A SNAPSHOT IN TIME…
… is how Pez Hodder sees his days with Goldsmith. With precious little in the way of recordings to mark their presence back in the glory days of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, he explains how the band came into being, and why these days he prefers being eaten by crocodiles…
“Bitches Sin who are ‘Always Ready (For Love)’ or so their Neat 09 7” release says,” ran the snippet in the Neat Records’ newsletter Neat News, “have just waved goodbye to their bass player Pez Hodder who has formed a band of his own, Goldsmith. They’ve been in the studios recording tracks for what could be a single release.” This was probably the first time anyone outside of Cumbria had heard of Goldsmith, a band who, despite showing a lot of promise, were never really able to fulfil their potential.
It’s impossible to tell the Goldsmith story without mentioning Bitches Sin, the band in which Perry ‘Pez’ Hodder first came to the attention of metal fans. Based in the Cumbrian town of Ulverston Bitches Sin was formed by guitarists Ian and Peter Toomey around April 1980 but found themselves short of a bassist. “I’m actually a lead guitarist by trade,” Pez begins. “I came back to Ulverston in 1980 and was looking to join a band.” Obviously Bitches Sin had all the guitarists they needed, so he approached them to play bass. The fact that he didn’t actually have a bass didn’t deter him. “I got the job, so I bought myself a bass guitar and I was in. And I enjoyed the move to playing bass. It was something different. I’d never played bass before, well, only very briefly, so it was kind of a challenge to learn how to play the instrument properly because it is very different to playing lead guitar. And once I’d cracked it it was good fun. You play in a completely different way on bass, you play to the drummer, so you tend to form more of a bond with the drummer from a musical point of view than the guitarist does. So it was interesting, and I have to say that I absolutely loved it. I’m proud of the bass playing I did for that band. It was a new skill for me and I put every effort into it. Things like ‘Strangers On The Shore’:I love playing that song. I think that’s probably my favourite Bitches Sin song; that and ‘Ice Angels’. ‘Ice Angels’ was written by Ian, if I remember rightly, and is pure class.”
As a member of Bitches Sin Pez played on some of the band’s best known material. “They started with a demo cassette called ‘Twelve Pounds And No Kinks’ [available on the High Roller release ‘The First Temptation’"> which I played on, and I actually wrote the A-side of the Neat Records’ single ‘Always Ready (For Love)’. Then there was another cassette which was ‘Your Place Or Mine’ and I played on the original version of ‘Strangers On The Shore’ which appeared on the ‘Heavy Metal Heroes’ compilation. It was an electrifying band to be in; from that day to this I think I’ve played in maybe one other band that was as tight as Bitches Sin, as well rehearsed, and as professional. We were a very, very tight band, we rehearsed religiously at least once a week and we could play our set almost blindfolded. When we were on fire Bitches Sin were just tremendous.”
Pez can’t recall exactly when he parted company with Bitches Sin. But as ‘Your Place Or Mine’ was recorded early in the summer of 1981 and it was a new look Bitches Sin (featuring just the Toomey brothers from the first line-up) that arrived at BBC’s Maida Vale studios on 26th August to record their session for The Friday Rock Show, sometime in-between those two events Pez had shut his bass back in its case and set about forming Goldsmith.
“The first thing you’ll probably ask me is how did I come across Mike Henderson and Glen Milligan. Now, that’s a bloody good question to which I don’t have the answer,” he laughs. “Mike knew Glen, but how I knew Mike I have no idea. I must have just met him around because he played drums, I presume, and maybe I’d seen him in another band or something, but I’m not entirely sure.” As for the band’s name, “that came from me, and, again, I can recall no particular reason. I think it was probably – might sound daft – but I think it was probably so that I could paint my SG gold which I did.” Another laugh. “Perhaps I should tell you that, for some bizarre reason, when I first started Goldsmith we were called Fury’s Flames. And I remember nothing about that, either!”
Goldsmith’s first venture into the studio took them back across the Pennines to Neat’s Impulse Studios where they recorded a four-track demo featuring ‘No Way Out’, ‘Everybody Needs It’, ‘Give Me Your Love’, and ‘Evil Woman’. “Over here in Cumbria, there are no studios worth a salt; and also because the centre of heavy metal up here was Newcastle it was worth the trek,” he adds. “And Impulse wasn’t a bad studio, to be fair. At the time, we didn’t have much experience of studios, but I felt comfortable at Impulse. I’m not saying it’s the best studio in the world but I liked the guys there who worked with us and it worked for me, so I was quite happy with it… Other than lugging all the gear up and down five flights of stairs!
