1980/1
I had been singing in a rehearsal room in Dale End, B’ham called Diamond Sound Studio’s. Just having some fun really, nothing serious, although a certain side to my voice was beginning to appear that I had never really encountered before.
A high pitch was appearing without any training, and people were beginning to start listening. We were playing a ‘Judas Priest’ song, ‘Dreamer Deceiver’, when the door opened to the rehearsal room and in walked a guy by the name of John Ward. John had just been sacked from a Thin Lizzy type band called ‘Overdrive’. He suggested I audition for them, as I had nothing to lose. I was fairly unsure about all of this, being only 18, but nevertheless I stood in the queue at the auditions. There was a long queue as I recall, I was at the back talking to a bricklayer from Newcastle or somewhere. As I had never really heard of the band, I thought they must be fairly famous, auditioning all these people. When the last guy came out and said ‘good luck’, it was my turn. I was nervous.

 

 


There was a black bass player-Tony Forsythe, guitarist Dave Wheeler and on drums, Roger Simms.
I think we ran through something like ‘Don’t believe a word’, or something like that. I remember being overawed by stacks of Marshall amplifiers and a huge chrome Yamaha drum kit. But the band were shit hot. Certainly more professional and together than any outfit I’d previously been involved in. I was successful at the audition, although younger than the rest of the band, this was their only concern. Mainly whether or not I could afford to pay the rehearsal fees along with everyone else. However, I was working as an apprentice for an engineering company at the time, so that was no problem. ‘Overdrive’ turned out to be fairly well known in Birmingham, and gigs seemed to be booked all over the place. I was to experience my first visit to that
venue ‘The Railway’ which is (and had been since the sixties) a must for all music fans especially rock.


I played several shows with the band and during my time with them saw some member changes. A second guitarist, from Gibraltar arrived, named Harry Chichon. Jesus, was he fast ! I had never really seen playing like this before. T
he original guitarist, Dave Wheeler, discovered God and the Pentecostal church and disappeared never to be seen again. However, in my now recent visits to The Railway, I had become a great fan of a band called ‘Enigma’. They played great rock and uncommercial, which I loved. They never really seemed to have any luck, though. The lead guitarist was superb, named Nik Lloyd. Bass player was Mick Walker and the drummer was Eddie Fincher (later Midnight Blue). I asked Nik if he would be interested in joining Overdrive and he said he’d try it out for a while.


Around this time, we did an interview for West Midlands Radio, and attracted the attention of ‘The Animal's bass player, Chas Chandler. Chas had his own studios in Portland Place, London and invited us down to record some material, in the hope of a hit. In fact, his sound engineer had written a song called ‘Sleeping Visions’ and primarily he only wanted to record that. Feeling a little cheated, we went to London anyway with session keyboard player Simon Tweed, and slept over in Peckham at Tony Forsythe’s mom’s house.

 

The session was very stressful, as Chas had ideas of his own, and big guitars and solos played no part in his grand design. the finished article was an attempt at a pop song and didn’t suit the band at all. Overdrive recorded demos at ZEL-LA studios in Edgbaston, an old BBC studio, which turned out to be fairly well received.


Songlist:-
Screaming Cars
Some Like it Hot
Toys Of War
Wrong Side of the Law
Let it Rock
Survival
Grey Skies

Our manager then, Dave Brockenshaw, who worked at RCA, never managed to secure any deal on our behalf and eventually we parted company .Tony Forsythe moved to London, Roger Simms carried on with various bands in the Midlands, Harry went back to Gibraltar and Nik decided to reform ‘ENIGMA’. I was pleased, to say the least, when he asked me to sing for them.

   


1981/2
Enigma was destined never to be anything more than a local live act, playing at venues like the Railway and the Mercat Cross’ in B’ham city centre, occasionally drifting out to play the biker’s club in Redditch- the Hopwood Caravan Park. But the band had a decent following and a magnetic quality for me. This was mainly due to Mick Walker’s excellent songwriting- something which the band themselves vastly understated.

Songlist:-
Take An Illusion
Armed Forces
A Change of Direction
Cry Hard
Evensong
Skies on Fire
Are you Ready (Thin Lizzy)
Down to Basics
Outlaw

In the Spring of ‘82 the band split up and the drummer Eddie Fincher auditioned for Judas Priest. I would not see Mick Walker again for twenty years. Nik and I moved on to join the remnants of another local band ‘Orion’. Brilliant musicians; drums-Tony Jones(jonah). bass-Paul Prior, guitar-Brett Hammond (later-Bigmouth). This band introduced me to beer in a big way.


The band were very into ‘RUSH’, and it showed in their songwriting. Their previous singer had left to take up other offers, and indeed eventually joined ‘Black Sabbath’. His name was Tony (Cat) Martin. Orion recorded two excellent tracks at ‘The Barn’, a 24 track studio out in Warwickshire, under the auspices of then manager/ financer Jeff Edwards.


