I'm a UK guitarist and have been playing for about 30 years! I have done various stuff including tribute bands (Alice Cooper and Van Halen) but these days am busy writing and recording for an 'album' that looks like it's gonna be released about 2012 the speed things are going at! Black Rose are also writing and recording for the first time since 1988 with a possible album release later this year!
You can check out my current site (with loads of free stuff!) at www.chris-watson.com and here's a history of the band I was in from the '80's, Black Rose...
The history of Black Rose goes back to 1976 when three young guys in their last year of school decided to form a band.
These guys were Steve Bardsley: Vocals/guitar, Marty Rajn : Bass guitar and Mark Eason: Drums.
Although none of them were proper musicians or anything, they had a desire to create a noise and armed with a collection of real and home-made instruments, that's what they did. Influenced by big 70's rock bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, the guys started to write some very basic songs and practised in the garage of Mark's house, much to the annoyance of Mark's parents and neighbours.
The science teacher at their school heard about the guys and after hearing them asked if he could record them on his 4 track recorder, which they did and that was the beginning of what was to become Black Rose. The band called themselves ICE and played their debut gig in August 1977 at a church hall in Saltburn, England. This prompted a local newspaper to write a feature on the band, which was published alongside a photo and became their first taste of fame.
A local hotel started to have Live Music nights on a Sunday night and the guys went down to check out some of the more established local bands performing on stage. One night the supporting act was a local three-piece band and the guys were really impressed with their guitarist, a guy called Kenny Nicholson . It later transpired that his band were just a bit of fun, nothing serious just three lads enjoying playing music. So ICE stepped in and asked Kenny if he fancied joining a band with more serious ambitions, which he did and the band became a four piece.
The band practised harder, got better and put together a set of songs that included a selection of well known rock cover songs and some of their own material. They played local pubs and clubs and started to get a small army of supporters, but Mark became unhappy with the rock scene and left the band. He had to be replaced and they asked a local lad called Charlie McKenzie who was playing in a band called Anvil , if he fancied the job. He did and became the new drummer, which also inspired a name change to... BLACK ROSE .
A north east of England recording studio was running a special offer where you could spend the day in the studio and record live for a set fee, so the guys pooled their money together and recorded their first ever demo-tape, which was raw as it was live, but it was invaluable experience. The demo was recorded at Impulse studios in Wallsend, Newcastle and the track listing for this demo was:
Alright on the Night', Biker', Ready-Aim-Fire', Killer', Loveshock' and Raising Hell'
They sent the demo off to various music magazines, radio stations and got a lot of feedback, with one of the tracks ' Killer ' getting into a national rock D.J's top ten playlist which was published in the UK rock magazine Kerrang! Although the band were starting to progress in both their live performances and songwriting, the lure of bigger and better things was too much for Charlie and Kenny who both got offers they couldn't refuse from more established bigger bands. Charlie joined Emerson and later Samson whilst Ken auditioned for White Spirit , ( Iron Maiden guitarist Yan Gers was in this local band before moving to London and joining Gillan ) but this didn't work out so he went on to appear with bands like Fast Kutz , Holland and Hammer .
So now a new guitarist and drummer were sought and after holding auditions, guitarist Chris Watson and drummer 'Malla' Smith joined the band. A local businessman, a guy called Jim Sculley , also showed an interest in the band. He was a venue promoter and agent but decided that he would like to have a serious go at band management and try to help guide the band to success. Jim was also willing to put his money where his mouth was and paid for the band to go into a local studio and record a demo, which was later released as their debut single. The single, No Point Runnin' was recorded at Dimmer Blackwell's Teesbeat Recording Studios in Stockton-on-Tees, Cleveland, England in 1982 on the Teesbeat label. The single got an excellent response from the UK rock media, and was played continuously on various rock music radio shows and featured in a lot of playlists, including charting in the official British Heavy Metal charts .
No Point Runnin' single (1982)
In order to help promote the band and the new single, the guys were to go on tour as support to a band called Vardis . This however did not quite go according to plan as the tour only got to play one gig and for one reason ( Steve Zodiac and Chris didn't see eye to eye and after Chris played Eruption' by Van Halen at the opening gig, a big falling out happened!) or another the whole thing fell through.
The band also went into the Tyne Tees TV studios in Newcastle to appear on a local pop program called Check it Out (the presenter, Chris Cowie , went on to produce Top Of The Pops for the BBC) and made a video for the song which was basically live on set with a girl dancer superimposed on top, pretty naff but effective at the time. This went out on air in the North East and now the video for the song is very rare to find.
