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Real rockers never die. Neither do real heroes. Combine the two and you have a force of nature that is both part of Newcastle’s history and central to its musical legacy.

Last Saturday night Heroes returned and the crowd roared its approval. Playing a West End gig at The Cambridge Hotel, the band were not just appeasing their dedicated fans, but launching a second album ‘So Far’. It’s been a long time coming. Their debut, the self-titled ‘Heroes’, was released in October 1980 three years after the band formed and included songs which would go on to be hit singles for them, ‘Baby Had a Taste’ and ‘The Star and the Slaughter’.

Heroes are Peter de Jong (guitar, lead vocals), Jim Porteus (bass, vocals), Mark Tinson (guitar, vocals) and Phil Screen (drums). Between their formation in late 1977 and when they called it a day, in 1982, they were arguably Newcastle’s top rock and roll band boasting chart topping success, appearances on Countdown and clocking up infamy as well as fame.

Heroes were not only playing on the final night of the Star Hotel, whose violent closure on 19 September 1979 is now etched into the city’s consciousness, but were on stage as the police stormed it. Their encore on that extraordinary evening was ‘The Star and the Slaughter’. Peter de Jong, as quoted by the Newcastle Herald, explained that Heroes chose the song because, while the lyrics weren’t directly related to the venue, it seemed perfectly fitting. What followed cemented the band’s place in Newcastle’s folklore and became a pivotal moment in their story, one which was referenced at last weekend’s gig. Introducing ‘The Star and the Slaughter’ Peter de Jong simply said “Back in the day there was a pub…” The crowd yelled its delight.

The set list moved seamlessly through old Heroes classics (immediately identifiable when punters of a certain age sang along) to their new material. To my uninitiated ears the past and present tracks melded and weaved, but the standout track of the night was ‘Testify’ which was pure rock anthem. I loved it immediately. I left with a pang of envy and an urgent question: why-oh-why when I was a musically obsessed young woman had I never done a trip to Newcastle to indulge in the city’s extraordinary live music scene?

After Heroes disbanded in 1982 the members moved on to other bands, or forged careers in the music industry. Every couple of years they would do a gig, or two, or even three, and received a welcome which proved their fans hadn’t forgotten them. In essence that was the message from The Cambridge Hotel concert. It wasn’t that Heroes were back, to their followers they never really went away. The pub was full of true believers; it was like a homecoming. It was epic.

The Cambridge Hotel, 789 Hunter Street, Newcastle West. Phone: 4962 2459. Web: http://www.yourcambridge.com Facebook: The Cambridge Hotel. You can watch the Heroes singing ‘The Star and the Slaughter’ here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6hP6MuXcMw and see them on Countdown with ‘Baby’s Had a Taste’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhlO0ESrGOg

Their new release is a twin CD and includes the original vinyl album digitally re-mastered and a new CD. Order through their website: http://www.heroesband.com.au Facebook: Heroes Band.

Kimberly O’Sullivan

Have you chosen the West End as your home or as the perfect place to run your business? Do you have a West End tale which deserves a wider audience? What inspires and infuriates you about the West End? If you have a story to tell I would love to talk to you! Here’s how to find me: kimberly@netspace.net.au; 0413 250 155.


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