Gary Craig remembers meeting Heavy Metal Kids in 1978
I had travelled to the Heavy Metal Kids gig at Darlington in my first car – a grey Ford Escort with ‘go faster’ black stripes on the sides. The car was a very poor starter in cold weather, and at the time it had been snowing, so I parked it on the brow of a hill outside the Darlington hall, anticipating problems! Arriving in Darlington early, I went off to the Green Dragon pub, where I happened upon gig organiser Andrew Wild, of the Darlington Students Union. He said I might meet The Kids if I went round the back of the venue (Darlington Public Baths) but when I got there, there was nobody on the door.
Undaunted, I went inside – and was rewarded for my perseverance. I went through a set of double doors, and was pleasantly surprised to see Gary Holton, Barry Paul and Keith Boyce, sitting with make-up girl Karen Moorcroft, roadie ‘Josh’, John Shipcott, the group’s manager and Dena, another girl who helped look after the boys. They were all happy to sign photos which I had taken with me, and talked as I waited for the other members of the group to come back to the canteen-type room which had been made available as a dressing room. Dena directed me to a small balcony, where I completed my autograph-hunting by finding Ronnie Thomas and Jay Williams.
I then returned to the dressing room, and learned that the band planned to go to Europe - Germany and Belgium, if possible, as the band were very big in Belgium – "She’s No Angel" being No.1 over there. At this point, we were interrupted (ironically) by two friendly Hell’s Angels, who were squatting in a house quite near the hall. When they left, I decided to go too, but not before asking to take photos of my own. I took a photo of Ronnie Thomas, Barry Paul and Keith Boyce, then Jay Williams and John Shipcott asked me to take a photo of themselves as they clowned around.
I also took one of Gary Holton getting his make-up done and then he asked me if I was going to take photos of the show. I was going to make do with the "special" shots I already had, but I wasn’t going to let this chance to be ‘official’ photographer for the night pass by. At the end of the show, having spent the evening backstage with the HMK and company, I got back to my car and, sure enough, it wouldn’t start.
I had just begun to single-handedly push it down the bank when the Kids came past in their van and offered to help. I foolishly told them I was fine, and jumped into the car as it started to roll down the hill. Unfortunately, there was very little traction on the icy road and the car would not bump start. More unfortunately, I hadn’t realised that this was a cul-de-sac and I ended up stuck at the bottom of a dead end! As I had no choice but to wait for the light in the morning I had to sleep in the car, but it was so cold that at one point I was clinging to a tea towel I used to clean the windscreen to try to get some warmth or comfort from it!
By the morning I was virtually hypothermic, and I was at the doors of the nearest garage for its opening. I was very lucky to get a mechanic who could obviously see the state I was in, and he came to the car, took away the spark plugs, dried them out and warmed them up, then refitted them and started the car for £15, which was all I had on me! I was so grateful I could have kissed him, but I was also so worried that the car would stall with a flat battery that I raced up the hill in true boy-racer style, and back to South Shields, revving the engine like a Formula 1 racing car at every junction!