SELDOM have I ever spoken with quite so many so-called music celebs in a single month as I did in November 1997.
At the time I was working for the North East tabloid the Sunday Sun under its mercurial and quite brilliant editor Chris Rushton. I was charged with running a small campaign to help save Newcastle’s Mayfair Ballroom from demolition to make way for a new leisure and shopping complex.
The ballroom was iconic with the North East. It opened in 1961 and had been the launch pad for hundreds of bands including The Animals, Roxy Music, The Police, Lindisfarne, Dire Straits and Prefab Sprout.
I spoke at length with the Mayfair’s promoter Sue Collier who told me: “All the North’s rock bands came through the Mayfair. And Jimmy Nail has been thrown out of here more times than we can think.”
She said she was planning a Ballroom Blitz to highlight the likely demolition of the venue. Already Dave Stewart, Alan Price, Chris Rea, Lindisfarne and Jimmy Nail had agreed to take part. She said she was hoping to get Bryan Ferry, Danny McAloon, Toy Dolls, Venom, Mark Knopfler and Sting to join the fray.
Sue suggested I should try to speak with some of these rock legends to get them ‘on the record’ for our campaign.
The idea of interviewing these guys was for me a complete joy. So I began telephoning each artist on Sue’s amazing list.
Mark Knopfler’s agent was bubbling with excitement and said that the former Dire Straits guitarist would “certainly be keen to get involved”.
“It’s a great rock venue and it only needs one big star to get off the pot and you will have hundreds involved,” he added.
Sunderland born Bryan Ferry was even more enthusiastic. “It’s a great venue and I would view very favourably the chance to take part,” he said.
“You ought to get in touch with Dave Stewart… he’d do it like a shot,” he added.
Danny McAloon, Chris Rea and Jimmy Nail were also buoyed up by the plan and spoke at length about their passion for the Mayfair Ballroom.
So what about rock superstar Sting – former frontman for The Police – surely he would join the campaign?
One phone call answered that question. His PA abruptly told me: “I am sorry but Sting is far too busy at the moment to even contemplate this.”
Saving the Amazon rainforests maybe? I guess that is Sting for you!
Sadly the campaign to save the Mayfair failed and a compulsory purchase order by the developers ensured its fate.
In the autumn of 1999, the ballroom was demolished, to make way for a leisure complex, called The Gate. The closing night was attended by 5,000 people.