20 February 1980 – Joy Division/Killing Joke – Town Hall, High Wycombe

Manchester’s Joy Division made a late night appearance in High Wycombe on Wednesday 20th February 1980, just three months before the tragic suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis.

Support came from a rapidly rising Killing Joke plus A Certain Ratio and Section 25.  High Wycombe’s The Jones Boys were also due to play but a combination of an overloaded billing and a delay in the gig getting underway, forced heated debates and a reluctant decision to step aside – much to the disappointment of many of the local crowd.

Joy Division plus Killing Joke
Ticket for gig at High Wycombe Town Hall
20th February 1980

This is another gig where history revisionists could have a field day re-living the moment when a now iconic band, such as Joy Division, visited High Wycombe.  However, re-winding back to February 1980, Joy Division were far from the symbolic post-punk band they were to become following the death of Curtis in May 1980.

Joy Division had released their debut album Unknown Pleasures in June 1979.  Although critically acclaimed in the music press, the album did not chart.  A support slot on a Buzzcocks tour later in 1979 was also thwart with technical problems, leaving the band as very much an underground outfit, albeit with an ever growing cult and loyal following.

The date at High Wycombe in February 1980 was part of their first UK outings where they headlined major venues – the High Wycombe appearance coming just under two weeks since a date at the University of London and just over a week prior to a prestigious headline slot at The Lyceum in London.  All three of the dates included Killing Joke, ACR and S25 as support.  However, the High Wycombe slot, promoted by Fresh Music, rather than local promoter Ron Watts, appears to have been slipped into the tour itinerary at a fairly late stage, therefore missing from many of the music paper listings and relying on local advertising and word of mouth.

Enhanced advert for gig at High Wycombe Town Hall
20th February 1980
Unknown origin – possibly a flyer distributed in London

Due on first were The Jones Boys.  They had built up a healthy local support since changing their name from After Science towards the end of 1979.  Consisting of three brothers from the Jones family (Roy, Martin and Paul) plus bassist Majid Ahmed, they had drawn decent crowds to The Nag’s Head and SU Bar in the weeks leading up to what would have been their first appearance on the biggest stage in High Wycombe.  They included a new track, ‘Machines in Motion’, in their soundcheck that evening.  The track would eventually be released, towards the end of 1980, as a debut record for the group following another name change – this time to Red Beat.

20-year-old lead singer Roy Jones had been in the same class at High Wycombe’s Royal Grammar School as Killing Joke drummer Paul Ferguson.  Exactly four years previous, ‘Big Paul’ Ferguson had seen Sex Pistols play at High Wycombe College at the time when he was in ‘regular’ rock band Beowulf.

After Science / The Jones Boys
Picture taken circa November 1979 in High Wycombe – photo Jim Rendell

Killing Joke had hit the post-punk scene late in 1979 with their Malicious Damage released EP, including tracks ‘Turn to Red’ and ‘Nervous System’, plus further credibility via a John Peel session first broadcast in October 1979.

It is no exaggeration to say that the attraction of seeing Killing Joke and/or The Jones Boy was as strong for many of the locals in the audience that night, as seeing Joy Division.

To put this more into perspective, as I write this on the 40th anniversary of the gig, Joy Division’s best known song, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, had yet to be released.  The first radio play had come on a John Peel session broadcast in December 1979 (just two months before the Wycombe gig).

So back to the evening at High Wycombe.  The Jones Boys finished their soundcheck but according to singer Roy Jones in an email sent to me in June 2019, the band didn’t want to be the first on stage that evening.  “We had a big following in Wycombe and if we’d have gone on first at 7:30 no one would have seen us.”  He added: “We asked Killing Joke if we could go on before them and they agreed.”  Hence, this begins to unravel my confused memories of The Jones Boys about to take stage after A Certain Ratio had completed their set.  Roy explains: “So we started to set up after A Certain Ratio had finished, only their drummer wasn’t happy about us coming on after them and he threatened to wack my brother Martin, our guitarist, over the head with a cymbal stand. I had to make a snap decision and decided it wasn’t worth risking Martin getting hurt so we backed down!”

It was not a popular decision with a local crowd, who had already given a luke-warm reception to both Section 25 and A Certain Ration.  However, Killing Joke didn’t disappoint, bursting on stage with a fire eater and opening with ‘Pssyche’ – lip synched in the main by lead singer Jaz Coleman, while the vocals were song by Paul Ferguson on drums.

Ending with their set with storming versions of ‘Wardance’ and ‘Are You Receiving?’, they were called back for an encore – performing a cover of Sex Pistols ‘Bodies’ sung by KJ roadie Alex Paterson.  The internet tells me the then 20-year old would later co-found The Orb with Jimmy Caulty.

At the conclusion of the KJ set, with the time approaching 11pm, a fair amount of the crowd departed, leaving Joy Division to play their abbreviated 35 minute set to a dwindling audience.  For those unfortunate to have left early or just simply missed the gig, we are extremely lucky to have fantastic audience recordings of all the sets that evening made by Duncan Haysom.  The Joy Division recording was remastered in 2007 for an expanded version of the ‘Still’ album and also includes the full soundcheck.

Still – Joy Division album expanded edition released 2007 with High Wycombe set

All the sets recorded are absolutely worth a listen – especially if you able to use headphones.  They have definitely captured the atmosphere of the evening and many other gigs of the time at High Wycombe Town Hall.  If you are a Joy Division fan then you were realise their set is simply breath taking and has a haunting sound quality that displays a band finding their true sound – a sound that has influenced so many bands and artists since.

The gig has also been recalled by another member of the Killing Joke road crew, Adams Morris.  In an interview for Louder Than War in June 2019, he said: “I have to tell you, when I put that High Wycombe CD on and the soundcheck recordings played, almost twenty years after the show, I had the most vivid flashback. I was there in the hall again, I could almost smell the stale beer from the previous evening’s entertainment.”

