MARK Tinson’s autobiography could possibly be the most un-rock’n’roll book ever written about rock’n’roll.
If you’re searching for tales of drug and alcohol-fuelled debauchery, try Keith Richards’ memoir Life or peruse the numerous books chronicling Jim Morrison’s self-destruction.
Tinson never believed in that rubbish. Not then. Not now. For the man frequently described as Newcastle’s Godfather of Rock it was always about making music and working bloody hard.
As a teenager Tinson once “had two drinks at a dance, fell over, and never again,” despite spending much of his adult life performing in smoky pubs to inebriated fans.
“I make that point that I didn’t do that shit,” Tinson says while sipping a soft drink.
“A lot of the people I worked with did, but I think a lot of that stuff is about killing time but I always had other stuff to do.”
Too Much Rock’n’Roll: A Life in Music tells the story of a Maitland lad who became obsessed the writing music and performing. That innate drive and commitment would come to shape Newcastle’s famed rock’n’roll scene.
Tinson approached his book with the same work ethic. All those years of sobriety also proved beneficial when recollecting the halcyon days of the ‘70s pub rock scene.
“I started out doing it for a few hours after dinner,” Tinson says. “I started doing a bit in the morning and eventually I was spending 14 hours a day on it. It didn’t take long before it overtook everything.”
Tinson’s musical journey began in the late ‘60s with Bluegrass. From there he formed glam rock band A Rabbit in 1973 with Jim Porteus (bass) and Phil Screen (drums).
After going through several vocalists, now Rabbit without the A, settled on ex-AC/DC frontman Dave Evans and took their bare-chested silk blouses, spandex leggings and stack-heeled boots to Sydney.
Rabbit would release their self-titled debut album in 1975 and followed with Too Much Rock’n’Roll a year later, which led to an appearance on iconic TV show Countdown.
However by 1977 Tinson had become tired of Evans’ personality and jaded about life on the road during an extensive national tour supporting the Ted Mulry Gang.
With Rabbit making in-roads into the national music scene, Tinson decided to quit to attend his twin sister Linda’s wedding.
“It wasn’t about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll and being famous or rich,” he says. “It’s just a good way to make a living.
“I was sick of not having enough money, sick of one of the guys in the band, sick of 10 hours of travelling when I could be doing something interesting.”
Tinson would return to Newcastle to form Heroes with Porteus, Screen and frontman Pete de Jong. The hard-working pub rockers would often perform seven nights a week around Newcastle and famously delivered the closing set at the Star Hotel on the night of the 1979 riot.
Their single The Star and The Slaughter, written and performed before the riot, become a minor hit on their self-titled debut, along with the track Baby’s Had A Taste.
Heroes seemed on the verge of stardom with an appearance on Countdown and supporting gigs with AC/DC. However, the band never established a national fan base to rival their phenomenal hometown appeal.
“As soon as we got a record deal and we had to start travelling a bit, and no one had heard of us outside of Newcastle,” Tinson says. “The money went down and then we got all the associated costs and less money coming in.”
Tinson remained active in music after the initial break-up of Heroes playing with Swanee and the Ted Mulry Gang.
Away from the stage he also developed a reputation for having an ear for talent.
Tinson produced albums for DV8 and also recorded early demos for Newcastle’s two greatest bands The Screaming Jets and Silverchair to further establish his reputation as the Godfather of Newcastle rock.
In the ‘90s Tinno’s Soapbox also became a popular column in The Post newspaper, where Tinson gave forthright opinions on the rise of alternative rock, dance music and duos with backing tapes in the local scene.
Some of those articles were reproduced in his book. Tinson believes the local music scene has only gotten worse since the days of Tinno’s Soapbox.
“Like do we need to hear the Summer Of 69 one more time?” he says. “Probably not. But we will. The young acts have bit of a following, but overall the kids have so many distractions, so music isn’t that important to them anymore.”
However, music remains vitally important to Tinson. He works full-time in his home studio at Adamstown Heights producing albums for artists like DV8 and Tony Johns and last year he recorded Mark Tinson’s Surfcats, a collaborative album of original instrumental surf rock.
“Everything I do, I enjoy,” he says. “I produce stuff for people or for myself. What I like is actually working with people, the interaction with people.”
Mark Tinson will launch Too Much Rock’n’Roll: A Life in Music on his 64th birthday next Friday at Lizotte’s.