Geordie McGargle

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“aaarrrggglllllle - who stole my mouthwash?”
~ Oscar Wilde on Folk Music

Joe Geordie McGargle, legendary and mythical folk singer, is one of the almost well known figures from the 60s Folk Music revival. A brawler and passionate lover of all folk, especially female ones, his performances and recordings are legend in the Newcastle area but nowhere else, for good reason.


One of Geordie's many fans and imitators

edit The Early Days

Although many of the younger audiences may not be aware of his influence, his corner performances of authentic cursing songs were renowned outside Binns Department store (until they asked him to move on). He was often encountered singing snatches of ancient layes whilst crawling to one of his many homes from the Marsden Inn Folk Club in South Shields, or laying on Roker Beach frightening the children. One of the progenitors of the 60s folk revival, he was also responsible for a local boom in illegitimate births. He often insisted that performers should not only limit their repertoire to songs from their direct area of birth, but should also only sing those taught to them by their fathers if they were sons and mothers if they were daughters. Consequently, many local traditions collapsed due to the intervention of Alzheimer’s disease.

edit Influences

On a lighter note, his love affairs are notorious, his marriages frequent, and he often develops affections for younger singers such as the late Kirsty McColl (before her involvement with Billy Bragg) that border on stalking. In the 60s he was able to bridge the divide between folk and contemporary music by developing the most extraordinary drinking companions, ranging from to the late Owen Brannigan (the Tyneside Tenor) to the late Keith Moon of The Who. His hard-drinking tour of Australia in the mid 70s, where he indiscriminately drank the contents of several pubs, was reputedly the inspiration for Brisbane band The Saints’ single ‘Know Your Product’. His song written on that tour, ‘Never mind your Bollocking, Give us some Money’ from his album ‘Ship-building Bastaards and authentic maritime abuse’, has also been widely regarded as the inspiration for the Sex Pistols’ entire album ‘Never mind the Bollocks, here’s the Sex Pistols’. Probably.

edit The 90s

After a deep brown study (mostly induced by Newcastle Brown Ale) and a consequent album critically panned by Living Tradition as ‘incomprehensible, but absolutely authentic Abuse’, Joe had something of an epiphany. After discussions with the Coen Brothers, who were researching the sound track for ‘Oh Brother where Art Thou’, he found an outlet for his creativity on the beaches of California. He now divides his time between Northumbria and Santa Barbara, where he is a creative consultant to Dreamworks. He occasionally performs with Van Morrison and Carlos Santana with his own group, The McGarglettes, but despite the distance he remains true to his roots, keeping a keen interest in other folk genres. He has also guested with the Albanian Garlic Orchestra in Tirana and played in West Africa with the Dr m’Abuses.

edit The McGarglettes

Wanda, Amandulu, and Enya (no relation) are part of Joe's Californian connection, and can be heard on numerous sound tracks, notably for Roger Corman, and as stand-ins with Van Morrison when his regular singers are off. Joe describes them as irreplaceable, and their exploration of their Celtic heritage, despite being Afro-American, has helped propel his recordings to a new stage.

edit Career Features

He was top of the bill for a very young Bob Dylan in 1963 at the Wheat Sheaf Folk Club in Sunderland, close to the shipyards and within breath of the Vaux brewery. He still has a number of vinyl records, now mostly available through gardening workshops, and he is currently being re-released by the Tyne and Wear Heritage Society in a CD format, which is far more useful for place mats for cups. A tour of local bombsites from the war often includes a number of his residences.

edit Roots

Geordie has recently finished collaborating on a new roots album with famed singer Bob Fox (possibly the most completed artist in English folk). Titled 'Underground Music', Geordie has contributed the authentic language of working miners from around the world. Other collaborators include Ladysmith Black Mambazo, whose contribution was recorded at the bottom of the Gold Reef mine in South Africa, the Barrier Band from Broken Hill Australia, recorded during Bob's recent tour there, in the main shaft of Broken Hill mine, Peruvian gold miners in an illegal digging in the Maginot Line, and jade miners in Myanmar. Release of this 'gem' of an album is expected shortly.


Speculation surrounds a statement issued to the media just minutes ago. Geordie outlined his displeasure towards organisers of the popular National Folk Festival in Canberra for what, he says, were "bad crowds, full of wankers and aussies". He went on to say that he was harangued throughout the media post-festival because of a contraversial performance in the Session Bar on Saturday night. He defended his naked exuberance as "just a bit of Northumbrian tradition".

In recent weeks a transformation has been seen to occur. In an exclusive interview with a Festival insider Geordie revealed his lifelong drinking habit may be coming to a close. This from a man who once said "I used to have a drinking problem, but now I love the stuff". Could Geordie's new straight-edge persona be the death of his spectacular career?

edit Discography

Year Title Notes
1961 'Gutter Songs and Old Fish' Live recordings on the way home. The first recording, set down live on location on the way home from the pub. Authentic traffic and pedestrian noises add to the atmosphere of this classic recording. Listen for the sound of the local constable asking if Geordie could 'use some help' and his response.
1963 'Haway the Lads' - Great Footballing Songs and Abuse. Recorded on the terraces at Roker Park during a Sunderland match. The opposing team is not identifiable from the insults hurled at them.
1966 'Massive Erections' (1966) - Songs of the Ship Building Industry - the children's album. A now infamous collection, hard to source anywhere, but worth the effort.
1967 'Keel Row and Blaydon Races' (1967)- the uncut versions with extra venom. From the biggest ship building city in the world, although in the 1800s its population numbered under 20,000.
1969 'Cushie Butterfields Greatest Tits' (1969) - songs before the censor got hold of the folk revival. Many variants of well-known songs, sung with local words from the different pubs around the harbour.
1971 'How are you off for ****' Celebrating the rich and varied culture of the drinking communities of Durham and Northumberland.
1972 'Ship-building Bastaads' (1972) Authentic maritime abuse, including 'Up the Yards', 'Dead Dog down the Hold', * and 'Captain's Surprise'.
1975 * 'A the Suthners can go get knotted' - songs of the Jarrow Marchers.
1978 'George III was a F****** king, alreet' Historical tunes and memories, live from outside Bluebell Cafe, and including 'Mind that Dog's Dirt'.
1981 'Wheres the Bloody beor, ye P***' and other tunes of war from the Wall Roman influences on the Northern Song Tradition.

edit Geordie's Old Stamping Grounds - a feature

Roker Park, Sunderland - it was small, crammed in on all sides by houses. Its facilities were rubbish, it had terrible 'hospitality' areas, and it was old - almost a century old - when it closed. Players either had to wear their shorts to the match or change at Aunty Violet McGargle's house next door or the tram depot on Fulwell Road. And Geordie loved it. Parts of it were unsafe. Sections that collapsed during matches were rebuilt by the fans before full-time. All of it was crowded. But everyone could hear every one else, and the McGargle family contribution to the match was priceless.

The ground opened on 10 September 1898, and again in 1902 when Joe's grandfather was first arrested for digging up the pitch in protest at a refereeing decision. The record Attendance was 75,118 v Derby County in 1933. Sunderland FC moved to the new Stadium Of Light in 1997. Mostly because the maximum allowed capacity in the old ground was 22,657. God knows where they all stood in 1933, the year that Hitler came to power and joined Derby as a member (#23,547).

edit See qlso

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