28 July 1977 – Elvis Costello and The Attractions – Nag’s Head
The Nag’s Head house record was broken on Thursday 28th July 1977 with the visit of the rapidly rising Elvis Costello and his new band The Attractions. Costello (real name Declan MacManus) had been performing since the early 1970’s but it was the ‘punk’ and ‘new wave’ movement in the UK in the latter part of the 1970’s that saw his musical career blossom.
A week before the Nag’s Head gig, Costello had released his debut solo album ‘My Aim is True’ on Stiff Records. Earlier in 1977 he had released debut singles ‘Less Than Zero’ and ‘Alison’. Amid the critical acclaim for the releases, Costello formed backing band, The Attractions, performing for the first time on 14 July 1977 at The Garden in Penzance as support to Wayne County and The Electric Chairs.
The Nag’s Head appearance was a scoop for promoter Ron Watts, with dates at prestigious London venues Dingwalls (26th July) and Hope & Anchor (27th July) reaffirming that the High Wycombe venue had become a regular on the gigging circuit.
Watts commented on the Costello gig in his autobiography.
“One guy who wasn’t punk, but typified the way in which the movement had opened doors for new talent, was Elvis Costello. [The date at The Nag’s Head] had caused such a buzz that he broke the house record, giving us one of best ever gigs. A full house, a great musician, with everyone in the audience knowing that he was destined for better things and they’d soon be able to boast that they’d seen him playing in a pub. It was the sort of night promoters dream about.”
This was the NME preview for the appearance at The Nag’s Head.
Costello was 22 years old at the time of the Nag’ Head show, with The Attractions consisting of 19 year old Steve Nieve (keyboards), 28 year old Bruce Thomas (bass) and 22 year old Pete Thomas (drums).
Probable set-list – as played a week previous at Manchester Rafters
- Welcome To The Working Week
- Pay It Back
- Radio Sweetheart
- No Dancing
- Lipstick Vogue
- Watching The Detectives
- Miracle Man
- Blame It On Cain
- (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
- (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea
- Sneaky Feelings
- The Beat
- Waiting For The End Of The World
- Night Rally
- Mystery Dance
- Less Than Zero
- I’m Not Angry
- Lip Service
- No Action
- Crawling To The USA
At the time of this post, 40 years after The Nag’s Head appearance, Costello was out on tour with backing band, The Imposters, consisting of Steve Nieve, Pete Thomas and Davey Faragher.
Costello would return to High Wycombe in October 1977 as part of the Stiff Tour that opened its itinerary at the Town Hall. His set that night was less than well received! More on that to come.
The video clip below is from the ‘So It Goes’ TV show produced by Tony Wilson. This was filmed at Liverpool Erics on 2nd August 1977 and broadcast in December 1977 and features probably the best known Elvis Costello song from 1977 – Watching The Detectives.