Surprise survey of wit, ego and genius

MUSIC producer Geoff Wonfor and former Lindisfarne drummer Ray Laidlaw are friends whose work has brought them in touch with some of the best musicians of the time.

MUSIC producer Geoff Wonfor and former Lindisfarne drummer Ray Laidlaw are friends whose work has brought them in touch with some of the best musicians of the time.

So they were the ideal choice to pick musical candidates in our continuing search to find the region’s favourites – with Geoff picking his top 10 bands and singers and Ray choosing songs.

Having worked on the groundbreaking music series The Tube, Channel 4’s The White Room and the Grammy Award-winning Beatles Anthology, Geoff has associated with names as stellar as Paul McCartney, Prince and Madonna.

His choice of his favourite bands and singers contains some relatively predictable choices, but also a few surprises in a list which spans more than 40 years of popular music.

By contrast, Ray’s list contains some that are willfully obscure, but he says each has made a significant impact on his life.

“If I picked again tomorrow, my choice would be different,” he said.

“To be honest, give me half an hour and there might be a couple of changes. It wasn’t easy at all, but it’s time I stopped prevaricating and picked 10.”

Now we want you to vote for your own favourite songs, bands or singers to help The Journal compile the definitive list of the region’s favourites.

You can also cast your vote for your top books, sporting moments, entertainers, northerners, sports stars and television programmes.

Votes can be sent by email, post or by voting on our website,

We will count the votes in each category before Christmas and unveil the favourites over the festive period.

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Geoff's favourite bands

1. Harry Nilsson

“He was on the infamous Lost Weekend with John Lennon which lasted almost a year. He could sing on his own or with a full orchestra. A Little Touch of Schmilsson In The Night is one of my favourite albums and Without You is one of my all-time favourite songs.”

2. The Beatles

“Simply the greatest band of all time. In 100 years’ time, people will look back on them the way we look back at Beethoven. I had the privilege of getting their story from the boys themselves, sadly with the exception of John. I still can’t believe I was able to get so close to the band, who I queued for 36 hours to see at Newcastle City Hall. Rubber Soul is my favourite album.”

3. Jimi Hendrix

“He could actually pin your head back to the wall when he hit those chords. He was so innovative. He did the title track of Sgt Pepper at The New Port Festival just two days after the album had been released and rightly brought the house down. It’s easy to forget now just how revolutionary he was – a legend.”

4. Rolling Stones

“All they ever were – and remain to this day – is a little R&B band. But that R&B band just happen to produce one of the world’s greatest sounds, and have done for the past 40 years. Good Times, Paint It Black and Not Fade Away would be the three favourite songs which first come to mind.”

5. Otis Redding

“It’s one of music’s great tragedies that he was lost in a plane crash at just 26. He had just been voted the world’s greatest vocalist, about six months before he died. Sitting on the Dock of The Bay and Respect are the two songs which say Otis to me.”

6. Gino Washington and the Ram Jam Band

“I saw him live at The Mayfair five times with my great friend Eddie Crooks when we were teenagers. It was the first time I’d ever seen a big soul band and I was blown away. I heard the title of his first album and just freaked: Hand Clappin’ Foot Stompin’ Funky-Butt Live.”

7. The Kinks

“They were the thinking ladies’ crumpet. Waterloo Sunset – end of story.”

8. Robbie Williams

“I’ve got a lot of admiration for Robbie. He was a teenage millionaire, lost everything and then returned two years later to take the world by storm. He’s not the best singer in the world, or the best dancer. But he’s got to be up there when you’re talking about entertainment and anyone who has got the balls to call his first tour The Ego Has Landed is just fine by me.”

9. Oasis

“One of the best live bands in the past 20 years. I’ve rarely come across someone with as much stage presence as Liam – or attitude. I love them both.”

10. The Eurythmics

“The most visually exciting band I’ve ever seen. I was fortunate enough to film them live in Australia in their black leather frocked coat days and it’s still one of my proudest achievements. There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart) remains one of my favourite ever tracks and Dave Stewart remains one of my favourite people.”

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Ray's favourite songs

1. Peaches en Regalia, Frank Zappa

“I have always loved Zappa. I love the anarchy in his music and the idea he had that anything was music and no one could tell you what was and what wasn’t. This song is an instrumental and has a fantastic melody.”

2. The Way you Look Tonight, Peter Skellern

“This was a song made famous by Fred Astaire, but Peter Skellern recorded it with a brass band and I love the way it sounds. I think the brass instruments carry the emotion better than a full orchestra.”

3. Firstborn Son, The McGarrigle Sisters

“This is a brilliant piece of writing. It really sums up how you feel about the birth of your first child. It captures that moment better than any other song.”

4. Let’s Go Out Tonight, The Blue Nile

“This is a really, really atmospheric piece of writing. It is wonderful stuff and they had an incredible singer. Atmosphere is everything with music. It’s very difficult to capture the excitement on a record, but once in a while someone manages to do it.”

5. Romeo and Juliet, Dire Straits

“I have always thought that Mark Knopfler has been hugely underrated as a songwriter. This particular song really appeals to me. I love a lot of his stuff, but Romeo and Juliet has always been a favourite.

6. Take this Waltz, Leonard Cohen

“I love the melody of this song and the wit in Cohen’s writing. His use of language, like all the great songwriters, is brilliant. Many people think of him as being miserable or depressing, but this isn’t at all.”

7. Bob Dylan’s visit to Embra, Michael Marra

“Michael Marra is one of the best undiscovered songwriters around. The lyrics to his songs are just incredible and this one is about the excitement of meeting Bob Dylan. His songs are beautifully musical as well as having very witty lyrics.”

8. Money Game, Alan Hull (of Lindisfarne)

“This is the first song I heard him sing and I couldn’t believe that there was someone in Newcastle writing songs like this. I knew the girl in the song and it brings back a lot of mixed emotions.”

9. Nettie Moore, Bob Dylan

“I just had to have a Bob Dylan song in somewhere. He was like a filter that the whole of American roots music has gone through. I am a real fan of his new stuff and, if anything, I listen to it more than old stuff at the moment.”

10. Super Heartbeats, The Motorettes

“My sons Jack and Jed were part of the band when this was released. It was the first single they had out and it sums up what they are good at. It’s a brilliant, exciting, rock song. Because it was their first song, it’s particularly memorable, even though it’s not necessarily the best song they have written.”


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer