The Platinum Needles, from Market Drayton in Shropshire, formed in December 1979. Gary Sewell, an already accomplished and respected local musician, on lead guitar, Shane Henderson on vocals, Stuart Muir on bass, Donald Eley on guitar and Nicky Blase on drums. Market Drayton was and still is renowned for its creativity but has always lacked the facilities to express it. The band set about learning their craft in Gary’s Dads garage rehearsing at every opportunity while acquiring the equipment needed to take their message to a wider audience.  After playing a number of low-key gigs around the Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire border Nicky, Donald and Stuart left to form a rival band and with Shaun Evans joining on drums and Jamie Yale taking over bass duties the band reverted to a four-piece unit. Gary was the clear driving force of the band and the main song writer, although Shane was clearly growing in confidence as a front man able to deliver the bands message as well as chipping in with the occasional lyric.

In June 1980 the band recruited Kevin Ruscoe to roadie and help manage whilst local social worker Chris Ashley took charge of transport. In July of that year Jamie left to join the Army and Stuart Muir re-joined the group. With a showcase gig in Market Drayton to raise much-needed funds for the local youth organisation it was clear the band were establishing a large local fan base. Following a stroke of luck when Kevin found a bin bag full of blank 5-minute cassettes the band released what can be truly described as the ultimate DIY single. The double A sided Maybe/Monotone single was recorded in one take on a single track tape machine and sold by the band at gigs and around Market Drayton. Following a mention in renowned Rock paper Sounds the single sold out in a few weeks and earned the band enough money to buy a brand new Shure mic for Shane as well as pay for some proper recording studio time. After a short tour taking in gigs in Crewe, Stoke, Market Drayton and Shrewsbury the band went into Market Drayton’s Redball Records recording studio to record two tracks for the Stoke Musicians Collective LP "Cry Havoc". Three tracks were recorded Telford, Organised Disruption and Violence the first two making it onto the album when it was eventually released in February '81. The band became active members of the Stoke Musicians Collective during the summer of 1980. The ‘Collective was a mixed and varied group of musicians based in or around Stoke-On-Trent. Whilst representing different styles of music the members of the ‘collective had a shared vision on how music in Stoke should be promoted and presented. The idea of the Cry Havoc album was to showcase local bands as well as raising funds for the ‘collectives work. One of the main driving forces behind this was Grainger Reece who sadly passed away in 2009.

The Original Line Up in 1979

In early December 1980 The Platinum Needles returned to the Redball Records studio and recorded a further 3 tracks “War & Peace”, “Monotone” and “Back To My Video”. Shortly after these recordings Stuart Muir left the band to join his parents in the Far East at the insistence of the local magistrates. Stuart played his last gig with the band at Crewe’s Leighton youth Centre. In January 1981 Kevin Yale (Jaime's brother) replaced Stuart on bass just in time for the bands biggest gig so far. With the release of the "Cry Havoc" album the SMC organised a gig at Hanley's Victoria Hall on 20th February 1981 (Slade were there on the 19th and The Stranglers on the 22nd). Prior to the Vic' Hall gig the band played a warm up gig at Tiffany's nightclub in Newcastle, this was filmed for the BBC TV programme "Somethin' Else". On the 12th Feb. "Cry Havoc" was released on the Slip Record label and John Peel played the Platinum Needles track "Telford" on his Radio One show that night. The Victoria Hall gig proved to be a storming success for the band despite their being another eight bands on the bill only the Needles were mentioned in the press where the Sounds headline read "Slade bring the house down but the Platinum Needles Demolish it. The reference being to the then recent Slade hit “We’ll Bring the House down”. The band had worked hard to make sure the Vic’ Hall gig would be a success and it paid off. They even wrote a new song during rehearsals especially for the gig. The song “Gimme The Push” would become a crowd favourite over the coming months. The Needles performance at the Vic’ Hall was filmed by the Stoke Musicians Collective but sadly the recording has been lost in the sands of time.  

