1 March 2019 – Punkarolla – Damned special

On Friday 1st March 2019 I’m back as a guest on Andy Chalk’s Punkarolla radio show on Wycombe Sound.  This time I’m sitting alongside another long-time friend, Martin Percival, talking more about the 40th anniversary of gigs in High Wycombe and reminiscing in particular about an appearance by The Damned at The Town Hall on 18th April 1979 – a gig where the punk originals were supported by a then up and coming punk/reggae group The Ruts and local band The Beez.

We’ll be playing a selection of our Damned favourites from throughout the years, plus tracks from the support acts on the night.  There’s also the usual stuff old and new, so please take a listen between 9pm and 11pm on the new monthly (1st Friday of each month) time slot – hosted as usual by Andy.

It is possible to listen live in the High Wycombe area via 106.6 FM, via the internet and radio player.

Shows are also available to ‘Listen Again’ for four weeks via www.wycombesound.org.uk

The direct link to the Punkarolla ‘Listen Again’ page is:

http://listenagain.wycombesound.org.uk/index.php/shows/punkarolla/

Shows from the earlier series are also available to listen to via MixCloud

https://www.mixcloud.com/WycombeSound/playlists/punkarolla/

Andy also has a Punkarolla Public Group Facebook Group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/224313594628909/

I’ll be posting up more details of The Damned gig from April 1979 in a separate post on or around the 40th anniversary.  That will include set-lists from the all the acts that played that evening, plus, I hope to have some previously un-circulated audio clips too.  In the meantime, an enhanced version of the advert from the Bucks Free Press is included below.

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

 

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 December 1978 – 999/Pinpoint/Nigel Martin’s Mirage – Town Hall

999 returned to High Wycombe Town Hall on 20th December 1978 for their second appearance of the year.  The London based ‘punk’ band had enjoyed a successful show at the Town just over two months previous and promoter Ron Watts was quick to bring them back.

Support came from Nigel Martin’s Mirage, a spin-off band from The Xtraverts who had split-up earlier in 1978.  A late addition to the support line-up was Pinpoint.

999 – High Wycombe Town Hall – Wednesday 20th December 1978
promoted by Peppers (Ron Watts)

Pinpoint were a band originally formed in the Winter of 1977 when Arturo Bassick left The Lurkers.  The first line-up included Dave Allen on bass and Paul Bellewithe on drums.  Bellewithe had been replaced by Hugh Griffiths by the time of the Town Hall gig in December 1978.

They would go on to release three singles and one album (mid 1980), produced by Martin Rushent.  They split shortly after the album was released.  Bassist Dave Allen went on to become Rushent’s engineer and worked on the ‘Dare’ album by Human League.  Apparently Human League’s Phil Oakey had been impressed with Rushent’s production of 999’s ‘Separates’ album released earlier in 1978.  Rushent was moving more into electronic music and had set-up his Genetic Studios at this home in Streatley.  The studios were used by Midge Ure and Rusty Egan in their post-Rich Kids days to record the debut album by Visage.  Meanwhile, Bassick was less impressed with Rushent’s work and blamed the album production as a reason for the band to split.

High Wycombe Town Hall events listing from Bucks Free Press Midweek 19th December 1978

Nigel Martin’s Mirage were essentially the latest incarnation of High Wycombe punk band, The Xtraverts.  Lead singer Nigel Martin had been inspired to form The Xtraverts in post-Bill Grundy December 1976 and played their first live outings in the first-half of 1977.  They had history with 999 having supported the London band at The Nag’s Head in September 1977 – violence at that gig led to a ban of ‘punk’ at The Nag’s Head.  The Xtraverts recorded their first single in late 1977 and ‘Blank Generation’ coupled with ‘A Lad Insane’ was released in January 1978 on Spike records.  They gigged way their way around the London circuit but split mid-way through 1978.

