TYGERS TAKE ON RADIO BEDROCK 

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.

John Sykes & Robb Weir

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’.

Robb Weir & John Sykes

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’.

Tygers of Pan Tang backstage waiting to go on at the Reading Festival.

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

DOCTOR ROCK – in conversation with Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist, Robb Weir | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Interview with Ian Penman, August 2018

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

25 YEARS OF NORTH EAST RADIO BEDROCK

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

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

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

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

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

Ian Penman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Rik Walton was a good friend and photographer of the Newcastle scene, one who worked via mild manner rather than being pushy and sharp-elbowed’.

‘You wanted Newcastle music pix, Rik was the man. Rik’s pix are still valuable in every sense and he’s still the man for images of that time and place’.

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Alikivi  January 2022

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

Ian Penman 2018

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

Rik Walton 2019

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

Phil Sutcliffe 2021

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

CRAZY FROM THE BEAT: with drummer Paul AT Kinson (Secret Sam/Jess Cox/ /Battleaxe/Skyclad) 2/2

Did you think you would get signed to a major label ? The first line-up of Secret Sam nearly got us signed with a big advance, but it fell through during Christmas ‘85, we were gutted when we found out. When I think back to those times I’m not proud of myself either. I was, and still am, pretty difficult to work with sometimes.

Russ Thompson (guitar/vocals) and I really laid the law down about arrangements and harmonies, I ended up falling out with some really nice people. It got ridiculous in the end, Russ sacked himself and a dozen other people came through the band before I finally wrapped it up in late ‘86.

A year later Mick McKnight (guitar) and Paul Bateson (keys) had a club act and ended up doing Stars In Your Eyes, a big show on TV at the time. They got ripped apart by journalist Nina Myskow, that was fun to watch, but I did feel for them.

The Jess Cox band on Tyne Tees TV show TX45.

I mentioned being in the Jess Cox band, we did the first series of TX45 (music TV show filmed in Newcastle at the time of The Tube) and a couple of shows in London with Les Cheatham on guitar and a couple of great guys from down south, this was around ‘84-86.

Working with Jess (vocals) was a good learning experience, he’d had some success with The Tygers of Pan Tang so he sort of knew what he was talking about, even though he was clearly tainted by the music industry at that point.

In rehearsals for the TV show, he helped me refine my playing by offering suggestions like ‘can you put a blanket over those f**king drums’ and ‘don’t do drum fills’. Of course I will be forever grateful for that advice!

There was an album I did around ’85 with Jess and Rob Weir (guitar) called imaginatively – Tyger Tyger. Me and Rob programmed all drums on a Roland TR-707 then went into Impulse studio to record real hi-hats and cymbals, that was the second most awful studio experience I’ve ever had. I don’t think it ever saw the light of day, it wasn’t that good.

What did the new decade bring for you ? At the end of the ‘80s, heavy metal band Battleaxe got in touch and I started playing for them. Don’t they say any publicity is good publicity ? The singer would have crazy ideas like ‘we’re going to make a video on an oil rig and the BBC are coming down to film it’. At first I thought this is exciting, but soon realised he lived in a fantasy world.

What he forgot to mention was with all our gear we would have to sneak illegally onto one of the oil rigs being built in Sunderland docks, and start playing until news media and police turned up to arrest us.

Incidentally, from 2010-14 I returned to Battleaxe but I’ll not go there, it’s a four year horror story I’d rather forget, it includes the worst band and recording experience I’ve ever had.

Skyclad

By the mid ‘90s I was enjoying playing around the pubs in a little three piece band and one day got a call from the late Eric Cook who managed Venom and others. He asked if I could do a tour because the drummer they were hoping to use had dropped out. I immediately said yes, it’s a powerful word yes – the tour was the next week and the band was Skyclad.

I’d never heard of them but did sort of know Steve (Ramsey, lead guitarist) and Bean (Graeme English, bass) from the band Satan. With only four or five days to learn the set, we were off to Europe to play with Blind Guardian, Yngwie Malmsteen and Saxon.

It was great, but I felt like a fish out of water. I’d never played in a folk metal band before and I’d never done that kind of tour. Big venues, lorries full of gear, half a dozen tour coaches, catering the lot, it was like stepping into the unknown for me – totally routine for the other guys though.

One of the highlights for me was jamming with Yngwie Malmsteen’s band in the sound check in Hannover, a rare opportunity, they were brilliant players, and had to be because Yngwie would dock their pay if they made a mistake on stage.

I stayed with Skyclad for a couple of years, doing a few tours with bands like Riot, Whiplash, Subway to Sally, and recording a couple of albums at top studios like Moles in Bath and Jacobs in Surrey, but I was sick to death of being away on tour. It all came to a head for me at the end of ’96 in a snow storm and -20 degree temperatures.

Imagine spending Christmas Day in a freezing hotel in a town where nothing was open, and being away from your loved ones without any means of contacting them but a payphone in the street – totally depressing. Why anyone thought that would be a good idea was beyond me.

Things got so bad that in true rock star style Andy smashed up his hotel room causing a couple of thousand pounds worth of damage – by the way Andy was the lighting guy, it was the band who were the sensible one’s.

