A few weeks ago I watched a programme on Sky Arts called “The Decade The Music Died”. It was all about influential musicians and artists who had died in the ten years between 2009 and 2019. Amongst others, the programme celebrated the lives and music of Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and Amy Winehouse.
Many of the northeast’s own musicians and people associated with the northeast music scene passed away during this same period. Whenever I hear about such a death, I always feel the urge to write some form of epitaph on this website. However, until now it’s something I haven’t got around to doing. So to put things right here’s a tribute to some musicians I knew who died between 2009 and 2019. All eight were active at some time during the period covered by Ready Steady Gone (1965 to 1972). Some achieved national fame whereas others stayed on the local scene throughout their lives. Even if you’re not familiar with the names, if you went to clubs and dances in the sixties and early seventies you may recognize some of the faces. Where possible, I’ve included a piece of music relevant to each of the eight people. So in no particular order, here they are: –
Dave Black (1953 to 2015)
The news that Dave Black had died suddenly in 2015 sent shock waves throughout the northeast and beyond. It wasn’t just his friends, family and the thousands of people who held Dave in high esteem as a musician that were affected by his death but also everyone who read about the tragic circumstances in which he’d died. On 18th July 2015 Dave’s body was found on the Metro track at Cullercoats after being struck by a train.
I knew Dave Black back in 1972 and 1973 before his career as a guitarist took off. We were both doing our obligatory stint at the “Ministry”. The two of us lived at the coast and travelled on the same train to and from Longbenton each day. We were both musicians and had a lot to talk about on the journey. I had been playing in northeast bands for eight years or so and had supported a lot of top bands such as The Who, Small Faces, Cream, Free, Hot Chocolate, Geno Washington, Marmalade, The Move and many more. Dave, on the other hand, was just beginning his musical career with his band, Kestrel. Just before I left the northeast in 1973 I got to see Kestrel at a festival in Jarrow performing Dave’s epic composition – “The Snow Queen”.
After moving to Manchester I lost contact with Dave and had no idea of his rise to fame in the seventies and eighties. Then in 2010 whilst visiting relatives in Burnopfield, County Durham I saw a board outside the Travellers Rest pub advertising a gig in which “guitarist/vocalist, Dave Black” was appearing. I jumped to the conclusion that this was the Dave Black I had known thirty odd years earlier. When I Googled “Dave Black “ I was amazed at how his career had taken off after we last met in 1973!
I remembered that he was in a band called Kestrel but I didn’t know they had recorded an album in 1975. Later in the seventies he formed the band Goldie and released the single “Making Up Again” which reached #7 in the UK charts. After Goldie, Dave joined David Bowie’s ex-backing band, Spiders From Mars, replacing Mick Ronson. In the eighties, Dave had a degree of success locally with his band 747 before embarking as a solo singer/guitarist, performing on the northeast pub and club circuit.
By coincidence, after my trip to Burnopfield, Dave got in touch with me in October 2010 via Ready Steady Gone. This is what he said: –
“During the late 60’s I was an avid band watcher, mainly at the good old Rex. I remember the local bands very well. Arctic Rainbow, Sneeze, Raw Spirit, Junco’s, Downtown Faction, Beckett, Poobah’s, Sect, (later to become Fog). Great times.
I formed Kestrel and asked Keith Fisher to play drums but he was in Beckett. So I got Brian Gibson instead, but he quit to join USA (later Geordie). Eventually I got Davy Whittaker (ex Ginhouse) and he played on the Kestrel album in 1973/74. I later hooked up with ex Bullfrog singer Pete McDonald and formed Goldie in ’76.
I’m enjoying trawling thru all your archive stuff Roger, so keep up the good work mate! Dave Black. (ps I’m still playing)”
Dave was an extremely talented guitarist and song writer. The video below is of him performing “Making Up Again” with Goldie.
Simon Cowe (1948 to 2015)
Simon Cowe was a multi-instrumentalist with the ability to play guitar, piano, keyboards, harmonium, accordion, mandolin, banjo and bouzouki. Along with Rod Clements, Ray Jackson, Ray Laidlaw and Alan Hull he was a founder member of one the northeast’s most influential bands, Lindisfarne. Lindisfarne was born in 1969 when four members of the local folk/blues band, Brethren teamed up with singer/songwriter Alan Hull.
