Before Sting formed the Police and started his journey on the road to mega-stardom, he could be found playing jazz-rock in a small upstairs room in a pub in Gosforth. The pub was the Gosforth Hotel, and the band was called Last Exit. Last Exit consisted on Sting on bass and vocals, drummer Ronnie Pearson, guitarists John Hedley and keyboardist Gerry Richardson. They existed for a couple of years in the mid-70s, and made quite a name for themselves playing around the Newcastle Area. They had a residency at the Gosforth Hotel, and also often played in the bar of the University Theatre (now the Playhouse). I saw them in both venues, and have strong memories of a couple of great gigs at the Gosforth Hotel. I went along with Marie, having read about Last Exit in the local press, and a write-up in Sounds. I also remember hearing a set they recorded for local radio. The room where they played was pretty small, and on the occasions we went to see them, the audience was quite small. The material was very jazzy with some great guitar work, and Sting’s vocals stood out. Their set included some early versions of songs which would later be recorded by the Police including “The Bed’s Too Big Without You”. Last Exit released a single in 1975, “Whispering Voices” and in 1977, they moved to London to look for greater success. However, after a few gigs most of the band returned to Newcastle, leaving Sting in the capital to pursue fame and fortune, which he was soon, of course, to find. I also saw Sting perform a few times as bass player in the Newcastle Big Band which was a large jazz band of around 20 musicians who played saxophones, trumpets, trombones, etc. They had a residency on Sunday lunchtimes in the bar of the University theatre, and I went through a few lunchtimes to catch their set. A very rare locally pressed lp exists of the band which was recorded in 1971 and features them playing standards such as Macarthur Park and Hey Jude. Sting was very recognisable in those days, and was always wearing his trademark striped sweater from which his name came. Marie and I would often spot him at gigs at Newcastle Poly Students Union in the mid 70s.
Archive for the ‘Tubular Bells’ Category
The Orchestral Tubular Bells with the Northern Concert Orchestra conducted by David Bedford with support from Last Exit Newcastle City Hall 26 October 1975
This concert featured the Northern Concert Orchestra, conducted by David Bedford, performing Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. The event opened the A1(M) 1975 – 1976 season which also featured concerts by Philip Glass (wish I had gone to that one), Derek Bailey (solo guitar improvisations) and workshops in “experimental and electronic music”. The concert did not feature Mike Oldfield, but did feature Andy Summers (soon to be of the Police) on guitar. The programmes tells me: “Tonight’s guitar soloist is now a member of the Kevin Coyne band, after a very varied career in rock”. The concert is of particular interest because the support act was local up and coming band Last Exit, which featured one Gordon Sumner, also know as Sting, and also soon to be of the Police. I don’t know if Andy and Sting met that night, but it is reported that Andy did watch some of Last Exit’s set. There is also a story that Stewart Copeland was playing with Curved Air at Newcastle Poly (I think I will have attended the gig; I certainly saw Curved Air at the Poly) and he went along to see Last Exit (but I think that may have been on another night, and the Last Exit gig was likely to have been at the Gosforth Hotel, but thats a story for another day. The programme tells me of Last Exit: “Formed one year ago (the birthday was celebrated with their regular audience a few weeks ago) Last Exit play electric jazz and jazz-rock; both their own material and a well chosen repertoire of other peoples’ music, not all of it well known…this is their first concert hall appearance. Last Exit are: John Hedley – guitar; Gerry Richardson – piano; Gordon Sumner – bass; Ronnie Pearson – drums”. The gig was not well attended. My ticket says I has a balcony seat, but I recall going and sitting right at the front, as the hall was pretty empty. As far as I can remember the orchestra performed Tubular Bells in two parts, with Last Exit playing a set in the interval between. I went along partly to see Last Exit who I had already seen once or twice, and also to hear Tubular Bells, and to see David Bedford who was well known for his recent work with Roy Harper and others. It was very different from the rock gigs that I was used to attending at the time, and I found it a very welcome change. However, the concert goes down in history as the first time that Andy Summers and Sting were in the same hall, and performed (sort of, although not actually) together. I’ll write a little more on Last Exit and early Sting gigs (pre Police) tomorrow.
Gong, Hatfield and the North, Tubular Bells Newcastle City Hall 25th April 1974
Virgin Records Crisis Concert
Ticket price 44p
As I’ve just seen Gong, and blogged about them yesterday, I thought I would have have a little break from covering bands beginning with the letter F and cover the only other time I saw the crazy Gong guys in concert. It was in 1974 as part of the Virgin Records Crisis (can’t remember what the crisis was at the time!) tour, which featured Gong, Hatfield and the North, and a film of Mike Oldfield performing Tubular Bells. To be honest, my friends and I went along largely to see the Tubular Bells film, as it was the only chance at the time to see a performance of this great album. We were also attracted by the very reasonable 44p ticket price! Although Mike Olfield did tour a few years later, at that time he was resisting offers to take his masterpiece on the road. The film was very good, and featured footage of Mike performing the entire album as I recall, in the studio I think. I also recall Viv Stanshall being part of it. The sound wasn’t great and the film was projected onto a small screen, which wasn’t too woderful, but I still recall enjoying it. I wonder if you can get a DVD of this? Gong and Hatfield and the North rotated headlining status on the tour; I don’t remember who closed the gig at Newcastle. I do remember finding both bands quite hard going, but that we enjoyed Gong’s silliness, and loved Squeezing Sponges Over Policemen’s Heads, from Camembert Electrique, which I am pretty sure they played. There were lots of wooly tea cosey hats and flying teapots in evidence.