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.
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.
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’.
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 skinhead 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.
Adams & The Ants – set list Town Hall, High Wycombe – 23rd May 1980
Kings of the wild frontier
Beat My Guest
Killer In The Home
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For your listening pleasure
Kings of the Wild Frontier (live audio) – High Wycombe, Town Hall 23rd May 1980
XTC were another band to return to the High Wycombe having played the town during their embryonic years. The Swindon based outfit had appeared twice at The Nag’s Head in 1977 and the gig at The Town Hall on Sunday 6th May 1979 was most likely a favour to promoter Ron Watts. Support on the night were local band The Ladykillers plus Bruce Woolley and The Camera Club. Attendees of the gig would have left the gig unware they had witnessed a live rendition of a future No.1 single in the UK charts.
Originally billed as support for the XTC gig were The Brian James Band. However, James, a former guitarist and founder member of The Damned, would not appear.
Support on the night came from High Wycombe band The Ladykillers – the latest outfit to include local boy Kris Jozajtis (ex Deathwish, The Pretty, Good Guys and Four Daughters) on guitar. Other band members were Stuart Rillstone (lead vocals), Ian Hutchby (bass) and Dave ‘Dudge’ Williams (drums). Jozajtis and Hutchby were the co-writers of the original songs featured in their set-list.
Kris Jozajtis recall for wycombegigs.co.uk that Rillstone came from Chorley Wood and had previously been in a band called Nuclear Rouge. Jozajtis, Williams and Hutchby had also played together in two other High Wycombe based bands, Good Guys and Four Daughters, but with Dom Williams on vocals. Four Daughters had supported The Rich Kids at High Wycombe Town Hall in September 1978 and the rock/pop style of Glen Matlock’s band is the best comparison I can come up with for The Ladykillers.
The Ladykillers set on 6th May 1979 is believed to have followed their live debut at The Nag’s Head earlier that year. The familiarity of some of the band members with the audience, plus songs recognised from their former groups, was a factor in The Ladykillers receiving a decent reaction from the audience at The Town Hall gig. Unusually for a first band on, they were called back for an encore and then promoter Ron Watts insisted they played one more song in ‘30 seconds’. I was delighted to be reminded of this incident while sorting through a number of live recordings from that era. A YouTube clip of the audio is posted at the foot of this article.
Ladykillers – set-list from my own records included the following – some titles guessed.
Under The Skin
Fear of the Night
Mother Hates Me Hair
You’ve Been Seeing Another Women
Hear The Sound
White Boys, Making Noise
As far as I can tell, The Ladykillers did not commit any of their songs to official recordings. They played further dates in the High Wycombe area during 1979 but appear to have split up before the end of the year. Kris Jozajtis would go on to join The Folk Devils in 1983.
Any other memories of The Ladykillers gratefully received.
The final support act were Camera Club, a relatively unknown band featuring Bruce Woolley on guitar and lead vocals, Matthew Seligman on bass, Rod Johnson on drums, Dave Birch (ex-Vibrators) on guitar and a 21 year old Thomas Dolby on keyboards.
Midway through their set that evening they would play a catchy song called ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ – a tune that Woolley penned with friends Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn in 1977. In September 1979 the same song would be released by The Buggles (featuring Downes and Horn) – it proved to be quite popular, reaching No.1 in the UK charts, plus topping the charts in at least nine other countries. For those at High Wycombe Town Hall on 6th May 1979, this would have been the first of many times they had heard the song. By chance, I manage to record the audio of that evening on fairly primitive equipment – it was a Boots ‘Walkman’ type device and was all I could afford at the time – being still at school. I’ve uploaded the audio to YouTube as an historical record.
Camera Club – set-list from my own records included the followin
Too Late For Tears
The Picture is Taken, The Glass is Broken
Goodbye to Yesterday
Video Killed The Radio Star
Dancing with the Sporting Boys
It would be fair to say that the reaction to their set at the Town Hall was mixed. The introduction of synthesisers and keyboards in a live environment so soon after the ‘punk’ explosion came as a surprise to many. However, fast-forward a few years, and the likes of Gary Numan, Human League, Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark were all chart bound with a similar style – plus, of course, local boy Howard Jones, who was often compared to Thomas Dolby when he broke the charts in 1983.
