After being in the kennel for the best part of 20 years Tysondog are back, barking louder and fiercer than ever!
The continued fascination with the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal has little to do with the upper crust of bands who made it - Maiden, Saxon, etc. - but more an interest in those who came close, but just fell short of the mark. Strange but true. It’s the bands who released records, showed ability but never went on to find international fame who describe and colour the vast interest in the genre, which seem to grow annually. And Tysondog certainly fit that mould.
Back in 1984, many working at Kerrang! - including Geoff Barton, Dante Bonutto, Xavier Russell and myself (Malcolm Dome) - believed the ‘Dog could go on to achieve major stature. The fact they failed has nothing to do with lack of will or talent. Perhaps it was when Lady Luck copped a strop and took a hike.
To those of you who know the story of Tysondog, it still bears repetition. To those who don’t, stand by for action...
From the North East of England, the band were born from another outfit, who went under the odd name Orchrist in the early 1980s. This lot had a line-up that included the core of Alan Hunter on vocals, Kev Wynn (bass) and Paul Burdis (guitar). These three soon split from the rest to start Tysondog - named after a pet dog called Tyson! - going through a succession of drummers (including one Kev Hunter, brother of Raven’s Rob), before settling on Peter Reeve.
The first proper line-up quickly landed a deal with local label Neat (based in Wallsend, the same town where Tysondog were based... coincidence?), having bumped into one of the company’s execs in a car park and given him a live tape (true!), and recorded their first single, ‘Eat The Rich’, in mid -’83, with Hunter by now on vocals and guitar. However, before this was released the ‘Dog had expanded to a five-piece, with the addition of one Clutch Carruthers on vocals. He made his recording debut on that single’s B-side, ‘Dead Meat’ - and showed he could roar with the best.
Reeve quit to become a movie star (well, he appearing in the Warren Mitchell / Nigel Hawthorne movie ‘The Chain’).
His replacement was one Ged Wolf, whose brother Eric Cook managed Venom. Still with us? The Venom connection is important...
The new ‘Dog recorded their debut album, Beware Of The Dog, working with none other than Venom bassist/vocalist Cronos as producer (told you the connection was important); the latter had significant studio experience behind him, and was far from a publicity seeking choice. And for the most part, Beware... showcased a band with a real bite in their music. Today over 25 years after its release in 1982, it stands up remarkably well to scrutiny. Check out the blasting ’Hammerhead’, or the gnawing ‘Dog Soldiers’, or for that matter the feisty ‘Demon’. What they lack in subtlety - never a Tysondog trademark, anyway - is more than made up by the energy and enthusiasm that radiates from the music. Beware Of The Dog is an underrated album that many others would be proud to have recorded at the time.
However, the band were very unhappy with one aspect: the drum sound. Hence the reason why Wolf departed (to join Atomkraft) and in came Rob Walker, a madman behind the kit. This incarnation stated to make significant inroads in Europe, even getting a slot at the prestigious Dynamo Festival in Holland, before returning to the UK to play shows across the country, including one in London at the Royal Standard, where the audience included a certain Lars Ulrich - whatever happened to him?
The first Tysondog recording to feature the new ‘Dog was an EP called Shoot To Kill, issued in 1985; the title track and Changeling are both included as bonus cuts on the CD Painted Heroes.
The Band also distinguished themselves with an impressive cover of Alice Cooper’s ‘School’s Out’, issued as a single the next year as a prelude to the second album, Crimes Of Insanity, which saw the five-piece effectively handling production themselves. Released in 1986, Crimes... actually marked the end of an era, with Hunter electing despite this knowledge, the guitarist gives his all on the record, coming up with some giant performances on songs like Taste of Hate’, ‘Don’t Let The Bastards (Grind You Down)’, ‘Street Thunder’ and ‘Hotter Than Hell’.
The new version of the album has a bonus track, ‘Back To The Bullet’, which originally appeared on the Shoot To Kill EP and was also made available on the 12” version of the ‘School’s Out’ single. And, despite a lukewarm critical reception at the time, Crimes... is far from being a dud record. It’s perhaps time for a sensible reassessment by many who ere too dismissive at the time.
Sadly at this juncture, bad luck started to become a regular playmate for the band, the combination of dark events even conspiring to defeat their aspirations.
Firstly a prestigious UK tour with hotly tipped Americans Madam X (a band who, at different times featured pre-Skid Row Sebastian Bach and drummer Roxy Petrucci, who went on to join Vixen) was scuppered because of a road accident involving one of US band’s family. And when Hunter quit, plans to shoot a video to promote the second album were shelved. Not only that, but work permit problems prevented Tysondog going to America with
Venom (they were by then sharing management with black metal heroes), and then to cap it all, Carruthers was involved in a car accident on his way to a gig in London at The Marquee Club.
As if this wasn’t enough, the final straw came when Neat decided not to take up the option for a third album while the band were working on material, including a cover of the Sex Pistols’ ‘Pretty Vacant’. So in early 1987 the foursome bowed to fate and called it quits. But not before playing one last show in Newcastle, for which they persuaded Hunter to return.
In the past 21 years, very little has been heard from and of the Tysondog protagonists. It would be nice to report that at least one went on to enjoy massive success in a much bigger band, but such isn’t the case here. Bassist Wynn took up the cudgels - albeit briefly - with a different band was bassist Wynn, who joined former Tygers of Pan Tang frontman Jess Cox in his ill-fated project Tyger Tyger. Hunter joined Atomkraft, before teaming up with the remnants of Satan, another North Eastern band, in Pariah. But this came to nothing as well. Carruthers moved to Europe, where he’s been playing in various covers bands, while Walker became a drum teacher at college, and was apparently last spotted a couple of years ago on the QE2, performing with the house (or should that be ‘boat’?) band. As for Burdis, he joined the marines, which is a long way removed from the rock ‘n’ roll scene of the mid-to-late 1980s!
This is a band who represent the true spirit and ethos of NWOBHM - and many years on from this particular movement, people the world over are still desperate to find out the minutiae of the genre. And it’s great to be able to listen once more to these two albums, providing that an absence of ability wasn’t to blame for their failure to make it to a higher level.
So here’s to Tysondog, a band who came, who saw, who never conquered, but had a good time getting close. If you’ve never heard them before, enjoy the music. It’s worth checking out.
Written by Malcolm Dome
(TotalRock Radio/Classic Rock Magazine)