Local heroes: Brass Alley & Lucas Tyson

Local heroes: Brass Alley & Lucas Tyson
hartrockrecordI couldn’t finish my blog project without saying a few words about these two bands.
Brass Alley and Lucas Tyson (along with Beckett who I have already covered in earlier posts) were arguably the top North East bands in the early ’70s, playing in ballrooms and clubs around the region.
Brass Alley were a heavy rock band with a bluesy edge, fronted by singer Dave Ditchburn and featuring Barry Alton (guitar), Frankie Gibbon (bass), and Howard Martin (drums). They were heavily influenced by Free, and always included a few Free covers in their set. I saw them loads of times at Sunderland Locarno (Mecca), Newcastle Mayfair, in several working mens’ clubs and supporting touring acts at the City Hall. I remember that they had, for a short period, a Sunday night residency at Sunderland Top Rank. I can picture us all now, standing on the tables chanting for “The Hunter”; which was their encore at the time. The guitarist would do a great instrumental version of the “Theme from Exodus”.
Lucas Tyson were a much more guitar-oriented band fronted by the excellent, Hendrix-influenced, Pete Barclay. Pete played a Fender Strat, made heavy use of wah-wah and fuzz, and was a guitar hero for many of us young guys. I also saw Lucas Tyson play at Sunderland Mecca, Newcastle Mayfair, Sunderland Poly, and at the City Hall. Pete would do great Hendrix covers (“Voodoo Chile”, I think) and other guitar-led tracks. I remember seeing them support Edgar Broughton one night at the Mecca, when they played an awesome version of the Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine”.
Brass Alley and Lucas Tyson both feature on the single pictured above. I still have a copy and it’s a gem of early ’70s rock psych. The 45 EP features four tracks: “Daylight Child” by Lucas Tyson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57TSW5w1j6s&list=PLRBjLK_SZFghJcBolYpCMkTVt9L60TtCv&index=1 ; “The Hobo Song” by Yellow; “Pink Pills” by Brass Alley https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeR7xmNupF8 and “I Know You Well” by Trilogy. The single was released to promote Hart Rock, a 1971 rock festival held at Hartlepool football ground which featured these four local bands, plus others and was headlined by Arrival and Beggars Opera.
Four days to go.

Ken Dodd London Palladium June 1967

Ken Dodd London Palladium June 1967
kendoddprogAnother early memory which doesn’t quite relate to vintage rock, but which I wanted to cover before I finish my project.
I was in London with my parents for a short holiday and they decided that we would “go to a show” as one does when one is in the capital. Ken Dodd was starring at the Palladium, for a return series of shows after a very successful run a year or two before. We had seats in the circle. I remember being totally in awe of the wonderful venue. I was so excited that I was actually sitting in the London Palladium, a venue that I had seen so many times on TV, during “Sunday Night at the Palladium”. I could hardly believe that it was happening.
Doddy was great. He had his tickling stick, told us “how tickled I am” and that it was all “tattyfilarious”. It was magical. He sang “Tears” and kept the theatre laughing all evening. But the most magical moment was when he was joined on stage by the Diddymen. As a kid, I was totally knocked out and fascinated by those colourful crazy little guys who weaved their way around Ken Dodd and talked in silly squeaky little voices. The Diddymen were Dicky Mint, Mick the Marmalizer, Stephen “Titch” Doyle, Little Evan, Hamish McDiddy, Nigel Ponsonby-Smallpiece, Nicky Nugget, Sid Short and Smarty Arty., and they came, of course from Knotty Ash. They sang their song: “We are the Diddy Men, Doddy’s little Diddy Men, We are the Diddy Men who come from Knotty Ash”. Wonderful.
Great memories which now seem so long ago. I still have the programme.
That’s the last of my silly memories. I’ll return to rock music tomorrow. Thanks for bearing with me. Only a few days to go now … 4 or 5 I think. :)

Backhouse Park concerts Sunderland Summer 1974 Jack the Lad, Brinsley Schwarz & Chilli Willi

