Gillan Newcastle Mayfair 5th Oct 1979

Gillan Newcastle Mayfair 5th Oct 1979
Support: Samson; Speedometors (according to the programme); Randy California (according to the ticket)
gillantixoct79 By 1979 the Gillan band had transformed into a much more rocky combo featuring Gillan (of course) on crazy, screaming vocals, the powerhouse man mountain John McCoy on bass, the charismatic Irish guitar wizard Bernie Torme, Colin Towns (from the Ian Gillan Band) on keyboards, and Mick Underwood (who I saw in Strapps as Gillan’s support act a couple of years before) on drums. The Mr Universe album had just been released. This was the Gillan line-up that was to become a familiar feature of festivals and concert halls for the next couple of years. And it was very much a band with three strong front men in the form of Gillan, John McCoy and Bernie Torme; all of whom had their own very different personalities and stage personas. McCoy would prowl around the stage, growling at the front rows of the audience. Torme mixed punk attitude with an almost glamrock image, and some amazingly flashy guitar heroics. I’m pretty sure I saw Bernie Torme once or twice fronting his own punk band, and I remember being quite surprised when he joined Gillan, but the mix worked well. Ian Gillan was the respected classic rock front man, shaking his long hair, and screaming out the vocals. gillanprog1979 Going along to a Gillan gig was a guarantee of a night of good fun; proper rock, loud music, some humour, some new songs and a few Purple classics. And at least once in the night, Ian would give out a scream that tore your ears apart and seemed to go on for ever. This gig presents yet another conundrum to tax my memory (which as usual fails me). The programme lists the support acts as Samson and the Speedometors, while the ticket says it was Samson and ex-spirit man and Hendrix disciple Randy California. I can’t recall who actually played that night. I certainly remember seeing Samson a few times. They featured Bruce Bruce (aka Bruce Dickinson and soon to be of Iron Maiden) on vocals, Paul Samson on guitar, and Thunderstick on drums, who word a mask and performed from inside a cage. John McCoy and Bernie Torme had both been members of earlier incarnations of the band. I don’t know who the Speedometors were, but they look pretty punky from the picture in the programme. I also saw Randy California a number of times, but I don’t recall if this was one of them. Its funny how doing this blog regularly brings up mysteries for me. I also note that the ticket calls the band the Ian Gillan band, rather than Gillan; and that the price was a bargain at £2 (in advance).

7 responses to this post.

  1. Didn’t Randy California fill in for Blackmore once in Deep Purple, one gig?


    • Posted by vintagerock on January 18, 2013 at 4:54 pm

      Hi I didn’t know of this; but yes you are right. I found this on the Rolling Stone website:

      “Machine Head was the one that broke open the US market, and back came Purple again for another try at an American tour. This time they lasted four days until Blackmore came down with hepatitis and flew home. Attempting to complete the tour with Al Kooper as a temporary stand-in, things went well during a hasty pre-show rehearsal. Shortly before showtime, however, Kooper had a nervous breakdown and canceled out. Randy California was the next to step in and fill the vacant guitar spot in time for a Quebec show. Just prior to the group’s boarding the plane to deliver them to the show, Air Canada went on strike. Jon Lord squints into the dressing room lights as he remembers. “Randy was brilliant, God bless ’em, but everything had gotten to be such a bitch that we had to go home. We just couldn’t take it any longer.”



  2. Posted by DickieMint on October 15, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    34 years ago this evening I was at the ‘Gillan’ concert in Preston Guild Hall… where the heck has the past 34 years gone?! It was a fantastic gig, Mr Universe live was stupendous and supporting axeman Randy California’s performance was awesome too.


  3. Posted by Chris Hannigan on December 24, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    Saw this show at Leicester. Must have been this tour cuz I remember Randy being a special guest and doing this very long solo guitar spot. A few weeks later (or maybe earlier) Rick Emmett did the same thing to a nearly deserted De Montfort Halls – I guess Triumph never really made it in UK. But what I remember most was the unknown to me Samson. Everyone was giggling at he drummer in the cage but I remember the singer. I thought he was something special. I guess Mr Dickinson was just about to prove me right. Next time I saw him was with Iron Maiden. The rest, as they say ….


  4. Posted by Geoff Stewart on June 18, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    I can confirm that Randy California played at the Mayfair gig. My best mate at the time and I blagged our way into the Mayfair for the Gillan soundcheck. Ian Gillan was a true gent and kept us entertained with war stories from the Purple days including ones involving Free who apparently toured with them around the time of Wishing Well. We also met Randy California and Samson. Somewhere, I have a couple of photos of us with Ian and Randy including one of Samson’s drummer “Thunderstick” without his Gimp mask on.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: