Memories of a Rock Fan

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Driving round Sunderland this week has brought back so many memories of my youth, none more than all the bands I used to go and see. Knowing this is the killer conversation whenever people of my age meet, I apologise in advance for such indulgence but here are a few of my recollections.

At what must have been the age of fourteen (pretty close to the boy (William) in my favourite film ‘Almost Famous’) my first ever concert was that of Black Sabbath on the Master of Reality tour at Newcastle City Hall and I remember my dad coming to pick me up and looking out for me with my long hair and dressed head to foot in faded denim and him realising that the entire audience was dressed that way.

The Sunderland Mecca every Friday night was a fantastic place, Geoff Docherty the concert promoter has written a great autobiography (A Promotors Tale) of his efforts to get us the best bands to visit us the North East.

Mott the Hoople, Nazareth, Budgie, Genesis, Groundhogs, Stray, Wishbone Ash, Wizzard, ELO, Sweet, Heavy Metal Kids

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band were particular favourites with huge cardboard cut-outs of dancing girls for the big song and dance endings and more latterly with huge polystyrene walls that Alex used to break through during Framed.

I was there for an amazing Rod Stewart and the Faces gig where most of the FA Cup winning footballers were on stage with them and John Peel the DJ that night reckoned it was his favourite gig ever.

I saw Queen five times and managed to get all the band to sign their first album cover.

Cockney Rebel, UFO, Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, Silverhead, Uriah Heep and Iron Maiden

We used to go to Newcastle City Hall and the Mayfair regularly to see the bigger tours featuring Peter Gabriel, Roxy Music, Yes, Jethro Tull, The Tubes, Rory Gallagher, Rush, Blue Oyster Cult and Rainbow.

I was there for Deep Purple when Ian Gillan came back on stage before the encore to tell us that Sunderland had beaten Man City and were now in the 1973 FA Cup Final – priceless.

Hawkwind were a particular pivotal moment in my life as it was the first time I had seen a naked woman in the form of Stacia dancing to Silver Machine during the Space Ritual Tour.

During 1973 and 1974 a few of my friends and I formed a group with me on drums and we played the Londonderry pub twice but never got any further. Rob our vocalist now sings with Dr Feelgood and our guitarist Paul is still playing as Landermason.

In the later seventies, Docherty took on the Seaburn Hall and gave us the Vibrators and the Jam’s first ever gig up north I remember seeing Pauline from Penetration enjoying herself in the audience and feel certain this was the tipping point for her taking to the stage.

Sunderland Band – The Toy Dolls were a particular favourite and I remember a great Christmas gig in the Old 29 with Olga singing his heart out on top of a huge Marshall stack.

During the punk years The Boilermakers, a local proper workingmens CIU club, kept a lot of the old metal bands in business and we had Tygers of Pantang, Lucas Tyson, Cirkus, Becket, Son of a bitch (later to become Saxon) and Geordie with ACDC singer Brian Johnson on a regular basis.

I went on to Sunderland Polytechnic where we booked lots of big names, Tom Robinson, Screaming Lord Sutch and I particularly enjoyed Jimmy Purseys Sham 69 despite being chased away at the end by the Sham Army.

My best friend Geoff went to Newcastle Poly where we managed to get tickets for the Clash and I was tight against the front of the stage for the entire gig.

The final gigs I went to up here were T Rex, with one of Marc Bolans final gigs supported by the Damned and a couple of visits of Iggy Pop at one of which David Bowie sat side stage playing keyboards. Oh and finally I came back to see David Bowie’s awful Glass Spider Tour play at Roker Park, at the end of our Street around 1987.

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