The weather was delivering the archetypal image of the North East in excelsis – the sky, steel grey, a gale shot-blasting rain and sleet horizontally up the Tyne Valley. The lorry driver had dropped me along the road from Newcastle Central Station. I carried my bass wrapped in a canvas bag and a suitcase full of clothes all in need of washing and ironing. My amplification would follow me up a week later by car kindly delivered to me by a friend of Finsbury Park Peter.

I walked the two miles to Hamilton Street and Uncle Bob’s terraced flat – I still had a key and it would always be home if I’d want it to be. The problem was that home was in my dreams of grandeur, not in a real life backdrop of a Lowry painting. The number 39 bus made its way up Stanhope Street, heading towards Denton Burn, splashing through rain water running down the gutters towards Barrack Road and Leazes Park.

My Uncle Bob was out with a new lady friend called Winnie; it was about time he started to live again. The house smelled musty and unlived in. I put my things down in the hall, went straight through to the kitchen, and filled the kettle from the one and only brass cold water tap. I had deliberately avoided looking into the front bedroom for fear of painful memories, yet they all came flooding back and I found myself wandering into my old bedroom and looking out over the back yard; over the same old sagging washing lines, looking at the opposite terrace just as I had done years before when I had first come to live with Uncle Bob and Auntie Peggy. As a wet tabby cat stopped on route down the backyard wall and stared back at me, I really felt as though I had regressed to 1957.

A shiver ran down my spine as the gas meter in the cupboard under the stairs clicked like it always did. I turned and looked in the direction of the noise and remembered thinking that the Bogey Man lived in there. I always insisted that the door be shut at night, just in case he ventured out and crawled under my bed and lay there silently awaiting my hand to fall over the side whilst I was asleep, then perish the thought of what evils could happen next…AAAH!

Then I remembered building my tea- chest bass, trying to turn the back bedroom into a silk screen printing factory with one squeegee, one silk screen, two tins of ink and one order from the greengrocer for six posters advertising ‘potatoes @ 1’2d a stone. For a while I felt choked as I remembered carrying my Auntie Peggy from her bed to sit on her commode chair which was placed in the gas cupboard to give her a little privacy whilst she prayed for nature to take it’s course.

At that point I had to go and look in the front bedroom – looking on the bed with only one sheet on it I realised that Uncle Bob wasn’t actually spending much time here at all and that passing thought made me happy for him. His wounds were obviously healing. It turned out he was living at Winnie’s home and just coming back to Hamilton Street once a week to pay the one shilling and nine pence rent and keep the place up for me should I return home.

I took over the rent and set about redecorating 274 in a less forties/fifties fashion. He was more than glad that the prodigal son had returned and therefore not to be bothered about my ideas of bastardised interior design. In one week, I’d earned enough money to buy three miles of sawn 2” by 1” pine and constructed a false ceiling that resembled a chess board with zodiac signs. The airing cupboard, which was once home to a pile of blankets concealing a copy of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, a box of gas mantles and a collection of old shoes became an exotic tropical fish aquarium. A light over two large tanks displayed guppies, angel fish, plecostomus and all the latest bits and bobs that the aquarium shop had on special offer!

I painted a mural of a sunset over the chimney breast and assorted pre-historic cave type designs around the other walls. I hammered hundreds of nails into my bedroom wall, carefully leaving a gap of one inch between each one and then suspending miles of string from each nail in a kind of spider’s web effect which hung about a foot from the ceiling. The remainder of the walls I covered with sail cloth and sprayed them with ‘Holts’ Cellulose spray paint. It looked like a T. V. set from Doctor Who. It wasn’t hard to imagine Daleks appearing from the gas meter cupboard under the stairs. All the pre-war oil cloth had to come up and of course the floor boards had to be stripped and varnished in the obligatory modern and groovy style.

I was proud of my new creation; never before had I the opportunity to experiment and design the interior of a flat. All the other rented bedsits and flats were ‘fully furnished’ with the crappiest second hand plastic three piece suites and other rickety furniture, with the wood grained fablon peeling off or usually painted with one watery coat of white gloss paint. You could never make them home. Those pocket-cock landlords with their brief authority always stipulated; ‘No decorating’ – the furniture had to stay. The best you could do was to drape covers over it and try to disguise the glum and pathetic aura it gave off, and burn incense to hide the smell of damp.

Jimmy Lee still lived a couple of blocks down Hamilton Street but no longer stood in the back lane in ice blue jeans serenading the girls with his guitar. Instead, he had a wife and two children, and an eternally broken down Austin 1100.

Jimmy had grown up in a hurry. He had had to become a father and a provider and fork lift truck driver at the local brewery. We seemed worlds apart, yet he frequently popped up to number 274 to check out my ever expanding bizarre interior designs and growing collection of casual girlfriends. There was Janine – a tall middle class boutique manageress with a huge mane of red, wavy hair and jewellery for all occasions. I’m not sure what she saw in me, at that time her heart throb was actor Paul Newman.

There was also Lillian Black, an art student and part time bar person at the ‘Mayfair Ballroom.’ Lillian lived in Garth Heads, a student’s block of flats just up from City Road in Newcastle town centre. She was slightly Latin looking with enormous bosoms, and preferred her men over six feet with slightly bohemian tendencies. I suppose I fitted the bill – I also fitted her bed. The first night I escorted Lillian home, we sat with coffees and the poetry of Dylan Thomas in front of a gas fire till the small hours. She then asked me to stay and showed me to her bedroom which she shared with another college friend, who’s name escapes me now, but who’s nude silhouette hovering in the back lit bedroom and eagerness to join in with a threesome, stayed with me for years after. I lost count of the nights spent at Garth Heads redesigning the Karma Sutra with Lillian and her roommate.

