This is the last of my Groundhogs postings, and concludes my coverage of the 40 something times I have seen the band. I’ve seen the Hogs a few times since this 2007 gig, but I’ve already blogged on those gigs, as and when I attended them. In 2007 Tony McPhee reformed the Groundhogs again, with Dave Anderson on bass and Marco Anderson on drums. The first chance I got to see the reformed band was at a concert in Darlington Arts Centre in 2007. I went along with my mate Will. This was the last time we visited the Arts Centre. The lovely venue has sadly now closed, as a result of funding cuts. The Hogs played in the intimate Green bar venue and gave us a set of classic tunes. I recall Tony inviting a young lad up onstage with him. The young lad was celebrating his birthday that day, and will certainly have had a day to remember. Some footage from this gig is on Youtube. I’ve enjoyed blogging about The Groundhogs, and look forward to seeing them in 2013, which is their 50th year.
Archive for the ‘Groundhogs’ Category
Tony McPhee and Joanna Deacon 2005 and 2006
When the Groundhogs split in 2004, Tony McPhee concentrated on his solo career, playing and singing the blues with his partner Joanna Deacon. The duo released an album Blues at Ten, which was well received by fans and critics, and toured in support of the album. I saw Tony and Joanna twice during this period, once at South Shields Customs House and a second time at the Barrels Alehouse in Berwick upon Tweed. The South Sheilds show showcased tracks from Blues at Ten with Tony on acoustic guitar, alongside Tony playing electric for a couple of Groundhogs numbers. I went along with my mate Will; we had good seats right down the front and enjoyed the gig. I recall that they played the following from Blues at Ten: Messin’ My Mind; Strange Place; Oh Death (which Tony used to sing with Jo Ann Kelly); Better Off With The Blues; Don’t You Feel My Leg; and Graveyard Blues. Tony also toured with Alvin Lee and Edgar Winter on a Classic Legends of Rock tour in 2004, which we caught at Newcastle Tyne Theatre. Tony was the opening act, and played a few acoustic songs. The Barrels Alehouse is a pub in the Centre of Berwick, with a tiny cellar room which holds music nights. Tony and Joanna played there in 2006, and Marie and I took the opportunity to see them. It was great to see them perform so close up and in such an intimate setting. The cellar room can’t hold more than 50 or 60 people; it was like seeing someone in your front room. The set was again drawn from Blues at Ten and a good time was had by all; as they say. Tony was to reform the Groundhogs in 2007. I’ll blog on a gig from that year tomorrow, which will take me to the end of my Groundhogs journey (for now 🙂 ).
The Groundhogs Original Line Up reunited 2003/4
In 2003 the unexpected happened and the original, classic, Groundhogs line-up of Tony T S McPhee, Pete Cruikshank and Ken Pustelnik reformed. It was great news that the guys had decided to play together again, and I was lucky enough to see them twice when they came to the North of England. The first occasion was at the Maryport Blues festival, where they shared the bill with Zoot Money, and a couple of other acts, on a hot Sunday afternoon in July 2003. This was my first visit to the festival, and really enjoyed it. Since then I have returned to Maryport Blues a couple of times. David came along and took some photos. It was great to see the original line-up again after 30 years. The bands played in a large marquee down by the harbour (this was before the festival moved to its more recent home up at the Rugby Club). Their set was quite short on this occasion, and consisted of the classic songs.The next year I had the chance to see the original line-up again. David was studying in Leeds at the time, so I took the opportunity to go and visit him, and then we both went to see the Groundhogs at a great venue called the New Roscoe. The New Roscoe is close to the centre of Leeds, and has live gigs almost every night. The set was drawn from the first four albums; Scratching the Surface, Blues Obituary, Thank Christ for the Bomb and Split, and included all the classics: Split 1, Split 2, Groundhog, Eccentric Man, Mistreated, Still a Fool, Garden and, of course, Cherry Red. Ship on the Ocean and Soldier may also have featured at the Roscoe gig. Tony was playing as well as ever, with some serious soloing. At the Roscoe gig, I can recall lots of use of the whammy bar, and Tony running his hands up and down the neck of his strat. The support act was a young band called Shearwater, who played a set of rock classic. We got to the venue early and claimed a couple of seats close to the front, for a good view of Tony and the band. David was on camera duty again. The Leeds crowd gave the Groundhogs a great reception and called them back for a couple of encores. The last encore was Time, which I don’t recall ever seeing them play live before. In 2004 the Groundhogs split. However, this wasn’t the end.