Before the amalgamation, both Alan Hull and Brethren had been performing in local folk clubs so it was inevitable that Lindisfarne would have a strong folksy feel. Their combined instrumental skills and Alan’s poetic lyrics produced a unique style that attracted the attention of independent label Charisma. Their first album, ‘Nicely Out Of Tune’, was released the following year to much acclaim.
Sales of ‘Nicely Out Of Tune’ didn’t take off straight away but a lot of the songs on the album were from the band’s much loved stage act, which was a major part of the band’s magnetism. Lindisfarne became a household name in 1971 after the release of their second album ‘Fog On The Tyne’, which went to the top of the UK albums chart. The band began to headline nationwide tours. It wasn’t long before trips to Europe and the USA followed and Lindisfarne became a much sought after festival band.
In 1973, following an Australian tour, the original Lindisfarne line-up came to an end with Alan Hull and fellow frontman Ray Jackson forming a new Lindisfarne. Simon Cowe along with Rod Clements and Ray Laidlaw formed Jack The Lad. Both off-shoots of the original Lindisfarne enjoyed some success at home and abroad although nothing quite like that of the first band.
The original Lindisfarne line-up reunited in 1976 for a Christmas concert at Newcastle City Hall and continued in this format until 1993 when Simon Cowe left the band.
In 1993 Simon emigrated to Canada and set up his own microbrewery in Toronto. He passed away on 30th September after a long illness.
Here’s Simon looking a bit like an Irish leprechaun performing “Fog On The Tyne” on BBC’s Old Grey Whistle test.
The legend of Lindisfarne lives on with some of the original members still performing in derivatives of the band. Simon Cowe will always be remembered as a founding member of Lindisfarne and as being part of the band at the time of their meteoric rise to fame in the early seventies.
Brian Short (1948 to 2014)
In the mid sixties, one of Newcastle’s most popular bands was the Sect. The Sect played at all the top venues; the Club A’Gogo, the Mayfair, the Majestic, the Quay Club, the Cellar in South Shields and the Locarno in Sunderland plus many University and College events in the area. It was a combination of the individual band member’s charisma and their overall musical abilities that gave the Sect their ‘star qualtiy’ and earned them a huge following of mainly female fans throughout the northeast. The Sect’s singer in the band’s hey-day was Brian Short.
I didn’t know Brian very well in the sixties, even though my various bands at that time shared the bill with him and the Sect on many occasions. Then in 2006 Brian got in touch with me via Ready Steady Gone, asking about the date of a specific 1965 Sect gig at the old Cellar club in South Shields. It was at that gig he had first met his wife, Lynda. I didn’t know at the time that Lynda had just died of cancer; perhaps Brian wanted to know the exact date the couple first met so he could include it in her eulogy. Subsequently Brian took an interest in Ready Steady Gone and helped me with a lot of information for the web site, in particuar about the Sect and the Cellar Club.
After the Sect, Brian went on to greater things and played with various London bands including Black Cat Bones (originally formed by Free’s Paul Kossoff and Simon Kirke). In 1971 he made a solo album entitled “Anything For a Laugh”. This is what Brian told me about his musical career: –
“The Sect were the first band in the newly formed Ivan Birchall Agency. Very soon many others followed – the bands you have referenced in your web pages. For some time we kept on getting bigger better gigs where we shared the stage with many local bands, including the Elcort, two members of which I became very friendly with. I found that I had more musical affinity with these guys, drummer Paul Nichols and keyboard player Ken Craddock. (Ken went on to bigger things in London with Ginger Baker’s band Airforce and then on to being a highly regarded session player, with people like George Harrison, Van Morrison and many others.) I left the Sect and formed a new band with Ken Craddock and Paul Nichols called the New Religion. As a personal footnote to all this, Ken and I remained great friends, both of us moved to London, he in 1968, me in 1969. He helped arrange and play on my album “Anything For A Laugh” for Transatlantic Records in 1971. He was best man at my wedding, and sadly was killed in a road accident in Portugal in 2002.”
