GUARDIAN RECORDING STUDIO #3 with songwriter & producer Steve Thompson

Gaurdian Sound Studio’s were based in a small village called Pity Me in County Durham, North East UK. ‘Pity Me’ features later in this story by Steve Thompson, songwriter and ex producer at NEAT records.

There are various theories on the origin of the unusual name of the village – a desolate area, exposed and difficult to cultivate or a place where monks sang ‘Pity me o God’ as they were chased by the Vikings. Whatever is behind the name it was what happened in two terraced houses over 30 years ago that is the focus of this blog. They were home to a well known recording studio.

From 1978 some of the bands who recorded in Guardian were: Neon, Deep Freeze and Mike Mason & the Little People. A year later The Pirahna Brothers recorded a 7”. 1979 saw an E.P from Mythra and releases in 1980 from Hollow Ground, Hellanbach and a compilation album, Roksnax.

From 1982 to 85 bands including Red Alert, Toy Dolls, Prefab Sprout, Satan, Battleaxe and Spartan Warrior had made singles or albums. I caught up with a number of musicians who have memories of recording in Guardian… 

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STEVE THOMPSON: (Songwriter) ‘I had quit as house producer at Neat Records in 1981. I had begun to realise that I was helping other people build careers whilst mine was on hold. I was becoming bogged down in Heavy Metal and whilst there’s no doubt I’m a bit of a rocker, I really wanted to pursue the path of a songwriter first and foremost.

Production might come into it somewhere along the line but I wanted that to be a sideline, not my main gig. So I set about composing the song that is the subject of this story, ‘Please Don’t Sympathise’. This is what happened.

I had just cut a single with The Hollies. Bruce Welch of The Shadows was in the production seat for that recording in Odyssey Studios, London. I signed a publishing deal with Bruce and remember signing the contract at Tyne Tees TV Studios in Newcastle, Hank Marvin was witness. Bruce had heard an 8 song demo of my songs and selected 4 favourites from it.

He asked me to make some more advanced demos of those 4. I could have gone into Neat/Impulse Studio but I still wanted to carve new territory so I went to Guardian Studios in Pity Me, County Durham.

I played bass, keyboards and guitar on the session with Paul Smith on drums and I brought my old mate Dave Black in to do vocals. I spent two full days on those demos, Bruce Welch was paying and he really wanted me to go to town on the production. Then a producer called Chris Neil entered the story.

Chris had worked with Leo Sayer, Gerry Rafferty, A-Ha, Rod Stewart, Cher and others. Chris and I had just had a massive hit with his production of my song Hurry Home. Chris was by now having a bit of a love affair with my material. Chris had asked Bruce to give him first dibs on any of my new songs that came along.

He picked up on two from the four songs I’d just demoed in Guardian. One of them he sang himself under the band name Favoured Nations. But the recording pertinent to this story is his production of Sheena Easton’s new album Madness, Money and Music.

He recorded my song Please Don’t Sympathise for that album. The album did very well. It went top 20 in the UK, peaking at 13. It also charted in several other countries and did particularly well in Japan’.

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‘About a year later Celine Dion also recorded the song in French ‘Ne Me Plaignez Pas’. It was a huge hit single in Canada and certified Gold status. The album it was featured on sold 400,000 copies in Canada and 700,000 copies in France. I never did go back to Guardian but that is a lot of action from just one demo session. Interestingly, the literal translation of Ne Me Plaignez Pas is Please Don’t PITY ME ! Spooky huh?’

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‘These days I’m doing this song and many others that I wrote for various artists with my own band. I’ve uploaded a video collage here https://vimeo.com/266141205. It starts with the Guardian demo with Dave Black singing. The demo doesn’t sound that sophisticated after 37 years but that’s where it started. Then there are clips of the Sheena and Celine versions and then my band doing it live.

Sadly Dave Black is no longer around to sing the song as he did on the demo but Terry Slesser does a fine job of it. Jen Normandale comes in on the bridge in French ala Celine!’  www.steve-thompson.org.uk

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This needs to be confirmed by a visit down to Pity Me, but  a quick search of 26-28 Front Street on google maps reveals a well known supermarket where the two terraced houses were. I wonder if customers buying their tins of beans and bananas know the rich musical history that Gaurdian Studios contributed to recording in the North East.

The Tap & Spile is just next door, was that the pub where many of the bands went for refreshment ? If anyone has information or recorded in Guardian studios it’ll be much appreciated if can you get in touch.

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2018.

Recommended:

Kev Charlton HELLANBACH: The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

Steve Thompson (NEAT Producer) Godfather of NWOBHM, 27th June 2017.

Richard Laws TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Tyger Bay 24th August 2017.

1980: The Year Metal was Forged on Tyneside, 11th February 2018.

ROKSNAX: Metal on the Menu, 9th March 2018.

NEAT BITES – Making Records in Wallsend

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Neat Records were based in Wallsend, North East England. The label was established in the late 70’s by Dave Woods, who was the owner of Impulse Studios. It was notable for releases by Venom, Raven and Blitzkreig who are acknowledged as major influences on American bands Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. Songwriter and producer Steve Thompson helped set up Neat and produced the initial recordings…

One day Dave Woods came in and said there’s a band who are making a bit of noise out there 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. Now we know it is known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and the tide was coming in that very evening haha’. 

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ROBB WEIR (Tygers of Pan Tang) ‘In 1979 we recorded, ‘Don’t Touch Me There.’  It had a release number 003 so we were in at the beginning of the Neat Record label story. We were the first heavy metal band to be recorded in the studio. So I’m very proud of the Tygers giving the Neat label a direction.

Impulse studios took a chance and pressed 1,000 copies, that was a lot for a small independent label. Don’t Touch Me There was reviewed in Sounds newspaper which made a massive difference so the next pressing was 4,000 ! Then studio owner Dave Woods was approached by MCA record company, they wanted us! So Dave did a deal, essentially selling the Tygers to them. So MCA pressed around 50,000 copies of the single!’

BRIAN ROSS (Blitzkreig) ‘I remember the first time in Impulse Studio was great we made it feel like our second home. It came highly recommended as Tyne Tees TV used it to record their jingles there and we recorded a jingle Hot n Heavy Express which Alan Robson used on his radio show. It went well so we extended it into a single. NEAT put it out on a compilation EP.

Now this studio was the label to be on, and I mean in the country not just the North East, I’ve recorded many tracks there as Satan, Avenger and Blitzkreig. It’s a shame it’s not there now’. 

ANTONY BRAY (Venom) Conrad was tape operator at NEAT doing a few days here and there and he bugged the owner Dave Woods about getting spare time in the studio for the band. He kept asking him ‘can my band come in on the weekend ? Woodsy got so sick of him he just said ok, just do it, but pay for the tape. So we recorded a three track EP and we thought it might get a little review somewhere.

I was still working at Reyrolles factory then and one morning I wandered in and someone had a copy of the Sounds. Couldn’t believe it, there’s a two page spread about our EP, f’ing hell look at this. When Woodsy saw it he thought, I hate the band, think they are bloody awfull – but kerching!’

KEITH NICHOLL (Impulse studio engineer) ‘With Raven, their playing was always intensive but there were loads of stories and quite a few laughs. I think they simply wanted to do a better album than the first and then again the third. Any band would. Can’t remember if there was an official tour but they did loads of gigs. Good live band’.

