A SONG FOR EVERYONE

with former Southbound drummer, Mick Kelly

North East pubs and clubs were covered in a smoky haze as thick as yer ma’s pea soup, Broon Ale bottles clinked and a chorus of Geordie voices cheered along to Southbound when they hit the stage at Ashington Excelsior, Bedlington Lucifers, Dunston Excelsior, then over to Heaton Buffs. Down to Hartlepool Clippies, back up to Morpeth Comrades and dropped in at The Old 29.

There was a run out to La Hacienda in Prudhoe, with next stop Sunderland Boilermakers, and not forgetting Wingate Constitutional – oh those glory nights in working men’s clubs that would bring a lump in yer throat and a tear in the glassy eye of the hardest riveter in the shipyard.

People would come early and fill the place, it made it all worthwhile said Mick.

We played a lot of gig’s and wherever we went, we went down really well.

The Thrill of it All and All Right Now are previous interviews with Alan Burke and Mick Kelly, former members of Southbound. They talk about their background in music, early gigs, recording in Impulse studio and how proud they are of the songs the band wrote. (links below)

Would they have been successful if they were signed up by a record company ? In a new interview I put that question to drummer Mick Kelly….

I felt if we had the right amount of backing to support us, our outcome would have been totally different. We were trying to get a record deal and we managed to get in touch with Brian Oliver from State Records. He came up to see us and tried to sort something out.

Some forty years later I got to chat with Brian Oliver via Steve Thompson (songwriter/producer). After I showed Brian a copy of the letter Southbound got from him back in the day, he got in touch…

Brian OliverWow, seeing that letter again is like entering a time machine. I obviously heard something in the band or I wouldn’t have come up to the Gosforth Hotel. Unfortunately, Wayne Bickerton decided which acts were signed to the record label. Sorry we weren’t able to help the band in the end‘.

We were then offered a track to record written by Steve Thompson and Gary Maughan called Front Page News, but unfortunately that never transpired. But Southbound did write some of their songs. Our two guitarists were more than capable of writing their own material.

George Lamb on the left with Alan Burke at Newcastle Mayfair 1980.

Some of the songs that were written did have personal meanings to them and some were inspired by the sound and style of West Coast music at that time. One of our favourite songs was Keep on Winding which made it on an RCA compilation album as we won a Battle of the Bands competition in 1982.

Keep on Winding was a direct result from playing at the Mayfair in Newcastle. In the lyric it says ‘You look around and see your friends are all beside you’. The song Don’t Deny Me was written about a relationship that one of the band members had. Another one was inspired by an Allman Brothers track Jessica, our song was called Joanne.

In 1977 the Melody Maker music mag was running a Pop/Rock competition so we entered. We were asked to play at Dunelm House in Durham City along with at least another 20 bands. We were first of the band section to play after the solo/acoustic artists.

We set up and were waiting for the judges to return from their tea break, we asked the packed crowd if they would like a song. They said yes so we broke into one of our own numbers Love is a Strange Thing.

On hearing this the judges ran down stairs to see us getting stuck into our song. Then one of them jumped onto the stage and started leaping around like some person possessed. After the song he came across to me and said ‘That was fantastic but don’t say anything’.

The judges said we will be judged on our next three songs. The competition carried on and we left soon after to play a gig somewhere else but didn’t get to know what the result was until the next day when we played Wheatley Hill Club, Durham. My brother, who had stayed at the competition, came and told us we had won the competition. We were absolutely ecstatic.

Southbound at Newcastle Mayfair supporting Tygers of Pan Tang Feb.1980.

As well as gigging in the North East, Southbound visited the likes of Berwick, Richmond, Dudley, Edinburgh, London, Manchester and Northampton. They knew how important stage time was….

I think many bands in the ‘70s and ‘80s playing regular gigs was a key for development and agents played a great part, which we don’t have now. Once we got onto the working man’s club circuit around the North East playing other people’s material, it gave us an idea of what went down well and which songs didn’t.

Some support gigs had been arranged with bands like Cado Belle, George Hackett band, Alberto y lost trios Paranoias, Tyger’s of Pang Tang, Last Exit, The Junco’s, Shakin Stevens and The Sunsets. Plus playing alongside bands on the music festivals like the Newcastle Music festival and Domefest which we played at least three times.

I remember one night when we played Newcastle Mayfair we supported Babe Ruth, not with the usual member Jenny Haan, but with a girl called Elle Hope who went on to sing the disco song Dance Yourself Dizzy in the band Liquid Gold.

We actually headlined a couple of gigs at the Mecca in Sunderland and Newcastle Mayfair, and one time with Raven at the Mayfair. At the time Raven used to fill in for us at The Gosforth which later helped them get a foot hold on the pub rock circuit. We also had the obligatory gig at Newcastle Labour club on a Sunday morning for the female lady who removed her clothes. 

There are some photos from when we played Newcastle Mayfair on 15 February 1980, supporting Tygers Of Pang Tang. Not the best quality but they have a bit of atmosphere about them. This is when we were a four piece, personally our best time.

Southbound at Newcastle Mayfair supporting Tygers of Pan Tang Feb.1980.

Have you any road stories to share ?

We had some hilarious times on the road. One is when we were playing Catterick Garrison which was a high brow affair with food from caviar to curry and numerous amounts of liquid. The night went on forever with a stand-up comedian, Bob Richie, a solo singer, a jazz quartet and us.

We ended up finishing the night a little worse for wear and having a Champagne breakfast. On the way back we spotted a hedgehog running round a roundabout, so we stopped, got out and tried to get it back on to the grass when the police showed up.

They asked what we were doing at 6:30 in the morning. None of us thought about getting breathalysed or arrested as the police officer just said ‘get off the roundabout and get yourselves home’. I don’t know how we managed to get home.

We played Hartlepool Quoits club, if the band played too loud the orange light flashed and the sound system would cut out the electrics on stage. So we hooked all our equipment into the dressing room sockets and when the orange light would flash away the committee looked puzzled why it didn’t cut out. A few other bands quickly caught on and did the same.

Not a story from the road but funny all the same – while we were recording, the studio had a 16-track recording tape machine. One band member was speaking to someone on the phone about recording, and the person on the other end of the phone asked what kind of tape machine it was.

The reply came quickly…‘It’s a Hotpoint’. In which the band member quickly said to the person on the other end of the phone. ‘They said it’s a Hotpoint’…..oops he fell for it.

I’m sure there were plenty of other occasions but they have faded beyond memory. But having said that a song or another piece of history will trigger things off.

Check the earlier interviews with Mick Kelly and Alan Burke:

ALL RIGHT NOW with Michael Kelly former drummer with North East band Southbound | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

THE THRILL OF IT ALL | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Gary Alikivi   February 2021.

ROCK OF AGES

with Fist vocalist, Glenn Coates.

I was reminded of the night the New Wave of British Heavy Metal came in to South Shields. What happened was I was flicking through my records and I come across the Hollow Ground EP which was kindly given to me by Lou Taylor (Satan/Blind Fury) after I lost my copy.

I originally bought one from Second Time Around Record Shop in South Shields after watching Hollow Ground play live at Tyne Dock Youth Club in 1980 – my very first LOUD gig. They certainly gave the place some welly and was one of the first NWOBHM gigs I went to – Hellanbach and Satan followed over the years.