Songlist;-
Stairway to the Stars
I Am
2891
Lights Out (UFO)
Mushroom Fields


Orion played gigs all over the Midlands, but rarely ventured any further. At a point when I didn’t have a legal vehicle on the road, Orion were playing a show down in Malvern, Worcs. Obviously, having trouble getting to the show, I nevertheless, stuck my neck out and remembering giving Jonah a lift to the gig, only to find on my arrival, that the band had fired me - before the gig!

 

The gig went down well, as I recall, but it was my last. The band split shortly afterward. Paul Prior became a session musician and Jonah became drummer for 2AM Jam. Over the past year, I did quite a lot of singing as a session vocalist for various people. I think the first paid session I did was for a midlands act not unlike ‘RUSH’, who I recorded only one track for, albeit 6 minutes long! the band were called ‘OSSIRUS’ and the track was ‘Janavus 26’. I also sessioned for another local act, ‘Trojan’.

‘Trojan’ were a fairly heavy outfit, the line-up being - lead guitar-Steve Cartledge, Bass-Neil Coates, lead guitar-Steve Harris, drums-Alan Kelly and myself as session vox. Recorded at Fairmorn Studios, Castle Bromwich, B’ham.


Songlist:-
Nightfighter
Prisoner of Freedom
Friday 13th
No Compromise

In August ‘82 I sessioned for a live show with Trojan at The Golden Eagle in B’ham, now sadly demolished. Great reviews in Melody Maker. I remember we covered Judas Priests’ ‘Beyond the Realms of Death’ . Reporter, Mary Anne Hobbs raved about it.

 


In December ‘82 Trojan asked me to session in the studio again, recording another five tracks, this time, at the bands rehearsal studio, Missfire Studios, in Sparkbrook. They had by this time dispensed with the bassist and replaced him with Mark Badrick and had also found themselves a keyboard player along the way in Paddy McKenna ! The result was a crossover to commercialism from the normal heavy two guitar set up. One of the lead guitarists, Steve Cartledge, had left at this stage. Before leaving, he wrote both ‘Stevie’ and ‘Need Some More’.

Songlist:-
Breakin’ Out
Hot Lip Reputation
Stevie
Need Some More
The Life and Times of.....

   

 

1983
In February ‘83, I found myself back in the studio with Trojan again. Except they had gone for a name change, and had now called themselves ‘SHY’. Steve Cartledge had gone from the line-up; for what reason I cant recall, but the rest of the guys were the same. Apparently, SHY came from ‘Steve Harris’s Yobs’, but I’m not sure I believe that, knowing what a quiet withdrawn sort of person Steve is. I also recall a lot of conversation about the phrase ‘Seven hard Years’. Perhaps that was how long the guys had been slogging it out, I don’t know. A session at Rich Bitch studios in Sellyoak, B'ham, produced the following;


Songlist:-
Tonight
Run Away
Don’t Say No
Hollywood
Turn Out the Lights

Now I was still only a session singer for the band at this stage and commercial interest was developing.
Some tapes had been sent to a company called Ebony Records, in Hull. Daryl Johnston the proprietor had offered the band a track on one of his compilation albums ‘Metal Warrior’. The band had to pay to be on the product, and stay in Hull to record etc., but as it was the first main interest anyone had shown, they grabbed it with both hands! So, in March ‘83 yet again, I sessioned at Ebony Records this time,
recording two tracks:-


Songlist:-
Tonight
Stevie

‘Tonight’ was released on the album in ‘83 and received critical acclaim as part of ‘The New Wave of British Heavy Metal’. Finally, in June ‘83 I sang my last session for SHY. Back with Rob Bruce at Rich Bitch -

Songlist:-
Deep Water
Think of Me
Reflections

 

Possibly some of the best songs the band had written to date. I am not surprised that Ebony Records offered the band a recording contract on the strength of them. As I was currently uninvolved with any other band, and the recordings that I had sang on, had secured the band a deal at last, they asked me if I would be prepared to join the band, as they now had something to offer me. Obviously, I was more than pleased to be a part of SHY at that time, after all, I had worked on the project to make it what it was, as well as the other muzo’s. But something odd happened here.


Amid all this excitement and apprehension, the drummer leaned back behind his kit and folded his arms. “If you want to join this band, you’ll have to ask my permission.” Speechless, I looked around at everyone in the room and no-one was saying anything. So, was this band the personal property of Alan Kelly ? I wondered.
So, I asked his permission. And do you know what ? He sat and thought about it for a while. And then he said “OK”, as if he’d exercised his power over the situation and events that were to take place in the near future. I remember vividly leaning over his kit and saying ‘Thanks, this will be last time I ever have to speak to you, I hope.’