HARRY HILL (Fist) ‘The first single we put out was Name, Rank and Serial Number and You Never Get Me Up In One of Those on the b side. We done a lot of reheasal and prep work so we were tight, ready to record.

When we done Name, Rank we were on Northern Life TV. The cameras came down filmed in the studio that was 1980. Strangely the only piece of vinyl I have is our single The Wanderer. We started putting it in our set so yeah, went in and recorded it. Status Quo released a version a couple of month after us but honestly thought our version was better haha’.

GARY YOUNG (Avenger) ’I worked in the Shipyards near my home town but for about a year before that I worked at Impulse Studios in Wallsend which was where Neat Records were based. Due to this I was involved in a lot of recording sessions and some of them for what are now landmark albums like Venoms – Black Metal and Ravens – Wiped Out. I had my first experiences of recording there with my own bands and helping people out on random recording sessions. They were great times’.

DAVY LITTLE (Axis) ‘I remember Fist guitarist Keith Satchfield was in when we were recording. He was always track suited up. Getting fit and going on runs in preparation for a tour. I had met him a few times when I was younger I used to go and see Warbeck and Axe. Always thought he was a cool musician and writer. Plus a nice fella.

We were very inexperienced and new nothing about studios. He  gave us advice on how to set up amps. Was very supportive I never forgot that. Also when we were in there a very young moody boy was working there. Making tea, helping get kit in. Always drawing. Asked to see some of his drawings. All dark, tombstones, skulls, flying demons…nice kid tho’ said he didn’t think we were very heavy metal. I agreed.

He said “one day I am going to have the heaviest band ever”. I met Chronos years later in a club in Newcastle when he was fronting the mighty Venom. A nice lad’.

STEVE WALLACE (Shotgun Brides) ‘There was a kid called Richard Denton who grew up in the same area as us and he was working A&R at Impulse records in Wallsend. He persuaded the owner Dave Woods to take us on. We went into Impulse Studio and recorded the track Restless, that was engineered and produced by Kev Ridley in 1987. The b side of the single was Eighteen.

We recorded the song bit by bit, tracking it up. Unlike a few other bands it wasn’t recorded by playing all the way through and off you go add a couple of overdubs, no it was fully tracked. It eventually ended up on a NEAT compilation album’.

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MICHAEL MAUGHAN (Phasslayne) In the summer of ’85 Phasslayne were approached by Neat Records. Dave Woods was the main man there. What happened was we recorded a demo at Desert Sounds in Felling which they really liked so the label asked us to record a live no dubs demo in their studio in Wallsend. On hearing that Dave Woods signed us to do an album.

But just before we got our record deal our singer left and everyone looked at me so that’s how I ended up doing the vocals. I think Keith Nichol was the engineer. For guitars I used my Strat and Maurice Bates from Mythra loaned me his Les Paul. We called the album Cut it Up, it’s on vinyl’.

KEV CHARLTON (Hellanbach) ‘We got a deal with NEAT records to record our first album. That was the best time. After rehearsing for months getting the new songs together we recorded the album which is a very proud moment in my life. Now Hear This came out in ’83 and was produced by Keith Nichol.

I remember getting the first copy of the album, taking it into work thinking this might be me leaving the shipyards. It was one of the weirdest times of my life because it came out to amazing five star reviews and some of the big bands weren’t even getting five stars. I remember sitting in the toilets of Wallsend shipyard reading the reviews in Kerrang and Sounds, thinking this will be the last time I’ll be in the shipyard….but it wasn’t !’ 

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To read a comprehensive story of NEAT records get a hold of the book ’Neat and Tidy’ by John Tucker. It examines the history of the label, its bands and their releases including interviews with many key players in the Neat Records’ story such as label boss David Wood, producer Steve Thompson, Raven’s John Gallagher and Jeff ‘Mantas’ Dunn from Venom.

https://www.johntuckeronline.co.uk/neat-and-tidy-the-story-of-neat-records.html

Interviews by Gary Alikivi 2018.

Recommended:

Brian Ross, SATAN/BLITZKREIG, Life Sentence, 20th February 2017.

Harry Hill, FIST: Turn the Hell On, 29th April 2017.

John Gallagher, RAVEN: Staring into the Fire, 3rd May 2017.

Kev Charlton, HELLANBACH/BESSIE & THE ZINC BUCKETS: The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

Steve Thompson (NEAT Producer) Godfather of NWOBHM, 27th June 2017.

Richard Laws TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Tyger Bay 24th August 2017.

Robb Weir TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Doctor Rock  2017

1980: The Year Metal was Forged on Tyneside, 11th February 2018.

Guardian Studio: Defender of the North 3rd May 2018.

LOUD AS WAR – with Def Con One drummer Antton Lant.

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Over the past year I have interviewed a few bands who take no prisoners when it comes to sheer power. If ya want to hear good ol’ bone crunching, face ripping, spleen removing, 100% metal. Def Con One are the go to band.

Check out the videos on You Tube for their tracks 10 Bullets, Warface, Brute Force & Ignorance – you can’t miss ‘em they look like extras from Sons of Anarchy with muscles, tatt’s and shaven heads. Drummer Antton Lant looks back to where it started… ‘With my older brothers being in bands I’ve always been around music. I got an SG guitar one Christmas and used to jump around in my bedroom pretending I was playing Wembley Stadium haha.

Back in the day I was massively into bands like AC/DC, Kiss and Van Halen. I loved the imagery of American bands Twisted Sister and Motley Crue which played heavily on my first band Slutt. Then I heard a band called Pantera and after that it all got much heavier’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ?  In my first band Slutt I started playing in South Shields pubs and clubs. We then got to tour Poland playing huge stadiums – 20,000 a night. Later we toured the UK playing mainly rock clubs. After Slutt called it a day in late ’91 I put a band together called Ezee but that fizzled out and I just kind of lost interest in playing but I was still writing.

I was finding it hard to find a drummer who would play the stuff I wanted to play. My oldest brother is a drummer and he let me play on his kit and showed me some stuff which I liked so I swapped him my Steve Vai guitar for his kit. I then started looking for a band that needed a drummer so I could get some experience playing drums. I found some guys called Deadline, they didn’t really have a name set in stone and ended up being called Sanitys Edge. That was more metal in the vein of Megadeth, Maiden, that kinda stuff.

I wanted to go heavier so formed Def-Con-One. Then I was asked to help out black metal legends Venom in the studio and ended up being the drummer for 10 year. We headlined some of the biggest festivals across Europe and played various tours. I got to play on three albums. Obviously having my name linked to Venom helped me a lot with Def-Con-One. Our record companies were big Venom fans.

I was also playing in another band full off ex Venom members called M-pire of Evil. This put me in touch with the record companies – contacts I wouldn’t of got without the Venom link. Over the years I managed to achieve a lot for Def-Con-One. But it was hard, you had to put the work in’.

 

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Recordings were great fun. Loved it in a studio compared to recording in your bedroom. Venom got to record in some huge studios. I made one album with Slutt, three albums with VenomResurrection, Metal Black and Hell. Two with M-Pire of Evil – Creatures of the Black and Hell to the Holy and two with Def-Con-One – Warface and 2.

First album with Venom was Resurrection. We flew into Hamburg, Germany and  lived in the studio it was crazy. The studio had a kitchen, showers, sauna, tv room the lot. It was awesome. Charlie the producer hired me a Pearl masters kit with different size bass drums which he loved to record. We followed Motorhead into that studio and he played us some tracks he had just recorded. It sounded massive.

