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The day the music died ( and so did Bull Frog.

Byline: By Hannah Davies

Hannah Davies finds out about Bull Frog, the Geordie band which nearly hit the big time.

The music scene in the early 70s was still new and enthusiastic.

The North-East was vibrant and it was a time when you could catch acts such as Led Zeppelin in Newcastle's Mayfair, The Who at the Locarno in Sunderland and Jimi Hendrix in Durham.

Rock `n roll bands keen to capture the mood of the moment were springing up all-over the country, including the North-East.

Bull Frog was one such group, formed in Leadgate, Consett, County Durham, by Steve Thompson, Robin Hird, Mick Simons and Mick Glancy.

Bull Frog is spawned

Steve and Robin attended the same secondary school before both going to work in Consett Steel Works.

In September 1970, lead guitarist Robin offered Steve the chance to play bass guitar in a group he was founding. The duo then recruited Mick Simons on drums and Mick Glancy on vocals to complete the line-up of Mandrake.

The group began rehearsals in a hall in Leadgate, and soon changed their name to Bull Frog.

Steve recalls: "We were building up a set of songs of the time ( Hendrix, Cream, Free, that kind of thing. We knew our first gig had to be the Freemasons' Arms Ballroom in Consett."

Bull Frog signed up with Ivan Birchall Entertainment which was based in the Cloth Market in Newcastle and started to perform at working men's clubs all-over the North-East.

Steve, 53, who is married to Molly, 53, with two grown up children, Patrick and Jane, adds: "All was going swimmingly. Then Mick Glancy tells us he is quitting to go to university in London. However, we were very lucky. We put ads in the music shops in Newcastle and one guy auditioned. He was incredible and we gave him the job on the spot. Now we had our new singer, Pete MacDonald."

Drummer Mick Simons left the band after a failed audition with Decca. He became involved in a fight with Pete and was knocked unconscious. The rest of the band decided they would have to do without Mick.

Jim Harle, now 55 and a traffic policeman in St Albans, had known Pete through his job working as a van driver in Newcastle. Impressed with Bull Frog, he decided to leave his band Tough Childhood and joined in 1972.

Fame beckons

The band's popularity increased and they were a hit from Darlington to Bedlington and played a number of high-profile concerts.

One was at the Newcastle Odeon cinema where they supported Wishbone Ash in 1973.

Another great gig was with the Pretty Things. The time was right to take things a step further.

Jim recalls: "When we knew we had enough to cover the costs of recording several tracks in a studio, we arranged to spend time in Multicord Studios in Frederick Street, Sunderland.

"We had rehearsed for many hours and knew exactly what we wanted to do when we got into the studio. We laid down enough tracks to put together an LP. At about the same time I happened to buy a blank cassette and inside the case was a flyer advertising "The EMI Search for a Star" competition.

"If EMI liked your music, they would award prizes to the three best acts. We thought that it was worth having a go, so we copied some of our songs on to a tape and posted it."

The lads were stunned to hear they had come third in the competition and would win pounds 250 and the opportunity to audition for EMI.

Cube Records also said they were interested in Bull Frog and sent a scout. The EMI presentation was set for March 8 1973. Nothing came of that audition but Cube Records ( home of Joan Armatrading, Joe Cocker, Jimmy Helms, and John Kongos ( signed the band.

The single release

On June 21 1974, Bull Frog's first single Glancy was released.

Jim says the band were annoyed by the choice of single. "We all felt the `B' side, In the City , was much more representative of our music. But we had no control over what was chosen."

The single failed to sell. Jim says: "Neither our record company nor our management appeared to make any real effort to publicise the record."

The band breaks up

Bull Frog did not make any money from their record. Jim says: "We were in a situation which seemed quite hopeless to us. We were contracted to a record company which we felt no longer had any interest in us and wanted us to sell out our ideals.

"We were also involved contractually with a management company that we felt provided us with no support or direction.

"We had also signed a contract for the publishing rights to our music which was not going to be published unless we drastically altered our style."

The band could not wrestle themselves free of their contract unless they paid back pounds 10,000 to the record company.

Then singer Pete dropped a bombshell. "Pete informed us that he had decided to leave the band," Jim says.

"We discussed our options and the future for Bull Frog appeared quite bleak. The only way in which we could avoid having to pay back this money was for us to dissolve the band ( and collectively say farewell to our dreams."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 25, 2005
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