At this point I was in my mid-thirties and realised this is a game for the young, but I appreciated the experience and the band always treated me well.

Bob Dee on tour 2016-18.

What have you been doing the past couple of years ? From 2016-18 I was drumming for American band Bob Dee with Petro, he was a great guy, we did a couple of UK tours, one supporting Chris Holmes from ‘80s metal band Wasp.

So that’s about it, trying to make it in music brought good times and not so good times for me, it’s great to talk about it if someone’s interested in listening, but these days I find myself less inclined to.

What do you think about your time in music ? I think my ‘80s was a great time, the band scene was vibrant and anything seemed possible. I often think of people like Karen McInulty from She, Dave Donaldson from the Jess Cox Band, Eric Cook, and others who are sadly no longer with us, and loads of other people who were part of that close knit scene at the time, really fond memories.

For me it’s like telling a story about climbing a mountain, it’s easy to romanticise about it in hindsight and say it was all fantastic, when in reality it was hard work with only the odd moment when the clouds broke.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  December 2021

SPREAD THE LOVE #4

And more messages to celebrate the quarter million milestone.

Big thanks to all the contributors and readers – keep spreading the love!

Bri Smith (The Fauves) ‘250,000 views that’s brilliant Gary. You’ve done a great job and proud to be part of it. I’m sure there’s more to come and it’s great for the North East. All the best for 2022’.

Wavis O’Shave (Surreal Entertainer and Global – particularly South Shields – Enigma) ‘Here’s hoping for another 250,000 to match the number of pints – give or take the odd hundred – that The Hard has drunk since last New Year’s Eve’.

Dan Green (Author, Broadcaster & Researcher into all things mysterious) ‘It’s no mystery that 250k have dropped by’.

Jan Wilson  ‘You know how much my guitarist husband Alan Burke enjoyed visiting his history with Southbound for your interview…you just ‘get’ the importance of our local musical heritage’.

Brian Rapkin (aka Brian Bond, Punishment of Luxury, Punching Holes, Actor)

‘Gary’s blogs are incredible. Great to do and great to read. It’s hard to pinpoint what makes them work so well. Doing a blog with him is liberating and emotionally satisfying – it takes you back to childhood, younger times, important things of life that stay with us forever.

His editing is the work of a master surgeon – he pares it down to the marrow of the bone, the real events and the real consequences. Thank you Gary for the magic lantern show, the time machine that reveals the truth! You done a good job, Gaz’.

Robb Weir (Tygers of Pan Tang) ‘A very big thank you to our ‘Gary’ for keeping the world in touch with ‘Geordie Land’ and all it’s amazing characters. Here’s to the next 250,000 readers !’

Dave King (Battleaxe) ‘Hey ALIKIVI. A BIG thanks for highlighting the great talent of North East bands and musicians who are often disregarded and unappreciated by main stream music mags, and some journalists, especially in the Metal Scene which actually thrives up here in the North East.

With 250 thousand views of your blog, it could be a good idea for a full featured film on the subject? Just look what the Anvil video done for those guys as an example. Anyway cheers again and keep rocking’.

Nev (Punishment of Luxury) ‘It has been a great experience to work with Gary on Punishment of Luxury blogs. His enthusiasm is inspiring and encourages the best possible answers because of the quality of his well-researched, thoughtful and searching questions resulting in such masterful and brilliantly written blogs.

I like the way he creates such interesting themes and explores so thoroughly to bring to life excellent stories and histories about all things musical and creative in the North East.’

Jean Alicia Stokes (Tyneside Historian & Author) ‘What a delight the ALIKIVI blog is, offering such insight to our local culture. A wealth of information for the local historian which I turn to often, continually enhancing my understanding of our North Eastern area. Love the interviews as they offer such a primary resource.’

Will Binks (Photographer) ‘When Gary asked for my inclusion in one of his blogs I jumped at the chance. My ramblings about the ‘seven songs that shaped my world’ were a joy to choose and describe my connection with, perhaps only of a passing interest to some but so incredibly important to me that they were documented and published. Thanks mate, keep up the great work and well done on a quarter of a million views’.

Ray Cooney (Theatre producer) ‘You’re on course to hit 250,000 views! Well done!! It’s been great being involved with you and keep up the good work.’

Tony Wilson (Singer/Songwriter/Storyteller) ‘Gary has covered so much of our local North Eastern life in both written, audio and video form and has created hundreds of hours of informed and informative, entertaining and edifying aspects of our own great part of the world. The man is a marvel!’

Robert Olley (Artist) ‘The informal, light hearted talk with Gary was a great indicator of how my work as an artist has progressed since the first interview we did some time ago. It’s also proved to be an informative and invaluable update for the many people that have followed the progress of my career over some fifty years, thanks Gary!’

Glenn Howes (songwriter/guitarist) ‘My congratulations on this important milestone. 1/4 Million wow! I’m proud to have contributed and grateful to Gary for putting this together and keeping us entertained with all the wonderful stories in his articles of people from the North East UK scene. Well done!!’

