23 May 1980 – Adam and The Ants – Town Hall, High Wycombe

For those attending a gig by a new look Adam and The Ants at High Wycombe Town Hall on Friday 23rd May 1980, memories will of a night where violence dominated and prompted the local authorities to impose a ban of ‘rock concerts’ at the town’s biggest venue – a ban that was never formally lifted and sadly signalled the end of gigs at a venue that hosted the likes of The Who, Rolling Stones, Kinks, Small Faces, Tina Turner and The Jam, as well as giving local bands the chance to play on a bigger stage as support to their peers.

Adam & The Ants poster
High Wycombe Town Hall
23rd May 1980
enhanced by wcombegigs.co.uk

The sorry tale of the Adam & The Ants gigs came just over a year since they had previously played the Town Hall. In the intervening year, The Ants had undergone a major overhaul of personnel. During the early months of 1980, founder member Stuart Goddard (AKA Adam Ant) had brought in Marco Pirroni (guitar), Kevin Mooney (bass), plus two drummers, Terry Lee Miall and Chris Hughes.  This had followed former Ants Manager, Malcolm McLaren, persuading former members of the band to jump ship and join his new venture, Bow Wow Wow, fronted by a then 13-year-old Annabella Lwin.

Meanwhile, a 25-year-old Adam Ant was developing the sound of his new band, recording a new track, ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ as a means of gaining record company support. This was coupled with an ‘Ants Invasion’ tour that kicked off at the Electric Ballroom, London on 22nd May 1980 but events would really ‘kick-off’ the following evening in High Wycombe.

Ants Invasion Tour flyer 1980 – from my own collection

In the two years leading up to this date, gigs at the Town Hall had regularly been disrupted by a small group of Wycombe based ‘skinheads’.  This group of Neanderthals would take pleasure from creating chaos and terror at gigs and particularly during performances by bands that didn’t fit into their own small-minded stereotyped view of what a ‘punk’ band should sound and look like. And just for good measure, this was interspersed with racist chanting because presumably in their eyes it was, in modern day terms, ‘banter’.

Adam & The Ants
High Wycombe Town Hall
23rd May 1980
Ticket from my own collection

During my research for this gig, I was excited to find an audio recording of The Adams & The Ants set. The inter song exchanges between the band (mainly Adam) and the small moronic element of the audience capture the poisonous atmosphere of the evening.

The band came on stage to the intro of music of Gary Glitter’s ‘Hello! Hello! I’m Back Again’ before opening up with ‘Physical’ and then going into the now iconic ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’.  You can hear the track on the YouTube clip below but for the record, at the conclusion of the song, the ‘Skinhead’ chants start up, followed by a quick call for local band “Xtraverts”.  Adam Ant retorts with “That was last week’s thing mate. You’ve been watching too much Tiswas. You go and stick your skinheads up your ****ing arse. We’ve got one type of person here. Ants!”

The taunts and exchanges continue with Adam Ant adding: “You don’t scare me. Just go away”, and then sarcastically adding after the following song: “My Mum would love it – nice short hair [but] we’re concerned with the future not the past.”

Then as the ‘Sieg Heil’ chants continue, the band are pushed to tipping point, shouting out: “I don’t know about skinheads but you’re just a right bunch of w**kers.  If you want to say it, come down here and say it. We’ve had enough of you. We’ve had enough of it. Ant Music.”

Vague fanzine, published shortly after the gigs documents the gig from a Adam & The Ants fan perspective and I’ve included the full piece below.

Vague fanzine
Review of Adam & The Ants gig at High Wycombe Town Hall
23rd May 1980 – part 1
Vague fanzine
Review of Adam & The Ants gig at High Wycombe Town Hall
23rd May 1980 – part 2

Adams & The Ants – set list Town Hall, High Wycombe – 23rd May 1980

  • Physical
  • Kings of the wild frontier
  • Ants Invasion
  • Beat My Guest
  • Cleopatra
  • Kick
  • Fall In
  • Killer In The Home
  • Press Darlings
  • Car Trouble
  • Tabletalk
  • Zerox
  • Fat Fun
  • N.T.S.
  • Plastic Surgery

