Steve Thompson
45 min readNov 9, 2023

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The Sun Comes Up And The Bar Closes

Excerpts from STORIES FROM A SONGWRITER’S LIFE

by Steve Thompson

Cover image: Mark Mylchreest.

© 2020 Steve Thompson. All rights reserved.

If you have not read the earlier chapters CLICK HERE…..

Chapter 9

Before the Wave

Twenty-four years,
Living on that hill,
If the storm didn’t come
I’d be there still.
Steve Thompson: ‘The Parting of the Clouds’

And so, I began a new adventure in Impulse Studios, Wallsend. If you didn’t know it, Wallsend is so named because it was the end of Hadrian’s Wall (aka The Roman Wall) that spanned the entire width of Northern England. Wallsend is a stark place. When the winter wind blows down the high street, it fair chills the bones. Wallsend was once home to Swan Hunters Shipyard but that closed in 2007.

The studio was in a huge building on Wallsend High Street. It had been a theatre: “Borough Theatre”. Built in 1909, it became a cinema in 1946 and then a bingo hall in 1960. The building ceased to operate in 2005 and was demolished in 2011. Impulse Studio was built into what would have been the wings of the theatre, dressing rooms etc. Up the first flight of stairs was the main office and reception. Up another flight of stairs was the actual “green room”. Up yet another flight of stairs was the studio and control room. All these stairs were the bane of Roadie’s lives or a nightmare for the band if they had no Roadies. This would have been an impediment to selling studio time except at the time there was little or no competition.

The Borough Theatre, Wallsend at the c1920

So why does this chapter start with a history lesson? Well, we made history in that building ourselves. But be patient heavy metal fans, we have got a lot to get through before the dawn of the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal).

My job title was “House Producer”. I had a pretty broad remit but mostly I was to be creative, produce recording sessions, write songs, make demos, write and produce TV commercials, develop the publishing arm and promote the studio. I worked closely with Mickey Sweeney who was the in-house engineer. In studios there would always be an engineer on a session but not always a producer. I believe Impulse was unusual in that sense. I was there if a band wanted creative input. I was also there to work on “projects”, more of which later. The biggest project in my mind was my own songwriting career. I went to work in earnest, writing new songs and making demos (demonstration recordings).

I arrived at the Borough Theatre in 1976 (the studio was above Johnny’s Bingo)

Apart from me and Mickey, there was the studio boss Dave Wood who was often not around. There was a series of “Tape Ops”, general gofers, on work experience. More on these characters later. And there was receptionist Julia Graham. Julia was a keen ice skater. She later went on to become a professional ice skater. It’s fair to say she was, literally, a fit bird! Julia was then replaced by Susan in reception.

Mickey and I became firm friends and we worked well together and had a lot of laughs. We also smoked a lot of dope. Towards late afternoon Mickey would often declare “Well the sun’s past the yardarm so….”. This is a nautical term meaning that noon had passed, and it was time for a drink. Except Mickey wasn’t referring to seaman’s grog, oh no! It was spliff time! On days when we were in short supply, we’d lift the mixer fader panels and retrieve little bits of dope that had dropped through on previous sessions. This was a little rough and mixed with dust and fluff but usually enough for an emergency spliff until fresh supplies could be found.

Impulse people

At this point, Neat Records did not exist. Any record releases went out on Wudwink (a derivation from the studio boss’s name: Dave Wood) or Rubber Records. Rubber Records was a partnership with Windows Record Store in Newcastle. I guess it was mostly a folk label. The first record I produced that went out on Rubber was “Northumbria” by Lawrence Hewer. Lawrence was a keeper or a ranger, whatever they’re called, on Hadrian’s Wall. Interestingly, the publishing credits on the song are Neat Music. Things are a bit of a blur to me now, but we must have set up the publishing label first. I was managing the publishing company and looking out for interesting material.

Lawrence’s song was about his love of the wide-open spaces along Hadrian’s Wall. Lawrence played the accordion and sang. I played acoustic guitar and bass and Barry Race played drums. Barry kind of transferred with me from bedroom recording sessions in my parents’ home to full-blown studio sessions at Impulse. Lawrence’s record sold well locally. This recording established the process I was to follow for the next few years. I’d liaise with the artist, book the sessions and produce the recordings. I would then manage the mastering and pressing process and arrange the artwork and printing. I’d also stick a broom up my arse and sweep the studio floor afterwards.

The first record I ever produced as a professional record producer.

I remember a conversation at this time with Brian Johnson (later to be the singer with AC/DC) at a gig in Birtley. He thought it would be a great idea to have a collective where bands could help each other out, loan each other amplifiers, and stuff like that. I said I’d host a get-together at the studio and lay on some booze and he could propose his idea. I thought it would also be a good way to promote the studio. I invited a load of bands in but it was not a success! Someone trashed the toilets and fights broke out between the rival bands. That was the end of Brian’s idea!

I produced several recordings that were by no means fashionable. At the time I joined the studio, the comedian Bobby Thompson was doing great business (as they say “doing a bomb”). His album was selling like crazy. I recall going to the Mayfair Ballroom in Newcastle one evening to get some more material from Bobby. All we took was a 2 track Revox tape recorder. That’s all it needed. The studio boss Dave Wood had advised Bobby to spend some money. He was making so much money and was likely to be taxed heavily. Bobby insisted on having his record royalties paid monthly and in cash. So, the next time Dave went around to Bobby’s house with a brown paper bag containing his royalties, Bobby had a surprise for him. “Well, youngun”, said Bobby, “I’ve done wat tha sed and spent some cash”. Bobby led Dave into the kitchen where there was a gleaming new fridge. Bobby proudly swung open the door revealing that the fridge was stuffed from top to bottom with wads of bank notes!

Another album I produced was “Both Sides of Frank Wappat”. Frank was a local radio broadcaster and evangelist. We became good friends. I did other projects with Frank over the years including playing guitar for his band in his church in North Shields. Later, when I started to get records of my own released, Frank gave me loads of airplay on Radio BBC Newcastle. Frank’s album was called “Both Sides” because on one side Frank chose his favourite crooner big band material and on the other side were gospel songs.