Then along came Anne Savage from Heddon-on-the-Wall, another tall, thin but well-endowed girl, with the longest legs, slightly knock-kneed. She wore the tiniest miniskirts that rode up that last inch or two when sitting to reveal what had to be the Promised Land. It was as if she wore a sign saying “Nirvana this way – come and experience.” Of course, Anne didn’t wear any kind of sign at all, in fact she was very cute but quite dumb. She didn’t seem to know much about anything except how to look right for the guys.

I wanted Anne and Anne wanted to be wanted. Unfortunately, anyone in trousers would do. I wanted Anne and then after having Anne, I always wanted to be somewhere else. There didn’t seem to be anything else about her which turned me on except for that incredible porcelain white body, shaped like an hour-glass and supple from head to toe. I remember walking along Northumberland Street on a Saturday afternoon with her, and watching the reaction of oncoming shoppers at the sight of Anne’s heaving breasts, bra-less under see-through nylon, bobbing up and down to match her strides.

Women would notice her and then notice that their husbands already had their eyes glued to her. A slap would ensue, followed by an argument based around some kind of real or imagined infidelity. Guys leaving the pub would heckle and stumble towards us for a closer look. ‘Hey, pet! Get yer tits oot! Look at the jugs on that! Hey mate, you’re a lucky fucker!’ just the kind of patter to attract the young ladies. Yet these outstanding features (and the reaction they attracted) seemed to be Anne’s only link to the rest of mankind and the Universe.

Linda and Helen were two close friends who hung out in the ‘Pineapple,’ one of Newcastle’s in-scene bars for young groovers. Linda had a striking face, angular with deep set piercing blue eyes and thin dark hair, from which her ears protruded very slightly, giving her an elfin look. Helen was a little podgy with long marmalade blonde hair. She giggled a lot, playfully pinched all the boys’ bottoms, and had in tow a motor mechanic fiancé called, ‘Brian, the motor mechanic.’

Before too long I found myself dating Linda on an off-peak basis and really enjoyed her company – I didn’t want to get too close to her, I didn’t want to get too close to any girl at that time, but the more I saw of Linda the more I found myself wanting love in my life again and from my perspective at that moment Linda was indeed lovely in every way.

Almost each day of the week belonged to a different girlfriend whilst my nights belonged to a new club just opened in Bath Lane called ‘Change Is’. Bob Monkhouse was the owner; and it was decided that each night had a different theme; such as a 1930s night, then a mods night, followed by a magic night, where a member of the audience was hypnotised by a nut in a blue lame suit called Jake Thackeray. The novelty soon wore off and ‘Change Is’ became much less changeable, booking rock bands two or three nights a week, and for the rest of the week it was a folk club and disco.

It was one of these smoky, drunken folk club nights that I was informed by the local eight-track studio owner, Dave Wood, that local hot-shot drummer turned guitarist/songwriter, ‘Frantic’ Fred Wheatley, was looking for me to join his folk group, ‘Sandgate.’

Sandgate 1973

The following afternoon I took a bus to Heaton to meet with the ‘Frantic’ Fred Wheatley. Frantic Fred lived in a four bedroom terraced house with his mother, younger brother, sister, her boyfriend and estranged father. Frantic Fred’s front door had the only porch in the street, which was crammed full of plastic tulips in assorted containers; ‘Wandering Sailors’ hung haphazardly from the doorframe which diverted one’s attention from the fact that one’s feet had stuck to the carpet in the hallway. Cats scurried off in your wake leaving their odour to mix with the stale cigarette smoke.

The dimly lit hallway led you past a flight of stairs (ascending to somewhere that was definitely not Heaven) through to a back kitchen; the walls covered in postcards from Brighton to the Spanish Costas and back, every surface was cluttered with junk and dirty tea mugs with cracked handles. The mantelpiece was stacked high with bottles of Librium, slimming tablets, valium, aspirin, phensic, cough medicine, inhalers, suppositories, hair colouring, peroxide, in fact, practically the entire contents of the local pharmacy.

Frantic Fred’s mother, an anaemic, skinny looking woman, showed me in. Frantic Fred, the confrontational, megalomaniac of Heaton was in his bedroom bashing hell out of an old upright piano. Drawing pins had been stuck into every hammer to give it a harpsichord type of sound. The Thunderclap Newman vamping stopped and the bedroom door opened emitting a cloud of cigarette smoke followed by Frantic Fred himself. He had a distinct look of madness in the eyes, which immediately made me feel uneasy.

“Mother, two teas in here,” yelled Frantic to his anaemic, skinny looking mother. I followed him into his bedroom; an acoustic guitar lay on the bed alongside a Greek Bazooki. The place was in a mess. Bits of lyric sheets were scattered all around, a music stand and a broken, cheap tape recorder stood next to the bastardised upright piano. About 45 minutes later, after several cups of tea in thickly stained, cracked mugs, and Frantic’s recital of four and twenty folky pop songs – in walked Paul Geleman from the house next door. “Mother, another tea in here for Jelly!” Shouted Frantic along the hallway. “Charley, this is Paul from next door, but we call him Jelly, cos his names Geleman, ha ha, as in Jellyman!” Frantic’s sense of humour was madcap, overwhelming, and volcanic, we were all rolling around in hysterics, such wit! Making Geleman into Jelly! Just then, in came the tea carrier with three more unwashed, unscraped mugs of hot, sweet, brown water. Frantic was now frantically giving himself a manicure – he had the countenance of a little animal, picking at itself, unaware of on-looking spectators.

Jelly seemed a quiet, well-mannered guy with a nice, open face, reading ‘What you see is what you get.’ The two of them made an odd couple but they worked together very tightly. Frantic liked to pull the strings though.

“Play that chord, sing this harmony – do this! Do that! Mother! More tea!”