Jim decided it was time for the band to go back into the studio and record some more songs, and this time a couple of tracks from the session featured on a compilation album called ' Roxcalibur '. This album also featured tracks from other North East English rock hopefuls such as Satan, Battleaxe and Brands Hatch . The album did reasonably well, getting mainly good reviews and a couple of gigs were arranged featuring some of the bands from the album to help promote it. The album was recorded at Guardian Studios, Pity Me, Co. Durham, England in 1982.
Roxcalibur' compilation album One Take No Dubs' NEAT records
Unfortunately all was not 'rosy' behind the scenes as Marty was disagreeing about things that were going on and causing unrest, so the guys decided it was best for the band if Marty was to leave and they get another bass player. A young man who had been playing in a local band called Omen was approached and he jumped at the chance to join. His name was Mick Thompson . Marty decided to move down to the southeast coast of England where he ended up playing the bass for Chinatown.
This line up was to become the main line up for the next few years and was now as follows:
Steve Bardsley : Lead vocals & guitar - Chris Watson : Lead guitar & vocals - Mick Thompson : Bass guitar & vocals - 'Malla' Smith : Drums & vocals.
Over the next couple of years the band continued gigging in the UK and Europe, and also spent time going into various recording studios around England demoing a lot of material some of which was released as singles, compilation EP's and eventually their debut album, Boys will be Boys' .
We're Gonna Rock You' EP 1983
Boys Will Be Boys' album 1984 Boys Will Be Boys' 7 inch single
A single was also released which featured the album title track and a bonus B-side ( Liar') plus it came with a free patch. The album got positive reviews from the UK and from around the world and with 'Rose' fans were popping up all over the place, Europe, the US, Canada, Japan and even Brazil, it was looking like this might be the shape of things to come. The band even got to play at hallowed ground for them Newcastle City Hall supporting Atomic Rooster and Spider . A couple of Major record companies were starting to take an interest, both Bronze ( Motorhead and Girlschool' label) and Atlantic (loads of big name bands) came to see the band perform in London at various venues but unfortunately it never materialized into a concrete deal.
After about 6 months of high expectation it all went a bit quiet, Chris had became a bit unhappy with it all and after 3 years with the band decided to call it day. A replacement had to be found, auditions were held and a guitarist called Ian Iredale was enlisted. A new guitarist, new inspiration, new demo and eventually a new record was released called Nightmare' featuring 4 brand-new songs; Rock Me Hard', Breakaway', Nightmare' and Need A Lot Of Lovin'.
Nightmare' EP- Neat Records (1985)
This was to be a move into a more melodic approach to songwriting; still rocking but using harmony vocals and with less emphasis on the guitar solos. Again the new EP got great reviews with comparisons being made to some of the top rock bands in the world; everyone it seemed thought that this was going to be the record that pushed Black Rose up the ladder to success. The band were busy rehearsing for forthcoming UK gigs when one day Ian didn't turn up to practise and was never seen again! (Well not by the band that is). However Mr. Wah Wah Watson, or Chris as he was also known, had heard the new songs on the EP and thought they were great so asked if he could rejoin the band .........how could they refuse. Black Rose were back in business.
The next few months were spent gigging up and down the UK promoting the new record, doing interviews for radio and press, and then eventually it was back into the studio and some more recording. But something else also happened during this period of time, Steve decided to concentrate on being a frontman/vocalist so dropped playing the guitar for live shows and a new recruit joined up with the guys in the shape of Gary Todd ; guitar & Keyboards... WAT WAZ ZAT...KEEYBOARDS???? Yep... the band decided to introduce a new aspect to their sound, which was to change the style into a more commercial rock sound.
A new demo was recorded, and with a more melodic Black Rose came an invitation to record at the Maida Vale studios for the Friday Rock Show with Tommy Vance for BBC Radio One , the top Rock Radio show in the United Kingdom. The new material was excellent, commercial and well recorded but still no breaks came the bands way. Unfortunately Chris decided for the second time that he would quit the band and move to the south of England where all the main record companies were based, and give it a crack 'darn sarf' in Londonback to the drawing board and auditions for guitarists took place in the autumn of 1986.
The new guitarist was a baby at only 16 years of age but what a playerhis name was Pat O' Neil . Neat Records , who had released some of the previous records by the band, had heard the new demo and wanted to put the guys in the studio to record their second album, which they did and 'Walk It How You Talk It ' was released. Malla also decided that he'd had enough and wanted to pursue a slightly different musical direction, so after recording the album he left the band. New drummer Barry Youll was credited with the skin bashing on the album, although in truth it was Mal who did the recording. Although a lot more commercial than the first album it was still a heavy rock record, only it had a bit more melody and, featured for the first time, keyboards. It also featured some fine guitar work from Pat mixing with some incredible bass histrionics from Mick imitating the then legendary Stevie Vai / Billy Sheehan combo from the David Lee Roth Band .
