ALL THE YOUNG PUNKS – The early day’s with ex Upstart’s guitarist Neil Newton.

Neil Newton is a musician based in the North East of England. For 11 years he was guitarist for Angelic Upstarts.

Here he looks back on his career and where it all began…

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‘It all started off with Wizard and The Sweet, my earliest memory as a kid is seeing Roy Wood’s geet mad hair and makeup and the music just hooked me even though, at 5 years old, I didn’t understand why it appealed but I didn’t care, those songs and images were fucking great’.

‘A few years later punk came along and that was it, I had already been primed for punk by listening to the Glam Rock bands and the impact on me was massive.

I loved the energy, the anger and lyrics being spat out like venom, fucking incredible and punk still does that to this day, it still makes the hairs on my arms and neck stand on end’.

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‘Punk music did so much more than influence me musically though, it shaped my whole attitude to the world in general and it was a local punk band who brought everything into focus about just what it was that punks were angry about.

The Sex Pistols were writing about Anarchy in the UK but the Angelic Upstarts were writing about events and issues that were happening in my hometown. I loved punk because of the Pistols, Damned, Clash et al but I understood punk because of the Upstarts’.

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‘One other major influence at that time was my dad. He heard me learning and practicing some punk songs on my first ever guitar which I still have. He gave me one of his Eddie Cochran records and said ‘Here, learn that’.

So I did and said to him ‘Here dad, that record’s just like the Pistols’ my dad’s reply was ‘check the date it was recorded you stupid bastard’.

1950’s! Fuck me, that seemed prehistoric to me at the time and there was me thinking music only started with Glam then Punk…Wrong!. I scored for all my dad’s old vinyl though, Chuck Berry, Eddie C, Buddy Holly etc…Mint!’

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How did you get involved in playing music ?

‘The Boy’s Brigade. I started as a bugler but always wanted to be a drummer, so when I got the chance I took a drum and started rehearsing with it at home. Well, when I say at home I mean my dad’s shed.

My mam hate’s noise, always has and even to this day she has her telly’s volume on something like minus 24! So I’d get hoyed out into the shed. It was cosy as fuck. I can still smell the creosote, Jeyes fluid from Lindgrens, old tins of gubbins and my sneaky tabs – loosies, remember them?

Our neighbours must’ve been either stone deaf, extremely tolerant or best mates with Ted Moult and got a great deal on double glazing, because the noises coming out of that shed must’ve been bloody torturous!’

Where did you rehearse and when did you start playing gigs?

‘I played my first gig before I had ever rehearsed! I was still at school maybe 14 or 15 year old and I was approached by a 6th former. He’d heard I’d played guitar and would I help his band out by playing bass, as they had a gig coming up.

I agreed and asked him when the gig was, thinking it might be in a few months time and the lad said ‘Oh it’s tonight’! Ehhhh ! Don’t worry, he said, ‘do you know the bass line for Satisfaction by the Stones?’ Aye? Right, well just play that for every song.

A few hours later I was upstairs in the Marsden Inn drinking pints of lager and belting out Satisfaction like there was no tomorra’.

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What venues did you play ?

‘In the early days I played a few pubs in South Shields, upstairs in The Cyprus, The Commando but because I supported Newcastle United, I would spend more time in Newcastle than down Shields.

I discovered great bars like The Farmers, Jewish Mother, Egypt Cottage, Barley Mow and the best bar ever for live music in Newcastle…The Broken Doll.

Mega City Four gigs upstairs in The Doll, smashed off your tits on Slalom D, those were magic times Gary, magic times’.

What were your experiences of recording ?

‘Mostly positive and I’m not talking about the actual written material, because that usually takes care of itself either by being written and well rehearsed before you go in, or jammed out spontaneously to give it an extra edginess on the day.

Like most things, the greatest experiences are when you learn the most and I fell double lucky by having Steve Mack as producer for a band I was in at the time called The Sunflowers’.

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‘Steve’s from Seattle but in the early ’90s he had a studio called Bang Bang in Hackney. Steve was also the front-man for That Petrol Emotion who were formed by John and Damian O’Neill and were signed to Virgin.