After a few weeks of rehearsal, we were doing spots in the local folk clubs and Sandgate was born and though we didn’t stand on an empty beer crate with one finger in the ear and a pint in the other hand singing Paddy Mcginty’s goat, we managed to gather a little momentum.

We were soon joined by an oboe and recorder player called Colin Jeeves. Then, twice our age at fourty-two, Jeeves was a lecturer of sociology at Newcastle Polytechnic, and a part-time lecher who had no qualms about boasting of his past experiences and times spent in brothels. He had a large round head, was slightly balding with a ruddy complexion and a huge ginger beard. In fact, he bore a striking resemblance to Henry VIII! His oboe playing, though part-time, brought a unique magic to Sandgate’s sound, and we were able to step up to bigger venues, such as the Polytechnic and Newcastle University.

After a while though, we were only a small fry next to the growing success of our growing competition, ‘Lindesfarne.’ Jacka, Hully and the crew were having hit records with ‘Fog on the Tyne,’ ‘Meet me on the corner’ and ‘Lady Eleanor.’ I realised Sandgate had to change dramatically to be a contender in the race; this meant getting a drummer and going electric.

Frantic wasn’t convinced.

“What’s wrong? We don’t need a drummer – I can play drums on a clomper box with my right foot and Hi Hat with my left foot, guitar with my hands, tie a string to my dick and yodel, play washboard with my left ear, tell jokes down my nose whilst singing blues through my mouth,” said Frantic, “so why on earth do we need a drummer?”

The man was most definitely a major space cadet.

One evening, after a rehearsal, I took Linda for a nightcap in ‘Bowers,’ Newcastle’s only Wimpy Bar, situated opposite the Central Station. We were just about to sit down when I was summoned to the back of the restaurant by none other than Brian Ferry, who was sitting in between two of Vogue’s catwalk beauties. “Hi there Charley, sit down here and join us,” said the Knightsbridge harmonium peddler. Just then he produced a copy of Melody Maker and proceeded to show me the two centre pages, which were covered in photos and write-ups of Roxy Music. I looked at the photos in disbelief, then went green with envy; here he was in print, all over the centre spread of an international music paper. “It’s good isn’t it? We’re just about to sign a recording deal for an album and I think Virginia Plain will be our first single.” Brian explained, “It’s a shame you didn’t want to play bass with us.” At that precise moment, I felt like shrinking to the size of a matchstick scraping myself very hard along somebody’s box of Swan Vestas. Feeling like the prize jerk of the century, I said something like, “yes, that’s great for you.” Mumbling, ‘you lucky bastard’ under my breath as my French Fries tried to choke me.

I studied those two centre pages for five minutes or more and realised that the guy had arrived. Roxy Music had been dealt the trump card; they had had the door opened for them and had banged and squeaked their way through it at a great speed. As I looked up from the paper Brian was grinning from ear to ear, his model girlfriends looked like a pair of glamorous bookends. I was jealous as Hell – I wanted it to be me!

Four months later the disco crowd at ‘Change Is’ jumped around like crazy to the beat of ‘Virginia Plain.’ Brian and the Roxy’s took Top of the Pops by storm. Four months later I managed to persuade Frantic Fred that his clomper box could never do the job of a good drummer and Sandgate began auditioning for the right skin beater.

Four months later, I had politely consumed five hundred gallons of Frantic’s mother’s horrible tea and began to dread the door opening and being presented with the next hot, steaming brown fluid in the cracked receptacle from the bowels of her scruffy scullery.

Six months later, I was still seeing Linda on a regular basis; it was becoming an unconscious habit as were Sandgate’s rehearsals in the store rooms of the International Voluntary Service just off Blacket Street in Newcastle. Sandgate was now being managed by the local HMV record shop manager, Peter Brent, who eventually got us our debut gig at the Kings Cross Cinema in London – it was a paid audition to appear for top London music agent Terry King. Terry was responsible for bringing a lot of big blues and reggae artists over from America to tour England and record on his label.

The Kings Cross Cinema gig started at around 9pm and had live bands playing until 7am the next morning. We eventually hit the stage about 11pm and played our socks off to a stoned and inebriated audience; we were followed by another couple of Terry’s acts Caravan and Hawkwind.

By 6am Terry had long gone and we were half-dead but managed to drag our gear out of the venue and into our Hertz rent-a-van to drive back to Geordie land. A couple of days later Peter Brent rang us to say that Terry King associates wanted to manage and represent us and he was coming to the North East to discuss the possible signing of contracts with us – we had Peter’s blessing.

Sandgate – Publicity photograph in Covent Garden – Left to Right  –  Jelly Geleman – Frantic Fred – Kosmic Kid – Keith Nichol – Charley Foskett

Before we knew it, we were on the road nationally, gigging in every major venue, and every major grot box in the UK. There were the college and University gigs, who always favoured our own brand of northern influenced folk rock, with a tinge of punk before its time. There were the small clubs like London’s famed Marquee Club in Wardour Street where we started as a support act for Caravan, earning £15 a night – pretty soon we ended up packing the place out as a headlining act, being paid £500 which was a lot of money in 1971.

We played every gig between Aberdeen University and Penzance Winter Gardens – pretty soon Sandgate were putting on a very strong visual stage show – Keith Nichol, our lead guitarist, wore his hair in bunches and resembled a St. Trinian’s School girl, Frantic looked like a refugee from Billy Smart’s Circus, Jelly was the typical microphone stand-swinging pop-star-front-man and I was decked out in 50’s Teddy Boy gear. We’d use a dry ice machine; flashing strobe lights and exploding maroons in dustbins behind our drummer’s platform.

