can prove it. I once lived off ten quid a week – now that’s hard. 

What was it like appearing on Stars In Their Eyes with your impression of Steve Harley ? 
My wife tried to get me to audition for the show for years as I was both a fan and friend of Steve Harley from ‘74-‘77 and she knew I could do a good impersonation of him. I gave in one year when a bloke came on and did Benny Hill. He was atrocious and I thought, ‘Well I can’t do worse than that, pass me the phone’.
wavisstarsintheireyes

Were Wavis and The Hard really closet intellectuals merely poking fun at the absurdity of the world today ? There’s a side of me that very few people know of. One of those facets of the diamond is a very serious, and reasonably well known controversial author, broadcaster, researcher with a sizeable website and a lot of internet coverage. I doubt you’ll know him and only a very few Wavis people do. He’s a cross between a British Indie Jones and Poirot, and that’s the only clue you’ll get. I’ve/he’s been on Sky TV shows a few times, done a lot of USA radio shows and wrote for a high street national monthly mag for a few years.

The full interview with Wavis will be available in the book. The group are now planning to complete the project, but Martin told me there is still time for some bands to come forward…

‘We now have all the interviews in the can but if there are any other North East bands who were active circa 1976-80 who we don’t know about and who’d like to contribute they’re welcome to get in touch’.

Contact: gobonthetyne@hotmail.com

Gary Alikivi    August 2019.

ROKSNAPS #7 – Snap Happy

Roksnaps are photograph’s taken by fan’s which captured the atmosphere of concerts in the North East during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. T-shirt’s, programmes and autographs were hunted down to collect as souvenir’s – and some people took photographs on the night.

One fan who kept his photos and shared them on the blog is Martin Blank…

Like many fans at the time, I liked to leave a gig with as many souvenirs as I could whether it be a T-shirt, scarf, badge, programme or poster. If very lucky, maybe a plectrum, drumstick or even a sweaty towel used by the band and thrown into the crowd.

If it was a band I was keen on I would sometimes record a gig, although this was greatly frowned upon at the time by record companies worried that the recording would appear on a bootleg LP and rob them of potential sales.

Funnily enough recording gigs and photographing bands seems to be encouraged nowadays.

Cassette-recorders in the ‘70s were rather bulky and therefore trying to get into a venue with a huge bulge under your coat was no mean feat. I can’t describe the joy of leaving a venue knowing that you had the gig on tape which could then be relived in the privacy of your bedroom.

Even better was taking photos because no other pics from the gig would be identical to the ones you’d taken.

captainsensiblecityhall77

Captain Sensible of The Damned outside Newcastle City Hall in 1977.

The first camera I got was an instamatic and the first gig I took it to was T.Rex at Newcastle City Hall in ‘77. For reasons I can’t remember I didn’t take any photos of support band The Damned but straight after they left the stage I went outside and who walks past but none other than Captain Sensible.

I fumbled around in a desperate attempt to find my camera in hope of getting a few candid snaps of The Captain. Shoving my camera under his nose I asked him if it would be OK to take a few photos. ‘Of course’, he said with a big grin on his face.

As I was happily snapping away, hardly believing my luck as he was striking just about every pose known to man, in jumped a group of punks. One of them was carrying The Damned’s debut album.

I asked if there would be any chance of getting a few photos of the rest of the band. The Captain went in the stage door and a couple of minutes later appeared with vocalist Dave Vanian looking like he’d just walked off the set of the latest Hammer Horror film.

paulinemurrayuni78

Pauline Murray vocalist with North East punks Penetration at the Newcastle University 1978.

The next gig I took my camera to was the Stuff the Jubilee event at The Guildhall featuring The Adverts, Penetration, The Big G and an unknown band from Manchester called Warsaw. Regrettably, I was so excited watching the bands that I totally forgot to take any photos.

Warsaw, of course, were soon to change their name to Joy Division and did rather well for themselves. On that night they came across as a rather poor run-of-the-mill Punk band. So bad that somebody commented, ‘They’re so bad they’re good.

My brother had a better camera, a Zenith which he would sometimes let me borrow. Whereas with an instamatic camera it was basically sheer luck whether or not you got a good photo or just an abstract-looking blur, with an SLR (single lens reflex) you could focus, alter the aperture which was great when the stage lighting was poor and even zoom-in.

Taking photos at The Mayfair, Uni or Poly was easy as nobody was bothered but the City Hall had a strict ‘no photos’ policy. Some stewards were OK with it and would let you go to the front of the stage to get a few pics providing you were very quick. Loitering around the stage snapping away could get you dragged back to your seat or, even worse, thrown out.

The advantage of many Punk gigs was that they took place at the Uni, Poly or in pubs which meant you could get really up-close. Several times I got disparaging looks from a member of a band: ‘Get that fuc*ing camera out of my face’.

Of course, there was always the risk of your camera being damaged in the frenzy of a Punk gig but it was always worth taking the chance.

Sometimes when I show the photos to kids who are into Punk nowadays, they’re amazed. It’s a bit like they’re seeing photos of the Second World War or something, ‘O my god you were actually there!

I guess it’s one thing seeing photos in a book, magazine or on a website but to actually handle the originals gives them some sort of connection to the past.

I’ve been offered considerable sums of money for some of the photos, but I wouldn’t sell any of them as I occasionally like to dig them out and reminisce about how great it was to be a teenager in the ‘70s.

generationxuni78

Generation X, Newcastle University 1978.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   April 2019.

Recommended:

Roksnaps #1 Feb 18th 2018.

Roksnaps #2 Feb 22nd 2018.

Roksnaps #3 Feb 17th 2018.

Roksnaps #4 April 4th 2018.

Roksnaps #5 June 20th 2018.

Roksnaps #6 March 30th 2019.