At the time, I was a fledgling record producer. I knew what was needed and I’d worked under experienced producers with my band Bullfrog. But I was still learning and learning on the job. And I was learning fast. I think initially Frank may have been a little suspicious or nervous of me (At 25 I was a good deal younger than him). I think part of the deal for Frank to cut this album for Rubber Records was that he had to take me on as his producer. There are other mechanical things to production such as bringing the project in on time and on budget and this is important to any label. I was rapidly learning the creative side which is massively about psychology. Knowing when to push an artist really hard and when to offer TLC and be gentle. Some artists respond well to being pushed and others need a gentler approach. Somehow, I grew the instinct to know which approach to apply in each circumstance. I’m pleased to say I’ve rarely got it wrong. I quickly discovered one of the most powerful tools in record production is laughter! Making people laugh breaks down barriers, builds empathy and relaxes them and even boosts their confidence. However, things worked differently with Frank. He had terrific musicians and a talented arranger; Johnny Sampson. Once again Barry Race (from my home village) was on drums. Frank probably thought he had all he needed and this 25-year-old producer might just get in the way. And so, he took to bringing a little “gift” for me to each session. This gift took the form of a bottle of whisky. I happily accepted it. It would be churlish of me not to consume a little of this gift. This rendered me quite relaxed and no impediment to Frank and Johnny laying down the tracks exactly as they thought they should be done. All I did was call out the takes and keep it rolling along. I’m sure Frank thought he had used quite a clever ruse, but I was not at all fooled. Another thing I learned about record production was that the producer should never get in the way. If it’s working then don’t try to fix it. I knew that with those great musicians and Johnny’s great arrangements, there was no need for me to butt in. I think Frank eventually realised what was happening and it all became very relaxed and musical. The album was completed and did well.

The next album I was asked to produce was to be a collection of songs by a writer called Eric Boswell. Eric was famed for having written one of the most recorded songs ever: the Christmas song, “Little Donkey”. He was adept at turning out topical and humorous songs. I didn’t fancy doing it, to be honest. It was quite a “Geordie” project and I’d just done a bunch of Geordie productions. It is strange looking back to recall that I was employed as a Record Producer and yet I could turn down some productions. It wasn’t a contractual thing, I just made it up for myself as a creative privilege and I got away with it. However, Eric really wanted me to produce his album (my reputation was growing!) He suggested that I should come to see his show at Balmbra’s Music Hall in the Cloth Market, Newcastle. I went with my friend, Peter Richardson. Peter operated as a session musician for me, playing guitar on various recordings. There was a great atmosphere at Balmbra’s. The event was conducted in the style of Victorian Music Hall complete with a loud, bombastic master of ceremonies who flamboyantly announced each act. Eric had arranged for free drinks to be delivered to our table for Peter and me. The ale was flowing and there was a lovely convivial atmosphere. But, I said to Peter ”I don’t care about the free ticket and the free drinks, I’m not producing this album”. Then suddenly the clincher! One of Eric’s singers took the stage. An attractively buxom woman wearing a basque complete with stockings and suspenders. She belted out one of Eric’s songs. My eyes popped out of my head. I turned to Peter and said, “I’m definitely gonna produce this fucking album”!

Balmbra’s music hall

After the lady left the stage, I described to Peter the concept that had immediately occurred to me as she had taken the stage. We would turn the recording studio into a music hall complete with beer, a master of ceremonies, an audience and hopefully scantily clad ladies. Sadly, the latter part of this idea never came to fruition, but the rest did. The album would be called “Left to Write”. This play on words was meant to communicate two things. Left to write, Eric could compose a song on any subject. It was also used to imply a list of names of local celebrities who would sing the songs. They would appear on the album sleeve and we would identify them from Left to Right (write). Eric had already explained that he wanted to bring in well-known local people to sing his songs, so it fitted. After the show, I described the concept to Eric, and he loved it. So, we were in business.

I arranged for a keg of beer and a keg of lager to be delivered to the studio plus the equipment to dispense it and we built a bar in a room below the studio. I invited all the girls from my former department in Fenwick and all my session guys to be the music hall audience. We ran a show just like the one at Balmbra’s. For each song, the MC announced the local celebrity who was to sing it. In some instances, a stand-in sang the song if the celeb was unable to be at the session. We overdubbed the celebs later. I had organised and prepared this like a military campaign. However, on the evening of the recording session, it became a right royal piss-up. Me and Mickey Sweeney had to spend two full days going through the tapes and fixing things before we could continue with production and overdubs.

But according to Eric, there was someone missing. He wanted Bobby Thompson on the album. This meant more work and to be honest, I couldn’t be arsed, so I told Eric that Bobby wasn’t keen. Eric then offered me £250 (a fair sum in 1978) if I could convince Bobby to appear on the album. So, I called Bobby and asked him to be on the album and he said yes. We cut a song Eric had specially written called “The Golden Voice of Bobby”. And so, the list of singers ultimately on the album was (left to right) Spike Rawlings, Ralph Hawkes, Joe Ging, Marion Aitcheson, Bill Steel, Lyn Spencer, Eric Boswell, June Barry, David Hartley, Michael Hunt, Frank Wappat, Bobby Thompson, The Shiremoor Marras.

I was also later called on to produce a single with Bobby Thompson. I don’t recall the context of this. It was another Eric Boswell song but not connected to Eric’s album, it was Bobby’s solo effort. It was called “When Aaa Was a Lad”. It had kids on the chorus in the sort of Clive Dunn “Grandad” vein. The recording studio was not Bobby’s natural habitat. I did my job as a producer and hit the talkback button to communicate with Bobby in his “cans” (headphones).

Me: “That last line was a bit pitchy Bobby, can we do it again”?

Bobby: “What’s thu sayin’ youngun”

Me: That’s OK Bobby, never mind”

The single I produced for Bobby Thompson
The albums I produced with Frank Wappat and Eric Boswell

And speaking of Bobby Thompson and Frank Wappat I was involved in shows at Newcastle City Hall with both of them. Dave Wood tasked me with running Bobby Thompson’s City Hall Show as he was off on holiday for three weeks. Ticket sales were going slow at first and I was panicking a bit. I had to pull a few strokes to get publicity. By the time Dave came back from holiday, we were close to selling out. It was then that he owned up to me that the show was underwritten by Newcastle Festival and would never have made a loss even if we sold no tickets at all (the bastard!). On the day of the show, I sent a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce to pick up Bobby. When it arrived at the stage door Bobby was sitting up front with the driver! Bobby was pleased with my handling of the show and afterwards clutched my hand and said “Here ya gan youngun, a little something for ye”. As he walked away, I opened my hand to see a shiny 50p piece. Amazing!