Not a good start, you might think. But things stayed fairly settled for a few years. SHY’s first full on album – ‘Once Bitten, Twice’.... was recorded in Hull, at Ebony Records studio, which was a converted terraced house.

Songlist:-
Deep Water
Take it All The Way
Give Me A Chance
Think Of Me
Tonight
Chained by Desire
Reflections
Once Bitten, Twice.....

 

( Re-released in 1998 through Neat Records)
www.argento.demon.co.uk
(Bonus Track - All on You)

Toward the back end of ‘83, SHY had achieved a considerable following, packing out a B’ham club, called POSERS in Erdington. It was here, through conversations with a financial consultant, that we met our first manager, Barry Keen.

1984
Barry had considerable financial connections and early in ‘84 he was to use them to promote SHY .
In February ‘84 we were offered a salary by Barry Keen’s company ‘Dreamstar Management’ to quit our jobs and go pro. I never hesitated for a second. in fact, I took the great pleasure of slapping the first album on my managers desk at work and saying ‘Stick your job!’. That night we supported ‘Magnum’ at the B’ham Odeon along with fellow support band ‘Steel’.


It had been a concert that Mr. Keen had invested a lot of money in, and I don’t think we were brilliant by any stretch of the imagination. But it gave us a taste of what was to come and what we should expect.
April ‘84, saw us at The Barn studios in Warwickshire, recording new demos.


Songlist:-
Was I Wrong ? (Brave the Storm)
Throwing it All Away (unreleased)
Lonely Man (released 1999 ‘Regeneration’)
Two Hearts (released 1996 -bonus track - Brave the Storm - Japan)


In the late spring of ‘84, we recorded at a rather plush studio; Rockfield Studio in Monmouth. Barry had persuaded RCA to fund some demos so that they could hear the band recorded properly under decent conditions and with more professional equipment.


Songlist:-
My Apollo (Brave the Storm)
All on You (released 1998 - Once Bitten, Twice... Neat Records)
Now or Never (Unreleased)

While Mr. Keen was out and about looking for the elusive major deal, we kept ourselves busy writing and recording new songs to ready ourselves for if and when anything big should kick off. Back to the Barn.

 


Songlist:-
Spirits In The Night (unreleased)
Behind Closed Doors (released bonus track ‘Brave the Storm’-Japan)

Further recording at Chipping Norton Studios, with Mungo Jerry producer, Richie Gold, bought out a stunning track in, ‘Caught in the Act’. However, Mark Badrick found himself either too nervous or incapable of playing in time at this session, and Roxy Music bassist Gary Twigg was drafted in to complete the session. Sadly, this was the last time we worked with Mark, who seemed to prefer his Kung Fu, and would insist in coming to rehearsals with broken fingers.


Mark was finally replaced with ex-‘Trouble’ bassman Roy Davis.(That peachy metal giant!) The result of these recordings, was that A&R man Peter Robinson from RCA very much liked the track, ‘My Apollo’. Barry was to arrange a full live show with pro lighting rig at Goldiggers in Chippenham, home of BBC live music broadcast. Coachloads of fans and muzo’s as well came down from Brum, together with Moms and Dads. RCA attended the concert, and were impressed enough to offer the band a five year, seven album contract worth just under a million pounds. Needless to say, we had a party- as you do !


Two Tommy Vance rock shows and a nationwide tour of the UK with progressive rockers, Twelfth Night in October/ November saw us on our way to recording a new studio album. The tour covered B’ham Odeon, and the finale was the London Dominion Theatre. We could not get enough of the live scene. Once you were toured and tighter than you’d ever been before as a unit, you didn’t want to stop.


Cue another support slot to Magnum at B’ham Odeon. But tours were expensive, with PA, lighting, crew, bus and hotels and the Twelfth Night tour had been financed initially through Barry’s company. So, we had to stop and wait. However, we did carry out a lower profile tour again around the U.K. with local support bands opening up for us around the country.
We signed a major contract with RCA in the summer of 1984.


At this time, there were major problems with Barry Keen’s management outfit. It seemed that Barry’s company had laid out in excess of 80 grand on our behalf, and that as soon as the first years advance arrived from RCA, his company wanted it all back in one hit. Just signed a deal and broke. These were testing times, waiting around at the offices in the hope that someone would turn up with our wages for the month. Sometimes they did, sometimes they never answered the phone or even the door. Something was afoot, that was for sure.


Over the next few months it transpired that Mr. Keen and his partners had suffered a serious difference of opinion with regard to Barry's company activities and they had decided to go their seperate ways. The record company put us in the hands of a solicitor as an intermediary, and he looked after all the contractual obligations at the same time, while RCA searched for a suitable replacement. In many ways, I felt sorry for Mr. Keen as he had done a lot of groundwork on our behalf, only to have whatever fruit picked by another manager. I know I am the only person who felt this way in the band, but there you go.


Major press releases ensued, and songwriting shortlists were drawn up for a new album to be recorded in Berkshire at Genetic Studios. But first things first, pre-production. We moved into Fastix rehearsal complex in Hockley (owned by now, session drummer and drum teacher Paul Brookes), B’ham, with producer Tony Platt. Tony had recorded several serious rock acts in his past, and was no stranger to large projects such as this. All went well, and pre-pro was completed in two weeks. The song arrangements cleared of deadwood and spiced up somewhat, were ready to be recorded. We landed in Berkshire in the late Autumn and spent three wonderful months with a bar tab (which came to £1800.00!) and a peppered steak every night if that was what you wanted at the Miller of Mansfield pub. Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks fame was recording in the next studio and even sharing our hotel too. There were some great nights had by all.


The album was completed with few real hang-ups. John Sinclair (keyboards-Ozzy Osbourne) and Pete Goalby (vox-Uriah Heep) both guested as backing vocalists on the album. This was also our first experience of a computer as Tony did various programming with a ‘Fairlight’ system. The album was entitled ‘Brave The Storm’

.
Songlist:-
Hold on (to your love)
My Apollo
Reflections
Keep The Fires Burning
The Hunter
Brave The Storm
Wild, Wild Woman
Caught in the Act
Was I Wrong ?
(bonus track - Strangers in Town (b-side of Hold On)

Two video’s were filmed for the album with regard to single promotion. The first single, ‘Hold on’ was an elaborate affair, with a video shot in Pinewood Studios (literally in the wood!) with a carousel that had been flown in from some McCartney project somewhere, fire engines and agency models abound. The carousel shot turned into a revolving stage that was set up in a totally different studio (Ewart’s)in the centre of London, surrounded by a hired audience of students off the street! - (So that’s how they did it!!) The single went straight into the charts at no.60, and the album at 65. For the U.K., I guess that was pretty good for first release week, but RCA had not had permission to give T-shirts away with the product, and Gallup Pole took us out and placed us at no.120.


A serious blow, that handicapped any real further sales impact for a band of our stature at that time. The second video was filmed at the Mean Fiddler at Harlesden, and as ‘Brave the Storm’ was to be the second single, the video saw tables and chairs flying around with a poltergeist in our midst! (And some seriously overly made up musicians on the stage.)


1985/6
Tourwise, in ‘85, promotion for this album came in the form of support to Robin George at London Dominion Theatre in June & UFO, nationwide across the U.K. once more, covering all major venues and climaxing at the Hammersmith Odeon. Again, we carried on and did another club level tour to further promote the album in the U.K. Throughout the remainder of 1985, due to a shortage of decent tours, we wrote constantly and found ourselves recording demos on a regular basis at The Barn.


August ‘85
Songlist:-
Telephone
Run For Cover
Call of the Wild
Zenith
Fooled Again
Don’t Turn your Back on Love
Deceiving Heart
Turn Me Loose
Who Do I turn To ?
Got Me Runnin’

 

In February ‘86 , RCA made a decision to lose Steve Harris and myself in Los Angeles for a few months, to co-write songs with as many people as we could contact in the rock stars phone directory.

The label accommodated us in the Oakwood Apartment complex at Barham Blvd., Burbank. I think the reasons for this were two-fold. I don’t believe they thought that some of our songs were up to scratch for a follow up album, because we were too insular in our writing methods. I also believe they wanted us to soak up the atmosphere of Los Angeles and get to grip with what was going on in the world - and come up to speed. Personally, I didn’t think it was a bad idea.


Working with Don Dokken, Michael Bolton, John Parker (Chicago), Jeff Paris, Michael Thompson, Bob Kulick(Skull), Michael Jay(Survivor) Michael Des Barres(Power Station) and Duane Hitchings(Rod Stewart) did us nothing but favours and opened our eyes no end.
During these writing sessions I was asked by Jeff Paris to stand in for him as a session vocalist because he couldn’t make it.


I arrived at the studio’s just off Sunset Boulevard, to find a band in session with Andy Johns, The Rolling Stones producer, I was asked to sing harmonies on various tracks in the company of a man named Tom Keifer, who’s band was eventually named Cinderella.
I was asked if I wanted cash or 0.25 % of the album sales I pondered for a few seconds and thought to myself “Cinderella, Nah !!” and took the cash; "Nightsongs" sold seven million copies; story of my life.


The remainder of the band flew in to L.A. to rehearse & record what we had co- written and the results were really encouraging.


