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.
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).
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