Headliners 999 had played at High Wycombe Town on 4th October 1978 in support of their ‘Separates’ long-player and new single ‘Homicide’ the popularity of that gig was a major factor in their return less than three months later.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Homicide – 999 – Old Grey Whistle Test – BBC TV December 1978

Pete Shelley – 17 April 1955 – 6 December 2018

In this article we fondly remember Pete Shelley, founder member of ‘punk’ band Buzzcocks, who died on 6th December 2018 at the age of 63.  Shelley’s legacy includes a memorable list of classic pop songs, as well as his part in evolving the ‘punk’ music around his home-land of Manchester.  As a 20-year-old he travelled with two friends to see a Sex Pistols gig at High Wycombe College.  What they saw that evening provided the catalyst for what would become two iconic gigs at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall in June and July 1976 and pave the way for the likes of Factory Records, Joy Division, The Fall, The Smiths and of course Buzzcocks, to help shape the future of British music.

Shelley (real name Pete McNeish) had tentatively formed a band in late 1975 with 23-year-old fellow Bolton student Howard Trafford (later to become Howard Devoto).  On Wednesday 18th February 1976 they saw a first ever live review of a Sex Pistols gig in the New Musical Express and it inspired them to travel to London to track down the Pistols’ next gig.

Hence, with the help of a borrowed car, the pair, plus to-be band Manager Richard Boon, would travel the 180 miles south and learn that the Sex Pistols were due to play support to Lord Sutch in High Wycombe at the Buckinghamshire College of Further Education on Friday 20th February 1976.

It was also while they were down south that they would pick up a copy of Time Out magazine where the headline for the review of TV programme Rock Follies, ‘FEELING A BUZZ, COCKS’, gave them the idea for the name for their yet to be seen band –.  After seeing the Pistols in High Wycombe they would return to Manchester to form Buzzcocks and promote the famous gigs at The Lesser Free Trade Hall.

Buzzcocks would play one of their first ever gigs at the latter of these two dates.  Devoto took on lead vocals, while Shelley played guitar, aided by Steve Diggle on bass and John Maher on drums.  In January 1977 they would release their debut EP, ‘Spiral Scratch’, on their self-funded New Hormones label – one of the first truly independent record releases in the UK.   The EP included the now iconic ‘Boredom’ but the other three tracks, ‘Breakdown’, Time’s Up’ and ‘Friends of Mine’ had the same fresh sound and catch riffs.

Spiral Scratch EP – released January 1977

soon after the release of ‘Spiral Scratch’, leaving founder member Shelley with decisions to make.  Rather than recruit a new singer, Shelley bravely took on the front man role himself and the distinctive Buzzcocks sound was cemented with Steve Diggle moving to second guitar and Steve Garvey eventually becoming the permanent bass player.

With song-writing duties firmly on his shoulders, Shelley developed a way with lyrics that was virtually unique amongst his punk counterparts.  Back in those formative years of punk rock, rather than tap into what was fast becoming clichéd lyrics referencing such topics as hate, war, crime, anarchy and violence, Shelley wasn’t afraid to mention love and write songs that included backing vocals of grown-men going ‘ooh, ooh’.

Also, unlike some of the other early London ‘punk’ bands who morphed out of the ‘pub-rock’ scene, Buzzcocks genuinely struggled to play their instruments during their early outings on the live circuit.  Their early gigs would see the band muddling their way through primitive incarnations of their hits in the making – Shelley, in particular, with his sawn-off cheap guitar.  However, the sound quickly developed into something unique and one that was enhanced to a new level in the studio.

Buzzcocks would eventually sign for United Artists in August 1977 – releasing their debut album, Another Music in a Different Kitchen in March 1978 – their rise to success would be fuelled by a series of consecutive pure punk pop singles – ‘Orgasm Addict’, ‘What Do I Get?’, ‘I Don’t’ Mind’, ‘Love You More’, ‘Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve Fallen in Love With)’, ‘Promises’, ‘Everybody’s Happy Nowadays’, the list goes on and on.