Backhouse Park concerts Sunderland Summer 1974
brinsleyFor three Saturdays in Summer 1974 a stage appeared in Sunderland’s Backhouse Park and a series of concerts were held. The park was filled with music from a host of local bands and headliners Jack the Lad, Brinsley Schwarz & Chilli Willi & the Red Hot Peppers. Local heroes Saltgrass played at each event and a grand time was had by all.
13th July 1974 Jack the Lad
When Lindisfarne’s split and main songwriter Alan Hull went off to follow a solo career (and eventually reform Lindisfarne with Ray Jackson) the remaining members: Rod Clements, Si Cowe and Ray Laidlaw formed Jack the Lad with their old friend Billy Mitchell. Jack the Lad followed the folk sound of their former band, and in many ways remained truer to their roots, while the new Lindisfarne went down more of a pop/rock road. Jack the Lad live were great fun with a lot of humour, traditional folk and a set full of jigs, reels, singalongs and dancing which went down well on a sunny afternoon in the park.
27th July 1974 Brinsley Schwarz
Brinsley Schwarz were stalwarts of the pub rock scene. This gig came towards the end of their career, and their line-up was Brinsley Schwarz, Ian Gomm, Billy Rankin, Bob Andrews, Nick Lowe and Carlos Luna. They had just released their sixth and final album “The New Favourites of… Brinsley Schwarz” which featured Nick Lowe’s classic “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding”.
The Brinsleys were heavily influenced by The Band and Eggs Over Easy, had a laid-back country-rock sound, with some catchy poppy songs, and were a great live act, and gave us another great afternoon in the sun. They split in 1975 and Schwarz and Andrews joined Graham Parker & the Rumour; Rankin joined Terraplane, and Nick Lowe joined Dave Edmunds in Rockpile. Lowe of course then went on to have a very successful solo career and “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” became a hit for Elvis Costello.
3rd August 1974 Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers
The last of the trio of concerts featured Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers, who were one of the main pub rock groups, and were very popular during the early 1970s. They released three albums and toured as part of the 1975 Naughty Rhythms tour with Dr Feelgood and Kokomo. Their members were Phil “Snakefinger” Lithman, Martin Stone, Paul “Dice Man” Bailey, Paul “Bassman” Riley and Pete Thomas. After they split in 1975 Thomas became the drummer for Elvis Costello, Riley played with Graham Parker; and Stone played with the Pink Fairies.

The Sooty Show Sunderland Empire sometime in the early ’60s

The Sooty Show Sunderland Empire sometime in the early ’60s
sootyannualsOk Maybe the daily blogging is finally getting to me. You are going to think I am going completely mad, but here we go anyway. I just couldn’t finish this project without mentioning my earliest memory of going to the theatre. I was a big fan of Sooty (along with Torchy the Battery Boy, but that’s another story) and remember my dad taking me to see The Sooty Show, with Harry Corbett, and of course Sweep, when it came to the Empire. I can’t have been very old, which places it probably sometime in the early 60s. I can picture myself to this day, sitting half way back in the stalls, hardly believing that I was actually seeing Sooty and Sweep live on stage! The lights, the lovely plush surroundings of the theatre, the bright lively action on stage; it all fascinated me. I have early memories of going to the circus, but didn’t particularly like it (I was frightened of the clowns), but a theatre show was something special, something different. The strongest memory I have of the show is of Sooty sitting at his little drumkit playing in the “Sooty Band” with Sweep (and possibly Soo, although I think she may have joined later). I found a video of said band in an arcade machine playing “Polly Put the Kettle On” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wm0-KChypko Wow! Soo on piano and Sweep on sax. sootycardThis is exactly how I remember it onstage at the Empire.
Sooty of course hit Harry on the head a couple of times with a hammer (“Don’t do that for goodness sake!” said Harry), waved his magic wand and said “Izzy wizzy, let’s get busy!”, soaked Harry and Sweep with his water pistol, and played his xylophone. All good clean fun.
My fate was cast. I know its seem quite a long way from going to see Zeppelin, the Stones or T Rex, but it was early experiences like this that gave me my thirst for concerts. The pictures of Sooty’s card game and the Sooty annuals are mine, picked up for 50p or so each at a car boot sale. I still can’t resist the little bear. By the way, I’m not alone in liking rock and Sooty. Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain is a big Sooty fan; always has a Sooty puppet as a mascot on the front of his drumkit, and has occasionally worn a full size Sooty costume at shows as an entrance (now that is crazy :) ).
Oh, and of course the show would always end “Bye bye everybody, bye bye”. Magic.