Frank Wappat asked me at short notice to find a guitarist and bass player for his own City Hall show. I got my mate Peter Richardson to play guitar and I played bass. Such was Franks’s popularity as a broadcaster and evangelist that the show was a complete sell-out. I’d played the City Hall in my old Bullfrog days but we never drew an audience this size. I looked out from the wings and noticed that the packed hall seemed to be mostly made up of middle-aged women and grannies. Frank asked me not to take the stage with everyone else so that he could announce me separately and give me a bit of a boost. “Ladies and Gentlemen, on bass, my record producer, Mr Steve Thompson”. As I took the stage there was a shout from the third row back. “STEPHEN”! It was my own Grandmother. She was ecstatic.

As we hadn’t had much time for rehearsal Peter and I were reading from music scores (I’m not a great sight reader). We were doing a complex gospel number that changed key up a semitone with every verse. Peter was right next to me and said, “Hey Steve, are you pissed”? (we had consumed a bottle of Jack Daniels between us before going on). I said, “Yeah, I think I am”. He responded, “Thought so, you’re in the wrong key”!

And whilst I was producing these and other albums, I was also concentrating on my songwriting. I was making demo recordings of my songs which I also put through Neat Music Publishing. We had done a sub-publishing deal with Bruce Welch of the Shadows. Bruce’s company was called “Neon”. Bruce’s business partner, Brian Oliver ran the publishing company on a day-to-day basis. Brian became my mentor, pushing me on to greater songwriting achievements and pitching my songs to recording artists.

To demo my songs, I built up a team of session musicians who I also used on other productions besides my own songs. I’ve mentioned one already, Peter Richardson who was a great guitarist. There were plenty of good musicians around, but it takes more than virtuosity to be a session guy. To be honest some of these musicians looked down on my own lack of musical virtuosity even though my songs were becoming quite sophisticated. Those negative guys never got a repeat session. I built a great team and I learned a lot from those players. The backbone of my session team was a drummer called Paul Smith. He was the spirit of enthusiasm and professionalism in the studio, so I kept booking him. This activity attracted quite a lot of musicians who wanted to be part of this. As I say, the ones that were amenable and cooperative got repeat sessions. One guy I recall turning up at this time was a young 16-year-old lad called Andy Taylor. Bags of enthusiasm.

I’m going to try to name some others. My memory is hazy so I may miss some out. Here we go:

Peter Richardson, Guitar. Andy Taylor, Guitar. Charley Harcourt, Guitar. Keith Nichol, Guitar. Chris Senior, Keyboards. Alan Clarke, Keyboards. Paul Smith, Drums. Michael Black, Drums. Barry Race, Drums. Gary Maughan, Bass. Neil Harland, Bass. Barrie Spence, Bass.

Barrie Spence is no longer with us. He was an incredible musician.

I’m sure I’ve missed out loads of people. My apologies.

Barrie Spence plays bass in front of the vocal booth and Paul Smith in the “drum booth” that Mickie constructed

With Smithy on drums sometimes I’d fill in on Bass, Keyboards or Guitar myself if someone was unavailable. Eventually, some of my demos were just Smithy on drums and me on everything else. Dave Wood introduced me to 3 brothers Paul, Phil and Peter Caffrey who were in a band called Arbre. They had a fabulous brother vocal harmony blend (The Wallsend Beach Boys). I used them on many productions including the Frank Wappat album. I had a great team to call on for productions and demos.

I had turned 24 and was still living with my parents in Flint Hill near Consett. I didn’t drive and I had to take two buses every day to get to and from the studio in Wallsend. The Consett area, being quite elevated geographically, was notorious for heavy snowfalls. Whilst at the studio one day I received news that Consett was cut off from the outside world due to a heavy snowstorm. I would not be able to return home to my parents’ house. That night I stayed at the Whitley Bay home of the studio’s receptionist, Julia Graham. Julia came to my rescue and her parents were happy to put me up in their spare bedroom. We went out for a meal and a few beers at a pub called The Foxhunters. We talked about our respective careers, Julia was soon to go off and make ice skating her profession. I was ambitious as hell and was on my own journey. As I write, I’m still in touch with Julia. She wondered why I had not picked up the “vibes” she was transmitting that evening at the Foxhunters. I can only conclude that either the transmissions were very subtle or that my antennae were not very sensitive.

Snow in Flint Hill, my parent’s is just off to the left

Days later I was still unable to return home. I was recording something or other in the studio when an unassuming guy in a donkey jacket walked in. He introduced himself as Graham Jenkinson. One of my session guys, a keyboard player called Chris Senior, had told him of my plight. Graham explained that he owned a house split into two flats in Earsdon, near Whitley Bay. He shared the upper floor flat with Chris and there was a room spare if I wanted to rent it. I clearly needed a more permanent solution to shacking up with Julia and just that morning her dad had been looking me over with a suspicious gaze. “Time to get out of Dodge”, I thought. Graham’s offer had come up at just the right time so I went for it. That night I went straight from the studio to the Earsdon flat and took up residence. Apart from picking up my meagre belongings, I never did go back to my parent’s home (other than to visit of course).

Me, Chris and Graham in the Earsdon flat

Earsdon was a lovely village and an easy commute to the studio. Me, Chris and Graham shared the upper floor flat and in the downstairs flat lived 3 girls. I remember the names of two of them, Alyson and Kay. Alyson because of the Elvis Costello song of the day and Kay because of a song written by local artist Malcolm Lilley: “If You See Kay”. Malcolm sang “If You See Kay” pronouncing it thus: Eff U Cee Kay — get it? A clever double entendre. There was a lot of music in that Earsdon flat. Graham was also a musician (bass) and me, him and Chris were all in different bands. Saturday nights were wild with the three of us dashing around getting ready and singing “There’s No Business Like Show Business”. Chris had an upright piano in his room, and he let me use it to write songs. Many songs were written in that Earsdon flat. We also had mega playback parties with loads of vinyl albums played on the record player. Lots of other musicians would come around and we’d discuss the music in great depth. It was quite Bohemian. Chris and I would discuss chord progressions for hours. Chris was in a band called Goldie whose members included my old Cube Records label mate Dave Black as well as my former bandmate, vocalist Pete Macdonald. Dave and Pete sometimes came around for songwriting sessions with Chris. I recall Pete having a chortle at my developing baldness. I had to laugh inwardly because I knew that under that pom pom hat Pete was now as bald as a coot!

