On the 25th October 1986

I met this legend, at Newcastle City Hall

The unbelievable true story of a bootleg tape, a bumfluff face and a blundering mate.

Bruce Dickinson and Andy Ditchfield backstage at City Hall Newcastle

On the 25th October 1986 I met Bruce Dickinson, at Newcastle City Hall after managing to blag my way back stage with an Iron Maiden bootleg purchased from a vendor at Durham Indoor Market. For no apparent reason, I’d like to document the story of this photograph as it invokes some incredible memories and unusual coincidences.

As a young lad growing up with the NWOBHM, I was a huge fan of Iron Maiden. I’d buy Kerrang religiously to read up on the band and cut out every picture I could find to decorate my bedroom wall and annoy my folks. I can only assume it was in Kerrang I read about Nicko McBrains penchant for collecting Bootleg tapes of gigs and the Maiden tradition of ‘Custard Pieing’ band members on their birthdays.

One fine day whilst out with my pals in Durham, we stumbled upon a record stall in the Indoor Market, laden with bootlegs. As an avid collector of bootlegs myself, I of course browsed through them, finding a couple of Iron Maiden shows which I, of course, bought. One of these shows was recorded on Nicko’s Birthday in Stockholm and audibly featured application of Custard to his face much to the delight of the fans surrounding the recorder.

Back in 1986, I was (albeit briefly) furthering my education at what was then, Durham Sixth Form Center. I’d made some new friends, one of which was a fellow Maiden fan and who’s name I unfortunately don’t recall. I remember he lived at, or near, Shotley Bridge and him and I decided we’d get tickets to the City Hall for Iron Maidens “Somewhere on Tour” Newcastle show. He very kindly put me up at his house and although I don’t recall the day’s events, I remember vividly the feelings of utter excitement, anticipation and what we managed to achieve after the gig.

Richard-Stilgoe

Not Richard Stilgoe

Pausing the story briefly, I’d like to introduce a guy called Roger. I couldn’t tell you what his surname is, only that he looked like Richard Stilgoe and was a “producer”.

My folks separated when I was very young and I would occasionally go and stay with my Dad, who was a professional Bassist, in Birmingham. One particular visit, he took me along to a recording session he was doing and introduced me to Roger, the Producer of who or whatever he was recording for. I will only have been around 10 years old, so all I can honestly remember of him was that he was nice to me and gave me some ‘kets and pop’, presumably to keep my mouth occupied.

Back to the gig. The obligatory encore’s over, Eddie the head (literally, as the City Hall was apparently too small to fit his hands in) deflated and the band safely tucked away backstage, we left the venue and headed around to the side door to execute “Operation Bootleg”. In truth, I don’t recall formulating this plan, but I must have done as stowed away in my awesomely red bike jacket was the Stockholm bootleg tape.

The knock on the door revealed a burley bouncer who politely required to know what the fuck we wanted. “Would you please tell Nicko I have a bootleg of his birthday gig last year from Stockholm and ask him if he wants it?”, I said, not really expecting anything further from him at all as the door closed in our faces. Moments later however, he was back asking how much we wanted for it. A couple of backstage passes were deemed currency enough and we were in. Back Stage. At Newcastle City Hall. AT AN IRON MAIDEN GIG!

Back Stage. At Newcastle City Hall. AT AN IRON MAIDEN GIG!

As a 16 year old, lifelong Maiden fan, this is the stuff of absolute legend. We were led down a corridor, into the green room and utterly flabbergasted at being there, we stuffed ourselves into a corner and mainly gawped at the mystical surroundings. There was a spread, loads of booze and various folks milling about, one of whom looked vaguely familiar. It took me a while, but recognition eventually dawned that this was Roger the producer, from Birmingham. Did my dad have links to Iron Maiden?! Sadly, I will never know as being 16, in awe of my surroundings and completely and totally star struck, we never spoke to him and continued gawping from our corner in perpetual disbelief.

Sometime later, this room remaining devoid of any band members, we found some courage and decided to go Maiden hunting, armed to the teeth with my mothers state of the art Disc Camera. The Green Room door led to a corridor running perpendicular to the stage and as we stepped out, an unmistakable figure approached us from the other end of it. Jackpot!!

“Bruuuuuce!!!!!! Can we get a photo please??!!”

He was absolutely great and chatted with us for a minute or so, before doing a propper metal pose, evil grin, devil horn hands, the works. My mate was in charge of the weaponry and took aim while the flash whined to life. I did my crappy finger point at the rock star pose and we waited for the imminent pop of light committing this once in a lifetime scenario to film. We waited some more. And some more. Yet more. It honestly seemed like hours we were stood there before Bruce broke pose to tell matey boy to hurry the fuck up and POP went the weasel, utterly ruining what undoubtably would have been the finest photo achievement of my 16 year old life. Clearly done with these fools, our hero scuttled off through a door and was gone.

The band were well known for after show meet and greets, always having time for fans. Tonight was no exception to this and we were eventually ushered out from backstage into the throng of fans amassed front of house. I managed to get another shot of myself with Dave Murray and Steve Harris, where I cringingly decided to lean on Steve’s shoulder like we were old pals. Sadly this has been lost to the annals of time and will most likely never see the light of day again. Probably a good thing to be honest.

A rare and valuable work of art!

The final part to this story concerns my utterly fabulous red leather bike jacket. As well as donating the matching backstage pass adhered to it, the band were gracious enough to autograph my loud and ludicrous garment, joining four more signatures from another little Heavy Metal Band I’d met the previous month playing at the Mayfair and creating what probably is now a rather valuable work of art, assuming it still exists. I bought some enamel paints and painted both band logo’s on it before stupidly selling this wonderful piece of my teenage years for a measly 100 quid.

Well folks, that just about concludes the story of my photo with Bruce though it may be nice to credit the other guys who signed my Jacket. A belated and heart felt thanks to Metallica’s James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and of course Cliff Burton who very sadly died a mere 9 days later.

Unbelievably, after I’d finished writing the above, I was searching for images to use in the blog post and stumbled upon these. Who’d have thought wearing a red bike jacket would have been of benefit some 35 years later …

Anthrax-newcastle-mayfair photo by Rob Thompson
metallica-newcastle-mayfair photo by Rob Thompson

Epilogue

Somewhere around 2008, I had a business meeting in Hartlepool. Having just arrived on the industrial estate where my appointment was, I pulled over to answer a call from an unknown number. The voice on the other end turned out to be the Producer for Bruce Dickinsons Friday Night Rock Show, with the news that “Bruce wanted to play” one of DeeExpus tunes on his show and would that be ok? It was one of those moments that creates a snapshot of your environment. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing and of course enthusiastically responding to the affirmative. Bruce indeed went on to play “Greed” on his show, and like any 80’s raised music fan, I was at home with the record button firmly pressed on my cassette recorder.

I left some of the preamble in as, in yet another coincidental quirk of the universe, Bruce mentions Metallica and specifically Cliff Burton prior to playing the track …

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