Sandgate – tits n’ arse in the back of truck – L to R Charley Foskett, Jacky Ruddick, Jelly -1973

Our roadies would purchase the explosives from Catterick Garrison and Amy base on the A1 just a few miles from Richmond in north Yorkshire – These maroons were used by the soldiers whilst outside on the moors doing their battle training. On one occasion after a gig the gunpowder from an explosive maroon found its way into an ashtray and along came a janitor from the venue and stubbed his cigarette out on top of it – according to reports it blew his thumb clean off his hand apparently and Sandgate and Terry King associates was threatened with court proceedings being sued for our negligence. After the case was dropped due to the janitor’s thumb still being firmly attached to his hand Terry suggested that we cool it a little with the pyrotechnics. We agreed, at least for the next couple of gigs which saw us performing in a couple of seaside holiday night clubs, just the type of family venues that we shouldn’t attempt blowing up.

John Hind, one of our two roadies and somewhat off his rocker sound man, suggested that we visit the allotments in Newcastle and ask the local pigeon fanciers club if we could borrow a couple of large wicker baskets full of their homing pigeons – We could arrange with the venues to leave a few windows left open during our set and then let them free in the middle of our song ‘A Thousand Years’ – the said birdies would fly all around the concert hall and if we played loud enough they would probably shit all over the audience before escaping through the windows and making their way back to the North East. ‘What do you think Foskett?’ asked John, who was completely serious and obviously thought this a great idea in winning over a crowd at a rock concert. ‘Not too sure about that John – Terry King is bound to find out and we’d probably be booked to play in Butlins holiday camp till the end of time’ I exclaimed, pondering upon the thought (of the crapping pigeons, not the having to gig at Butlins scenario). ‘Foskett, didn’t you always have your pet dog sitting beside you on stage at gigs?’ enquired Frantic. The whole conversation eventually went off on a tangent about space travel and UFO’s  and the pigeons idea got forgotten thank goodness.

On return gigs it was often noticeable that the audience would frequently appear looking like replicas of the band. It was quite spooky gazing down from the stage to see a bunch of idolatrous kids dressed in St. Trinians schoolgirl gear and Teddy Boy drapes with cushions stuffed up the back of their jackets – it was nuts.

We frequently gigged at Lea’s Cliff Hall in Folkestone and packed the place out and on one particular occasion we were booked as headliners, billed underneath us on the posters was none other than ‘Thin Lizzy.’ When Lizzy arrived at the venue and discovered this all manner of Irish hell was let loose in their backstage dressing rooms – Phil Lynott and Gary Moore cursing the promoters for their second billing underneath some northern hayseed band they hadn’t heard of who hadn’t even had a record in the charts.

We decided that we wouldn’t argue with a bunch of Irish navvies and took to the stage first, we played a blinder set and pulled the house down with multiple encores – Irish didn’t seem to like this so they came on and started up with ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ – just then several young Sandgate fans jumped up on stage and stuck Sandgate stickers all over Thin Lizzy’s back-line gear – much to the horror of the band’s roadies the stage became a bit of a side show for the first ten minutes till Lizzy won them over with their string of hits songs.

The record companies eventually took an interest in our theatrical rocking, jigging and reeling. EMI asked us to record a demo of some songs for their Harvest label, but finally rejected them because they weren’t as instantly poppy as the Bay City Rollers.

Sandgate – L to R Charley Foskett, Roly Bell, Jacky Ruddick, Jelly, Keith Nichol.
A big thing at Lee’s Cliff Hall, Folkstone, Kent – 1973

We signed a recording contract with PYE Records for their Dawn label; it wasn’t the best deal offered to us, but Terry King management persuaded us to sign because they were offering the biggest advance, soon to be swallowed up by T. K. Associates. That didn’t matter much to us. The only thing in my sights was that golden opportunity to have a record out, be on television, dye our hair green and silver and catch up to Brian Ferry! It would no longer be just the punters around the university and club circuit that wanted to mimic our wonderful dress sense – through television and the media it would be the whole of the country, the whole of the world – what a bunch of dreamers we were!I reckoned that looking like a fifties Teddy Boy was not far out enough. Some drastic changes would have to be made in the image department, in order to be noticed in a big way. I went down to the ladies out size clothes shop and purchased a pair of size ten stiletto heeled shoes, some new fishnet stockings and a suspender belt; the old lady who served me nearly had a fit as I hobbled out of the changing room to a mirror to study the obscene effect. I’d need a dinner jacket now with an even bigger cushion stitched up the back to make myself look like a humpback whale – a Homburg with a twelve inch funnel on top from which I could burn smoke pellets seemed like a good idea, it would also cover my hairstyle which when revealed would rise to a ten inch point. I would paint my face slap white with big black eyebrows, and red under the eyes. To finish it off I would grow a Hitler moustache and fully stuff the inside of my top and bottom lips with cotton wool which helped distort the shape of my mouth. It was a bugger trying to sing backing vocals and the audience would frequently get splattered with soggy spit covered cotton wool, not to worry, it would all add to the over-the-top, freak show performance that was now expected from a Sandgate gig.

Yes! This was the image to take to the music industry by storm. This was the image that would turn the girls on and get them running (in the opposite direction!) – from under the Scottish type mini kilt, I erected a false penis made from paper mache into which I inserted a plastic tube (which I nicked from my tropical fish aquarium) through the penis, the tube went around my side, over my right shoulder and into a fairy liquid bottle strapped under my right armpit. With one quick squeeze of my elbow, I could force soapy water through the tube, through the ugly phallus and over the first three rows of the audience. That had to give them something to talk about the following day, the day after and the day after that. Not something one would get from a Bay City Rollers concert, I thought. It had to be more over the top and thought provoking than waving a few tartan scarves around.

Publicity photograph 1974 – What a horrible bunch! Especially the weirdo in the skirt!