Glenn Coates was vocalist that night, but later he left the rock hard granite sound of Hollow Ground, and became frontman for another South Shields plug in an’ play no frills outfit, Fist…Yeah we used to play so loud, one gig I jumped onto the drum riser at the very same time that the drummer hit his crash cymbal and I nearly lost my balance, I think I have tinnitus now (laughs).

I saw Fist at venues like South Shields British Legion, and Newcastle Mayfair on 4 June 1982 on the Y & T Earthshaker tour….

I remember they brought all their gear in flight cases. One of the cases was like a very tall chest, and when they opened it, it was full of cans of beer. We had a great time opening for them, good memories.

Later that year I saw Y & T again, this time opening for AC/DC in Newcastle. The Americans warmed up the City Hall enough for DC to land on stage with their huge backline. They were fronted by ex-Geordie singer Brian Johnson. During the ‘70s & ‘80s a lot of rock/metal bands came from the North East – The Animals, Geordie, Raven and the Tygers of Pan Tang….

I remember Fist supported the Tygers at Warrington Park Hall, which is the same set up as Newcastle City Hall…said Glenn.

The Tygers were doing well at the time with arctic’s full of sound gear parked outside. But our van with all our gear decides to pack up on the M62. We eventually got to the hall just in time – we pulled up outside at 6pm with our backline in a horsebox (laughs). 

If we go back to the start, how did the job in Hollow Ground come about ?

You mentioned that Tyne Dock gig, well we have fond memories of playing there because before Hollow Ground I was in a band that used to rehearse in that youth club. There was Brian Rickman (bass) and myself in a band with guitarist Steve Dawson (Saracen/The Animals/Geordie). That fizzled out around ’78 so Brian and me got together with Martin Metcalf (guitar) and John Lockney (drums), that was the beginning of Hollow Ground.

We also rehearsed in a backroom at the Adam & Eve pub in South Shields and all day on a Sunday in a hut in West Park. We used to give the caretaker a fiver and he’d let us in. We’d always record our rehearsals then listen to it back during the week, then rearrange the songs.We had started to write our own stuff and went in a studio to get it down on tape.

Studio work was financed by playing covers in pubs and working men’s clubs around the North East. The first studio we went into was Impulse Studio where Neat records were based, and we recorded an hour long live demo. It turned out quite good, I thought the vocals and drum sound was better there than at our other recording for the EP at Guardian Studio in Durham.

What was your experience of Guardian studio ?

Terry Gavaghan was owner and producer there and it was exciting to make a record at Guardian. We were still pretty naïve about it all you know – making a record to get noticed by a record company. Then we put some tracks together for a compilation album called Roksnax. Other bands on the record were Saracen from South Shields and Samurai who I think were Newcastle based. We all contributed four tracks each.

How did joining Fist come about ?

At first Hollow Ground were like sponges taking everything in, playing gigs wherever and whenever we could, at pubs and clubs doing covers to pay for the studio time. Learning all the time, it was a great energy to write the songs and it came about quite easy and quickly.

But thing was Terry Gavaghan said EMI were interested in signing us so we were waiting for that, but really I didn’t believe it and I’ve heard he told lots of bands the same. The band had stopped playing live so with no gigs happening I wasn’t doing much.

Fist came along and asked about me joining, I took it because they had things to offer. This was around ’81 and in the summer we played the Rock on the Tyne festival at Gateshead Stadium with Rory Gallagher and a few others. U2 were on the day before us.

The night before we played in Manchester and someone had smashed the whole back window of our car. I remember being freezing cold travelling on the motorway finally getting back to the North East about 4 in the morning. Not the best preparation cos we had to do a soundcheck and the first band on stage at 12 noon. With hindsight shouldn’t have played Manchester, but had a good time the rest of the day playing to a very large audience at Gateshead stadium.

Did you go in the studio with Fist ?

Yes we recorded the Back With a Vengeance album and the feeling then around the band and the songs was great. There was magic in the air. We also recorded a single on Neat records in 1982, it was an easy going pop song called The Wanderer with Too Hot on the b side. The Wanderer was just a laugh really, I don’t think we even played it live.

But some people thought we had mellowed and gone poppy by releasing it, but no, it was never meant to be a serious record. Then about a year later Status Quo recorded a version and got it in the charts. The picture on the front cover is me with my long hair – I haven’t got that now but I still think I’ve got that jacket (laughs).

When did Fist call it a day ?

We didn’t call it a day as such, it just kind of fizzled out. We were still rehearsing new stuff in Harry’s pub (Hill, drummer) as he had got into the pub game by then. But I don’t think any live dates were coming in. It’s a hard game to keep going.

But Fist played some memorable gigs. On 7 May 1984 we opened for Motorhead at Hammersmith Odeon on their No Remorse tour. It was great they had the Bomber lighting rig. I just remember seeing the first two or three rows singing along to songs we had wrote, it was such a buzz.

Afterwards we were upstairs in the Green Room drinking, Motorhead were there and Young Blood, the other band who were on. Lemmys son was also there, who is a good looking lad – all the lasses fancied him (laughs).

What are you doing now ?

Fist are still active. We’ve got Mark Jackson in on drums because unfortunately Harry Hill had to retire due to health problems. Last year we were still gigging and ready to go in the studio, but the March lockdown came so that put a stop to it.

We’ve got an albums worth of new material so when we can, Covid permitting, we will go in the studio and record the songs cos they can’t be left on the shelf.

Interview by Gary Alikivi    February 2021.

ROCK n ROLL DREAMS

with Dean ‘Deano’ Robertson former guitarist with Tygers of Pan Tang.

How long were you a member of the Tygers ?

I was in the band just over 12 years. After Robb (Weir), I’m the longest serving guitarist.

Why did you leave ?

At that time I wanted more from the band including more gigs and I felt my writing ideas were stifled by the Tygers style. I could write typical Tygers style songs but a lot of my songs needed a different outlet – but the grass ain’t always greener and all that. I’ll always be grateful for my time with Robb and the Tygers.

Dean has an impressive list of recordings from his time in the Tygers – Mystical (2001), Noises from the Cathouse (2003), Animal Instinct (2008) and Ambush (2012).

Two live albums, In the Roar in 2003 and 2005’s Leg of the Boot, recorded in Holland. Plus a couple of EP’s, Back and Beyond in 2007, Wildcat Sessions in 2010 and the Spellbound Sessions  in 2011.

There was also a compilation album produced in 2003, Second Wave – 25 years of NWOBHM, which included five songs each from Tygers, Girlschool and Oliver/Dawson Saxon.

What was your experience of studio work ?

Everything with the Tygers was fun – studio, rehearsals, travelling and gigs. It all seemed fairly relaxed to me. The days working with producer Chris Tsangarides in his studio was fun and a memory I’ll cherish.

I worked with Chris at a studio in London for the Second Wave album with Girlschool and OD Saxon. Plus we recorded the album Ambush in his own studio in Dover. He was a great guy, up for any suggestions and would give his advice when he thought it was needed or asked for.

His walls were covered in gold and platinum discs by some great inspiring bands, plus a few strange ones – I remember him making a point of showing us the Samantha Fox one (laughs). 

