Episode one: Where it all started...
Newcastle Upon Tyne....not for the faint of heart! I was born in 1958 in the western suburb of Benwell..cobbled streets..terraced houses...coal fires...you ever seen that Monty Python movie where they sing “every sperm is sacred”?.
(click images to expand)
A typical street in Benwell, Newcastle
Well that gives you an idea.
Looking back..every kid I knew had the same upbringing & social/financial status...very few really poor..nobody rich. However so many kids from our area had a stubborn refuse to quit go-getter work ethic that would serve them very well in their chosen professions – even just in music – look at the amount of successful influential bands/artists that came from the area
Tygers of Pan Tang
And that’s just metal bands!!! Theres been a tradition for many years...
Music runs in our blood.
So it came to pass that whilst on holiday in Spain in the early 70’s we got to see a band perform in the hotel. With ELECTRIC GUITARS and BASS GUITARS and AMPS and WAH WAH pedals !!! This was a revelation ....Mark immediately begged for a classic acoustic guitar (as that’s all that was there).
We traded this guitar between us learning Status Quo and Slade riffs ...one day Mark turned up with our mate Paul Bowden in tow....”we wanna form a band and you can play bass”
The die was cast!
Raven 1976 at Eldon Square Newcastle. L to R Mark Gallagher, John Gallagher, Mike Kenworthy, Paul Bowden
We bugged our parents until they relented and bought us cheap guitars....we devoured information from magazines...went to see bands at the local city hall ....worked on learning how to play and plotted our campaign.
With a spinal tap –like succession of drummers we played our 1st gig in 1975 at our school...by 1976 we were playing pubs and the occasional show in the city centre in Eldon Square. By 1977 we playing the workingmens clubs. Two 40 min sets (sometimes 3). and absolute silence in-between as bingo was being played!
As a lot of the gigs were south of Newcastle...and nearer our rival football nemesis Sunderland, we never failed to be introduced as “the boys from NEWCASTLE!” and heartily booed. Requests for songs would be written on beermats and placed on the front of the stage...more often than not bearing the request “fuck off”.
We learned our trade at these shows...how to cajole & win over a non-responsive or antagonist audience...and if you could not win them over, then try to annoy them as much as possible!
Paul left in 1979...we tried another guy Pete Shore..our drummer Sean left. We advertised for a new drummer at the local music store and found our salvation with a lad called Rob Hunter...a monster drummer & a guy who could contribute..play guitar..write lyrics...the full package. Pete was jettisoned shortly afterwards as it was not working & we found ourselves as a 3 piece – no passengers...nowhere to hide..but lots of room for all 3 of us to play in....which we did with glorious abandon.
At a show in Newcastle at Balmbras music hall... in the audience was one Tom Noble who was managing an act called The Tygers Of Pan Tang who we had played with before. We knew they had released a single on a local label called Neat and it was making a lot of noise...he came up to us after the show, complimented us on our performance & said “how would you like to make a single with Neat records?”
An appointment was made for us to go to Impulse studios in Wallsend and record a demo for Neat.
Raven at Impulse studios 1980
We had only been in a project studio once about 3 years earlier so we were rather green as they say. We loaded in..got levels and BOOM laid down 3 songs in about an hour..live to 2 track..no mixing..no dubs. Neat boss David Wood seemed suitably impressed and it was decided we’d go ahead and record our very first single....a double A side of “Don’t need your money” and “wiped out”.... I don’t remember a great deal of the recording of that specifically – Steve Thompson was the producer and Micky Sweeney the engineer. We did learn a lot from Steve as regards arranging songs and getting to the point - valuable skills! I do remember filling a metal garbage bin with various metal objects..setting up microphones up & down the stone studio stairwell..... then recording said bin as it was chucked down the stairs! The resulting cacophony resides at the very end of the song “wiped out” and if you crank it up VERY loud you may just hear our mate John Lowdon exclaim “ what the f—k was that?
Don't Need Your Money front and rear
That single meant so much to us, it came out – and it all changed.