Episode two: Raven secret story 2
The year starts with me finally quitting my day job...as it was painfully apparent my available holiday time was not going to cover our upcoming engagements....in fact I believe I’d used up all available vacation time by the end of January!
It’s a bit of a blur but I shall attempt to regale you with a few things that happened that year.
Our BBC session
I believe this was early in the year as I was still working! The venerable BBC had nicely requested us to come down to London and record 4 songs for the Friday Rock Show, which was a HUGE deal for us...Tommy Vance was the DJ for this once weekly celebration of all things rock & metal and was just an amazing force in promoting so many of the bands.
(Click images to expand)
Friday Rock Show BBC Session
The plan was as follows...Mark & Rob along with our main roadie John Lowdon rented a car & drove down on the Monday (I think) in order to do an interview in London...also for the BBC....they would then drive back and a few days later we’d hire a truck, load up our gear and all set off to the studio in London.
However, in this game almost nothing goes to plan.....I get a call from Mark telling me there was a slight change in schedule....
On the way back from the interview the guys get involved in a multi-vehicle pile-up just outside of London...Rob was driving & got a nasty bang on the head as a lorry slammed into them from behind and the car was a total write off! Luckily Dave Wood of Neat had a publishing contact down there that was able to pick the guys up & put them up for a few days....the problem now of course was the recording session, getting the gear there & back along with my compadres.
I had a word with my Dad, explained our predicament and he was on board immediately...I spoke with Neat & organized the truck. We rocked up to the Neat Records “global headquarters” in Wallsend where our equipment was residing at the bottom of the entrance stairwell...and got loaded up.
We went upstairs into the studio to see Dave Wood for petrol money and as usual he got to display his legendary frugality....
Dave Wood to my Dad: “now John, I suggest that before you leave you put some sandwiches together...those boys have been down there a few days and must be pretty hungry by now! “
My Dad (to his everlasting credit) just looked at him...and held out his hand in a “ cough up the money” gesture...after a few seconds the penny dropped literally & money magically appeared!
So....we were loaded, gassed up, fully funded and set to leave early morning. Except the weather had other plans for us. An absolutely stereotypical “pea-souper” fog had descended upon the length & breadth of England....we knew the typical 5 hour drive was not gonna happen. After much humming & hawing we decided to leave Newcastle at 9.00pm because the session was due to start at 11.00am the following morning.
The following 13 hours were a nightmarish blur...with next to zero visibility we negotiated the 250-ish miles to London in a slow-motion white-knuckle marathon. I spent most of the journey making sure my Dad was not nodding off – we were lucky if we could see 10-15 feet in front of us the entire trip. Remember this is pre GPS –satnav etc... just maps & crossed fingers.
We finally arrive on the street that the studio is supposed to be on, and it looks like its ready for demolition....trash everywhere and windows boarded up. We walk up to the door as per our directions and see an intercom box ...press the button, identify ourselves and the huge door opens to let us in (I’d never seen anything like that!) ..we walk down the hall to the green room where Mark, Rob and John are lounging very comfortably!!! The place looks like a disaster area outside but is amazing on the inside...this is the first REAL studio we have ever been in! The excitement and adrenaline takes over from the exhaustion...we burst out laughing at Mark’s pants – the car accident caused his zipper to bust wide open and apparent for the last few days he’d been using stickers to hold them together (from Brian Slagel’s mag “the new heavy metal revue”!!)
The gear is unloaded...set up...checked and in almost no time we are off & running. The producer Tony Wilson is just wonderful with us and the atmosphere is perfect to lay down some mayhem!
The songs recorded were Lambs To The Slaughter and Hard Ride from our 1st album as well as Hold Back The Fire and Chainsaw which will both be on our next album, tentatively titled “Wiped Out”. The recording process is a breeze...we played live...added solos & vocals and were probably done by 5pm!
My best memory of this is having our Dad there for the entire session to really see what we were all about, and to see how proud he was of us. One thing was really cemented in our minds after we loaded the truck and set off back to Newcastle....the next album that we knew had to be done at the Neat studios in the next month or so....was going to be the LAST one done there...we’d had a taste of a real studio...and wanted more
The Wrexham festival Poster
The Wrexham(Rectum) festival
After playing a few shows with the mighty Motorhead on the “Iron Fist” tour, we were very excited to be put on the bill of a festival in Wrexham, North Wales....along with Tank, Budgie, Twisted Sister (playing their first real UK show I believe).
Memory is hazy but we drove down on the day of the gig...band in a hire car, crew & gear in a rented truck.
Ian and Kev loading gear at our house
I do remember the rental car being tested severely with a number of handbrake turns in the festival parking lot!
The stage was a giant monstrosity probably 25 feet high built at one end of the local football stadium...apparently the end facing the local hospital...more on that later. The turnout seemed pretty underwhelming but as it was probably 3000-4000 or so we were not that bothered!
Backstage we found out Budgie would not be playing ..for unspecified reasons...which was a bummer as they say because we’ve been fans of them since way back. However we did get to hang out with Twisted..who were very cool & excited...and Tank who were one third normal (Algy) and 2/3rds kinda mental (the Brabbs brothers)..like Tasmanian Devils they seemed to be possessed by an inexhaustible destructive frenzy.....which was all the more surprising when they finally got on stage as their demeanor there was that of bumps on a log!
Our show was a lot of fun and we really got a great response...a bootleg has shown up in recent years and we appear to have conducted ourselves in a appropriately mental manner.
