18 April 1979 – Damned/Ruts/Beez/Auntie Pus – Town Hall

The Damned returned to High Wycombe for the first time since their infamous appearance at The Nag’s Head in October 1976, with a headlining slot at the Town Hall  on Wednesday 18th April 1979 – Support were local Chesham band The Beez plus up and coming West London punk lads, The RutsAuntie Pus, a one man target for verbal abuse from the crowd, was also on the bill for well attended Ron Watts promoted gig.  However, the gig ended in chaotic scenes as punters were ushered out of the venue by the local police following The Damned’s refusal to leave after they claimed that former Manager Watts had massaged the band’s cut of the takings.

Damned, Ruts, Beez – High Wycombe Town Hall advert from Bucks Free Press Midweek – enhanced for wycombegigs.co.uk

The Beez, who had first performed live in 1978, were playing their biggest venue to date in their short history after promoter Ron Watts had been impressed with the local following they bought along to a support slot at The Nag’s Head on 8th March 1979.

Their debut single ‘Easy/’The Vagrant’ – on their own Edible records label – was set for release around the time of this gig and they went down well enough with the expectant crowd that evening to be called back for an encore.

The Beez – outside Quest studios – promo photos complete with autographs from my own collection

The Beez confirmed set-list from my own records was:

  • Without You
  • The Vagrant
  • Back Street Love
  • Do The Suicide
  • Girls
  • Hangover
  • Apathy
  • Something Wicked
  • Easy
  • Get Ahead With The Feds
  • All You Need’s A Brain
  • Questions and Answers (Encore)

The Ruts’ appearance in High Wycombe came just as they were gaining a wider audience following the release of their ‘In a Rut’ single in January 1979 on the People Unite label and the constant championing of this track by John Peel on his BBC radio show.

The Ruts had appeared at the Town Hall back in October 1977 as support to Wayne County and ATV but barely drew a cheer from the handful of punters who had arrived in time to see the opening act.  Less than 18 months later it was totally different story.  A John Peel session from January 1979 featuring ‘Savage Circle’, Babylon’s Burning’, ‘Dope for Guns’, Blackman’s Pinch’ and ‘Criminal Mind’, would make much of The Ruts set that night already familiar to the crowd.  Damned drummer, Rat Scabies’ guested on drums during Blackman’s Pinch (later renamed to Jah Wars).

The Ruts line-up that night at High Wycombe Town Hall was Malcolm Owen (vocals), Paul Fox (guitar), John “Segs” Jennings (bass) and Dave Ruffy (drums)

Early Ruts picture from the rutsdc website – note the home made t-shirt with what would become their iconic logo

The Ruts confirmed set-list from my own records was:

  • Savage Circle
  • I Ain’t Sophisticated
  • H Eyes
  • Lobotomy
  • Suss
  • You’re Just A..
  • Something That I Said
  • Blackman’s Pinch
  • Criminal Mind
  • Dope For Guns
  • In A Rut
  • You’re Out of Order
  • Babylon’s Burning
  • Society

The Ruts were called back for an encore and played ‘Human Punk’ – a crowd participation number where lead singer Malcolm Owen passed the microphone along the front of the stage.  Most of the songs that night would feature on their debut album, ‘The Crack’ – released in September 1979.

Warming-up the audience up prior to The Damned was Auntie Pus (real name Julian Isaacs).  He had been on the punk scene since 1977, playing a one-man old style rock ‘n’ roll guitar act.  Essentially between each ‘song’ he would lead the chant of ‘off the stage with Auntie Pus’ – if the crowd didn’t join-in he would continue.  This carried on until Ron Watts took the stage and asked the audience, “OK, let’s get rid of this c**t”.

His short ‘set’ included ‘Halfway to Venezuela’ and ‘Blues Suede Shoes’. Some of his recorded material would eventually be released in 1980 with Chris Millar (Rat Scabies) credited on drums.

The Damned had been on a roller-coaster journey since their arrival on the scene in the summer of 1976.  They had played twice at The Nag’s Head in the autumn of 1976 – their appearance in October 1976 being their first ever headline slot at any venue but that ended in chaos.

They had released a series of singles and two albums before playing a ‘farewell’ gig at The Rainbow, London in April 1978.  Leader singer Dave Vanian went on to perform with Doctors of Madness, while Brian James, Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies formed their own bands, Tanz Der Youth, King and White Cats, respectively.  The latter saw Scabies continue his taunts of the High Wycombe crowd at a Town Hall gig in July 1978.

But The Damned would not die, reforming originally as The Doomed in late 1978 and then returning under the original name.  The new look band would be minus guitarist Brian James – Captain Sensible taking over the lead guitar role and ‘Algy’ Ward on bass. 20 year old Ward had previously been in The Saints.  They coupled with founding members, Dave Vanian (vocals) and Rat Scabies (drums).

