Today’s lockdown tracks are picked by Look North presenter Jeff Brown. Jeff has worked in various journalistic roles across the North East having grown up in Sunderland. We started by looking at what he was listening to back in his days at Redby School in Roker.
When I was at primary school I used to listen to a lot of music on the radio. I have very clear memories of putting a radio between my pillows at bed time and listening to Radio Luxemburg as I went to sleep, even now I find I know a lot of lyrics to songs from the 60s and 70s which I’m sure was down to that late night listening. I also had my big brother to borrow music from as he was into his vinyl back then, but, sadly, he was into heavy metal while I preferred soul and disco tracks so that didn’t last long.
Do you remember buying music yourself for the first time?
I do, yes, clearly. I used to go to TW Atkinsons for my music. People went there or to Bergs or Spinning Disc, but I was an Atkinsons man. My first purchase wasn’t as cool as my second! My first was ELO with Roll Over Beethoven but my second was Pyjamarama by Roxy Music which is a great song, I still listen to that now. It was released on Island Records and, I was only eleven, but I can still remember that palm tree going round and round on the record player. People obviously think of Bryan Ferry but the drummer, Paul Thompson, is a local lad. Four or five years ago they played the Arena and I arranged to meet him for an interview. We met in the car park at Morrisons and did a tour of his musical memories in Jarrow. It was an amazing thing to do all those years after listening to that track as a child.
What else were you up to back then?
I was already very keen on sport and a keen Sunderland supporter. I recently found a recording from my Mam and Dad’s reel to reel tape recorder of an old episode of Tyne Tees’ Shoot programme with recordings of me doing match reports from the Sunday Post mixed in, I’d have been nine.
So you knew then what you wanted to be?
I guess so, yes, I also remember that whenever there was an FA Cup round, they always did the draw on a Monday lunchtime at 12.05. At Monkwearmouth Grammar School we finished for lunch at 11.55. I used to leg it home, my Mam would have got paper and pencil ready, she even wrote the ‘v’ out ready down the page for the right number of games. I used to write them in, grab my lunch and get back to school in time to go round the school yard explaining which ties to watch out for. Probably hard to imagine in the age of the internet but very happy memories.
So did you get your break to do it professionally quite early?
My Mam and Dad were very supportive. They said I should look at which sports weren’t getting much coverage and submit some match reports. I was a big speedway fan and at that time the Sunderland speedway stopped and shortly after the Newcastle set up began. I was about 15 and got a train and a bus through to Byker, wrote my reports on the way back and my Dad used to take my articles in to Pennywell. It was brilliant of him really, because he worked in Hendon so it was miles out of his way.
And the rest is history. Have you always worked in the North East?
No, I spent four years in Birmingham on the Post and Mail. It was a good time, especially for music!
Better access to live music than in the North East?
Yes, at the time there weren’t really any venues in the North East but there was a lot of choice in Birmingham. I saw Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, The Police, George Benson, Spandau Ballet… amazing concerts.
And could you pick one as the best?
That’s so difficult. I saw Stevie Wonder again in 2014 and that was probably the best concert I ever saw. It was in Clapham Common and he introduced himself in this amazing Cockney accent. That was a great night. And I saw Paul McCartney in Hyde Park which was just one of those moments, you know, as he sang Beatles songs and, you find yourself feeling almost like you’re watching the Beatles.
That’s one of those ‘lifetime ambition’ moments, isn’t it?
Yes, he was really good. I actually had a lifetime ambition to see Steely Dan and went to Palm Beach to see them. Funnily enough they then came to the UK about two years later but by then Walter Becker had passed away, so it was worth the trip to see the original line up before it was too late. We also saw Earth, Wind and Fire in the States. They were incredible. We were late on the night and got the last tickets, right at the back, I was just saying to my wife that we’d be OK because there’d be a warm up act first when we heard Boogie Wonderland starting up. I’ve never moved so fast to get into the auditorium! After the concert I asked my daughter if she’d enjoyed it. She said that two hours of disco is too much for anyone! I’m not sure that’s true.
So, do you like a boogie?
Yes. Almost always first on the dance floor. Weddings, parties… if there’s a need to get the floor filled, I’ll be the first up. In the past you’d have found me in Genevieves, Fusion, Annabelles. I’ll dance to anything but especially Motown. That will always get the party started.
And what about matchdays? Do you listen to music on matchdays?
Not so much these days, it’s all about seeing my brother, grabbing a beer and then getting in for about five to three.
Just in time for Prokofiev?
Yes, I still think that’s the best pre-match music there is. It just sets the mood so well. I’m not sure, but I think it was used on Tyne Tees first for the highlight programmes back in the late 90s. I don’t know if that’s where they picked it up from but, wherever it was, it was inspired.
And when you were younger on match day?
We used to listen to music on away trips back in the late 70s and 80s. I was a big fan of the Toy Dolls. They were a Sunderland Punk Band. You could hear their accents and they were singing about places we knew. It was like ‘this could be us’ which always makes it more special. They had a song called ‘Tommy Kowey’s car’. I’ve no idea how they got away with it! The funny thing is, years later and I’m friends with two of the band. I see Baz Warne from time to time, he now sings with The Stranglers and Pete ‘Zulu’ Robson is now a really good friend. He runs my favourite pub which is where you’ll find me on a Friday night, well, in normal times you would.
So if we could let you out for one night is that where you’d be?
Yes, straight to the Black Horse in Boldon.
And what would be waiting on the bar for you?
They do a guest ale and I guarantee, as soon as I walk in, they’ll pour a little taster of whatever is on that week. So, almost certainly a pint of the guest ale.
Let’s hope you’re back there in the near future.
Thanks and keep well.