Were you at this gig? Send your memories here or via the Twitter link below

For your listening pleasure

Kings of the Wild Frontier (live audio) – High Wycombe, Town Hall
23rd May 1980

2 June 1978 – Penetration plus support – Town Hall

County Durham’s favourite punk band, Penetration, played a headline slot at High Wycombe Town Hall on Friday 2nd June 1978.  Their appearance was during a break from their support slot on a national tour with Buzzcocks.  Support for Penetration at The Town Hall was originally billed as London based Reggae Regulars but was changed closer to the date of the gig to a selection of more local bands.  Although not particularly well attended, the evening was a chance to catch a band that were gaining ever increasing positive reviews and attention through the national music press.

Penetration – montage of memorabilia from High Wycombe Town gig – 2nd June 1978 – created for wycombegigs.co.uk

Penetration had formed towards the tail end of 1976 with a line-up of Pauline Murray (vocals), Robert Blamire (bass), Gary Smallman (drums,) and Gary Chaplin (guitar).  The band was named after a Stooges’ song.  They released their first single, ‘Don’t Dictate’ in November 1977 on Virgin Records and the follow-up, ‘Firing Squad’ was released the month before their visit to High Wycombe.

Their tour with Buzzcocks had seen them take in another date in Buckinghamshire – Saturday 6th May 1978 seeing them support Manchester’s finest punk export at Aylesbury Friars.  However, the High Wycombe date was a rare chance for Penetration to headline at a decent sized venue outside of a major city.

By the time of their Town Hall appearance, original guitarist Gary Chaplin had left the band – departing in March 1978 and being replaced by Penetration fanatic, 19 year old Neale Floyd. Chaplin had written the entire band’s music to date, with 20 year old Patti Smith fan, Murray providing the lyrics.  During my research for this article, I found a Sounds interview from the 27 May 1978 issue. It reveals that Robert Blamire had just ‘discovered’ his first song – saying: “I came up with the bassline at a soundcheck.” Pauline Murray added that the song proved to be an ‘inspiration’ and she eventually added lyrics, including the following:

Caught up in the scheme/Mixed up in a moving dream
Music in the motion/Rhythm just repeat, repeat
Echo multiplies and waves of sound are lost in space/Motion in the wheels
And pulling all the strings

The song would become ‘Movement’ and get an airing at High Wycombe Town Hall and in Phil Sutcliffe’s Sounds article, the journalist states: “‘Movement’ is probably the crucial song in Penetration’s development, the convincing assertion that they are far more than punk buzzsaw merchants.” He added: “The vocal and and words feel just right with Pauline embodying actual power and potential rather than the impotent, straight-jacketed aggression which characterised early punk. This is the mood of ’78 (I hope), action instead of self-pity”.

I’m grateful again to my long-time friend Buzz who not only attended the gig but also wrote his immediate thoughts in his 1978 diary. The listings for this gig in the music press had the support line-up down as The Ventilators, Vice Creams and The Yonkers.  However Buzz confirms via his diary that the latter two bands didn’t play and were replaced by The Mystery Girls. A band of this name had been due to play at The Newlands Club in October 1977 but they never appeared.  I assume they were a band from the High Wycombe area? I have no more information at this stage, so if you are able to add any background, please get in touch.

Meanwhile, The Ventilators were a High Wycombe based band consisting of far more familiar faces at the time.  They were Kris Jozajtis (guitar and vocals), Kevin Smith (guitar and vocals), Mark White (drums) and Carlton Mounsher (bass).  Jozatjis, White and Mounsher had originally played together during the latter months of 1976 and early 1977 in Deathwish.  Later in 1977 they regenerated into The Pretty and then The Party.  Buzz recalls that the trio were still at school at the time of the Penetration gig in March 1978 and their new band were introduced by promoter Ron Watts before coming on stage as: ‘one of the best bands to come from Wycombe for years.’

Buzz’s diary recalls the performance of The Ventilators as ‘excellent’ but also commented that he was, “dismayed by the astonishingly small audience”.  He added: “By the time Penetration started, the audience was still smaller than the group deserved but at least everyone came to the front of the stage and thus created a reasonable mass of people.”

