quarta-feira, 22 de maio de 2024

Steve Toplek (Cockneys on Tour)


Q. - Hello Steve, how did your interest in hard rock and heavy metal music start?

Steve - Hearing Machine Head by Deep purple, school friend raved about it, was completely blown away hearing it.

Q. - Did you start to go to the Soundhouse in the late 70's? Do you think it was a mythical place?

Steve - No, my Best mate was working with Sid (Simon) Adams at a musical instrument shop in Ealing. He introduces us to the Soundhouse , where he had won “headbanger of the year” and also the Brecknock pub in Camden, where his favourite band Urchin played.

Q. - How would you describe the enthusiasm of the fans? Do you remember the effort and dedication on the cardboard guitars contest?

Steve - It was somewhere where everyone felt at home, they loved the music and the atmosphere, and being part of something where they all felt the same. I was told the cardboard guitars came after one of the guys at the Soundhouse, “Rob Loonhouse” started headbanging with a broom, the guitars followed, and escalated to  the “Headbanging  Band Of The Year” competition, with not onlt cardboard & wooden guitars but roadies with cardboard amplifiers! The competition was judged by members of Motorhead and Iron Maiden and other heavy rock musicians.

Q. - Were you part of Cockneys on Tour? What did it consist of? Did you travel around the UK following some bands? Which bands did you follow on tour, at that time?

Steve - Yeah, it started one night, we were going somewhere, someone made a comment like “the cockneys are on the move”, to which someone shouted out “Cockneys On Tour”, and the name was born, along with a shout of Oh for f***s sake!”. There were quite a few of us, none of whom were actually cockneys, one guy, Tom, was from Sunderland. There was Sid, Mark & Cliff, Tim, Colin, Tom, Dennis & basically anyone with us.

We mostly went to see Urchin & Iron Maiden, who often played gigs together. In the beginning, Maiden were usually the support band for Urchin. Dave Murray of Iron Maiden had been Urchin’s original guitarist, Adrian Smith, one of Urchins guitarists later joined Maiden after Urchin broke up.

Outside of London gigs, we went to see Urchin a couple of times at the Corn Dolly in Oxford, Urchin & Iron Maiden at Upper Heyford US Army base in Oxford (some of the American soldiers were Soundhouse members) and the following week at Guilford University.


Q. - Did you guys keep in touch all over the years?

Steve - Yes, unfortunately Dennis and Tim both died, and Sid died last year. Tom disappeared, I think he went back to Sunderland. I did try to track him down, but no luck.  I still see Colin & Mark occasionally, and am in touch with Cliff on Facebook.  I had worked with Colin at City Express courier company in 1978 , I was a motorbike rider and he was a van driver. In fact, when we went to oxford & Guildford, it was in Colin’s van. Through Sid, we met Mark, Cliff, Dennis and a few others at the Brecknock.

Some of us went to the Brecknock (now called The Unicorn) a couple of times a few years back.

I’m still in touch with Steve Allen, saw him in Camden a few weeks ago. Cliff Evans lives in Hastings, and runs a monthly psychedelic disco at a local hotel. Me & my wife, Colin & his girlfriend & Mark went to one last year. Cliff still plays in Tank, mostly rock festivals in Europe. They played here recently Colin & his girlfriend went, but I couldn’t go as we were away elsewhere.

Q. - When you were frequenting the Soundhouse in the late 70's, early 1980’s were there any bands that surprised you or were you disappointed with?

Steve - They didn’t have that may bands on, it was more a heavy metal & rock disco. I remember Iron Maiden playing several times, and Nutz, other bands might have played there occasionally, but if they did, I wasn’t there. Ted Nugent made an appearance one night, but not to play, just a visit and a few signings.

Q. - Do you think Neal Kay was very important in the revival of heavy metal in the late 70's?

Steve - Definitely. A large music room with a bar, a massive sound system, great records, and a lot of enthusiastic members, all rushing to headbang when their favourite songs were played, it was heaven. Plus the record chart. Iron Maiden sent their demo tape, which topped the cart & was later issued as a 7-inch single “The Soundhouse Tapes”, which today is extremely rare, probably one of if not the most famous HM single ever, copies sell for hundreds of pounds. Praying Mantis also had a Soundhouse tapes single, there’s a 12-inch version of “captured City”, which the band still plays at their concerts. The most amazing story is about Riot from America, a track from one of their albums was a big favorite, apparently, they were about to give up due to lack of success, but they heard about their popularity at the soundhouse, and actually came to the UK to play, I saw them at Hammersmith Odeon along with other members from the Soundhouse.

Q. - And what about the "Friday Rock Show"? What memories do you keep from listening to Tommy Vance?

Steve - One of the few places to hear heavy rock on the radio, I listened every week. There is actually a website dedicated to it, where the fans who run it are collecting all episodes and making them available online.

Q. – At that time did you think that Iron Maiden could have reached so high as they did?

Steve - Maiden seemed different to a lot of the bands before them, playing their own material and very dynamic, brilliant original songs and their own recognizable style Paul Di’Anno was a great frontman. They started off as a support band, but, especially after Bruce Dickenson Joined, with a lot of hard work and good management, they achieved major success.

Q. - And did you feel that the NWOBHM was reaching to a higher point, in the whole UK? What do you think about all the N.W.O.B.H.M. movement, and the repercussion it had around the world?

Steve - Not sure really, bands like Maiden definitely inspired other bands, and people to form bands, but there were a lot of good bands about.

