Classic Rock has. He is Thunderstick, former Samson drummer-turned-nightclub owner.
From page 64 of Classic Rock Magazine June 2011
As a new CR -curated NWOBHM compilation hits the shelves, we track down the great lost heroes of the scene, 30 years on, to ask the burning question: Is there really life after NWOBHM?
Words: Malcolm Dome, Dave Ling and Ian Ravendale Portrait: Paul Slattery
FROM DANDY TO BUDDHIST GERRY LAFFY (GIRL)
Featuring future Def Leppard man Phil Collen, Girl were NWOBHM’s camp wing. Laffy was their guitarist from 1979 until they split in 1983.
GERRY LAFFY: “ We were outsiders in the NWOBHM scene. Some took to us but others hated us – a lot. We were driving around in Aston Martins and taking too much marching powder, but keeping things going became such a battle that by the time we split up in 1983, I’d become the manager of film director Russell Mulcahy, where I stayed for the next 15 years.
“Being involved with such movies as Highlander and doing promo videos for Elton John and Duran Duran was very enjoyable. Duran’s John Taylor asked me to be the Ronson to his Bowie in a solo band, and we did 10 albums together. In the 90s my brother Simon and I had a band called Sheer Greed, but nobody got our camp, Jewish humour. Nowadays my living comes from being an artist –
my style is somewhere between Warhol and Banksy. And I work with adults with learning disabilities. I teach them singing and art. It brings out the dope-smoking Buddhist hippie in me.
“The subject of a Girl reunion still comes up. Phil Collen and [singer] Philip Lewis still look like rock stars; why would I go on stage and pretend to be the guy I was 30 years ago? I ain’t wearing a wig!” A DVD titled Girl, Sheer Greed & Gerry Laffy is available via Laffy’s Facebook page.
DONKEY-TENDING BOOKIE! BRIAN ‘BIG’ DICK (TYGERS OF PAN TANG)
Proud owner of NWOBHM’s ultimate nudgenudge nickname, Dick occupied the drum stool during two stints with the Geordie bruisers.
BRIAN DICK: “ The NWOBHM was a fantastic time in my life, though it’s only now that I appreciate my good fortune. I didn’t join a band because I loved playing drums, what
appealed to me was the camaraderie of us-againstthe-world mentality. When John Sykes joined Tygers Of Pan Tang and Jon Deverill replaced Jess Cox on vocals, it was a change for the better, but the band became a little more out for themselves. We headlined Hammersmith Odeon in 1982, but it had become a bit like a house of cards. Three of us, including me got the sack, and the Tygers Of Pan Tang were without an original member.
“A few years later I was part of a new line-up that flogged a dead horse with two more albums, which I regret because I should’ve built a life away from it all. Sergeant, my next band, was financed by AC/DC’s Brian Johnson, but we were going around clubs playing to half-a-dozen people.
“So I went into cabaret work for many years. Completely boring but the money was good. After two summer seasons at Butlins I got tired of living in a caravan, so we moved from Kent to my current place on Exmoor National Park in Somerset. I’m a manager at William Hill, the bookmakers. At home we have donkeys, goats, horses and more. It’s a whole other existence. I don’t miss being in the Tygers, but I miss being in a band very much.” THE MAN IN THE MASK
Gimp-masked Samson drummer Barry ‘Thunderstick’ Purkis (above, next to, yes, moustachioed Bruce Dickinson) was one of the NWOBHM era’s most memorable characters. Specialist subject: battering his kit within a cage on stage.
BARRY PURKIS: “ I invented the concept of the mask because I was fed up with all the attention paid to lead singers and guitarists. But it became a double-edged sword. I found myself living the whole Thunderstick persona, even wearing the mask at soundchecks to protect my anonymity.
“With hindsight, in a business sense Samson trod in every possible pile of dog shit, but I loved being in that band. I left in 1980 because I wanted to be more showmanlike than go down the bluesy route they preferred. We needed to go further over the top; to become a contender for Alice Cooper’s throne. So I put together my own, female-fronted band, Thunderstick, which aimed to do just that. The press, who just expected Samson MK II, crucified me.
“Afterwards I ran a couple of nightclubs, became a sound engineer working for Steve Marriott, Chicken Shack...
“Samson reunited for some gigs in the late 90s which I thoroughly enjoyed. I still have my own production company, and was thrilled and surprised that Classic Rock placed me at No.36 in a list of the 50 best drummers in rock back in 2005. That was one in the eye to all those that didn’t take me seriously as a drummer.”
