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A Promoters Tale: Rock at the Sharp End Paperback – 2 Nov 2002
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'A great read...Eagerly anticipated by all those who remember the heady days of 30 years ago, when Sunderland was a major destination on the rock map. They will not be disappointed. It is packed with behind-the-scenes tales of such legends as The Who, Led Zeppelin, Free, Rod Stewart, Elton John and David Bowie. But equally fascinating is Geoff's own story, which reads like a hard-hitting novel. In an extremely well constructed and well-written account, Geoff tells the poignant story of his often brutal childhood.' SUNDERLAND ECHO
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Fans of the bands who were popular at the time will appreciate the various anecdotes, such as the amusing Country Joe/marijuana incident, and particularly touching are his memories of living with the late great Free guitarist Paul Kossoff. I also raised a smile when he discusses the phone call he received from a London based manager begging him to book a strapped for cash out of work singer/songrwiter called Elton John for £50. The book is peppered with tales like this - if nothing else it's interesting for this behind-the-scenes perspective.
But luckily it does delve a little deeper than that, and Geoff's mentality and attitude create a sense of satisfaction when he finally gets the band he wants through sheer determination and hard work - he promotes a good message.
The book revives what sounded like an exciting time to be alive (alas I wasn't born till years later), and I pretty much read it in one sitting.
One small criticism - the book somewhat glides over his later years in the business, namely the 80s and the early 90s, but I don't really think it was Geoff's intention to talk about his life in the music industry as a whole, more the part he played in contributing to it when it was breaking free of it's conventional mould.
Overall, and particularly for fans of rock music, highly reccomended.
I am moved to write this review, not because I think that this book is great, although it is an easily read, entertaining story, but because I think that Geoff Docherty is one of the central characters which placed Sunderland near the head of the music revolution that occurred in the late 1960's and early 1970s.
For someone's first foray into the publishing field this is quite an achievement. Docherty writes about his exploits with a no holds barred approach, no pun intended. He does not mince his words although he refrains from identifying the villains of the piece be they police or hardcases. His matter of fact, self centred style have their faults but he has a good tale to tell and there are many residents of Sunderland and surrounding areas who have much to thank him for, including the present author.
The real importance of this book lies in placing the North East in the centre of the musical whirlwind which engulfed the western world in the 1960's and 1970's. The Liverpool Sound had given prominence to Mersey groups who had earned their claim to fame on the Beatles tailcoats. However, there was much in the local music industry in the North East which would not have been given prominence if it had not been for Docherty's ground breaking experience. There are many not mentioned in his book who got their start through his efforts, off the top of my head I can think of Eddie Jobson and the singer from Geordie who became the vocalist for AC/DC, Sting, Splinter to name only a few. Geoff's world led to a glorious heydey in the 1970s when the infamous yet extremely popular Hot Rats disco based in the Londonderry pub spread the word of progressive and Bay area sounds around. Docherty inspired many of us to be DJs, promoters and musicians because of out love for music and other, more earthly pleasures.
Geoff Docherty's dream enabled yound bands like Free to earn their place among the Pantheon of Great British Rock musicians. He established a backwater like Sunderland as a major centre for the new bands, outside of London. He gave us opportunities to see many many bands at the Bay Hotel, the Locarno, Sunderland Poly, the Rink, the Mayfair, Newcastle Poly, Newcastle University and in my own particular case, the ability to go to see bands like the Grateful Dead at Newcastle City Hall. He may not have promoted them all but if it was not for him they would never have been there at all.
Docherty evokes a spirit of adventure, of shared experience, of good and happy times, of the agony and the ecstasy of letting our spirits and imaginations free in an environment often hostile to the new and novel.
Rock at the Sharp End is a book which has merely started a process. Perhaps Geoff Docherty could find it in himself to write a book about the broader music scene in the Sunderland area during that time. Whatever he decides, this book by Geoff about Geoff, paints a picture which will be familiar to many people who lived in and around Sunderland at about the time he is writing of. I am sure that many memories will be jogged by this book and perhaps old friendships will be renewed and reaffirmed because of it.
Meet on the Ledge.
In short he put Sunderland on the Rock And Roll worldmap and this biography is a heartwarming story of a great guy.
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