14 October 1976 – The Damned/Jack The Hat – Nag’s Head

Three months into their career, The Damned stepped on stage at The Nag’s Head on Thursday 14th October 1976 to make their first headline appearance at any venue.  By all accounts they didn’t fill themselves with glory as they subjected a rapidly diminishing audience to a torrent of abuse and then Manager Ron Watts threatened to get his shotgun if they didn’t behave.

The Damned plus Jack The Hat
Nag’s Head High Wycombe
Thursday 14th October 1976
Advert from Bucks Free Press Midweek
enhanced for wycombegigs.co.uk

Nag’s Head promoter Ron Watts had been impressed with The Damned after seeing them support The Vibrators at The Nag’s Head just a few weeks earlier. It prompted Watts to take on the management of the band.  Watts recalls the decision to take on band management in his autobiography – 100 Watts – A Life in Music – “I managed the Damned for a while, right back when they first got started.  Management wasn’t something I ever enjoyed but I did it as an occasional favour so I agreed to help the band out.”

However, after the band ended up in jail following a gig in Luton, their return to the Nag’s Head in October 1976 proved the catalyst for Watts and The Damned to go their separate ways.  Watts was unimpressed with the attitude of his new band towards a sparse audience mixed between new punks and the Nag’s Head regulars.  The bitching by the bands eventually drove the remaining numbers in the audience down to around 30.

Watts recalls the evening: “Brian James was trying to antagonise the crowd, shouting, “Call yourselves punks?” I’d had enough of this so I shouted back, “Keep it up and I’ll fetch me shotgun. We’ll see how much of a punk you are then.”

The events of that infamous evening were also reviewed by Jonh Ingham writing for Sounds magazine. His review was titled ‘High Wycombe – Village of The Damned’, where he said: “The Damned never do something simply if it can be accomplished with a grand gesture. They don’t ask for a beer, they scream for a blanket-blank beer.  They don’t tell the beard ‘n’ denim set they’re antiquated or silly looking, they scream the most abusive sewage they can dredge up”.  But Ingham was impressed with their musical output, commenting: “Musically, though, there’s no stopping them. Starting where ‘Search and Destroy’ leaves off, they smashed and stormed through an inferno of blazing numbers, ‘Neat, Neat, Neat’, ‘Born to Kill’, ‘So Messed Up, ‘Fish’, the energy level was phenomenal.”

Luckily for The Damned, Watts didn’t get out his shotgun at The Nag’s Head but by the next morning the two sides had agreed a parting with Jake Riviera of Stiff Records the new man assigned to try and control Captain and Co.

A week later The Damned released their debut single ‘New Rose’ the following week on Stiff Records – regarded now as the first ever ‘punk’ single in the UK.

It would be a while before The Damned returned to High Wycombe.

Is she really going out with him?

5 thoughts on “14 October 1976 – The Damned/Jack The Hat – Nag’s Head”

  1. Supposedly their first headlining gig, I recall around 1979/80 going to the Dentists in Wycombe wearing my John Hampden school uniform, replete with a Damned badge on the lapel. The dental nurse smiled and said ‘I saw the Damned at the Nags Head a few years ago’ and went on to tell me tales of tu tus (or was it a nurses uniform?!), swearing at the audience and generally a lot of havoc and mayhem. Not much has changed really in the last 43 years at the band’s gigs 🙂

  2. I stumbled on this post by accident whilst browsing, I used to play drums with Jack the hat at the nags head and the student union bar.
    Before that I was with a band called brew with Les ayres on lead ,Ronnie Jones rhythm , Derek hazel bass, i also played drums with some Jamaican guys who later became new crusaders steel band, would love to hear from anyone who knew any of these guys, I was also friends with Paul Hammond who was my first drum teacher before he joined atomic rooster, sadly Paul has passed away.

    1. Thanks Michael,
      Sorry for the delayed reply.
      That’s great info on other band members and I hope we are able to make contact and stir some memories.
      Please check my Twitter feed too at @wycombegigs

      1. Hi Paul, thanks for your reply, I hope all is well with you due to all of the current situation with the covid19, I moved away from high Wycombe in the late seventies but have constantly tried to locate some of the old band members but no luck apart from Derek Hazel who was the bass player with Brew. I now live in Wiltshire and currently play with an electric ukulele band, we play all covers from 60s right up to current, maybe we might get to high Wycombe one of these days, we had loads of festivals booked for this year but the current Coronavirus has quite understandably led to all gigs being cancelled, so here is to 2021 and may every one stay safe and get through this bad time.



  3. Hi Michael,
    Thanks for the best wishes and good luck with tracing the missing band members
    I’m sure The Belle Vue pub would be an ideal outlet for your band, plus the various local festivals (Dashwood Arms and Frog Fest, to name a couple). Sadly that’s all on hold at the moment. But we will return be it this year or in 2021.
    Stay Safe and Best Wishes

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