I remember him sat at his desk with a guitar in his hand while we were recording, and when we would come back in, he would be playing a version of the riff or wanting to know a part he couldn’t work out. We could have easily spent the first week just chatting, he had some amazing stories.

The best for me was Judas Priest, he talked about how Rob Halford was just incredible and had perfect pitch every session and the music from the metal gods was intense. But he would listen to the band chatting in the studio and their Brummie accents made him laugh.

When did you pick up the guitar & what were your early days like in music ?

I live in the North East now, but I’m originally from London and I got my first guitar when I was around 9 year old from my cousins future husband. At the stag party I pestered my Dad all day for him to buy it, he waited till the groom was drunk and offered him £10. Then he came home with a Zenta Strat copy and a Leo 6 watt amp. It was nice he came to see me in the Tygers years later. 

Playing live in bands in the early days was the usual pub and club circuit, then I joined a club rock band where I met up with Craig Ellis (drums) and Brian West (bass). Eventually our friendship took us into the Tygers.

How did the job come about ?

Brian West was the first of us to join the Tygers, who at that time were just Robb Weir (guitarist) and vocalist Tony Liddle. Brian got a call from Tony who he knew and had worked with before. The Tygers had almost completed the Mystical album (2001) and needed second guitar and drums for live work. I came in and played a couple of solos for the album.

When I ran through a few old tracks with Robb in the studio he seemed quite pleased that I had done my homework on the songs. We then booked a rehearsal studio for a week and jammed through most tracks. I’m not sure Robb was that interested in spending time auditioning after that cos basically we hit it off instantly and he was happy with my playing. Gigs were already lined up and Robb wanted to get out there again.

Where was your first gig in the Tygers ?

I always reminded Robb that my second gig I ever went to was the Tygers/Magnum and Def Leppard concert at Newcastle City Hall – I still have the ticket stub. (Wild Cat tour April 20 1980).

We were signed to Z Records who asked us to headline a Z Rock festival in Wigan. Robb had asked if we could be further down the bill with it being our first gig and at short notice, but it was already advertised as a Tygers comeback show.

Our singer Tony was also working in another band and was in Russia while we were in rehearsals. Therefore we only had one day with Tony and he wanted to change the songs and order. It was a shambles – definitely one to try and forget.

(Set list.com have the gig on 26 August 2001 featuring Tyketo, Contagious, Jaded Heart).

Blimey ? Can’t remember the date, somewhere I have a video from the show. I think the gig was at a venue called Maximes, I only remember Tyketo being on the bill, Danny Vaughan is such a good vocalist.

A few weeks later we went to Germany for another Z Rock Festival and that was a lot better. However Z Management were not happy with Tony on vocals, so after two gigs we were looking for a new singer.

Gav Gray, Robb Weir, Jack Meille, Craig Ellis & Deano.

Have you any road stories from gigging with the Tygers ?

I’ve so many great memories, and met so many great people. We used to get up to a lot of mischief in hotels, even two minutes before walking onstage there was always something going on.

Once Robb nearly crashed our van in Germany and almost ended up fighting with the other driver because of Craig. Craig and I were always the last to bed and our ‘Tygers Night Game Compendium’ became famous for all the wrong reasons – say no more about that.

Robb, Craig, Gav and Me sat with our trousers round our ankles watching the 50 second beat the clock Babestation challenge as a set up for our Manager and vocalist Jack – don’t think they were impressed !

Were there any songs you looked forward to playing in the live set ?

I liked playing Hellbound and when we put a new album track into the set. Unfortunately never got to play any Ambush tracks live, would have loved to play the song I wrote Rock n Roll Dream.

What are you doing now and do you keep in touch with the Tygers ?

I was playing in top AC/DC tribute Live Wire – The AC/DC Show for a few years after I left the Tygers. I started playing bass and singing in a trio where we rehearsed up a few of my Tygers tracks and wrote new material but it never made it to the stage. 

I speak regularly to Craig and Robb, and Micky (Crystal) who took my place in the Tygers.  When this year finally gets going again I hope to meet up with the Tygers again at a venue and say hello to the new boy Francesco, be nice if you were there too Gary.

But yeah I’m still writing, mainly lyrics and the odd riff. I have a few old ideas that might rear their ugly heads at some point, you never know.

Finally, what does music mean to you ?

It was an escape. Really, just a way of life.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  February 2021

Check the official Tygers of Pan Tang website for a full discography:

Tygers Of Pan Tang – The Official Site

THE ITALIAN JOB

with new Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist, Francesco Marras

We’re in a fast moving situation with a pandemic that changes daily – nothing is certain resulting in no hard planning. Live events have been cancelled or tour dates rescheduled for later in the year, or in some cases 2022. The entertainment industry is being starved and left in the red.

Bands are waiting for a message to ping – it’s back on, off you go and normal life resumes – or maybe not. Like being stuck in a holding pattern waiting for permission to go. Forever on amber?

But the Tygers are preparing themselves for the green light. After the departure of guitarist Micky Crystal in April 2020 – a member for seven years and releasing one of their best albums in Ritual – time has come for someone else to step up, and into the cage.

Welcome Francesco Marras originally from the warm Meditteranean island, Sardinia, but now based in Germany… Yes, I live in Germany now. I love my country but it’s not the best place to live for a musician. Everything happened for me in Sardinia, I was born and raised there. I got into music at first because of my older brother. I started to listen to heavy metal with Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind album when I was only 8. The music inspired me to learn to play guitar at 11. I’ve been playing for 27 years now.

Francesco started playing guitar by jamming with friends then formed a band….I always wrote my own music and founded a classic metal band that later became Screaming Shadows and we recorded four albums.

In the Name of God (2006)

So you know your way around a studio ?

Yes the first album Behind the Mask was released in 2003 and was self-produced.

Both In the Name of God (2006) and New Era of Shadows (2009) came out for the Italian label, My Graveyard Productions, and were recorded mainly in my recording studio in Sardinia. Night Keeper was recorded between my studio and Mattia (drummer), Elnor Studio. We mixed the album and it came out in 2011 for Jolly Roger Records.

Then in 2011 I started my solo career where I recorded two more albums and worked as a session musician.

Now you’ve joined the Tygers will you be looking to use that studio experience ?

Yes in the last few month we have worked very hard writing new songs for the next album and I can say that we are very happy about the results. We will start the production soon and we are going to release an EP to open the road towards the new album.

How did the job in the Tygers come about ?

Growing up listening to English heavy metal I knew of the band, and thanks to a dear friend of mine, who told me they were looking for a guitar player, I read the post on the Tygers’ official Facebook page and sent in a video of the two songs they requested – Don’t Stop By and Hellbound, both from the Spellbound album.

For a long time I didn’t get any answer so I wasn’t expecting to get the job – but here I am in the end.

How do you feel about following in the footsteps of Sykes/Purser/Robertson/Crystal, and what will you bring to the table ?

It is a great honor for me to follow them, the band has a long tradition of great guitar players and I’m here to keep the tradition alive. The basics of Tygers music are great solos and powerful guitar riffs, and that is what the fans will have with the new album.

At this time I am recording a lot of new material as I have the possibility to work from home but the thing I miss most is playing live. I really can’t wait to share the stage with my new band mates and meet all the Tygers’ fans around the world – Rock’n’roll!  