He was a real task master though. He had me play the songs through quite a lot of times so he could pick what he felt was the best performance. It was great fun. Wen I recorded Metal Black we were in the Town House Studios in London, in the same studio that Queen recorded all their classic albums. So that was awesome too’.

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ?  ‘Wow too many too tell and most you couldn’t publish haha. But here’s one. We played Hammerfest a few years back and the food that the bands get is ok. A band I know, Cradle of Filth were headlining, so backstage I made my way over to them. We’re sitting on their bus chatting and their vocalist Dani asked what the food was like. I told him and he said they don’t eat that, they had tokens for the restaurant. That sounded better. Next thing Dani askes their tour manager to hook me up and I was able to get the Def-Con-One lads big steaks and all the trimmings’. 

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What have you got in the pipeline for Def-Con-One ? ‘I helped out a few tribute bands last year which was fun. There was Ozzy, Twisted Sister and an AC/DC tribute. All really great guys, good fun and enjoyed it. In the Def-Con-One camp we have been really busy sorting out a few things and will be back gigging soon. We are actually recording at the minute. The band have got a few festivals booked but that’s very hush hush till they reveal the whole line up and announce it formally’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2018.

Recommendations:

VENOM INC: Hebburn or Hell, 28th July 2017.

WARFARE: No One Gets Out Alive, 8th October 2017.

OBSIDIAN: Bomb Tracks, 8th January 2018.

BLACK FORGE: Take No Prisoners, 18th January 2018.

SLUTT: Angels with Dirty Faces, 6th May 2018.

GUARDIAN RECORDING STUDIO #2 with Sunderland metal band, Spartan Warrior

Gaurdian Sound Studio’s were based in a small village called Pity Me in County Durham, North East UK. There are various theories on the origin of the unusual name of the village – a desolate area, exposed and difficult to cultivate or a place where monks sang ‘Pity me o God’ as they were chased by the Vikings.

Whatever is behind the name it was what happened in two terraced houses over 30 years ago that is the focus of this blog.

They were home to a well known recording studio. From 1978 some of the bands who recorded there: Neon, Deep Freeze and Mike Mason & the Little People. A year later The Pirahna Brothers recorded a 7” single.

1979 saw an E.P from Mythra and releases in 1980 from Hollow Ground, Hellanbach and a compilation album, Roksnax.

From 1982 to 85 bands including Red Alert, Toy Dolls, Prefab Sprout, Satan, Battleaxe and Spartan Warrior made singles or albums. I caught up with a number of musicians who have memories of recording in Guardian… 

SPARTAN WARRIOR 

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Dave Wilkinson (vocals): ‘Spartan Warrior recorded at Guardian Studio in 1983/1984. My abiding memory of recording there is that the studio was said to be haunted and that made for a lot of winding up. There were occasions when although we’d been booked into the studio during the day time Terry Gavaghan, the producer of Spartan Warrior’s first two albums, would often have us recording throughout the evening and into the early hours of the following morning… that was just his way of working.

In fact it wasn’t uncommon for us to arrive for a midday start on a Saturday and be finishing up at 5:00am on the Sunday! Needless to say that a lot of the overnight sessions involved a lot of ghost story telling by Terry.

The control room had a large glass window next to the mixing desk and and from there you could see into the room in which the band was set up to record. It was quite dark in that room and I think it was only dimly lit with a red light. 

I found myself in situations where there would be a couple of hours spent with Terry in the control room and he’d tell us about the various sightings of the ghost of a little girl and there had been occasions when peoples headphones had inexplicably flown off across the room during a take.

We’d all be sitting there listening and making light of it and then in the early hours Terry would send me into the other room to do a vocal in the dimly lit room while the rest of the band stayed in the control room. To say that I was apprehensive would be an understatement!

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‘On one occasion we were in there recording a track called Witchfinder for the Steel n’ Chains album and Terry thought that it would be cool for the five of us to record a Satanic Chant at the opening of the track.

So after a lot of the usual ghostly tales we all went around the vocal microphone while Terry remained in the control room with a lad who I think might have been a neighbour of his who was helping him in the studio that day. We had a few runs through this chant and it was an unrehearsed shambles but he called us back in to the control room to have a listen.

Terry set the analogue recordings running and we listened back… then the tape machine just ground to a halt and he pointed at the digital clock which measured the length of the track and it came up as six minutes and sixty six seconds… 666… just like that. Terry looked really worried and said you can’t have a clock showing 666 seconds and he was telling us something sinister was at work probably brought on by the Satanic Chant.

He said that we ought to abandon the idea before anything horrendous happened… he said the Chant could bring about terrible things if blood was spilled… I think he actually said “all you need is blood”. 

Then the lad got up to go into the kitchen to make us all a cup of tea and he banged his head off one of the monitors and split his head open… that was it… blood was spilled and we were all terrified.

It was almost certainly a wind up. I’m pretty sure Terry could have done something to make the clock show 666 but the lad did actually split his head open. The Chant never made the album!

This needs to be confirmed by a visit down to Pity Me, but a quick search of 26-28 Front Street on google maps reveals a well known supermarket where the two terraced houses were. I wonder if customers buying their tins of beans and bananas know the rich musical history that Gaurdian Studios contributed to recording in the North East. The Tap & Spile is just next door, is that the pub where many of the bands went for refreshment ? If anyone has information or recorded in Guardian studios it’ll be appreciated if can you get in touch.

Interviews by Gary Alikivi.

Recommended:

Lou Taylor SATAN/BLIND FURY: Rock the Knight, 26th February & 5th March 2017.

Steve Dawson SARACEN/THE ANIMALS: Long Live Rock n Roll, 2nd April 2017.

Martin Metcalfe HOLLOW GROUND: Hungry for Rock, 18th June 2017.

Kev Charlton HELLANBACH: The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

Steve Thompson (NEAT Producer) Godfather of NWOBHM, 27th June 2017.

Richard Laws TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Tyger Bay 24th August 2017.

Neil Wil Kinson SPARTAN WARRIOR: Invader from the North 21st September 2017.

1980: The Year Metal was Forged on Tyneside, 11th February 2018.

ROKSNAX: Metal on the Menu, 9th March 2018.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS – with Peter Whiskard bassist for North East eighties metallers Alien.

The North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NENWOBHM) was immortalised on the ’One Take No Dubs’ 45 released by NEAT Records in 1982. The 12” featured Black Rose, Avenger, Hellanbach and Alien.  I talked to Peter Whiskard bassist for Felling metallers Alien…

‘Derek our singer had a reputation for a no-nonsense approach to life. During a gig at the Mayfair he found himself the unwilling target of several beer vessels – thankfully plastic – thrown by a miscreant in the audience. He jumped off the stage, felled him with one blow and jumped back onstage without losing his composure or his place in the song’. 

How did you get involved in playing music and who were your influences ? ‘I sang from a very early age and learned classical piano. An early indication of my chosen instrument was when I occasionally played piano duets and always seemed to gravitate to the bass part.

A defining moment was when I hit adolescence and something seemed to click when I was jamming along to records. Needless to say the classical piano was abandoned. My influences were from the sixties and seventies, early Status Quo, Free, Cream, Bad Company and The Velvet Underground’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what were your experiences of recording?  ‘I started playing gigs when I was fifteen with friends in the Felling area of the North East. I believe our first gig was at a youth club in the same building where we rehearsed. We didn’t really gig much and the last one was at the Sixth Form Common Room Disco!