Steve Thompson (Songwriter) ‘Congratulations on the success of your blog Gary I can see how much work you’ve put into it. My first chat with you was in the early days and since then you have given me several opportunities to tell more stories. The lifeblood of a storyteller is having a willing listener. Thanks for listening ….and of course you giving me that ‘Godfather of North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ moniker has come in handy too’.

There’ll be no idle shilly-shallying here I’ll just push on to the next batch of interviews – who’s next ?

SPREAD THE LOVE #2

And the messages keep coming in to celebrate the quarter of a million milestone of the North East Culture blog.

Dave Curry ‘Congratulations on the fantastic milestone you’ve achieved. I would like to say that without your interest and drive the photos that were recently included in the 40th anniversary of Motorhead’s ‘No Sleep’ CD would still be sitting in the loft. Keep up the excellent work’.

Julie Clay (Promoter) ‘Wow what a milestone, 250,000 hits on your blog….well done Gary! Great to meet you and be part of such a great blog. Good luck and all the best for 2022.’ 

Jon De Ville (actor, ex-vocalist Tygers of Pan Tang) ‘I spent some of my best years of my life in the North East and I love returning. My very best wishes to everyone and here’s to a rockin’ 2022’.

Alison Stanley (Actress, Writer & Theatre producer) ‘I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Gary on a couple of occasions, both of which have been thoroughly enjoyable. Gary’s blog has been an excellent means of telling everyone about my work as an actress/writer and has allowed me to reach a much wider audience.

I love reading Gary’s pieces and was really chuffed to join the ranks and be interviewed myself. I would definitely recommend reading’.

Carol Nichol (Lowfeye) ‘With social media there is often an overload of mundane feeds, so when you see an Alikivi review you are keen to hit that button with interest, whether it be a review of a band, a character from local history, there is always something brilliant in the creation of these blogs/reviews, through the research and the way they are written and presented, they are a little jewel in the world of social media today. It’s very evident how passionate Gary is in seeking out these largely unknown stories. Fantastic stuff!’

Garry Hunter (Creative Director) ‘This resource is key to continuing and reaffirming Tyneside as a cosmopolitan centre, with quarter of a million views it’s testament to Alikivi’s global reach, proving that Geordies get everywhere in the world, whether as engineers, artists or musicians, our impact is immense.’  

Tom Noble (Music manager & Promoter) ‘Gary’s blog has contributed significantly to the promotion of culture in the North East at a time when it’s increasingly difficult to get coverage for anyone but the most successful acts, he has supported local music admirably.’

Par Can (former stage technician) ‘A few years ago I had a major health issue which left me with time to read and take proper notice of things I’d previously just skimmed over. One of those was a site run by Film Maker Gary Alikivi. If you can’t find a plethora of interesting, amusing, informative articles to entertain you then you have somehow ended up on ‘The Wit and Wisdom of Boris dot com’ ! Thank you for all your hard work Gary. Look forward to many more great articles’.


Tony Hodge (The Pirahana Brothers) ‘Great news hitting 250,000 views of your excellent blog. I love reading the stories you feature covering many aspects of the North East especially its huge contribution our entertainers make. Keep up the good work and here’s to the million mark’.

Jon Dalton (Jazz guitarist & Composer) ‘Thanks for all the work you’ve been doing here and particularly your focus on the NWOBHM. Not just music from the North East but also bands like ours from the opposite corner of the country. That was an important time for so many of us and it’s great to see those stories recognized and remembered’.

Sam Blewitt – aka Sam Blue, (singer for Ya Ya, Ultravox, The Streets, The Young Punx, Dizzee Rascal, The Attention Seekers). ‘The history of North East music is a very important piece of cultural history, Gary chronicles it beautifully. His interviews and historical pieces are carefully and thoughtfully put together, making them a joy to read. I really enjoyed being interviewed by Gary, his questions allow scope for a wider answer. I had to really dig deep to remember dates and locations, but it was great fun and brought back some wonderful memories. Great Job Gary, keep up the good work’.

Jeff Brown (BBC Look North) ‘Enjoyed being a part of the project, Gary – keep telling the world about the region’s rich and diverse cultural heritage.’

Antony Bray (Abaddon/Venom Inc) ‘After forming Venom Inc I was lucky enough to begin touring in Europe again followed by the Far East and USA, this continued and we toured the world for three years. Of course many, many interviews went hand in hand, but none more satisfying and relaxing than the one I did with Gary Alikivi right on my doorstep.’

Micky Crystal (Tygers of Pan Tang/New Breed Revolution) ‘Huge congratulations on a quarter of a million readers Gary. Honoured to be part of the Alikivi North East blog’.

Quentin Kopp (Chairman, The Orwell Society) ‘Gary continues to do a wonderful job of keeping aspects of the history and people of South Shields alive. For me, as Chair of The Orwell Society, a highlight was Gary’s evocative film Wildflower about Eileen O’Shaughnessy, Orwell’s first wife who grew up in South Shields where her Father was the Chief Customs Office.’

Richard Blair, Patron of the Orwell Society and son of George Orwell ‘Since the start of 2017 I have been amazed by the number of people who have shown so much interest in both my father and mother. Eileen was a child of South Shields, who fell for an impecunious and relatively unknown young author, but she had great faith in his ability. The tragedy was that she was to die before the publication of Animal Farm, a book that she contributed so much to when George Orwell was writing it.