Thunderstick’s debut album, Beauty And The Beast, will be re-released by Heaven & Hell Records on Halloween. THE BLOKE WHO ATTACKED LEMMY PETE GILL (SAXON)
After learning his chops with Gary Glitter, drummer Gill joined NWOBHM trailblazers Saxon. An acrimonious split with the Barnsley big teasers in 1981 was followed by an even more turbulent stint in Motörhead.
PETE GILL: “ After Saxon’s Denim And Leather album I damaged a ligament in my hand and wasn’t able to rehearse for three or four weeks. I was ready to return, when the manager
told me Saxon didn’t want me back. It took seven years to get them to pay me my royalties.
“I joined Motörhead a couple of years later and the first two years were a whirlwind. They were great to play with and very good socially, but Lemmy used to really screw me off by constantly turning up late. We’d been booked for a guest appearance on the TV show The Young Ones , so we checked in to a nearby hotel for the night. We had a 9am wake-up call, but we couldn’t get any answer from Lemmy’s room. Fearing the worst, I asked the hotel management to break the door down. Lemmy wasn’t there, there was a car waiting, and I was getting more and more wound up. Then Lemmy came in, completely out of it,
shouted something at me, and I attacked him. The others had to drag me off. In his book, Lemmy says he fired me, but he didn’t.
“I started wondering: ‘Do I want to do this any more? I just feel out of it.’ I started to get bad arthritis in my knees and hands. In the 90s, Graham Quinn and Steve Dawson from Saxon asked me to join them in their band Son Of A Bitch. We did an albu m and two big festivals, but I told them I didn’t want to tour. My condition got worse, and I now have to walk with two sticks. I’ve got severe arthritis and wasting in my legs, and a condition called cerebellar ataxia, which is the degeneration of the part of the brain that deals with balance. I’ve got specialists for different conditions. It doesn’t stop me from getting out, although I don’t walk around in a biker jacket and cowboy boots.
“I’m completely retired from playing now. Could I have done it any better? No, I don’t think I could. I’d have liked to have seen the Saxon thing through, though.”
STEVE BRIDGES (WITCHFYNDE)
Fronted by Bridges from the mid-70s until late 1980, Witchfynde released debut album Give ’Em Hell on Mansfield’s Rondelet Records.
STEVE RICHARDS: “ We supported Def Leppard, and went professional, which I found a drag so I quit. I didn’t do anything musically after that. I had a happy marriage. That was enough for me.
“I became an Anglican lay preacher in the early 90s, leading services and preparing sermons. I’m not an easy man to convert, but I came across something that I couldn’t explain any other way apart from that it was God. It was something outside of my experience, but very powerful. I didn’t know it at the time, but my wife was experiencing the same thing slightly before me.
“Witchfynde got back together few years ago. Part of me wondered if I should become involved. I didn’t, and I don’t regret it. I drive an HGV, which is pretty boring at times but pays the bills.”
HARRY ‘HIROSHIMA’ HILL (FIST)
South Shields band Fist sat at the rockier end of the NWOBHM spectrum. Harry Hill – not the TV gonk – was their drummer until 1982.
HARRY HILL: “ After the band split, I started working in a pub in Sunderland. When the tenancy came up, the brewery suggested I apply. During a break from running pubs I became a double-glazing salesman. A friend told me you could make £800 a week – this was in 1990. I drifted into it but I’ve always found it a bit of a game. The big companies charge huge prices and then offer 50 per cent discounts. I don’t do the hard-nosed, high-pressure stuff. We show people the right product, well-fitted and at the right price.
“The double-glazing has always gone alongside playing. Most recently I was with a cabaret trio, but I played with the [original Thin Lizzy guitarist] Eric Bell Band for a while.
“As well as having the window company, I’ve just taken over a bar in South Shields. But if I got the right offer from a band I’d drop everything else tomorrow. At heart I’ll always be a drummer.”
PETE TOOMEY (BITCHES SIN)
Lead by brothers Pete and Ian Toomey, Bitches Sin released records on Neat and Heavy Metal Records. The partnership dissolved 15 years ago when Pete went to live in New Zealand.
PETE TOOMEY: “ I met my wife when she came across to renew her residency stamp. She asked me to go with her for a holiday, and we never came back. There’s no heavy metal at all over there [NZ], so I’ve been playing with the Rockabilly Rebels for the last four years. As well as festivals, we usually play to between 100 and 1,000 people, surrounded by hot rods. Which has to be better than playing to 16 people in a disco in Workington.
