Some of the fantastic people we've met along the way . . .
In October 1970, we were fortunate enough to meet and work with the (almost) original Deep Purple line-up of Ian Gillan, Jon Lord, Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Paice and Roger Glover. This was at the Indoor Festival of Music, Sunderland Top Rank Suite and right at the start of their career. Check out this recording from that very night. We've always been big fans of Deep Purple and along with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, we consider them to be the pioneers of British rock music and heavy metal. At this time they were just beginning to take the world by storm with the huge success of their In Rock album and their hit single Black Night. This event was organised by the now legendary promoter Geoff Docherty and Deep Purple's performance nearly didn't take place. They hadn't arrived on time and it didn't look like they were going to show at all, so we filled in by doing an extra set to keep the crowd entertained. But the band did eventually turn up, much to the relief of Geoff and a few thousand agitated fans and they made amends by finishing the evening off with a fantastic, high energy performance including Black Night which brought the roof down.
We supported Edgar Broughton at the Sunderland Locarno (Mecca) in April 1970 at another great show organised by local legend Geoff Docherty. They had just released their second album Sing Brother Sing and the live recording of their 'anthem' Out Demons Out was surprisingly having moderate mainstream chart success. Surprising because nobody really gave a toss about the so called top twenty in those days and with Edgar's wildman image and gritty vocal style, he wasn't exactly your typical 'teenage pop idol'. There were many bands who had a huge following but would never have a hit single or appear on something as demeaning as Top of the Pops. Rock music was labelled 'progressive' and 'underground' back then and most of the bands had their roots in the blues and good old rock and roll.
We worked with Family in February 1971 at Newcastle Mayfair Ballroom. Check out this recording from that night. This was a real honour for us because as far as we were concerned, Family were simply the best band around at the time. We'd been fans since their 1968 album Music In A Doll's House. We'd even travelled to London in 1969 to the famous Rolling Stones in Hyde Park concert just to watch Family perform. On another occasion, we hitch hiked to Croydon, London to see them at Fairfield Halls. Travelling from Newcastle to London and back in those days was quite a journey, but that's how much we enjoyed their shows. Although they had a huge cult following, they somehow never had the worldwide success they deserved and after a few changes in line up in preceding years, they sadly disbanded in 1973.
The first time we worked with Free was at Sunderland Top Rank Suite in June 1970. What a great live band. Paul Rodgers was such a fantastic showman and all the band members were brilliant musicians. They had just released their classic single All Right Now from their Fire and Water album and it was to become a huge success. But in the North East, their most popular song at the time was definitely The Hunter from their Tons of Sobs album. Every local band had a version of The Hunter in their repertoire. In contrast to most of the rock bands of the day (ourselves included), Free didn't have a wall of amplifiers and speakers filling the back of the stage. The band were surprisingly 'quiet' with very little equipment. But this made people listen more intently and what a sound they made and what an atmosphere they created. It almost felt like they were playing to a private audience in your living room. Their performances were so intimate. Sadly they disbanded soon after and went their separate ways. Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke formed Bad Company. Paul Kossoff formed Back Street Crawler and Andy Fraser later formed Sharks with acclaimed guitarist Chris Spedding.
Although Jeff Lynne is probably best known to most people from his work with Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), the Traveling Wilburys and as a leading songwriter and music producer, we actually met him in 1969 when he was a prominent member of Birmingham band Idle Race. We shared the bill at the Barnes Hotel in Sunderland. Idle Race made some great albums, but they never had any commercial success and Jeff's career didn't really take off until he teamed up with Roy Wood and joined ELO. The rest as they say, is history. However, Idle Race were a really good band and gave an impressive performance that night at the Barnes. Jeff is a great guy and a mean guitar player. He showed us a neat little trick of creating a violin sound on the guitar by adjusting the volume control while plucking the strings. A cool effect that we still use today.
One of our very first gigs was at the Cellar Club, South Shields in April 1967. When we arrived, we were amazed to see a poster advertising that Jimi Hendrix was appearing the following night. At the time, Jimi was pretty much unknown to the general public, but everybody in the music business had heard of him and the rumours of what a phenomenal guitar player he was. He was brought over from America by his manager Chas Chandler of the Animals, so Jimi's name had a real local North East connection. We desperately wanted to see him perform so we rescheduled our next night's gig to go along and watch what was to be an amazing performance. After the show, the club manager introduced us to the great man himself. We were very humbled to meet him and surprised at what a quiet, unassuming and genuine guy he was. Although he wasn't a big star then, it was obvious he was something special and, of course, he went on to become one of the greatest rock legends of all time.
What can we say about Lindisfarne? They are absolutely legendary here in North East England. We worked with them in December 1970 at Newcastle Mayfair Ballroom. Check out this recording from that very night. This was just following the release of their debut album Nicely Out Of Tune so the lads we're definitely on the way up but hadn't yet had the commercial success that Meet Me On The Corner and Fog On The Tyne would bring the following year. Being local to the North East, we'd seen the guys in their previous bands (Downtown Faction, Brethren) and seen Alan Hull performing in local folk clubs. It was obvious even then that they were really talented and their song writing was second to none. They have left a huge legacy of music and have rightly earned their place in 'Geordie' folklore.
Way back in March 1969 we supported Pink Floyd at Dunelm House, University of Durham. Check out this recording from that night. This was one of the venues on their Brain Damage tour. It was a special night for us as we were a relatively new group at the time and we felt we were really raising our profile by playing alongside such an important band. We'd been Pink Floyd fans from the Arnold Lane and See Emily Play days when Syd Barrett was a prominent member of the band, but must admit we found that evening's performance a bit weird. Dropping raw eggs into a bucket wasn't exactly what we called music. But this was the 'psychedelic era' and all sorts of musical experimentation was happening. Pioneers like Pink Floyd have gone on to achieve real superstar status and had a huge influence on the music of future generations.
We worked with Rod Stewart and the Faces in May 1971 at the Newcastle Mayfair Ballroom and what a fantastic gig that was. Check out this recording from that very night. Rod was just really starting to take off then as a solo performer and in fact the band were still being billed simply as The Faces (formerly the Small Faces). We've been privileged to meet some amazing people over the years and it's incredible that we were there at the beginning of their careers when they were still relatively unknown. Not even they could have imagined that they would achieve such superstar status, becoming household names and still continuing to be as popular after all this time.
In 1978, we supported Whitesnake at Newcastle City Hall. The band were well on their way to achieving incredible
success, but our story goes back nearly a decade before that. One of our regular gigs from about 1969 onwards had been the Argus
Butterfly, Peterlee. Many big names played there but we worked a few times with a great local band
called Government. They had an exceptional vocalist who came from Saltburn. In 1973, he answered an advertisement in Melody Maker magazine which led to him landing the job as
lead singer with Deep Purple when Ian Gillan left the band. The singer was, of course, none other than David Coverdale. A real rags to riches story which proves what can be
achieved with a lot of talent, hard work and a little bit of luck.
We supported Mott the Hoople in August 1971 at Newcastle Mayfair Ballroom. Check out this link. Another fantastic band, but they didn't achieve real success until the following year when they released the David Bowie song All The Young Dudes. It was to be their biggest hit record and launched them into super stardom. This came just in time because the guys were very close to splitting up when we met them.
In 1971 we performed at an all night event at Newcastle University with a long list of bands on the bill including the Strawbs with Rick Wakeman, Argent, Blodwyn Pig and Man. This was a real tour de force because we opened the show early in the evening and also had another spot at about 4am. But it was such a great atmosphere and we were working with some of the best bands around so it didn't feel like hard work.