Morris also remembers the High Wycombe gig as the only time he engaged with Ian Curtis, explaing. “[Ian Curtis] was carrying a six-pack of lager. Lager was what the promoter had put on the rider. He looked at me and asked, very politely, “can I swap this for some stout?” I shook my head, “nah mate, you are down south now, they don’t do stout”. I probably added something like “the soppy southern jessies” as I was prone to do back then. Ian looked sad, grunted and disappeared again “

Ian Curtis, Joy Division – High Wycombe, Town Hall
20th February 1980
Photographer unknown

Finally, returning to the history of  ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, regular Joy Division guitarist Bernard Sumner would play keyboards during live renditions of the track, while Curtis would strum a ‘D’ chord on his white Vox Phantom guitar.  A couple of pictures from the High Wycombe gig surfaced on social media in 2017 showing Curtis with his distinctive guitar and presumably singing LWTUA (the 6th song they played that evening, during a 35 minute set). The track was eventually released as a single in June 1980, just a few weeks after Curtis had taken his own life at his Macclesfield home on 18th May 1980.

Set Lists at High Wycombe – 20th February 1980

Section 25

  • After Image
  • Knew Noise
  • Regions
  • Mirror
  • My Mother Ate My Soul
  • Girls Don’t Count

A Certain Ratio

  • Do the Du
  • And Then Again
  • Oceans
  • Choir
  • Crippled Child
  • The Fox
  • Suspect
  • All Night Party
  • Flight
  • Genotype/Phenotype

Killing Joke

  • Pssyche
  • Tomorrow’s World
  • Nervous System
  • Turn To Red
  • Nuclear Boy
  • Change
  • Complications
  • Wardance
  • Are You Receiving?
  • Bodies (Sex Pistols Cover)

Joy Division

Soundcheck

  • Isolation
  • The Eternal
  • Ice Age
  • Disorder
  • The Sound Of Music
  • A Means To An End

Main set

  • The Sound Of Music
  • A Means To An End
  • Colony
  • Twenty Four Hours
  • Isolation
  • Love Will Tear Us Apart
  • Disorder
  • Atrocity Exhibition

For your listening pleasure

Section 25 – After Image – audio via YouTube from High Wycombe gig

A Certain Ratio – Do the Du – audio via YouTube from High Wycombe gig

Killing Joke – Pssyche – audio via YouTube from High Wycombe gig

Ian Curtis, Joy Division – High Wycombe, Town Hall
20th February 1980
Photographer unknown

Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart – audio via YouTube from High Wycombe gig

Joy Division – Atrocity Exhibition – audio via YouTube from High Wycombe gig

References and further reading

https://www.joydiv.org/index.htm

https://www.killingjoke.co.uk/

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

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

https://louderthanwar.com/1980-joy-division-supported-killing-joke-3-iconic-gigs-eye-witness-account/

https://dredzilla.com/ – includes Red Beat history by Roy Jones

I would love to hear from anybody who has any more memories or photos to add.  Remember you can also follow me on Twitter via the buttons below

19 December 1979 – The Slits – Town Hall

A gig on Wednesday 19th December 1979 at High Wycombe Town Hall involving a diverse mixture of bands brought a reaction from a significant number of the audience whose ‘punk’ spirit did not extend to welcoming anything beyond the stereotypical image that ‘punk’ had become by the close of the 1970’s.

The main attraction of the night were The Slits, a female dominant band that had sprung out of the 1976 ‘punk’ scene but who had evolved from their early chaotic gigs to a relatively more slicker hybrid of reggae and garage punk delivered in an unique style by their charismatic band members.

The gig had been put together by local promoter Ron Watts but also with the help of local DJ Adrian Sherwood.  The latter’s influence added reggae bands Creation Rebel and Moa Ambassa to the bill, while local ‘punk’ band The Xtraverts also appeared on the bill – perhaps in an attempt to draw in more local punters to the Wednesday night gig?

Poster for The Slits gig at High Wycombe Town Hall on 19th December 1979

The early days of The Xtraverts are well documented elsewhere on wycombegigs.co.uk – playing their first gigs in early 1977, splitting up in 1978 and then reforming in 1979 on the back of what some describe as the ‘second wave of punk’.  Their followers had disrupted a Lurkers gig at The Town Hall in June 1979 and their sometimes tribal following were in evidence at The Slits gig too.

The Slits had been formed in London in 1976 during the initial outbreak of what would be wider described as ‘punk’ in the following years.  Their early line-up consisted of Ari Up, real name Ariane Forster, (vocals), Viv Albertine (guitar), Tessa Pollitt (bass) and Palmolive, real name Paloma Romero, (drums)During their initial years they toured with several of the iconic ‘punk’ bands, including The Clash and Buzzcocks.

In the summer of 1979 they recorded their debut album ‘Cut’, by which time drummer Palmolive had left the band and been replaced with ‘Budgie’, real name Peter Clarke.  However, ‘Budgie’s time with the band would be sort-lived after being called in an emergency drummer for Siouxsie and The Banshees in September 1979 due to the sudden departure of Kenny Morris.

The timing of the High Wycombe gigs comes after ‘Budgie’ had helped out the Banshees so it’s my understanding that Bruce Smith (of The Pop Group) drummed for The Slits at The Town Hall.  Smith, in his early 20’s at the time of the gig, would join Ari (aged 17), Viv (aged 25) and Tessa (aged 20) to face the crowd at High Wycombe.

I became a fan of The Slits via their John Peel sessions recorded in 1977 and 1978 but for whatever reason I was unable to make it to the gig in December 1979.  Looking at the dates, I believe I must have opted for seeing XTC at Aylesbury Friars the following Saturday (22nd December 1979). However, I did get to see The Slits when they visited Aylesbury in April 1980 (with Creation Rebel and The Nightingales support).  By most accounts, I opted for the more pleasant evening.

