(by neil crud)
Before the interview, here’s Gaz Top’s entry on the link2wales pages…
Top, Gaz – real name Gareth Jones, from Holywell Guitar roadie for The Alarm 1979-1985 TV presenter 1985 to present day, loaned Seventeen (The Alarm) the money to release their debut single. Also played bass for Backseat / The Units later The Grids formed The Tuphelo Torpedoes in 1987. As the Jones Brothers (With Steve Allan Jones) co-wrote the title music for Video Jukebox for Grampian TV in 1988 and KellyVision for Tyne-Tees in 1987. Presenter of countless TV programmes, mainly children’s entertainment and educational, incl.; Get Fresh (for ITV in 1986-88) How2 (CiTV 1990-present day) The Big Bang (CiTV 1994-present day). As Kid Aggro provided guest vocals on “Cum On Feel The Noize” by The Children of The Revolution 2000
1. First of all, where did the name Gaz Top come from? I know you were called Gary Gutter in the days of The Grids.
Mike Peters and I saw “the Great Rock and Roll Swindle and in that film there is a line ” Those Four Lovable Spiky Tops The Sex Pistols” I was amused by this and started calling Mike: Spike, then Spiky Top, He started calling me Gaggzie Top then Gaz Top. And when Early Seventeen / Alarm fans started asking the road crew to sign autographs I signed Gaz Top, for a laugh really, but it kind of stuck. Hey all roadies have nick-names. I just invented the name Gary Gutter especially for the Grids, it seemed appropriate and not tooooo serious.
2. I think you roadied for The Alarm for six years. Was this a full time job or just for tours, or just now and then? And did this lead you into television through contacts you had met during these days?
Phew! long story. When I started roadying for The Alarm (Known as Seventeen at the time) I was working full time in a laboratory near Holywell. When Seventeen toured with the Stray Cats I had used up all my holidays so I decided to leave the job altogether, and worked for the band for free. We all moved to London together in 1981 and I got a job in a laboratory in Battersea to support us all, I worked for the band for free until May 1983 when we went to tour supporting U2 on their “War Tour” of the US. I got paid something like $15 a day by the Alarm and $30 a night to be Bono’s roadie.
My first TV opportunity was offered to me in California in 1984. The record label that the Alarm was signed to IRS also made a TV show called “The Cutting Edge” which was shown on MTV in the US. They had (obviously) interviewed the Alarm on every programme and were running out of ideas, however the band had been enthusing to Karl Grasso the show’s producer about my cooking, the fact that I had pretty much cooked for the band all the time we lived together and that I should show them how to make “Gaz’s Spag Boll” on camera and relate a few stories about life on the road while doing it, a kind of “Rock n Roll Cookery Show”. Due to commitments I had with the Alarm touring with the Pretenders in the US I never actually got the chance to record the piece, but it set me thinking, maybe TV wants me? All I had considered up to that point was rock and roll, and my job as a lab technician.
December 1984 and I was enjoying Christmas Eve in Rhyl’s Savoy Bistro with Peter Picton, an old school friend and the guitarist in my old school band Backseat. Peter was living in London and working as a contributor to Sounds and had been for an interview with Music Box a pioneering Music satellite TV channel. Peter was chasing a job as a TV music journalist and when Music Box turned him down for this job he recommended that I try instead,
I did a screen test in January 1985, go the job and appeared on my own TV show in the first week of February 1985. So I have just celebrated 20 year on TV.
So it was a school friend who set me on the way, and my knowledge of the music industry from my 5 years with the Seventeen, The Alarm and many other bands that made me qualified for the gig.
3. It is said that you loaned Seventeen the money to release their first single, did you ever get it back? And was it money well spent? And is it you we see on ebay every now and then selling copies of Bank Holiday Weekend for £50?
No, not Seventeen’s Don’t Let Go/Bank Holiday Weekend, that was paid for by a record company.
It was the Alarm’s first single “Unsafe Building”, I footed the £1500 that it cost to press a thousand copies, or rather Barclaycard paid for it… I was the only one amongst us to have a credit card (after all I had regular monthly income from my job in the lab in Battersea) so I just got a massive cash advance. The Alarm never paid me back (well not directly) and so it took a long time for me to get the credit card company off my back. I used to get letters from them saying stuff like “Dear Mr Jones, we’ve got your mother where’s the money”.
And no, I don’t have a copy of Unsafe, I’m sad to say.
4. How did you end up in The Grids? (You were quite legendary when I was a teenage snotty schoolboy in Denbigh!). I have very little background to the band, as to when, where and why the band was formed. It should be told! Please!
The Grids had already formed and I was already roadying for Seventeen when the Grids asked if I would fill in on Bass for them until they could find a replacement. I just simply wasn’t going to be around enough to be a permanent member. Tim the drummer in the Grids was my 2nd cousin (That’s Wales for you) and I had got to know Andy Tunnicliffe when he used to deliver The Evening Leader to my house; we became mates and then fellow band members. My school band Backseat (or the Units as we became known) had just split and so I needed an outlet and so I accepted Tunkie’s invite to play for them.
5. I played The Grids’ ‘You’re No Better Than Me’ on BBC Radio Wales a few months ago, and ‘Hypocrite’ on link2wales radio this week. The musicianship was very rudimentary by today’s standards, but showed that punk ethic. Are you embarrassed or proud of The New Anthems EP?
We were pretty rubbish but were completely original, the first and perhaps only real Punk band to come out of Holywell. And we did it all ourselves, so well done us I say!
6. Did The Grids get any further than say Chester, any good press, prestigious support slots?
Hmmmm let me try and remember we supported The Cockney Rejects on Colwyn Bay Pier, and the furthest East we got was fairly big gig in Shifnal (near Telford).
7. What did you do after the band split; I know the other members formed Grids 2 and The Interceptors. But what about you.
I left before the Grids split, as I had to go back on tour with Seventeen or The Alarm, or perhaps it was when we moved to London, If forget the exact date now.
8. And in the Tuphelo Torpedoes, although you were London based with North Wales members, did you ever play up here?
We recorded some songs in Rob Storm’s portable studio above the Queens on the front, but we never actually played in north Wales, shame really.
Nope, the Tuphs never actually released anything. I do have copies of the 2 demos we recorded in Rhyl “Rescue Me My Land” and a cover of “Tom Traubert’s Blues” a Tom Waites song. They sound pretty good after all these years, a long way from the Grids! I also have a pretty good video of the time The Tuphelo Torpedoes played support to the Alarm in Portsmouth Guild Hall.
10. Did you find your TV work getting in the way of the band, hence the demise?
I found it very hard to keep the momentum of the band going as well as by burgeoning TV career. In those days I was presenting Get Fresh, hosting the Children’s ITV links and I even had my own Game Show on HTV, so it was a busy time.
11. Grids reunion? Backseat reunion!!
I’m up for it, I doubt if the punters will be though