Steve was a brilliant producer and he showed me how to properly arrange songs to get maximum impact, he explained about dynamics, he was a fucking genius and my biggest song writing mentor’.

Have you any stories from playing gigs ?

‘Haha, oh aye shitloads but a lot of them I can’t repeat. Ok then here’s a couple’.

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‘ The first involves a band I was in called Speedster and we were asked to play an all-day music festival at Newbiggin Bank House Social Club. How they even got onto us in the first place is still a mystery but contact us they did and asked if we would play.

As soon as the bloke said ‘Social Club’ I immediately asked him if he knew that we were a punk band, that we played all original material and no, we wouldn’t ‘play something wa knaa’! He replied that he was happy with that and that he wanted, as he put it to ‘put summat on for everyone son, a bit of variety’.

Well you can’t say fairer than that I suppose so we agreed to play even though, to be truthful, we still had reservations.
Anyway, the day of the festival arrives and we travel up in our drummer’s van.

We arrive and get shown through to the dressing room by the Concert Chairman, who introduced us to some bloke and his barely teenage son.

‘See this lad here’ ? says the CC pointing to the young lad, ‘he can play The Shadows on his guitar, give him a listen and tell iz what you think’ !

Now I don’t know if the CC had mistook us for Tony Hatch or Mickie Most but we stood in uncomfortable silence as this young kid gave us back to back versions of  Apache and FBI’.

No disrespect to the young kid but it was cringingly embarrassing to see his dad and the CC with a proper chuff on about this young lad, who probably felt as uncomfortable playing for us, as we felt watching him.

A pushy parent is one thing but a pushy parent and a concert chairman, the poor kid must’ve been going through hell.

Whilst all this had been going on an old bloke had been popping in and out of the dressing room. We assumed that he was club staff, or one of the dreaded ‘committee men’, so we didn’t really pay him that much attention….more on him later!

We asked if we could see where we were playing and were escorted outside and onto a concrete flagged patio, with two small speakers for the vocals…and that was it.

I remember it was a sunny, warm day so we buggered off into Newbiggin and got ourselves a slab or two of lager, it was Oranjeboom lager and how the fuck I can remember that I’ll never know but there you are.

We went back to the club and just sat in the sun drinking our cans and waiting for our patio erm stage time.

In fairness we had a great view of the seafront and it was a beautiful day but we began to dread what would happen when we got up, as the audience was comprised mostly of old people and staunch clubmen types – sorry for the generalisation.

Nonetheless, as more of the Oranjeboom began to go down, the less we gave a fuck….except our drummer, who wasn’t drinking because he had the van and was dreading it more and more the nearer it got to our stage time.

Finally we got up to play our set which was approx 50mins long. Not today though, our drummer just wanted to get on and off as quick as he could and set a band personal best time of just over 30 mins, by playing the set at 200mph!

There was problems with the weedy little PA as our backline just roared over it. When we finished, you would’ve thought the audience had been twatted with a wet Turbot, they just sat there, stunned and bemused.

We got off and went back to the dressing room and were met by the bloke who had booked us, he paid and thanked us and seemed happy enough so we thought fair enough, a little surreal but fair do’s.

Then we noticed the little old fella from earlier, except now he wasn’t wearing old gadgie gear, he was squeezed into an Elvis Presley, Vegas bloated years jumpsuit.

I did spot a custom addition though, the proper Elvis caper has something like American Eagles sewn on it and encrusted with jewels, this fella had Magpies sewn on instead of Eagles and glitter that he’d glued on.

We thought he was fucking mint and couldn’t wait to see him get up and strut his stuff, so we went up and parked our arses where we could get a good view.

Hey man, when he came on everyone gave him a big cheer and he was over the bit glad with himself. He started belting out Elvis songs and you know the crack, it’s just owld fella chanting and wobbly vibrato innit.

Then he fired up with a real classic (You’re the) Devil in Disguise. A track I quite like as it happens, but this fella sang his own version.

I suppose the Magpies on his shirt should’ve been a big enough clue but the owld fella was clearly a proud North-East working class fella and when he got to the chorus he roared out ‘You’re Mike Neville in Disguise’ !