I’m grateful to a gig review, published in early 1980 in local Wycombe fanzine ‘Issue’, for a first-hand reaction to the December 1979 gig in High Wycombe.  The review was written by Gary Quelch, a member at the time of local ‘punk’ band Plastic People.  I’ve reproduced the entire review below rather than pick out any ‘soundbites’ that may appear out of context.

Gig review from Issue fanzine published early 1980

Promoter Ron Watts doesn’t recall the gig with fond memories either, although for different reasons.  In his 100 Watts autobiography, he said:

“The Slits were without doubt the weakest band I ever put on at the Town Hall.  They drew a good crowd but the music was so bad.  Singer Ari Up said as she walked on stage ‘Do you like reggae? Well you won’t like us then’. I didn’t.”

The gig has also sat in the memories of other people who attended.  In an interview with Martin James in April 2018 for an academic piece, Adrian Sherwood (later famous for the creation of On-U Sound records) recalls the evening by commenting:

“I really disliked the Xtraverts crowd at that time. We put on the Slits with Creation Rebel and Moa Ambassa at the Town Hall in 1979. I don’t know, but maybe we were worried about tickets sales, so we decided to book the Xtraverts too. We thought they’d bring in a few more people, but the kind of people they brought were just so different from the punks we’d become used to at the blues parties.  These were more like Sham 69 yobs and a bunch of racist skins.  They chanted and sieg heiled all through the Slits. I just didn’t recognise that version of punk”

Sadly that was very much the pattern of many gigs in High Wycombe at the time.  Gigs would be attended by a few idiots that hated anything that didn’t sound like 2nd rate version of Sex Pistols songs and who would pick on anybody who didn’t dress in the expected ‘uniform’ that punk had become.  Ironically, this was just the sort of treatment that the original punks had experienced two years previous.  Cynics may suggest they were just the same old ‘Hippies’ and ‘Teds’ with their hair cut and died pink or green.

For the record, I discovered the actual set-list for The Slits gig at High Wycombe via social media and include this below:

  • Newtown
  • Instant Hit
  • Ping Pong Affair
  • Improperly Dressed
  • Walk About
  • Typical Girls
  • Man Next Door
  • Or What Is It?
  • Grapevine
  • Adventures Close to Home
  • Spend, Spend, Spend
  • In The Beginning There Was Rhythm
The Slits – Typical Girls
Cover of their 1979 12″ EP featuring Heard It Through The Grapevine

‘Heard it through the Grapevine’ was a cover of the Motown classic made famous by Gladys Knight and The Pips and Marvin Gaye and released by The Slits in September 1979 as the ‘B’ side of their ‘Typical Girls’ single.  I was sure it would be their big break – it reached No.60 in the UK charts and faded away.

References and further reading

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

http://www.skysaw.org/onu/artists/creationrebel.html

http://www.skysaw.org/onu/index.html

https://www.academia.edu/38893586/No_I_don_t_like_where_you_come_from_it_s_just_a_satellite_of_London_High_Wycombe_the_Sex_Pistols_and_the_punk_transformation

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Xtraverts – Police State -1979 audio of single being introduced by John Peel

Creation Rebel – Creation Rebel – 1979 audio via YouTube

The Slits –Typical Girls – 1979 full length video

The Slits –Heard it through the Grapevine – 1979 audio

July/August 1979 – High Wycombe Town Hall gigs

In this post I recall three gigs at High Wycombe Town Hall during July and August 1979, as detailed on a flyer discovered in my own collection.  Headlining these gigs were The Angelic Upstarts, Eddie & The Hot Rods and The Buzzards – all acts trying hard to maintain the momentum of the punk and new-wave explosion that burst into the UK music scene during 1977 and 1978.  All three of these gigs were promoted by Ron Watts who was also simultaneously putting on gigs at The Nag’s Head and the 100 Club (in London).  However, by this time, The Town Hall was the only venue of the three where Watts was allowed to promote outright ‘punk’ bands.

High Wycombe Town Hall gig flyer July/August 1979
From my own collection – enhanced for wycombegigs.co.uk

Saturday 21st July 1979 – Angelic Upstarts/The Indicators

Most definitely falling into the ‘punk category were North East based Angelic Upstarts.  Despite being formed in South Shields in mid-1977, this gig is believed to be their first visit to High Wycombe.  Their slow burn career saw national recognition gained following the release of their debut single; “The Murder of Liddle Towers”/”Police Oppression” via Rough Trade in 1978.  Then, having signed to Warner Brothers in 1979, their next single, ‘I’m an Upstart’ went on to reach No.31 in the UK charts in mid-May 1979 – just a few weeks before their Town Hall gig.  The follow-up single, ‘Teenage Warning’ and the album of the same also hit the top 30 of the UK charts shortly afterwards but the Jimmy Pursey produced efforts received mixed reviews – some saying the sound failed to capture the intensity of live Upstarts gig where the band were not afraid to mix punk with politics.

Angelic Upstarts promo picture – circa 1979

The line-up of the band at the time of the Town Hall gig was Thomas Mensforth (Mensi) on vocals, Ray Cowie (Mond) on guitar, Steve Forsten on bass guitar, and Derek Wade (Decca) on drums.

Main stays of their set-list at the time were:

Police Oppression, Never Again, We Are The People, I’m An Upstart, Student Power, Teenage Warning and The Murder of Liddle Towers.

I’ve been unable to find any information on the advertised support act, The Indicators, at the time of this post – please get in touch if you can help.

Saturday 28th July 1979 – Eddie and The Hot Rods

Eddie and The Hot Rods returned to High Wycombe on Saturday 28th July 1979 as the continued their roller-coaster career.   Originally morphing out of the pub-rock scene during 1975 and 1976 to join the punk revolution, they quickly progressed from playing the likes of The Nag’s Head in the summer of 1976 to headline such prestigious venues as The Rainbow in Finsbury Park during 1977.  But they lost their momentum and a less than successful US tour in 1978 saw them return home and eventually re-group on the pub circuit – including returning to play the Nag’s Head again in August 1978 where they still had a decent local following.