I went away to University and when I returned I formed a band called Bad Luck with the former singer. We did many local gigs and recorded a few tracks at Neat’s Impulse Studios where I met label boss Dave Wood. A self financed 45 single release came from these recordings. Unfortunately this band didn’t last long.

Then I answered an ad in the paper for Alien in 1982. The place where a lot of Neat bands rehearsed was the Spectro Arts workshop in Newcastle and I remember once overhearing the tremendous noise of Venom practising one day when we were offloading our gear. The band had a chequered history in the time we were together but we were offered recording at Neat Records for the One Take No Dubs EP. We still had to pay £50 for the privilege – Dave Wood was notoriously stingy.

The recording took perhaps only part of a day because the essence of it was to have a ‘live’ feel and there would be no extravagant nonsense like overdubbing and repeating the process to seek the ‘perfect’ take. Hence the title ‘One Take No Dubs’.

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‘The engineer for the earlier trip to Impulse with Bad Luck and the Alien session was Keith Nichol – a lovely guy who was patient and skilful. The band played together in the studio – this was opportune for Alien’s style as we were capable of flights of improvisation as can be heard in the middle section of ‘Who Needs the Army’, one of the up to now unreleased tracks from that session.

In the recording session we were in fine form, especially Ron Anderson the guitarist who recently has sadly died. A track from the recording called ‘Absolute Zero’ also appeared on a compilation cassette called ’60 minutes Plus’ sold only through Sounds and Kerrang. A Neat Singles Collection featured the track ‘Could Have Done Better’ from One Take No Dubs’.

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What can you remember of Impulse Studio ? ‘Impulse Studios lived behind a fairly anonymous doorway in Wallsend, Newcastle. It was a small place, the studio walls were covered in the ubiquitous polystyrene tiles for absorbing acoustic sounds. There was an office where the day-to-day running of the business took place and also a special ‘green room’ where Dave Wood would make his deals and entertain the celebs.

Our relationship with Dave Wood soured somewhat as the singer felt we were being exploited financially. The band fell apart by ’83. We briefly reformed to do a gig at the Classic Cinema in Low Fell.  After Alien I joined a band called The Blues Burglars who were quite popular at the time’.

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Can you remember any high points for Alien, TV or music video’s ? ’I’m afraid we weren’t together long enough to get established to record any TV appearances or film any music videos. Although we did play some gigs with Raven and others at Newcastle Mayfair. I’m afraid I can’t remember much about the gig with Raven but I don’t think we hobnobbed much with the other bands. The audience was pretty appreciative as that was during the heyday of Neat Records.

We regularly played gigs in Felling such as the Duke Of Cumberland, and our gigs had a reputation for having a febrile atmosphere with an undercurrent of unpredictability. The singer was a powerful performer and had a great rock voice. We also had several friends in other bands on the Neat roster.

I knew the drummer from Hellanbach who lived round the corner, and went to school with the singer from Emerson and Axis: two Neat bands which are relatively unknown. The singer of Axis was originally born Simon Blewitt but is now called Sam Blue and at one point sang with Ultravox as well as singing on The Streets’ hit Dry Your Eyes!

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘I have been a classroom teacher since I moved to Kent in 1986, but now I am semi-retired and teach guitar to Primary age students. I still play gigs regularly.

I’m afraid I’m now playing in a folk/country band called John Doggerel and the Bad Poets. We comprise me on bass, guitar, and assorted instruments including mandolin, accordion and ukulele! We are based near Margate. I recently remastered and released a track which wasn’t used from the original Neat session called ‘Who Needs the Army’. Now available at iTunes and all good digital platforms’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2018.

Recommended:

Brian Ross SATAN/BLITZKREIG: Life Sentence, 20th February 2017.

Lou Taylor SATAN/BLIND FURY: Rock the Knight, 26th February & 5th March 2017.

Micky McCrystal, TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Cat Scratch Fever, March 17th 2017.

Steve Dawson SARACEN/THE ANIMALS: Long Live Rock n Roll, 2nd April 2017.

Martin Metcalfe HOLLOW GROUND: Hungry for Rock, 18th June 2017.

Steve Thompson,( NEAT Producer) Godfather of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, 27th June 2017.

Richard ‘Rocky’ Laws, TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Tyger Bay, 24th August 2017.

Gary Young, AVENGER: Young Blood, 17th September 2017.

ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES – with former Slutt bassist John Hopper

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Neat Records were based in Wallsend, North East UK. The operation worked out of Impulse Sound Studios. Neat were arguably the most instrumental NWOBHM label in the UK. The label is notable for early releases by North East chief heedbangers Venom, Raven and Blitzkrieg who are acknowledged as major influences on American thrash metal bands Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax.

One of the lesser known albums was from SLUTT. A gang of twisted metallers from Tyneside with their make up, leather and studs. They released one album in 1988. The original bassist John Hopper talks about those times…I remember signing the record contract in the rehearsal rooms. Our guitarist Antton walked in and said ‘right sign there’. We did, then got on with rehearsing. We didn’t think of asking someone to look at it first. It wasn’t ‘Right I’ll let my solicitor see it first you know ha ha’.

How did the band get together? ‘For a number of years Glen and myself worked at the Roman Fort in South Shields and the wages from there helped finance our instruments. Me on bass, Glen Wade on drums and a friend was interested in doing some vocals. We played some rough versions of Kiss songs, we were friends just messing around. Our singer had a friend over in North Shields who knew a guitarist… ‘He would be perfect for your band’ he said.

Next thing a guy with a guitar, trem and long hair came over. That was Antton Lant. We didn’t know about his brother Conrad or Neat records but soon we got to know the connection with Venom. Anyway our first gig as SLUTT was I think at The Cyprus pub in South Shields. Later we went on to do a showcase for NEAT at Tiffanys’ nightclub in Newcastle. So that was our first step.

In 1987 we played at The Queen Vic pub in South Shields and got paid £300 which we used to rent lights, dry ice etc. That gig was a blast..and was videotaped ..and the audio exists’. 

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How did the record with NEAT come about ? ’We first done a 4 track demo tape at Impulse Studios in Wallsend. We just recorded it live all in one room but additional guitar or anything that was needed we would drop that in later. The line-up was Antton on guitar, myself on bass, Glen on drums and our original vocalist. On that demo Glenn had the use of a Ludwig kit owned by Tony Bray from Venom – we asked them first like! That was in 1986 and the tracks from that demo were lifted and put on the album which was released in 87.

That was the first version with the LP and remains unreleased but its archived. The album needed the new singers vocal on it. Antton was friends with a singer so Peter Seymour (RIP) came in, we rehearsed and it was great. Things were becoming real you know. We got forms for our passports as we were going out on tour, NEAT paid for those. Like any band we just wanted a break, yes we were fortunate with the link we had with Neat but we still had to put the time in, the rehearsals.

The years going across the Tyne to North Shields, picking up Antton and his Marshalls, then coming back through the Tyne Tunnel to the rehearsal studio. Sometimes twice a week. SLUTT was full on, and commitment was first and paramount’. 

(The album was released on vinyl in 1988 with Neat catalogue number 1043. The album includes Angel, Breakin’ All the Rules, Revolution, Thrill Me and more).  

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Who came up with the idea’s for the songs ? ‘The music was from Antton and the vocalist. The rest of the band would write some lyrics too. We went back to the studio and recorded Peters vocals over the original master tapes. If some things didn’t sound right they were quickly changed. Kevin Ridley engineered and Conrad Lant produced. I remember Conrad sent me out for something to eat a few times he liked his squid and chips!

