That Geordie Beat

Back in the sixties the best ways of keeping abreast of what was happening in the world of popular music was either through radio or by reading weekly or monthly music papers. Sometimes these musical journals would feature articles about the music scene in the north east of England and artistes from that area. In the mid sixties the phrase “Geordie Beat” was coined to describe the musical output from up-and-coming northeast bands.

In my early teens when I was just starting to play the saxophone, the Melody Maker was my favourite music paper. It was an invaluable source of information. Not only did it cover information about jazz, blues, soul, folk and popular music, it featured technical articles by experts aimed at musicians. There were also lots of adverts for musical equipment manufacturers, music shops and firms selling sheet music.

I wasn’t alone in using the Melody Maker to help me progress as a musician. I read in one Bryan Ferry biography that as a youngster Bryan had a paper round in the area where he lived. One of the papers that he delivered was the Melody Maker. On his round he would read that paper from cover to cover. This gave him an early start in appreciating all kinds of music; something that would benefit him in his later career as a vocalist and song writer.

A little later in the sixties another publication started appearing on newsagent’s shelves. This one was called Beat Instrumental. Like the Melody Maker, Beat Instrumental was aimed at both music fans and musicians. Whereas the Melody Maker and its nearest rival the NME (New Musical Express) were in tabloid format and were published weekly, the Beat Instrumental was half the size with a glossy outer cover and came out on a monthly basis. Early editions had black and white graphics but later on in the sixties colour photos started to appear on the front cover and inside pages.

Recently, while reading through an old copy of Beat Instrumental from May 1965 I came across an article entitled “Geordie Beat”. I was very interested to read about the northeast music scene in the mid sixties as seen through the eyes of a London based journalist. Before reading the article I cast my mind back to 1965 and tried to remember what it was like playing in bands at that time. What was different back then, both in the northeast and elsewhere? Did anything change music wise in 1965? In fact when the Beat Instrumental article was probably written in March or April 1965, I’d just started playing in my first serious band. I remembered some of the venues I played at and some of the groups I’d shared the stage with. A couple of local groups that came to mind were the Junco Partners and the Invaders, both favourites at the Club a’Gogo. Early in 1965 Rhythm & Blues was the most popular music genre in clubs and at dances. It would be a further six months or so into the autumn of 1965 before American Soul music and Tamla Motown really started to take off in the UK.

Before saying any more about the Beat Instrumental “Geordie Beat” article I should mention another difference between the sixties and now. In 1965 the word “Geordie” was much more of a generic term than it became later on. Anyone with a hint of a northeast accent could be labelled a Geordie back then regardless of the area of the northeast in which they lived. People from Newcastle, Northumberland, Sunderland, County Durham and even as far south as Middlesbrough could be perceived as Geordies by those living further south. Nowadays the term “Geordie” is much more specific, mostly referring to people who hail from Newcastle or are a part of Newcastle United’s “Toon Army”. People from Sunderland who at one time could fall under the “Geordie” banner are now referred to as “Mackems” – a rediscovered word relating to Sunderland’s ship building industry; i.e Wearsiders made the ships (hence Mackems) and other people took them (Tackems). I can honestly say that when I lived in Sunderland through the sixties and up to 1973 I never heard the word Mackem used as a term for Sunderland people.

So moving on to the actual article about the northeast music scene written by the Beat Instrumental journalist John Emery. To his credit Emery had done his research before venturing up north from London. The “Geordie Beat” article kicks off with a comparison between the Merseyside groups of the sixties and their northeast counterparts. It describes, in the wake of the Beatles, the success of many Liverpudlian bands. It suggests that the success of The Animals in 1964 should have spearheaded a serge of northeast bands and the recognition of a Geordie Sound similar to the rise of Mersey Sound in the Liverpool area. Of course, that didn’t happen.

John Emery blamed the failure of northeast groups to make the big time on the reluctance of their members to give up their day time jobs. According to Emery, musicians in Merseyside bands were all too willing to become fully professional in an attempt to emulate the success of the Beatles. It seemed that the meteoric rise of The Animals wasn’t enough to inspire fellow Geordie musicians in the same way as had happened in the Liverpool area.