Check the official Tygers website for new releases and news:

Tygers Of Pan Tang – The Official Site

Interview by Gary Alikivi January 2021.

RAW MEAT IN THE SONIC MINCER #3

Looking back at the Music weeklies:

OZZY, TYGERS & NWOBHM.

Looking through back issues of the UK music weeklies for a mention of North East bands, I came across a screaming headline from a Motorhead gig review – Raw Meat in the Sonic Mincer – Yep, that be ‘reet for theheed.

Sounds or NME was always knocking about our house, pocket money bought a copy for 25p. We could read exclusive interviews with bands out on tour promoting their latest album, check forthcoming UK gig dates or look at artwork for new albums.

The music weeklies were always something to look forward to – even though half the print rubbed off on your fingers.

Sounds had a mix of rock and punk interviews with Ozzy/Halen/Upstarts. NME featured alternative and post punk bands like Damned/Cramps/Costello. Take your pick of front covers splashed with Strummer/Coverdale or Pat Benatar.

Pat Benatar, front cover Sounds 20.12.80.

In the early ‘80s North East based music journalist Ian Ravendale worked for Sounds, when I interviewed him in August 2018 he talked about that time…

‘I was freelancing at Sounds, writing articles and reviewing gigs, some of which were of local bands. One time the Tygers of Pan Tang were supporting Saxon and I’d gone along. I’d previously written a review of Saxon which included something along the lines of ‘in six month time they’ll be back playing social clubs’.

At the gig, Tygers guitarist Robb Weir came up to me and said ‘Biff (Byford, Saxon vocalist) is looking for you’. Fortunately he didn’t find me….Not yet, anyway.’

North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal feature by Ian Ravendale, Sounds May 1980.

An edition of Sounds in May 1980 featured a renowned NWOBHM article that Ravendale wrote featuring Tyneside metal bands Mythra, Fist, Raven, Tygers  and White Spirit…

‘A lot of local bands I reviewed were from Sunderland, Newcastle and South Shields. I’d already written articles about the Tygers, Fist and Raven. Geoff Barton, the assistant editor at Sounds, asked me to source a few more bands for a 4,000 word article. ‘The North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ was born’.

Back in November 2017 I asked Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist Robb Weir if he was aware of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal…

‘Only when I read about it in Sounds, a two page spread by Geoff Barton. He had started writing about the music – he may have coined the phrase ? Reading it I thought, so we’re NWOBHM eh (laughs).

Robb also talked about how a review of their first single in Sounds was instrumental in the early success of the band, and had no idea about the fierce storm ahead…

‘In 1979 we went into Impulse Studio in Wallsend and recorded ‘Don’t Touch Me There’. They took a chance and pressed 1,000 copies. We got the single reviewed in Sounds newspaper so the next pressing was 4,000. Then Neat label owner Dave Woods was approached by MCA and did a deal. MCA pressed around 50,000 copies. But our success still hadn’t sunk in. You’re just in it you know, the musical blender getting whizzed around’.

Tygers of Pan Tang – Wildcat tour dates.

Weir added that the music press helped create a good feeling about the band, but change was in the air….

‘We had done the Wildcat tour, a sell out across the UK. There was a buzz in the music press, full page adverts in Sounds, NME, Melody Maker and Record Mirror. It was all going really well. But a meeting with management said ‘with the singer you have we can’t further your career outside the UK’.

After seeing a notice in a music weekly, vocalist Jon Deveril made his way up North and was made an offer he couldn’t refuse. He told me about that time…

‘I was gigging around South Wales with Persian Risk and saw an ad in Melody Maker about the Tygers looking for a new singer. I very much wanted to join them. I got in touch and came up to Newcastle for an audition and got the job. My life changed forever. A once in a lifetime chance, I still can’t believe my good fortune’.

Music journalist Ian Ravendale continued slogging around the North reviewing bands. He told me about an Ozzy gig he worked at…

I found metal bands easy to take the piss out of – and I did. I remember my opening line ‘What I want to know is, how is Ozzy Osbourne so cabaret?’. This stimulated very angry letters like ‘How dare Ian Ravendale slag off Ozzy. I’ve seen him and he was great’  

Geoff (Barton, Sounds Assistant Editor) never said to me, ‘We’ve got a big metal readership can you go easy on them’ He never wanted me to do that.

Ozzy Osbourne back page apology in Sounds 19.12.81.

In 19 December 1981 issue, a full back page apology from Ozzy appeared. He cancelled his British tour and a full explanation was offered promising to return with ‘a show like you’ve never seen before’.

His fans were disappointed but the apology through Sounds was a good move. His popularity didn’t suffer and returned to a sell-out tour exactly a year later where I saw the band at Newcastle and Leeds.

Ozzy and ‘Ronnie’ the dwarf. Sounds interview 24.4.82.

The Speak of the Devil tour controversially featured a dwarf he named Ronnie – a reference to the new Sabbath vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Ozzy would bring the dwarf on stage and hang him. Ozzy was right, I’d never seen that before.

Sellers on EBay are flogging pre-owned copies of music weeklies. They go for anything from £2.99 to £35 depending on who is on the front cover and featured inside. What you waiting for, get yer bids in and take a step back in time.

Gary Alikivi  January 2021.

RAW MEAT IN THE SONIC MINCER #2

Looking back at Sounds Music weekly 4th October 1980.

Looking through back issues of the UK music weeklies for a mention of North East bands, I came across a screaming headline from a Motorhead gig review – Raw Meat in the Sonic Mincer – Yep, that be ‘reet for theheed.

Sounds or NME was always knocking about our house, pocket money bought a copy for 25p. We could read exclusive interviews with bands out on tour promoting their latest album, check forthcoming UK gig dates or look at artwork for new albums.

The music weeklies were always something to look forward to – even though half the print rubbed off on your fingers.

Sounds had a mix of rock and punk interviews with Ozzy/Halen/Upstarts. NME featured alternative and post punk bands Damned/Cramps/Costello. Take your pick of front covers splashed with Strummer/Coverdale or Kate Bush.

Kate Bush, Sounds front cover 30.8.80

This post highlights Sounds issue 4th October 1980. The music weekly has a Geoff Barton interview with Ozzy Osbourne who had just been sacked by Black Sabbath. With Ozzy in a full blown howling blizzard of cocaine and alcohol, he formed a new band – Blizzard of Oz with Randy Rhoads, Lee Kerslake and Bob Daisley.

Ozzy said in the pieceI was panicking, wondering whether my voice would pack in, whether I could still handle it’. He had nothing to worry about as he still toured and recorded for 40 years leading up to Covid.

Ozzy Osbourne, Sounds front cover 4.10.80.

On page 2 among stories of another tour date for XTC, there was a piece about Ian Gillan

putting the mockers on suggestions that he will be taking part in a Deep Purple reunion’.

Further down the page the article mentions a connection to the North East, this one really close to home with The Customs House in South Shields nearby. A close look sees a paragraph on

South Tyneside Arts and Music Association buying the Customs and Excise building for £1. Trouble is it’s going to cost £400,000 to renovate’.