The Camera Club set-list calls mainly from songs that would appear on their ‘English Garden’ LP released on Epic records in November 1979.
Meanwhile, returning to the The Town Hall in May 1979, headliners XTC were on their first tour since original keyboards player Barry Andrews had left the band. Andrews had been replaced with Dave Gregory, who also hailed from their hometown of Swindon, but in fact played guitar and not keyboards.
Andrews had been a member of XTC since 1976 and played with them during the two appearances at The Nag’s Head in 1977. The remaining members, Andy Partridge (guitar and vocals), Colin Moulding (bass) and Terry Chambers (drums) were those that made up the band with Gregory on the stage at the Town Hall in May 1979.
Gregory’s first work with XTC was on their new single ‘Life Begins at The Hop’, released on 27th April 1979. Considering their previous 7” releases (including, ‘This is Pop!’ and ‘Statue of Liberty’), it is surprising to find that this was their first single that troubled the UK charts – peaking at No.54 and prompting their first Top of the Pops appearance on 17th May 1979.
It was their persistence that finally earned them the chart success their creativity merited. They were using the April/May 1979 tour to debut some of the material that would feature on their August 1979 album release, ‘Drums and Wires’. One of the songs falling into that category and played at the Town Hall was, ‘Making Plans for Nigel’. Released as a single in September 1979 it reached No.17 in the UK charts but warranted much higher. ‘Computer errors’ have since been blamed for the single not reaching higher but the song remains an iconic pop tune and its distinctive drum and guitar sounds deserved so much more recognition at the time.
XTC – set-list from my own records
Making Plans For Nigel
Roads Girdle The Globe
Life Begins At The Hop
This Is Pop
Radios In Motion
Are You Receiving Me
Set Myself On Fire
Dance Band (encore)
Statue Of Liberty (encore)
The XTC set-list drew material from their three albums to date, their single back catalogue, plus previews of tracks from their yet to be recorded ‘Drums and Wires’ album.
For your listening and viewing pleasure
Under The Skin – The Ladykillers – live audio from High Wycombe Town Hall 6 May 1979
Video Killed The Radio Star – Camera Club – live audio from High Wycombe Town Hall 6 May 1979
WW9/Clean Clean – Camera Club – BBC Old Grey Whistle Test – 30 October 1979
Making Plans For Nigel – XTC – live video from Bristol Locarno 13 May 1979
Wire were formed in October 1976 by Colin Newman (vocals, guitar), Graham Lewis (bass, vocals), Bruce Gilbert (guitar), and Robert Gotobed, real name Robert Grey (drums). Their recognised live debut with this line-up was at London’s Roxy on 1st April 1977.
Wire released their first single on EMI offshoot label, Harvest later in 1977 with three diverse tracks: ‘Mannequin’, ‘Feeling Called Love’ and ‘12XU’. Their second single, ‘I am the Fly’ was apparently an early favourite of Jam lead singer Paul Weller.
In a interview with Rolling Stone magazine, ahead of their March 2017 release of LP Silver/Lead, leader singer Colin Newman quipped:
“We’re the most famous band you’ve never heard of. Our fans assume that Wire is massive – like, we’ve all got mansions. And then there are lots of people who know groups who are more successful than Wire who’ve been influenced by Wire – yet they’ve never heard of Wire. It’s a very strange kind of fame.”
Meanwhile, The Jam were on the road the fame, or at least an appearance on Top of the Pops. Their performance of the single ‘In The City’ on Thursday 19th May 1977 (a week after their Nag’s Head) appearance is widely recognised as the first by ‘punk’ group on the BBC programme. The arguments about whether The Jam are a ‘punk’ band, or not, will go on forever.
Paul Weller commented on the punk scene in the NME published on the day of The Nag’s Head gig:
“I don’t see any point in going against your own country. All this ‘change the world’ thing is becoming a bit too trendy. I realise that we’re not going to change anything unless it’s on a national scale. We’ll be voting Conservative at the next election.”