So, there I was, finally flying the parental nest at 25. I went a little crazy and lived out my teenage years belatedly. When I set out to write this book, I decided that I would not use it to settle old scores with people who had wronged me (and there are quite a few). I also set out to be honest and forthright but not to indulge in salacious sensationalism. However, I can tell you that the sex, drugs and rock and roll kicked in right here and lasted quite a few years. But I am not about to disclose the details so you must use your imagination. I’m fairly certain that your imagination may fall way short of my reality.

So now I was producing stuff at the studio whilst living nearby in Earsdon. As a non-driver, I had to either walk down the road to West Monkseaton metro station or else call a taxi. I’m ashamed to say that I was increasingly off my head a good deal of the time so I often used taxis. But still, at 25 I had the stamina to “party like it’s 1999” and yet still do the business.

I mentioned earlier that one of my session guitarists was a young lad called Andy Taylor. Andy was always very ambitious. The rest of my team was contemporary with me: around 25 or 26 years old. Andy was just 16 and called us all boring old farts. He badgered me to cut a couple of tracks with him singing as well as playing guitar. The A-side was a song called Hey Gene written by my friend Stu Burns and Jon Farmer. They had a band called The Squad and Hey Gene was on their album “Out for Revenge”. For the B side, I used my own song “Catch A Fast Train”. Andy sang and played guitar on both tracks, Graham Jenkinson played bass, Paul Miller played drums and I played piano. The master tapes went out to MIDEM. MIDEM is a music business trade show held each year in the South of France. Deals are made there. Unfortunately, Andy’s recordings never made it to release.

Then one day Andy told us all he was headed for mega-stardom and he had an audition with a band in Birmingham. He got the job and on his return was telling us all about it. We asked the name of this band and then we all fell about laughing. We said “How are you going to get anywhere with a band with a daft name like Duran Duran!

Andy and me in 2021

We had Neat Records, a vehicle to release records and we were looking for the first release. What became Neat 01 was a band called Motorway (that Andy Taylor had formerly been a member of). Motorway were strong on the club circuit. We felt that they would sell a lot of records at shows and that would alleviate the speculative nature of trying to get airplay and a chart position. The singer, guitarist, and songwriter of this band was a guy I’ve mentioned previously, Malcolm Lilley. He was quite charismatic and definitely pop star material. The bass player was none other than my flatmate Graham Jenkinson. The Keyboard player was another pal of mine John Cook, who heads also been a stable mate at Cube Records (he had been in Dave Black’s band. Kestrel) So that’s how the first band on the Neat label came to be — they were mates of mine!

Then Neat 02 was an 11-year-old girl called Jayne Mackenzie. I gave Jayne two of my songs. She was dynamite and again doing well on the club circuit. Both these records failed to make any inroads into the national charts, but they sold well locally.

The Motorway single eventually changed hands for quite a bit of dosh as there was a rumour that Andy Taylor (now a major pop star) had played guitar on it. This is untrue. He’s not on it. But he was a session player on Jayne’s record.

The first two Neat releases: Motorway & Jayne McKenzie

So, the time came around for Neat 03. What would this one be? The plan was to release those two tracks I had cut with Andy Taylor, but he was off on a different adventure. We needed something else. It is no exaggeration to say that what we did next was to send shockwaves around the country and then the world!

Chapter 10

The Wave Sweeps In

“It’s a long way down from the top to the bottom
And I’m slipping day by day”

Steve Thompson: Lonely At the Top

You may be expecting something momentous after the way the previous chapter ended.

Imagine you are in a place and time and what you do in that moment makes the history books. One night in Impulse Studios, Wallsend, UK, something occurred that was at the beginning of a worldwide phenomenon. Books and blogs have been written about it. Lives were touched, lives have been changed. Careers were built and musical influences were distributed around the globe.

Now after all that hype, I’m going to tell you the story as it happened. It’s so easy to write grandiosely with 20/20 rear-view vision. So, I’m going to take myself back to when we had no idea what was coming next. This story has been told many times by other writers and filmmakers and I have contributed to quite a few of them.

Neat label boss Dave Wood said one day that he’d heard of a band making quite a splash on the local scene. They were playing in schools and youth clubs. He asked me to produce a few tracks with them and so we arranged a studio date. One evening four scruffy young lads walked into the studio. Tygers of Pan Tang.

My first thought: what a dumb name for a band. I was a science fiction fan, but I’d not read any Michael Moorcock (where the name comes from). The first thing I asked the guys to do was to run through a few of their songs to get them settled into the studio. I was gobsmacked! They sounded a little bit like my band Bullfrog had done when we started out. But that was 1969 and now it was 1978. They were about the same age as I was when I started out too, 19–20. They were playing what I recognised as heavy metal, but the music industry had moved on and heavy metal was unfashionable and dated. “The Tygers” were primitive and raw.

In the studio that night was me, Mickey Sweeney Engineering, plus Jess Cox, Brian Dick, Rocky Laws and Rob Weir of the band and none of us had any idea about what was about to kick off: The New Wave of British Heavy Metal — NWOBHM! And it was going to be huge. Also present at that session was Conrad Lant. Our 16-year-old “tape op”. A term meaning tape operative — an assistant who loaded the tapes onto the machine, plus loads of other gopher and dogsbody jobs. He was a lovely lad, keen as mustard and eager to help. Conrad was on E.T. This meant Employment Training in the Thatcher years or to some it meant “extra tenner”. An extra £10 on top of unemployment benefit. Governments have been massaging the unemployment figures for years. Conrad carried out his usual duties during that session, but he also spent quite some time drawing logos and graphics for his own band. He had his own dreams.

Although the four guys were charged with enthusiastic raw energy, they really weren’t that proficient on their instruments. Brian’s drumming was sloppy. Rob’s guitar playing was quite rudimentary. I’d borrow his guitar from time to time and play him suggested lines he could overdub. I intentionally underplayed so as not to embarrass him and then handed the guitar back saying, “of course, you’ll do it better than that”. And he played every part I suggested. In fact, they all listened to everything I said and took up all my suggestions without argument. They were totally open to outside input and prepared to try anything. What I was suggesting, was to tighten up the songs. Things like shortening the intros, getting to the hook lines quicker, and hammering the hooks home.

