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Sunday Old School: Remembering The Voice Of British Heavy Metal, Tommy Vance

After the death of heavy metal icon Ronnie James Dio was confirmed seven days ago, it made me think about the true pioneers of the genre, which Ronnie certainly was, and how we never expect them to leave us. In the United Kingdom, one of the men who helped define heavy metal and hard rock as we know it wasn't a musician, but a radio DJ and occassional television presenter by the name of Tommy Vance. Whilst it may seem strange to dedicate this weekly segment to a DJ and not a band, ask any of the older metal fans in Britain about Tommy Vance, and they'll tell you he was just as essential to the genre as Ozzy, Lemmy or Rob Halford.

Perhaps a little background information would be useful however. Tommy Vance was actually born with the name Richard Anthony Crispian Francis Prew Hope-Weston in Oxfordshire, England in 1940. He began his radio career in the United States, using the alias "Rick West" but took the "Tommy Vance" moniker from a DJ who failed to show up to a show on Seattle's KOL station. He was forced to return to the United Kingdom in 1965 as a result of immigration difficulties. When he did return, he worked with the infamous pirate radio station, Radio Caroline before eventually being signed to BBC Radio 1, where he worked with equally revered DJ John Peel on the Top Gear programme, which specialised in "progressive" music.

His crucial role in British heavy metal would be kick started in 1978 however, when he began presenting the "Friday Rock Show" (which is currently hosted by Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson.) He presented this show for fifteen years and gave headbanging Brits a place where they could not only hear their favourite bands, but also discover many new ones that wouldn't have been known otherwise. Vance was a particular champion of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and would often feature interviews and performances from bands within the movement, as well as talking with the rock and metal stars of the day including Black Sabbath and AC/DC. He was also a regular fixture at the legendary Monsters Of Rock festival at Castle Donington, where he would DJ the event inbetween bands, as well as introduce them. However, after writing a critical report of the 1986 edition of the event, he was dropped from the next festival and banned from even attending.

In his later years, Vance appeared on several television shows including Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Dumber And Dumber, Brass Eye and The Eleven O' Clock Show (which featured a young Ricky Gervais) where he allegedly encouraged people to call TV's Handy Andy and "tell him he's a twat." He hosted a revived Friday Rock Show on VH1 which featured interviews and music videos from the biggest and best names in metal and rock and made one last big contribution to the British rock scene by co-founding the popular internet radio station TotalRock. He sadly passed away from a stroke on March 6th, 2005 and his memory and work was celebrated with a 15 hour tribute show on TotalRock as well as a tribute concert at the famous Royal Albert Hall in London, which featured the recently reunited Judas Priest, along with the Scorpions and Deep Purpler singer Ian Gillan, along with special appearances by Bruce Dickinson and The Who frontman Roger Daltrey.

Tommy Vance interviews Brian Johnson of AC/DC:

Tommy Vance presents June 5th 1992 Top Thirty Rock Chart

Tommy Vance interviews Dave Mustaine and Al Pitrelli of Megadeth:

Tommy Vance on the 11 o'clock Show:

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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11 Comments on "Sunday Old School: Tommy Vance"

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hellrat's avatar

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1. hellrat writes:

hey, great idea oz!!

i had always heard of tommy over the years, but honestly didn't know a whole lot....its great to learn more about who he was and how much he contributed to the growth of METAL....quite the funny character he was as well, eh? great sense of humor....sorry 'humour' ;)

man, i love my sunday old school lessons :)

thanks again, OZ...and as always--Long Live the SOS!!

....oh and hey, where the hell are archives????

cheers bud

# May 23, 2010 @ 3:10 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

2. Diamond Oz writes:

Cheers for the feedback mate! I wasn't sure how well this one would go down but it's nice to see someone appreciated it! Tommy Vance was one of the best in the business without question and had one of the coolest voices in the world I think. I credit him with me being a rock and metal fan as much as I do Motorhead or Black Sabbath.

I will bring up the SOS archives to Deathbringer for you too :)

# May 23, 2010 @ 4:35 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
TheIronMan's avatar

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3. TheIronMan writes:

I agree completely, I had heard about him. He sounds awesome, and obviously a cool guy.

I am going to say, with respect to everybody else on the staff, that Sunday Old School is my favorite (favourite, though I should be writing like that since I just took the GCSEs...) column on this site.

Keep it up Oz, and constantly prod Deathbringer on those archvives. I'm gonna read them all, as I just finished my exams.

# May 27, 2010 @ 10:26 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

4. Diamond Oz writes:

Thanks man. In the meantime if you want to look at any of the other Sunday Old School articles, go to the band pages themselves and you'll find them there. The ones we've covered so far are (get ready, big list):

Sick Of It All, Suicidal Tendencies, Budgie, Venom, Deliverance, Blue Cheer, Suffocation, Bolt Thrower, Anthrax, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Death, Napalm Death, Dio, Sepultura, Cathedral, Scorpions, Thin Lizzy, Kyuss, Exhorder, Mercyful Fate, Bathory, Hirax, At The Gates, Celtic Frost, Crowbar, Dark Angel, Destruction, Diamond Head, Tank, AC/DC, Two and Body Count

# May 27, 2010 @ 10:39 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
TheIronMan's avatar

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5. TheIronMan writes:

Fantastic, I will read them all (except Maiden, I read that several times).

P.S. Any idea when your book will be ready?

# May 27, 2010 @ 10:57 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

6. Diamond Oz writes:

No idea at the moment mate, it's still in the rough stages. As I said before, I want it to be as good as it can possibly be so it's gonna take a while. My guess would be (and it's a rough guess) that I'll be finished by January if I'm lucky. As soon as I finish it I'll shop it around to see if I can get it published.

# May 27, 2010 @ 11:18 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
TheIronMan's avatar

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7. TheIronMan writes:

Great, I'm looking forward to it. Send me a copy if you can, love to give it a read :P

And I have every SOS article bookmarked. Getting started now.

# May 27, 2010 @ 11:25 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

8. Diamond Oz writes:

Will do my man. Awesome stuff, there's some great articles there that I didn't write too. I also forgot to mention there's one on Black Sabbath.

# May 27, 2010 @ 11:28 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

Member

9. hellrat writes:

fvckin cool....thanks for the list oz man

now i can catch up on my lessons :)

hey i think queensryche would make a pretty good one too

still think an archive link would be greatly appreciated round these parts...as 'Iron expressed, i think its a favorite for a lot of us metallers on here

and best wishes on the manuscript my man!

cheers \m/

# May 27, 2010 @ 11:34 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
TheIronMan's avatar

Member

10. TheIronMan writes:

Damn, I just arranged them into alphabetical order and everything! That's okay, I love Sabbath too much to care.

How do you select who to write about?

# May 27, 2010 @ 11:39 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

11. Diamond Oz writes:

Funnily enough I was thinking of doing Queensryche the other day. I will definitely get around to doing them, I have next week and the week afters covered though.

Usually there isn't really a special way of choosing who the SOS will be on. If a certain band has had something important happen then I tend to do a feature on them (e.g. Anthrax when they reunited with Belladonna) but if nothing big is going on, I usually just write about a band I like or one I feel at least deserves some recognition.

# May 27, 2010 @ 12:38 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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