To raise funds the South Tyneside Arts & Music Association set about organising gigs. The article added They are staging gigs this month at South Shields New Crown Hotel with Raven on the 9th, and Erogenous Zones with Night Flight on the 23rd’.

The Association also held a festival headlined by The Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. Unfortunately the challenge proved too great and Tyne & Wear Development Corporation took over renovations with a Government grant.

Today, The Customs House is a theatre, cinema and arts centre. Latest bookings at the venue have been bands on the tribute circuit, Tina Turner Experience, The Carpenters Gold and the ELO show. Over the years the centre has seen gigs by Ray Davies, Ian Hunter, Judie Tzuke and Belinda Carlisle.

10 mile up the Tyne in Gateshead is The Sage which opened in 2004, it has developed into a top class venue. I talked to Ray Spencer back in September 2018 and asked him what changes had he seen since becoming Director of the Customs House in 2000 ?

‘In terms of music programming the thing that impacted most was The Sage. When Customs House opened there was no Gala in Durham, there was no Exchange in North Shields, there was no Sage or Baltic in Gateshead and no 10 screen multi-plex up the road in Boldon.

When The Sage opened it just destroyed our guitar festival, a lot of musical acts that used to come here simply stopped. They were going there to play a big shiny building. So our music content has been damaged’.

Singles review, Sounds 4.10.80.

Included in the music weekly is a regular feature reviewing new singles. The record of the week is Change/Requiem by Killing Joke. The reviewer was not too kind on Thin Lizzy single Killer on the Loose, Disapointing, highly predictable’ or Army Dreamers by Kate Bush ‘Poor little rich girl having another breath of social comment. Any message is effectively obliterated by Miss Bush’s dentist drill warbles’ ouch!

Page 36 has the albums review. Four out of five stars for Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police featuring Wallsend born Stingit’s a record that comes truly from three diverse experienced men without any pandering to their status’ (Phil Sutcliffe).

A five star review for The Plasmatics, ‘Buy this record, it firmly establishes The Plasmatics as Americas foremost bozo punk band (Steve Keaton).

There is four and a half stars for a very young looking U2 and their new record Boymaybe their multi-layered sound might steer them off the chartwise course, but if it’s plain simple feeling you want – there’s cupfulls in here’ (Betty Page).

Gig dates including Tygers of Pan Tang, White Spirit & The Carpettes. Sounds 4.10.80.

Flicking through the back pages the UK gig list has dates at London venues for two NWOBHM bands from the North East. Tygers of Pan Tang from Whitley Bay, are on at the Marquee, and White Spirit from Teesside, opening for Gillan at Hammersmith Odeon.

On Monday 6th,Tyneside rock band Fist, opened for UFO at Bristol Colston Hall. I interviewed drummer Harry Hill back in March 2019, and asked him about his memory of that UK tour…

’We had a great time. I remember we were playing Hammersmith Odeon and a guy was heckling us. Really pissed me off. So I put my sticks down, jumped off stage and chased him into the foyer to give him a good kicking. Thinking back, the Hammersmith had a high stage so I must have been fit to get down and run after him (laughs)’.

In support of their new album on Beggars Banquet, Fight Amongst Yourselves, The Carpettes, who formed in Houghton-le-Spring, have four dates with one at Newcastle Cooperage on October 8th. I got in touch with guitarist Neil Thompson who remembers that time…

‘It was our second gig at the Cooperage. We never played there while we were living in the North East. We were living in London in August when we came up to play then. I remember we went down well both times and on the October date Treatment Room were support’.

Sellers on EBay are flogging pre-owned copies of music weeklies. They go for anything from £2.99 to £35 depending on who is on the front cover and featured inside. What you waiting for, get yer bids in and take a step back in time.

Gary Alikivi  January 2021.

SMELLS LIKE TOON SPIRIT

A new book ‘Closest Thing to Heaven’ capturing the atmosphere surrounding the Newcastle music scene of the ‘70s and ’80s has been produced by MiE Fielding and Simon McKay.

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 Gary Alikivi  December 2020.

METAL TOON, METAL CITY

Video filmed in Newcastle for new single from Chief Headbangers, Raven.

On Tyneside during the ‘70s and ‘80s rock music was heard from Sunderland to South Shields, bounced over the river Tyne to Whitley Bay and Wallsend – the vibrations were felt in Newcastle. A North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal was coming in.

Not just riding, but steering the wave were Fist, Hellanbach, Mythra, Tygers of Pan Tang and Venom pushing metal to its limits and discovering a new energy. Another one of those bands was Raven.

Now based Stateside, but originally formed in Newcastle in 1974, early gigs saw the trio cutting their teeth on North East live circuit of working mens clubs. Headline gigs at Newcastle Mayfair and Dingwalls gained the band a solid live reputation. The gates were opened, and the band went onto UK support slots with Iron Maiden, Ozzy and Whitesnake.

By the early ‘80s two albums ‘Rock Until You Drop’ and ‘Wiped Out’ were recorded in Impulse Studio, Wallsend on the Tyneside label, Neat Records. Then a call came in from America.

Raven were at the very forefront of speed metal spawning the big four beasts from the United States – Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax and dragging Metallica out on their first, and scorching, tour across the USA. We know where they ended up. These were life changing moments. Raven knew their future was Stateside and subsequently signed to Megaforce and then major label, Atlantic.

Fast forward 40 years plus and the band are still hitting it hard with new single ‘Metal City’ from their forthcoming album. The music video was filmed on Tyneside capturing iconic structures like the Angel of the North, the Tyne Bridge and even St James’ Park home of Newcastle United. I asked bassist and vocalist John Gallagher did filming stir up any memories when you were at the locations ? It definitely stirred up some memories especially with one part of the shoot. We were driving to one of the locations when I mentioned “I grew up down that street there” and our video guy Paul said “Then let’s check it out!” So the footage with me playing the bass is in the backlane in Benwell where we played football as kids.

After ‘Top of the Mountain’ this is the second track released and both are very strong opening singles, I asked John are the band putting down a marker for what the listeners can expect from the rest of the album ? Very much so. Top was the perfect choice as the first song as it sounds like one of our early songs dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century!! And Metal City is not only the title track but it’s a real anthem type song. (Yep, added to trademark Gallagher scream, check out the geet big chorus!)

The rest of the album runs the gamut from crazy fast songs like The Power, and a tribute to Lemmy in Motorheadin’. Added to super aggressive tracks like Human Race and Break plus a bit of an epic in When Worlds Collide. So there’s variety, and all heavy with ‘all killer, no filler’.

How do you look at this album compared to previous releases ? This one is a belta! We actually think this album is the best thing we’ve ever done, for a band that’s been around the block as long as we have that’s really a case of laying down the gauntlet to many of the other bands of our era who are putting out ‘ok’ albums.

The band have just released new European tour dates, when was your last gig pre – covid ? Our last shows were on the Monsters of Rock cruise which departs from Florida. We did the pre-party show in Miami and a show on the cruise. Always great fun, and we actually did Chainsaw for the first time in about 30 years. We can’t wait to test drive these new songs on stage!

Watch the video on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtKKmm6ibOM&list=RDjtKKmm6ibOM&start_radio=1&t=20

Check official website for tour dates and album release:  https://ravenlunatics.com/

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2020.