Then there was Jess Cox. It is the role of the producer to point out any out-of-tune notes in a vocal performance and fix them with a retake or a “drop-in” (run the tape and drop into record and replace a phrase or even a single word). What could I do with Jess, it was ALL out of tune. My younger brother Grahame who went on to become the Tyger’s manager had been in a Tyger’s forerunner band with Rob Weir. Grahame was the singer. Which is interesting because he can’t sing. But that’s ok because it was a punk band. So, there’s a clue right there to the rawness of the band. Tygers Of Pan Tang were a punk band playing heavy metal. Their appearance said heavy metal too, but they were punks. We recorded 3 songs in that session. Don’t Touch Me There, Burnin’ Up and Bad Times. I was a bit bemused and didn’t know what to make of it all. I put the whole thing out of my mind and got on with other things.

Two weeks later Dave Wood asked me if I’d got around to mixing the Tygers tracks yet. I said I hadn’t, and I was not sure about the session at all. He said he wanted the record released as he’d been getting more feedback about the band ripping it up at gigs. I was a bit reluctant and told him I thought the recordings were ropey. He said, “well get in there and fix em”!

There was a further reason I shelved the multi-track tapes while I figured out what to do. A deputation of Tygers had come to see me: Rocky, Rob and Brian. It seems they had been dubious about recording with Jess having considered sacking him a few times. Rocky particularly was concerned about committing anything to tape with Jess singing. But I said, “Are you kidding? He’s your biggest asset”. I wasn’t referring to his singing, it was his looks. Come to think of it, Dave Wood must have seen the band perform himself as he had told me about how photogenic the singer was. Clearly, that was one of the selling points for him. That and the audience’s reaction. I was interested in musical aesthetics whilst Dave was only concerned with selling records. I didn’t tell the guys there was any doubt about the recordings ever being finished, I just said if you want this stuff to get released it has to be with Jess. I may have consulted Dave on this, I don’t recall. So now Dave Wood wants the record out and he’s the guy paying my wages. Any musicians reading this: once you get up off the floor from gales of laughter. Yes, the man notorious for never paying anybody did pay my wages and was always on time too. He very rarely made demands on me, but he certainly wanted this record out. I guess history proved him right!

I said to Mickey Sweeney, “Let’s bring out the attitude of the band”. We re-amped the guitar, meaning we fed the guitar track out of the desk to a Marshall stack and recorded that sound. We tried to tidy up the drums. We may have got the guys back in to fix a few things I don’t recall. I’ve not mentioned Rocky at all. His bass performances must have been solid as I don’t recall any fix-ups on bass. With the mixes done, we were ready to release the single.

I’ll describe the next part of the record-making process shortly, but it would be a few weeks before we had a releasable product. Normally, I’d engage someone to do the artwork but for this one, Brian Dick’s girlfriend Joan Cruickshank drew the tiger. I can see my hand in the rear cover though. My name is bigger than theirs! (By about 3 pixels) We used someone called Magda to do all our artwork. On each release, I’d give Magda the details and she would come back with a proof of concept. I’d ask for any corrections or changes and I usually said: “Oh by the way, make my name bigger”. I don’t think I’ve ever owned up to this but I’m blushing now as I write! This went on with each successive release and my name got progressively larger until one day Magda refused to make my name any larger. She said we had reached the furthest point she was prepared to go. Sheesh!

I should probably mention the famous thumbs-up logo. We knew we needed something so we invited a local artist to come in and make some suggestions. When he arrived he was clearly quite disabled. Dave took me to one side and asked me to conduct the meeting. He said he couldn’t hack it (the guy’s disability). I was a little shocked. So I took this guy to the green room and he showed me some ideas. I’m sorry, I don’t recall his name. He showed me some rough ideas and I picked the thumbs up. I asked for a few changes so we could use it in various ways.

During this time other stuff was happening and I saw the Tygers guys a few more times. I recall seeing an article somewhere where the author declared “Tygers of Pan Tang are a strange bunch of people. The kind of guys who would have a birthday party and forget to invite the others”. I can attest to this because apart from the deputation to oust Jess there was another deputation soon after the mix. Jess, Rocky and Brian came to see me and asked me to edit out a long and tedious Rob Weir guitar solo. I obliged and gave them the tape on a little three-inch spool. I can’t recall which song it was, and I don’t know if Rob noticed something was missing. I wonder what happened to the tape?

There was a bar in Whitley Bay called Mingles. It had a strict dress code. If you weren’t scruffy enough, you were refused admission. I believe Rob Weir ran a heavy-metal disco there. There was another DJ known only as Little Geoff. A local celebrity, well a small one. One night I was there and the whole band were there too. They collectively wrestled me to the ground, removed my boots and threw them up onto the roof. They were always affectionate towards their record producer those Tygers boys.

With the recordings polished up as best we could manage and mixed, I took the master tapes to a cutting room in London. This was the process I followed for each production. The cutting room had a huge pair of monitor speakers, a desk and loads of outboard equipment. This is the mastering process where we could make final adjustments to polish the sound. Hence the very large, very expensive monitor speakers. Producers do this kind of thing on a computer now. The audio output from the desk was attached to a cutting lathe. A blank vinyl acetate is placed on the lathe. Kind of a record with no grooves. The cutting needle was placed on the acetate and as the track is played back the needle cuts the grooves into the acetate. Kind of playing a record in reverse. We did this twice, once for the A-side and again for the B-side. Whilst the vinyl was still warm, I’d scratch the catalogue number into the centre in the space between where the label would be and the last groove. Large record companies would put a big serial number in there. I just scratched Neat03A and Neat03B. Sometimes I scratched cryptic or demonic messages in there too. If you have any of those records take a look. It is possible to play acetates like a real vinyl record, but you can only do this a few times before it wears out. The acetates then went off to Gedmel Galvanics in Leicester where the acetates were used to make two metal plates. (A side B side). These are the “stampers” which are used to make the actual vinyl records. I always loved the sound of the name Gedmel Galvanics. I had no idea what it meant. There were other firms doing this but that’s who we used. Next, the plates would go to a pressing plant. The one we used was a small, husband-and-wife affair, in Wooler.

An acetate record-cutting lathe

Hang on, we’ve gone all educational and technical. Let’s take a break from all this record production malarkey and head on out to the flat in Earsdon. I was burning the candle at both ends and having a wild time. When I was producing, I was spending long hours in the studio into the wee small hours. But I wasn’t producing every day and back in the Earsdon flat we were often partying into the wee small hours. I was living a wild and crazy lifestyle but my tenure at the Earsdon flat was about to come to an end. The event I’m about to describe has a lot to do with it. My flatmate Chris and I went out on the prowl one night. We picked up a couple of girls, sisters, and took them back to the flat. Now use your imagination for a bit as I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow account. The next morning, I awoke and looked down at the vision of loveliness beside me. I did what absolutely any blokey type of guy would do. I marched naked into Chris’s room and sat down at his piano, the one I mentioned earlier that I used for songwriting. I belted out a rousing tune. Chris and his girl had been involved in a performance of their own when I had busted in and I could see he was not best pleased. But his girl thought it was hilarious as did her sister.