The Damned – Chiswick promo pic 1979
Algy Ward, Captain Sensible, Dave Vanian and Rat Scabies

Their return to the punk scene had gained them an ever increasing following thanks to their boisterous live shows but they were still finding their feet and new musical direction by the time of the Town Hall show in April 1979.  It would be fair to say that many of the audience were there out if curiosity value, rather than their recorded out of the time.

It was therefore with a sense of anti-climax that headliners, The Damned, eventually took to the stage to the sound of the traditional version of ‘God Save The Queen’, – not The Sex Pistols version.

The Damned confirmed set-list from my own records was:

  • Jet Boy, Jet Girl
  • Teenage Dream
  • Stretcher Case Baby
  • Ballroom Blitz
  • Born to Kill
  • Burglar
  • Melody Lee
  • Problem Child
  • Lookin at You
  • Love Song
  • So Messed Up
  • New Rose
  • Neat, Neat, Neat

The set was played through with barely a break to breath.  ‘Jet Boy, Jet Girl’ saw Captain Sensible take vocals on a song to the tune of Plastic Bertrand’s 1978 hit ‘Ça plane pour moi’.

The gig preceded the forthcoming General Election by two weeks (3 May 1979) – by this stage it was widely predicted that a Margaret Thatcher led Conservative Party would run out victors – hence The Damned had their own eloquent way of predicting the future of the country – including changing the lyrics to Sweet’s ‘Ballroom Blitz’, to ‘Great Big Tits’.

The set also included their recently released debut on Chiswick Records, ‘Love Song’.  On the 10 May 1979, The Damned would make their Top of The Pops debut as the song climbed the charts.

The Town Hall set would finish with their two classic punk singles, ‘New Rose’ and ‘Neat, Neat, Neat’ before the house lights were turned on and the punters ordered out onto Queen Alexandra Road.

An explanation of the chaotic nature to the end of the gig eventually came to light in Ron Watts’ book. Watts commented: “[The Damned] probably hadn’t forgiven me for the way our business partnership had ended three years earlier, refused to leave the stage and the caretaker of the hall called the police, who were stationed next door.  They arrived and lined the side of the hall, with the band finishing sharpish and their fans filtering out, although by now the average age of a Damned fan was about 15 so there was never any danger of a riot ensuing. The band were on a percentage of the door take and reckoned I’d fiddled them, even attempting to sue me.”

Watts claims that the financial situation was eventually sorted out but it proved the last dealings he had with The Damned as a promoter – although Watts does recall meeting Captain Sensible over 25 years later at The 100 Club where he initially said; “That tosser from The Damned is here.  If he wants a fight, he can have one.”  A few minutes later they were chatting away ‘like old mates’, recalling those early pioneering days of punk rock.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

The Vagrant – The Beez – audio of debut single ‘B side

In a Rut – The Ruts – live in Paris 1980

Half-Way to Venezuela – Auntie Pus – audio of 1980 single

Love Song – The Damned – live on BBC Top of the Pops – May 1979

References and further reading:

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

https://rutsdc.com/

https://www.punk77.co.uk/groups/auntiepus.htm

http://www.fearandloathingfanzine.com/auntie-pus.html

http://www.officialdamned.com/

8 March 1979 – The Beez – Nag’s Head

The Beez, a local band from Chesham, made what is believed to be their Nag’s Head debut on 8th March 1979 when they supported The Alligators.

Formed in 1977, they originally performed under the name of Bloo Lite – making their live debut as The Beez at a gig in April 1978 at The Elgiva Hall in Chesham.

Line-up for The Beez was Robert Boughton (guitar/vocals), Gordon Watson (guitar/vocals), Tim Heal (bass) and Paul Morris (drums/vocals).

The Beez quickly built up a local following and recorded their first material in December 1978 at Quest Studios in Luton. A demo tape from The Quest Studio sessions was circulated in order to gain more gigs and two tracks would eventually become their debut single –‘Easy’ coupled with ‘The Vagrant’.

The Beez – outside Quest studios – promo photos complete with autographs from my own collection

They  clearly impressed local promoter Ron Watts at The Nag’s Head on 8th March 1979.  Watts would have been delighted with the paying punters they attracted to the London Road venue and rewarded them with support slot  on the Town Hall stage on 18th April 1979 next to The Damned and The Ruts – it was by far the biggest venue they had played in their short history to that date.

The band would continue their rise to relative local fame with support appearances at Aylesbury Friars, plus further support slots at High Wycombe Town Hall and headline slots at The Nag’s Head.

An EP would follow later in 1979 but by 1980, perhaps frustrated with their lack of wider success, they had split-up. However, their recorded output remains the perfect example of truly independent record releases and the vinyl copies are collectors’ items.