“I also write children’s songs, and perform as ’Enry Hubbard, The Dirty Old Pirate, with black teeth, no shoes, and dirty face. We’re more like a nautical Pogues-meet-the Stray Cats than the Wiggles. Singing about the Devil is cool when you’re young, but kids love it when you sing about
picking your nose while dressed as a pirate.” ➻
THE ORIGINAL LARS ULRICH
DUNCAN SCOTT (DIAMOND HEAD)
A key inspiration for a young Metallica, Stourbridge band Diamond Head released two classic NWOBHM albums: 1980’s Lightning To The Nations and 1982’s follow-up Borrowed Time . Former glass engraver Scott played drums on both of them.
“ A highlight of my time in
Diamond Head was playing the Reading Festival in 1982. My drum sound no longer
resembled somebody flicking a packet of crisps; we were like an earthquake that day. Where things went wrong was the recording of the third album, Canterbury . The fun was going out of it all, and the producer, Mike Hedges, undermined my confidence. He’d recorded the sound of somebody throwing up, and if he didn’t
like your performance he’d play it to you through the headphones. Besides that, our music was changing. One day I was pretending to be Neal Peart, the next Stewart Copeland.
“Being out of the band was very demoralising, but once the dust settled I could see why they had brought in somebody else. I had a crack at the AC/DC job but, looking like an albino stick insect, my image was all wrong. But I did get to pass Cliff Williams and Angus on my way to the loo.
“After that and a one-off Diamond Head reunion on stage with Metallica in 1992, I was done with music. It wasn’t hard to slip back into being a glass engraver and I landed a job at Royal Doulton. The bottom has fallen out of the glass trade, so I’m working in warehouse distribution at the moment. I’ve got an electronic drum kit, but these days when I play it’s purely for fun.” Diamond Head play the Sonisphere Festival on July 8. With a different drummer.
RIK STAINES (DARK STAR)
More melodic than their peers, Birmingham’s Dark Star had a cult classic with 1980’s Lady Of Mars . Rik Staines was their original vocalist.
RIK STAINES: “ I thought we
were a better band than our lack of success suggests. I could name a few people who held us back,
but after so long what is point? “Once we split up, in the mid80s, I was very lucky to stay involved with the music business. I was taken on as Magnum’s tour manager, and I stayed active with them on a management level for a few more years. I left after the Rock Art album in 1994. I looked after Marshall Law, another Midlands band, and then got into putting on rock nights in local clubs.
“When I hit 50, I changed direction, and got a job as a music lecturer at Bournville College Of Further Education. I teach 16-19-year-olds about the music business. It’s something I enjoy, and isn’t as stressful as band management.” STUDIO MAGNATE
MAL PEARSON (WHITE SPIRIT)
Coming from the NWOBHM hot-bed of the North East, Hartlepool’s White Spirit made full use of Mal Pearson’s keyboard skills.
MAL PEARSON: “ I believe we were at our best when we had Mick Tucker on guitar and Brian Howe on vocals. They replaced Janick Gers [who joined Gillan in 1981, and later Iron Maiden]
and Bruce Ruff. I gave up after interest from Atlantic Records came to nothing, and joined a PA company. At the end of the 80s I did a session for Lisa Dominique and toured Europe with the Sweet. I left when we had shows booked in Russia; nobody could tell me how we’d get paid.
“Now I run my own business, Complete Interiors. We specialise in building studios in any location. I’ve done well enough to have homes in Guildford and France. Do I miss playing? No. I had my time and then got on with my life.” NWOBHM DIE-HARD
BRIAN ROSS (BLITZKRIEG)
Another future Metallica fave, the cult Leicester band were led from the front by Ross.
BRIAN ROSS: “ While we never had huge success in our own right, having Metallica cover our song Blitzkrieg gave us a career in this day and age, and also money. For whatever reason, we’ve never been able to turn this into anything meaningful for the band itself, but I have always been involved in different projects, and Blitzkrieg have managed to keep going almost continuously since we re-formed in 2001. There’s always been something about this band that draws me back – unfinished business. And while I can’t see us getting the record sales we’d love, there’s enough respect for what we’ve achieved to keep going for a long time yet.”
The new compilation album Classic Rock Presents NWOBHX is out now.