Eddie and The Hot Rods – promo picture 1978

Extensive gigging throughout 1979, promoting their ‘Thriller’ album and two accompanying singles (‘Media Messiahs’ and ‘Power and The Glory’), failed to push the band back into the charts – their greatest hit remaining the 1977 classic, ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do”.  By May 1979 they had been dropped by record label Island Records and this gig came while searching for a new deal that would eventually come later in 1979 via EMI.

I believe the line-up of the band at the time of the Town Hall gig was Barrie Masters (vocals), Dave Higgs, Steve Nicol (drums) and Paul Gray (bass).  Gray had also been gigging with The Members during mid 1979 and would later join The Damned.  Ed Hollis (brother of Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis) is also recorded as their manager at the time.  The Hot Rods would split in 1981 but Masters would lead several re-incarnations of the band through and beyond their 40th anniversary.

Saturday 18th August 1979 – The Buzzards/The Beez

The Leyton Buzzards were from the Leyton area of East London – rather than the Hertfordshire Town of the same sounding name.  The sprung out of the 1976 pub rock scene and issued the quirky ‘19 & Mad’ single in 1978 on Small Wonder.  After winning a national band competition in 1979, they signed for Chrysalis and released their memorable ‘Saturday Night Beneath the Plastic Palm Trees’ single in March 1979 – earning them a spot on Top of the Pops but limited chart success -peaking at No.53.

By the time of the Town Hall gig they had shortened their name to The Buzzards and released their debut album, ‘Jellied Eels To Record Deals’.  The track listing of the album made-up most of the set-list for the Town Hall gig.

Buzzards – Jellies Eells to Record Deals cover 1979

Buzzards line: Geoff Deane (vocals), Kevin Steptoe (drums), Vernon Austin (guitar) and David Jaymes (bass and vocals).  Deane and Jaymes would later form Modern Romance who would go on to have chart success through to the mid-1980’s.

Buzzards set-list for High Wycombe Town Hall as typed by myself for a cassette recording.

Buzzards track listing for High Wycombe Town Hall gig 18th August 1979 from my own collection

Support for The Buzzards were local band The Beez, returning to the Town Hall again after a previous support slot to The Damned.  The Chesham based band had built quite a local following by this time and later in the year supported The Damned at Aylesbury Friars.

Their set-list at the August 1979 Town Hall gig included the four tracks from their second release on their own Edible Records label – an EP including ‘Do The Suicide’, ‘Backstreet Love’, ‘Girls’ and ‘You Make Me Feel Better’.

Read more about The Beez on my post about their gig at the Nag’s Head earlier in 1979.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Angelic Upstarts – Teenage Warning – BBC Top of the Pops – August 1979

Eddie and The Hot Rods – Do Anything You Wanna Do – Marc TV Show 1977

Leyton Buzzards – Saturday Night beneath the Plastic Palm – BBC Top of the Pops March 1979

References and further reading

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

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

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

27 June 1979 – UK Subs/Ladykillers – Town Hall

The UK Subs made their second High Wycombe appearance on Wednesday 27th June 1979 with a Ron Watts promoted show at the Town Hall.  Local band The Ladykillers were support on an evening where crowd violence caused a halt to proceedings.

The Subs had played to a small audience at the local SU Bar on 2nd February 1979 but in the intervening months they had signed a record deal with GEM records and their increased media prominence had drawn a decent crowd to the town centre venue –albeit including a small minority whose fighting threatened to call a premature end to the evening.

UK Subs – UK tour June/July 1979 – tour advert showing High Wycombe appearance 27 June 1979

Support act The Ladykillers had made their live debut earlier in 1979 – impressing a local crowd as support to XTC at the Town Hall on 6th May 1979.  Close to two months later they had a few new songs to their set, including a cover a Tamla original ‘Money’ but made more famous by The Beatles in 1963 and then a few weeks after this gig, by The Flying Lizards.

Ladykillers setlist for the support slot with The UK Subs included the following:

  • If It Happened Tomorrow
  • Fear of the Night
  • Bad Guys
  • Mother Hates Me Hair
  • Girl Talk
  • Money (Bradford and Gordy cover)
  • White Boys, Making Noise
  • Under The Skin

The UK Subs’ return to High Wycombe was part of a lengthy tour to promote their new single’ Stranglehold’.  The tour would stretch into July and include a prestigious appearance at London’s Lyceum Ballroom – a venue that was not afraid to promote a diverse range of acts.

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)

Music paper reviews of their gigs around the time of their Town Hall jaunt already had them pigeon-holed as ‘punk’ revivalists.

Robbi Millar writing in Sounds about their gig at The Music Machine on 15 June 1979, said: “I’m not sure how long the UK Subs are going to be able to carry on with their present formula but I hope they never mellow.  Right now they’ve got a certain stranglehold on their rowdy band of merry men and bootgirls, so let’s pray that possible chart success doesn’t change them.  Imagine the Subs on Top of the Pops!”

Just under two weeks previous they had supported Iggy Pop at the Hammersmith Odeon.  Chris Bohn, writing in Melody Maker reported much travelled 35-year-old UK Subs lead singer Charlie Harper saying to the crowd:

“It took them 10 years to pick up on Iggy Pop, didn’t it?  Some people say we live back in 1977 but we ain’t going to change our attitudes because of fashion.”

Bohn added himself; “Thus the first punk revival band thrashed their way through amusingly through a catalogue of earnest protest in speedily proficient HM punk style, projecting to he back of the hall where their ardently tribal admirers gathered.”

