It’s a busy Thursday night at The Nag’s Head on 16th June 1977 as Billy Idol’s Generation X return for their third appearance at the High Wycombe venue since forming in London at the tail end of 1976. They had previously performed at The Nag’s in January 1977 and March 1977.
By the time of their June 1977 appearance they had replaced drummer John Towe with 18 year old Mark Laff. He had been recruited after the remaining members of the band had auditioned more than 20 other drummers. Laff (AKA Mark Laffoley) had previous drummed with Subway Sect and joined Generation X following the completion of a support slot on The Clash’s nationwide tour.
The new look line-up is the final piece in the Gen X jigsaw and record companies are now starting to take note. They will record a John Peel session on 12 July 1977 and sign a long-term deal with Chrysalis Records the following day.
The band would return for another appearance at The Nag’s Head in August 1977 before releasing their debut single, ‘Your Generation’ the following month.
Monday 6th June 1977 saw Swindon’s XTC return to The Nag’s Head for a second appearance within a month as record companies continued to ponder offering them a record deal. A contract was eventually agreed in August 1977 with Virgin Records and their debut release followed a month later.
Nag’s Head promoter Ron Watts had first seen the band at The Plough, in Shelbourne, Wiltshire (near to where his family had originated). Recalling XTC in his autobiography, Watts said: “XTC weren’t anything remarkable at the time, yet they had a certain quality about them and they plugged away getting bigger and more appreciative audiences until they suddenly changed style and became pop stars.”
It was on the verge of their ‘pop-star’ status that XTC returned to High Wycombe for a Watts’ promoted appearance at High Wycombe Town in May 1979.
This is the promo for their debut release, Science Friction.
Saturday 4th June 1977 saw some of the biggest queues ever seen at The Nag’s Head, as The Jam returned for their third performance of the year. In the month or so leading up to this appearance, the London band had released their debut single and album, appeared on Top of The Pops and had become one of the hottest live acts on the pub circuit.
However, they were rapidly outgrowing pubs. They could quite easily of sold out the venue two times over – and their appearance was as much as thank-you to promoter Ron Watts, as anything else. Ron had championed the band at The 100 Club, as well as The Nag’s Head – Watts was a happy man that evening.
Watts recalls The Nag’s Head appearance in his autobiography [100 Watts – A Life in Music] when he noted The Jam attracted more girls than any other band he had promoted:
“The amount of girls in school uniforms waiting in the queue was amazing.”
“The girls were all over Bruce Foxton, for some reason, which pi**ed Paul Weller off, who thought as singer, they should go for him.”
Watts was also taken aback by the band’s stage presence and cited them as his favourite live act following the initial outbreak of punk in 1976:
“For a three piece The Jam were a sensation. It was very brave of them to be doing the sort of soul covers they were playing, when everyone around them was singing about rioting and political events. They went down a storm.”
It was clear after this night that The Jam would move on the bigger things and bigger venues. For Watts, that meant looking at promoting gigs at The Town Hall on a regular basis.
This is The Jam performing their second single, ‘All Around The World’ on Top of The Pops in July 1977. They would play High Wycombe Town during the week it was released.
Nag’s Head promoter Ron Watts gave his own band, Brewers Droop, an outing at the London Road venue on Thursday 2nd June 1977. Support came from The Zoots. The Droop were no strangers to The Nag’s Head stage but this was a relatively rare performance due to Ron’s ever increasing promoting duties at both the Nag’s and London’s 100 Club.
The Thursday night slot was usually reserved for ‘rock’ but with The Jam set to the play two days later on the Saturday, this ‘Blues’ night was a throwback to the nights when Watts first promoted at the venue back in 1968.
This is Brewers Droop from their 1972 album, Opening Time – the cover of which (above) was taken outside The Antelope pub in High Wycombe Town Centre. At the time of this post, it was still open and going strong and easily recognisable from the album cover.
London punk group The Models made an early headlining performance at The Nag’s Head on Saturday 28th May 1977. The band had been formed in Harrow earlier in 1977 as The Beastly Cads but changed their name The Models after just two gigs. The line-up consisted of Cliff Fox (vocals and guitar), Marco Pirroni (guitar), Mick Allen (bass) and Terry Day (drums).
Pirroni had famously played with Siouxsie & The Banshees at their debut gig at The 100 Club in September 1976 but had not formed part of the new look Banshees that had played at The Nag’s Head in March 1977 and earlier in May 1977. Kris Jozajtis attended the latter gig and recalls The Models as support.
Post their Nag’s Head appearances, The Models recorded a John Peel session (July 1977) and released what would be their only single – the double A side ‘Freeze’/’Man of The Year’ – on the Step Forward label.
Their early gigs included the controversially titled ‘I Wanna Form My Own Nazi Party’ – it was apparently aimed at some of the early punks who thought it was ‘cool’ to wear swastika arms bands (this included Siouxsie!). However, it was taken the wrong way and was dropped from their set as the year went on.
Pirroni and Allen later formed ‘post-punk’ band Rema-Rema. Guitarist Pirroni would then join drummer Terry Day in a new look Adam & The Ants. The later would play High Wycombe a couple of times in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Allen would go on to form Wolfgang Press – later signed by 4AD and performing between 1983 and 1995.
Aylesbury ‘rockers’ Ardazell played The Nag’s Head on Thursday 26th May 1977, as promoter Ron Watts gave the punters a break from the ongoing ‘punk’ scene.