And then I got dressed and had to go to the studio — to mix those Tygers tracks as it happens. I said to this girl there was no rush for her to leave and she could hang about as long as she wanted. You’ll note I do not mention her name. I’m ashamed to say I simply do not recall it. When I returned from the studio she was gone. But she had spring-cleaned my room and washed and ironed all my clothes. Again, I’m ashamed to say I was not touched by this kind gesture. No, I thought “shit, I don’t like the direction this is going in”.

That night I retired to bed (alone this time). I awoke in the middle of the night with a crushing weight on my chest. It wasn’t a heart attack, it was Chris sitting on my chest. He was making demonic-type noises and telling me what he thought about my antics earlier in the day. More alarmingly he was also running a twelve-inch kitchen knife across my throat. Thankfully he didn’t slash my jugular, but he did draw blood which seemed to satisfy him and he left. My bedroom door had no lock, so I barricaded myself in. Hmmm, I thought, time to get out of Dodge!

Back at Neat Records, all the processes I described had taken place and we had the pressings back from the Wooler pressing plant, probably 1,000 and we were ready to go. There was probably a release party with the press and TV invited but I don’t recall. I do recall an incident when the entire band were present. My brother who had become their manager was there too, so It may have been the release party or perhaps a business meeting. Conrad was still banging on about his band and that afternoon they had a gig nearby. We gave in and all attended. It turned out to be a family wedding. Some misguided family member had allowed the “little darlings” who had a little pop group to perform at this wedding. But they were no little pop group, they were the second heavy metal anachronism I had encountered in a few short weeks. Something was definitely happening. And if I thought the Tygers were raw, Conrad’s lot made them sound like a bubble gum pop group. It was a most ungodly banging and crashing. The blue rinse brigade at this wedding was not best pleased. The whole family were traumatised. Lord knows what it did to the bride and groom’s chances of future happiness. I noticed that the singer’s mic stand was wrapped in some kind of material. I thought that was odd and wondered what it was for. I soon found out. The singer set his mic stand alight. Now the blue rinse brigade was in danger of needing paramedics. As it turned out the singer would be the one in need of medical attention as his hair caught alight. He ran off screaming and scuttled into the bogs to douse himself with water.

The Tygers single went out to the shops and various promotional things were planned. I was less involved in this stage: my role was bringing the product to completion. Neat had a distribution deal. But I can recall very little of that part of the operation as it was Dave’s territory. What I do know about the distribution is that the first 1,000 pressings went pretty fast. So, we pressed up another 3,000.

The songs on the record were also published by Neat/Neon and this meant that our London-based publishing arm was also involved in the promotion. One day Brian Oliver, Neon Music MD called to say he had managed to thrust a copy of the single into the hands of Tommy Vance in the corridor of BBC Broadcasting House. Tommy Vance presented the influential “Friday Rock Show” on Radio One. Sure enough that Friday, Tommy gave “Don’t Touch Me There” by Tygers of Pan Tang its first airing on national radio. Thanks to Brian’s further promotional efforts we picked up some more airplay too.

As a result of this, the sales went ballistic and the pressing plant in Wooler could not keep up with demand. Brian Oliver (that man again) brokered a deal with MCA Records to license the product from Neat. There was also talk of an album.

I’ve often thought that the Tyger’s antics could well have been the inspiration for the infamous Mockumentary film “So This Is Spinal Tap”. In the early days, the Tygers toured with Saxon. My brother Grahame was the Tygers tour manager on that tour. He has since learnt in conversation with one of his old buddies that one of the writers of Spinal Tap was also on that tour in some role or other. It is highly likely that Spinal Tap is based on the antics of both bands. I’ve discussed this with John Verity, with whom I worked extensively. John produced Saxon and agrees it sounds very likely.

I know I’ve been critical of their musical abilities, but I gather that they were also critical of themselves in interviews they gave years later. I have not said these things to have a go at them. I have been honest and forthright in the telling of this episode, but I have no negative feelings about it. I did very well out of Tygers of Pan Tang. I gained some notoriety and my own career was positively affected by that fateful night in the studio. I crossed paths with the Tygers again a few years later. They furnished me with a hit single and a top twenty album plus two more albums of some note. I eventually signed to MCA myself. I have every reason to look on them with some affection and indeed I do.

Jess did get fired from the band after the first album but years later he became the owner of Neat Records. I cut Tyger’s albums five and six with Brian Dick on drums and he had become a very fine drummer working to click tracks. If you are not a musician and don’t know what a click track is, suffice to say, you must be good to do it. As I write, Rob Weir is a member of a current iteration of Tygers of Pan Tang and doing well by all accounts with tours and an album or two.

And Rocky Laws? True to his name he became a lawyer. A lawyer? Shit!!! Listen guys if you read this and you’re pissed off with me please don’t sue me. Give me a call and I’ll buy you a pint or three. It’s what’s known as an out-of-court settlement.

I’ve mentioned Conrad was at the Tyger’s first session as a tape op (on work experience) At the studio, we had a succession of “Tape Ops” (tape operatives) on work experience. The first one I met was called Russ Conway. Seriously! He was very young and could never understand the sniggers that he got from older dudes when he introduced himself. He was quite solid and thoughtful. One day he asked me to stand in on guitar with his band for a weekend gig at a youth club. The band was made up of guys the same age as Russ but they played stuff from my era like Free’s “Wishing Well” so I knew the material. After the show, he paid me 50p. Then he made me sign a receipt of the money. “Aha”, I thought, “this lad is going places”. And sure enough, he became an A&R manager with a major record company. Over the years he rose through the ranks and became a highly respected A&R executive.

The next guy who came in on work experience was another story. He was a surly young guy and for some reason, he went by the name of “The Mekon”. One day I was producing a band from Hartlepool called Disguise. The guys had laid down the first take of their first song. They put down their instruments and came through to the control room to hear a playback. As they trooped in, their main singer and bass player Jimmy McKenna asked: “How was it”? My stock answer to such a question would always be, “Fantastic”! If it wasn’t fantastic I’d add after a brief pause “But let’s do one more to see how it goes”.

However, before I could exercise my production psychology, The Mekon blurted out:

“Sell yer bass and have a really good night out man”!