The Orwell Society has identified with the Tyneside area with the help of interested people from the North East, and from time to time we are able to bring some of the members up to see her birth place, the area she was brought up and also buried. I hope that we might meet some of you when the Society visits in March to unveil a plaque to Eileen.’

Joe Peterson (Big Red & the Grinners) ‘I love reading posts on ALIKIVI the North East culture blog, it’s the only true record of what it was like to be a musician in bands in the North East, it’s a great piece of archive for future musicians too who will be able to look back and get a sense of what it was like for us.’

Big thanks to all you lovely people for the messages…keep spreading the love !

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL FEVER: with ex-Sergeant & Tyger of Pan Tang, Tony Liddle 2/2

Tony featured on the Mystical album in 2001 but his first contact with the Tygers was when they were auditioning a new vocalist after the departure of Jess Cox.

In the late ’70s TV producers Malcolm Gerrie and Chris Cowey were acting as my managers when they got me an audition with The Tygers Of Pan Tang from Whitley Bay, but John Deverill got the job over me – more from them later.

Sergeant: left to right – Robb Weir, Anthony Curran, Tony Liddle & Brian Dick.

Then came heavy rock band Sergeant around ’83. Anthony Curran (bass) and former Tygers members Brian Dick (drums) and Rob Weir (guitar) were in the original line up. Brian and Robb had left the Tygers after The Cage album and tour in the early ‘80s.

As for gigging I remember a show case at Mingles rock night in Whitley Bay for Carling Publishing, we done a television promo for ‘How Dare You’, as part of the show the audience threw custard pies at us. We also toured the UK supporting German metallers Accept.

Sergeant drummer Brian Dick remembers more from the Accept gig at Newcastle City Hall than I can – for some reason I was always on a self-destruct mission, alcohol mainly to blame. I have a memory that before I went on stage I was having a long friendly chat with Fish from Marillion in a dark corner of the City Hall bar. 

Accept album cover for ‘Restless & Wild’.

The whole tour was like going on a battlefield – every gig was like that for me. I used to wind myself up to an alcoholic frenzy then with all guns blazing attack the stage. I was like a mad dog. That type of attitude I could muster up – that’s why I turned down doing backing vocals for Cliff Richard!

We got to London’s Hammersmith Odeon and I ended up vomiting all over the Kerrang photographers and music journalist’s at the front of the stage! I don’t think the Accept stage manager was too happy bringing out the mop and sick bucket where a lot of people found my stage antics funny – looking back I was a stupid ass. 

When I told Pat Thrall (guitarist, Asia/Pat Travers) the story about puking on the music journalist’s, he burst into laughter, I stared with a vacant expression as his giggled and laughed for some time.

Accept were an amazing band and as a frontman Udo Dirkschneider had an amazing stage presence. Udo was the nicest bloke I’ve met – we all loved Udo.

How did working with the Tygers come about ?

During the period of touring with The Animals in 1999-2003 (story in part one) I was commissioned by Z records to co-write new material with Rob Weir, re-form The Tygers Of Pan Tang, then produce an album at my studio, Strange Street in Durham. Rob was founding member and guitarist with the Tygers when they started in the late ‘70s.

This new Tygers Of Pan Tang line up were fished from a North East club band called Grand Slam, I sang covers with them for a short period. Craig Ellis (drums) and Brian West (bass) were in Grand Slam, I called them up and introduced them to Rob. Deano Robertson (guitar & vocals) also came in. I did suggest naming them The Tygers Of Grand Slam!

Album cover for ‘Mystical’ 2001.

The Mystical album was recorded in three months at my studio where I had a new Soundcraft Ghost 32 channel into a Tascam 8 track half inch hooked up by code to two Alesis Digital 8 tracks.

That gave me 7 tracks analogue tape – one for code – and 16 on digital tape. Plus a Tascam two track analogue 1/4 inch, then all those tracks went into two Apple Macs for massive editing giving me limitless tracks.

When I was home from touring with The Animals I got the Tygers over to the studio, then those recordings went on tour with me on an Apple lap top and headphones. Sometimes we had up to fifteen hours travel between gigs so I had lots of time to edit and make songs from the recordings and sound samples.

Once the song had taken shape from my editing and screaming the lyrics into the lap top mic in hotel rooms, I returned from touring and the band met at the studio again and listened to the demo. Not forgetting that Rob would bring over new ideas on a mini track recorder – riffs, bass and drum machine. Next day the band recorded the instruments into my analogue/digital 24 track hybrid. 

Again that went out with me on my lap top on the next tour with the process repeated until the deadline release date – corners were cut but nobody was hurt. That’s how the whole album was created, written, recorded and released in only three months.

Are you proud of the album ?

The first tracks Rob and myself wrote for the album were Secret Agent and Detonator and a re-recording of The Story So Far an old Tygers track. They were released on a compilation album including Journey and Ted Nugent and a track by Liddle, Rush & Thrall was re-mixed for it. That song was taken from the album I recorded with Billy Rush (guitarist/producer, Southside Johnny & Asbury Jukes) and Pat Thrall 15 years previous.