As an example of what could go wrong for those groups who were willing to take the plunge, the article mentions an ill-fated attempt to raise the profile of a number of northeast groups. In 1964 “The Geordie Sound Tour” was put together by Keith Beckett from Tyne Tees Television. The show, which featured a handful of local groups was scheduled to tour the UK. It was also going to include a number of national acts at various stages of the tour. Unfortunately “The Geordie Beat Show” lost its impetus after just a few performances and was never completed. Those northeast musicians who had given up their day jobs and had cancelled local gigs in order to take part in the show had their hopes dashed. The groups that I know of that took part were: Kim and the Kinetics, The Delemares and Paul Ryan & The Streaks. As a teenager I actually saw the “The Geordie Sound Tour” at the Sunderland Empire. The guest artist on that occasion was Joe Cocker before he became really big. At that time Joe Cocker was still being described as an ex-gas fitter from Sheffield!

From the Newcastle Evening Chronicle

The Beat Instrumental article goes on to describe another series of thirteen TV shows showcasing northeast bands. “Rehearsal Room” was a fifteen minute music programme hosted by Tyne Tees Television. Each programme featured one northeast band plus an appearance by a “name” artist. The final programme featured the best six groups of the thirteen that had previously appeared on Rehearsal Room. At the end of the show a panel of judges picked the best group of the six. The Silver Dollars were judged to be the winners and went on to record a single called “Rainbow”.

Following the success of Rehearsal Room, Tyne Tees Television subsequently produced another show called “The Geordie Beat” (not to be confused with “The Geordie Sound Tour” described above). The Tyne Tees two and a half hour show took place at Newcastle City Hall on 25th September 1964. It was edited down to forty five minutes and was subsequently aired on Tyne Tees Television and other regional networks on Sunday 27th September 1964. The northeast groups that took part in the show were: Paul Ryan & The Streaks, the Del Five, the Starliners, the Silver Dollars, and the Caesars plus The Animals. The Yardbirds also had a slot on the programme. The Geordie beat was intended as a showcase for local bands. Tickets for the show were given away free to 2,000 lucky fans.

The groups appearing in the final of Rehearsal Room at Tyne Tees Television

John Emery’s article goes on to cover local entertainment agencies and recording studios before describing northeast clubs and venues. As this is probably the most interesting part from the Geordie Beat feature, I’ll take the liberty of copying that part of the article word for word: –

‘There are a countless number of little clubs in the North-East. I’ll single out the most popular ones, with of course the ballrooms. “The Club a’Gogo” in Percy Street, Newcastle, is undoubtedly “The” club in the North-East, thanks principally to The Animals who started there – and have let everyone know it. In fact they recorded a sort of “tribute” titled “Club A Gogo” on the back of their single “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”. Mr Myer Thomas started at the club as a doorman but is now manager since Mike Jeffery left to become The Animals full-time manager. “When we first opened” recalled Mr Thomas, “The scene was all jazz with Johnny Dankworth, Eric Delaney and Tubby Hayes playing here. But things started slipping. Then a bloke called Eric Burdon visited the club and kept raving about this R’n’B thing he was doing with the Alan Price Combo”.

Mike decided to give the group a try. They expanded to become The Animals and started off the whole scene up there. The club, itself, is quite unique in the way that it is divided into two sections. There are two ballrooms – one for the 13 to 18 age group, the other – which is licensed – is for those from 18 upwards. “We have ‘em here from the cradle to the grave” joked Mr Thomas.

Compared to London clubs, admission to the club is very cheap. Membership for juniors (13-18) is 2/- per annum; and for seniors it is 7/6d. Entrance fees vary from 1/6d on disc nights to 3/6d when a group appears. Sometimes when a “name” group or artiste appears this has to be raised. “But we never go beyond 6/-“ said Mr Thomas.

Local groups that appear at the club are the Junco Partners who are resident, the Von Dykes, Outliners, Downbeats and V.I.P.’s. The pianist of the V.I.P.’s wrote “Blue Feeling” which The Animals used on the “B” side of their American hit “Boom Boom”.

