The Tom Robinson Band made a return to The Nag’s Head on Sunday 9th October 1977 for a low key warm-up date to promote their debut single – 2-4-6-8 Motorway. The band had signed for EMI just a few weeks previous and their previous appearance at The Nag’s Head on 25th August 1977 had gone down a storm with the locals – and with a near sold out venue, promoter Ron Watts was a very happy man too!
The 2-4-6-8 single had been released the Friday before their second appearance at The Nag’s Head and it was another busy night.
Peter Cottridge, writing in the December 1977 issue of the High Wycombe fanzine, Bucks Shee Press, said of the Tom Robinson Band: “When the band played at The Nag’s Head recently it was something special. The atmosphere was almost tangible, the audience becoming spontaneously involved in a way rarely seen at most rock and roll outings.”
He added: “Tom’s songs are securely rooted in the reality of 1977 and are social comment with a definite political stance.”
The set list for the gig at The Nag’s Head included the following:
Long Hot Summer
Don’t Take No For An Answer
Winter of ‘79
Better Decide Which Side You’re On
I’m All Right Jack
Right on Sister
Glad to Be Gay
Power in The Darkness
Up Against The Wall
Encores are most likely to have been popular covers, Bob Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released’ and Lou Reed’s ‘Waiting For My Man’ – plus another play of the new single, 2-4-6-8 Motorway.
The performance was extremely well received by the Nag’s Head gig-goers and Tom promised the crowd he would see them again soon. It was a promise he would keep – returning to the much larger Town Hall venue at the tail end of the tour – by which time the band had celebrated a top five hit and appeared on Top of the Pops.
This is a live performance of 2-4-6-8 Motorway recorded at a similar time to the Nag’s Head.
‘Punk rock’ at The Nag’s Head came to a violent and controversial end on Thursday 1st September 1977 after trouble broke out at 999 gig, with local punks Xtraverts as support. In what was becoming a more regular occurrence, local punks were targeted by alternative cultures of the period (affectionately known at the time as ‘long haired boring old farts’, or words to that affect).
999 were a band formed in what some regard as the second phase of the punk explosion. The idea of what was to become 999 originally came from London based musicians Nick Cash (vocals and guitar) and Guy Days. Cash was a former member of Kilburn and the High Roads, with Days a session guitarist on some of the High Roads’ demo tapes.
Via a late 1976 Melody Maker ad around October 1976, the duo recruited Jon Watson (bass) and two months later, Pablo LaBritain (drums). Their first gig is recognised to be at Northampton Cricket Club in January 1977 but the 999 name was not used until mid-way through 1977 when the now classic raffle ticket logo was devised. Previous incarnations of the band had been The Dials, Fanatics and 48 Hours.
They released a partly self-financed debut single – “I’m Alive”/”Quite Disappointing” in July 1977 and having established themselves on the London punk circuit, were signed to United Artists around the time of their Nag’s Head appearance. Their debut release on UA – “Nasty Nasty”/ “No Pity” followed in October 1977.
Meanwhile, support band, Xtraverts, were now firmly established on the local ‘punk’ scene having played their first gigs earlier in 1977 – including a ‘Wycombe Punk Night’ down The Nag’s Head in July 1977. By the time of their September 1977 appearance, 20 year old lead singer Nigel Martin had recruited Tim Brick on drums and a 26 year old Mark Reilly (*) on guitar. Meanwhile, Ian Stavan (formerly of Cardiac Condition) was set to replace Carlton Mounsher on bass – the latter joining the newly formed Party with Kris Jozajtis.
* It is obligatory to mention at this point that Mark Reilly later went on to form early 1980’s pop band Matt Bianco – Matt Bianco being the name of the band, rather than a name change.
Much of The Xtraverts self-penned set at the time was written by Brick and Reilly – including ‘Read it in the Papers’ and ‘Interview’ (a song about the infamous Bill Grundy/Sex Pistols debacle and formerly called ‘Hey, Bill Grundy). However, Martin had written the lyrics for ‘Blank Generation’ and ‘A Lad Insane’ – these two songs would be recorded in December 1977 and released in January 1978 on the Spike record label – the record being produced with the help of local musician ‘Spike’ Jones.
Nigel Martin commented on the targeting of punks in the December 1977 issue of local fanzine Bucks Shee Press “Everyone picks on punks. We’re just a target for everyone. “
The violence and subsequent action by the Nag’s Head landlord, also prompted at least one disgruntled punter to write a letter to the Sounds magazine:
‘Katie Komplex’ from Gerrards Cross made it quite clear why the trouble had started:
“This was due to some ignorant individuals who looked at the gig as a good excuse to beat up punks, and naturally we got the blame for the trouble.”
“Anyone who has been to the ‘Nags Head’, will know that it is a good little club, with a good atmosphere, which has had some brilliant new wave bands over the past year.”
