Blog

Red Aligatorz: Reunion Video

The Reunion of the Red Aligatorz at the Old Fire Station was more than what we (the band) expected. The music, the venue were good but the crowd were a unexpected surprise; to see so many people there was unbelievable. Not only seeing people I had not seen in decades, but meeting others who came to see the band.

One guy I talked with after the gig was 14 years old in 1986; he had come from the Pink Panther Record shop in Globe Lane, walking through town, he heard the Aligatorz busking outside of Binns. He and his friend went to listen; he was a Psycho-billy and liked the Aligatorz as they were home-grown and close to the music he loved. He stayed true to that music through his life. He came to the gig as he liked us then and liked us now; and it is this consistency to music that, personally I can relate too.

To be honest I expected about 30 or 40 people in the audience, but it was closer to 200 on the night. Considering other bands that are well known nationally, who pass though the Old fire Station, draw 30 or 40 people, I think it is amazing how many people came to see us play.

I also thought we would go out and play good music, but act our age and be conservative, but something else “kicked in” on stage and I was “home”. I have not enjoyed myself in such a long time.

Sure there were some duff chords, bum notes and off key vocals but that is not the point. We enjoyed ourselves and we played good and the energy was there right from the start, from us and the audience, and it was wonderful to hear the audience’s call and response come back to us on the song, Pink Thunderbird.

Here are my video recordings from the night. A big thank you to Pod, who did the camcorder at short notice, many thanks. I have left the video without editing it, only breaking it up, so it is easier to upload; I think it captures the atmosphere more…warts and all.

Advertisements

Red Aligatorz: Kitchen Reunion Demo

Here is the recording from the previous blog where I mentioned The Red Aligatorz rehearsal, leading up to the reunion gig at the Old Fire Station. It was the first time we had all been playing together (or been in the same room together) for 31 years.

There were 2 rehearsals recorded on the same day. The order of the tracks are not the order that they were played on the day. The First recording has 18 songs.

After a cup of tea and a slice of cake; and having our picture taken by the nice newspaper lady we recorded the 2nd demo. The 2nd recording has 16 songs…we lost 2 songs from the 1st recording.

 

A Guitar Story…

I am not sure if it is the same for other instruments and musicians, but a guitar can be a personal item. The old story of BB King running back into a burning building to rescue his guitar “Lucille” is well known. For a singer-song-writer a guitar can be a confident, and a trusted companion. I am not sure if it is the same with basses or drums? Perhaps a guitar accompanies lyrics more and therefore it is an instrument of harmonies and accompaniment, feelings and personal memories?

Recently I have been looking for a new guitar. My old one has a cracked body; it does not hold the tuning to well now. But buying a new guitar is more complicated than it once was. Being left handed I was used to having very little choice when it came to deciding on what guitar to buy. For many years I played a right handed guitar “upside down”, and I changed the strings around; over the years I have learned to play a right handed guitar upside down, but keeping the strings as they are, so I am playing the chords upside down! But the feel is “wrong” and the neck of a right handed guitar is twisted to suit a right handed player.

So my search for a lefty was complicated, not because there was a lack of choice, but because there was a lot of choice. The online “shopping experience” is a fickle companion; and it does not beat going into a shop and trying the guitar out. There is very little choice when it comes to buying locally; most of the lefties are “up north or down south”.

I got my first guitar at the age of 7; it was a Spanish guitar with steel strings! It was actually a guitar from Spain, brought back to the UK in the 1970s when Spain got rid of Franco and began opening its borders to cheap package holidays. I guess the woman who advertised these guitars, in the local paper, wanted to claim some of her holiday money back and exported some of these small guitars with her to sell. My parents did not know anything about music, and the woman did not let on that I was holding the guitar “upside down”, they bought it any ways.

