July/August 1979 – Nag’s Head gigs

Local promoter Ron Watts was busy throughout the summer months of 1979 putting on a variety of gigs at both The Nag’s Head and The Town Hall in High Wycombe. A flyer I discovered in my own collection reveals some interesting dates during July and August 1979, including a debut for Mod revival band Merton Parkas, a Blues Loft Reunion and ‘World Debut’ for former Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock’s band.

Nag’s Head gig flyer July/August 1979
From my own collection – enhanced for wycombegigs.co.uk

So, a quick skim through the list

Thursday 19th July 1979 – Merton Parkas/Panther 45

I believe this was Watts’ first venture into promoting a band from 1979 Mod revival. Curious to see what all the fuss was about, I recall making one of my ever trips to the Nag’s Head on a warm evening and being amazed to see at least a dozen scooters parked up along the London Road as punters from their London following made the trip into Buckinghamshire.

The Merton Parkas (formerly The Sneakers) consisted of Mick Talbot (keyboards and vocals), Danny Talbot (guitar and vocals), Neil Hurrell (bass and vocals) and Simon Smith (drums). At 20 years old, Mick Talbot and Simon Smith were the oldest members.

At the time of this gig they had just signed for Beggars Banquet after being recommended by The Lurkers. They would release their debut single, ‘You Need Wheels’ a few weeks after their appearance at The Nag’s Head.

Their set list that evening included the soon to be released single, plus covers, ‘Tears of a Clown’, ‘Stepping Stone’ and ‘Kids are Alright’, plus originals, ‘Plastic Smile’, ‘Give it to me Now’, ‘Hard Times’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Know You’.

Thursday 26th July 1979 – Blues Loft Reunion

This gig came just over ten years since Ron Watts had launched his Blues Loft in High Wycombe. According to the flyer, the featured artists were Paul Jones, Tom McGuinness, Hughie Flint, Shakey Vick and Dave Kelly.  I’m pretty sure that Ron himself and the rest of Brewers Droop would have been on stage too.

Thursday 2nd August 1979 – The Jimmy Norton Explosion

This was billed by Watts as a ‘World Debut’ for a band put together by former Sex Pistols and Rich Kids bassist Glen MatlockThe Rich Kids had split up at the end of 1978 and Matlock had drafted in Steve New (guitarist formerly of Rock Kids), Danny Kustow (guitarist formerly of Tom Robinson Band) and ‘Budgie’ (drummer at the time for The Slits).  Watts’ hand written flyer misspells the latter as ‘Busby’!

After all that explanation, I fairly sure that this gig never took place. They were also booked to appear at The Music Machine in London on 3rd August 1979 but I not sure if that took place either. From what I can make out, after recording a session for John Peel in July 1979, Matlock and New went off to tour with Iggy Pop and the JNE project was put on hold until early 1980 – they definitely appeared at The Nag’s Head on 29th February 1980.

Glen Matlock at The Nag’s Head.

Thursday 9th August 1979 – Phil Rambow

Rambow was a well-respected guitarist who had worked with Brian Eno and Mick Ronson. A quick search of Google reveals he also wrote songs with Kirsty MacColl and created the classic ‘classic ‘There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis’.

References and further reading

https://www.boredteenagers.co.uk/merton_parkas.htm

http://www.philjens.plus.com/rattle/glen_spectres.html

https://www.roughtrade.com/gb/phil-rambow/whatever-happened-to-phil-rambow

20 July 1979 – Xtraverts/Ladykillers – Multi-Racial Centre

High Wycombe’s Multi-Racial Centre hosted a double headed local ‘punk’ night on Friday 20th July 1979. The Xtraverts continued their comeback following an earlier gig at the same venue in April 1979 and a chaotic slot supporting The Lurkers at The Town Hall.  Meanwhile, The Ladykillers were also building up a fanbase after enjoying support slots to both XTC and UK Subs at the Town Hall in May and June 1979 respectively.

Xtraverts/Ladykillers gig flyer
20th July 1979 – Multi-Racial Centre High Wycombe
enhanced for wycombegigs.co.uk

The line-up of the Xtraverts at the time of this gig is believed have changed slightly from the one that supported The Lurkers at the Town Hall on June 1979, with Nigel Martin (vocals), Steve Westwood (guitar), Mark Chapman (bass) and now Andy Crawford taking over on drums from David Lee.