THE DAY I WAS TOLD OFF BY FREDDIE F***ING MERCURY with singer & songwriter Sam Blue

When I was in Ya Ya we recorded some of the album at Maison Rouge in Fulham. Next door Roger Taylor was recording The Cross album. So we used to regularly meet the Queen guys. There was a bar in Maison Rouge – part of it’s appeal – and one night I was sitting there on my own with a drink and Freddie Mercury plonks himself down on the stool next to me.

He asks how it’s going, Brian and Rog said it was sounding great. I didn’t know what to say…it was Freddie ‘F***ing’ Mercury! So I just said I was a bit bored…’They’re working on guitar amp and bass sounds, so I had nothing to do’.

Freddie looked at me and said quietly, ‘Never ever say you’re bored, there’s always something to do and there are people out there who would give there left arm to do what you’re doing’.

I didn’t know what to say. I was being told off by Freddie Mercury.

You know what, I’ve never said I was bored since, because he was right. We had a drink and chatted about all things singing, which singers love to do, what a wonderful person. Turns out, he knew lots of people I knew and worked with, some of them part of Freddie’s inner circle – funny old world isn’t it.

To the tune of ‘Once in a Lifetime’ (Talking Heads) You may ask yourself how did a boy from Tyneside end up here ? Now living on a houseboat in Twickenham, west London, Sam Blewitt has great stories from his life in music including Ultravox, Dizzee Rascal at Glastonbury, hitting number 1 with Mike Skinner & the Streets and not forgetting his formative years singing in rock bands in the North East.

But first I asked him what got you interested in music and are you from a musical family ? I’m not really from a musical family, but my Dad played the guitar, he’s pretty handy on the keyboard now. What got me interested was my mates in Gosforth, where I grew up, we talked about music the majority of the time.

Also my Aunty Lily worked for a company who changed all the singles on the jukeboxes around Newcastle and Gateshead, she would drop by in her mini-van and drop off piles of singles.

This would have been around ‘68 or ‘69. Me and my sister would pile them up on the record player and listen to every song day after day. I loved the Beatles, Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Rolling Stones, Small Faces, The Animals.

We also used to watch all the Saturday night shows on TV, like Cilla, Lulu – I even remember the famous one where Jimi Hendrix starts Sunshine of your Love in the middle of Hey Joe.

There was music everywhere – or so I thought.

Can you remember your first gig ? My first proper gig was at the Cooperage near the Quayside in Newcastle with my first band Moulin Rouge. It was just a party for a friend of one of the band members. We had been rehearsing for a while and it was an ideal way of us starting out properly.

Moulin Rouge gigged anywhere we could to be honest – The Newton Park Hotel with Newcastle band White Heat, The Mayfair, the Old 69 and the Locarno in Sunderland and some workingmen’s clubs. I remember playing a few times in Whitley Bay sharing headline slots with The Tygers of Pan Tang and supporting Geordie at the Mayfair. The line-up changed a few times and we eventually recruited Rob Hunter on drums, who was also a great singer and songwriter. He left to join Raven.

I left Moulin Rouge to join Fastbreeder with Fred Purvis, Dave Drury and Andy Taylor – who later moved on to Duran Duran. They were a great little rock band and we did the Mayfair a couple of times and some workingmens clubs, but after Andy left it sort of fell apart.

 Did you travel out of Tyneside ? I joined a band in Cleveland called Axis, they were set up like a proper professional band, and we played a few gigs around the country. Once again a guitarist left, that was Mick Tucker he joined White Spirit.

I then joined Emerson, which included brothers Stu and Bri Emerson, Dru Irving on keys and Jon Sellers on drums, later replaced by Charlie McKenzie. We worked hard with writing sessions and rehearsals every weekend.

Once again we picked up gigs where ever we could like the Whitley Bay Esplanade and some cool ones supporting bands like Nazareth, Budgie, Robin George and Heavy Pettin’. We got quite a few slots in the capital at the Royal Standard, Dingwalls and the Marquee, this led to a lot of interest from the industry in London.

But the band started to break up after a year or two, Bri left and I started getting offers from bands in London. We kept the band going for a while with Norman Appleby replacing Bri Emerson. I eventually left and joined LA Secrets, after a short stint with them I joined Paul Samson’s Empire, that was fun but again only lasted a few months before I joined a band called  Ya Ya.

I spent 4 years with them and we were signed to Warner Brothers and released an album called Ya Ya, it got rave reviews. But unfortunately it failed to sell in great numbers. We released a few singles from the album which were fun to promote.

By this time it was 1989 and the band broke up. Looking back on my time in Ya Ya we had toured a fair bit and recorded with some great producers. We supported Roger Taylor’s band The Cross, for a whole tour of the UK, which was fun and got to meet all the Queen guys.   

Where there any offers after Ya Ya ? I worked as a session singer and songwriter for a few years, working with some amazing writers and producers, trying to form new projects. Then in 1992 I joined Ultravox and stayed with them until 1996. In that time we released one studio album Ingenuity, and one live album.

I then worked with Vinny Burns – who was the guitarist in Ultravox at that time – on his solo album The Journey. We then joined forces as Burns Blue, to write and record our own album What if.

Then came my time as a ‘hired gun’ session singer, I sang the Phat Beach/Naughty Boy version of The Baywatch theme I’ll Be Ready, which reached the top 30. Plus I sang for Mike Skinner & the Streets on ‘Dry Your Eyes’ which went to number 1 in the UK. This attracted the interest of many hip hop/grime artists and producers.

I sang with The Young Punx on their albums who were recruited to become Dizzee Rascal’s backing band for his 2009/10 tours and TV performances.

I was brought in to sing ‘fix up look sharp’, but ended up joining in with the band singing on most of the songs. We had Guthrie Govan on guitar, Hal Ritson on bass and keys, Alex Reeves on drums, Vula Malinga on vocals and a whole brass section – not too shabby.

I still collaborate with producers Hal Ritson and Richard Adlam on Young Punx, Avicci, Urban Myth and various other releases.

What was your first recording experience ? My first recording experience would have been with Moulin Rouge at Impulse studios in Wallsend. The line-up of the band was Me, Matty Rocks and Ian Wood on guitars, Ian Drury on bass and I forget the drummer’s name – it was a long time ago.

We done a 2 track recording for EMI records. They had seen us at a Melody Maker rock competition in Durham, and much to our surprise – we won, but they didn’t follow up their initial interest.

We were so naive, we didn’t really know what a demo was. The next time I recorded properly would have been with Paul Samson’s Empire, we had a day at the BBC Maida Vale studios in London, which was awesome.

Did you have a manager ? My first proper manager was Diane Wagg, when I first moved to London – we’re still mates now. Then Ira Blacker managed Ya Ya. When I joined Ultravox our managers were Simon Napier Bell and Sir Harry Cowell – a couple of real characters.

At the Jools Holland Hootenanny TV show in 2010 with Dizzee Rascal & the Young Punx.

What were your high points on stage – any magic moments ? My high points have been, playing on the Glastonbury Pyramid stage with Dizzee Rascal in 2010. I was his rock singer with his amazing band The Young Punx. We have no idea how many people were there, but something around 70,000.