I taught myself to play the guitar from books in the Carlisle library from The Who’s “Tommy” song book and a few Clash song books I had bought. I wrote my first punk songs on this Spanish guitar and although the sound must have been terrible, it was all I knew, therefore wonderful. These songs later became songs in the punk bands (Business Controlled, Havana Affair, Frenzy) mentioned in this blog. As punk came along I painted the guitar with various symbols and designs. In the end I gave the guitar to a friend called Ste, who wanted to learn to play guitar. After that I lost contact with it.

kay guitar

The 2nd guitar I bought was an Kay electric right handed guitar that I bought from the local “Evening News and Star” paper, it came with an amp, and I started playing in bands with it in the late 70s when I was still at school. It had a tremolo arm and I broke strings the first time I played it rehearsing. This guitar I sold; I wanted a better guitar as I was taking music more seriously. I saw what I thought was a better guitar in a National newspaper and I asked my parents to let me borrow the money to buy it. They refused, the guitar would of cost £79; I only had a few months to wait until I was legally allowed to withdraw money from a small legacy, but with my parents saying “No” I was determined to get an even better one (and more expensive).

Music Maker was a guitar shop at the top of Devonshire Street, Carlisle. It was at the top of a flight of stairs and in an attic room. After gasping for breath climbing the many stairs and opening the door I was surrounded by guitars of all shapes and sizes, and yes a few left handed electric guitars too. There were 2 Antoria Gibson copies, one in sunburst colour and the other in black. Their cost was £215, a small fortune for a 16 year old boy still at school. But I withdrew the money from my legacy and bought the black Antoria guitar. This guitar weighed a ton, a complete contrast to the other guitars I had tried. I have played with this guitar in all the punk bands that I was involved with, it has been an excellent guitar and I still I have it today, and now I am recording music again it is still part of my musical journey.

electric guitar me.JPG

After the Antoria I needed a better acoustic and I bought an Eko left handed acoustic. It was not great, it had laminated top and sides and the tone was sweet but quiet. The bulk of my songs I wrote on this guitar, and it is the closest I have come for it to be BB King’s “Lucille”. There is a recording of it on the page “Business Controlled” in this blog where I am recording a song called “Vive La Resistance” it had a great action on the neck and playing it was a dream, but it was too quiet for busking. I tried to make it a semi-acoustic by putting a humbucker puck-up across the sound hole and drilling a hole in the body to insert the jack input…it did not work too well. I am not sure what happened to the guitar, I think I sold it as I needed the money (why did I do that?).

eko

Another guitar I bought was a Classical guitar, which was not a good buy. I bought it from Northern Sounds music shop at the top of Botchergate, it being a right handed guitar it felt “wrong” although I still have it.

Jan03661

After I had joined the Red Aligatorz in 1985, I needed a louder acoustic guitar, and I bought a 2nd hand right handed Yamaha guitar from my classical guitar teacher, Pat Robinson. I paid £50 for it and it had a lovely bass sound, louder and suitable for busking and giging. I used this guitar throughout the Aligatorz gigs and later on in Amsterdam and also in London. It being a right handed guitar it still felt “wrong” but as I was “strumming fuck out of it” it did not seem to matter too much; the scratch plate is at the top and my fingers have worn away the wood on the bottom! It is a good guitar still, but with the crack in the body it does not hold its tuning…I will be operating on it soon, and I hope to produce a new Frankenstein shortly!

yamaha.jpg

You might think this is an over indulgence to write about my guitars, but instruments can mean something to a musician, and for me guitars (and other instruments I play) have always been a good companion. I am not sure what I will buy next, now it has more to do with the feel and the sound of the instrument, and let that determine what I play on it.

Red Aligatorz’s Article 5/3/18

Here is a link to the on-line “Cumbria Live” What’s On in Cumbria Site, it features an article about the Red Aligatorz’s forth coming reunion gig at the Old Fire Station. The article will also be published in this Friday night’s Cumberland News, which I hope to cut out and tape here!

The link: The Red Aligatorz Cumbria Live article

 

Stars and Stripes – a home from home

Stars and Stripes, was a nightclub at the bottom of Botchergate, Carlisle. It was at the bottom of London Road, a long road heading south towards Penrith and south Cumbria. It is lined with shops and bars, nightclubs and a few churches; in the 1980s it had a cinema and lots of 2nd hand-shops. It was a run-down area of Carlisle’s city centre, the buildings looked as they were falling down (and today they have been pulled down). I used to walk down that road to rehearse with bands: Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, Havana Affair, and to do gigs with the Red Aligatorz; it was a troubled area of town.

