Sunderland punk bands sought for book on the glory days

The Toy Dolls at the Sunderland Echo offices, Pennywell, March 1981'Wednesday Retro 1981
The Toy Dolls at the Sunderland Echo offices, Pennywell, March 1981'Wednesday Retro 1981
Have your say

A TEAM of writers is trying to track down Wearside’s aging punk rockers to feature in a new book on the 70s music scene.

The book started life with the working title Gob on the Tyne and focused on bands from Tyneside.

But writers expanded their horizons as the research found that Sunderland and its surrounding towns and villages had just as much to offer.

Now dozens of groups from the city, Seaham, Houghton, Washington and Fence Houses will be included in the 300 or so bands mentioned in the book.

The writers behind the North East Punk project - running under the banner Three Rivers, Two Chords, One Vision - have appealed for former members of bands active between 1976 and 1980 to get in touch.

They have also started interviewing record label owners, gig promoters and fanzine editors as well as fans as they work towards putting together the finished piece. Their research has unearthed the small-time and the obscure to the larger names of the scene, from Penetration and Angelic Upstarts to Wearside’s own Toy Dolls.

Michael Agar, aka Olga, first had his interest spiked in music when he was a pupil at Southmoor School, and became a member of EXIT, Blue Moon, Straw Dogs and The Showbiz Kids before he became one of the Toy Dolls.

He said: “I became involved in music as soon as I saw a picture of Suzi Quatro in a magazine when I was delivering newspapers in Sunderland, about 12 or 13-years-old. Punk came to me about four years later, changed my life and suddenly all the barriers were broken down and it was possible for me to become a singer too, or at least pretend I was. I got away with it for 35 years anyway.

“Getting bullied at school was a big factor, wanting to prove I could do something, and then hearing Sweet, Slade, Suzi Quatro etc, I knew exactly what I would do with my life at that point.

He added: “The lads I met were schoolmates, we used to hang out down the YMCA in central Sunderland, and Peter Practices place in Frederick Street.

“It was a special time of course and most of the bands knew each other, Red Alert, Angelic Upstarts, Red London, to mention a few, and the venues The Old 29, Le Metro Heroes etc.

“I remember standing outside of The Old 29, because it was sold out, listening to The Angelic Upstarts, it was one of the magical experiences for me.”

An early band of The Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart is also among the bands the book will feature.

Olga, who was also a member of the Dickies and Adicts, has been among those to contribute to the project.

He said: “I think people who were around at that time will like to be reminded of this special time in their lives.”

To share your story, email or visit A compilation CD is being put together to accompany the book.

•Video clip from the BBC’s 1979 “Brass Tacks” punk documentary.