But yeah they had both worked on the demo tape and then the album which was a totally different feel. There was more pressure, there was more ‘Sorry lads them backing vocals are not in key can you do them again’. There were plenty of sound effects put on it, backward drums and live crowd noises. We had a visit from a guy who ran the Venom fan club in France. There is a piece on the track Revolution, about the French revolution and this guy just spouts out something in French and we put it on the track, it sounded great. In all it took about seven days to record I think’. 

SLUTT 87

Who else was in the Neat studios then? I was amazed and sucked in to the Venom thing that had gone on in NEAT. We had heard their records and by 86, 87 they were a big band and basically this was their studio. Funny every other band there the Avengers, Atomkraft all wore leather and studs it was like a blueprint – we were similar to the leather and studs look.

The Atomkraft lads were knocking about. Venom’s Tony Bray was always there and guitarist Jim Clare came in with an amp for Antton. He used it for his solo’s. It was only a small Galion Krueger but totally ripped the place apart you know. Venom manager Eric Cook (RIP) came in once or twice as I say Neat belonged to Venom and all their gear was there. I walked past one room and inside was bits of the stage show that they used. Another was Dave Woods’ office he was like the headmaster in his room…ha ha’. 

Did you promote the album ? ‘In 1988 just after we released it we done a few gigs in Poland. Nasty Savage were the main headliner, with Exhumer and Atomkraft. They were doing a European tour and we flew in for the Poland leg. We arrived in Warsaw and went to the train station. The train was like an army train, it was separate carriages with compartments and we got split up. Myself and Glen sitting next to total strangers, us with our tight jeans and long dyed black hair etc.. strange.

Eric Cook (RIP) came along and took us to the food carriage. I got a bowl of soup with a raw egg in the middle. Well we hadn’t eaten for hours. For the rest of the gigs we had our own mini bus with a driver. It was only the journey from Warsaw to Katowice we got the train because it was a long trek’. 

‘Eric Cook took us over there he was with us all the way and Tony Bray was the Tour Manager as Venom were in between albums or something. The tour was an eye opener because a serious edge kicks in. The first gig was at the Spodek Arena in Katowice in the south of the country. The arena is a huge ufo shaped building. The festival was called Metal Battle and started at 10 in the morning.

We were the first English band on at 12.30. We only got half an hour at the most with no sound-check. The whole thing was broadcast on Polish Television. I remember at one point we were on stage and a woman with a handbag came on ha ha… I’m sure Eric or Tony pushed her on. The first couple of songs the front rows were fists raised, jumping up and down, there was 15,000 people there, it was unreal.

The second gig was at an ice rink in Poznan. It took about 4 hours to get there in our mini bus. It was the same bill but we weren’t looking forward to the gig. We weren’t sure about the make up that we were wearing then, so we talked to Nasty Savage about it and they said ‘Just do what you did yesterday, keep it the same, it’ll be ok’. He was right the crowd went berserk. Eric came back to the hotel with a bottle of champagne ‘Well done lad’s best band of the night’. We got paid and it was ok set ‘em up, vodka and orange, bottle of champagne, just live it up cos we aren’t taking anything back ha-ha’.

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Press day in Poland with Nasty Ronnie, Ian Davison (Atomkraft), music journalist Dave Ling & Tony Dolan (Atomkraft).

‘The last gig was in Gdansk in the north, a very industrial town. We went down great there as well. It was just the first date where it didn’t happen for us. Rock journalist Dave Ling covered it for Metal Hammer. I remember doing one of the press conferences with Antton. I didn’t like it though. All the big bright white lights and your make up is all smudged.. ha-ha’.

What was the next move ? ‘By now we had done the album, got back from the Poland gigs and were in rehearsal doing some new material. There was talk of backing Wrathchild at Newcastle Mayfair and doing a few other things but sometimes they don’t come off. There are highs and lows all the way through. So now our drummer Glen becomes uninterested with the band so he goes his own way.

We get a new guy in on drums, very talented he was. We were over in Byker at Dons rehearsal rooms. After a period of rehearsals and photo sessions my head just started to drop you know. The dynamics of the band were changing, we were doing things another way and really I just didn’t fancy it. So I stepped back from it all and the band went on.

How long was I in the band? Looking back I remember I was at Newcastle City Hall watching Motley Crue on the Theatre of Pain tour in ’85 and we were rehearsing around then. That was at The Green Rehearsal rooms in South Shields. So fast forward to the end, I think it was 1990 when I left the band’.

What are you up to now? ’Now I work in the print industry I have been for over 25 years. I still love music and always will, I’ve ticked that box’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2018.

Recommended:

WARRIOR: The Hunger, 12th April 2017.

VENOM INC: Hebburn or Hell, 28th July 2017.

ATOMKRAFT: Running with the Pack, 14th August 2017.

TYSONDOG: Back for Another Bite, August 2017.

AVENGER: Young Blood, 17th September 2017.

METAL ON THE MENU – The Making of Cult NWOBHM album Roksnax

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South Shields is a small town on the North East coast of England. During the 1970’s it’s main employment was heavy industry. Shipbuilding and coal kept the workers thirsty. Pub’s and clubs were doing a roaring trade with entertainment from local rock bands. Heavy riffs and pounding drums were echoes from the pits and shipyards. 

By 1980 the New Wave of British Heavy Metal had rolled in. The sound waves crossed the Atlantic and landed in a garage in San Fransisco. Metallica were born, and went on to become the biggest band of the genre. Not far from that garage lived a young Nick Vrankovich. Nick is now at Buried by Time and Dust Records who have re-released Roksnax, one of the albums that helped kick start the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

Originally released in 1980 by Guardian Records, the compilation album was produced by Terry Gavaghan. He recorded 3 North East bands at his studio in Durham. Teesside based Samurai, and from my hometown South Shields, Hollow Ground and Saracen. The main players behind the re-release take up the story…

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Nick Vrankovich

Nick Vrankovich (Buried By Time and Dust Records): ‘One night not long ago, I was sitting drinking some Newcastle Brown and spinning some of the compilation albums I had from the NWOBHM time, Lead Weight, HM Heroes, Metal for Muthas, all packed with songs that meant so much to us. Then I played Roksnax and I was quickly reminded of two things. One was that all twelve songs are incredible. When you talk of the magic of heavy metal or the mysticism of the NWOBHM surely they must be referring to releases like this.

The second was how obscure this one was compared to the others. I made a clear decision that night to contact the bands to see if we could make this masterpiece available again. When I got in touch with the guy’s I found the willingness, generosity and honesty incredible. Even though I’m now over 50, these tracks mean as much to me as the day I first held the album all those years ago’.

‘By the end of 1980 I was 13 year old and not yet aware of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. I was into Kiss, Van Halen and shortly after Black Sabbath would change things for me in a big way. By the end of 1981 I discovered the Record Exchange in Walnut Creek, California which is about thirty minutes outside San Francisco.

The second I entered the record store an obsession would be born. The store was heavily stocked with all the latest imports and cutting edge heavy metal from the UK and Europe. The extreme appearance and imagery of bands like Venom, Mercyful Fate, Angel Witch and countless others was something that fired my imagination and created an obsession that continues to this day. The fact that the music was so fantastic and really heavy only added fuel to the fire’.

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‘The Record Exchange is where I first remember seeing the album Roksnax. It was an import which meant the price was $9.99 which was a huge sum of money for me. I remember looking at the photos on the back, it all looked so old and obscure. I was unsure what it would sound like. I had not heard of any of the bands on the record and of course it was next to impossible to find out about them unless they had a record deal. Sadly, this time I never bought the lp’.

‘The release disappeared into obscurity and was forgotten about until one day my brother scored a copy of the single Warlord by Hollow Ground. Needless to say we were overwhelmed with how great it was and amongst other NWOBHM singles, it was right up there with Mythra and Witchfinder General.

We knew there were extra tracks from Hollow Ground on the Roksnax album so we hunted down a copy. We eventually found one and heard the instant magic from the Hollow Ground tracks. We were equally crushed by the Saracen and Samurai tracks. The speed of Saracen with the killer Dawson guitar riffs and soaring vocals from Lou Taylor was not only trailblazing but still raises the hair on my arms to this day. Samurai was undoubtedly the most obscure band of the three but their heroic sound was also incredible’.

Martin Metcalf (Hollow Ground): ‘I remember the buzz of being involved in Roksnax. The whole experience of being in Guardian Studio’s during November 1980 was magical. We met up with producer Terrry Gavaghan and talked through the idea of a compilation LP with a couple of other bands from the North East. Our mates from Shields, Saracen were also on the record.

We were in the studios for 2 days and slept overnight there. The studio was basically 2 terraced houses knocked into one. I still remember the brown cork tiles in the studio and having to sellotape the headphones on my head when recording. The great memories of honing the songs and bringing them together with my friends, still burns brightly. The fine tuning and adjustments as we worked on them was a great feeling of coming together as a band, a unit.

We used 2 of the songs from our EP Flying High and Rock On and added Fight With The Devil and The Holy One to make our four tracks for the Roksnax album’.

Steve Dawson (Saracen): ’Right from the start of the band the other members wanted to get in the studio but I thought we should of developed our sound a bit more, let it breathe a bit, walk before we run so to speak. But we booked some time in Guardian Studios where Mythra had recorded their Death and Destiny single. The owner Terry Gavaghan proposed the Roksnax album to us where he would put us on a compilation album. It was basically a live album with some overdubs’.

Geoff Nixon (Samurai)‘I have very fond memories of that time. We were convinced that we had an excellent line up, we felt as though we had something special. We were made so many promises by Terry Gavaghan at Guardian, we believed everything he said. He signed us to a 5 year publishing deal, as young lads we were flattered about the whole project’.

Martin Metcalf (Hollow Ground): ’It’s real music made by real musicians. You can’t replicate it with machines. Sparking off each other while recording the tracks will stay with us forever. It’s what being in a band is all about…and we loved it. We were so proud of the music that we produced, and still are! It stands the test of time and the whole album is a perfect snapshot of the vitality of the NWOBHM movement’,

Lou Taylor (Saracen): ’Now it’s not the worlds number one album but everyone involved in this album agreed that it is a wonderful feeling and something special about getting your name on a piece of vinyl. Terry was true to his word and got the album in the shops. I bought six of them straight away ha ha’.

Geoff Nixon (Samurai): ‘But we actually split just after the album, sometimes you get one shot at fulfilling a dream don’t you. Many years later I found that the album had been on sale around the world but I don’t think it ever sold in Britain. Looking back we had a lot of fun and of course we always have the album’.

Lou Taylor (Saracen): ‘Just being prominent enough to be invited to be part of something which we had no concept of how much impact on the British music scene the emerging talent in this genre actually had ! NWOBHM say what ?? Guardian Studios were (in) famous enough already due to releases from acts in the region so this opportunity seemed too good to pass up!

Martin Metcalf (Hollow Ground): ’Lars Ulrich from Metallica bought a copy of the Roksnax LP in Los Angeles and that lead to our track Fight With the Devil being played in a Metallica documentary. This was the documentary about the making of their Black Album. The scene is Lars Ulrich driving to the studio in his Porsche listening to Fight With the Devil. The film was released in 1992 and if I remember correctly we’re on the credits between Black Sabbath and Madonna! It led to me and Glenn our vocalist being invited to gigs on the Black Album tour. We had access all areas and were in the famous Snake Pit. It was brilliant’.

Lou Taylor (Saracen): ’Over a series of trips to a sleepy country village including one session which soaked up guitarist Steve’s 21st Birthday – a sacrifice of serious proportions ha! The long days and nights, the scary stories, the ghostly appearances, the owner eating sandwiches… Roksnax? The narrow deadlines, the even narrower drum booth, the raw uncertainty of the mixes (still).

But all tempered with the undeniable thrill of the coming eventuality: four guys making their dreams come true, putting their music on vinyl for the very first time and still to be heard worldwide today…priceless !

Interviews by Gary Alikivi 2017.

Recommended:

MYTHRA Still Burning 13th February 2017.

Lou Taylor SATAN/BLIND FURY: Rock the Knight, 26th February & 5th March 2017.

Steve Dawson SARACEN/THE ANIMALS: Long Live Rock n Roll, 2nd April 2017.

Harry Hill, FIST: Turn the Hell On, 29th April 2017.

Metallica: When Heavy Metal Hit the Accelerator 6th May 2017.

Martin Metcalfe HOLLOW GROUND: Hungry for Rock, 18th June 2017.

Kev Charlton, HELLANBACH: The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

Steve Thompson,( NEAT Producer) Godfather of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, 27th June 2017.

It’s Only Rock n Roll 1st August 2017.

Pyromaniax – Bombs, Flashes and Burnt Eyebrows 12th December 2017.

Have You Heard This One ? -10 best stories from this years interviews 18th December 2017.

1980 – The Year Metal was Forged on Tyneside, 11th February 2018.

1980 – THE YEAR METAL FORGED ON TYNESIDE

It’s one year on from the start of this blog, with over 18,000 readers, 150,000 words, 115 posts and more to come. But enough of the stats – this post rewinds the clock back to 1980.

Today skipping through Spotify or You Tube people have the choice to listen to different styles of music. Billions of songs at your fingertips. But there was a time when music lovers listened to only one genre – creating different tribes.

The 70’s brought in hard rock bands Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Motorhead and the hairy rock tribe followed. Disco filled dancefloors with Donna Summer, ‘Le Freak’ by Chic, a real Saturday Night Fever. But the dancefloor was ripped up by the Disco Sucks movement in America.

One night in ’79 at a ball game in Chicago, rock radio DJ Steve Dahl took to the field with his anti-disco army and blew up thousands of disco records. A publicity stunt he thought would bring in an extra 5,000 people to the game – it brought 70,000. Where they a tribe of fire starters, or was it the 98cents entry fee if you had a disco record under your arm ready to burn? The disco tribe never recovered.

By ’78 the Sex Pistols had played their last gig in San Francisco and at the start of ’79 Sid Vicious died in New York. By the end of the year The Clash had called out to London. Was the punk tribe dying out ? What did 1980 hold for the tribes ?

Post punk, Ska and Two Tone were heard around the country – they were all three minute hero’s. But a new tribe were gathering pace – one that followed the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The movement started in the late 70’s in the UK and reached international attention by the early 80’s.

The DIY attitude led to self-produced recordings and new independent labels setting up. The movement spawned many bands with Iron Maiden and Def Leppard becoming international stars. Bands from the North East were also delivering the goods.