Here we are live in Wrexham
Following our show John Lowdon (our guitar tech and main roadie) pulls me to one side and asks if its ok to rent Twisted Sister our drum riser? I approve of his initiative as money appears to be in short supply (as usual).
Twisted Sister come on to assorted boos as the crowd does not get the makeup and costumes..Lemmy steps up to the mike and tells the assembled throng to stop giving them crap as they are his mates and to give them a chance....they resume and proceed to kill. Dee Snider utters the immortal words “welcome to Rectum!” and “I hear we are pointed at the hospital, well fuck ‘em..they didn’t pay to get in!” they go down a storm but a burgeoning posse of the boys in blue are congregating backstage with rumours of a curfew...
Motorhead seem to start.... and then almost immediately are stopped by the cops. Lemmy comes back to the mike and says “TEAR IT UP!”
Almost immediately the fans tear up the turf and the air is filled with lumps of grass flying at the stage....we decide discretion is the better part of valour and get the hell outta there!
Oh.....No one got paid!
One day in 1981 we pickup about 600 boxes of records - the “rock until you drop” album to be specific, and bring them to my place. We spend the entire day autographing these suckers, all bound for export to the USA. My handwriting was ruined permanently from this exercise...and by the end “Mark, John and Rob” had turned into “fish, chips and peas”! Occasionally a fan will present one of these to us at a show, usually very confused!
Back to ‘82....I receive a call from Neat telling me we have an offer to play US dates from “the biggest import record store on the East coast”.....we discuss this for a nanosecond before unanimously declaring “YES” - what’s to discuss? Actually playing America?
Turns out it’s a mini festival of sorts. The “Halloween Headbangers Ball” will take place on October 31 at the St George’s theatre, Staten Is. New York. We will play with Riot and Anvil on the bill...and will also play a handful of club dates right after this in New York and New Jersey!
The guy setting up the whole enterprise? One Jon Zazula...owner of “Rock & Roll Heaven”...a wild eyed gentleman reminiscent of a movie hellfire preacher, only the gospel this time was music. Jon’s enthusiasm was boundless...much like our own. He had watched “fish, chips & peas” flying off the shelves at his store and since no one else was doing it, he figured he wanted to bring us over to play.
Me and the crew in NYC
This was only the 2nd time I’d ever flown and as the first time involved severe air pressure pain in my lugholes I had some trepidation.....but down to Heathrow we went, me, Mark and Rob along with our crew Kev Hunter, Ian Kinnersley and John Lowdon...Dave Wood of Neat in tow also! Regarding ear damage, my worries were unfounded and before long we were on our way. I remember having a window seat and looking down over Maine and I guess New Hampshire & Massachusetts...it looked like every house had some form of swimming pool! Very exotic to a bunch of hooligans from Benwell....
We came through the wonderful experience of JFK’s customs and immigration, where it looked like we were about to be shot on sight and were greeted by a maniac in what looked like a metal pith helmet! This was Mark Mari, a Bayonne NJ native whose band would open on a few of the shows.
Me and Mark Mari
He bundled us into what looked like a repainted vehicle straight out of the TV show “Taxi” and we departed for Old Bridge, NJ with the backdrop of the most amazing sunset I’d ever seen.
Raven and Anvil at Jon Z's place
We arrived at Jon’s house, he and his good wife Marsha made us welcome and had us bunked down here there and everywhere. The next day I believe was spent piecing together some form of drumkit for Rob...backline was coming from the Canuck loonies Anvil....they came over to the house and we all got on like a house on fire! The next day was a blur of meeting people who turned up to say hi...the “Old Bridge Metal Militia” were out in force, they were a local brigade of metal maniacs....a young kid took us to Burger King in his car (he grew up to be comedian Jim Florentine!!).
Mark and I looking Raven-ous
The gig was a 3000+ capacity theatre...very nice...we arrive and Riot are on stage, tinkering with equipment. We introduce ourselves to their tour manager and he tells us to wait until they are done.
FIVE hours later.....! Total time wasting leaving us 30 min to set up
Memory is hazy but I think this is where we meet Scott Ian and Danny Liker of Anthrax.
Bass trem mania...Scott Ian in striped pants!
The venue is jammed...we go on to the craziest reception ever...the sound is...confusing, but does not stop us one iota, we’ve travelled a long way for this and we are out for blood! (turns out Riot attempted to sabotage our set by re-plugging stage mikes into the wrong channels...nice)
Anvil play a blinder of a set and it appears by now the air is out of the balloon by the time Riot show up for their show....no matter, we are more than satisfied with the evening!
The other shows are a blur...the Brooklyn Zoo, absolutely packed and one of my screams fries part of the PA!!
The Halloween Headbanger Ball show
After Dark in Nanuet NY...with Anvil and a local band, who turn up maybe 3 hours late...we are persuaded to wait as they are “really great”. They arrive, set up...and start playing cover tunes!
By the time we go on its like 3.30am!
Again, memory...not sure what other shows we did but I think the last show was in Dover NJ at a venue that apparently most days was a strip club. We walked in, spoke to the club manager who told us where to load etc. The cavernous room was empty except for a girl in a parka. The manager shouted at her “ we got people in! DANCE!” so she nonchalantly took off the parka, climbed up on the bar...and danced....to no music! Talk about weird! (there was a recording studio attached to the building, we recorded “Glow” there 13 years later....!)
This show was nuts, we were all onstage -Raven & Anvil- doing a shambolic “born to be wild”...a great end to the proceedings and our monumental 1982. Following this were discussions about 1983 and doing a ‘proper’ US tour....the craziness of the last two years just kept on ramping up.......