“Anything For A Laugh” failed to win critical acclaim and establish Brian as a mainstream solo singer. I don’t know anything of his career as a musician during the 80’s and 90’s other than that he lived and worked as a songwriter for a while in Los Angeles. He eventually went to live in Twickenham, Middlesex working as a mental health worker for the Mind organisation in their Richmond branch. At the same time he continued to perform as a guitarist and vocalist in the area, playing in pubs, clubs and at events, either on his own or with a band called Blue Religion.
After a spell in hospital in Newcastle, Brian Short died in September 2014.
The track featured below is one I often listen to. It’s the title track from Brian’s seventies album “Anything For A Laugh”. When I first saw the title of this song I thought it was going to be a jolly Lindisfarne type sing-a-long. But it’s not. The song is in a (sad) minor key with a haunting piano refrain. It portrays the singer in a failing relationship, pleading for his partner to stay, promising in return to make her laugh. There’s a degree of optimism in the bridge and outro when the key changes from minor to major but essentially the song is a lament. It’s a credit to Brian’s vocal and writing skills.
Les Gofton (1947 to 2018)
On 1st February 1967, less than five months after arriving from the States, Jimi Hendrix performed at the Cellar Club, South Shields, with his newly formed band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Hendrix’s reputation as the person most likely to supersede Eric Clapton as the country’s number one guitarist was rapidly spreading. Consequently the Cellar gig was a sell-out. The support band for the Jimi Hendrix Experience that night was local band The Bond, which included guitarist Les Gofton. Sharing the stage with Hendrix would become one of two memorable experiences in Les Gofton’s musical career.The other was supporting Bo Diddley a few years later.
Not long after the Hendrix gig, Les left the Bond and joined Sunderland band, Jazzboard. Jazzboard had a busy gigging schedule in Tyneside, Wearside and Teesside, which included a Friday night residency at the Cellar, South Shields. I was the sax player in Jazzboard so over the next few months I got to know Les very well. Jazzboard disbanded in the summer of 1967. Les and I went our separate ways. I moved away from the northeast in 1973 and never saw him again.
Some thirty years later into the 1990’s my son, Martin, aged around sixteen became an ardent fan of the Sunderland band Kenickie. When I told him that I had once played in a band with Les Gofton, the father of two of the Kenickie members (Lauren Laverne and drummer Johnny X – real name Pete Gofton, Lauren’s brother) I suddenly went up in his estimation. Unknown to me at the time, my son got in touch with Les Gofton and exchanged emails for a while. This eventually led to me renewing my friendship with Les through social media.
It came as a shock on 24th November 2018 when I heard that Les Gofton had died, although I was aware that he had been suffering with ill health for a while.
I suppose I only played alongside Les for six months or so in 1967. But I’ll always remember him in that year of the long hot summer. He was a gentle character and a fabulous guitarist. It was a great time to be in a band and playing music. This is what Les told me about his music and career as an academic: –
“Before the Jazzboard, I was in a few groups – the Sneakers, The Bond, Brave New World. After the Jazzboard, I went back to playing with my old buddies for a while, then I was in John Miles’ old band, the Influence until I went to University in 1970. Good band, Paul Thompson was on drums just before Roxy Music, Micky Golden on Bass. I also played folk and blues in clubs for a year before that, alongside all kinds of blues and folk guys – played with Fred McDowell. At university I played solo, folk and Blues, on bills with John Martyn, Keith Christmas, Al Stewart, John Renbourn as well as occasional gigs in nightclubs and bars to make a few bob. I stopped for a few years while I was getting my doctorate, then started to play a regular gig once a month, again with some old buddies, at a bar in Shields. Amongst others, we played with Bo Diddley.
I have spent the last thirty years as a university academic, writing the odd book and article and trying to play bebop on the best collection of guitars in the world. Believe it or not, I teach the Sociology of Popular Music at the University of Durham. And I WENT to the University of Durham because I played there with the Jazzboard in the wonderful summer of 1967. Bliss was it, in that dawn to be alive, and to be young was very heaven.”
Keith Patterson (1948 to 2016)
If you were to ask any knowledgeable northeast music fan the name of the longest running local band, they would undoubtedly say “the Junco Partners”. They’d probably be right. The Juncos were active from 1964 through to 2017 with just a short break of a few years in the seventies. Another local band with a long track record is Raw Spirit. Formed around 1969, Raw Spirit is still performing regularly in the northeast to this day.