Bassist Paul Slack was quick to offer his views on the revival tag.  Speaking to Sounds a week or so later, he said:

“People call us a punk revival band, sort of all zips and no sense, but that’s boll*cks because punk hasn’t died.  It might not be trendy now but it’s still there. It’s gone underground.”

Guitarist Nick Garratt added:

“Punk music is last NEW thing and it’s still growing and improving. I don’t see why it shouldn’t go on for years yet, do you?”.

The UK Subs also made their feelings know about the old school of rock when they pulled out of their 22nd June 1979 slot at Glastonbury Fayre (later to become Glastonbury Festival).  Fifteen years before the cameras turned up at Worthy Farm, this was mainly a pilgrimage for ‘hippies’ and probably not a safe place for the relative youthfulness of ‘punks.

Having survived not going to Glastonbury, a day before their appearance in High Wycombe, UK Subs made journalist Robbi Millar’s dream come true when they recorded their debut appearance for BBC’s Top of the Pops.  Peter Powell introduced their ‘Stranglehold’ single on a show that saw Tubeway Army top the charts with ‘Are Friends Electric?’

But their visit to the Town Hall the following evening was a far cry from the BBC studios.  I attended this gig as a schoolboy, along with several other class mates, all interested in seeing a ‘punk’ band in action.  It proved an enlightening evening and a rough recording I made of the gig has helped me piece together the chaos of the night.

35-year-old lead singer Charlie Harper took the stage revealing that the band had: ‘just been through a really harrowing experience’ before shouting to those still in the bar to come out and ‘get the beer over here’.

The set list mainly drew from what would become their debut album ‘Another Kind of Blues’ – recorded in London in the month leading up to the High Wycombe gig and eventually released in September 1979.

The Subs had crashed through more a dozen songs in the opening 25 minutes before fighting broke out amongst a small number of people in the centre of the Town Hall floor.  Charlie Harper was not impressed, shouting to the punters:

“Are we are punks here, or what?  We’ve had enough people picking on us outside without f**king fighting amongst ourselves!  We’ve come here to have a bit of fun from the trials and turmoil’s of today.”

Violence had marred a few previous Town Hall gigs during the 1977/78 ‘punk’ boom but seemed to have quelled into 1979.  However, the danger signs were following an outbreak of crowd mayhem at the previous ‘punk’ gig at The Town Hall when followers of local band ‘The Xtraverts’ chanted the group’s name during song breaks in The Lurkers headline set.

There were subdued chants of ‘Xtraverts, Xtraverts’ again as the fighting died down during the UK Subs set, with guitarist Nick Garratt joking “OK, you can stop fighting now because I’ve changed my string”.  However, it had the reverse effect as a far more intense brawl started, prompting promoter Ron Watts to come on to the stage and shout: “OK, open the doors we’re going home”.

Again, Charlie Harper voiced his displeasure by shouting: “Listen! Everybody who wants to fight, f**k off!”  The majority of the crowd were in agreement and began charting “UK Subs!, UK Subs!”  But with the house lights up and Nick Garrett walking off the stage, it looked like the live action was over.

Step in Charlie Harper again who wouldn’t let the idiots win, declaring: “We haven’t done our set yet.  Just give Nick another minute.”  So around, 12 minutes after the trouble originally broke out, the band were ready to go again, with Charlie Harper asking for the house lights to be turned down because they wanted to carry on.  His request was obliged and they played another eight songs (in 15 minutes!) before a subdued crowd made their way home.

UK Subs setlist for High Wycombe Town Hall – 27 June 1979

  • Emotional Blackmail
  • I.D.
  • I Couldn’t Be You
  • I Live in a Car
  • Tomorrow’s Girls
  • Blues
  • World War
  • Rockers
  • TV Blues
  • Crash Course
  • Telephone Numbers
  • Killer
  • Lady Esquire
  • B1C (abandoned due to crowd trouble)
  • Disease
  • Emotional Blackmail
  • I.O.D.
  • I Don’t Wanna Know
  • Young Criminals
  • Stranglehold
  • Scum of the Earth
  • C.I.D.

Despite the audience problems at this gig, it is credit to promoter Ron Watts and the band that they returned to the Town Hall in September 1979 as part of a tour promoting their debut album, ‘Another Kind Of Blues’.

High Wycombe was lost from the major gigging circuit during the 1980’s but The UK Subs would return several more times in smaller venues and at the time of this article were set to appear at The Phoenix in Bridge Street on November 2019 – just over 40 years since their first appearances in the town.  You can do the calculations on how old Charlie Harper would be at this point.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Stranglehold – UK Subs – BBC Top of the Pops – 28 June 1979

Punk Can Take It – 1979 documentary featuring UK Subs

Filmed by Julien Temple at the Lyceum on 15th July 1979

Includes C.I.D., Live In A Car, Stranglehold, Emotional Blackmail, I Couldn’t Be You

References and further reading

http://www.uksubstimeandmatter.net/

An amazing treasure trove of UK Subs information

6 June 1979 – Lurkers/Xtraverts – Town Hall

The Lurkers won’t recall their return to High Wycombe on Wednesday 6th June 1979 which much pleasure.  The London based band owed their background more to ‘pub rock’ than ‘punk rock’ and when faced with a resurrected version of local boys, The Xtraverts as support, there was only ever going to be one winner.

The Lurkers – tour advert June 1979 – opening night at High Wycombe Town Hall

The Lurkers had appeared at the Town Hall the previous July at the height of their popularity and were looking to carry that relative success over into 1979.  The Town Hall date was the opening night of a tour to promote their latest single, ‘Out in The Dark’ and new album ‘God’s Lonely Men’.  The single crept into the UK charts at No.72 in the week they visited High Wycombe but would drop out again the following week – perhaps summing up their fortunes at a time when the media were keen to find the next the next musical trend.