Weller later claimed it was a bit of wind-up and he went on to support the Labour party in the years ahead.
Since the above article was first published, local High Wycombe music fan, Dave Tapping, got in touch and sent the clipping below published in Sounds magazine the week before the gig at The Nag’s Head on 12th May 1977.
The gig preview, says, ‘The Jam are at High Wycombe Nag’s Head on Thursday for a one-off before rejoining the White Riot ’77 tour next week. Try and catch them before they’re rich and famous!’ Dave says ‘indeed, I was glad I did!’.
Here’s Wire performing the punky ’12XU’ from their first single:
And here’s The Jam ‘punking it up’ on Top of the Pops.
Were you one of the punters who queued up the Nag’s Head stairs and paid £1 (75p for members!) to see these two hugely influential bands?
The Banshees returned to The Nag’s Head on Thursday 5th May 1977 as they continued their first steps on the live circuit. Their appearance supporting Johnny Thunders at The Nag’s in March ’77 was only their 4th ever live outing – the May ’77 show in High Wycombe was still only their 8th venture in front of live audience. Other dates in-between their two Nag’s Head dates included a show in Worcester and two gigs at London’s Roxy.
The Nag’s Head date was another low key affair promoted by Ron Watts. There was with very little advance publicity and the audience was made up of the Nag’s Head Thursday ‘rock night’ regulars plus those curious to see a ‘punk’ band on their door-step.
Banshees bassist Steve Severin explained in Mark Paytress’s 2003 biography of the band, “We stepped into a void left by the Pistols because they weren’t allowed to play anywhere. For a lot of people we were probably the first ‘punk’ band they ever saw live. Musically we were very different from the Pistols, but then was a huge diversity of sound among all the bands. No one sounded like Subway Sect, or Buzzcocks, or even The Clash, at that point.”
The Banshees line-up at the time still consisted of Siouxsie Sioux (vocals), Steve Severin, Kenny Morris (drums) and Peter Fenton (guitar). Fenton was proving a problem in Sioux and Severin’s vision for the band.
Siouxsie (from the Paytress biog): “Fenton didn’t really fit in. He had an orange lead on his guitar and that really annoyed me. He was a real rock guitarist, always trying to put licks into songs and pulling funny faces when he played. We spent most of the time trying to make him forget what he’d learned.”
Fenton would make his final appearance for The Banshees at London Dingwalls on 19 May 1977. The guitarist was sacked on stage, Sioux explaining, “He’d gone into this terrible wailing guitar solo in the middle of a song, so I said, ‘That is f**king sh*t’ and pulled the lead out of his guitar. Afterwards we had this enormous fight backstage. The management at Dingwalls told us, ‘You’ll never work here again.’”
There may have been fights backstage at Dingwalls but violence among the crowd and with band members were common place during the early days of ‘punk’ gigs. The trouble was not necessarily caused by the teenage/early 20’s, ‘punks’ but typically by the older crowd struggling to come to terms with the new craze. The violence was often very tribal.
Severin recalls: “You could guarantee that at just about every gig there’d be a fight by the end of the third song. Someone would try to drag Siouxsie into the audience. She’d kick them, Kenny would jump over his drum kit and pile in, and it would all go off.” But Severin remembers the Nag’s appearance as being slightly unusual: “At The Nag’s Head in High Wycombe they had the grace to wait until Kenny was clearing away his drum kit before they threw the first glass.”
John McKay would replace Fenton on guitar and played his first gig with the band at London’s Vortex on 11 July 1977. It proved to be the final piece in the Banshees jigsaw – their sound dynamic changed overnight and by the end of 1977 were the one of the most popular live bands on the circuit but bizarrely, at a time when every marginally new wave act was being signed, were still without a record deal. Even when Ron Watts brought them back to High Wycombe for a gig at The Town Hall in April 1978, they were still a month away from signing a deal with Polydor records.
This is a Banshees demo recorded in March 1977 of a track called ‘Captain Scarlet’ – a crowd favourite at the time.