Newcastle had chief headbangers Raven, on the coast in Whitley Bay were Tygers of Pan Tang, and across the river Tyne in my hometown South Shields – Fist, Mythra, Hellanbach, Hollow Ground and Saracen were all recorded on vinyl by the early ’80s.

Neat records were based in Wallsend and close by in Durham, was Guardian Records. Venue’s like Sunderland Mecca, Newcastle Mayfair and the City Hall had regular visit’s from rock/metal bands and the tribe followed. 1980 was the year metal was forged on Tyneside.

January
Canadian rock band Rush released their 5th album Permanent Waves and UFO released their 8th album No Place To Run.

On 17th & 18th Newcastle City Hall saw a concert by UFO with support from Girl. Over at the Mayfair AC/DC had Diamond Head opening on the 25th, and at Newcastle University Def Leppard were on the 26th supported by Witchfynde.

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February
This month will be remembered for the passing of Bon Scott, lead singer of AC/DC. He was only 33 when he died on the 19th. On the same night Rainbow played Newcastle City Hall. They also played on the 20th with support on both nights fom Samson. The City Hall also had a visit from Uriah Heep with support from Girlschool on the 6th.

Newcastle Mayfair promoted Heavy Metal Fridays with Tygers of Pan Tang plus Southbound and Axe on the 15th with Saxon plus Crypt and Mythra on the 22nd. Def Leppard played on the 29th with support from Witchfynde.

March
Three rock/metal albums were in the shop’s this month – On Through the Night the debut from Def Leppard. Van Halen’s 3rd Woman and Children First and Scorpions release their 7th album Animal Magnetism.

Newcastle City Hall saw Gillan on the 6th. April Wine with support from Angelwitch on the 10th and Judas Priest with openers Iron Maiden on the 20th. On the 21st both bands play the Mayfair which has an 18+ entry. The City Hall also saw Pat Travers supported by Diamond Head on the 30th. Over at The Castle Leazes Havelock Hall were Tygers of Pan Tang with openers Magnum on the 4th.

April
AC/DC found a replacement for the recently deceased Bon Scott, bringing in Geordie vocalist Brian Johnson. This month they enter the recording studio to work on the new album.

In this month 3 albums of note were released. The debut from Iron Maiden, Judas Priest 6th album British Steel, and Heaven and Hell from Black Sabbath. Their first with vocalist Ronnie James Dio.

Sammy Hagar with openers Riot played at Newcastle City Hall on the 12th. Def Leppard plus Magnum and Tygers of Pan Tang on the 20th then Saxon on the 21st.

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May
Saxon released Wheels of Steel their 2nd album. Whitesnake release their 3rd album, Ready n Willing and Kiss release their 8th, Unmasked.

Newcastle City Hall saw visits from Thin Lizzy on the 1st & 2nd. Scorpions with openers Tygers of Pan Tang on the 13th, Black Sabbath with support from Shakin’ Street on the 18th & 19th. Over at Newcastle Mayfair were Iron Maiden and openers Praying Mantis on the 16th. Also on the 23rd were Fist, White Spirit and Raven.

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Mythra, Fist and Tygers of Pan Tang in the Sounds charts in May 1980.

June
This month’s studio albums you could choose from I’m a Rebel – Accept, Danger Zone – Sammy Hagar, Demolition – Girlschool, Metal Rendez-vous – Krokus, Head On – Samson, Scream Dream – Ted Nugent or Tomcattin – Blackfoot.

Newcastle City Hall saw visits from Rush supported by Quartz on the 12th. Whitesnake with support from GForce on the 13th & 14th. Van Halen with openers Lucifers Friend on the 17th. Sunderland Mayfair had Iron Maiden and Praying Mantis on the 11th. Then Fist on the 20th.

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July
AC/DC release Back in Black the new album with Brian Johnson.

At Newcastle Mayfair was Trespass on the 18th and an all dayer at Bingley Hall in Stafford on the 26th – The Heavy Metal Barndance. Headliners Motorhead were joined by Girlschool, Angelwitch, Saxon, Vardis, Mythra and White Spirit.

August
This month saw the debut album Wild Cat released by Tygers of Pan Tang. Also records by the Michael Schenker Group and Stand Up and Fight from Quartz.

Newcastle Mayfair saw Ted Nugent supported by Wild Horses on the 7th. Fist plus Raven on the 15th with Diamond Head and openers Quartz on the 29th.
South Shields Legion welcomed hometown band Fist on the 14th.

16th of the month saw the first Monsters of Rock festival held at Donnington Raceway in Derbyshire with Rainbow, Judas Priest, Scorpions, April Wine, Saxon, Riot and Touch.

Reading festival on the 22nd-24th had headliners Rory Gallagher, UFO and Whitesnake with Gillan, Iron Maiden, Samson, Def Leppard, Ozzy Ozbourne, Angelwitch, Budgie, Samson and Tygers of Pan Tang.

September
Sadly, the Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham dies aged only 32.

The debut from Ozzy Osbourne was released this month while Strong Arm of the Law, the 3rd studio album by Saxon and their 2nd this year was released.

Newcastle Mayfair had Angelwitch on the 5th, Tygers of Pan Tang with support from Taurus and radio DJ Alan Robson on the 12th and over at Newcastle City Hall were Ozzy Osbourne plus support band Budgie on the 17th.

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October
Released this month were the 3rd album by Gillan – Glory Road and Chinatown the 10th album from Thin Lizzy.

A full month of gigs at Newcastle Mayfair. Gillan with openers White Spirit and Quartz on the 1st. Scorpions supported by Blackfoot on the 10th for over 18 fans. UFO supported by Fist 15th & 16th. Ozzy Osbourne 17th with Budgie and Raven. Motorhead with support from Weapon on the 29th & 30th. AC/DC plus Starfighters on the 31st.

At Newcastle City Hall were Michael Schenker Group supported by Dedringer on the 2nd. Scorpions plus Blackfoot 7th & 8th. Over at Sunderland Mayfair UFO and Fist on the 21st and Ozzy Osbourne the 28th.

November
This month saw the release of Ace of Spades the 4th album from Motorhead, a double from Whitesnake – Live…In the Heart of the City and the debut from Fist, Turn the Hell On. There was also Roksnax on Gaurdian Records. A compilation album produced at Guardian Studios in Durham, UK. The album features 4 songs each from South Shields bands Hollow Ground and Saracen and Teeside based Samurai.

Newcastle City Hall had visits from AC/DC supported by Starfighters on the 4th & 5th. Triumph with openers Praying Mantis the 12th and Iron Maiden on the 25th with support from A11Z.

December
Concerts at the Newcastle City Hall this month by Girlschool on the 5th with support from Angelwitch, also on the 16th Saxon with support from Limelight.

Led Zeppelin release a press release about the break up of the band due to the death of drummer John Bonham.

Unfortunately a sad end to a frantic year, but what did the 80’s have in store for the tribe ? Again from the North East there was a little band forming. They had kept an eye on what was happening and now it was their time to strike. Venom were gathering their own tribe, but that’s a story for another day.

Gary Alikivi  2017.

Information from discogs and various websites. Thanks to everyone who supplied information, ticket stubs etc.

Recommended:

MYTHRA Still Burning 13th February 2017.

Lou Taylor SATAN/BLIND FURY: Rock the Knight, 26th February & 5th March 2017.

Steve Dawson SARACEN/THE ANIMALS: Long Live Rock n Roll, 2nd April 2017.

Harry Hill, FIST: Turn the Hell On, 29th April 2017.

When Heavy Metal Hit the Accelerator 6th May 2017.