The small audience can be attributed to a number of factors, including the chaotic and violent scenes at the previous Town Hall gig – the 28 April 1978 appearance by Siouxsie and The Banshees – an evening where the moronic actions of those playing up to the stereotypical ‘punk’ and ‘skinhead’ factions, ruined the enjoyment for the vast majority who had come along to simply enjoy the music. In an attempt to try a fool the ‘thickos’ (as described by gig promoters of the time), details of up and coming concerts were kept low-key. Outcome, the ‘thickos’ struggled to figure out when and where the gigs were. While ‘music-lovers’ (i.e. those who could read), turned up as normal.  Result, smaller audience and no trouble but bands and promoters were left wondering whether it was all worth the bother.

My friend Buzz can thankfully be included within the ‘music lovers’ group and commenting on the sounds he heard that evening, he wrote in his diary: “Musically, Penetration were very good – though they seemed to have surprisingly little equipment. Also, the three blokes had very little stage presence, but this was compensated by Pauline, who was excellent.  Despite demanding a second encore we only got one.”

Penetration line-up – May 1978 – as published in Sounds 27 May 1978

Songs played by Penetration on that evening on June 1978 would have most likely been drawn from the following:

  • Race Against Time
  • Money Talks
  • Never, Never
  • Don’t Dictate
  • Firing Squad
  • Movement
  • Life’s a Gamble
  • Future Daze
  • Stone Heroes
  • Silent Community
  • Lovers of Outrage
  • Vision
  • Nostalgia (Buzzcocks cover)
  • Free Money (Patti Smith cover)
  • VIP
  • Silent Community

They would recruit an additional guitarist in July 1978 when Fred Purser joined. A first John Peel session was recorded the same month and in October 1978 they released their debut album, ‘Moving Targets’.  A headline performance at Aylesbury Friars followed in November 1978 and a second album, ‘Coming Up For Air’, was released in September 1979.  They split-up the following month to concentrate on separate projects.  However, in 2001 they reformed with original members Pauline Murray and Robert Blamire.  They were later joined by former Buzzcocks drummer John Maher.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Don’t Dictate – Penetration – live Manchester – August 1977

Note classic example of ‘Thicko’ being dealt with by ‘Music Lovers’ at around 1:20.

Firing Squad – Penetration – audio of single – released May 1978

Life’s A Gamble – Penetration – live Reading Festival – August 1978



22 June 1977 – Talking punk on the streets of High Wycombe

High Wycombe’s local paper, The Bucks Free Press, took to the streets in June 1977 to find the views of the growing punk scene.  A “Speakers’ Corner” article written by local junior journalist Janice Raycroft, with photos by staff photographer Bob Mead, was published in the Midweek Bucks Free Press on Wednesday 22nd June 1977.  It discovered views on the punk movement that were more or less reflective across the entire UK at the time.  ‘Rubbish’, ‘Noise’, ‘Not up to much musically’, ‘It’s just a phase’ and ‘a disgrace’, were just some of the comments printed.

Bucks Free Press Midweek – 22 June 1977

Janice Raycroft had been lucky enough to witness The Sex Pistols appearance at High Wycombe College in February 1976.  Her review of the gig, under her maiden name, published a few days later in the Bucks Free Press Midweek is thought to be only the second ever live review of the Sex Pistols.  It was the 40 year anniversary of the February 1976 gig that provided the inspiration to start the research for what became wycombegigs.co.uk.

Although High Wycombe had gone on to host several ‘punk’ gigs between February 1976 and June 1977, the local punk scene was still very much in its infancy.  Many of the ‘punk’ gigs had been played out to just a handful of people and the musical output had yet to make any serious impact on the UK charts.

However, that was beginning to change following the release of Sex Pistols second single ‘God Save The Queen’ in May 1977 and its subsequent air time ban by the BBC.  Intentional or not, the ban lifted sales to an estimated 20,000 copies a day and it peaked at No.2 in the charts during the week of 5th June 1977 – sitting behind Rod Stewart’s ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About it’ – an ironic title considering that the chart compilers ‘didn’t want to talk about’ allegations of possible manipulation of sales figures to ensure The Sex Pistols didn’t reach the top spot.