It is relatively sad to look back to see that while many of the other original iconic British ‘punk’ bands played High Wycombe – including, Sex Pistols, Damned, Clash, Stranglers, Jam, Siouxsie and The Banshees and Generation X – Buzzcocks were never to perform on a High Wycombe stage – perhaps they weren’t ‘punk’ enough in the eyes of the promoters of the time?  The nearest they came were appearances at Aylesbury Friars – first on 6th May 1978 and then on 28th March 1979.

It was at the latter of these two appearances, while still at school, that I was lucky enough to see them for the first time.  I’d been captivated since seeing their Top of the Pops appearance of ‘I Don’t Mind’ in April 1978.  I remember being amazed that it was possible to write a song that included the lyric ‘pathetic clown’.  A couple of months later I heard their follow-up single ‘Love You More’ for the first time – lasting less than 2 minutes, I had to hear it again as soon as possible – hence a trip to town to buy the single in, by this time, its easily recognisable Buzzcocks style graphics.

My Buzzcocks memorabilia.
Including song book, badges, bootleg tapes and flyer from Aylesbury gig, March 1979

I took the cover to the Friars gig in March 1979 in the hope of an autograph. At the end of the gig those with similar thoughts patiently waited to the left-hand side of the stage for the band to return.  There was not much of a delay before Pete Shelley and fellow band member Steve Diggle emerged and happily signed autographs and chatted with their fans.  At this point some random meathead security man decided he wanted to clear the hall and claimed the band had ‘gone home’ and there was no point in waiting.  At which point Pete Shelley said in his distinctive high-pitched voice, ‘I’m still here!’.  The intellectually challenged security man then repeated his claim that the band had ‘gone home’.  Shelley responded with a slightly louder, ‘I’m still here!’  I can still hear his voice in my head saying those words.

In my youthful craze to hear more, I began accumulating live and early demo recordings of the band and soon discovered that Shelley’s pop songs were not limited to singles, or just three-minute songs. ‘Fast Cars’, ‘Moving Away From The Pulsebeat’, ‘Fiction Romance’, ‘E.S.P.’, ‘I Believe’, to name just four.

The band split in 1981 leaving a hole for many of their followers.  The records and tapes were stored away and we all moved on (for a while).  Then in 1989 they re-formed and we were reminded what an incredible back catalogue of songs they could call on.  The live shows were more powerful than ever.  They recorded new music and also gigged until the point of Pete’s death and had arranged a 40 year anniversary gig at The Albert Hall in June 2019.  I’d already got tickets and was in the process of going through the Buzzcocks archives when the tragic news arrived.

‘Oh Sh*t!’ was my one of my first reactions on the evening of Thursday 6th December 2018.  Shelley had a song title for almost every emotion and in this case, the ‘B’ side of the 1977 Shelley penned classic ‘What Do I Get?’, seemed the most apt.

If by chance any family or friends of Pete read this, I send them my sincere best wishes and thanks for Pete’s life.

Love You More – from Paul

My signed ‘Love you More’ cover, ‘To Paul’ from gig at Aylesbury, March 1979

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Breakdown – Buzzcocks – Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall – July 1976

I Swear I Was There – Granada TV documentary 2001
Listen from 3:16 for Devotto and Shelley recalling the trip down south in February 1976

Buzzcocks in their own words – interview at British Library – 9 June 2016
Listen from 13:50 for comments from Shelley and Boon about Sex Pistols gig at High Wycombe February 1976

I Don’t Mind – Buzzcocks – Oxford Zodiac – March 2006 – first published December 2018

24 November 1978 – Generation X/Vents/The Cure – Town Hall

High Wycombe favourites Generation X returned to the Town Hall on Friday 24th November 1978 but it was the sparse sound of the act third on the bill, The Cure, that went onto have global success far exceeding that of Billy Idol and his band of rockers.  Local band, The Vents, were also on the support bill.

Generation X – gig preview from Record Mirror – note two other gigs in High Wycombe on the same evening!