I wrote lyrics for Secret Agent about being on a Russian tour with The Animals. Standing in Moscow’s Red Square I felt like a secret agent – Ian Fleming or Bond, such an amazing experience. We got lots of attention, TV cameras were in my face – I felt like Eric Burdon.

I liked the lyrics for Keep this Rock Alive, one of my personal best and don’t know how I did it in such a short time. In Detonator I wrote about the rise of terrorism which was escalating back then. I was once asked ‘why have you wrote a song for terrorists’ ?  I said ‘I think you got it mixed up mate. I’m just highlighting the rise of terrorism in the world today.’

They wouldn’t let it go so I sarcastically replied ‘Well you know I was looking for a market territory for CD sales that hadn’t been tapped yet and there are a lot of terrorist’s out there – that’s a big market’ !

When I listen to Mystical I beat myself up about some of the final editing and some of the lyrics – but not a bad job overall. 

Read more Tygers stories on: About | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Interview with Tygers & Sergeant drummer Brian Dick at: 

RAISED ON ROCK – with Tygers of Pan Tang former drummer, Brian Dick | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Interview by Gary Alikivi   October 2021

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL FEVER: with Durham musician Tony Liddle part 1/2

For over 50 years Tony Liddle has been in the music business recording and playing with bands including The Animals, Tygers of Pan Tang, Sargeant and AOR band Strangeways.

I don’t think there’s enough space to mention all the bands I’ve been in but I’ll try. The fact is after 50 years of fighting the world as hard as I could and eventually achieving my personal goals, when I start looking back through my memories I’m worn out thinking about it – with hotel room after hotel room, airport after airport and alcohol abuse. Many times on my road to success I wondered why I was doing what I was.

I’m pulling some memories out now like working on the road with Steve Lukather (Toto) Larry Carlton (Steely Dan), jamming with Cozy Powell and John Sykes for Screaming Blue Murder, radio interviews and live TV in Russia, tours with stars including Roy Wood of Wizard. Las Vegas gigs with Jefferson Airplane – yes we went to the desert on a horse with no name !

Going further back there was all those Northern working men’s clubs and bands. I was in Six of the Best for five years covering Boston’s More than a Feeling, Juke Box Hero…up and down the motorway till 6am five nights a week. Not forgetting Innocent Elephant from South Shields, we went to record company in London and ended up living a year in luxury – also went to Liechtenstein with a Swiss bank account!

Where did it all start ?

I only joined a school band in 1975 cos I might get a girlfriend – LAB 9 they were called, and they didn’t even want a third guitarist.

A year earlier at 14 years old I was playing guitar in The Lance Brown Big Band, those were the days of bands with a brass section, drummer, bass, piano and a conductor at the front waving a stick. We were playing dance/Jazz post war Glen Miller music in North East dance halls. Along with a paper round on a Sunday morning it was how I made my pocket money.

Lance Brown Big Band was a great introduction into Jazz when I was doing an HND course in Jazz and popular music at Newcastle College. I studied and achieved Grade 5 Classical guitar with the Royal School of Music – then I started writing original, unpopular, rock music.

During a studio recording session in 1978 the singer didn’t show up so I sang the songs Final Rewards and Mr X and was elected the singer, a lot of doors opened for me after that demo. In the late ’70s TV producers Malcolm Gerrie and Chris Cowey were acting as my managers when they got me an audition with the Tygers of Pan Tang from Whitley Bay – but Jon Deverill got the job.

Line up for music TV programme The Tube December 1982.

From then on my career turned professional and I played a solo spot on the live music show The Tube broadcast from Tyne Tees studio in Newcastle. I don’t want to name drop but hung out with David Coverdale, Brian Johnson, Phil Lynott, Herman Rarebell (Scorpions) and Leo Sayer…the list is endless.

At The Tube I was hanging with Lemmy and Brian Robertson from Motorhead after they had just finished an interview with Paula Yates. From the off I seemed to just get along with Lemmy and before I went on stage he waved me off and gave me a tall glass of bubbling dry ice.

The song I played was called Cold Mourning but titled wrong as Cold Morning on the credits but in fairness my spelling was bad and that’s what I probably wrote on the Channel 4 pink slip for royalties. It’s about a narcistic view of death of your own confidence and self-worth – mental illness they call it today. Sounds clever but really it was about the time I found my pet tortoise dead.

Iggy Pop was resting on a big sofa keeping his energy for the TV gig as you know he really goes for it on stage, full on. He is excellent and was, still is an idol of mine and my stage show copied him sometimes.

Lemmy is still one of my favourite lyricists and I loved his voice and attitude. I met him again few times in London at an exclusive club for ‘them in the know’. A lot of recording artists used to hang out at Frank’s Funny Farm – a secret bar open all night where I used to bump into Terry Slesser (Beckett/Back Street Crawler).

After that I got a free invite to all shows at The Tube, I remember standing next to Michael Hutchins from INXS when Paula Yates interviewed him. You can spot me on the playbacks and when Paula passed away and Michael passed away that interview clip was shown many times as it was the time they met and started an affair.

Then came heavy rock band Sergeant with Robb Weir, Anthony Curran and Brian Dick touring the UK supporting German metallers Accept and recording with Tygers of Pan Tang (covered in part two).

