Woolly Wolstenholme

In 1977 this song was barely off my turntable – I’d bought the Live EP that came out that summer which had this song and Medicine Man on it. It’s one of those songs that as soon as I hear it I’m transported back to those days. I remember staying at my Gran’s house that summer while my mum and Dad were away and it was one of the songs that I played on my little record player.

I saw the band a couple of times around then at the City Hall in Newcastle, I forget how many times but it was either 2 or 3 times. We met them after one of the gigs and they were a really nice bunch of blokes. I also recall that on one of the tours they had vowed not to play their famous song Mockingbird but the crowd at Newcastle kept on shouting for more even after the house lights came back on until eventually the band came back on and played it urging us “Not to tell anyone!”

So it was with sadness that I learned today of the death of one of the band members Woolly Wolstenholme who committed suicide on Monday. The band released a statement on their website stating that: In recent weeks Woolly’s mental health had taken a turn for the worse and sadly he took his own life on Monday 13th December 2010

The harder you try, the lower you fall
The way that it seems, so they say
The mountain is high, the valley so low
You’re losing your dreams on the way

So you’re gonna be a rock ‘n’ roll star
Gonna make it on your own
Write a song that everyone can sing along
So you want to take a trip to the stars
Can you find your way back home?
You’ll get your break, but don’t you wait too long

Looking behind you
All the bad times that you’ve had
Looking before you
Only good times?



Ronnie James Dio 1942 – 2010

The sad news today of the death of singer Ronnie James Dio from stomach cancer at the age of 67. The singer had been a member of Ricthie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Black Sabbath (where he replaced Ozzy Osbourne) and well as fronting his own bands Elf,  Dio and Heaven & Hell. I saw Dio as part of Rainbow at Newcastle City Hall in 1977 – he was the original singer in the band that Ritchie Blackmore formed after leaving Deep Purple. He co-wrote much of the excellent debut album simply called Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. This album has been a long time favourite of mine especially for the track The Temple of the King, which sadly they didn’t play when I saw them.

One day, in the year of the fox 
Came a time remembered well, 
When the strong young man of the rising sun 
Heard the tolling of the great black bell. 
One day in the year of the fox, 
When the bell began to ring, 
It meant the time had come for one to go 
To the temple of the king. 

In my opinion Rainbow only made two decent albums, the first two, the ones that Ronnie James Dio sang on! I still prefer the first one to the somewhat overblown second album Rainbow Rising, so much so that when I got divorced I grabbed it back off my wife when she tried to claim it was hers!!

She was a big fan of the little bloke and it was probably only because of this that we went to see Black Sabbath twice while he was lead singer, once in Newcastle and once in a god awful venue in Leeds. I had seen Sabbath with Ozzy and no matter how much I liked Mr Dio I don’t think he could fill the gap left by Ozzies departure. I did take some photographs of Sabbath with Dio at the City Hall at that gig I will have to see if I can dig them out.

At some point when we still lived in Sunderland we went down to London to see a band and Val and I had to return home early because of some commitment where as my brother and his mates spent the following day in London before getting the train back.  She had joked that she bet they met someone famous and indeed while wandering around who should they bump into but RJD – they got him to sign a postcard for her. However I should point out that they originally thought he was the singer out of the Scorpions!

A sad day for rock music as one of it’s truly original voices has been silenced.

Guess who just got back today

Thin Lizzy

A few weeks ago I discovered that the scanner at work was capable of scanning slides and negatives and ever since I’ve been wanting to find my collection of negatives which include loads of images from concerts in the late 70’s/early 80’s – mostly at the City Hall in Newcastle.

So I went off to the garage where we have lots of stuff still stored and looked through some of the boxes. I found them in an adidas box where they have been for the best part of 25 years! So I took them home and started to sort through them. Almost straight away I found the ones I took at a Thin Lizzy concert in 1979 which I decided would be the first set to be scanned.