Generation X had appeared at High Wycombe on five previous occasions – four times at The Nag’s Head in 1977, before making their Town Hall debut in April 1978. Lead singer Billy Idol explained the reason for choosing High Wycombe again in a gig preview published in the Bucks Free Press Midweek. He said:“[High Wycombe] has always been great. It is like playing to your best friends.” He went on to say: “We are a wild rock and roll group. Our music is influenced by steel and concrete, not cows and fields.”  He concluded: “No one has ever proved that authority works. Drugs, booze, sex and violence makes their rules look like croquet on the lawn.  We are anti anything that strikes at individuality.”

Generation gig preview in Bucks Free Press Midweek – November 1978 – enhanced for wycombegigs.co.uk

The High Wycombe Town Hall gig was the opening night of the latest Generation X tour, initially publicised to promote their second album. A NME article suggests the name of the new album would be ‘Intercourse (Old Meets New)’.  The album was eventually released in January 1979 under the title ‘Valley of the Dolls’.  Notable tracks were subsequent singles, ‘King Rocker’ and the title track.  Production on the album was by Ian Hunter (Mott the Hoople).

Generation X tour dates from NME November 1978

The Cure were a late addition to the tour schedule after signing a record deal with Fiction Records in September 1978.  They had been signed by Chris Parry at Polydor Records for his Fiction label.  A debut single ‘Killing an Arab’ would follow in December 1978 on Small Wonder due to distribution problems with Polydor.

The band originated from Crawley, playing initially under the name of ‘Easy Cure’ and then simplying this to The Cure in July 1978.

At the time of the Town Hall gig The Cure were a three piece – Robert Smith (guitar and vocals), Michael Dempsey (bass) and Lol Tolhurst (drums). They were all 19 years old.

The Cure – 1978
Source unknown

The events surrounding their appearance at the Town Hall are fairly well documented in a couple of Cure biographies. At the Town Hall gig the band were left surprised that, rather than receiving a fee for the gig, they would have to pay £25 for the privilege of using the Generation X lighting and sound system.  They couldn’t afford £25 at the time, so they wheeled in their own amps and operated the sound and light system with the aid of a roadie and ‘encouragement’ from the audience.

Extract from Ten Imaginary Years book by Steve Sutherland and Robert Smith – published 1987

In his 2016 biography, Cured, Lol Tolhurst went on the describe the events as the punters made their way into the Town Hall:

“The doors opened and we were ushered on stage almost immediately ‘to warm the punters up as the tour manager informed us. I’m sure Robert gave him a disdainful look as we marched on stage. We were not the same as these old hippies running the show. That much was obvious to all. However, we welcomed the opportunity to play, even if it meant we had to deal with the predictably capitalistic remnants of the counterculture from time to time.”

Earlier in 1978, Tolhurst, had apparently been given the opportunity to play for the UK Subs, but turned down the request in order to distance himself from the ‘punk’ movement. Commenting on the main event at the Town Hall, he added:

“The Gen X show was quite a spectacle of punk rock. As the opening number, ‘Ready, Steady Go started, Billy idol, resplendent in a red leather jump suit, strode to the front of the stage and then, almost on cue, a thousand gobs of spit came arching over the stage front like arrows shot from longbows into the spotlight towards Billy. To our amazement he didn’t recoil from this assault of phlegm but positively revelled in the ghastly gobbing frenzy.

Suddenly, the purpose of the red leather suit became shockingly clear, it was the only suitable material for such an onslaught, especially considering this same scene was repeated every night of the tour. We watched from the side of the stage for a few more minutes, transfixed by the spectacle of Mr Idol being drenched sputum. I think we were all secretly glad that the audience had decided we weren’t worthy of their shower of spittle.”

Just under 40 years after The Cure’s appearance at High Wycombe Town Hall, the band celebrated the landmark by playing an open-air gig at London’s Hyde Park in front of an estimated 50,000 people. The encore at Hyde Park (including 1978 songs ‘Killing An Arab’ and ’10:15 On A Saturday Night’) lasted longer their than Town Hall slot!

