Tygers of Pan Tang formed in 1978 in Whitley Bay on Tyneside and became a significant player in the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) movement.
They released their own independent EP, Don’t Touch Me There (1980) via Wallsend’s Neat Records (a small local pop label who’d previously released a couple of singles to little interest) in 1980 and were rapidly snapped up by MCA Records.
Gigs followed supporting Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Saxon and The Scorpions, and their first ever national tour playing alongside veteran crowd-pleasers Magnum, giving the Tygers a much higher profile than they’d previously enjoyed.
Prior to the release of their debut MCA album, Wildcat, the Tygers decided they needed a second guitarist to beef up their live sound. An advert was placed in Melody Maker in July 1980, prompting 120 applicants to turn up to the auditions in London.
John Sykes was duly hired and a low-key warm-up gig in Wallsend was followed four days later by the release of the Wildcat album and the Tygers’ debut performance at the Reading Festival the next day.
The band started their first national tour as a five-piece immediately after. By the tour’s end, Jess Cox was suddenly no longer a Tyger.
Jon Deverill was found via another Melody Maker advert and, on the evidence of the storming sold-out showcase gig with the new singer on 16 December 1980 at London’s Marquee, the new Tygers of Pan Tang were bigger and better than before.
Widely regarded as their finest album, Spellbound was recorded at London’s Morgan Studios in early 1981. Deverill and Sykes had reinvigorated the band and the album was a huge leap forward from the raw growl of Wildcat.
The sophisticated sound of the new Tygers took MCA by surprise, especially when Hellbound was made Single Of The Week in Sounds.The band kicked off a 21-date UK tour to promote the album at Cardiff Top Rank.
A third album, Crazy Nights, was delivered in November 1981, a mere seven months after Spellbound.
The band played a handful of gigs to promote the album, along with a couple of TV appearances, including one on Something Else alongside punk rockers the Angelic Upstarts.
An unlikely version of Love Potion No. 9 won the Tygers lots of airplay and earned them their highest and longest chart placing (six weeks peaking at #45), narrowly missing the vital Top Of The Pops slot.
As the group began rehearsing songs for the next album, guitarist John Sykes decamped without notice. He had gone to audition for Ozzy Osbourne‘s band and, although he didn’t get the gig, he did not return. Former Penetration guitarist Fred Purser filled in on the Tygers’ French tour, learning the band’s set in a mere three days.
Purser then accepted a full-time job with the band as they prepared for their next album. Recorded under the guidance of producer Peter Collins, The Cage was the most commercial album the Tygers ever released and it peaked at #12 in the charts.
Their appearance at that year’s Reading Festival was a triumph and a subsequent UK tour was similarly exultant, while a Japanese tour established the band as rock superstars in the Far East.
But a management shakeup saw Robb Weir and Brian Dick sacked and the band broke up in frustration.
The group reformed in 1985 and again in 2000 (with Robb Weir as the only original member).
Richard ‘Rocky’ Laws