Martin Metcalfe HOLLOW GROUND: Hungry for Rock, 18th June 2017.

Kev Charlton, HELLANBACH/BESSIE & THE ZINC BUCKETS: The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

Steve Thompson,( NEAT Producer) Godfather of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, 27th June 2017.

THE GRANTHAM FOUR – 5 minutes with New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Overdrive

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Overdrive formed in 1978 in Grantham, UK. The current line up is Luther Beltz (vocals) Stuart Meadows (drums) original members Tracey Abbott (guitar) and Ian Hamilton (bass) who takes up the story…

‘Our influences were watching UK music programme Top of the Pops and listening to Elvis, Slade, T.Rex, Deep Purple and Sabbath. That spurred us on to start a band at school in 1974 – and we just kept going! Tracey’s dad played in a brass band and our parents funded the band and encouraged us. They also got us gigs’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ?  ‘Our first gigs were in the Workingmen’s Social Clubs in Sheffield, Nottingham and Leicester. Then we went on the same circuit as other NWOBHM bands – places like the Penguin Club, Lead Mill, Monsal Head and other’s. We supported many bands including Def Leppard, Bernie Torme, Raven, Lionheart even Freddie and the Dreamers.

We had a gig once at Rotherham Arts Centre and due to home made pyrotechnics the show was stopped by the fire brigade. Recently the best gigs we have played have been in Europe, the fans really know how to rock!

(Overdrive self-released music under their own label ‘Boring Grantham Records’. First was a demo tape in 1978 with the tracks ‘All Day’, ‘Overdrive’ and ‘Once in a Dream Piebald Pinto’. This was limited to 50 copies. Next release was a 7” single in 1981 including ‘On the Run’, ‘Nightmare’ and ‘Stonehenge’. More releases followed).

What were your experiences of recording and did you record any TV appearances or film any music videos ?  ‘Now with modern technology it’s all done on a laptop in our kitchen but recording was strange in the early 1970’s. The engineer wore a lab coat and treated it like a serious school project. Recording was a mystery to us.

Our first recording was in a place called Drumbeat Studios in Leicester in 1976. Funnily enough the same studio Showadywady did their first album. We have never worked with a proper producer until our last album which was mixed by the Dark Lord himself, Chris Tsangerides (RIP). We’ve never been on TV or done a video. Just too damn ugly!!
(Chris Tsangarides was best known for producing heavy metal albums by Tygers of Pan Tang, Judas Priest, Anvil, Thin Lizzy and more. He has also worked with pop and alternative artists Depeche Mode, Blondie and Lords of the New Church).

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What are the future plans for Overdrive ? ‘We are now recording our 6th album, with the title Resurrection. Also planning gigs for 2018, with Greece Germany and Italy on the itinerary’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi November 2017. 

Recommended:

WARRIOR: The Hunter, 12th April 2017.

WEAPON UK: All Fired Up, 6th May 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

TOKYO BLADE: Under the Blade, 26th May 2017.

SALEM: Increase the Pressure, 20th September 2017.

SATAN’S EMPIRE: The Devil Rides Out, 4th October 2017.

SNATCH BACK: Back in the Game, 21st October 2017.

JAGUAR: The Fast and The Fury, 24th October 2017.

JUST THE WAY IT WAS – Recording in Guardian Studio with Nev Larkin

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Nev Larkin was a member of Marauder who recorded 2 tracks for the New Wave of British Heavy Metal compilation album Roxcalibur, released on Guardian Records in January 1982. The album had followed on the back of another compilation released out of Guardian Studio’s called Roksnax released in 1980.

Roxcalibur featured 7 bands who contributed two tracks each they included North East UK metallers Black Rose, Battleaxe and Satan. Nev takes up the story…

‘I got cracking on with some lads from Ashington who were in a band called Marauder they needed a 2nd guitar so I joined them. We played the pub’s around North Tyneside and Northumberland. Then we went into Guardian Studio in Durham around late ’81 and recorded 2 songs, Woman of the Night and Battlefield. We were in for about 20 hours on the Saturday and went back on Sunday night and finished about 6.00 in the morning. Half hours sleep then straight to work at the Department of Social Security’

Did each band share the production costs ? ‘As a band we had to pay £400 for costs, that’s £80 each. The recording studio was in a terraced house next door to where the owner and producer Terry Gavaghan used to live. The recording area was in effect, a front living room with a booth for the drums. The singers girlfriend had made some pies in trays for the length of our time in the studio. So when recording Battlefield it was suggested that we take the tray of pies through to the recording area, smash them about and re-create a ‘battle’. Which we did to a great deal of hilarity’.

‘The other song which is on You Tube is Woman of the Night which was going to be a single, but didn’t happen. The singer Steven Ireland is still singing for a band called F.M. Strangely enough I guested for one gig only, when they were called Lone Wolf. In the end we got twenty albums each to sell. The producer said that if we sold them for £4 each, we would get our money back – he should have been a mathematician ! I ended up giving them away, not long ago someone told me they were going for a fortune on E Bay!

There is a story of a resident ghost at Guardian studio, did the owner Terry Gavaghan tell you about it ? ‘He did the trick with the moving microphone that was on a stand after he had fed us the ghost story. He had sneaked in through a different entrance and pulled the cable along the floor. I got my own back by having a blast of the fire extinguisher while he wasn’t there’.

Did you know if the album sold many copies ? ‘As far as I know, none of the bands got any royalties from the songs.  I think that he must have copped the lot.  Dave King from Battleaxe who were also on the album was going to chase this up years ago. I don’t know if he got anywhere with it.  I spoke to Malcolm Midwood a couple of month ago, who now performs under Wytchcraft, he never got anything’.

Where did it all start for you ? ’Seeing Status Quo as a teenager at the Newcastle City Hall made me want to learn guitar. My first band was called Redrock and our only gig was at Killingworth High School just a few miles from Newcastle. Then I joined up with some lads from Longbenton, the band was called Loser (appropriately enough) and we played only one gig at the Newbridge Dance Studio which is now demolished. There were more guitars in that band than Blue Oyster Cult !

Next was with some lads from Bedlington and we played around North Tyneside and Northumberland under the name of Scharnhorst. Steve Bird (guitar) Dean Heward (bass) Gary Young (drums) and me (vocals/guitar). Later we shortened the name to just The Horst. I can’t remember much about that band apart from one event at a gig in The Newton Park Hotel where we blew the mains circuit, leaving the pub in total darkness due to the amount of gear we had plus all the pyro effects, dry ice, medium maroon big bang cartridges the lot. Not long after that the band ended’.

What happened after Marauder ? ‘I got together with some friends and did 3 self-penned songs and video in one of our flats in Heaton, Newcastle. We called this The Bedroom Sessions. Needless to say the neighbours did not see the funny side or, the video for that matter. We did a tour of friends houses on our motorbikes to promote this. We did one gig at Darsley Park, Benton. It was at this stage I effectively called it a day. I just seemed to be constantly chasing my tail trying to make things happen.

Still play guitar now but in the house only. I did try my hand at Stand Up Comedy (2001) but it got too tiring trying to do a day job then running all over to do gigs for ‘diddly’ (nothing).  I appeared on regional TV on a Friday night feature called Stand Up Britain. I think it was one of the fella’s from Phoenix Nights who produced it. It was a ‘dial up’ viewer vote where the winner went through to a National final in Manchester for a £7k prize. It was not me’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi November 2017.