I have to say at this stage that when the Juncos disbanded in 2017 there were four of their original six members in the band. On the other hand, the current Raw Spirit line-up has none of the original 1960s members. However, until a few years ago this was not the case. In October 2016 one of the band’s founder members, bassist Keith Patterson passed away. Barry Nicholls, his lifelong band mate, also a founding member of Raw Spirit, decided not to continue in the band without Keith.
I knew Keith Patterson quite well in the sixties and early seventies. His band, Raw Spirit evolved at the same time as one of my bands – Sneeze. Sneeze played at the same local venues as Raw Spirit, often sharing the stage with them at the Mayfair Ballroom. Raw Spirit’s style was a lot heavier than that of Sneeze. I think at the time they would have been described as a ‘heavy/progressive rock band’. I remember them doing covers of Uriah Heep songs. Keith and Barry Nicholls were regular visitors to Sneeze’s shared house in Newcastle’s West End where both bands indulged in competitive drunken and rowdy Subbuteo matches.
Throughout his musical career as a bass guitarist, Keith always played in a semi-professional capacity. Unlike a lot of his contemporaries from the sixties and seventies music scene, he resisted the temptation to head off to London to seek fame and fortune.
I lost touch with Keith when I moved away from the northeast in 1973 but got to meet him again in 2009 when I was visiting the area and went to a Raw Spirit gig at the Magnesia Bank in North Shields. The line-up at this time had a brass section, which included one of my old Sneeze band mates, Jimmy Hall. Over the next five or so years I went to as many Raw Spirit gigs as I could whilst visiting the northeast. The last time I saw Raw Spirit was at the Rosedene pub in Sunderland on a bank holiday weekend.
Not too long after that gig I learned that Keith had suddenly taken ill with oesophageal cancer. Unfortunately, Keith didn’t survive treatment and died on 2nd October 2016.
Dave Holland (1948 to 2019)
David “Holly” Holland, singer with northeast band Toby Twirl, passed away on 3rd April 2019
After The Animals became international recording stars in 1964, it was a long time until another northeast band achieved the same degree of success. Lindisfarne became mega stars seven years later after releasing their second album “Fog On The Tyne”.
Between 1964 and 1971 quite a few northeast bands attempted to make the big time, either by upping sticks and relocating to London or by trying to secure a recording deal.
Several bands came near to achieving their goals; for instance the Junco Partners, the Chosen Few, Elcort and the Answers. All released singles but fell short of national success when it came down to record sales.
A band that did quite well compared to their northeast contemporaries was Toby Twirl.
Toby Twirl grew out of another northeast band called Shades Of Blue. In 1967 I worked alongside their guitarist, Nick Thorburn at the Ministry in Longbenton. We were both in bands at the time so we talked a lot about our gigs and aspirations. I don’t think I ever saw Shades Of Blue perform but Nick kept me abreast of the band’s progress. His band was more suited to Working Men’s Clubs than beat clubs such as the Club A’Gogo or Quay Club. Overall, though, Shades Of Blue did very well on the local gig circuit and decided to turn professional. Those in the band not wishing to give up their day jobs left and were replaced. The first Toby Twirl line-up was; Dave Holland (vocals), Nick Thorburn (guitar), John Reed (drums), Barry Redman (keys) and Stu Somerville (bass).
As well as changing their name, the band also changed their image. They began by wearing colourful shirts, which fitted well with the psychedelic movement of 1967. Later on they would wear long brocade jackets and ruffs giving the band a distinct persona reflecting the whimsical imagery of some of their songs.
Toby Twirl was managed by the Bailey Organisation, which ran a chain of nightclubs in the north. The band did well as a cabaret act. They also released four singles on the Decca label during their career. Dave Holland left the band in 1969. Toby Twirl eventually broke up in 1971 but in recent years has earned a belated reputation as a notable British pop-psych band. A self-titled LP was released in 2017 featuring some of the band’s old material.
Dave Holland contacted me through Ready Steady Gone in August 2010. This is what he said: –
“I was a lead singer in those mad times of the late sixties and early seventies. I played at most of the venues on your site. The Cellar was one of my favourites and we had a tremendous following there. We were then made to change our name to Toby Twirl and began working all the big cabaret clubs up and down the country. We were then under the wing of the Bailey Organisation and were based at the Latino in South Shields. We recorded on the Decca label and made four singles.