The Groundhogs Washington Arts Centre 1985 & 1990, Whitley Bay Dome 2000
I continued to follow Tony McPhee and the Groundhogs throughout the rest of the 1980s, and into the 90s, although I probably didn’t see them as many times in later years as I had done in the 70s and 80s. During this period I recall attending a couple of gigs at Washington Arts Centre, a gig at Sunderland Alexandra, and a couple at Newcastle Trillians Rock bar. The line up for the first time at Washington Arts Centre was Tony, Alan Fish and Mick Kirton, and it took place in the larger hall downstairs (and was pretty packed). I remember lots of idiot dancing to Cherry Red. I also seem to recall seeing a gig with Eric Chipulina in the band at Washington, in the smaller upstairs room. The line-up of the Groundhogs was forever changing during this period, with drummer Mick Jones sharing his duties as drummer with Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack, which confused me, as I often saw him in both bands at the time. Their recorded output was also quite confusing with a number of live album releases including: Extremely Live; Hogs on the Road; Groundhog Night… Groundhog Live; and a DVD Live at the Astoria. The latter DVD was recorded in 1998 and features the line-up of Tony, Eric Chipulina on bass, and Pete Correa on drums. Their live set on the DVD, and in the late 90s would be something like: Shake For Me; Eccentric Man; 3744 James Road; I Want You To Love Me; Split Part 1; Split Part 2; Mistreated; Still A Fool; Cherry Red; Groundhog Blues; Down In The Bottom. The third ticket here comes from a gig at Whitley Bay Dome in 2000. The Dome was part of the old Spanish City funfair, and was home to quite a few gigs for a time, including a great show by Robert Plant and his Priory of Brion. I was soon to get another chance to see the classic line-up of Tony, Peter Cruikshank and Ken Pustelnik, when they reunited in 2003. I’ll blog on that part of my Groundhogs gig saga tomorrow.
The Groundhogs Bowes Cellar Darlington 1985?
This was quite an eventful gig, and is thus worthy of mention on its own. It was probably in 1985 (I must have seen the Hogs many times in that year) and I went with my mate Dave. At the time the Bowes was a well-known pub in Skinnergate in the centre of Darlington; I understand it is now an Italian Restaurant; it’s sad how many great old pub venues have disappeared. In the 80s it hosted a number of gigs; I remember Man playing there and a few other bands; I only went this once. The gigs were in a Cellar bar under the main pub. I am pretty sure that there was a support act; The Force who are a well known local rock band, and were quite new at the time. To get to the Cellar bar you went through a door in the middle of the pub, and down a flight of stairs. The gig was on a Saturday night, and the upstairs bar was full of bikers. The Cellar wasn’t very big, so you were quite close to and facing the band, and the music was very LOUD. The Force played a good (loud) set of rock covers before the Groundhogs took the stage. Just before the Groundhogs were due to come on, we could hear some commotion upstairs in the bar. A voice shouted downstairs telling us that the bikers were fighting up in the bar; the door to the cellar was locked and we were told to stay down there, until the police arrived to stop the fighting. The Groundhogs played a great set, and we remained oblivious of the events upstairs, but somewhat nervous as to what else might occur. As it happened, all was well; by the time Tony and the guys had finished playing all signs of bikers and trouble had been dispersed by the police and we emerged safe from the Cellar and able to drive home in one piece. The ticket for this gig is a piece of art in itself, and very professionally produced 🙂 The line-up was the (now very familiar to me) Tony, Alan Fish (bass), Mick Kirton (drums). I remember that we were so close to the band that the drum kit looked massive, and that my ears were ringing for days after.
The Groundhogs Sunderland Old 29 1985 – 198
The Groundhogs played Sunderland Old 29 on at least three occasions in the mid 80s. In this case, and for me, the venue itself is as memorable as the gigs. The Old 29 was demolished many years ago, but many of us of a certain age (and older) hold fond memories of the old place. It was a lovely old traditional pub, nothing special, but with a certain ambience, sited in High Street West, close to the Empire Theatre. The 29 hosted regular gigs from the late 70s onwards, and was a haunt for local rock and punk fans. Local bands such as The Toy Dolls, King Crabs (featuring Jimmy Nail) and the infamous Angelic Upstarts would play there. Gigs would be on a Saturday lunchtime and some evenings. I remember seeing The Upstarts there a number of times (must blog on them one day) and Jimmy Nail jumping around the tables during a King Crabs gig. The Old 29 was a proper spit and sawdust town centre pub; your feet would stick to the carpet and there would a strong smell of stale beer in the air. The tickets show that the entry price to see The Groundhogs was £1.50; a true bargain. Two of the tickets show the year as being 1985 and 1987; I think the other could be from 1984 (Nov 7th fell on a Wednesday that year). Two of the tickets have the band billed as the Original Groundhogs, which wasn’t quite correct; yes they were original in the sense that Tony was in the line-up, but that was as far as it went. The actual line-up for the Old 29 gigs was Tony McPhee (amazing guitar and whammy bar), Alan Fish on bass, and Mick Kirton on drums. The place was packed for the first couple of gigs. I think by the time of the third gig everyone had seen the band a few times, and I seem to recall it being only half full. The band would play on a tiny stage near the front of the pub, and if you came in during the set you had push your way through the crowds. The music was loud, to the point of being deafening, and could be heard on the street outside. The pint glasses were real glass (no plastic in those days), and when the gig finished and the pub cleared you could see that the floor was strewn with broken glass. This was another chance to see Tony up close, and at the time he was playing as well as he ever did. Happy days. Bring back the Old 29.