In Ultravox we played some cool festivals too, one in particular in Bielefeld, Germany on the same bill as Roger Chapman, one of my musical heroes. One festival we played we were given a one hour slot to play, this was cut short, but we weren’t told and we hadn’t played any of the big songs like Vienna and Dancing with Tears in My Eyes, then we were pulled off stage by the promoter and stage manager after about 45 minutes. I don’t think the audience were too happy, we made the promoter explain the situation – still don’t know if he did or not. It happens.

Have you any road stories ? One of my favourites was myself and Vinny Burns getting a bit merry after a gig, we went back to watch Asia who were headlining, they had lots of dry ice, so we took it upon ourselves to crawl across the stage under the dry ice without being seen. It was all going well until we ended up behind Geoff Downs (the keyboard player) and couldn’t see where we were going but we managed to get back across the stage without being seen. It’s an old UFO trick, great fun.

When Ya Ya were in LA to shoot our video for When the World Cried with Nigel Dick, who also filmed Toto and Guns n Roses, we agreed to meet him at our hotel to have a chat. Ray the guitarist fancied a dip in the hot tub on the roof, we had put a whole bottle of shampoo in the hot tub, we switched on the jacuzzi and he got in just for a laugh.

Nigel pulled up and looked up at the roof, all you could see was foam sliding down the side of the building. He said you could see it about a mile away. The hotel weren’t too happy – it was only soap !

There was a time I was backstage at Glastonbury when Bobby Womack walks up to me and says ‘You remind me of that mutherfucker used to sing with Slade!’  Before I could answer his trumpet player declared…’No man, he remind me of that mutherfucker used to sing with Led Zeppelin!’….then they both walked of, it was hilarious.

Post soundcheck in Barcelona with The Project band in 2019.

Bringing your story up to date what are you doing now ? I’m currently singing with The Project Band, basically the guys from the Alan Parsons Project featuring Lenny Zakatek joint vocals, Stuart Elliot on drums, Laurence Cottle on bass, Richard Cottle on keys and Dave Bainbridge on guitar.

They’re great people and amazing players, just waiting for this pandemic to clear up and we can get back out on the road. I didn’t know much about the Alan Parsons Project, but local boy John Miles was heavily involved and I rate him very highly indeed.

I’m still working as a session singer, which I really like, you never know what they’ll throw at you next.

Finally, what does music mean to you ? Music has meant everything really. Hard work, fun, and a living. It’s a cruel mistress sometimes, some wonderful moments you never forget, days when you wonder what you’re doing there. I’ve met some fantastic people over the years, many great friends, lot’s of people to look up to. There’s always a challenge to look forward to.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   May 2020.

For more info contact the official website:

http://www.samblue.co.uk

WRITING ON THE WALL – in conversation with North East music journalist, broadcaster & producer Ian Ravendale

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Ian Penman has been a television and radio presenter, researcher, producer and journalist for more than 30 years, generally writing as Ian Ravendale to avoid confusion with the Ian Penman formerly of the NME.

He returned to music journalism (and Ian Ravendale) seven years ago writing for Classic Rock, Classic Pop, Vintage Rock, AOR, Vive Le Rock, Iron Fist, Blues Matters, American Songwriter, The Word and many more. Ian has interviewed literally thousands of musicians from multi-millionaire rockstars to local indie bands on the dole…

‘I worked in television for Border, Tyne Tees, Channel 4 and also ran River City Productions an independent production company based in Gateshead. In addition to making lots of local programmes I also worked on national music shows including Get Fresh, Bliss and (to a lesser extent) The Tube. The Tube was shot at Tyne Tees Television’s Studio 5 on City Road in Newcastle. The site is now a Travel Lodge!

It was interesting going to the canteen on recording day for shows like shows like Razzmatazz  and The Tube and seeing who was in. I remember standing behind Phil Everly as he got his cod and chips!’ 

‘The music programmes I worked on were mainly produced by Border Television in Carlisle. I spent a lot of time there in the 1980’s. At Tyne Tees I worked mainly in the Arts and Entertainment department. Anything different or off the wall it would usually be me doing it.

We produced a program about rock poetry, presented by Mark Mywurdz, who at the time was a Tube regular. For some reason Mark wanted to present the program just wearing a raincoat. Nothing underneath! After we finished recording the show one of the camera men came up and congratulated me; ‘That was the biggest load of rubbish I’ve seen in my life!’  I did a lot of alternative stuff. Some was challenging but none was rubbish!’

Talking about alternative stuff, can you remember Wavis O’Shave ? ‘He had a number of names – Wavis, Fofffo Spearjig, Rod Stewart, Pans Person. When I was writing for Sounds he saw me as a way in as the paper liked the off-beat stuff. He was a great self publicist. And still is! He once told me about getting £1,000 out of the News of the World for a tip-off about a forthcoming witches coven scheduled for Witton Gilbert-or wherever Wavis said it was!’ 

What can you remember about working on Get Fresh ? (kids 1986-88  morning weekend TV show produced by the regional ITV companies taking it in turns for Saturday and Border producing all the Sunday editions). ‘For Get Fresh and Bliss, Border’s 1985 summer replacement for The Tube, most of the guests came up to Carlisle the night before so I’d take them out. People like Rat Scabies and Captain Sensible from The Damned. We’d go into the music pubs and clubs around Carlisle and people would love seeing them there. Rat got up a few times to play with some of the local bands. When I met him I said ‘What do I call you?’ (His real name is Chris Miller). (Adopts cockney accent) ‘Just call me Rat’. So I did. Nice guy. At the time he was really hoping to get the drum job with The Who, as Keith Moon had recently died. Didn’t happen, unfortunately.’

me fringed jacket crop.

Bliss was presented by Muriel Grey and produced in Carlisle by Janet Street-Porter. We featured live bands, got them to play for half an hour, used two songs on the weekly show, then repackage the 30 minutes for a Bliss In Concert special. There wasn’t that much going on in Carlisle at the time so we had no problem getting local kids in as the audience.

One week we didn’t have a live band and I’d got an advance copy of the famous animated video for Take On Me by A-Ha, who at that point were totally unknown. Graham K Smith, the other music researcher and I thought it was really good so I rang their record company to see if A-Ha were available and importantly if they could play live. A resounding ‘Yes, they can do it’ was the answer. Bliss was aimed at a teenage audience so A-ha would have fitted in perfectly. Janet-Street Porter comes in and looks at the video and goes (adopts cockney accent) ‘Oh no, that’s art school stuff, it’s boring. Draggy!’ 

Border TV could have had half an hour of A-Ha playing live in concert for the first time in the UK. But no. The band she booked instead were King Kurt, a well-past their sell-by date punk band. So up they come in their ratty old bus with dogs on pieces of string and a stage act that consisted of throwing slop at each other. We – or rather Janet – turned down what became one of the biggest bands of the eighties’.

When you were reviewing gigs in the early 1980’s for Sounds were there any bands that surprised you or were disappointed with ? ‘It took me a while to ‘get’ punk. I was never into the boring British blues bands and prog acts which still show-up on the BBC’s compilations of 70’s rock. With the exception of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band who I liked. When punk came along it started to make more sense. I was also into what is now classed as Americana. Along with more-left field bands like Sparks and Be-Bop Deluxe.’