At the time of this post (40 years after their Nag’s Head appearance), there appeared to be little historical record of the band. However, the photo below, taken from a September 1976 edition of the Bucks Herald, shows lead guitarist Clive Wagerfield sporting his homemade solid aluminium guitar – very 1970’s! Although it was the still the 1970’s!
According to the flyer for that appearance, their line-up was: David Bowden (lead vocals), Clive Wagerfield (lead guitar), Phil Cutler (drums), Ricky Claire (second guitar), Steve Davis (bass and vocals).
Majority of set was self-written by Wagerfield (music) and Bowden (lyrics). Most popular songs from their 1976/77 era were ‘Shinin down’, One More Broken Heart’, ‘Ardazell’, ‘Gambler’, ‘Hurricane Children’, ‘Let Me Love You’, ‘Secrets’, ‘Mr Please’ and ‘9.15 To Nowhere’. Their set also included from time to time, Larry Williams ‘Bony Moronie’.
Whatever happened to this group and their band members?
Ron Watts gave Swindon’s XTC a Nag’s Head debut on Monday 16th May 1977. The four piece consisted at the time of Andy Partridge (guitar and vocals), Colin Moulding (bass and vocals), Barry Andrews (keyboards and piano) and Terry Chambers (drums).
Their live performances in the early gigging days were noted for the antics of keyboard maestro Andrews. He used a combination of piano and ‘open-top/stage tilted’ keyboards to mesmerise the audience. In the days when punk was becoming the fashion, they were not necessarily the hippest people in town but they knew how to write a pop song.
But the rising punk scene had given XTC a foot into the door of the music industry and at the time of this Nag’s Head appearance several record companies were chasing their signature. They had already recorded demo’s for CBS but they got cold feet – maybe after a number of abortive London gigs in early 1977? At a gig at London’s Rochester Castle on 14th April 1977, Andrew’s keyboards malfunctioned and they had to play as a trio, presumably with record company ‘suits’ looking on. “We had to play all the dumb stuff”, said Andy Partridge in a Sounds review of the gig.
The Nag’s Head appearance went a little smoother and they impressed Ron Watts enough for a repeat booking just a few weeks later. They would eventually sign for Virgin records in August 1977 – releasing their first single in October with the rapid fire, ‘Science Friction’.
XTC would re-pay Watts’ faith in the band a couple of years later with a headline performance at High Wycombe Town Hall – just at the point they were about to break into the UK single charts.
Here’s a sample of one of their early live shows- recorded in Swindon (around September 1977) – the not quite so poppy ‘Cross Wires’, complete with Barry Andrews going a bit crazy on keyboards.
Gene October’s London punk outfit Chelsea were billed to appear at The Nag’s Head on Friday 13th May 1977 with fellow Londoners Stukas as support.
There may be a debate whether this gig actually took place as some listings have Chelsea down as playing a London date at The Winning Post on the same evening. If you can confirm either way, that would be great.
Gene October (real name John O’Hara) had formed Chelsea in October 1976 along with Billy Idol and Tony James. Idol and James went on to form Generation X in late 1976 but October stuck with a new look Chelsea that included Carey Fortune (drums) and eventually Henry Badowski (bass) and James Stevenson (guitar).
Later in 1977, this line-up would record the anthemic ‘Right to Work’ single, released on Step Forward records.
Meanwhile, The Stukas had performed their first gig around around Christmas 1976 at The Imperial Hotel, off Russell Square in London. They consisted of Paul Brown (vocals), Raggy Lewis (guitar and vocals), Mick Smithers (lead guitar), Kevin Allen (bass) and John Mackie (drums).
Pre-Stukas, band members had been in a group called The Teenage Rebels. Guitarist Raggy Lewis claimed in a Sounds interview published in June 1977: “The Teenage Rebels were before their time. We were getting banned from venues long before the Sex Pistols came along.” Kevin Allen added: “That’s because we were bloody awful.”
The Stukas set-list at the time included: ‘Klean Living Kids’, ‘Position Number One’ and ‘Maxine’
Despite supporting the likes of Chelsea, Wayne County and Johnny Thunders, they were a band who tried to distance themselves from the rising ‘punk’ and ‘new wave’ scene.
Lewis explained in the Sounds interview:
“The punks seem to like us. Down at The 100 Club we even had a Ted pogoing! But I reckon we’re really aimed at the football crowds.”
Allen chipped in:
“We’re called the Stukas ‘cos if people don’t like us we come and drop bombs on their house.”
This is The Stukas first single, ‘Klean Living Kids’, released on Chiswick later in 1977.
This is a practice session for Chelsea’s first single,’Right to Work’, also released later in 1977, plus an interview. Chelsea would go on to release several more singles in the 1970’s and early 1980’s and continue gigging into the 2000’s and were still active at the time this article was first published.
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 realize 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.
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?
Pub Rockers’, Bees Make Honey returned to The Nag’s Head for another headline performance on Saturday 7th May 1977. The London based band had previously played on 24th March 1977. Their prompt return suggests that promoter Ron Watts was suitably impressed with their crowd pulling power to warrant a rare Saturday night gig at the London Road venue.
The following week would see The Jam, Chelsea and XTC take to the boards at The Nag’s Head as an explosion of gigs was set to run throughout the summer of 1977.