In March 1981 Shaun, who had by this time become a very accomplished and powerful drummer, decided the life of a Punk Rocker was no longer for him and he left the band to form a Heavy Metal group although he was to work with Gary again in 1986 when he joined Pleasure Runs Wild. Kev Yale moved to keyboards and Conrad Tracy joined on bass with Rocko (Stephen Rockley) taking over on the drum stool. Conrad and Rocko along with their mates Rob Wardell & Quey were in the crowd at the recent Tiffany’s Newcastle gig having previously been in the band K-OSS. The new line up rehearsed for the next two months writing a completely new set, which was more Killing Joke than Sex Pistol influenced. The new line up made its debut at the Burslem Carnival on the 2nd May 1981. Stoke on Trent became the focal point for the bands activities for the next four months, playing numerous gigs around the area including the infamous Vine gig on the 3rd July when after the band had played a riot broke out. A number of youths intent on causing trouble entered the venue indiscriminately attacking many of the Punks using chains and baseball bats. This was to be the last ever gig at the Vine it was closed down shortly after. There was a heavy police presence when the band returned to Hanley in August 1981 for its summer festival but the event passed without incident.   

The Band in May 1981

The band went into the studio again in September 1981 to record what was hoped would be their first single. Rocko decided not to turn up so Gary doubled up on Drums. Movie Star, a song written about Marilyn Monroe was the only track recorded, Situations was going to be the single but this could not be recorded because of Rocko’s absence. Rob Wardell joined the band in October 1981 replacing Rocko on drums, Rob had been in K-OSS with Conrad and Rocko and was a regular at Platinum Needle gigs.

In the summer of 1981 Kevin Ruscoe had sent off a demo tape of the Redball recordings from 1980 to the National Association of Youth Clubs who were running a battle of the bands type competition fronted by Radio 1 DJ Peter Powell called Opportunity Rocks. The K-Tel record label was sponsoring the competition and the prizes included equipment and studio time. From the many thousands of demos received the band was selected to play in one of 8 regional finals in November at the Lanchester Poly in Coventry. The bands performance made quite an impression with the judges and they were selected for the grand final. December 12th 1981 the Opportunity Rocks final at the Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road, London. Introduced by Peter Powell. These were the best four bands under the age of 21 and representing Youth Clubs in the UK. The bands were an eclectic mix of styles. Alibis were a Ska/Reggae band, Made in England played Progressive Rock while Stormchild were a Heavy Rock band not too dissimilar to Def Lepperd. The Needles were the first band on and because of some technical issues were unable to do a sound check despite this the band went down a storm with the crowd of 1500. As with the Victoria Hall gig the band debuted a new song written especially for this gig, the song “I Want To Work” was very appropriate for the time with 3 million unemployed. This gig also saw the introduction of Quey as backing vocalist. Sheffield metal group Stormchild won but this was probably more to do with the fact that the judge was Alan "fluff" Freeman. The Platinum Needles were however 2nd.

The final Line Up in Dec 1981

Following the success of the Dominion gig the band were offered a support slot on the next UK Subs tour only for the promoter to go bankrupt before the tour could be finalised. The Needles were also offered the chance to record a single for K-Tel but this offer was withdrawn in early 1982. The band were booked to play Telford’s Gemini club in January 1982 a venue they had played successfully twice before however when the band arrived they found the doors locked and a handwritten notice on the door stating the club had closed down. The gig had been heavily publicised and a good sized crowd turned up to see the band only to find the gig cancelled this led to every single window at the club being broken as fans vented their frustration at not being able to see the Needles. With the frustrations of early 1982 following on from the high of the Dominion gig and the band starting to move in different directions they played what would be their last gig in March 1982 in Conrad, Rob & Quey’s hometown of Newcastle Under-Lyme.

With the break up of the Needles Kevin Yale and Gary Sewell briefly formed a two piece band before Gary formed a band with Matthew Jones who later became model Matt Belgrano famous as the punk with the Mohican in front of the Houses of Parliament on what is still London’s best selling postcard. Conrad played for a while with a band called Rebel Christening. Gary later formed Pleasure Runs Wild who gigged with some success during the mid to late 1980’s. In 1990 Gary formed Blade who are still playing some 20 years later and in 1995 released the critically acclaimed “Calm Before The Storm” album. Gary also gigs occasionally as the Riffmaster Terminator playing freestyle guitar with DJ’s and Rappers as well as running his own media company “The Shropshire Film & Music Company”.


Cry Havoc Album Cover



Gary Sewell AKA The Riffmaster Terminator

This website was first on line in 1998 and in December 2000 was voted PC Format magazine website of the month. It has helped old friends re live their miss spent youth and it has introduced new people to the Platinum Needles. If you have a memory to share maybe a story, photo or tape please email me and I will include it on the site.

Kevin Ruscoe (Feb 1999 revised 2001, 2005 & 2010)