And finally, back to the music you may have heard during the eventful night at The Nag’s Head in September 1977.
999 – I’m Alive audio via YouTube below
Xtraverts – Blank Generation audio via YouTube below
The Tom Robinson Band made their debut appearance in High Wycombe on Thursday 25th August 1997 with a Ron Watts promoted evening at The Nag’s Head.
The set consisted of mainly politically edged songs touching on the subjects of gay liberation, racism and political issues surrounding the country at the time. The repertoire also included the pure rock/pop of ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’ – a song that attracted the attention of record companies.
Lead singer and bassist Tom Robinson had originally been inspired by the early pirate radio shows of John Peel. He moved to London in 1973, aged 23, and joined acoustic band Café Society. But it was in 1976 that Robinson got another wake up call. He stumbled across an early Sex Pistols gig at The 100 Club in London and although he openly confesses to not liking the music, it was something about the anger, attitude and spirit of the Pistols that caused Robinson to have a complete rethink of his own musical aspirations.
After a few solo gigs in late 1976, Robinson drafted in guitarist Danny Kustow, drummer ‘Dolphin’ Taylor and organist Mark Ambler to form the Tom Robinson Band. Robinson would take on bass and vocals and they performed their first gigs in late 1976 at the usual London pub outlets.
Some might say that TRB were a watered down version of the early punk bands but the message they were putting across was as hard as anything the Clash or the Pistols could come up with. For many, it also seemed a perfect fit for the more laid back suburbia of High Wycombe.
2-4-6-8 Motorway may have been an ear catcher of the record companies but followers of their live gigs would soon realise they were not a one trick pony, with a series of classic songs, that despite not yet being committed to vinyl, were now sing along or fisting pumping standards – from ‘Glad to Be Gay’, to singing about Grey Cortina’s – from preaching ‘Don’t Take No for an Answer’ or predicting the future with the haunting ‘Winter of ’79’.
This is the band appearing on Janet Street Porter’s London Weekend Show in mid 1977 – shortly before they signed for EMI. They would return to The Nag’s Head in October 1977 before a near sell-out appearance at The Town Hall later in 1977.
A fourth appearance in 1977 at The Nag’s Head by the rapidly rising Generation X saw another packed house at the London Road venue. Promoter Ron Watts also gave locally connected Pink Parts a return slot in front of a now ‘punk’ hungry crowd.
Generation X had signed for Chrysalis Records in July 1977 and would release their debut single, ‘Your Generation’ just under a month after their August 1977 appearance at The Nag’s Head.
The set list that evening would have been chosen from the following songs:
From The Heart
Ready Steady Go
Day by Day
Trying for Kicks
Youth Youth Youth
The day after The Nag’s Head gig, Generation X would play London’s Marquee Club in Wardour Street. ‘Your Generation’ was filmed for a video for the single.
It was another busy night at The Nag’s Head on Thursday 4th August 1977 with the visit of Scotland’s comic strip punk outfit, The Rezillos. The appearance of The Jam at The Town Hall a few weeks before had stirred more interest in the ‘new wave’ scene and this was the first chance for many to venture down the London Road and up the stairs into the Nag’s Head loft. They would not have been disappointed.
The Rezillos formed in Edinburgh in late 1976 but waited until well into 1977 before venturing south. Their ‘London Tour’ of July and August that year took in Bridge House, Canning Town (24th July), The Vortex (25th), Greyhound, Fulham (26th), Man in The Moon, Chelsea (27th), Roxy, Covent Garden (28th), Nashville,Kennington (29th), Dingwalls, Camden (30th), Double Six, Basildon (31st), Rock Garden, Covent Garden (1st August), Golden Lion, Fulham (2nd), Music Machine, Camden (3rd), Nag’s Head, High Wycombe (4th) and Rochester Castle, Stoke Newington (5th).
The Nag’s Head inclusion in that list of iconic pub and club venues is further proof that its reputation was on the up – and mainly thanks to promoter Ron Watts and his small band of helpers.
The Rezillos’ line-up at the time included Faye Fife and Eugene Reynolds (vocals), Jo ‘Luke Warm’ Callis and Mark ‘Hi-Fi’ Harris (electric guitars), Dr. D.K.Smythe (bass) and Angel Paterson (drums).
Watts, commenting on the Rezillos in his 2006 autobiography – 100 Watts – a life in music, said:
“Their singer, Fay Fife, had an interesting habit. She’d sort the business side of the gig out while getting undressed, so we’d be talking money while she was in an extremely lewd state of undress. Whether she thought it’d take my mind off business or not, I don’t know, but she had a good band and although they never sold many records – in fact, they spilt up during their first major tour – the Rezillos’ music has stood the test of time more than most of their contemporaries. It still sounds fresh today.”
It’s well documented that The Rezillos were not the usual template ‘punk’ band of the time. Rather than sing about politics and other social issues, their influences came more from 1960’s Garage Rock and the Glam Rock scene of the early 1970’s.
Their first single, ‘Can’t Stand My Baby’, backed by Lennon/McCartney’s ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ was recorded in June 1977 and released on Sensible records around the same week as their Nag’s Head appearance.
The success of the single led them to being signed by Sire Records – where the joined the likes of US punk icons, The Ramones and Talking Heads. The follow up single, ‘(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures, with ‘B’ side, ‘Flying Saucer Attack’ became their debut release on Sire in October 1977.
All those songs would have been in the set-list at the Nag’s Head gig in August 1977. Other songs in their repertoire at the time included Fleetwood Mac cover ‘Someone’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked in Tonite’, Dave Clark Five cover, ‘Glad All Over’, plus classic originals, ‘Flying Saucer Attack’ and ‘Top of the Pops’ – the latter would be released as a single in July 1978 and despite poking fun at the BBC show of the same name, the single’s success saw them brighten up the TV screens.
“Does it matter what is shown
Just as long as everyone knows
What is selling what to buy
The stock market for your hi-fi”
Top of the Pops – lyric extract
Can’t Stand My Baby – audio of first single – released August 1977
And the ‘B’ side, ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ –
Did you see The Rezillos at The Nag’s Head in August 1977? Maybe it was your first time there?
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.
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
Welcome To The Working Week
Pay It Back
Watching The Detectives
Blame It On Cain
(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea
Waiting For The End Of The World
Less Than Zero
I’m Not Angry
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 probably the best known Elvis Costello song from 1977 – Watching The Detectives from the same performance in Liverpool.
London based band The Boys returned to The Nag’s Head on Thursday 21st July 1977 for what is believed to be their first headline performance at the famous High Wycombe venue. The origins of the band date back to late 1975 and they emerged out of the London punk scene a year later – signing a record deal with Liverpool based NEMS records in January 1977.
The line-up consisted of Matt Dangerfield (guitar/vocals), ‘Honest’ John Plain (guitar/vocals), Casino Steel (keyboards/vocals), ‘Kid’ Reid (bass/vocals) and Jack Black (drums).
An earlier appearance at The Nag’s Head in February 1977 had seen them support The Jam. The rise of the latter had been dramatic and two days after The Boys’ July 1977 appearance at The Nag’s Head, The Jam would take to the stage at High Wycombe Town Hall for the highest profile gig in the Town for many years.
Meanwhile, The Boys were still awaiting the release of their debut album – recorded in May 1977 and eventually released in September 1977 as the self titled The Boys. Two singles were also released in 1977 – ‘I Don’t Care’ and then ‘First Time’.
Local duo, John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett returned to The Nag’s Head on Thursday 14th July 1977.
The Aylesbury boys had played the London Road venue in April 1977 and their increasing popularity amongst old and new music fans made them a decent crowd puller – and subsequently a favourite with promoter Ron Watts.
Trying to remember where you were on the evening of this gig? Top of the Pops on 14th July 1977 played the video for Pretty Vacant and punk was well and truly entering the main stream of popular culture.
A three band line-up played The Nag’s Head on Friday 8th July 1977 in what is believed to be first publicised all-local ‘punk’ event in High Wycombe.
The Pink Parts appear to be a band with both High Wycombe and London connections and origins out of the Art School scene. Known band members include Martin Stone (guitar), Stone’s girlfriend Ruth (bass) and Paul Ferguson (drums). 29 year old Stone lived locally in Fingest and was a good friend of promoter Ron Watts. He originally played with Savoy Brown and in the early 1970’s played with The Pink Fairies. The latter had performed at High Wycombe Town Hall, including a support slot to The Pretty Things in Many 1971. In the mid 1970’s Stone teamed up with Watts to form the shortlived Jive Bombers. Stone also played briefly with Joe Stummer in the 101ers – a band that had played The Nag’s Head in March 1976.
Also connected with the Pink Parts was Stephen Jones. He is seen dressed in PVC on the left of the picture below (posted by Stephen on his Twitter account).
Promoter Ron Watts described Jones as his ‘left-hand man’ in his autobiography, saying “He kept the local bands from the Wycombe area in order and drove them to gigs that they couldn’t get to otherwise.”
Jones went on to become a leading hat designer for the likes of Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Mick Jagger.
Watts also recalls The Pink Parts but doesn’t associate Jones with the band, although he does recall bassist Ruth being the ex-girlfriend of guitarist Martin Jones, with a later line-up possibly being all-female. Watts recalled in his autobiography: “Pink Parts weren’t particularly good, but the main attraction wasn’t the music. They were new waveish and did alright for a while before the novelty wore off. The world wasn’t ready for a Thames Valley version of The Runaways.”
