South Shields singer in heavy metal Heaven

Heaven and Hell.
Heaven and Hell.
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For many people, the punk movement was not so much about the outrageous clothes and hair cuts, or even the bands (though they were undeniably important), but more about the fact that they could turn their hand to producing their very own brand of DIY music.

And the same was true, a few years later, when the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) movement, as it was dubbed, encouraged teenagers to pick up a guitar and create the sort of rough and ready rock music that had more to do with punk than the sounds being produced by the slick and sophisticated chart-topping acts from the States.

One man who is familiar with both genres of music, is South Shields musician and heavy rock guru Lou Taylor.

Lou not only sings with Ronnie James Dio tribute act, Heaven Or Hell, he also masterminds the splendidly-titled website Encyclopedia Metallum, The Metal Archives.

And despite his busy schedule, Lou found the time to chart his own musical journey for us, and, in so doing, retraces the steps of many people here in the North East.

This is his musical ‘magic carpet ride’.

l 1973-1976: “Many guys like myself were regulars at the Newcastle City Hall and longed to emulate our heroes up on that stage, and in the entertainment world.

“We would queue for hours for autographs and glimpses of the stars. I met many a cohort who went on to become fine and prominent musicians in their own, right here and beyond the North East, including Kevin Charlton, Dave Paton, Steve Dawson, Maurice Bates, Barry Hopper and more ... the list is long.”

l 1977-78: “As a mobile DJ, I also had a chance to connect with the youth clubs and halls playing the very tunes that people from the City Hall and Mayfair followed.

“I myself developed quite a diversity in tastes with this DJ job, being booked for any kind of do, even punk and pop.

“I also used to dabble in photography, and got drawn into the gang with The Angelic Upstarts, being invited to DJ at their local gigs.

“There, they noticed me snapping away, and invited me farther and wider, and I’m still good mates with Deka and Mond Cowie.”

l 1979: “The local band scene ignited with the revitalised heavy metal craze which produced the likes of Zarathustra, who became Mythra, Obelisk, who became Hellenbach, while Hollow Ground also emerged.

“By now, my own DJ show had expanded to include full stage lighting which brought me regular bookings, with a whole scale of acts, including Mythra, Hellenbach, Raven, Venom, Satan, AXE (then FIST), Punishment Of Luxury (thanks to the Upstart connection), Zoo Bazaar, Alien, King Crabs, featuring Jimmy Nail and more.”

l 1980: “Now came my chance to join the spotlit-stage when we formed Saracen, the South Tyneside act (later another Midlands act consolidated that name after our split.)

“Saracen (NE) which was made-up of: Steve Dawson, guitar, Les Wilson, bass guitar, Dave Johnston, drums, and myself, was formed in 1980 and we soon embarked upon a campaign of prolific profile-publicity.

“And it seemed to work. We were a fledgling band but soon were on the lips of many a rock fan in the region.

“We swiftly put a set together and hit the regional circuit, and in no time, maybe too fast almost, ended up building a following – even reaching main band status in venues where it had taken others years to achieve.

“Subsequently, Guardian Records approached us to contribute to a compilation record, Roksnax. We became known for our comprehensive stage and lighting presentations, if not for our tunes.

“It was much later that those tunes gained a more revered status.

“We remain friends to this day, and a new issue of that LP is on its way.”

Lou, who moved to London, after joining Satan, describes the NWOBHM and his time in Saracen as “a magic carpet ride that we even got a chance to take part in.

“Even now, the act is remembered with great respect. Despite being short-lived it was a brightly shining star.”

What are your memories of the NWOBHM and the local music scene?