Still in the club field we move across to the Blue Note in Sunderland and “The Scene” in Middlesbrough. Ray Grehan promotes both clubs and shows there is a contrast in the North East. They might worship R’n’B in Newcastle, but Sunderland and Middlesbrough are fed up with it.

Ray told me: “It’s extinct. They’ve listened to it and want something else. I’m now aiming for the big-band type sounds, Cliff Bennett for example.
Both these clubs are open seven nights a week and five nights have groups appearing.

The main ballroom in this part of the country is the Majestic, a Top Rank concern, in Newcastle. It is open seven night a week, four of which feature groups, two a show band and one for discs.

There are also Top Rank ballrooms in Darlington and Middlesbrough. These are open five night a week.’

Despite the efforts of promoters, Tyne Tees Television and the cream of the north east’s local groups the “Geordie Beat” avalanche, similar to the rise of the Mersey Sound, didn’t happen in the sixties. John Emery argued that this was because of a lack of ambition on the part of the north east’s groups. Another view was put forward by Paul Ryan, whose group the Streaks had taken part in the ill fated “Geordie Beat Show”. In an interview with the Newcastle Evening Chronicle he put the blame on northeast teenagers for their lack of support for local bands. He claimed that in Liverpool the kids were only interested in their local groups whereas in Newcastle teenagers behaved like sheep and only supported well-known national groups.

In spite of the failure in 1964 to establish a “Geordie Beat” and launch the careers of northeast groups, through the decades there has always been a steady stream of northeast bands and individual musicians who have made the grade. There are too many to mention here but some from the sixties and seventies that spring to mind are: Paul Rodgers, Lindisfarne, Bryan Ferry, David Coverdale, Mark Knopfler, Chris Rea, John Miles, Sting and Brian Johnson. The stream continued from the sixties and seventies through to the present day with artists such as the Tygers Of Pan Tang, Jimmy Nail, the Toy Dolls, Prefab Sprout, the Futureheads and more recently Sam Fender. There are also many northeast musicians who have been a part of well known successful bands. They include – Nigel Olsson (Elton John’s drummer), Dave Stewart (the Eurythmics) and Don Airey (keyboardist with Rainbow and Deep Purple).

Sam Fender – the “Geordie” star from North Shields

Even if there is no recognised Geordie Beat or Geordie Sound I think all of us who fall into the sixties definition of a Geordie can be proud of our home grown musicians and the part they have played in shaping the history of popular music.

11 thoughts on “That Geordie Beat

  1. 0

    Well done Roger – another well researched and written blog. I never knew that The Animals were previously the Alan Price Combo. Perhaps that explains why Price thought he could claim the rights to House of the Rising Sun?


  2. 1

    Interesting but not the whole truth. There was no mention of Sunderland’s best club, The El Cubana, Toward Road. In the middle 60’s my band, The Banshees, were the resident band. We played every Thursday evening. Now, don’t believe anything Bruce Lowe’s, Banshees drummer claims about him knowing Bryan Ferry could sing. With Ferry being Banshees original singer…crap! Ken Turton, me! Was the first singer, Bruce who started the band met me in a church youth club. He knew I could sing and invited me to join the Banshees, which I did. Boy, we were good. Only a band called This Years Girl could compete with us. The great Geoff Docherty managed This Years Girl. Anyway, Banshees members thought Ferry could sing better than me. So an audition was held with me then Ferry singing. I won! Ferry complimented the band as he left. But trouble in the band caused it to break up. Bruce kept the name then invited Ferry to join. I went on to do an Elvis act in the Midlands. I recorded a comedy version of R U Lonesome Tonite, which proved popular. Why Ferry and Bruce Lowe’s continue to lie about Ferry and NOT me being the original singer is beyond me? I admit Ferry in Roxy Music was great. He could write and sing. I could only sing. Now, Geoff Docherty was the best music booker the North East ever had. He never left Sunderland and has dementia. It is a bloody great shame that useless Sunderland council have never put up a plaque to him. In comparison Newcastle salute and acknowledge their musical history.


  3. 0

    To David Snowdon – Alan Price never claimed rights to Rising Sun, he claimed the rights to arranging it and being responsible for how the Animals recorded the song! Alreet Alan, how the hangin’?