Tony second from left in AOR band Strangeways.

I wrote songs in a band called Frontier and when I went to London and formed AOR band Strangeways, I took the Frontier tape down and tried to get a few tracks published. In 1985 our first self-titled album and single was released with Kevin Elson as producer.

I also fronted Oliver Dawson’s Saxon before completing a new line up of Newcastle’s finest band The Animals  including three original members who had recorded their hit records.  

They were a great band worthy of Eric Burdon’s great talent and reputation – Hilton Valentine (guitar), John Steel (drums), Dave Rowberry (keys) joined on bass by Jim Rodford (bass) ex-Zombies/Argent /Kinks, replacing the late Chas Chandler. It couldn’t have been a better line up than that, I’d previously met and worked in my studio with the legend Chas Chandler.

There was stretch limos for many gigs when I toured America with The Animals, Coachman Park was an amazing gig in Florida and we toured all over Europe, Ukraine and Scandinavia. Most gigs in Russia were excellent and sponsored by Vodka companies.

Each tour was from two weeks to two month long. I got home from an Animals tour from Hungary and the next day The Tygers of Pan Tang tour bus picked me up outside my house for a two day drive to Germany and the bus had three other bands on it – Vaughn, Blow Up and Danny Danzi I think.

It was all way too confusing and the main toilet was blocked – piled up over onto the floor with sausages, well it looked like sausages…hundreds of them! Never cook another sausage. The promotors laid a huge BBQ party for us when we arrived in Mannheim and I opted for the cheese burgers.

What are you doing now?

I’m currently fronting a local North East hard rock band playing two hour shows  – Zeppelin/AC-DC/Ozzy/Nazareth – a proper old school rocking band. On the original side I’ve been busy building a new recording studio and can’t wait to get the band in to record. I’ve wrote some great new original songs but as yet no idea what we’ll call the band.

I’ve just put a huge Swim Spar in my house – think I’ll go for a swim now, just chill out and leave the past behind. I only live in the present and look to the future.

I’m lucky to still be alive and enjoy today, and through music have thankfully received escapism, purpose and the gift of wisdom.

Next up on the blog is part two of the interview with Tony and his time as a member of Tygers of Pan Tang.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   October 2021

MAKING TRACKS #4 with songwriter & producer Steve Thompson

In the fourth and final part part of an interview with Teesside based Thompson, he talks about MCA records, Pete Waterman and mainstream success.

SELL RECORDS, SHIFT UNITS

I was working in several different genres but I still had a healthy grounding in rock. In 1981 I came up with a little slushy ballad which didn’t fit the NEAT stuff although I played it to Dave Wood and he said uh it’s ok. So I was determined my future lay elsewhere. Within six month it was a Top 20 hit for a band called Wavelength, it was Hurry Home and it was in the charts for three month.

At roughly the same time the Tygers put out Paris By Air which was a minor hit so I had some credibility on both sides of the coin. My publishing was with Neon and I had a hit with Sheena Easton on her Madness, Money and Music album which went Top 20. Celine Dion also recorded the Sheena Easton song in French. It was a hit single in Canada going Gold. The album sold 400,000 units in Canada and 700,000 units in France.

Lorraine Crosby

One day I got a call from a management company who said they had just signed a young guy who wanted to come and work with me on some tracks. ‘No mate, I’m not into that’. They said ‘we’ll pay you’ and quick as a flash I said ‘cool, send him round this afternoon’. The young guy was Stu Emerson.

I told Stu I was looking for a good female vocalist and he introduced me to Lorraine Crosby who went on to sing with Meatloaf on one of his hit singles. I recorded loads of tracks with Lorraine. She recorded all the backing vocals on some stuff I was recording with a guy called Pete Adshead. Pete’s management company had sent him up from London to work with me in Whitley Bay.

When the stuff started to get released Pete changed his name to Baby Ford. I had a couple of hits with him in the style of Acid House and one of them Chiki Chiki Ah Ah earned a BBC ban. I’m very proud of that.

HOLLYWOOD NEED SOMETHING SNAPPY

On quitting NEAT Records as producer I had a shed load of releases as a writer. In the early ‘80s I was signed to MCA Music as a songwriter. One day I got a call from my mentor there, Pete Waterman. Pete said there was a big-shot movie producer in town and I was urgently needed in London to meet up with him.

So the next day I flew down and arrived in Pete’s office around midday. Pete introduced me to an American guy who’s name now escapes me. He was one of the producers of the movie Jaws 3D which was nearing completion.

Anyway, this guy treated me to the story of his wonderful new movie and told me all it needs is a killer song. Apparently it’s a ‘boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl’ theme. Except in this case there are no boys and girls involved, the lovers in question are dolphins. He says they have Barbara Streisand lined up to sing this yet to be written song.

Pete has put me in the frame to write the lyrics and makes his office available to conduct my work. Pete and the American guy went off to lunch saying they will check my progress on their return. As they were leaving the American called back over his shoulder ‘Hey kid, gimme a lurve song for two dolphins’.