Feb ‘86
Songlist:-
Emergency
Last Chance (became Break Down the Walls)
Cant Fight the Nights
When the Love is Over
Talk to Me
Changing (basics) (became Young Heart)
She’s not So Innocent
The Eyes of A Woman
Thrashin’
Follow Your heart
Strange Fascination
Just Love Me


Whilst in L.A, RCA released a compilation album ‘Let Them Eat Rock’ , featuring ‘The Hunter’, from ‘Brave the Storm’. Featured on the same album were Priest, Grim Reaper, Mass, Autograph, White Wolf, Gary O, Nick Gilder and The Scorpions. We were in very good company.

 

May ’86 – more demos upon arrival home from writing in the States

 

Songlist:-
Changing (became Young Heart)
Only you (bonus track - Once Bitten Twice 1999 - Neat records Someday (1999 - Regeneration- neat Records)
Blind Rage, Blind Fury (1999 - Regeneration- neat Records)
The songwriting petered out in July/August ‘86 with -


Songlist:-
Wake up (unreleased)
Tell her its Over (unreleased)
Walk Away From Love (unreleased)

We had spent a year writing an album on both sides of the Atlantic and now it was time to record it. During the Summer of 1986 we toured the length and breadth of the U.K in support to Twisted Sister. These were a great bunch of guys, and so tall!! (Except the drummer who was about five feet tall and dreamed of playing for Rush. A second support band also came along for the ride, namely Pallas. And we still had no manager.


During many visits to Peter Robinson at RCA in Bedford Avenue, a conversation came up regarding Smallwood and Taylor. This was a heavy weight management company that looked after Iron Maiden. they had showed an interest, but they wanted to witness the band live before they would make any decision. I think it was after a show at the Hammersmith Odeon, that they recommended a world wide tour supporting Maiden, otherwise they would take on the project for a fee of 150 grand. Who says that music isn’t run by money then !

 

1986
Finally, after meeting producer Neil Kernon, we decided that were going to get on famously recording an album together, so that was that. Sifting through all the songs and kicking out the deadwood, we arrived at a final list of tracks minus one. ‘Last Chance’, the song we wrote with Dokken, was all but scrapped. Only the intro remained. As for co-writes with all the other American writers, they pretty much remained unchanged. After returning to Zel La studios in Birmingham one last time for pre-production in August ‘86 with Neil Kernon, we flew to what would be our home for three months in Blaricum. This was just outside the radio town of Hilversum, in Holland. The studios that had been chosen by the producer were Soundpush Studios because of the Solid State Logic desk, and the huge live drum room. The studio had a large amount of staff and was literally down the road from Wisseloord studio where Def Leppard were recording ‘Hysteria’ at the same time with Mutt Lange.


So came three months of gruelling recording, debates, arguments, fights, drunkenness and all the other things that had become the norm for every SHY recording session.


We struggled for ages to get a decent guitar sound. In the end Steve and Neil Kernon flew back to London to fetch different Marshall’s. But upon their return there was still no joy. Neil got the studio to advertise nationwide on the radio for anyone with a decent Marshall of any description to come to the studio and bring it with them. People turned up from everywhere. Amplifiers were everywhere you looked. But still no joy. The final answer came from a conversation with Mutt Lange who presumably had been suffering the same problem. ‘ Have you got one of those little JHS rock boxes ?’ he asked. Yes we had. After taking this personal practice amp the size of a Walkman and plugging it through a graphic equaliser, we finally found the sound. Monster. Unlike the guitar, there were few issues with the other instruments.

Everything was played live apart from some great programmes that John Parker bought over with him from L.A. for his co-written song ‘Just Love Me’. The whole of the staff joined in for the vocals on ‘Break Down the Walls’, even the cleaners! Adrian Vandenberg even popped inand had a look! The problem of a cover version to consider was solved after a shortlist was drawn up and Cliff Richard’s ‘Devil Woman’ was pulled out of the hat! Despite the obvious piss taking, which was rife for years, the song has always proved a winner with audiences wherever we have played. The recording was a great success.


The mixing and the vocals for the single b-sides were taken back to Red Bus Studios in London. We spent another ten days here, carrying out various mixes and I sat pulling the chewing gum out of my hair that Neil had kindly placed there while he was pissed in the back of a taxi one night.


Everyone seemed really pleased with Neil’s work. On the last night, we drove over to Hammersmith Odeon to see Queensryche supporting Bon Jovi. Backstage, we met the bands and talked about working and recording with Neil Kernon. Neil’s previous album had been Queensryche’s ‘Rage For Order’. A bloody masterpiece. I guess he was an all round clever guy. Shy worked with Neil once more, recording ‘Welcome to the Madhouse’, but this was long after I had left the band, in the nineties.