“I’d actually already been there once before, probably just after I left Bitches Sin. I didn’t have a band but I knew a drummer and I went and recorded three tracks which have never been released. I think I’ve got them here on a cassette somewhere. One was called ‘Handle With Care’ and umm,” he laughs, “I can’t remember the others. ‘Handle With Care’ was a heads-down Bitches Sin song, the second was more like ‘Ice Angels’ and the third one I can’t remember anything about it so it must have been a chuckaway kind of thing. In fact…” he says, and then rummages around to produce a copy of ‘Acne & Dandruff – Scotland’s only heavy rock fanzine’. “I obviously sent this fellow a copy of that first tape. He wrote: ‘I wasn’t expecting much of their debut three-track cassette but I was pleasantly surprised. First came ‘Handle With Care’… ‘Cold, Sad & Grey’’ – that’s the ‘Ice Angels’ kind of thing I was talking about – he calls ‘a haunting ballad, definitely more suited to the guy’s vocals; and ‘Right Time To Love You’…’ Yes, that was the third song. I remember that now. Shite!” laughs Pez.
“So,” he continues, “I had a little bit of experience beyond Bitches Sin and before Goldsmith working at Impulse, and it seemed natural to me to go back there. And I guess I was hoping that David Wood would take us on, but it was quite clear that we didn’t really fit with the stuff that he was doing at that time. Bands like Raven and Venom… It was clear that we weren’t a good fit for Neat Records really.” That said, however, in November 1982 ‘Give Me Your Love’ would turn up on Neat’s second sampler, the snappily-titled ‘60 Minute Plus Heavy Metal Compilation’ cassette. “I do like ‘Give Me Your Love’, I was really happy with the way that came out, actually. And yet that was the one that people seemed to like the least, strangely enough. Just one of those things, I guess,” Pez observes.
At this time Goldsmith were still a three-piece with Pez handling both guitar and vocals, although ‘Evil Woman’ featured the voice of drummer Mike Henderson. “Mike wrote that one. Mike was actually a good songwriter and I loved it if he brought a song along but other than ‘Evil Woman’ that was about it. But I still think it’s a great song, actually. The solo on ‘Evil Woman’ is very structured, you know, I played it the same every time we did it.” He laughs. “We were playing somewhere or another one night and in a band occasionally you’re aware of the fact that the others are looking at you in a strange kind of way, and I’m thinking ‘I don’t know what the hell I’ve done’. As ‘Evil Woman’ was the end of our set we came off stage and Mike said ‘what the hell were you doing in ‘Evil Woman’? You played the solo exactly right, but you played it twice!’ I was probably thinking about what I was going to have for supper than night, and whether the kebab shop was still open!”
Goldsmith’s second trip to Impulse resulted in a two-song session and their only commercial release. “After the demo cassette we went back to Wallsend and did ‘Life is Killing Me and ‘Music Man’ which became the single. I remember going down to London to the Utopia Studios cutting room which in those days was in Camden, Chalk Farm. Utopia was an amazing place, and when you first see one of your own singles cut into the actual acetate, that’s a pretty exciting time. You start with this blank record and it cuts the groove straight into it, and that’s a pretty cool thing to watch.”
By the time the single was released the line-up had been expanded by the addition of second guitarist Pete Adams, although he didn’t play on the record itself. “Those two tracks were done as a three-piece,” Pez confirms. “Pete wasn’t on anything we recorded until we did the EP which was never released – he played on all of that, but he didn’t play on the single. And equally it may sound odd but the B-side, ‘Music Man’, Glen didn’t play bass on that either.” Pez can’t remember why Glen wasn’t around, but he played everything but the drums on that song. “I actually like recording,” he adds. “I enjoy playing live but I’m at my best in the studio, particularly when I’m up against it – like when I hadn’t got a second verse for ‘Life Is Killing Me’ and we were about to record in an hour’s time, going into a corner and saying ‘just go away guys, I’ve got to write the second verse’! Working out solos… The solo in ‘Life Is Killing Me’ is again very structured: I’d worked that out note-for-note right the way through.” The song is also one of his personal favourites. “I think my best songs are the ones that come almost perfectly formed. No thought, you don’t know where they’ve come from, they just happen, and ‘Life Is Killing Me’ was one of those occasions.” As for the song he enjoyed recording the most, that would be ‘Music Man’, “firstly because it was just me and Mike, and also I like the riff, and it was a great pleasure to record. And the other thing of note about the single, and it’s a kind of an aside but a badge of honour for any rock band, is that ‘Live Is Killing Me’ was bootlegged in Brazil on gold vinyl, a limited edition of 250 copies. I found myself paying £15 for my own bloody single, but was kind of pleased that someone liked it so much to bootleg it!”