The Groundhogs play the clubs and pubs mid 80s
From 1985 onward the Groundhogs toured relentlessly, visiting the North East of England many many times. I caught quite a few Hogs gigs during this period, and they played that often that I must admit, there were gigs that I missed out on, simply because I had already seen them so many times that year. The line-up changed several times, and I couldn’t pretend to keep track of it. For some gigs, there would be a second guitarist alongside Tony. The line-up of Alan Fish (bass) and Mick Kirton (drums) played with Tony until 1989, and I saw this line-up several times during that period. Dave Anderson became a regular on bass from 2001 onward, and Mick Jones took the drumstool on a several occasions from 1989. I also definitely remember seeing Eric Chipulina (who had great dreadlocks) on bass and second guitar a few times, and Pete Correa on drums on several occasions. The one constant was of course Tony T S McPhee. The Groundhogs released a couple of albums of new material during this period: Razor’s Edge (1985); and Back Against the Wall (in 1987). And pretty good they were too. I still have a copy of Razor’s Edge (note to myself, I must get a copy of Back Against the Wall). A live album No Surrender – Razors Edge Tour 1985, was released in the 1990s, and shows the set at the time as being: Razor’s Edge, Baby Have I Done This Wrong; I Want You To Love Me; Light My Light; Superceded; Garden; Split Part One; Groundhog Blues; Cherry Red. I also remember a track One More Chance, from Razor’s Edge, which was a live favourite at the time. Eccentric Man, Soldier, and Ship On The Ocean would also often feature in the set.
The Hogs played some strange venues in the mid to late 80s including a spell playing working men’s clubs. I saw a few of these club gigs, with my mates Dave or Will at South Hetton Club, Wheatley Hill Club, and Blackhall Club. There were other club gigs that I missed including Newbottle Club and Sheildfield Club. These were almost surreal events. They were usually on a weekend, and the audience consisted of club regulars who were there for their Saturday or Sunday night out, and a smattering of rock fans. The club regulars (husband and wife couples in their 50s, 60s and 70s) were used to cabaret type bands playing the hits of the day, and just didn’t know what to make of the Groundhogs. At South Hetton Club the Groundhogs appeared in the upstairs concert room, playing two sets to allow for the regular bingo between the sets (I kid you not). The place was full or regulars who couldn’t understand what was happening. I remember comments such as “Too Loud. I’m going to complain to the committee” and “What is this Rubbish; they should be paid off” from old guys who were totally phased by it. The Groundhogs just played their normal set, and those of us in the audience who were rock fans loved it. Why wouldn’t we. We had an opportunity to sit, having a drink, watching our hero perform in an intimate setting. And we could play bingo in the interval (don’t think we won)! At Blackhall Club the place went wild, I remember it being much more full of rock fans, and everyone standing on tables, clapping and stomping along as Tony played an extended Groundhog Blues. Wheatley Hill Club was also a good gig, on a Sunday night I think, with a sold out hall (which we managed to blag our way into as I knew the promoter).
The ticket above is for a gig at a nightclub called Top Cats, which was somewhere in Newcastle (Benton I think); I remember the Hogs came on very late, after midnight and played until 2am. Around the same period (1985 to mid 90s) I also saw the Groundhogs play at Sunderland Ropery, Sunderland Kasbah (I think this may have been Tony solo), somewhere in Hartlepool (a group of us went to a packed venue which was, I think, an old church and was possibly called The Studio?), a pub in Darlington (a car load of us went on a Friday night and I can’t remember the name of the pub at all). I recall going to a gig a Billingham Swan, but I think the Hogs didn’t play for some reason. There were other gigs I attended around this time at Sunderland Old 29, Washington Arts Centre, and Bowes Wine Cellar in Darlington, which I will blog on separately over the next few days. I am sure that there were other gigs which I have forgotten.