So I took them into work and while I was digitising a 3 hour video tape I set about scanning them in on another computer. Once I had worked out how to work the scanning system which involved moving this, plugging that in and then putting the negatives in a frame I made the first preview scan. Then I had to work out how to make them bigger than 35mm by 25mm! Once I had scanned the first batch I was quite pleased with the results.

The first thing I noticed was how much better the colours were than the ones I had scanned from the original prints

Scanned from Print

Scan from Negative

It just goes to show how badly printed some of the photographs were back in the 1970’s – the colours just weren’t reproduced properly and a lot of the images had a red cast to them. I also noticed as I was going through packets of negatives how many images had been cut in the wrong place making it difficult to scan them in. So much for the golden age of photography!!

I think the problem was that photographs were developed and printed by machine and the machine would guess where black was and probably couldn’t cope with a huge expanse of it! So when I took my photographs into Boots, Turners or even Chas Eagles thinking they would be printed well they weren’t. I seem to recall that sending them away to be developed wasn’t much better.

Mention of Turners reminds me of a story. The problem I had was that sometimes, in an effort to get just one last shot out of a 24 exposure roll of film I would wind on the camera and feel a snap as the film came out of the cannister. When this happened I had a changing bag that I would put camera and one of those black film pots into. I would then take the film out of the camera and roll it up and put it into the cannister – quite tricky when you can’t see what you are doing!

Once I had got the film into the pot and the lid on I would then tape it shut and put a sticker onto it saying “loose undeveloped film – open in dark room only”. Anyway I took the film into Turners and handed it to the assistant and after I had  explaned about the contents I was somewhat dismayed to see him take the lid off, look inside and then hand it back to me saying “Sorry that’s probably no good now!”


There used to be a saying that “Film is Cheap” meaning that it was better to take as many pictures as you could rather than miss the “one”. Unfortunately what with all the other demands on my cash such as concert tickets, records and beer I couldn’t always afford to buy too many films and get them developed despite the fact that I did a morning paper round, an evening one, two Sunday rounds and a Saturday job in Woolworths in addition to my pocket money.

So you will find that on a standard 24 exposure roll of (400asa) film there will be one concert at the start of the film and another at the end – like the one I just scanned which started with a couple of shots of the support band, then there were some of UFO, then from the next gig there was Steve Hillage and finally some shots taken back stage that night!

There were negatives of shows I didn’t remember taking photographs at and ones where I had 2 sets of images of different shows (UFO and Lindisfarne for example). I wish I’d taken my camera to more shows but it really depended on getting good seats and the goodwill of the bouncers on the night. I do think I was lucky as the bouncers at Newcastle would only object if you used a flash which I didn’t.

Dire Straits

Two shows I regret not taking pictures of was Bruce Springsteen at Newcastle City Hall and Kate Bush at Manchester Apollo. I took my camera along to the Bruce gig but there was a sign on the door saying no cameras or recording devices that wasn’t usually there. So fearing I might have it taken off me I took it back to the car – of course there was no reason as security weren’t checking. The Kate Bush shows were openly hostile to photographers even before you got there. they had been saying in the press that photographs would not be allowed so I didn’t take my camera as we set off on the coach to Manchester. I did notice that the bloke next to me got a camera out of his bag, a serious camera as well, and took some shots. Seeing I had clocked him doing it, he just smiled and said “Well you have too, don’t you!” that was the night before the Thin Lizzy show that I took the photo at the top of the page at.

I really wish I had kept it up but after moving to first Manchester and then London I found it a) more difficult to get good seats and b) less camera friendly. I used to sell some of my photographs to the Durham Book Centre in Sunderland and I did at one point look into doing photography if I didn’t get into university. Still mustn’t grumble I end up doing something I love as a job anyway!

Alex Harvey

oh and I have already been asked twice about using my Thin Lizzy photographs on websites about the band – you can see them here or here on my Flickr site