You entered Stars and Stripes, though a small unimposing door and immediately climbed a flight of narrow stairs. At the top of the stairs you either turned right to go to the toilets or left to enter the main bar, dance area and stage. Seats lined the outside walls and there was a spacious area for dancing. At the top end of the room was a small raised area (stage) where bands stood and the DJ resided. Behind the stage was a glass panel and behind that was a small room where a recording studio was located, next to the recording studio was a small dressing room (Some of the videos on the Havana Affair page show the stage area).

I think for most people who used to go to discos and to see bands in the 1980s, they would have been in Stars and Stripes at some point in their lives. It used to be called “Kreeps” and it used to hold Heavy Mental discos on a friday night. I do not know at what point that it changed to become a hang out for the punk/psychobilly bands and that sort of crowd, but it became of the the most popular nightclubs to go too, and to see touring bands; and to hear local bands play (perhaps more so than Micks 1?).

On a wednesday night it used to have a Jam Session, here a lot of local bands went and played, often to an empty room. There was a resident band who played mainly RnB music, and the same people who played in that band (Bob and Martin) often did the sound desk for the Jam Session as well; they also mixed sound for any touring band that came through Carlisle. In short Stars and Stripes was the place to go for regular live music.
les griffis
The owner of the venue was Les Griffith [photo: man in white shirt; I do not know the origin of this photo or else I would credit you, sorry]; a ex-door man (if I understand correctly) who took on the role of running the venue; he was a character and although there were a lot said about Les, the truth is a lot of the music that happened in Carlisle just would not have happened if it was not for his willingness to let people play; he gave a lot of bands a venue to experiment, and to have a platform to focus on. He did not pay you much…if at all, but you played and if you could stand the “experimental mixing” techniques of Bob and Martin behind the desk you even got a very strange demo to take home with you! A lot of the live recordings on this blog were recorded at Stars and Stripes.

Les, hosted Carlisle’s answer to “Live Aid” in 1985, which was a great turn out and collected a lot of money for the Live Aid Appeal. Havana Affair played that night as well as a lot of other local bands all in aid of the famine in Ethiopia.

There are too many to mention (even if I could remember them), but Les hosted touring bands such as The Icicle Works, GBH, King Kurt, an early Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Guana Batz… and local bands were often Support for these bands.

As a lot of venues in Carlisle, Stars and Stripes was also the home to teenage antics: love making, violence, drunkenness and drug taking; the recording room was so full of hashish that you were stoned just by walking in there.

Today Stars and Stripes is long gone, rumour has it it is being turned into flats…I laugh at this as if the people who will eventually rent/buy these flats knew what went on in there I guess they would demand a a sort of property “sterilization” whew!!!!

“Panic Cities Last Hope”

Another find in the bottom of my cupboard is a poster featuring one of Carlisle’s well known Punk bands “The Beguiled” playing a gig at Stars and Stripes, featuring as support “Every smiles A Lie” another Carlisle band (both have their individual pages on this site).

the beguild poster 001

There is no date on the poster, but taking a guess I say it was 1986 (?); the price of the ticket was £2.00 so the band was not getting paid much (if at all) that night. Stars and Stripes was the main place to play, it helped bands “cut their teeth” and get their act together, but you did not get paid for any of it, if you were lucky you got a pint and if they had a good night perhaps £10 split between the band. A dole cheque for 2 weeks was about £32; so even though ticket prices were not a lot, neither was the wages.

Guana Batz / Red Aligatorz

Stars and Stripes was a place the Red Aligatorz played at regular intervals, not only on the Wednesday Jam nights (where no one turned up) where we often did a full gig or rehearsed. We sometimes played there to support bands from other parts of the UK such as from the London based band The Guana Batz

tickets aligatorz

I do not remember the gig at all, to be honest the rockabily scene was something I did not get into too much. I liked the music but a part from that I did not take notice of the movement. The ticket price was £2.50p and I think in the mid 80s you got about £16 on the dole, per week (it came in 2 weeks at a time, so £32 to last us a fortnight). £2.50 was not a lot of money to see a band, which reflected in the amount of money we got paid for doing the gig; between the four of us, £10 (if we were lucky), often it was a pint at the bar.