It probably doesn’t sound all that funny a story in and of itself but the experience of it was fucking hilarious’.

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‘Second story, I can’t give names for this one but it involved some after show shenanigans at a hotel in Blackpool. One of whose guests included a certain diminutive Scottish lady, who likes dressing up as a schoolboy.

The surreal level went off the scale with that one, especially when the after show shenanigans moved from the bar and upstairs to a hotel room. True story’.

What are you doing now and what are your plans for the future ?

‘I’ve just left the Angelic Upstarts after being with them for the last 11 years and having written and released two albums.

I’ve got my University finals coming up for an MSc so I need to focus 100% on them for the next few months but after that I’ll be heading straight back into music again, although probably not with the Upstarts.

I’ve got plans for what I’m going to do music wise and should be able to reveal those towards the end of the year’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2017.

Recommended:

Mind Cowie, Angels of the North, March 12th 2017.

Angelic Upstarts, The Butchers of Bolingbroke: Gigs, Pigs & Prisons, June 1st 2017.

Neil Newton, Vinyl Junkies, 12th September 2017.

THE BUTCHERS OF BOLINGBROKE – Pigs, Gigs and Prisons with Angelic Upstarts

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In 1977 three big events happened in the small seaside town of South Shields in the North East of England.

The boxer Muhammed Ali had his wedding blessed in the town’s mosque, on her Silver Jubilee the Queen visited the town and while ‘God Save the Queen’ by The Sex Pistols was blasting out of the radio, three friends from a working class housing estate started a punk band.

It took them on a journey they could only dream of…

Mensi: The nucleus of the band really was me, Dekka and Mond

Mond: We had known each other since we were kids, we used to hang around the shops at Brockley Whins.

Decca: They said here Decca we’re forming a band and you’re going to be the drummer. I wasn’t doing too much then, so I thought it would be a bit practice.

Mond: Initially we used to rehearse in Percy Hudson youth club in Biddick Hall and I remember our first gig was there, we done a show for the kids.

Decca: Yeh and we only knew six songs, so we played them same six songs three times!

Mond: We found you can hire the Bolingbroke Hall in South Shields for about £10 or something like that, and we had a big enough following by then, we used to get about 300 people in.

Decca: We used to play there regular, the admissions were a bag of coal or 50p, well there was coal wagons turned up !

Mensi: We gave the coal to the pensioners.

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At one gig a special guest was brought on stage and fans in the crowd Graham Slesser and Steven Wilson remember it well…
Graham: The first time I went to see the Angelic Upstarts was at the Bolingbroke Hall when I was 14. There was a pigs head and everybody would run to it, fling it and kick it about.

Steven: First ever concert. First ever punk gig. Unbelievable, walked in, paid me money, it was wall to wall, heaving. I just have this vivid memory of a pigs head being held aloft, and I was transfixed.

Mensi: I think he made his first appearance at the Bolingbroke Hall with a police helmet on !

Mond: But at those gigs people started to sit up and take an interest.

Decca: I think that’s when we all started to take it serious you know, when we all got our heads together and started writing. I mean Mensi was a prolific song writer.

Mensi: My lyrics are mainly the easiest lyrics to write cause I just write about what’s happening around us.

Decca: He came out with the Murder of Liddle Towers, the song that made us famous.

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Mensi: When I wrote Liddle Towers it was more a sense of injustice that basically someone could be kicked to death. I don’t think I’m ashamed of anything I’ve wrote.

Although in hindsight, being a lyricist and songwriter you can write a song about something that’s in your mind for just that moment.

Another thing is being in a band sometimes you think you have great power to change the world, write a song that’ll change the world, full of ideals when you are young.

How did the Upstarts get their name about on a national stage ?
Mond: The journalist Phil Sutcliffe came to see us and gave us our first big write up in the Sounds, it was a centre page spread.

Mensi: We got big helps in our early days. Number one would have been John Peel, he actually played Liddle Towers when nobody else would because I believe it got banned. Then Phil Sutcliffe who actually championed the band. Then Garry Bushell.

Mond: Garry was working for the Sounds at the time and he saw the write up that Phil Sutcliffe did. He was into punk so he came up to see us.