“But anyway,” he continues, “the single did very well for us. We did 1,000 copies in a pic sleeve, which all sold out, and 1,000 without the pic sleeve. We were Geoff Barton’s rock single of the week in Sounds and it was played on Tommy Vance’s ‘Friday Rock Show’ a couple of times which was a big thing at the time. We didn’t know it was going to be played though and he read out our telephone number for people to buy the single; my dad was extremely displeased to have people ringing him up at 11 o’clock at night asking to buy a copy of the Goldsmith single. Which is only fair, I guess!”
Playing live to support the single was more difficult though. “We were gigging whenever we could, but it’s very hard to really do anything from Cumbria, particularly in those pre-internet days when you’ve just got the telephone and you’re trying to get hold of agencies, submitting stuff to people… We played locally as well, the usual venues, round Barrow-in-Furness, Ulverston, places like that, but I’ve forgotten a lot of it. I found my 1983 diary a couple of years back and there are entries like ‘played Sheffield Uni – went quite well’: now, if you’d asked me if I’d ever played Sheffield I’d have said ‘no, never been there.’ ‘Derby Assembly Rooms – good gig’: again, well, I think I’ve been to Derby once but I don’t remember playing there! Runcorn… You don’t remember gigs unless something interesting and memorable happens. And really with Goldsmith, the only memorable gig was indeed Runcorn where we played this enormous pub to a whole load of bikers in absolute stony silence right through the set. They just sat there and glowered at us. I went to see the promoter afterwards and I actually apologised: ‘sorry, fella, clearly we’re not right for this pub.’ He said, ‘no you’ve got to come back again; that was great. Every other band gets bottled off!’
“Anyway, we made one more trip to Impulse to record what would have been the EP, featuring ‘Please Don’t’, ‘You Won’t Catch Me’, ‘Fly Away’, ‘All I Want’, and ‘Pretty Dancer’.” Although the band completed the tracks, the EP never made it to the shops. “That was a money thing. It got as far as having the cover art done by a really talented artist whose name escapes me, and we even had the acetate which I think I sold to somebody in Greece a few years ago (he offered a lot of money for it so I thought ‘what the hell…’). So there was an acetate, and there was cover art for it, but we’d run out of money. We didn’t make a lot out of ‘Life Is Killing Me’; we certain sold the thousand in the pic sleeves but I had quite a few left over of the non-pic sleeve ones which have created a bit of income over the years once eBay came along.”
There was one final Goldsmith session but by now time was running out for the band. “We did a demo in Barrow which was never finished. We did a couple of songs which have never seen the light of day and I only have them on one of those four-track cassettes; as you need a special tape recorder to play them I doubt they’ll ever see the light of day because I don’t think I’ll ever be bothered to do anything with them, quite frankly. One song was ‘Shoot To Kill’, but I have no idea what the other one was called. And we just kind of… Well, we got to the point where we never officially said that we’d finished, but we just, y’know, ‘are we rehearsing this week?’ ‘No, I don’t think we’ll bother.’ ‘Have we got any gigs coming up?’ ‘No’. And I think we just kind of gave up on it really. We had a gig on 18th February 1983, but I don’t think there would have been many more and I’m guessing we were done and dusted probably by late summer 1983.
“To be honest, I’d moved on a little bit by then anyway. I’ve always been a musician who likes every genre really. I had a friend from school called John Duffin and we started doing very quirky new wave type stuff under the name Small In A Big Way – on account of our height!” he laughs. “We released the last single on the Bedlam label which was called ‘Katies Lips’ and I never really gave Goldsmith another thought. I’d moved on, and then I went to London in 1986, and that was it, really.”
These days Pez plays in a band called Eaten By Crocodiles – “think of every Status Quo and Stones song, with a bit of Neil Young, a bit of The Who, all that chucked in plus a couple of songs I’ve written that are appropriate for a rock band, and it’s great fun, which is what music should be” – and has no interest in a Goldsmith reformation. “No! That’s a definite no! It’s a retrograde step. I don’t even know where the guys are now, I’ve no contact with any of them, and it just wouldn’t appeal to me at all, quite frankly. I think the band and the songs had potential and probably we could have done something more interesting if we’d had the time and the money to develop ideas. But now Goldsmith is just a snapshot in time – an interesting time, certainly, but I don’t want to retread the old days. Even now it’s bad enough that, no matter what I do, whenever I do anything it still says ‘ex-Bitches Sin’. You have no idea how much that annoys me! Seriously! I even thought of putting things out under a different name at one point.
“Still,” he adds with a final laugh, “at least I know what to put on my headstone. ‘Here lies Perry ‘Pez’ Hodder. Ex-Bitches Sin.’!”