For your listening pleasure

Easy – The Beez – audio of debut single ‘B’ side

The Vagrant – The Beez – audio of debut single ‘B’ side

References and further reading

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

12 February 1979 – Adam and The Ants – Town Hall

A High Wycombe District Council promoted ‘Rock Concert’ at High Wycombe Town Hall on Monday 12th February 1979 saw a fledgling Adam and The Ants take to the stage alongside local band The Vents.

The Ants date was part of their Young Parisians tour and the date appears to coincide with their departure from Decca records.

Adam and the Ants plus The Vents – High Wycombe Town Hall – Monday 12th February 1979 – advert from Bucks Free Press

Adam Ant (real name Stuart Goddard) had formed the band in London in early 1977 – originally as The Ants, before adopting the eventually well-known Adam and The Ants title. They went through several line-up changes before signing for Decca records in 1978.  The debut single ‘Young Parisians’ had little chart success, although the band had built up a significant cult following, particularly in the London area, with their followers going under the guise of ‘Ant People’.  During this post-punk period it was a common site to see gig goers with leather jackets painted with Adam and The Ants.

Further recording for Decca were made during 1978, along with two John Peel sessions. But their time with Decca does not appear to be a happy one.

The date of the Town Hall concert is noted as around the time that Adam and The Ants left Decca records – Goddard is quoted as saying:

“…as you know Decca own things like televisions and missiles and things like that…………..we weren’t dropped by Decca, their A & R department just folded up and they let us go, which was just a joke. Everyone thought we were just a 100% hardcore speed band so we put ‘Parisians’ out.  I preferred ‘Lady’ and it was a double A side but Decca played it to Radio 1 and they said that ‘Parisians’ was better.”

A bootleg recording of this concert has been widely circulated and confirms the set-list for the evening was:

  • Nietsche Baby
  • Day I Met God
  • Animals And Men
  • Cleopatra
  • Kick!
  • Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face)
  • Catholic Day
  • Boil In The Bag Man
  • Family Of Noise
  • Press Darlings
  • Zerox
  • Lady
  • Puerto Rican/Scab
  • Fall In
  • B-Side Baby
  • Hampstead

The line-up of the band at the time of the Town Hall appearance was Adam Ant (vocals and guitar), Matthew Ashman (guitar), Andy Warren (bass guitar) and Dave Barbarossa (drums).

Adam and The Ants – Decca promo picture 1978 – showing Adam Ant, Matthew Ashman, Andrew Warren and David ‘Barbe’ Barbarossa

They went on to release their debut album, ‘Dirk Wears White Sox’ In October 1979 on the Do It record label. It would reach the top of the newly formed Independent Album charts.

The history of Adam and The Ants post their Town Hall appearance in February 1979 is an interesting one. Former Sex Pistols Manager Malcolm McClaren was hired by Adam and The Ants in early 1980 to help with their path to wider recognition.  However, instead, McClaren convinced Matthew Ashman (guitar), Leigh Gorman (who had by then replaced Andy Warren on bass) and Dave Barbarossa (drums) to leave the band and form a new group under McLaren’s management. A thirteen year old Annabella Lwin would become the lead vocalist for the new band – Bow Wow Wow.

Meanwhile, Adam Ant continued with a new version of his band featuring guitarist Marco Pirroni (an ex-member of Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Models, Rema Rema and Cowboys International) plus Kevin Mooney (bass guitar), and two drummers, Terry Lee Miall and Chris Hughes. The new band would take to the road for their ‘Ants Invasion’ in the first-half of 1980 while still pinning down a record deal.  They would visit High Wycombe again in May 1980 for what would become an infamous evening at The Town Hall and one that proved the catalyst for the local Council to end ‘rock concerts’ at the historic venue.  I’ll leave the detail of that evening until a later posting but those with memories of the 1979 or 1980 (riot) are welcome to get in touch.

For your listening and viewing pleasure:

Young Parisians – Adam and The Ants – single audio 1978


Lady – Adam and The Ants – single B side audio 1978

References and further reading:

http://www.antmusic.co.uk/my_story/1979/1979.html

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

https://killyourpetpuppy.co.uk/news/adam-and-the-ants-decca-records-1978-do-it-records-1979/

https://punkygibbon.co.uk/bands/a/adamandtheants.html

 

2 February 1979 – UK Subs – Bucks College SU Bar

The UK Subs made what is believed to be their first ever appearance in High Wycombe on Friday 2nd February 1979, with a gig at the Buckinghamshire College of Higher Education Student Union Bar.  The date is also significant as it was on this day that Sid Vicious was found dead in his New York flat following a heroin overdose.  Meanwhile, back in High Wycombe, according to music paper gig listings, there was also the choice of seeing Adam and The Ants appearing at The Nag’s Head.