But what did the High Wycombe public want to talk about at a time when The Pistols shared the top ten with the likes of Kenny Rogers (Lucille), Barbra Streisand (A Star is Born), Joe Tex (Ain’t Gonna Bump No More) and The Jacksons (Show You The Way To Go)?

Secretarial student Iona Crichton said of the Sex Pistols’ ‘God Save The Queen’:

“It’s a load of rubbish really.  A lot of talking and noise.  You can’t really seem to dance to it but the punk rockers seem to like it.”

Apprentice Engineer Maurice Fish went on:

“Punk will probably be like other crazes and die down when people get bored with it but there are more [punks] appearing in High Wycombe at the moment.”

Interesting to note that both of the first two people interviewed had heard the single played on the jukebox in the Coach & Horses pub in the High Street in High Wycombe.

22 year old motor mechanic Edward Wright added:

“It’s just a phase like all the others. When I was at school it was skinheads or greasers.  You grow out of it.  When people get bored with this punk rock stuff something else will come along.”

He continued

“It won’t last because the music will not appeal to enough people.  I don’t take any real notice of it.  Tamla Motown and The Beatles are much better to listen to.”

 Another 20 something, Peter Seymour of High Wycombe, was far more upset.

 “Their ‘God Save The Queen’ is a disgrace to the Queen.  I can’t understand why they picked on the Queen. If you are going to do that there’s a lot better people to pick on.  She has done no harm and can’t answer back.”

The final word went to Rosemary Dawson who travelled five days a week to work in London where she had noted the rise of punk rock fashion on the streets.  She said:

“The music has nothing to offer me.  There is no musical ability involved and the result has no artistic merit.”

A closer look at the Bucks Free Press from 22 June 1977

Looking back on this piece some 40 years later, it’s a shame there was nobody even remotely ‘punk’ looking interviewed for the piece and there was literally not one good word said about a release that went on to be set in stone as an iconic piece of punk rock.  However, that is probably more reflective of the slow up take of punk in both High Wycombe and the nation as a whole, rather than a deliberate ploy by the journalists to suppress alternative viewpoints.

The outpouring of negative and prejudice views on punk rock are also typical of the time.  Dressing as a punk and/or simply just liking punk music during the first half of 1977 would have you labelled as a freak.

But after ‘God Save The Queen’ become the first truly punk single to make the top 10 of the UK charts, it set the scene for several more ‘punk’ singles to break into the charts.  The Stranglers, Peaches followed shortly afterwards, while The Sex Pistols’ third single, Pretty Vacant, released in early July 1977, also burst into the top ten during the summer of 1977.

The High Wycombe punk scene also started to explode during the summer of 1977.  In July 1977 there was a first ever local punk band night down The Nag’s Head, while promoter Ron Watts started putting on gigs at The Town Hall to cater for the growing demand for the punk and new wave scene.  Keep an eye on wycombegigs.co.uk for details of those gigs – and, of course, if you have any memories, memorabilia or just a screwed up gig ticket, please get in touch.

7 June 1977 – Sex Pistols joined by Ron Watts and Co for River Thames trip

The Sex Pistols hit the headlines again on Tuesday 7th June 1977 after a publicity stunt promoting their new single, ‘God Save The Queen’, attracted the attention of the police.  This was the occasion that The Pistols and their entourage launched their very own Silver Jubilee celebrations on a boat down The River Thames.

Nag’s Head promoter Ron Watts and his right hand man ‘Bruv’ were invited to the boat trip.  The event has gone down in punk folklore alongside the infamous Bill Grundy evening in December 1976.

Here’s Johnny on the river boat – 6th June 1977

Various versions of the events that day have been recollected.  Julian Temple’s film record gives a visual reminder, while Ron Watts recalls the day in his autobiography [100 Watts – A Life in Music], saying:

“It was all a big fuss about nothing but the tabloids had their headlines, another fire of moral outrage was fuelled and the public got their ration of scandal.  Just another day at the office, but it was to prove the last time I ever saw the Pistols play live.”

This is some fairly decent quality footage of the afternoon from YouTube.

Pretty Vacant

Anarchy in the UK