This was followed by a moment of embarrassed silence and then embarrassed muffled giggles. I looked around for a hole to bury myself in but then decided if such a hole could be found I would bury The Mekon in it.

To be honest, I don’t remember what my response would have been had The Mekon not interjected. But it would have been complimentary and encouraging, they were a great band with an interesting and edgy sound. The next day I sent The Mekon back to the dole (employment exchange) with a recommendation that they should not send him anywhere that required the merest slice of tact and diplomacy. I may also have suggested sending him into outer space on the next NASA mission.

Disguise

The pic is of DisGuise mk 1 line-up — Peter Scott guitar, Jimmy McKenna bass, Alan Scully drums. The line-up for the 1979 Impulse session had John Miller on drums (in between his stints with White Heat)

The departure of the Mekon opened up an opportunity for the next work experience person and along came Conrad. He will be making a much larger appearance later in this story.

Chapter Eleven

The Sun Comes Up And The Bar Closes

We set out on a long road,
So long ago,
Where the road would take us,
How were we to know?

Steve Thompson: ‘Sometimes You Wonder’

After the knife to the jugular incident, I left the flat in Earsdon and went to live in a nightclub in Whitley Bay.

One day a guy called Mike Rispoli came to the studio to discuss some business. Mike dabbled in band management. Indeed he’d had a brief dalliance with my first band Bullfrog. He had a bit of a reputation as a gangster too but I don’t know if the reputation was deserved but I do know that he owned a handgun. He was also the manager of a nightclub in Whitley Bay, The Burgundy Cobbler. I was telling Mike about my urgent need to relocate. He offered me a room in the guest house attached to the night club which he also managed. I took him up on it and moved in. The room was really spartan. All I had was a bed, a chair, a wash basin and a wardrobe. The only belongings I moved into there were my record collection, a record player and a guitar. I also had a nice pot plant on the window ledge that my dentist had given me as a moving-in present. A “pot” plant indeed as it was a marijuana plant. I harvested the leaves quite regularly. Quite handily next door was Rispoli’s nightclub, The Burgundy Cobbler.

On the odd night when I decided to turn in early, I’d be half undressed or even in bed when the music from next door would beckon. I’d be dressed and on my way downstairs and next door in a jiffy.

Over the next couple of years quite a community of musicians built up in that nightclub. It was terrific. I’m talking about weekdays. We very rarely went in there Saturday nights as it was typical disco, dancing around handbags and that kind of shit.

When two a.m. arrived and the nightclub closed we were sometimes in need of further refreshment. So we headed off to an Indian restaurant in North Shields called The Bombay. The place was notorious and open all night. It even had bouncers. The order of a curry was just an excuse to imbibe more booze way into the night. The place was often decorated by a punter or three, face down in their curry. They were never disturbed. I guess it was accepted that having paid for the curry and the beers this included board and lodgings for the night.

On the next street to my new home in Whitley Bay was a hotel known as the Maru. I often went there with vocalist Mick Whitaker. I would play the piano and he would sing. So long as we were performing, then free drinks would be delivered to the piano top, in a never-ending supply. On most visits to the Maru, we left as the sun was coming up.

Maybe you can detect a running theme here which may offer a clue as why my memory is a little unclear about this period.

Another new dimension began at this point. I joined the resident band in the Burgundy Cobbler. We played on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. We had two singers, Phil Caffrey and Mick Whitaker. I played my newly acquired red Fender Stratocaster. I still have that guitar to this day 44 years later. We were called “The Wild Bunch”. A very apt name as it happens. We did the odd club date at weekends as well as the Cobbler residency but our agent, Hughie Turner said our name was making venues a bit nervous. Therefore we became The Midnight Diamonds. (But we were still wild)

The Wild Bunch at the Burgundy Cobbler

But it wasn’t all fun and games. I still managed to fit record production and songwriting in. Sometimes I missed out on the sleeping bit entirely and went directly to the studio after an all-night session somewhere or other. I suffered no ill effects at all.

One day, a 16-year-old singer visited the studio. She said she wanted to be a singer and make records. There had been a story in The Sun newspaper about her having her hair insured for a quarter of a million quid and that she wanted to be a singer. She had gained some notoriety and I think perhaps she got expelled from school because of it all. Dave Wood was keen that I should work with her and develop her career. At this point, we had no idea if she could sing. That part didn’t bother Dave at all, the notoriety and press coverage were enough for him. I checked her out and she could sing. She was a little limited but I was impressed with her determination.

On the songwriting front, Brian Oliver and his assistant Sara Toniolo at Neon Music were working my song catalogue hard. I’d already had a couple of releases but Neon managed to give me my first mainstream release. Bruce Ruffin released my song Messin’ Around on RCA Records. It wasn’t a hit but it was a start. I’d written Messin’ Around on Chris Senior’s piano back at the flat in Earsdon but I’m pretty sure I was fully clothed at the piano on that occasion.

The singers on the demo for the Bruce Ruffin Release were the 3 Caffrey Brothers: Paul, Phil and Peter. We recorded hundreds of demos of my songs together. I would shuffle some of the songs around and try other singers on them. People like Mick Whitaker, and I also tried Tony Haliday out on some of the songs.

Around this time the Caffrey Brothers band, Arbre folded. I asked if they would be interested in seeking a new record deal for just the three of them using my song demos that we had aplenty. They were up for it. I enlisted Brian Oliver’s help and so Neon Music was doing a range of things with my songwriting output. They also began to seek record deals for the Caffreys, Whitaker and Toni.

Me and the Caffrey Brothers in the studio

After I produced Tygers of Pan Tang the heavy metal thing mushroomed and the term “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” (NWOBHM) was coined. Record Labels were signing up every metal band they could find. Neat was no exception and after Neat 03 (The Tygers) it became a heavy metal specialist label. Dave Wood could smell money a mile off. The next two signings were FIST (Neat 04) and White Spirit (Neat 05), two very good bands. I played no part in those recordings as I was out and about being a songwriter, more on this later. I was making quite a name for myself as a songwriter as well as a producer.