The only other track written & recorded specifically for the project was ‘ Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Your Love’. This was recorded at Trident Studios by Marc Freegard in march ‘87. It has always been one of my favourite tracks. It ended up being used as a bonus. Kerranng gave a free ep taster of the album away on the front of their mag in ‘87. The album was titled Excess All Areas.

Right then, to touring this album. First up was a nationwide with my old friend Bob Kulick supporting Meatloaf on his 20/20 tour around the U.K. Bob played guitar for Meatloaf and we spent a lot of time together. The finale, which was two nights at Wembley Arena, saw me on stage with Meat, singing a medley of 50’s numbers! I wasn’t even born for Christ sake! I made an arse of myself, forgetting the words to ‘Johnny B Good’, mind you John Parr and Helen Reddy couldn’t remember them either , so I guessed it didn’t matter anyway! We made a lot of new friends on this tour, and the next one was round the corner.


Wherever we toured, I always spent more of my time with the crew than I did with the band. Whether or not that was because I found them more down to earth or not I don’t know. But inevitably, I would share hotel rooms with Willy the lighting director, or more often than not the sound engineer. Every time we would check into a hotel, I would sign the book, only to turn round and find the band had hit the town already. This began to nag at me in a big way. I had never really got on with Alan Kelly after his unsavoury welcome to the band in ‘83, but there had been a gulf growing between us over the years. Unfortunately, Alan seemed to lead the band on the social side, or perhaps they just gelled together, I don’t know. Perhaps it was me all along. But this was one of the only tours where I had to have an eighteen stone guitar roadie and a mad Geordie sit on me, to stop me kicking the living shit out of Alan Kelly. Things were getting a little out of hand.


A major European tour with Gary Moore and his ‘Wild Frontier tour’ was next up, and it took us from Spain to Scandinavia and all over the UK with the majority of the shows being in Germany. I’ll never forget Michael Schenker standing on the side of the stage all night at Hannover. At the end of the show, he caught me as we walked off and said, ‘Hey man, that was some show!’ It remains one of the most memorable concerts I’ve performed.


At the end of the tour, we played an open air bull ring in Madrid. It was a free festival; there were 30,000 people. Gig going well-audience screaming their balls off. Big rock comes flying on stage and smashes Steve’s guitar, seriously cutting Steve’s arm into the bargain. We have no choice but to vacate the gig. As it was the last gig, Gary Moore’s crew had made a few gallons of vodka punch. Very strong. The next morning, I woke up on a beach in Biarritz, northern Spain with no clothes, nothing. The band had dumped me. Apparently, I’d been throwing bricks at the coach windscreens and had also smashed the coach AC system.


The roadie, Big Les Wilson, who worked for Black Sabbath and Van Halen back in the late 70’s was heard to say that I ‘was worse than Ozzy Osbourne on tour’. I never drank vodka again.


I also found the quickest way to get up in the morning and be wide awake. It was on the Belgian border. I had a Bren gun shoved through the curtains of my bunk bed and ‘DRUG CHECK-OUT!!!’ screamed at me. That works. I caught a food allergy in Helsinki and ended up in hospital just before the gig. A ten hour ice breaker ferry from Stockholm just for that. I was well pissed off. I discharged myself and got back to the gig with about ten minutes before showtime, but I wasn’t well and it showed. Bloody North Sea Fish!!


The band received a stunning response everywhere they played in Europe and we came home to Reading Festival with Alice Cooper. Unfortunately, we didn’t do ourselves any favours here. As everyone seemed ready to go on stage, I went on stage! Unfortuately, the roadie had disappeared with the guitars for a final tune up or something and blow me, I had to come off stage and then go on again when everybody had got their shit together. This had never happened before and could not have looked good.


Shortly afterwards RCA cleared out all bands on their roster with a debit sheet, and we were one of them. A support slot to Bon Jovi at the NEC went down well, but whether we liked it or not, we were looking for another record deal and fast.
During the touring of 1987 manager Neil Levine from Light and Sound Design in Birmingham, came on board as our new manager. I never thought ‘Stagefright Management’ was very encouraging, but there you go! Neil was a pro player in the Jewish Mafia of the music industry, and new more important bosses in the biz than I had ever even heard of.


Neil guided us through twelve months without a deal, recording new demos, taking the flak from the press about how we’d had our chance and lost a major deal; how we’d never get another one, blah, blah..... . We carried on. In September ‘87 we returned to our demo base, The Barn.

 


Songlist :-
Let The Hammer Fall
Steal Me
If you want it
Maybe...Tonight
Showdown
It's Over
Why Does our Love Have To End
All of Your Love Tonight
You’re Gonna’ Lose Her.
Standing in The Line of Fire

None of these tracks ever made the album that was to be SHY’s next release, but all found their way to product over the coming years.
Under the watchful eye of Neil Levine, (which caused a big break up at the time:- manager come producer = conflict of interest) we again went in to the studio to record new songs in early ‘88.