There was something in the Sounds every week about us, if it wasn’t a single review it was an album review or a gig review.If there wasn’t any new records out we used to just phone him up and give him stories, we used to just make them up.

At one time the Sounds used to be called the Upstarts weekly because there was something about the Upstarts in every week without fail.

And that was all down to Garry Bushell. Bless him. One time we played in Acklington Prison and we actually sneaked Garry in, we pretended he was one of the roadies.

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Mensi: A lot of people thought it was a made up publicity stunt but it really happened. Yes we went in there. The prison Chaplain booked us as he thought we were a Gospel band.

Mond: We sneaked Bushell in with a camera, I mean if he got caught he would of ended up stopping in there.

Mensi: It wasn’t just a couple of songs we done a full set, we played Police Oppression and Liddle Towers that went down a storm didn’t it.

Mond: That got us some great press if nothing else. There was hell on, it was in all the Sunday papers. How could such an anti Police band be allowed to play inside a prison.

I seem to remember an MP from Tynemouth called Neville Trotter, he stood up in the Houses of Parliament and asked questions like how was this allowed to happen. Neville Trotter and a pig’s head, you couldn’t write it could you.

Decca: The rest is history after that… next you know your on Top of the Pops.

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Pop music has an air of glamour and in the 70’s shows like Top of the Pops paraded the latest stars in front of a huge TV audience of teenagers looking to spend their pocket money on the latest single.

At its height the BBC show was pulling in audience figures of 15 million. In the Summer of ’79 the Angelic Upstarts were booked for the show. The glamour bubble was about to be burst…

Mensi: We should of got on Top of the Pops with I’m an Upstart because it got to number 31 and stayed in the chart a few weeks but they wouldn’t have us on at first. But we were on once. It was like, nothing. There was no atmosphere.

Mond: I remember we did Teenage Warning it went in around number 29 on the chart. It was a horrible cold studio with four stages in it. There was only 20-30 people there. It was like playing a big warehouse, it was horrible really, not a nice experience.

Mensi: The only good thing was I sang live, they wanted us to mime but I wouldn’t so that was something.

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What did punk do for the band ?
Mond: Punk was a great platform it enabled us to get a deal with EMI, another one with Polydor and one with WEA. So yeh it enabled you to get a foot on the ladder.

Mensi: It was a way out for what I consider to be working class kids. You didn’t have to be a student in art school, you didn’t have to be prolific at music you could just bang a dustbin lid and you were away mate.

Decca: The first time I went to America, the kids in New York were into skinheads and that but in L.A. where I lived for a little while it was more like a fashion with them. But here in the UK it was a real movement.

Mond: I never thought I would be with EMI and do an album in Abbey Road studios where The Beatles used to use. We were in studio 2 the one that they recorded in.

Decca: Imagine how I felt you end up drinking with Hollywood movie stars like Marty Feldman who I loved and adored.

Mond: When I was in the shipyards putting lights up on type 42 Destroyers and you told me I was going to do an album in Abbey Road I would of just laughed. I’m an alright guitarist not a great guitarist but I couldn’t see it happening.

Decca: Yeh looking back I’ve been a lucky man.

Mond: But that’s what punk did it made peoples dreams come true.

Interviews from the documentary ’The Butchers of Bolinbroke’ (2013) available on You Tube.
Interview by Gary Alikivi  2013.

Recommended:

Mond Cowie, Angels of the North, March 12th 2017.

Neil Newton, All the Young Punks, June 4th 2017.

ANGELS OF THE NORTH – Mond Cowie original guitarist with Angelic Upstarts look’s back on his career with the punk band.

Mond Cowie was guitarist with Angelic Upstarts from 1977 to his last album for the band Reason Why in 1983.
‘I was getting interested in the recording side of things and taking note of what could be done in a studio as by then we had worked with a few different producers with different styles. Result was I produced our album ‘Reason Why’ in Alaska Studio’s in Waterloo. It was owned by Pat Collier bassist with The Vibrators.

I got some great guitar sounds in that studio and I remember the sound of the guitar solo on Solidarity especially, very Paul Kossoff I thought! I’m really proud of that one’.

