Band leader Vic Malcolm was a bit frustrated here. He didn`t really want Geordie to be a glam band, but also understood the importance of having appeal among the youth.
By Julie Webb
GEORDIE are one band the music intelligentsia would prefer to forget. After all you are hardly likely to win friends and influence people by admitting you’d rather see Geordie on a Saturday night than Roxy Music.
They’ve been boxed and packaged as a pop band — the same ilk as Sweet and Slade who specialise in getting young ladies to wet their knickers and reach heights of hysteria and ecstasy. Musically they are expected to be loud and basic – physically rough and ready and if the PR men have their way, pretty as well and aged around sixteen.
It comes as a surprise then to discover that lead guitarist Vic Malcolm – who is twenty er um years old, and has a lived-in, rather than pretty visage — started out his musical career in committed, dedicated rock bands. At one time he played in the same band as Roxy’s drummer. He also writes the bulk of Geordie material and, rumour has it Maggie Bell is interested in recording one of his compositions.
Malcolm played in a succession of what were then known as “heavy” bands, doubtless getting respect from his mates, but earning very little bread and playing few gigs.
“There just wasn’t a following for us and after two years of not playing proper gigs and almost getting to starving point I joined another band,” he explains.
With the next band, again he met with no financial or commercial success until he wrote some new material and collated, as opposed to collected Brian Johnson, Brian Gibson and Tom Hill who now make up the rest of Geordie and with Hill tried to hawk some tapes around London in an effort to get a recording and/or management deal.
“Just our luck, we went down when there were the power strikes all over the place. We went to Red Bus which was in total darkness and they asked us to come back at six, because then they’d have the power on.”
Red Bus, liked one of the numbers, signed up the band and in September ’72 the group, who were still remarkably green to the whole music business released their first single, a Malcolm composition, entitled “Don’t Do That”.
Just about the only thing the four guys had in common was enthusiasm. So it was with this quality rather than any ability they played their first gig at Liverpool. Malcolm comments: “We were really excited but the gear was breaking down, the PA went off. We had a few gigs like that in the beginning.”
So how does someone who is primarily more interested in ethnic rock come to terms with being in what is basically a pop band?
“You can have brilliant musicians and they can all be bastards. We argue but it’s never anything serious and there isn’t a bastard among us. Anyway, I wouldn’t say it was pop music. It’s commercial rock. I’d class people like Donny Osmond as pop music.
“I don’t feel embarrassed about our music. I really do enjoy playing it. Obviously at the moment it’s all new for us but what we’d like to do is try and bring in some heavier music into the act. No, we’re not going heavy but you can put across that kind of music and still retain what you’ve already built. As long as you keep smiling you can easily introduce a heavy guitar lick into the stage act.”
There is an almost disarming naivete about Geordie. Singer Brian Johnson in conversation, talking about Slade refers to them as “big stars, up there like” and raves in an almost groupie obsessed way about Roger Daltrey and Eric Burdon. Daltrey was in fact asked by Geordie for some help in the making of the new album “Don’t Be Fooled By The Name”.
As it happened, Daltrey was well tied up, working on his own projects but did the decent thing, inviting some of the band down to his house.
Says Malcolm: “He did help us in a way because he told us to stick out for what we want. He explained we were in a better position now, than we were at the time of the first album and so we have stuck out for what we want.”
Evidently the band are writing to Daltrey to ask if they can put a credit on the album to the effect that they were “egged on by Roger Daltrey”.
The new album is not unnaturally the main talking point with the band at the moment. All tracks, bar one are original Malcolm compositions – the bar being “House Of The Rising Sun”. “Sun” in fact is one of their best stage numbers and if they can capture the feeling on wax, Johnson feels it should be released as a single.
Certainly it has the strength needed for a 45 but Geordie are at the difficult point now in their career where they have to strive to keep to their “hey hey” image for the kids sake or get a few more hits behind them at which point they can indulge in their own musical fantasies.
“The next single” prophesies Malcolm “will be ‘Black Cat Woman’. We were going to release it instead of ‘Electric Lady’ but we thought it too much of a change. It’s a bit heavier but has a few gimmicks – like the crying of a wolf. When it comes out, people may appreciate us a bit more. Maybe they’ll realise we are more than a ‘hey hey’ act.”
He reflects on the last statement and then adds: “I don’t mind that we are known as a `hey hey’ act — after all it gives the kids enjoyment but it would be good to play for everybody. Still we’re not shut out from the college scene. I like playing the colleges because we can mess around and put some blues in and people there aren’t just waiting around for ‘Can You Do It’.
“Obviously we won’t change radically. Won’t go from one extreme to another but if we can mix both kinds of music it should work. We’d like to play serious music and enjoy ourselves at the same time. Not just stand up there with our heads bowed.”
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