I have kept in touch with Nick, John and Barry but have not seen them for a while. It’s great to see the old posters and adverts from the past and some of the band names which we played with in those special years. If you’re ever down the Blyth area pop in and see me in the Joiners Arms which I run with my wife Annie.”
Dave (Holly) Holland will continue to be remembered by his friends, family and through the current interest and revival of Toby Twirl.
Alan Rogan (1951 to 2019)
Alan Rogan from Gateshead was just twelve when he first fell in love with guitars. From then on he devoted his whole life to the instrument, as a musician but above all as a guitar technician. His wizardry with guitars and his understanding of modern guitar technology earned him a reputation second to none. Alan became the highly respected guitar tech whose services were called on by some of world’s top guitarists.
When Alan Rogan died of cancer in a London hospital on 3rd July 2019 there was an outpouring of grief on the internet and on social media from musicians and the music industry in general. His death was reported in many publications such as The Times, the New York Times, Guitar Magazine, Ultimate Classic Rock, Uncut and Planet Rock.
Alan started his musical career in the late sixties working in Barratts Music shop in Newcastle. He played in several local north east bands and repaired, bought and sold musical equipment from his home in Dunston in his spare time. In the seventies he moved to London and started work in ‘Top Gear’ on Denmark Street. While at ‘Top Gear’ he got a job at a gig as part of The Who’s road crew. From then on he became Pete Townsend’s trusted guitar tech, a position which lasted until 2019.
Technically, Alan Rogan was a freelance guitar technician. Although committed to The Who and Pete Townshend, Alan also worked for other top acts when The Who were not touring or recording. Others he worked for include; The Rolling Stones, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, Cat Stevens, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Slash (Guns N’ Roses), Stevie Van Zandt (E Street Band) and Joe Walsh.
As a musician, Alan Rogan played bass in his own band Bluesclub, which has been running in one form or another since the nineties.
Alan’s passing will leave a huge gap in the world of rock music. It’s not just his skills as a guitar tech that will be missed but also his sense of humour, kindness and charismatic personality.
Here’s a video of Alan performing (on bass) with Bluesclub in 2016.
John Woods (1944 to 2019)
The combination of John Woods (drums) and Dave Sproat (bass) in the Junco Partners was arguably the best rhythm section in the northeast during the sixties. For the best part of forty years the Woods/Sproat twosome provided the powerful beat behind the Juncos, influencing and inspiring many other local musicians and bands.
Sadly, John Woods passed away on 8th June 2019 but the memory of his contribution to the Junco’s sound will live on.
It wasn’t by chance that John Woods and Dave Sproat gelled so well. The pair served their musical apprenticeship together. In 1964, when neither of them was that proficient, they began playing together in a band called the Orients. From there they moved on to another local band called the Nevadas with vocalist, Ronnie Barker. With a change of personnel in the summer of 1964, the Nevadas became the legendary Junco Partners.
Not too long ago, Dave Sproat told me that the reason he and Woodsy were so good together was because they had learned their craft together, progressing at the same rate and feeding off each other musically. Once the Juncos took off, their gig schedule was relentless. There is no better way for musicians to progress, either individually or as a team than to be playing up to five or six gigs a week.
John Woods remained with the Junco Partners for six years, during which time their line-up had shrunk from six to three. The remaining three band members in July 1970 when the band split up were John, Dave Sproat and Bob Sargeant.
After the demise of the Juncos, John went off to London and joined Vinegar Joe with the late Robert Palmer and Elkie Brooks. When Robert Palmer left the band to embark on a solo career, John worked as his tour manager on the ‘Pressure Drop’ tour of the USA.
John returned to the northeast and rejoined the Juncos Partners who had reformed in 1977 with most of the original band members. He remained with the Juncos until bad health got the better of him.
As well as being an accomplished drummer, John Woods is also well known for the clothes shop he ran in Newcastle. ‘Flip’ which sells imported American clothing was established by John in the late seventies. The business is currently located on the Westgate Road, Newcastle and is now run by John’s son.
In the video below, John can be seen and heard performing with Vinegar Joe.