Q. - Did you play or try to play in some bands back then? Tell us a bit about it please.

Steve - Cliff & Mark had a band before I knew them called Moby Dick, not sure how much they played. Me, Tim & a guy Steve Allen formed a band called Cosmic Tortoise, Steve was a Brecknock regular lived at Brecknock School 2 minute’s walk away and also went to the soundhouse. Steve was a great guitarist the rest of us were rubbish to be honest, we rehearsed a bit and gave up. Steve joined a band called Voyeur, they had some success, had a mini album out played a lot of gigs and festivals, did a small US tour, but there were problems and they split up. After that Chris their drummer played with a tribute band The Counterfeit Stones for a while. The only one who hasd any real success was Cliff evens, another from the Brecknock/Soundhouse. He was in the blues band Chicken Shack for a short time, and for many years has been a guitarist in the heavy rock band Tank.

Q. - What are your thoughts about the 90's? Did you feel it was bad times for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal bands?

Steve - I got married, moved and by the mid 80’s had a daughter so didn’t really go to many gigs. I listened to Friday Rock show, but there wasn’t much else on the radio, I wasn’t keen on a lot of the AOR type bands.

Q. - Are there any funny moments that you can share with us?

Steve - Going to see Urchin & Maiden at the USAF base in Oxford. The Americans at the Soundhouse told someone about it, probably Sid, Colin drove us there in the van, with Me, Sid,  Tim, Mark & Cliff in the back . We arrived. It was a military base, with high security, no one knew the American guys names. The guards wouldn’t let us in without invites or passes. Fortunately, one of the Americans came past, and got us admitted. Being a US base, we had to change our money into dollars to buy beer. The bands were in a big room, the others there, all US soldiers & maybe staff’ at the base, were standing or sitting on the floor  in front of the stage. Behind us were some high-ranking American Officers on chairs wearing full military uniforms, not the sort of people usually at a heavy rock gig. Also, some uniformed military Police. Maiden played first. We all got up to headbang, the police made us sit down. Every time they went away, we got up, they would come back & make us sit down again. Gradually others joined in. By the end of the night, security had given up and people were dancing on the tables. Colin started the drive back to London. We were all in the back of the van. It was dark, and we were going down a narrow country road, when someone said “it’s very quiet, where’s Tim”? We looked round. The back doors of the van were open & he was gone, Colin reversed back along the road. The back doors had somehow come open, Tim had fallen out, he was lying in the road, laughing. He had a full-length leather coat on, was drunk but, seemed ok. We got him back into the van and continued on home. It started to get lighter outside. Can’t remember if we stopped or were still in the van, but discover the fall had ripped a big hole in the arse of Tim’s jeans and his arse was redraw & full of gravel. He was so drunk he hadn’t even noticed.

The next week, we all went to Guilford University, Tim got drunk, fell down some stairs, broke his leg, went to hospital and came back to the gig with his leg in plaster!

Q. What about Urchin, with Adrian Smith, did you see them live?

Steve - That's where it all started. Colin was already a friend, he didn't go to the Brecknock much. Met Mark & his brother Cliff there, Dennis, Steve Allen, Tom & Cliff Evans, who'd been at school with Steve. There were a few others, Rob who's now in New Zealand & Paul, no idea where he is now. Urchin were a full-time band I think, they had a big coach, Dave their sound guy & roadie drove it, Dennis roadied with them for a while. We went to Oxford to a music pub a couple of times to see them. Andy their other guitarist was very good, but towards the end of the band, he was noticeably drinking a lot, it's just life that they didn't make it. Sid had a couple of their demo tapes that he shared with people, they eventually came out as LP's & CD's along with the early Urchin singles on a German label a few years back. Dave the sound guy normally drove, one night, we saw them in Oxford and got a lift back on the bus. Andy drove but was a bit drunk. In those days the road to Oxford was the A40, 3 lanes in most places, a 70-mph speed limit, and there were small roads alongside for access to any houses. There were a lot of roundabouts. Andy went round one of the roundabouts, but instead of going down the main road, he accidentally went on the small road at full speed. Narrow road with parked cars, could have been really dangerous Dave told hom he'd never let him drive again. After Urchin split up, Andy & Adrian had a band called Marshall Fury.

No success with that either.  When Adrian joined Maiden, I heard Andy joined Michael Des Barres & His Chequered Past. Michael had been the singer with Silverhead, he was also in a couple of episodes of Superman on TV. He married Miss Pamela, a groupie from the Chicago Plaster Casters (they made an album, Permanent Damage with Frank Zappa, featuring a lot of famous rock musicians like Jeff Beck) The Plaster Casters were famous for making plaster casts of rock stars dicks, the most famous was Hendrix. Pamela wrote a book about it all called "I'm With The Band" I heard Andy was also with the band FM at one point. There used to be a video on you Tube from maybe 10 years ago when Adrian jammed with Andy & some friends for the first time in years.

Q. - Do you still see bands live nowadays? Do you keep an eye to hard rock and heavy metal? Do you try to keep the seventies and eighties heavy metal spirit alive?

Steve - I still go to a couple of gigs a week, usually pubs & small clubs, and a few festivals. It tends to be more rock, blues, & prog than HM. Saw Praying Mantis at a festival last year and at a pub gig this year. Me, Colin & Mark went to see British Lion, the band formed by Steve Harris, Maiden’s bass player the Christmas  just after lockdown ended, And Me & Colin went to see Alestorm at Brixton Academy.

Q. - Anything more you want to say, to end up this interview?

Those of us left and who are still able go to gigs as often as possible and meet up occasionally. We all still love music.

Thank you for your time, and wish you all the best.

Sem comentários:

Enviar um comentário

Steve Toplek (Cockneys on Tour)

  Q. - Hello Steve, how did your interest in hard rock and heavy metal music start? Steve - Hearing Machine Head by Deep purple, school frie...