I remember travelling down to play The Kensington Court club in Newport, Monmouthshire. We had to make a bee-line straight to the local hospital as Frantic Fred complained that he was going blind due to too much swimming under heavily chlorinated water in his local swimming baths. ‘How the f**k do you expect me to play my guitar or do anything else if I can’t see – and you lot will never be able to hold your own without me leading you’, he screamed as we approached Western-super-Mare down the M5 – of course Newport was miles away to the west from Western-super-Mare – we were always overshooting our destination and getting lost (stoned roadies). We had noticed that Frantic’s eyes did seem extremely bloodshot but we just figured that maybe he was turning into a vampire which would have been a rather cool visual asset on stage as long as he didn’t try and bite us. Putting up with Frantic’s endless ranting, refusal to seek anger management and his smelly farts was bad enough without fangs coming towards you for playing a wrong chord.

We eventually got Fred to the Newport Royal Gwent hospital to have his eyes replaced with a couple of multicoloured glass marbles – actually after waiting hours (in which time our roadies should have been setting up our equipment in the Kensington Court club ready for afternoon sound checks) Fred was given some eye drops which he could have purchased at any high street chemist.

The promoter of the said venue suggested we book in and stay at a friend’s guest house – he recommended it to all the bands that played the club as they would find the fact that it was haunted interesting and exciting. So we checked into this old and tatty looking mansion on a nearby hill which resembled a run down Fawlty Towers type building.

I was shown to a large room somewhere in the back of the house with Paul Jelly Geleman – it had two single beds and was somewhat ill lit and musty smelling. On the tall Victorian windows hung dusty old faded red velvet curtains and the dressing table was covered in faded old lace doilies. The giant walnut wardrobe smelt of mothballs even with the door closed – it reminded me of my grandmother’s bedroom furniture back in Caroline Street in the early 1950’s.

Frantic and Ruddick came bursting in to see what our room was like – ‘Hey our room smells like sh*t, what is yours like – whoah’ said Frantic, ‘Its very Adams family isn’t it – do you recon this place is really haunted or do you think it was just sales bullshit to get people to book in’.

We played a storming set that evening in the Kensington Court club and garnered lots of new fans that would probably make an early morning dash to their local haberdashery to purchase cushions to stuff up the back of their coats and ribbons for their hair – back at the mansion on the hill we hit the pit in the early hours after downing several beers and smoking a joint or two. I had no sooner dropped off to sleep when a creaking sound in our room woke me up. As I switched on a side light to see what it was it stopped – Jelly was lying there, motionless, in a deep sleep and my mind started racing so I got out of bed and rummaged around the great chamber of dusty, mustiness wondering where the creaking had came from.

I uncovered an old Singer sewing machine and immediately decided to run up a pair of extreme baggy flared trousers by ripping down one of the great unwashed red velvet curtains in the room. I found a pen and some scissors and using my own jeans as a template, I spread them on the floor on top of the dusty velvet, marked out my template and chopped away – there wasn’t quite enough material in one curtain so I borrowed the other one too (borrowed is probably the wrong word?). The treadle made a loud squeaking sound as my needle whirred away through the material waking Jelly up from his stoned and drunken slumber. ‘Foskett, what the f**k are you doing – its the middle of the night’ groaned Geleman. ‘Just running up a pair of pants’ – ‘What’, he turned over and went back to the land of nod.

The following morning Jelly woke me up for breakfast, ‘Foskett! Foskett! get up, they are doing breakfast, its quarter to nine’ – I had only been asleep for two or three hours as my bespoke tailoring had taken some time, especially after stitching my own finger to the material a couple of times – I had to pick the zip out from the flies of my spare pair of Levi jeans and then find a bodged up way of stitching it by hand into my fab new dusty red velvet pants. The thighs were as tight as a pair of skinny saveloys and from the knee downwards the flares were big enough to catch enough wind to sail a small schooner. I planned to wear them for the following night’s gig.

‘Something is different in here’ exclaimed Jelly – ‘What is all that thread and stuff on the floor? – You were using that sewing machine last night when I woke up, weren’t you – what have you done Foskett and where have the f**king curtains gone?’  ‘Never mind the curtains, lets go down to breakfast before we miss it’ I said trying to quickly change the subject.

We stuffed ourselves with crappy stale corn flakes and toasted Mother’s Pride and hit the east bound M4 motorway towards Bristol. We would then head north up the M5 and M6 towards Liverpool and west over North Wales to Colwyn Bay where we were due to play that night. After forty five minutes on the road we began discussing daft place names like Chipping Sodbury and Pucklechurch and what twit thought of these names in the first place – then all of a sudden a road sign read Swindon 32 miles. ‘Shouldn’t we be heading north up the M5’, chipped up Jelly from the the back seats of the van. ‘Yep that is where we are heading’ replied Badger Knowles our weed blasted roadie – ‘Er don’t think so’ laughed Jelly from behind Badger’s head – ‘I think Swindon is towards London isn’t it’.

We eventually arrived at the Pavilion in Colwyn Bay later than scheduled that afternoon after driving away from a services on the M5 and leaving Ruddick sitting on the throne in a gents loo. For some strange reason we all kind of thought he was hiding in the rear compartment of the van behind the bulkhead with the equipment – So he had to wait there till we finally got back to pick him up – this took at least an hour as we had to continue north to the next junction which was miles away and then swing around and drive south again – once we got back to the services it took another twenty minutes to find him, he was sitting outside in the car park having a discussion about paradiddles with someone’s dog.

The North Wales coast line looked like a wind beaten nowhere with endless views over a boundless estuary of wet soggy sand, dotted with treacherous sink holes and no doubt engulfing quicksand too – we probably resembled a bunch of wind beaten nobodies battling through the Welsh deluge – far off on a distant horizon you can just spot a line of sea – in the opposite direction over the motorway and railway line there were endless tatty looking caravans parked in lonely fields miles from anywhere. It wasn’t my idea of a holiday hanging out in a leaking tin box with a kettle, tea caddy, a crappy selection of old, stale ginger snaps and an empty, rusty calor gas cylinder to keep me company. Emerging each morning with hundreds of other anoraks risking life and limb climbing over the railway lines and then running across the motorway to trudge a mile over quicksand to have a freezing cold plodge in a sea full of the excrement of every Liverpudlian. I could think of better ways to spend a week in a field or on a beach.