The Troggs Newcastle Polytechnic 1st October 1976

The Troggs Newcastle Polytechnic 1st October 1976
TheTroggsHow could I have forgotten to write about The Troggs? I was a big fan of theirs; they had all those great hits in the ’60s. However, I didn’t get to see The Troggs live until 1976, one Friday night at Newcastle Poly. I found the date on the Steve Brown Band’s site, which contains a wealth on information about the band’s history and the gigs they played. The Steve Brown Band were supporting The Troggs that night; they noted about the gig: “Wild reaction from large audience. Encore after 3 minutes shouting from crowd”.
“Troglodyte may refer to:
A cave dweller, one who lives in a cave.
Troglodytae or Troglodyti, an ancient group of people from the African Red Sea coast
Troglodites, a fictional tribe described in Montesquieu’s Persian Letters, supposedly descending from the ancient Troglodytae
Caveman, a stock character based upon widespread concepts of the way in which early prehistoric humans may have looked and behaved
A British band who became known as The Troggs” (Wikipedia)
The Troggs were the forerunners of punk and garage. They lived up their caveman name with an image and sound which was basic and raw. Their records conisted of a few slabs of chords over a sold chugging rhythm, and lyrics that were just as basic. “Give it to Me”; “I Can’t Control Myself”. How did they get away with it. And of course “Wild Thing” was the big one. It sounded so different, quite shocking actually.
I have strong memories of this gig. I was excited about finally getting to see the Troggs. It was one of the first dances of a new academic year, and the Students Union ballroom was filled with students eager for a good night out, lots of drink, silly dancing and good fun to be had by all. And the Troggs were just the band to give them all of that. The student crowd joined in with all the songs, and went generally crazy. Reg Presley egged them on, and guitarist Chris Britton squeezed garage chord rhythms from his Les Paul. Classic.
Typical Troggs setlist of the period: Got Love If You Want It; Louie Louie; (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction; With a Girl Like You; Love Is All Around; Feels Like a Woman; Strange Movies; Gonna Make You; Walkin’ the Dog; No Particular Place to Go; Give it to Me; Wild Thing; I Can’t Control Myself
I’ve seen the Troggs a couple of times since on 60s package shows, which was fun, but Troggs music is best heard (and felt) in a packed ballroom surrounded by a few hundred drunken idiots showing themselves up to the strains of “Wild Thing” or “I Can’t Control Myself”.
Reg Presley passed away a few years ago. Chris Britton continues to lead the
Troggs, taking garage punk pop to a new generation of ravers, and to grey haired loons.
RIP Reg Presley.

Country Joe McDonald Sunderland Locarno 8th November 1974

Country Joe McDonald Sunderland Locarno 8th November 1974
countryjoeWe’d all seen him in the Woodstock film:
“Listen people, I don’t know how you expect to ever stop the war if you can’t sing any better than that. There’s about 300,000 of you f**kers out there. I want you to start singing. Come on.”

And then the sing-a-long style bouncing ball followed the lyrics which ran as subtitles along the bottom of the cinema screen.

Well for one night a few years later we had our own little piece of Woodstock in a ballroom in Sunderland.

“Give me an F
Give me a U
Give me a C
Give me a K
Whats that spell? Whats that spell? Whats that spell?
Whats that spell? Whats that spell?”

“And it’s 1, 2, 3, what’re we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn
Next stop is Vietnam
And it’s 5, 6, 7, Open up the Pearly Gates
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why
Whoopee! We’re all gonna die.”
(I Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die Rag, Country Joe and the Fish, 1967).

This tour was at the time of his self-titled solo lp (pictured here), so I guess we were treated to tracks from that album, along with old favourites like “Janis” and of course he just had to  lead us all in the “Fish Cheer” and sing “I Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die Rag”. We all sang along.
Don’t think we stopped any war, but we sure had a good time :)

Durham Dome Festival 1973 – 1980

Durham Dome Festival 1973 – 1980
chrisjaggerDurham Dome fest took place during the years 1973 to 1980. Several pleasant sunny afternoons and evenings were spent down on the Riverside Race Course in Durham.

From local alternative hippy North East zine Mother Grumble, which organised the Durham Dome fests:
“Durham Domefest 1st July 1973
So many people, magical music, listening in the sunshine, smiling, free.
And there was free music.
And there was lite and love.
Riding bureaucratic storms to do this together, so many people helped make this happen, and will again.
Policeman, friends, lovers, strangers all together down at the riverside.
Old folks, young folks, we’re going to grow and grow, help them who can’t come and do another show.
Contact Mother G to plan and build the next one, new faces, new bands
Loudest sound in Durham town, the people can never let the people down.
There are no words, we can all see there, we have all been there, see you next time.
Durham’s first free open air music for the people, by the people – it’s all too beautiful
Meet you at the next one.
And don’t be late.”

The festival would feature a host of local bands playing on a domed stage, with a few name bands joining in. I recall sing Chris Jagger, Jack the Lad, Isotope and Global Village Trucking Company play alongside Arbre, Hedgehog Pie, Steve Brown Band, Village (think they won the Melody Maker contest?) and Raw Spirit. Prefab Sprout played at one of the later festivals, and I read that Supertramp also played at one of the Dome fest, although I don’t recall seeing them. I went to several of the Dome fests, including the first, although I don’t recall which ones I actually attended.
I recall a real buzz about Chris Jagger who turned up unannounced and played on a sunny afternoon. It was at the time of his “You Know the Name but not the Face” lp, which places it around 1973. And pretty good he was too.
The Dome fests were happy friendly events; you would turn up, chat to friends and lie in the sun on the grass by the river, listening to some music. You never knew which bands would play, and that was part of the fun of it. Everything seemed so much simpler. Happy Days :)

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