Songlist :-
Broken Heart
Love on the Line
She’s Got What it Takes

The first two of these songs were very commercial and real album contenders.
They found their way to Los Angeles the following year. Another session of demos that were recorded at UB40’s studio, The Abbatoir with engineer Paul Talbot were in August ‘88.

Songlist:-
Time After Time
Give it All You’ve Got
How Does it Feel ?
Burnin’ Up
In The Line of Fire
Set The night on Fire
Love’s Just Another Word

The final set to be recorded were back at Rich Bitch in October ‘88.

Songlist:-
Give it All You’ve got
Burnin’ Up
broken Heart
Love On The Line
Axe to Grind
Make My Day
Never Trust A Stranger
Hey Jude

 

During ‘88 we played 35 shows to try out new material mixed with old - see gig history.

Now amid all this, it seemed that being six feet and two inches tall with a big frame is not a great size to be, if you’re a budding rock star. Through most of my career thus far, I had been dogged by people as being overweight and when I looked at my competition, I always knew where they were coming from. But trying to be a small guy, when you’re a big strapper like I am, is never an easy issue to deal with. My managers’ have put me in gymnasiums, tried to suggest diets, taken me out shopping for complimentary clothing, you name it, I’ve heard it all. They even asked my wife if she could make me look like her!! But what was to come, in looking for a new record deal, took the biscuit.


Neil Levine was courting a company called London Records, which are probably still a big concern, I dont know. The head of the A&R dept., had shown a definite interest, and at one point we were regularly selling out two-nighters at the London Marquee Club. I’ll never forget this. This guy told Neil, that if we played a blinder of a show, he would sign the band and discuss terms in the morning. Cool! So, we play a killer show. Sold out. Again. Guy says, ‘Brilliant Neil, speak tommorrow’. Everybody’s chuffed.


Next day, I get a call. ‘London Records wont sign SHY, cause you’re too big; you’re unmarketable’.
What do you do ?
Well, me ? I locked myself away for twelve weeks. I didn’t see the band or the manager or any fucking record company people. I cut down to 250 calories a day, and went out every morning running around 6/7 miles up hill and down dale. In the end it worked. I lost 50 pounds in 3 months.


If you can believe this, I had to catch a train from Manchester to London and go and see this guy. I got to his office, and he made me walk backwards and forwards in front of his desk! ‘My God, how did you do that - I cant believe you’re the same person!!’


The answer was simple. I wanted to. I had to. I would not let some two bit A&R man tell me I was unmarketable, when 50% of your fans in those days never got to see you like they do now; they were buying my voice and the bands records for Christ sake! Would people only buy a band’s records if the musicians were a certain shape and size ?! Did it ever affect Meatloaf - no. OK, there was some novelty perhaps, because he was real big.


Neil Levine did the greatest thing he had ever done for me at this point. he had secured a contract with MCA records, but hadn’t said anything. After London Records were jumping up and down and had finally offered us a deal, Neil just calmly said, ‘Nah,..... thanks, but no thanks, we’re signing with MCA. And we walked out of the guy’s office. What a fuckin’ star.
Neil Levine achieved all sorts of sponsorship for the band, which was something we’d never experienced before, from sunglasses to full backline. Quite an achievement. It took Neil twelve months to court the record and the publishing companies back into bed with us. Rondor Publishing signed SHY as did MCA records in 1989. But Rondor gave us our publishing rights back after a couple of months, as they could not agree a statutory rate figure that would tie in with MCA’s record deal. So MCA Publishing signed the band after all.


Having a small studio at home in Rochdale, I recorded a nine track demo that I sold through the SHY fan club which I also ran for a while, until it got out of hand. The tape was titled ‘Crusader’.


Songlist:-
Crusader
Flame of your Heart
White Thunder
Rockin St. Boy
African Sun
Revolution
One More Shot
Hold Me Now
No Gettin’ Away.

Other tracks written at home were:-
Songlist;-
Don’t Look Back
Blackout
Hold Me Now
Aint So Easy
Satisfaction Guaranteed
A Piece of My Heart
Nothin’s Gonna Bring Me Down
Break My Heart
Defy The Eagle
Daybreak
Bring it all Back
The Downward Road
What in The World
Memories fade to Grey
Love Strikes at Midnight
Head over heels
Make a Wish

None of this material ever really saw the light of day on a commercial scale. it’s impossible to say if it ever will.