The Xtraverts were a band with less pedigree but with their roots firmly in High Wycombe and the escalating punk scene in the town. Lead singer Nigel Martin, just turned 20 at the time of the July 1977 gig, had sowed the seeds for forming a band when he jumped on stage towards the end of a Deathwish gig at Desborough Hall on 4th December 1976. A few weeks later in The Coach and Horses pub in High Wycombe High Street, Martin was approached by fellow local punk and guitarist Mark Reilly and drummer Tim Brick, with an idea to form a band of their own. Between them they came up with the name Xtraverts and eventually drafted in Deathwish guitarist Kris Jozajtis on bass for their initial chaotic live outings. By the time of the July 1977 ‘Wycombe Night’ at The Nag’s Head, Jozajtis had stepped down as bassist – fellow Deathwisher Carlton Mounsher being drafted in following Deathwish’s last live outing (a support slot to Generation X in March 1977).
The Pretty had been formed by Kris Jozajtis following the demise of Deathwish. They initially included Adrian ‘Belya’ Campbell on vocals, with the ‘in demand’ Mounsher on bass and Mark White on drums. Mounsher left briefly to be replaced by former Reerumho and Roohas bassist Mike Edwards but he was later described as ‘never really fitting in’ and by the time of ‘Wycombe Night’, it was Mounsher back on the four strings. The success of the gig can perhaps be gauged by the fact that it was The Pretty’s first and only live appearance. The bulk of the band – minus singer Edwards -would go on to form The Party for gigs later in 1977.
Meanwhile, The Pink Parts would return to The Nag’ Head as support for Generation X in August 1977 and would also perform at The Roxy, London the same month. A performance at Wycombe’s Newlands Club in November 1977 appears to coincide with their demise. Martin Stone died in November 2016 – aged 69.
The Xtraverts quickly became High Wycombe’s leading ‘punk’ band, although a support slot to 999 at The Nag’s Head in September 1977 ended in violence and led to a ban of ‘punk’ gigs at the London Road venue. They would release a debut single, Blank Generation/A Lad Insane in early 1978. At the time of this post, they had just released their 4th single.
Punks in the process of turning skinheads, Skrewdriver, blasted out a set at The Nag’s Head on Thursday 7th July 1977. A then 19 year old Ian Stuart Donaldson formed the band in 1976 and they rode the crest of the punk revolution in early 1977 before cutting their hair to join the rebirth of skinhead fashion that was coming to light in the second-half of the year.
The line-up at the time of their Nag’s Head appearance was most likely:
Donaldson (vocals and guitar), Phil Warmsley (guitar), Kevin McKay (bass) and John Grinton (drums). Ron Hartely (guitar) would replace Warmsley later in 1977.
They would release studio album ‘All Skrewed Up’ later in 1977 on the Chiswick label before disbanding in 1979. Hartley appears on the album cover but it was Warmsley playing on the recordings.
Promoter Ron Watts’ memories of the band were perhaps tarnished by the highly controversial views of a reformed Skrewdriver in the mid 1980’s. Their debut release contains none of the highly controversial views of their later releases.
Recalling Skrewdriver’s Nag’s Head appearance, Watts said in his autobiography:
“Punk wasn’t all about excitement and interesting music. Skrewdriver came to play the Nag’s in July 1977. They hailed from Blackpool and were a rock band who’d got into punk because that was the future, or the way to earn a fast back. “They played an instantly forgettable set in front of an audience who had learned to sort the punks from the poseurs and a I didn’t bother asking them if they fancied a repeat engagement.”
Fair to say that numbers at the gig didn’t come on the expectations and Watts went on:
“That was the last I heard of Skrewdriver until a few years later when, riding another bandwagon, they re-emerged as a neo-Nazi skinhead band. Luckily they were the only band of that ilk who I booked and an enjoyable gig a week later by those rapidly-emerging legends of Thames Valley, John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett, put me in a better mood.”
Here are a couple of pictures of the Skrewdriver taken during their 1977 fashion transition.
Lead singer Donaldson was asked about the reasons behind their change of image during an early 1980’s interview.
“Basically because we got fed up with punk turning a bit leftwing, whereas before everyone came along and had a laugh and danced about, but then it got to the stage where it became high fashion, and people would just stand there seeing who had the most drawing pins through their nose. When it got to that stage it got really silly. We had all been skinheads in the past so we all just reverted, and a lot of our mates coming to the gigs were skinheads.”
Donaldson died in 1993 aged 36 as result of a car crash.
You can listen to the complete first album audio via YouTube.
Note: The final track at 24:10 is a cover of The Who’s, Won’t Get Fooled Again.