Elsewhere in the background for The Xtraverts was budding guitarist Glen Spicer.  Glen would help tune the guitars for the band and would join the band later in 1979.

I was shocked to hear that Andy Crawford had passed away around the 40th anniversary of this gig and shortly before the time of this post.  My condolences to his family and friends and offer this page as small tribute to a drummer who was very much part of the local punk scene back in 1979 and 1980.

Andy Crawford – Xtraverts drummer 1979-1980
Photographer unknown. Picture from The Xtraverts Facebook Group
https://www.facebook.com/groups/493155134101819/

R.I.P. Andy Crawford

Picture taken from Xtraverts Facebook group – messages can be left there too

https://www.facebook.com/groups/493155134101819/

28 July 1977 – Elvis Costello – Nag’s Head

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.

NME preview for Elvis Costello and The Attractions at The Nag’s Head – 28th July 1977

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

  1. Welcome To The Working Week
  2. Pay It Back
  3. Radio Sweetheart
  4. No Dancing
  5. Lipstick Vogue
  6. Watching The Detectives
  7. Miracle Man
  8. Alison
  9. Blame It On Cain
  10. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
  11. (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea
  12. Sneaky Feelings
  13. The Beat
  14. Waiting For The End Of The World
  15. Night Rally
  16. Mystery Dance
  17. Less Than Zero
  18. I’m Not Angry
  19. Lip Service
  20. No Action

Encore

  1. 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.

Resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_Costello

http://www.elviscostello.info/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

23 July 1977 – The Jam/New Hearts/Cocksparrow – Town Hall

The first ‘rock concert’ at High Wycombe Town Hall for more than a year saw The Jam attract a near sell out crowd to the Town Centre venue.  With three previous High Wycombe appearances to their name at the The Nag’s Head, this was the first chance for many locals to witness, not only a ‘rock concert’, but also anything approaching the ever growing ‘punk’ scene.

Bucks Free Press advert for The Jam at The Town Hall – followed by Elvis Costello and then The Darts at The Nag’s Head

The date at The Town Hall on Saturday 23rd July 1977 came at the end of The Jam’s first major UK tour.  On 4th June 1977 The Jam had played a Ron Watts’ promoted gig at The Nag’s Head following a abortive attempt to join The Clash on their White Riot tour.  It was packed that evening in June 1977 and by the time of their return at The Town Hall they had played close to forty more dates nationwide – including iconic venues such at Erics Liverpool and The Electric Circus in Manchester.  The tour would climax on the evening following the Town Hall date when they would play their biggest venue to date, with an appearance at The Hammersmith Odeon in West London.

With a debut single, debut album and appearances on Top of the Pops behind them, their new single release – All Around The World – a week before this date made this the busiest Saturday evening seen in High Wycombe for years.

Also interesting to note the support acts that evening.  New Hearts appear to be another mod revivalist band formed in early 1977 with Ian Page (vocals), David Cairns (guitar),  and Matt McIntyre (drums).  Page and Cairns would later become disillusioned with the ‘punk’ scene and in 1978 would form a self confessed ‘mod’ band in the form of Secret Affair.

Cocksparrow have a history dating back the early 1970’s.  Founder members were Colin McFaull, Mick Beaufoy, Steve Burgess and Steve Bruce.  It was the rise of the punk rock movement in 1976 that seems to have been the catalyst for their break – signing a record deal with Decca in 1977 and releasing their first single in May 1977 – ‘Runnin Riot’.  That and the following single – Rolling Stones’ cover ‘We Love You’ didn’t meet the sales expectations of the record company and they were dropped in 1978.  Despite that set-back, their popularity rose again as a result of the 1980’s ‘Oi’ scene and they were still performing at the time of this post in July 2017.

Here’s The Jam performing All Around The World on Top of the Pops– released a week before their performance at High Wycombe Town Hall on 23rd July 1977.

Was The Jam’s appearance at The Town in July 1977 your first ever gig?