Music journalist Ian Penman (RIP), Newcastle City Hall photographer Rik Walton and Tygers of Pan Tang manager Tom Noble presented the Bedrock radio show on BBC Newcastle during the late 70’s and early ‘80s. The programme featured music, a gig guide and interviews with local and international bands.
I was sent some copies of the shows and one programme featured an interview with guitarists Robb Weir and John Sykes from Whitley Bay band Tygers of Pan Tang. Sykes had just been added to the Tygers line up.
Ian Penman talks to Robb Weir and asks him how do you feel about John joining the band?
‘I didn’t like the idea at first, but Tom (Tygers manager) said when we were playing with the Scorpions and Saxon the sound lacked and we needed to do something about it. I’ve got enough confidence in the guy, I’ve known him a long time and he doesn’t often come out with bad ideas so I went along with his suggestion.’
‘When we’ve recorded in the past I’ve done a backing track no matter how far down in the mix it is, it’s always there. Rocky’s never wanted another guitarist, it might steal a bit of thunder in his bass lines, we’ve never considered one and we’ve never wanted a keyboard player’.
‘But having John in is good because he’s a tremendous guitarist and a much better guitarist than I am at playing lead guitar. I’m not resentful whatsoever, he adds to the sound in the band and seems very grateful to be in the Tygers as we have an LP out and are selling out shows.’
‘I took an open line with him saying I’m happy for you to play what you feel fits with my original guitar parts. If you have any more ideas chuck them in! I was very keen for us to share guitar solos with the likes of ‘Don’t Touch Me There’ where John plays the first I play the second. In ‘Rock n Roll Man’ he plays the first half of the guitar solo and I play the second and so on’.
‘Because he’s so good I’m not going to keep him down and restrict him to a couple of solos in the set. I wrote them all but he’s shit hot. We were having a game of space invaders and I said to him don’t worry if there’s any other guitarists out there who think they’re better than you, they won’t be! A big smile came across his face. The guy is very, very good, you can be the best guitarist in the world but if you haven’t got the songs then you are nobody’.
Penman: Will John be writing any songs?
‘Yes definitely we’re going to write together then take them to the band and if we all like them we’ll develop them further. Writing songs is not an exact process for example with ‘Rock n Roll Man’ I wrote five riffs took them to the band and chose one, the other four went to the wind’.
Penman: There’s a swagger in your walk, like a star before you’re a star…
‘I’m very sure of myself, things are looking very good at the moment, but if it all goes down the drain and fails and I didn’t have this bit of thunder now, I would never have had it in my life. So if it goes from strength to strength and I get stronger, we do another album, a headline tour and go further up the ladder I’ll get more cocky (laughs)’.
Penman talks to John Sykes: What did the band ask you to do at the audition?
‘They gave me a chance to get my guitar out and tune it up. Brian sat on his drums and said to me what we’re gonna do is play a beat on the drums and we want you to just improvise along with it’.
‘He started off with a slow rhythm, when I was improvising I gradually got faster and faster then Rocky got up off his chair and walked over to his bass and started playing along. Then Robb joined in and we really started rocking it sounded tremendous’.
‘A couple of days before the audition the band invited me down for a chat to see what I was like’.
Penman: How did you end up in Blackpool?
‘I come from Reading originally but I was in Blackpool working on a building site. I left Reading when I was 14 and moved up to Blackpool with my family. I’m 21 now, but when I was 14 we moved to Spain for three years, I came back when I was 17 and got a job labouring on a building site in Blackpool, it was good money’
‘As time went on things just got worse, I used to dread 8 o’clock in the morning going to work I hated it and one day I just thought I’m wasting my time here, I’ll have to do something. I had a look in the music paper’s and saw an ad for the Tygers auditioning for an additional guitar player. It was just what I was looking for and the timing couldn’t have been better’.
Penman: How often was your previous band Streetfighter playing?
‘I was playing about two or three times a week and it was going ok. We had a track coming out on a compilation album before I left. It was something to do with Geoff Barton and Des Moines it was called the ‘New Electric Warriors’. I don’t think Streetfighter were going hit the big time, but the Tygers….’
Unfortunately some of the programmes are incomplete and the interview cut off here.
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.
Interview with Robb Weir November 2017
Interview with Ian Penman, August 2018