I’m reading the book ’No Sleep till Canvey Island -The Great Pub Rock Revolution’ the book mentions the early careers of Joe Strummer, Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello…’There were bands that were like a doorway between punk and the boring rock bands and Brinsley Schwarz, with Nick Lowe were one of them. I saw them play Backhouse Park, here in Sunderland. Dr Feelgood were another. I saw The Damned support Marc Bolan at Newcastle City Hall and it was a short, sharp, shock. And I thought; ‘OK. What was that…?’ Phil Sutcliffe, my predecessor at Sounds did an interview with The Damned for Radio Newcastle’s Bedrock show that we both worked on. It was 30 seconds long and finished off with someone shouting ‘Oi! Who put duh lights out’!

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The big article you wrote for Sounds in May 1980 featured local metal bands Mythra, Fist, Raven, Tygers of Pan Tang and White Spirit. How did that come about ? ‘I was freelancing at Sounds, writing articles and reviewing gigs, some of which were of local bands. I was also working on the Bedrock program and one of my co-presenters was Tom Noble who was managing the Tygers. I’d already written individual articles about the Tygers, Fist and Raven and Geoff Barton, the assistant editor at Sounds asked me to source a few more bands for a 4,000 word article. The North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ was born!’

NWOBHM had Iron Maiden in London, Saxon in Barnsley and Def Leppard in Sheffield…. ‘Yes. As a reviewer I went as far as Redcar. A lot of the local bands I reviewed were from here in Sunderland, Newcastle and South Shields. Sounds also had a guy called ‘Des Moines’, a pseudonym for a writer from Leeds called Nigel Burnham who is now an agricultural journalist and Mick Middles, based in Manchester. Between the three of us we had the north covered.

One time the Tygers of Pan Tang were supporting Saxon and I’d gone along. I’d previously written a review of Saxon which included something along the lines of ‘in six months time they’ll be back playing social clubs’. At the gig Tygers’ guitarist Robb Weir came up and said ‘Biffs lookin’ for you!’. Fortunately he didn’t find me….Not yet, anyway.’

Was there any conflict between watching a band that you weren’t a fan of and writing something positive about them ? ‘Geoff never said to me, ‘We’ve got a big metal readership here can you go easy on them?’ He never wanted me to do that. But I found metal bands easy to take the piss out of – and I did. This stimulated very angry letters like ‘How dare Ian Ravendale slag off Ozzy. I’ve seen him and he was great’. I remember my opening line of a review I did of Ozzy, ‘What I want to know is how is Ozzy Osbourne so cabaret’. I interviewed him a few times for Bedrock but my interviewees tended not to click onto the fact that ‘Bedrock’s Ian Penman’ was also sharp-tongued Sounds scribe Ian Ravendale.

One time a few years after the Sounds ‘cabaret’ comment I was working at Tyne Tees and on the Friday Ozzy was playing The Tube. The Arts and Entertainment office was next door and I saw him in the corridor looking lost.  So I went up to him and said ‘Hi Ozzy, The Tube office is just over there’. He thanked me and then said ’I’ve met you before haven’t I’. He still remembered me from the radio interviews we’d done’.

How did you get interested in writing ? ‘As a teenager I was a huge music fan and also into American comics. I wrote for a few comic fanzines then published some of my own which occasionally still turn up on Ebay. That gave me an insight into writing for public consumption’. 

Bedrock pic

The Bedrock team with Ian sitting on the right.

What about radio? You were involved in Bedrock for nearly ten years…‘Dick Godfrey was producing a program called Bedrock for BBC Radio Newcastle which featured interviews from national and gave local bands exposure which was otherwise very hard for them to get at the time. I had always been interested in the nuts and bolts of the music industry and how it all worked and listened to programs like Radio 1’s Scene And Heard.

Dick had a feature called Top Track where each week a different listener would come in and play his favourite track and talk about it. ‘Some Of Shellys Blues’ by Michael Nesmith was my choice. This went down well with Dick so I asked if he’d be interested in me contributing features. ‘Yes but there’s no cash involved’. Nesmith was soon going to be playing in the UK and I was going along to the gig so I asked Dick if Bedrock be interested in me trying to get an interview with him. ‘Definitely’ replied Dick. So I phoned a record label I’d heard Michael was about to sign to and they gave me his hotel number. As ‘Ian Penman from BBC Radio Newcastle’ I arranged an interview, which I did a couple days later in London, the day after the gig. That was my start in radio’. 

How did you start with Sounds? ‘Phil Sutcliffe, who was the North East correspondent for Sounds, was a friend of Dick Godfrey and also worked on Bedrock. When Phil moved to London he recommended me to Geoff Barton, Sound’s reviews editor, to be his replacement. Phil wrote a lot about the Angelic Upstarts, he liked the music but also had a sympathetic ear to what they were doing. He wrote the first articles about them. Same for Penetration, Neon and Punishment of Luxury.

I’d also been involved in the music fanzine Out Now which Tom Noble had produced, so I was becoming pretty proficient at interviewing and writing reviews. I was out at gigs four nights a week and was known enough to be able to walk straight into Newcastle City Hall via the stage door. This put me in touch with Tyne Tees TV and when a researcher vacancy came up I applied for that, got it and carried on at Sounds for a short while. I also wrote a few pieces for Kerrang, which Geoff Barton had moved across from Sounds to edit. I wrote the first article on Venom. Yes, I’m responsible for Black Metal (laughs).

Then as now, my attitude was regardless whether I liked the music or not if I could write something positive about local bands, and it was a entertaining ….I’ll do that. If you write something negative about a local band you could do them major harm. Also, a person in Aberdeen doesn’t want to know whether a band from South Shields are crap. Why would they?’

For the work that you were doing how important do you think research is? ’Some writers think of an idea then write a piece in support of that. I don’t do that. For me it’s about the facts and information presented in an interesting way. Opinions and personal taste are what they are. Maybe you like a band that I don’t. That’s fine.  But facts stand. I do my absolute level best to write as accurately as possible. It’s really important for me to do that. Sometimes information comes from two or three sources. And if the information is contradictory, I’ll say that’. 

Any memorable incidents in your career ? ’I interviewed Debbie Harry at Newcastle City Hall when Blondie had just broken big. We were in one of the really small dressing rooms. It was tiny. The record rep said ‘Ok Ian you got seven minutes’. He introduced me to Debbie who was standing with her back to me. She was leaning on a shelf writing stuff down. I said ‘Writing out the song lyrics ?’ She replied ‘Yeah, well I don’t really know them from the new album yet’. It felt a bit awkward. I literally spent the next three minutes just watching her writing with her back to me, stunning in her jumble sale collection of clothes. Eventually she sat down and off we went.

All of this was fairly new to her, she had just been playing CBGB’s (small club in New York) and now it was to gigs with 2,000 fans like the City Hall. She was trying to get used to all this Debbie-fever that was going on around her. By minute seven we were finally getting somewhere and she was opening up when the record rep walked in ‘Right Ian. Times up!’

I did actually interview the solo Debbie on the phone for Get Fresh nine years later and she was much more forthcoming.  (The  City Hall interview is on Rocks Back pages if you fancy a listen. RB is a paysite but there’s lots and lots of great stuff up there).

For more information contact : http://ianravendale.blogspot.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2018.