Anyway I digress – Colwyn Bay looked a place of Victorian beauty and grandeur in comparison to what lay five miles back along the A55. When we arrived it was absolutely chucking it down and blowing a gale so we left our roadies Badger Knowles and sound guy John Hind to get the gear into the venue whilst we trundled off in search of fish and chips. I managed to get to the front of the queue and made my way back to the venue with a bag of chips before the others. It turned out we were sharing the bill that evening with another Newcastle band by the name of Geordie – Geordie had just released their debut album ‘Hope You Like It’ featuring a song which tickled me pink called ‘Geordie’s Lost His Liggy’ – they were all old mates from various local north east bands and were fronted by none other than Brian Johnston (later of AC/DC fame and fortune). Around the time I started gigging with the Howlin Blues in the mid sixties, Brian had formed his first band The Gobi Desert Canoe Club and played the same circuit of local north east toilets as we did.

We were billed as support to Geordie and of course we wound them up like mad in the back stage dressing rooms saying that without doubt they should be supporting us – unlike the Thin Lizzy farce in Folkestone we were all mates and didn’t much care who followed who onto the stage. I remember Johna, as soon as I walked into their dressing room, making a comment on my private parts – ‘F**king hell lads – look at the nuts on Foskett – you’ve got something stuffed down there haven’t you’ – ‘He is well known in the toon for always wearing a spare cucumber down his pants’ chipped up bass player Tom Hill from the dressing room toilet. ‘Hello Tom, how you doing – have you learned how to play the bass yet’ I replied – Tom was actually a fine rock bassist and both him and Brian Gibson, Geordie’s drummer, had started off by doing little gigs at the Gateshead YMCA on a youth club night – I had spotted them there one time when I gigged there in 1966 with The Howlin Blues – the very place where I had met Greta the Gateshead Goddess. They had reminded me of myself in 1964 playing my first gig at a jumble sale with The Leopards – a bunch of singing embryos – of course only two years later we were all grown up (not).

Jelly and Keith Nichol came wandering in ‘Hello lads, those fish n chips were greasy old crap’ complained Jelly. ‘Where are you guys staying, have you booked into a hotel yet’ – ‘Our office deals with all of that – I think we are in the hotel next door’ said Tom – ‘Where are you’ – ‘Erm, I’m not sure, that’s a point, shit, we better sort that out now or we’ll all be sharing your bed Tom’ – ‘Tom would like that, wouldn’t you Tom’, ribbed Johna.

On our return from the hotel Geordie were in the middle of their sound check – they were tight and really loud to say the least so we sat in the front row of the Pavilion and tried our best to distract them by throwing bits of litter onto the stage. ‘Sounds great – get off’, we shouted playfully. They didn’t look amused.

An hour later the hall was filling up with somewhat bedraggled windswept punters – and we were back stage dressing to impress and applying the usual face paint – ‘F**king hell – do you lot do this before every gig?’ asked Johna – ‘Yup’ replied Jelly – ‘Weird’. I was excited to wear my new self made red velvet curtain flares and started squeezing myself into them. ‘Whoah! where did you get them Foskett? Kenny Market?’ asked Keith Nichol – ‘You’ll not believe this but they are the curtains from last night’s hotel’, said Jelly – ‘Get away’ – ‘No this weirdo spent the whole night making them on a sewing machine he found in our room’ – ‘Yes of course he did and pigs flew around the moon’ said Nichol having none of it.

We hadn’t had much time for a sound check and had complete blind faith in John Hind in pulling our sound balance together quickly.

We had only set foot on stage and I flapped my way to my amplifier to plug in my bass – On the first accented bass note of the opening number, one of Frantic’s songs called ‘Money Lender’, I kicked my height (well half my height) splitting the red velvet flares from crotch to the waistband. I then caught my foot in the great expanse of the gigantic flared bottoms and a moment later they were on the floor at my feet in tatters leaving me in my y-fronts – Ruddick nearly fell off his drum stool in hysterics whilst the whole of Geordie watching from the wings peed themselves laughing at the absurdity of all this.

I signalled to Badger Knowles to get me a pair of jeans from my bag in the dressing room but he blatantly ignored my gesticulations and laughed his socks off along with the others. So it was either run off and quickly jump into a pair of jeans leaving Sandgate bassless for a couple of numbers or play the whole gig in my underpants. Feeling a little exposed I crossed my legs and stayed put.

Frantic Fred taking his stage craft very seriously just wasn’t amused, yet the audience thought it was hilarious so I decided to make my own trousers every day from other people’s rotten old curtains and repeat the performance at every gig (actually that line is a lie).

The following night we played just along the road past the wonderful Conway Castle, over the Menai Straights in a little club on the island of Anglesey – then onwards the following day to Bangor University and then according to our agent’s itinerary onwards down the west coast to Aberystwyth University and then up to Scotland to Strathclyde University, Dundee and Aberdeen too.

Sandgate built a huge following on the British university circuit along with other bands of that era like The Sensational Alex Harvey Band whom we shared the bill with on a couple of occasions, the first time being at Southampton University where they very interestingly watched our theatrically over the top set from back stage. When it was their time to play they came on and performed in matching green spiv suits – The next time we saw Alex and his band they had certainly taken their image from Sandgate, he was dressed up as a pirate, Zal Clemson, his guitarist dressed as a clown with a white face and the others just looked extremely odd (but no hunchback butlers, sailors or transvestite guitarists) – we toured a lot with our good friends Caravan and Lindisfarne, Shakin Stevens and The Sunsets, the psychedelic Principal Edwards Magic Theatre, Stackridge, Sassafras and many, many more.

