‘Punk rock’ at The Nag’s Head came to a violent and controversial end on Thursday 1st September 1977 after trouble broke out at 999 gig, with local punks Xtraverts as support. In what was becoming a more regular occurrence, local punks were targeted by alternative cultures of the period (affectionately known at the time as ‘long haired boring old farts’, or words to that affect).
Nag’s Head Landlord Mick Fitzgibbons subsequently began banning anybody looking remotely ‘punk’ like from the premises and also pushed the ban on to the type of bands being promoted by Ron Watts. The draconian action came just short of a year after Watts had promoted a Sex Pistols gig at the London Road venue – with the following 12 months seeing the likes of The Damned, Stranglers, Clash, Jam, Generation X and Siouxsie and The Banshees all grace the upstairs stage.
999 were a band formed in what some regard as the second phase of the punk explosion. The idea of what was to become 999 originally came from London based musicians Nick Cash (vocals and guitar) and Guy Days. Cash was a former member of Kilburn and the High Roads, with Days a session guitarist on some of the High Roads’ demo tapes.
Via a late 1976 Melody Maker ad around October 1976, the duo recruited Jon Watson (bass) and two months later, Pablo LaBritain (drums). Their first gig is recognised to be at Northampton Cricket Club in January 1977 but the 999 name was not used until mid-way through 1977 when the now classic raffle ticket logo was devised. Previous incarnations of the band had been The Dials, Fanatics and 48 Hours.
They released a partly self-financed debut single – “I’m Alive”/”Quite Disappointing” in July 1977 and having established themselves on the London punk circuit, were signed to United Artists around the time of their Nag’s Head appearance. Their debut release on UA – “Nasty Nasty”/ “No Pity” followed in October 1977.
Meanwhile, support band, Xtraverts, were now firmly established on the local ‘punk’ scene having played their first gigs earlier in 1977 – including a ‘Wycombe Punk Night’ down The Nag’s Head in July 1977. By the time of their September 1977 appearance, 20 year old lead singer Nigel Martin had recruited Tim Brick on drums and a 17 year old Mark Reilly (*) on guitar. Meanwhile, Ian Stavan (formerly of Cardiac Condition) was set to replace Carlton Mounsher on bass – the latter joining the newly formed Party with Kris Jozajtis.
* It is obligatory to mention at this point that Mark Reilly later went on to form early 1980’s pop band Matt Bianco – Matt Bianco being the name of the band, rather than a name change.
Much of The Xtraverts self-penned set at the time was written by Brick and Reilly – including ‘Read it in the Papers’ and ‘Interview’ (a song about the infamous Bill Grundy/Sex Pistols debacle and formerly called ‘Hey, Bill Grundy). However, Martin had written the lyrics for ‘Blank Generation’ and ‘A Lad Insane’ – these two songs would be recorded in December 1977 and released in January 1978 on the Spike record label – the record being produced with the help of local musician ‘Spike’ Jones.
Nigel Martin commented on the targeting of punks in the December 1977 issue of local fanzine Bucks Shee Press “Everyone picks on punks. We’re just a target for everyone. “
The violence and subsequent action by the Nag’s Head landlord, also prompted at least one disgruntled punter to write a letter to the Sounds magazine:
‘Katie Komplex’ from Gerrards Cross made it quite clear why the trouble had started:
“This was due to some ignorant individuals who looked at the gig as a good excuse to beat up punks, and naturally we got the blame for the trouble.”
“Anyone who has been to the ‘Nags Head’, will know that it is a good little club, with a good atmosphere, which has had some brilliant new wave bands over the past year.”
And finally, back to the music you may have heard during the eventful night at The Nag’s Head in September 1977.
999 – I’m Alive audio via YouTube below
Xtraverts – Blank Generation audio via YouTube below
Your memories of this night most welcome.