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Valley of the Dolls – Generation X – BBC Top of the Pops – April 1979

Killing An Arab – The Cure – Small Wonder single 1978

10:15 On A Saturday Night – The Cure – promo video – early 1979

References:

https://en-gb.facebook.com/genxpunkband/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_X_(band)

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

http://www.thecure.com/bio/

20 November 1978 – Pere Ubu – Town Hall

Pere Ubu, a USA band who described themselves as ‘avant-garage’ appeared at High Wycombe Town Hall on Monday 20th November 1978.  Support came from The Soft Boys.

Pere Ubu formed late 1975 in Cleveland, Ohio with lead singer David Thomas as constant member during their performing career. Listening back to their music now would probably see them lumped in the ‘post-punk’ bracket – although they were, essentially around before ‘punk’.  They released four singles before their debut LP, The Modern Dance, came out in January 1978.

Pere Ubu – 1978 tour advert from the NME – featuring High Wycombe Town Hall gig November 1978

Their date at The Town Hall in November 1978 was part of a UK tour to promote Pere Ubu’s second album, ‘Dub Housing’. Originally arranged for Sunday 19th November, the gig was switched to the following evening having opened the tour in Middlesbrough and Newcastle. Other dates on the tour included appearances at Manchester – The Factory, Liverpool-Eric’s, London – Electric Ballroom.

A feature on Pere Ubu was published in the Bucks Free Press Midweek at their time of their 1978 appearance at The Town Hall. The piece, authored by ‘CJK’, described the band as; “One of the most radically innovative and challenging bands to appear in the last couple of years.”

The article went on to quote lead singer David Thomas saying that he refused to allow the band to be classified: “Classifications aren’t valid any more. We have much in common with jazz and early folk, we’re pioneers, out there on our own, getting it together.”  He added: “We try not to be anything other than what we are. We have no time for false images.”

Pere Ubu – cutting from Bucks Free Press Midweek – November 1978

For your listening pleasure

Non-Alignment Pact – Pere Ubu -track from their 1978 Modern Dance album

References

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

http://www.ubuprojex.com/

13 November 1978 – Siouxsie and The Banshees release debut album

Siouxsie and The Banshees released their long-awaited debut album on Monday 13th November 1978. ‘The Scream’ consisted of 10 previously unreleased tracks but most already live favourites with a growing fan base.  It proved an instant chart success in the UK, peaking at No.12 and going on to be regarded as a watershed in the transformation from the ‘punk’ musical genre to what would soon be branded ‘post-punk’.  40 years after its release is still sounds as fresh and stark as the day it was released.

The Scream – Siouxsie and The Banshees – debut album – released 13th November 1978 on Polydor

The Banshees had played High Wycombe on three previous occasions. Their most recent had been a riotous affair at The Town Hall in April 1978.  Prior to that they had appeared twice at The Nag’s Head in early incarnations of their line-up.  In March 1977, they played what was their fourth ever gig (not third as widely documented) when they supported Johnny Thunders.  They returned as headliners in May 1977 – both appearances including Peter Fenton on guitar.

Both those early appearances at The Nag’s Head were sparsely attended and it was only when John McKay replaced Fenton on guitar later in 1977 that the now iconic Banshees sound would develop. Two John Peel sessions would follow and a ‘sign the Banshees’ campaign would culminate in a deal signed with Polydor in June 1978 for a rumoured advance of £400,000.

A debut single, ‘Hong Kong Garden’, followed in August 1978 and the tracks for the debut album were recorded the same month and produced by Steve Lilywhite. Commenting on the album, bassist Steve Severin has said: “None of the songs were about current affairs. That was deliberate, as I saw that as a downfall of a lot of the so-called ‘punk’ bands.”

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Metal Postcard/Jigsaw Feeling – Old Grey Whistle Test – 7 November 1978 – BBC TV

4 October 1978 – 999 – Town Hall

999 returned to High Wycombe on Wednesday 4th October 1978 to make their debut at the Town Hall.  The band had formed out of the London punk scene in late 1976 and had played an infamous gig at The Nag’s Head in September 1977 that was marred by violence and resulted in a ‘punk’ ban for the London Road venue.

A year later 999 were heading back to High Wycombe on the back of a well-publicised tour promoting their album ‘Separates’ album released on United Artists record label. Support at the Town Hall were Razar.