We made a name for ourselves equally as much for our visual antics as our music – we stamped holes into stages the length and breadth of the country, setting baskets of north east homing pigeons free in venues during our set just so they would drop excrement on the audience – rearranging the plumbing in the shower rooms of St Andrew’s university so that water mixed with blue dye would flow from the ceiling instead of the shower cubicles – inviting tons of punters onto the stage with us throughout our last number and discreetly one by one creeping off leaving them there making fools of themselves with the odd one or two falling off stage or through our equipment – throwing a single bed out the fourth floor window of the Madison Hotel in Sussex Gardens, just missing Shakin Stevens on his way in and hitting some innocent passer by on his bicycle – hiding from the police – chatting up the local prostitutes in the Madison for a freebee shag (they never obliged) – oh! and writing some great songs – and the list goes on..

Frantic Fred’s head eventually exploded due to the stage show over-shadowing his songs, his girlfriend was also pregnant and the poor sod had just been awarded a dose of Gonorrhoea from a very friendly but inflammatory, discharging fan at the Marquee Club. His dominating and demanding behaviour drove us all nuts and he’d think nothing of walking off stage in the middle of a set if anyone played a wrong note – he’d smash up dressing rooms just because a road manager didn’t carry his guitar case for him. Generally, he wasn’t coping very well with the world around him and we couldn’t cope with his endless histrionics and habitual antagonism.

Culminating in an ugly episode at The Bridge End pub in Newcastle it looked like the end of the line for Frantic’s Sandgate days – he stormed off stage at this local folk music event whilst we were in the middle of performing a song, barking instructions at us to follow him and head straight for the upstairs dressing room. We finished the song without him – It was like endlessly taking orders from Adolf Hitler, yes fuhrer, no fuhrer, three f**king bags full fuhrer – Just because he had a sore throat and his voice was cracking up was no excuse for such amateur and childish behaviour. Once inside the upstairs room Fred continued his madness by throwing as many beer glasses he could find at the walls – our roadie threatened should he not calm down and come to his senses he would throw Fred himself through the wall – the carpet was a shower of broken glass and unfortunately a leather coat which belonged to one of the bar staff was hanging up in the firing line and received a shower of stale beer and a rip down one side. This was indeed the last straw. He had to go!

Frantic was replaced by local Newcastle keyboardist Roly Bell who was a very good player but from word go wanted to leave the band, in fact everything Roly got involved with if it didn’t all go his way, which inevitably it didn’t, he dropped out. The next move was auditioning for a replacement. An advert was drawn up for the Melody Maker wanted ads column. In our endless endeavours to ‘get it right’ – continually testing the hypothesis of the crazy music business – we decided to add not only a new keyboard player, but a sax player too.

Enter Marty Craggs (later of Lindisfarne fame!).

Craggsy was very well liked and had played sax with just about every other north east band on the scene. He could sing good backup vocal, play a little harmonica, flute, fiddlesticks and anything else that he could make a noise on. After splattering him in fake blood and giving him something totally stupid to wear he seemed to fit the Sandgate ‘on stage’ mould very well – he was perfect!

This new line up seemed to have a new magic about it and excelled itself on the university circuit and brought even more fans our way on the London scene too.

Marty’s name was added to all the Terry King / Sandgate promotional package and we set about recording our first single for Pye Records on the Dawn imprint.

Keith Nichol wanted his song, a bluesy rock flavoured tune called ‘Sad Song’ to be the ‘A’ side and I offered a rather ridiculous tango flavoured effort with nonsense lyrics about the end of the world entitled ‘A Thousand Years’ – we demoed both of these songs along with several others and it seemed that Terry preferred ‘A Thousand Years’ – it would be more in keeping with the visuals of our crazy stage show and ‘Sad Song’ would end up on the ‘B’ side.

Jelly on stage 1974

Sandgate doing their thing 1974

As it turned out neither side of the single made the BBC playlist and we had to make do with regional spot plays instead of the coveted ‘Top of the Pops’ and radio one prestige. Other records were making the playlist that were definitely nowhere as good as ours – they were mainly manufactured pop groups that were fronted by talentless puppets who couldn’t actually sing to save their lives and it pissed us off! Maybe we could find a way of faking bigger sales like the practice of so many other record pluggers and label managers – hyping their singles up with make believe sales in order to gain a higher chart position – they were giving out cash back-handers here, there and everywhere just to make the top forty. It really sucked!

At the end of 1975 Terry King informed us that he had decided to throw in the towel with Sandgate and no longer wished to represent us as manager or agent so yet another pop group on the make bit the dust! We had toured for almost five years and lived the true rock and roll lifestyle.

I had got myself married to Linda, mainly because she felt like the odd one out. She complained that everyone else in the band had married their girlfriends and even Frantic Fred and his now wife were expecting a baby – I just went along with it as it seemed like the right thing to do then. I wasn’t really interested in settling down to married life and having a family and above all being a responsible grown up.

I moped around for a while and put a new band together with a few guys including Rod Hudd the singer from the early sixties line-up of Alan Hull’s band The Chosen Few – We called ourselves ‘Sidekick’, covered and wrote a few songs in the vein of West Coast Rock with a funky element to it. We dressed up a local park keeper’s tool shed and had our photos taken looking like a bunch of old American western gold prospectors – with a slight vibe of Bob Dylan and The Band’s ‘Basement Tapes’ album cover.

Sidekick mk1

 

We chopped and changed the line-up every five minutes not being able to make our minds up how rocky or how funky we should take the style and knowing that not all of the musicians could adapt their own individual musical approaches to this it was becoming forever frustrating – maybe we were just lost in translation. We eventually ended up with a ten piece line-up which included two drummers and three lead singers. The vocal element was the strongest I’d heard and the three part harmonies were sometimes outstanding. We gigged the usual northern circuit from university gigs and festivals to social clubs where the audiences seemed to be pretty spell bound by the amount of musicians and array of instruments on stage alone. Obviously we needed to work full time in order to make it pay with such a large line-up.