Alone in the office I slid the cassette into the machine. Shit!!!!! How on earth could I turn this orchestral pomp into a song. Still I had been charged with the task so I had to try. I spent the next two hours racking my brain and writing one liners and drawing doodles.

SINK OR SWIM

The guys arrived back and the American says ‘OK kid, whaddyah got?’  I said ‘not much’ and passed over the piece of paper and waited to be well and truly spanked. Pete – ever the bullshitter, went into overdrive. ‘What did I tell you about my boy, F***ing brilliant, just look at this, sink or swim, I will follow him, that’s a killer line’.

It was just about the only line but Pete was leaving no room for contradiction. He was already on the phone booking a studio for that evening. Then he dashed out of the office and grabbed another MCA staff writer who had a good singing voice. This hapless guy was named Simon Jeffries and he was going to have to sing this crap. Like me, Simon was not going to say no to the guy responsible for signing his yearly salary cheque – a publishers advance.

I was therefore obliged to spend the rest of the day making words fit to soaring violins and trumpets. The pain of this was nothing compared to the recording session that evening. I think we nearly killed the poor vocalist. Unsurprisingly, I never heard another thing about my entry into the world of movie themes and as it happens I never saw Simon again either.

Steve’s latest album is available on Cherry Red  www.thelongfade.xyz

For more details check the official site:

The Steve Thompson Band – Steve Thompson: Songwriter (steve-thompson.org.uk)

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2017.

MAKING TRACKS #3 with Teesside based songwriter & producer Steve Thompson.

In the third part of Steve Thompson’s story he is working at Impulse studio/NEAT records and recording with Tygers of Pan Tang.

FIRST OUT THE BLOCKS

They had no sophistication then but I guess they made up for that with raw energy. I was looking at this from a songwriter’s perspective and suggested they shorten intro’s and reduce repetition of dead wood and get to the hooks quicker.

I mixed the tracks and worked on the drum sound and a few other bits and pieces, we got it ready and the A side of their first single was Don’t Touch Me There. We put it out and it started to really sell. MCA got interested so they picked it up, re-released it and went on to do their first album. 

I was also signed to MCA in their stable of writers and my mentor was Pete Waterman, he was crackers. It was Pete who suggested the Tygers should do Love Potion No 9 as a single. Great idea.

At that time I was sharing a rented flat in Whitley Bay with the band, it’s a sitcom waiting to be written. Bizarrely the original Tygers vocalist Jess Cox and his replacement Jon Deverill both lived at the flat. Lead guitarist John Sykes lived there as well. So I would go off to Impulse studio in the mornings and John would stay in the house playing guitar constantly.

FOR THE RECORD

When I’d come back from the studio he’d still be playing. He was a really friendly guy and he’d ask what I’d been doing that day and sometimes I’d have rough mixes and play him stuff. That particular day Tygers bass player Rocky Laws was there and I played them Paris By Air and Rocky loved it, the song stayed with him a few years.

Coming up to start recording their fourth album The Cage, there’d been a few changes in the Tygers camp and that made a big dent in the song writing team. Jon Deverill was already in, and Fred Purser from Penetration was brought in to replace John Sykes.

The band were looking for some songs and Rocky suggested we should do the track I’d played to them a few year ago called Paris By Air. OK I said I’ll re-write the lyric as it was originally for a female.

I also played a brand new song called Lonely at the Top to their managers. It was unfinished and I played it on acoustic guitar, stamping my feet and vocally trying to make noise that indicated how it would become a loud rock song. They asked me to make a full demo and I did. It was also selected for the album.

I also asked the Tygers management if anyone wants to come along to my new gaff in Tynemouth for co-writes. Jon Deverill said yes so we knocked off a few tunes. Letter to L.A. was put together using a Casio synthesiser played through a fuzzbox. That song was just prior to them going into the studio so it really was down to the wire with unfinished lyrics.

DEADLINES

They were in the studio when I got a call from Jon Deverill, he said in his lovely little Welsh accent ‘I’m having a bit difficulty with these lyrics’. I said ‘ok what you got’. Well it turned out he didn’t have much at all. I said I’ll put some lyrics together, how long you got ?

‘Oh well, we’re having a little break then I’m going in the studio to sing it in 20 minutes’. So phoning in a second verse in double quick time was challenging.

The Cage was a success but sadly the band broke up. I don’t know why, maybe some of the guys thought we had been a touch too much in the commercial arena. 

OLD FRIENDS, NEW SONGS

After that I started working with Jon Deverill on a solo album. To begin with I was using a little porta studio but decided to go large with an eight track demo studio in my new house in Whitley Bay.

I met up with John Sykes again when we used his studio to record the album. He had this huge place in the middle of a housing estate in Blackpool, where he was originally from. So when we were there he popped in and met everyone. I co-wrote all the songs on that album with Jon Deverill.

TOKYO CALLING

When John Sykes was touring Japan with Whitesnake we got a call from him saying the Tygers are huge in Japan why not get out here and tour. Well at the same time we were about to get a record deal from Music for Nations so we decided to make this the fifth Tygers album, rather than a Deverill solo album.

Because it was going to be a Tygers album we needed another Tyger to validate the band, who wants to see a band with no original members ? So original drummer Brian Dick came back in, there was Jon, and on guitar a guy was brought in called Neil Sheppard. I was asked to play keyboards.