The album received rave reviews and although some of their more dedicated fans didn't like the keyboard influences, it was a definite step in the right direction. Rock Journalists were proclaiming Black Rose were gonna be massive and were the UK's answer to Bon Jovi and all the other US bands that seemed to be leading the line. The guys were gigging again to promote the album when a call came from Neat to Jim saying a top American record company wanted to buy the rights to produce the album in the US.
Walk It How You Talk It' album 1987
The company were the giant K-Tel Organisation who, although not known for their rock records in the UK, were a big record company in the US. Over the next few months the American version of the album was made and featured a complete makeover from the British version featuring different photos on the back and a much improved cover sleeve.
The band were on a massive high with talk of them going over to the United States to promote the album and going on tour as support act to a well-known American band. Things were going on the up and up, it finally seemed that the 'Rose' were gonna be in the big time. But then it all went horribly wrong. Just when everything was going so well it all went tits up and the dream came crashing down to earth with an almighty BANG!
An American band with the same name had seen the albums for sale in an American record store and decided to check out who had copyright to the name. It seemed that it was ok to import records from the UK with the name of Black Rose into the USA, but it became a different matter when it was actually produced, re-packaged and released from within the US. The American Black Rose had their complaint upheld and a New York lawyer sent out papers to stop K-Tel producing the album and ordered them to take any already on sale from off the shelves. K-Tel had to abandon the whole thing after already spending a considerable amount of money on the album they were not prepared to face more expensive costs battling it out in a court of law.
The guys back in the UK thought at first it was a sick joke...but it was no joke...no US tour...no US album release. How could something so stupid as copyright to a name ruin the dreams of this band, but it did. By the way if by any chance the guys who were in that US version of Black Rose happen to visit this site we would just like to say:
" Thanks a lot you F**Kin' bunch of T***ers !! ".... No hard feelings!
Some copies of the K-Tel version of the album are still out there as well as some very rare versions of the album on cd, and if you're lucky you may be able to pick one up. Over the years the guys got to meet and had the pleasure to play with some great bands including: fellow Neat records stable mates Raven, White Spirit & Venom , legendary bands like Atomic Rooster , Budgie , Geordie , The Groundhogs and a whole host of NWOBHM bands like Diamond Head , Chrome Molly , Mendes Prey , Satan , Brands Hatch , Dumpy's Rusty Nuts, Terraplane (later to become Thunder ) Limelight , Vardis , Spider , Thunderstick and Trust (French rockers). Even though the band stayed together for a few more years and recorded some more demos; albeit with different line ups (including Paul Fowler : Drums and Dave Patterson : Lead Guitar) they never really got over that whole experience with K-Tel and the band eventually folded in 1988.
and the story would have ended there until July 2003 when this happened!
Malla, Steve and Chris (plus wives!) together in the same room for the first time since 1986!
I was playing a gig in the area with the Alice Cooper tribute, Alike Cooper . I called Malla and Steve and asked them to come down to the gig for a drink or 7 and we chatted about the old days. We had a blast and talked about what it would be like to record some new stuff after so many years. We were all up for it but we'd lost touch with Mick Thompson, our legendary bass player. Over the net, me and Steve talked about writing some new stuff and recording it long distance' (we live 300 miles apart) so we took to writing and are now working on some new songs for shits and giggles! Don't worry; it's for fun and the intention to record some top notch stuff but I can't see New Wave Of British Heavy Metal making a strident return, The Darkness or not! You can read all about our new stuff and how it's coming along by going to the official site at: www.blackrose-rockband.co.uk
Not any more. I've done over 2000 gigs since I started. Highlights for me would be playing in The Dynamo, Eindhoven, The Marquee Club in Wardour Street, Newcastle City Hall and getting to jam with Greg Bisonette who was Dave Lee Roth's drummer at a gig last year...he did 'Hot For Teacher' and 'Unchained' and nearly destroyed the drummers kit!
I'm a big fan of guitarists who have both feel and technique in their playing. I'm not a shredder but I can shred a bit...I'm looking for emotion with flair. Think George Lynch, Doug Aldrich, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eddie Van Halen, Gary Moore...but I've got my own style thats a mix of all the above!
I use Line6 gear and a coupla straightforward guitars...an old Squier strat I've had for about 15 years and a Peavey Wolfgang...that'll do!
Thats enough isn't it!