  4. 0

    On the subject of local publications from the past, do you know about “Mother Grumble”? It was produced by Tyneside Free Press, based in Charlotte Square.
    Although not specifically a music paper, it did wander into that realm, including an interview of Alan Hull by George Brown.


  5. 0

    Emily – until I read your comment I hadn’t heard of “Mother Grumble”. Thanks for that. It looks like all the issues are archived and are available online. I found the Alan Hull interview you mentioned in the May 1973 edition. For anyone who is interested here’s the link –


  6. 0

    Great article, just wanted to mention that the composer of Rainbow (make me cry) written for the Silver Dollars, Robert Armstrong, passed away in University Hospital Durham on 28th February.
    Whilst clearing the house I found three copies of a contract, which wasn’t signed, drawn up by Karl Denver (or his legal team) for another possible hit “World of little children”.
    Very sad to see that the terms were the majority of the trio and not Dad who had written the words and music, which would have resulted in Robert not getting the recognition or money he deserved.
    Shows how greedy the music industry could be then, and now of course.


  7. 1

    Yes David, you are correct, greed, selfishness etc, was and still is big in the music world. Animals bassist, Chas Chandler often said how little money they made. Plus, Chas hated his bass part on House of the Rising Sun, but producer, M. Most, wouldn’t let him re-do it. And remember the Small Faces were on a wage with their manager coining it in.


  8. 0

    I’ve watched a couple of Eric Burdon interviews and he relates that the Animals manager had no faith in their version of House of the Rising Sun, so they were only allowed 2 studio takes very early one morning, during a tour, which prob explains why Chas was not allowed another attempt at his bass line.

    Also, it was a whole band collaboration, but because there was not enough space on the contract for all their names, the manager suggested Alan Price alone sign his name and they would sort all the money out later. Alan Price allegedly left the band shortly afterwards and the bands share of the money disappeared with him.


  9. 0

    Alan Price left the Animals in May 1965. I don’t know anything about space on a contract, but Price was the person responsible for the brilliance of the arrangement of House of the Rising Sun. Plus, if it wasn’t for Price wanting a slinger in his R&B Group, Burdon would not have got his big break. Yes, he was good but Price must be credited. Now about money, I admit I don’t know. But quality of recorded songs (bass parts) I will continue to believe Chas. I finish by saying Burdon’s early songwriting was brilliant! He wrote For Miss Caulker, one of the best blues ever written by a white musician. And, it was based on a real person. Doreen Caulker was Eric’s girlfriend. I met her in the Go-Go’s once. He dumped her, she moved away. Eric missed her and wrote the song…too late! She was young when she died. But what an absolutely brilliant real and true blues number. So, let’s remember the best of them and not pick at the bones!


  10. 1

    Roger, this is another amazing voyage into the wonderful world I only recently came to know and appreciate!

    There is so much intricate detail, bringing the whole picture to life as tho it were a film running through the projection of the mind.

    A very exciting depiction of a world taking place in a vividly colorful way, a parallel planet with all the things that were familiar to me in the USA, and one never revealed during that whole time Michael Jeffery was my manager.

    It’s a real gift to know about all now, tho – the curtain rises on this new chapter – one I’d never guessed about; this story coming alive, renewing all the energies taking place –



  11. 1

    Roger, I do so enjoy going back in time with you. I don’t think any of us ever realized for even a moment just how vibrant and important Newcastle was to the national music scene. We were probably all too drunk to do much other than lay back and enjoy it.
    I do see some things differently from you which is not surprising as we viewed the happenings from a different perspective. I was a 23 year old recently released from the RAF and I somehow ended up working for Jeffries in the Marimba. In the Crypt which was a smallish and low room below the basement and Tommy Henderson played there initially but it blossomed into a popular music venue with Jazz and The Emcee 3 and 4 and later in the Downbeat Emcee 5.
    There was a bunch of lads who were R&B nuts. Their words not mine. Most of us had never heard of it but we quickly became fans and the lads called themselves the Kansas City 5. That was how the Animals started.
    I have many more stories of those times. I live in America now and it is hinted that I’m getting old. But I could never take a hint!


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