I didn’t tour with them but we did a live TV rock show called ECT, Gary Moore and Robin George were also on – I was heavily disguised.

Read Making Tracks #4, when Steve gains mainstream success.

Steve’s latest album is available on Cherry Red  www.thelongfade.xyz

For more details check the official site:

The Steve Thompson Band – Steve Thompson: Songwriter (steve-thompson.org.uk)

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2017.

MAKING TRACKS #2 with songwriter & producer Steve Thompson. Impulse studio/NEAT records

In the second part of an interview with Teesside based songwriter & producer Steve Thompson, he talks about his time as in-house producer at Impulse studio/NEAT records and crossing swords with Northern metal maniacs Raven, Venom & Tygers of Pan Tang.

Raven

METAL CITY

The basic idea at Impulse was to have an in-house producer. Some places just had an engineer but I would be on hand to help in song construction, production and putting product out on vinyl and releasing it.

There was quite a scene with muso’s getting together in some bars on the North East coast of England. Part of the scene was a club called Mingles in Whitley Bay. This was the place I checked out Raven, they were due in Impulse studio so I wanted to get a feel of what they were about. I’ll never forget the first time I met bassist John Gallagher.

I was standing at the back of the room with my back against the wall watching the band on stage, which must have only been six inches high. John took his bass and pointed it at me like a javelin, he raced toward me and only stopped right at my throat. I didn’t flinch. He gave me a wink as though to say, yeah you’ll do for us.

CRASH, BANG & DON’T FORGET THE WALLOP

Producing their album was an intense but rewarding experience. When I agreed to produce the album it was only on a three-day week basis. I figured I would need time out to recover from the sessions. I’ve heard these guys described as ‘athletic rock’, and that’s just about right.

In fact they were so energetic that I was obliged to gaffa tape the headphones to their heads otherwise they were just bouncing off as their heads where banging ten to the dozen as they recorded.

When I first heard them I thought yeah this is heavy as hell, not what I’m writing at the moment but it was constructed, well thought out and clever with a huge sound for a three piece.

You know some studio work is psychology, getting the best out of people. For instance the harder I pushed Raven the better the output was. Some people you have to be gentler with and try not to make a mistake. Most of the time humour was what worked best. They have since said one of the things they remember about our time in the studio was how much they laughed.

THROW THE KITCHEN SINK AT IT MAN

We experimented a bit, we decided we wanted a marching sound to bring in the Rock Until You Drop track so we mic’d up the toilet floor next to the studio and went in there and marched. It wasn’t right though.

I took a coffee break to ponder the problem and then it struck me. The disposable plastic coffee cups had just that crunch factor we needed. We spread a hundred or so and stomped on them. We then did several takes but had to keep replenishing the cups. In the end we used the entire supply of three thousand.

Venom

SEDUCED BY THE DEVIL

I remember being in the studio when our tape op was a young guy called Conrad. It was his job to fetch and carry, make coffee, thread the tapes onto the machines, make tape copies and cassettes. Conrad fitted in well.  He was a good tape op and got on well with everyone. He was always going on about his own band.

It seemed they saved up for about three months until they could afford enough pyrotechnics to blow up half a city, then had to save up to do another show. Conrad said very little about the music, it was mostly about the explosions. Nearly forgot to mention, Conrad’s band was called Venom.  And what about the time I gave Venom the Devil (laughs).

The Devil is a nick name for a musical interlude called the Tritone. And it’s heavily discordant if you crank the volume up, basically the sound of The Devil. I remember in the studio I loaned them my bass and Conrad played it through a Marshall stack and a fuzz box. Apparently the loan of that bass gave birth to Black Metal. I’m responsible. Sorry.

They were very unrefined but had absolutely bags of enthusiasm, but that was the last thing I recorded there. I never took a production royalty, just said ‘There’s the tapes lad’s, I’m off’.

Eventually I sold Conrad that bass – a Gibson EB3. I said ‘I have no use for it now but you must take care of it’. Next I saw it had an upside down effigy of Christ nailed to it and holes drilled through it. Some years later I asked him did he still have it, he replied ‘It died in L.A.’

Tygers of Pan Tang

A BIG TIDE AT TYGER BAY

One of the earlier times in Impulse, Dave Woods – NEAT label owner – came in and said there’s a band out there making a big noise why not get them in and sell a few records? So in came Tygers of Pan Tang to cut three tracks. Incidentally it was to be the third single I’d produced for NEAT – the first two releases were not heavy metal.

We recorded their first single Don’t Touch Me There, now we know it was the start of what is known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), and the tide was coming in that very evening (laughs).

Anyway we put it out and it started to really sell. MCA got interested so they picked it up, re-released it and went on to do their first album. Our paths parted then, but sometime later I was looking for somewhere to live, and the Tygers had a spare room for me to move into.

Next up read Making Tracks #3, where Steve talks about song writing & recording with Tygers of Pan Tang.

Steve’s latest album is available on Cherry Red  www.thelongfade.xyz

For more details check the official site:

The Steve Thompson Band – Steve Thompson: Songwriter (steve-thompson.org.uk)

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2017