999 tour dates – September, October and November 1978.
Including High Wycombe Town Hall – 4th October 1978.
Cutting from New Musical Express

A preview and review of the gig appeared in the local High Wycombe papers. The review of the gig published in the Bucks Free Press Midweek said:

Great gig

New wave pop group 999 gave an exciting and energetic performance at the eighth date in a nation-wide tour at High Wycombe Town Hall on Wednesday night.

The group has just returned from a European tour with The Stranglers and at the moments its following is mainly limited to punk rockers.

The group hopes that this tour will launch it to greater things and if this gig is anything to go by, that should be a long way.

Numbers like ‘Nasty, Nasty’ got the audience up on the stage and all through the show, rockers dressed in anything from leopard skin body stockings to leather drain-pipe trousers, jumped up and down, incessantly, near the stage.

‘Feeling Alright With The Crew’, a single taken off 999’s new album ‘Separates’, sees singer Nick Cash’s voice, plus echo, used to great effect over hypnotic boogie backing. With ‘Subterfuge’ and ‘No Pity’, the group buried any attacks that it is nothing but a two-chord wonder.

There was no safety pins and no violence. 999 responded well and the audience lapped it up.

999 – review of gig at High Wycombe Town published in Bucks Free Press Midweek in October 1978

 

The success of the gig led to promoter Ron Watts bringing the band back to the Town Hall for another appearance in December 1978.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

 Feelin’ Alright With The Crew – 999 – audio

29 September 1978 – Motorhead – Town Hall

Heavy Metal legends in the making, Motorhead, turned up the decibels at High Wycombe Town Hall on Friday 29th September 1978.  The date was arranged to promote their new single ‘Louie Louie’, released as one-off for Bronze Records.  A John Peel session had also been recorded for BBC Radio 1 on 18th September 1978 and popularity for the band was very much on the rise at the time of their Town Hall appearance – much of this also credited to their cross-over with the punk scene.

Bucks Free Press advert for Motorhead and 999 gigs at High Wycombe Town Hall in September and October 1978

A quick look at their history reveals that lead singer and bassist Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, had formed Motorhead in the summer of 1975 following his departure from Hawkwind.  The name of the group had been taken from the final song he had written with Hawkwind.  By the time of the Town Hall gig, the Motorhead line-up and settled to a three piece with 32 year old ‘Lemmy’ on bass, Phil Taylor (24) on drums and ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke (27) on guitar.

Going back to Lemmy’s time with Hawkwind, the group played High Wycombe Town Hall at least three times during the earlier 1970’s, however, their latter of these appearances, on 14 August 1971, is the only date that would coincide with Lemmy’s arrival in their line-up.  A few months later he took lead vocals on the Hawkwind classic ‘Silver Machine’.

Several Hawkwind covers appeared in the early Motorhead set-lists, including the inspiration for the name of the group, ‘Motorhead’.   At the time of publication of this article, there was no confirmation of the set-list at the Town Hall but a recording of the gig at Wolverhampton on 23rd September 1978 exists with the following tracks:

  1. Motorhead (Hawkwind cover)
  2. I’ll Be Your Sister
  3. Leaving Here (Edward Holland, Jr. cover)
  4. Lost Johnny (Hawkwind cover)
  5. The Watcher (Hawkwind cover)
  6. Keep Us on the Road
  7. Louie Louie (Richard Berry cover)
  8. Tear Ya Down
  9. Iron Horse/Born to Lose
  10. White Line Fever
  11. Instro

By the time this article was published to mark the 40th anniversary of Motorhead’s appearance in High Wycombe, all three of the original band members had passed away.

Philthy Animal’ Taylor passed away on 11th November 2015 (aged 61)

‘Lemmy’ passed away on 28th December 2015 (aged 70)

Fast’ Eddie Clarke passed away on 10th January 1978 (aged 67)

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Louie Louie – Motorhead – BBC Top of the Pops – October 1978

Motorhead – Motorhead – official audio – 1978

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mot%C3%B6rhead