To give an idea of the landscape of British popular music at the time, a glimpse at the UK singles chart for that week has Blondie’s ‘Sunday Girl’ in the No.1 position.  Elsewhere in the Top 30, there were several acts that had played High Wycombe in the previous two years or so.  ‘Roxanne’ by The Police were at No.16, ‘Masquerade’ by The Skids at No.17, The Clash with ‘I Fought the Law’ at No.24, The Damned with ‘Love Song’ at No.26 and Elvis Costello with ‘Accidents Will Happen at No.30.

Meanwhile, The Xtraverts, led by singer and founder member Nigel Martin, has their roots very much in the spirit of The Sex Pistols, with ‘Hate’, ‘Anarchy’ and ‘Chaos’, giving their now mainly teenage following a feel for what it may have been like to witness the original punk scene in late 1976/early 1977.  Promoter Ron Watts had given them a rare chance to grace the Town Hall stage following their return with a new-look line-up a few weeks earlier at The Multi-Racial Centre.

The Lurkers and The Extroverts (sic) at High Wycombe Town Hall 6th June 1979 – advert from Bucks Free Press

The line-up of the Xtraverts at the time of this gig is believed to be, Nigel Martin (vocals), Steve Westwood (guitar), Mark Chapman (bass) and David Lee (drums).  Drummer Lee recalled his introduction to band and the Lurkers gig in an interview for boredteenagers.co.uk in April 2006.

Lee had been to Wellesbourne school in High Wycombe with Chapman in 1978/79 and was invited to audition for The Xtraverts alongside Martin and Westwood, even though he wasn’t totally into the punk scene.  Lee recalls: “Anyway here I was playing in a punk band, a little different for me as I was into Deep Purple and that kind of thing. I thrashed out a number of tunes and I was in!”

Lee said his finest hour was supporting The Lurkers at The Town on 6th June 1979: “The local support was fantastic. I had just bought a new Ludwig vistalite kit from the States. It looked great and sounded big!  My first gig with the kit was supporting the Lurkers.”

Lee continued:  “We had a sound check and all seemed well.  I met the Lurkers drummer ‘Esso’ who admired my new shiny kit.  We went on and then all hell let loose – The sound completely died.  The fans thought it was the Lurkers sound engineers, all you could hear was my acoustic drumming! What had happened was, the evil sound limiter.  The council were having a meeting and cut the sound.  Not Good!  Meanwhile, we eventually rectified the problem and the sound came back on. We blew the place away the fans went mental pogoing and spitting in appreciation. In fact the fans booed the Lurkers off the stage wanting the Xtraverts back on. The Lurkers were very upset!”

The Lurkers – Beggar’s Banquet – 1979 promo picture

The Lurkers set-list would have been drawn from the following songs as performed at the Lyceum on 24th June 1979 but it’s not sure how far they got through their set before calling it a night.

  • By My Prisoner
  • It’s Quiet Here
  • Freak Show
  • I’ll Be With You
  • Out in the Dark
  • Jenny
  • Cyanide
  • What Ever Happened to Mary
  • I’m On Heat
  • I Don’t Need to Tell Her
  • Take Me Back to Babylon
  • Shadow
  • She Knows
  • Suzie is a Floozie
  • Hey You
  • Ain’t Got a Clue
  • Pills
  • I’m on Heat

The appearance by David Lee’s for The Xtraverts turned out to be his last!  “Now as I wasn’t a true punk- not into the dyed hair, safety pins, tattoos etc.  All I could see was my new black Ludwig vistalite kit caked in SNOT! I loved the band but I also loved my new kit!! That was the last gig and I left the band.”

Xtraverts – July 1979
Mark Chapman, Andy Crawford, Steve Westwood, Nigel Martin

Lee was replaced shortly afterwards on drums by Andy Crawford and The Xtraverts continued to gig in around High Wycombe during the summer -building up an even more enthusiastic following, spurred on by such songs as ‘Police State’, ‘Individual’, ‘Who Sent the Boys’ and ‘I Hate You’ – the latter including the lyrics

I hate you
The things you do
The way you dress
Your discotheque

Lead singer Nigel Martin spoke the local press a few weeks after The Lurkers gig: “That was fantastic. The Lurkers were really mad  l don’t think they’ll ask us to support them again.”  He added: “All the papers and the bands keep saying that punk is dead, but there’s a lot of punks in the Wycombe area and we’re the only group staying true to the ideals that punk first stuck to.  We don’t want to be millionaires and live in Los Angeles, ·and we won’t sign with some major company and be patronised. We want to play our music to our fans because they’re the ones who’ve stayed with us all along.”

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Out In The Dark – The Lurkers – audio of 1979 single

I Hate You – Xtraverts – audio of 1979 track

References and further reading

http://www.boredteenagers.co.uk/xtravertsdavidlee.htm

https://www.punk77.co.uk/groups/lurkers2.htm

 

12 May 1979 – Uncle Llama – Town Hall

A fairly elaborate folder out poster/flyer, from my own collection, is the only evidence I have of a gig by Uncle Llama at High Wycombe Town Hall on Saturday 12th May 1979.  The poster folds-out to an advert for the gig, while on the reverse there are details of the band line-up and for some bizarre reason, a food recipe!  My best guess, based on the photos of the band on the reverse of the poster, are they fell into the ‘prog rock’ category.  I’m fairly certain I would have picked up the poster, either from Scorpion or Venus record shops in High Wycombe.

Uncle LLama – High Wycombe Town Hall – 12th May 1979
Poster/Flyer montage by www.wycombegigs.co.uk

For the record and search engine recognition, the line-up quoted was John Hill (lead guitar and 12 string), Steve McDaniel (synth, string and organ), Joe Pritchard (bass), Tim Medcalf (drums and percussion) and Clive Brooks (vocals and 12 string).