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Who were your influences in music ? ‘I was listening to bands like Free, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple when I was about 15. My favourite guitarist then was Paul Kosoff from Free, I really liked the Les Paul sound he had and in fact my first guitar was a Sunburst Gibson Les Paul like his.

I bought it out of the Exchange and Mart magazine. Me and a friend drove down to London and I paid £320 for it.

In my time I had three Les Paul’s stolen, one from a gig in Glasgow – when I got stabbed in the back the same night, the joys of touring with The Upstarts – another in New York and one when Lynx Studios, Newcastle where I was working, was broken into’.

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How did you get involved in playing music ? ‘I was originally in a club band with Decca Wade on drums, we were playing rock standards, some Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy and the odd chart songs in the working mens clubs on Tyneside.

We also worked together in Hebburn shipyards, I was an electrician. Mensi used to be a miner.

One night we were drinking in our local, The Jester pub on the Brockley Whinns Estate in South Shields when Mensi came in and said I’ve just seen this band called The Sex Pistols, why can’t we do that?

Mensi wasn’t a singer but neither was Johnny Rotten so we thought we would give it a go. And we did and The Angelic Upstarts was born, in a pub in Brockley Whinns’.

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Where did you rehearse and when did you start playing gigs? ‘The Upstarts used to rehearse in a pub in South Shields called The Cyprus and a youth club in Biddick Hall called Percy Hudson. That’s where we did our first gig when we only had six songs, we played them all twice and then again for the encores. Fearless eh?

We also rehearsed at Temple Park Leisure Centre and ended up doing a gig there as well. Me and Decca ended up playing in two bands, one making money in the clubs and The Upstarts which was really a bit of fun at first.

With The Upstarts we started gigging seriously around 1978, some of the early gigs were places like The Bridge Hotel in Newcastle and The Old 29 on a Saturday afternoon in Sunderland.

We were the only band that they put a cover charge on for the punters because they knew it would sell out, it used to be absolutely mental in that place. You couldn’t breathe there were so many bodies in!’

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‘We also booked the Bolingbroke Hall in South Shields from the Council and did a couple of gigs there. That was mostly through lack of other places to play at the time. When we stated making a bit of a name for ourselves we got invited to play at the Newcastle Festival.

We played an outdoor gig in Jesmond Park with The Showbiz Kids but the most memorable was playing at Old Eldon Square in Newcastle city centre on a Saturday afternoon.

There was probably over 1,000 people there because it was a lovely sunny day. We were never one for compromises so we played exactly the same set we always did with Liddle Towers, Police Oppression, Fuck Off and Leave Me Alone, it didn’t go down very well with the mams, dads, grandmas and grandas out shopping as you can imagine.

Next thing we knew the police were storming into the square there must have been 50 or 60 of them, and trying to get to the stage to stop us playing but that just made Mensi worse and he started slagging them off and screaming fuck you! Fuck Law and Order! Who Killed Liddle! You get the picture!

They collared the promoter to stop the gig but nobody was going to get us to stop, we were loving it. It was mad, absolutely crackers and boy did we get some press from that one!

I don’t know who thought it might be a good idea getting us to play there on a Saturday afternoon but thanks for the publicity whoever it was’.

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How did the move to London and signing to WEA come about ? ‘Our first album was a funny old story. We were still living in South Shields and had just signed with the Jimmy Pursey label, he was singing in Sham 69 then. He asked us to come down to London to record some demos so we did that and recorded everything we knew in one day.

He phoned me a couple of weeks later and asked us to come back to London to hear the album. I said we haven’t recorded it yet Jimmy, but it turned out he had mixed the demos and it was going to be Teenage Warning, our first album.

And that’s what is was, it was recorded in one day so that must be a record for a debut album. It charted at number 29 so we weren’t going to complain. Later I heard that he and some of his friends had recorded backing vocals on some songs, but I’m not convinced’.

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‘It didn’t come out on Purseys label either, he had a distribution deal with Polydor who sacked us after Mensi had a fight with the doorman but Pursey got us signed to WEA a week later and they released it.