I found myself very attracted to the female lead singer Maggie Luckley who had previously been the lead singer with the north east’s leading folk group ‘Hedgehog Pie’. I kept those feelings to myself as not only did I like her then husband and Hedgehog Pie bass player Stu Luckley, I didn’t want to rock the boat with this new line-up of ‘Sidekick’ and my young wife in the background who didn’t deserve my infidelities.

Sidekick rhythm section – 1977

However everything was not as it looked in the Luckley household and Stu Luckley had moved out of his family home to take up with another woman leaving Maggie by herself – We decided to use Maggie’s basement flat in Jesmond to rehearse in and were able to put a lot more time into crafting what Sidekick was to become. I had spoken to an agent friend from Terry King associates and sold him the idea of our new band and could he get us some gigs – within no time at all he had organised a tour for us around the south of England and all we had to do was book our hotels and we were away. Some of the guys in Sidekick had never been on the road before and were super hesitant of the possibility. They made all kinds of excuses why they shouldn’t go – this drove me mad and eventually I won them over once they realised they weren’t going to perish in some far off distant land.

The southern gigs were spread across Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Middlesex and inner London – luckily we were able to get fixed up in the agent’s home in Epsom as he was away on holiday and this saved us on hotel bills for half of the time. One particular night Maggie and I got dumped in the one and only bedroom of some friend of a friend’s north London home when they were away for a couple of days. There was only one double bed available and I suggested she sleep in it and I would take to the floor boards. Whilst she was out the room I listened to JJ Cale’s ‘Troubadour’ album which we played almost none stop – naughtily I slid into one side of the bed to see what her reaction would be when she came back into the room – after all our attraction to each other was very strong but also very unspoken – five minutes later she wandered back in wearing nothing but a very skimpy old man’s shirt and proceeded to climb onto the bed on top of me. Still no words were spoken as she began leading the way and I just lay back and enjoyed.

The following morning we got picked up by the rest of the guys who did nothing but hit us with innuendos all the way to Reading in Berkshire where we were playing that evening. Maggie and I shared a secret and it was going to stay a secret as far as we were concerned.

Sidekick mk 3

We roughed it just like a lot of musicians do on the road trying to make ends meet and survive. Maggie Luckley and I knew the ropes, with our own bands we had toured the length and breadth of the UK playing every toilet that existed and calling itself a music venue, so spending the odd night on a floor and eating out of a greasy spoon transport cafe at breakfast was no hardship. A couple of the other guys were quite gung ho and lapped the experience up but there were others that wanted to get off this ride as quickly as possible and go home to their own beds and family comforts.

It became very evident that this final Sidekick line-up was not going to make it together – at the second last gig of the tour we played at The Night Spot in Bedford and were on the same bill as Wild Willy Barrett and John Ottaway. The gig proved good musically but as soon as we finished our set half the guys had decided that they’d had enough and wouldn’t be playing the last gig of the tour the following night in London – they wanted to go home – this kind of gigging situation didn’t suit them. I explained that we had signed a contract with my agent friend and it was legally binding to fulfil our obligation to him – after all he had arranged the tour specifically for Sidekick as a favour to me.

They didn’t give a shit about the contract and their actions were not acceptable and totally unprofessional as they disappeared northbound in the Bedfordshire sunset! We had no option but to follow them back to Tyneside – I would eventually make things good with Dennis Vaughn my agent friend in Epsom and he would understand.

After being back in Newcastle for a couple of weeks it was obvious that we had to contemplate a serious plan of action for the band – those who left the tour didn’t even want to communicate with us once back in Newcastle – when I eventually touched base with them they sheepishly explained that going on the road wasn’t as they had expected and wasn’t what it was cracked up to be – they didn’t want any hardships in their lives – working in a bakery, a shop or an office job enabled them to have their weekends free and at least they got to sleep in their own beds every night. I suggested that they didn’t give up their day jobs and just spend their time playing cover songs for drunken punters in pubs at weekends.

I was left with singers Andy McGregor and Maggie in my camp, both of whom could not understand the attitudes of the other guys. ‘What a bunch of wimps and amateurs they are, good players but never the less amateurs – pisses me off’ exclaimed Andy over lunch in Mather’s bistro restaurant in Newcastle’s Eldon Square – ‘I can’t understand it – they dreamed about making it as professional musicians – the minute the possibility was arranged for them to step up their game, what do they do? They lost their nerve and ran home to mum’ I replied with a large measure of sarcasm. Mather’s was to become our hangout for a while whilst planning a possible move south.

I had to give my marriage to Linda some serious thought too. I honestly felt that I had got myself into a commitment without thinking about the consequences of my philandering actions. I didn’t want to be married to anyone, I didn’t want to have babies, I didn’t want the mundane lifestyle that Linda wanted. Linda was truly lovely, very beautiful and would make a great wife but for someone else more deserving than me – we were two young people attracted to each other but like chalk and cheese.

She knew that I had been spending a lot of time at Maggie’s Jesmond flat rehearsing for the London tour and had guessed that we were sharing much more than just the music together. Like a real coward I waited till the time was right and the coast was clear, I collected all my belongings from the house that Linda and I shared and left a note trying to pathetically justify my actions and explain my feelings to her. I felt small and I was, I wasn’t even big enough to face her. There was no easy way to do this and I knew that she would end up getting hurt. I honestly felt rotten but a few weeks later I was told by a mutual friend’s wife that the moment I had left she had moved in a male friend who had started sharing her bed.

As they say ‘What is good for the goose is also good for the gander!’