The only online reference to Uncle Llama I could find at the time of this post was a comment by Andy Glass of Buckinghamshire based ‘prog rock’ band Solistice on www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk. It was in relation to their gig at Aylesbury Friars in 1983, where Glass said: “We also had a great time playing with Marrillion and Uncle Llama (whose keyboard player Steve McDaniel is now a member of Solstice).”

If nothing else, evidence of this gig, re-affirms that gigs in High Wycombe during 1979 were not limited to ‘punk’ and ‘new-wave’ acts. Indeed, the ever changing face of music at the time of this gig had seen the first release by ska band, The Specials – their ‘Gangsters’ single being released on 4th May 1979 on the Two-Tone record label.  Meanwhile, a month or so later, a Mod revival would begin with the likes of Merton Parkas, Chords, Purple Hearts and Secret Affair all enjoying a degree of chart success.  The latter revival had initially been sparked by The Jam but more specifically by the filming of ‘Quadrophonia’ and its cinema release later in 1979.  The differing styles of music and the sometimes obsessive tribalism (often media fuelled) connected with these ‘scenes’ did not always make gig going a pleasant experience, especially where promoters attempted a mix of bands.

References and further reading

Solistice

https://www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk/solstice83.html

http://www.solsticewebsite.com/

.

 

6 May 1979 – XTC/Camera Club/Ladykillers – Town Hall

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 and 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.

Events at High Wycombe Town Hall – May 1979 from Bucks Free Press Midweek
Including XTC on Sunday 6th May 1979 showing Brian James Band as the original support.
Jack Thackeray also billed and just look at those prizes for the Miss Teenage Wycombe Contest!

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 in their set-list.

Kris Jozajtis recalls 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.

Their set on 6th May 1979 is believed to have followed their debut live appearance at The Nag’s Head earlier in 1979.  The familiarity of some of the band members with the audience, plus songs recognised from their former groups, was a factor in them receiving a decent reaction from the audience.  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
  • Bad Guys
  • 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.

Bruce Woolley and Camera Club – still from BBC Old Grey Whistle Test appearance just a few months after their Town Hall gig supporting XTC

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

  • Flying Man
  • Too Late For Tears
  • Clean, Clean
  • The Picture is Taken, The Glass is Broken
  • Goodbye to Yesterday
  • Johnny
  • Video Killed The Radio Star
  • No Surrender
  • 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.

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.

Meanwhile, back at The Town in May 1979, headliners XTC were out on their first tour since original keyboards player Barry Andrews had left the band.  He had been replaced with Dave Gregory, who also hailed from their hometown of Swindon, but in fact played guitar and not keyboards.

XTC – early 1979
Dave Gregory, Andy Partridge, Terry Chambers and Colin Moulding

Andrews had been a member of XTC since 1976 and played with them twice 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 linked 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 they deserved.   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 was, ‘Making Plans for Nigel’.  Released as a single in September 1979 it reached No.17 in the UK charts but deserved 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

  • Beatown
  • Meccanik Dancing
  • Making Plans For Nigel
  • The Rhythm
  • Roads Girdle The Globe
  • Science Friction
  • Life Begins At The Hop
  • This Is Pop
  • Battery Brides
  • Cross Wires
  • Outside World
  • I’m Bugged
  • Crowded Room
  • 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 and 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

Further reading and references:

XTC history

http://chalkhills.org/

XTC gigography

http://www.optimismsflames.com/Gigs%20Text%20Only.htm

Bruce Woolley

http://www.brucewoolleyhq.com/pop.html

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

18 April 1979 – Damned/Ruts/Beez/Auntie Pus – Town Hall

The Damned returned to High Wycombe for the first time since their infamous appearance at The Nag’s Head in October 1976, with a headlining slot at the Town Hall  on Wednesday 18th April 1979 – Support were local Chesham band The Beez plus up and coming West London punk lads, The RutsAuntie Pus, a one man target for verbal abuse from the crowd, was also on the bill for well attended Ron Watts promoted gig.  However, the gig ended in chaotic scenes as punters were ushered out of the venue by the local police following The Damned’s refusal to leave after they claimed that former Manager Watts had massaged the band’s cut of the takings.

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

The Beez, who had first performed live in 1978, were playing their biggest venue to date in their short history after promoter Ron Watts had been impressed with the local following they bought along to a support slot at The Nag’s Head on 8th March 1979.

Their debut single ‘Easy/’The Vagrant’ – on their own Edible records label – was set for release around the time of this gig and they went down well enough with the expectant crowd that evening to be called back for an encore.

The Beez – outside Quest studios – promo photos complete with autographs from my own collection

The Beez confirmed set-list from my own records was:

  • Without You
  • The Vagrant
  • Back Street Love
  • Do The Suicide
  • Girls
  • Hangover
  • Apathy
  • Something Wicked
  • Easy
  • Get Ahead With The Feds
  • All You Need’s A Brain
  • Questions and Answers (Encore)

The Ruts’ appearance in High Wycombe came just as they were gaining a wider audience following the release of their ‘In a Rut’ single in January 1979 on the People Unite label and the constant championing of this track by John Peel on his BBC radio show.

The Ruts had appeared at the Town Hall back in October 1977 as support to Wayne County and ATV but barely drew a cheer from the handful of punters who had arrived in time to see the opening act.  Less than 18 months later it was totally different story.  A John Peel session from January 1979 featuring ‘Savage Circle’, Babylon’s Burning’, ‘Dope for Guns’, Blackman’s Pinch’ and ‘Criminal Mind’, would make much of The Ruts set that night already familiar to the crowd.  Damned drummer, Rat Scabies’ guested on drums during Blackman’s Pinch (later renamed to Jah Wars).