We got 25 grand off Polydor and then another 25 off WEA for signing to them so not a bad weeks work. If only we got it… but that’s another story.

By the time we moved to London we were headlining gigs like The Marquee, The Rainbow, The Lyceum and we played an all dayer at Alexander Palace organised by Jimmy Pursey and headlined by his band Sham 69. That was huge for us.

We were then signed to WEA for two albums. They had some huge artists on their books like AC/DC, Foreigner, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac so it was amazing to be on the same label’.

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‘When we were staying in Wood Green anyone from South Shields that was going to London for a show or the weekend would just turn up at our house and crash, some stayed for weeks, some never went home and some were never seen again, it was a magic time.

Me and Mensi wrote all the songs, I wrote the music and Mensi wrote the lyrics. We wrote very quickly but never rehearsed new material, most of the songs were created in the studio.

We tried rehearsing new stuff a couple of times but it just didn’t work for us, rehearsals ended up as a drinking session and lots of spliffs which I was very into at the time.

The record company would have had a fit if they knew they were booking studios for us and we didn’t have any songs ready cos it used to cost around £2,000 a day for a studio in London (laughs).

There was a time when we were due to record a new single and the company asked us what it was about, Mensi just made up a story on the spot about the miners, he was good at that.

When we recorded it, I think it was England, we played it to them and they looked very confused, that’s not about the miners they said? Mensi talked our way out of it and England was a great song so they were happy (laughs)‘.

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‘But we felt no pressure, that’s how we worked and it worked for us. And we were daft as brushes and didn’t give a toss, that helped!

Mensi was a prolific songwriter, when we were recording he would turn up with an armful of songs and I would have a cassette with all my tunes on. I used to keep a cassette recorder by my bed with a guitar because I always got ideas for songs first thing in the morning.

The recording process was usually me showing the bass player and drummer my idea and arranging it like: intro, verse, chorus, second verse, solo and three choruses to end. Then I would decide which of the lyrics fitted the tune.

Sometimes Mensi would say how he thought the tune should go for certain lyrics, like England had to be acoustic for example and sometimes I had already decided which lyrics went with what tune but not always.

When Decca left the band I asked Paul Thompson from Roxy Music if he would stand in on drums until we found someone. He was a mate of mine and we used to drink in The Ship in Wardour Street just up from The Marquee.

He ended up playing on England, Kids on the Street, the album Reason Why and he also came to America with us and did a tour there’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Our first time in a studio was in 1978 when we went into Impulse Studios in Wallsend to record our first single The Murder of Liddle Towers, the engineer was Mick Sweeney. I thought the guitar sound was a bit naff but he said he would beef it up in the mix! The lying TWAT.

I later found out that all engineers say things like that just to get the recording finished so they can fuck off home early so I’d learnt my first lesson about recording.

The reaction to that song was phenomenal, we were really surprised, it got in all the papers and also got us noticed by The Sounds which would prove very beneficial to us. Gary Bushell became a great friend and supporter of the band.

By 1981 we were with EMI and went into Trident Studio in London where some amazing artists had recorded, The Beatles did the White Album, Queen, The Stones, Thin Lizzy had been there and of course David Bowie had recorded Ziggy Stardust there. We recorded England and a few other songs.

EMI owned Abbey Road Recording Studios so they asked us if we wanted to do an album there, well do you need to ask haha! We did the 2 Million Voices album there and that got to number 32 in the charts’.

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‘We also recorded a live album for EMI using the Rolling Stone mobile. That got us to number 27. So we were hanging around the charts.

When we were at Abbey Road loads of our friends including Stiff Little Fingers used to come over every night because there was a bar and restaurant down in the cellar and everything you got just went on the bill. We thought it was free until our manager got the bill at the end of the session. He said how can one band drink so much?

The band played a couple of radio sessions at the BBC for John Peel and Mensi had the idea to write and record a song just for the session as a thank you to Peely because he was always playing our stuff.

So I came up with a riff and while we were recording the backing track, Mensi was scribbling some words on a bit paper and out popped ‘Kids on the Street’. Song writing the Upstarts way but don’t try this at home kids!’