2nd February 1979 gig listings from Record Mirror – UK Subs and Adam & The Ants in High Wycombe

The basis of what would become the UK Subs had been formed out of the 1976 London punk scene, when ‘30 something’ hairdresser, Charlie Harper pulled together a band that performed under various names before settling on ‘United Kingdom Subversives’ and then the abbreviated UK Subs for their first gigs around the summer of 1977.  John Peel sessions followed but it was not until September 1978 that they released their first studio recordings – a three track single on City Records featuring live favourites ‘C.I.D’., ‘Live in a Car’ and ‘B.I.C.’  Earlier in 1978 they had two live tracks included on the ‘Farewell to the Roxy’ LP.

The UK Subs line-up for their debut release was the same as the one that appeared at their High Wycombe appearance in February 1979:

UK Subs – Gem Records promo photo 1979
Left to right: Nicky Garratt (guitar, 23), Paul Slack (bass, 21), Charlie Harper (vocals,34), Pete Davies (drums, 24)

This gig at The SU Bar pre-dated their signing to Gem Records and subsequent rise in popularity by a few months – their first widely available single, ‘Stranglehold’ would be released in June 1979 and they would return to High Wycombe to play the Town Hall twice more in 1979 to promote the single and their debut album release ‘Another Kind of Blues’.

The UK Subs still continued to perform at the time of this post – with lead vocalist – veteran rocker Charlie Harper the only common face throughout and aged 74 as of February 2019!  Their gigging history has seen them return to High Wycombe on a number of occasions – playing The Flint Cottage, White Horse and The Phoenix.  They were due to return to The Phoenix in November 2019 – an incredible 40 plus years since their appearance at the SU Bar back in February 1979.

Back in February 1979, a much younger (but still ‘old’) Harper would have heard the news of the death of Sid Vicious by the time his band took to the SU Bar stage.  Less than three years previous, Vicious (real name John Beverley) had seen The Sex Pistols in at the close by College Main Hall – a notorious character on the London ‘punk’ scene, he later became bass player for the Sex Pistols before the band split in January 1978.  He was just 21 years old at the time of his death.  The circumstances surrounding his death were still being discussed and analysed at the time of this post.

Sid Vicious obituary from Record Mirror – 10th February 1979

Advertised for the same evening as the UK Subs gig were Adam and The Ants at The Nag’s Head. The The London based band were fronted by Adam Ant (real name Stuart Goddard).  24 year old Goddard was in the stages of promoting his band, Adam and The Ants, formed around the summer of 1977 and on the back of the ‘punk’ explosion but starting to move more towards a ‘pop’ sound.  I’m unsure if the Nag’s Head appearance actually took place on 2nd February 1979.  It is listed in some publications as High Wycombe Town Hall but I can confirm the Town Hall appearance was a few days later on Monday 10th February 1979.  Perhaps The Nag’s Head was a warm-up date or simply never took place?

Advertised for the same evening as the UK Subs gig were Adam and The Ants at The Nag’s Head. The The London based band were fronted by Adam Ant (real name Stuart Goddard).  24 year old Goddard was in the stages of promoting his band, Adam and The Ants, formed around the summer of 1977 and on the back of the ‘punk’ explosion but starting to move more towards a ‘pop’ sound.  I’m unsure if the Nag’s Head appearance actually took place on 2nd February 1979.  It is listed in some publications as High Wycombe Town Hall but I can confirm the Town Hall appearance was a few days later on Monday 10th February 1979.  Perhaps The Nag’s Head was a warm-up date or simply never took place?

If the multiple events of Friday 2nd February 1979 weren’t enough to keep up interest at the time, local gig goers could have also taken in an appearance by Sham 69 at Aylesbury Friars on Wednesday 31st January 1979 – this was the gig where lead singer Jimmy Pursey claimed this would the final live appearance for this band – Pursey becoming increasingly frustrated with crowd trouble at Sham 69 gigs.  A day after The UK Subs gig at The SU Bar you could have travelled across to Friars again to see Stiff Little Fingers play as headliners on their Rough Trade tour to promote their recently released debut album, ‘Inflammable Material’.  A busy week!

Anybody with any memories or clarification of these gigs, please get in touch.

For your listening and viewing pleasure:

20 February 1976 – Sex Pistols and Lord Sutch – Wycombe College

Friday 20th February 1976 – Sex Pistols support Lord Sutch at Wycombe College

My research for this infamous gig provided much of the inspiration for this website.  An article published on chairboys.co.uk to mark the 40th anniversary included my findings from this chaotic evening.

More to follow on the myths surrounding this gig – in the meantime, you can read my original article published in February 2016.

http://www.chairboys.co.uk/history/1976_02_never_mind_the_bb.htm