1989
The dawn of ‘89 found us with new producer Roy Thomas Baker of Bohemian Rhapsody fame along with The Cars and many more famous bands. The guy was a legend in his own lifetime. I guess we couldn’t have been happier. RTB (as he became known - because they were the letters on his myriad of car licence plates which he shipped around by transporter wherever he went !!) lived in Arizona and wished to record at Enterprise Studios in los Angeles. So be it! The whole band flew out to LA in February 1989 for three months to make what was to be our most important album to date.


We stayed back at the Oakwood Apartments again and took our road manager Nigel Evans with us this time. (Guitarist from Tobruk) The first real problem reared its ugly head when we had checked into a real laid back rehearsal facility by the name of Alleycat Studios in downtown Burbank. RTB turned up after we’d set the equipment up and we were running through ‘Burnin’ Up’, probably the most uptempo and heavy track we were to record. As RTB wasn’t keen on the intro, he suggested some changes. Alan Kelly immediately stood up from behind the kit, and suggested that he thought this was a lousy idea. With no further ado, RTB got back in his gold Rolls Royce and went back to Arizona. Doh.


So what now ?! RTB had informed our manager that he wouldn’t be attending any pre-production and that he would be back in two weeks for the recording of the album. Well, there was nothing else to be said. We rehearsed the songs back to front until we were blue in the face and could do no more.

 


To be honest, I killed most of the first month working out in the gym and lazing by the pool in the day drinking beer, while the guys recorded backing tracks down at the studio with RTB. He got through a few sound engineers, firing them as and when he was displeased with the way they had gone about something and just as quickly, another one would pop up. But he seemed oblivious to it all to me. In fact, I got the distinct impression he didn’t really want to be there and he was just killing time. RTB would not work weekends and one particular Monday morning I arrived at the studio to find yet another engineer sacked. Apparently, as we were paying for a lock out on the studio, which meant no-one could use it whether we were there or not, one of the engineers took it upon himself to make a fast buck over the weekend and record a classical orchestra in our studio! Cheeky bastard! Obviously all the desk settings had been changed and we had literally to start from scratch. There was much debate over the coming weeks, about how the album sounded by management and company alike, but at the end of the day, Paddy McKenna had booked his wedding to his smashin’ girlfriend Jo for round about a month before we were due to come home. Everybody decided to go back to the UK to celebrate. However, I stayed in L.A. for the remaining month although i had undergone surgery and was in no fit state to be a good judge with regard to the mixes.


A friend of RTB’s helped me convalesce in LA for a couple of weeks, her name was Leslie St. Nicholas. She was the wife of the guitarist from Steppenwolf. When I had fully recovered, I flew back to the UK not overly happy with the recordings, but having totally lost the plot. The band in my eyes, had no-one to blame but themselves for the quality of the finished album, which seemed to lack a decent low end to it. Another bass guitar was added to the whole mix of the album back at Rich Bitch studios in Birmingham, but it never really salvaged it. Quite how it had all gone so wrong, I never understood. How could 125,000 dollars have ended up in a bargain bin for just 99c one month after it was released ?!!!
In retrospect, I think we partied too much, LA very probably went to our heads and in my opinion, the producer was just sitting there earning his money, not really breaking his balls, ‘cause it was obvious from day 1 in pre-production that his opinions meant little.

 


The album was finish mixed in May ‘99 to plan, it was called ‘ Misspent Youth’.
We were harangued no end in the press for the quality of the album, but we had no choice but to carry on and tour the product.
Songlist:-
Give it All You Got
Burnin’ Up
Pub
Money
After The Love is Gone
Never Trust a Stranger
Broken Heart
Shake The Nations
When You Need Someone
Love On The Line
Make My Day
Encore

Singles were ‘Give it All you Got’ and ‘Broken Heart’.
In December 1989 we set out to tour on a wide scale with Manowar. Hardly a suitable support slot for an AOR band you might think. Well so did we. But it was the only thing going at all. Rather than not tour at all, we took it.
Arriving in Paris to find the bass amp was still in Birmingham, we were confronted by second support band Sabbat. Lots of swords being stuck in the stage and that sort of thing. And they did a heavy metal version of the Lords Prayer as I remember.


As you can imagine, the audience were of a very heavy metal nature and were a little bemused by us. Toulouse was not dissimilar, but when we landed at Turin, Italy, we had a shock. The gig was a 6000 seat cycle stadium and sold out.
Manowar spent a lot of time praying to the stage for some reason and chanting ‘Death to false Metal’.


As we were opening up, I was rather taken aback to hear the audience chanting ‘Tony, Tony,..’ wildly as I came out of the tunnel and onto the stage. We had never been to Italy before, so this looked like it would be a scorcher of a show. And so it proved , with the audience going mental until around the fourth or fifth song – all the power died.
Our road manager ran on stage to inform us that Manowar did not consider us to be artistically appropriate for their tour. They had disconnected the power to the stage. That was the end of that. It was a long drive back to Birmingham.

   


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