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What venues did you play and have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘In 1981 we went on our first American tour. We got there a few days early to acclimatize and The Clash were staying in the same hotel so we used to meet them every night for the happy hour.

Happy hours are class in America you don’t just get nuts and crisps you get chicken wings and pizzas and all sorts. We used to starve ourselves all day just waiting for the happy hour.

It was a great laugh with them and I remember Joe Strummer saying we’re coming to your gig tonight do you mind if I bring Iggy Pop? We said ‘aye go on then!

The gig was in New York but I can’t remember if it was Radio City or Civic Hall but we walked on stage, the lights blazed on and Mensi screamed “We’re the Angelic Upstarts, We’re from England, 1,2,3,4” then just as I strummed my guitar there was an almighty bang, it all went dark then nothing!

There was a huge power cut. They couldn’t get it sorted out quickly so we jumped off stage and went to the bar at the back where The Clash were standing and I ordered a Jack and Coke and said to Iggy Pop “It’ll be sorted in a minute, this sort of thing happens to us all the time”.

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‘We played all over the States, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, Austin, Chicago, Washington, Seattle and right up into Canada – Toronto and Montreal.

In LA we played a place called The Florentine Gardens which was massive and also the legendary Whisky a Go Go. Punk had become a fashion then in the States where in the UK it was all pins through the nose and glue sniffing.

I remember one of the barmaids in The Whisky loaned me her sports car for the week we were there, a Datsun 280 ZX and Decca was loaned a Fiat Spyder 2 seater sports car but he couldn’t drive. It didn’t bother him, little things like that.

It was unbelievable how friendly people in the US were to us. I loved it and still go back regularly for holidays’.

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‘Our manager was called Tony Gordon he also had Sham 69 and Culture Club in his stable. Before he signed Culture Club, I was in the office one day and he asked me if I wanted to come and see a band that night at a club in Carnaby Street. The band was Culture Club and they were fucking shite.

I kid you not, probably the worst band I’ve ever seen in my life. I said don’t touch them Tony. but he signed them anyway because he thought the singer had something.

I have to admit he was right because they became one of the biggest bands in the world at the time’.

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What did the ’80’s have in store for the Upstarts ? ‘I was getting interested in the recording side of things and around ’83 I produced the first New Model Army album Vengeance and some singles, my favourite was The Price, after me they got in Glyn Johns to produce them so I was in good company.

Glyn Johns had done Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Stones, The Eagles, Eric Clapton, The Beatles he is a legend’.

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‘By 1983 I felt the band had run its course, there were no hard feelings when I left but I was looking to work more in production. Also we were on an independent label by then and weren’t getting the big advances anymore like we did with WEA and EMI, we were only receiving recording costs so financially we weren’t as stable.

I headed back home and started working as producer at Lynx Studios in Newcastle that lasted for a couple of years, it was owned by the AC/DC vocalist and fellow Geordie Brian Johnson. I have known Brian since his days in Geordie and we were close friends and still are to this day’.

Whats your thought’s today on your time in the Upstarts ? ‘You know looking back, one minute we were playing the Bolingbroke Hall in South Shields and the next we were signed to WEA in London. One of the biggest labels in the world.

I remember one day me and Mensi had gone into WEA to pinch records, I had some record collection in those days, and we were sitting with our press officer, Dave Jaret, he said can we be quick lads because I’m having lunch with Fleetwood Mac and I’m going out with Rod Stewart tonight. Unbelivable eh?

Me and Mensi from Brockley Whins mentioned in the same breath as those two. There were a lot of occasions when I had to slap myself to remind me it was all real and YES, it is happening. But that’s music for you, there aren’t many other jobs that can do that for you.

And now here we are 40 years later and still talking about it. Nobody saw that one coming, certainly not us, we thought we might get a couple of years out of it at the most. We must have done something right I suppose.

Thank you to everyone who ever bought an Upstarts record, who came to see us playing and who supported us over the years. Thanks for the memories. It was a blast.’

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Interview 24th February 2017 by Gary Alikivi.

Recommended:

Angelic Upstarts, The Butchers of Bolingbroke: Gigs, Pigs & Prison, June 1st 2017.

Neil Newton, All the Young Punks, June 4th 2017.