Together with Brian Oliver of Neon I was pitching songs and artist packages out to record companies. The first bite was with Mick Whitaker. A guy called Wayne Bickerton of State Records called me one day and said he loved the two songs I’d just sent him featuring Mick. Wayne was renowned as the writer/producer of a string of hits with the Rubettes with his writing partner Tony Waddington. Wayne said he’d like to cut the two songs for release and asked who was on the demos. I said, “it’s just me and a drummer, Paul Smith, we could come and do the same with you if you like”. Wayne said no, just you come and play guitar and I’ll book some session guys. So it was all arranged. We would cut two songs at Wayne’s new Odyssey studios. The songs were Looking For Love In A Stranger and She’s a Runaway. The latter was inspired by a girl I met in the rooming house next to the Burgundy Cobbler. She was quite young and somehow I got the impression she’d run away from home.

So we descended on Odyssey Studios in London. Mick had an earlier relationship with Wayne having released something on State Record earlier. His tales of Wayne Bickerton were a bit negative which made me standoffish with Wayne. This is a failing of mine, never very open and outgoing. Wayne was quite affable and I should have given him more of a chance. He must have thought me quite a cold fish. Mind you, when he introduced me to the session guys they set new standards for being cold fish. They obviously thought I was some kind of “Northerner”. The session started just like all sessions do, getting a drum sound. Wayne asked the drummer to hit his snare a few times as the engineer made adjustments. The drummer was a bit of a wide boy and said to Wayne “fuck off to the pub and I’ll get the drum sound myself”.

So we all “fucked” off to the pub. Hmm, I thought that’s one drummer that I’ll not be booking for sessions in Wallsend. Over two days we cut those two songs. I have to say the ability of the session players was top-flight. Only Looking For Love in A Stranger was completed as Mick could not remember the tune to She’s A Runaway. Honestly! We said our goodbyes to Wayne and headed back North to await the release of the record. I did see Wayne again as I used Odyssey a couple of times for other projects. On one such occasion, Wayne introduced me to Chris Farlowe who had that very day added his own vocals to my song “Looking For Love In A Stranger.

Looking for Love In A Stranger appears on this album

So I returned to Wallsend and Impulse and I found myself chatting to Keith Satchfield of Fist, a new Neat signing. Keith asked me how the session in London had gone. I explained about the rather stiff atmosphere in the studio. how good the musicians were et cetera. Keith then asked me who the season musicians were and I said I’m sorry I can’t remember any of their names but the drummer was a right cocky bugger. Then I said, oh hang on, the bass player had an unusual name. I delved into my memory banks and hit upon the name, Mo. He said, was it Mo Foster? I said yes, that’s the guy. So then Keith said well, the drummer was most probably. Simon Phillips, I said yes, that was the guy, cocky bugger he was.

“Fuck me”, said Kieth, “you’ve only been playing guitar with the Jeff Beck Group”!

And my production work continued. As I’ve mentioned I was often called upon to produce less than glamorous or high-profile recordings. One day a local journalist Neil Hacking called and said he wanted to make a comedy record with some other journalist mates. I agreed to do it. He asked me to book a trombone player. I tracked one down and the session was fixed. As we were getting set to record this opus I walked through to the studio. The trombone player was reading a book entitled “Trombone, play in a day, the easy way”. I thought to myself it was lucky we were making a comedy record. The song was called “Holidays in Benidorm”. We had fun recording it and the lads went off and pressed 1,000 copies. Last I heard these disks were going for £250 on eBay!

Fast forward a couple of months. The single “Looking For Love In A Stranger” was about to be released on State Records. One night, I was out on the prowl of Coastal drinking dens with a few guys. The party was made up of me, Mick Whitaker, young Andy Taylor and Ken Johnson. Ken being the only driver among us will have been on the shandies. The rest of us most certainly were not. We had emerged from a boozer in Tynemouth when I spotted that same local journalist, Neil Hacking. I had a cassette of the new single in my pocket so, seeing a terrific opportunity for some promo, I buttonholed Neil and persuaded him to listen. The resulting article appeared the next day in the Weekly News. I’ll leave Neil to describe what happened in his own words.

A NIGHT ON THE POP

There are some things a journalist should learn not to do when faced with a heavy news day in the morning. One such thing, I now realise, is to agree to the apparently innocent request to step into a mate’s car to listen to some fantastic new single on his portable cassette.

I didn’t know that, and this is what happened. Followers of the local music scene will be familiar with the name Mick Whittaker. He has, as they say, been around a bit. He’s just recorded a new single written by renowned songwriter and producer Steve Thompson, and I bumped into the pair while calculating my chances of affording another half of orange in a local hostelry.

They thought it would be nice if I listened to the single with a view to reviewing it. I must have agreed because in a flash I was being bundled into an old VW, and a very clean and commercial-sounding rock song was doing its best to break the cassette’s flimsy speakers.

I thought I was getting a lift back home, and got engrossed in Mick’s description of the recording, which was produced by Wayne Bickerton, responsible for the Rubettes string of hits, and engineered by Geoff Harris, who helped put Art Garfunkel in the charts with Bright Eyes.

Now that’s about all I needed for a record review, but it wasn’t all I got. The car stopped outside the Rex Hotel and Ballroom in Whitley Bay, and in we went. A drink was pushed into my hand (Of course I tried to decline).

Clearly Mick and Steve were regulars at this bar as they made their way directly to a Space Invaders machine and started to compete for the high score. With the drink flowing liberally, we all attacked the nasty green aliens with gusto.

By now, I was humming the melody of his new single, a good uncomplicated rocker with contemporary production that reminded me of Graham Bonnet’s recent chart hit Night Games.

“The single’s not really typical of the band,” said Mick, earning himself a reproving look from Steve Thompson, who up until then, had been largely smiling happily into his pint. He later said he had deliberately moved Mick into a more mainstream approach in an attempt to get him a hit.

By now, the bar was empty, I was full, and the hotel manager was making it politely apparent that we could buzz off just as soon as we liked, but probably sooner.

To sleep, perchance to dream, I thought, but no, the guys knew this other bar. Back to the VW.

The first thing I noticed about the next drinking den was the piano in the corner. So did Steve. He began to knock out the chords of an old Sixties standard, and Mick began to sing. I began to wonder why my mouth wouldn’t work properly, but the guys were still going strong.

Another bar manager was now looking at us pleadingly as he emptied the till. Steve rose unsteadily from the piano, and it was back to the Rex to drop off one of our party. Someone had forgotten to switch the Space Invaders off. I scored an all-time low, I took note of the way the building seemed to have taken on the movement of a ship at sea.

Steve Thompson was lying on his back in the hotel foyer smiling happily at the ceiling. As I left, Mick sat down beside him. “Where are we going tomorrow night,”

Outside it was dawn.

READ NEXT ……… The Epilogue

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