The Ruts line-up that night at High Wycombe Town Hall was Malcolm Owen (vocals), Paul Fox (guitar), John “Segs” Jennings (bass) and Dave Ruffy (drums)

Early Ruts picture from the rutsdc website – note the home made t-shirt with what would become their iconic logo

The Ruts confirmed set-list from my own records was:

  • Savage Circle
  • I Ain’t Sophisticated
  • H Eyes
  • Lobotomy
  • Suss
  • You’re Just A..
  • Something That I Said
  • Blackman’s Pinch
  • Criminal Mind
  • Dope For Guns
  • In A Rut
  • You’re Out of Order
  • Babylon’s Burning
  • Society

The Ruts were called back for an encore and played ‘Human Punk’ – a crowd participation number where lead singer Malcolm Owen passed the microphone along the front of the stage.  Most of the songs that night would feature on their debut album, ‘The Crack’ – released in September 1979.

Warming-up the audience up prior to The Damned was Auntie Pus (real name Julian Isaacs).  He had been on the punk scene since 1977, playing a one-man old style rock ‘n’ roll guitar act.  Essentially between each ‘song’ he would lead the chant of ‘off the stage with Auntie Pus’ – if the crowd didn’t join-in he would continue.  This carried on until Ron Watts took the stage and asked the audience, “OK, let’s get rid of this c**t”.

His short ‘set’ included ‘Halfway to Venezuela’ and ‘Blues Suede Shoes’. Some of his recorded material would eventually be released in 1980 with Chris Millar (Rat Scabies) credited on drums.

The Damned had been on a roller-coaster journey since their arrival on the scene in the summer of 1976.  They had played twice at The Nag’s Head in the autumn of 1976 – their appearance in October 1976 being their first ever headline slot at any venue but that ended in chaos.

They had released a series of singles and two albums before playing a ‘farewell’ gig at The Rainbow, London in April 1978.  Leader singer Dave Vanian went on to perform with Doctors of Madness, while Brian James, Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies formed their own bands, Tanz Der Youth, King and White Cats, respectively.  The latter saw Scabies continue his taunts of the High Wycombe crowd at a Town Hall gig in July 1978.

But The Damned would not die, reforming originally as The Doomed in late 1978 and then returning under the original name.  The new look band would be minus guitarist Brian James – Captain Sensible taking over the lead guitar role and ‘Algy’ Ward on bass. 20 year old Ward had previously been in The Saints.  They coupled with founding members, Dave Vanian (vocals) and Rat Scabies (drums).

The Damned – Chiswick promo pic 1979
Algy Ward, Captain Sensible, Dave Vanian and Rat Scabies

Their return to the punk scene had gained them an ever increasing following thanks to their boisterous live shows but they were still finding their feet and new musical direction by the time of the Town Hall show in April 1979.  It would be fair to say that many of the audience were there out if curiosity value, rather than their recorded out of the time.

It was therefore with a sense of anti-climax that headliners, The Damned, eventually took to the stage to the sound of the traditional version of ‘God Save The Queen’, – not The Sex Pistols version.

The Damned confirmed set-list from my own records was:

  • Jet Boy, Jet Girl
  • Teenage Dream
  • Stretcher Case Baby
  • Ballroom Blitz
  • Born to Kill
  • Burglar
  • Melody Lee
  • Problem Child
  • Lookin at You
  • Love Song
  • So Messed Up
  • New Rose
  • Neat, Neat, Neat

The set was played through with barely a break to breath.  ‘Jet Boy, Jet Girl’ saw Captain Sensible take vocals on a song to the tune of Plastic Bertrand’s 1978 hit ‘Ça plane pour moi’.

The gig preceded the forthcoming General Election by two weeks (3 May 1979) – by this stage it was widely predicted that a Margaret Thatcher led Conservative Party would run out victors – hence The Damned had their own eloquent way of predicting the future of the country – including changing the lyrics to Sweet’s ‘Ballroom Blitz’, to ‘Great Big Tits’.

The set also included their recently released debut on Chiswick Records, ‘Love Song’.  On the 10 May 1979, The Damned would make their Top of The Pops debut as the song climbed the charts.

The Town Hall set would finish with their two classic punk singles, ‘New Rose’ and ‘Neat, Neat, Neat’ before the house lights were turned on and the punters ordered out onto Queen Alexandra Road.

An explanation of the chaotic nature to the end of the gig eventually came to light in Ron Watts’ book. Watts commented: “[The Damned] probably hadn’t forgiven me for the way our business partnership had ended three years earlier, refused to leave the stage and the caretaker of the hall called the police, who were stationed next door.  They arrived and lined the side of the hall, with the band finishing sharpish and their fans filtering out, although by now the average age of a Damned fan was about 15 so there was never any danger of a riot ensuing. The band were on a percentage of the door take and reckoned I’d fiddled them, even attempting to sue me.”

Watts claims that the financial situation was eventually sorted out but it proved the last dealings he had with The Damned as a promoter – although Watts does recall meeting Captain Sensible over 25 years later at The 100 Club where he initially said; “That tosser from The Damned is here.  If he wants a fight, he can have one.”  A few minutes later they were chatting away ‘like old mates’, recalling those early pioneering days of punk rock.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

The Vagrant – The Beez – audio of debut single ‘B side

In a Rut – The Ruts – live in Paris 1980

Half-Way to Venezuela – Auntie Pus – audio of 1980 single

Love Song – The Damned – live on BBC Top of the Pops – May 1979

References and further reading:

https://www.boredteenagers.co.uk/BEEZ.htm

https://rutsdc.com/

https://www.punk77.co.uk/groups/auntiepus.htm

http://www.fearandloathingfanzine.com/auntie-pus.html

http://www.officialdamned.com/

4 April 1979 – Tom Robinson Band – Town Hall

The Tom Robinson Band returned to High Wycombe Town Hall on Wednesday 4th April 1979 on a date midway through their promotion of their second studio album, TRB 2.  The Ron Watts promoted concert was a sell-out and the TRB set was recorded by the BBC mobile for a later broadcast on the Saturday evening Radio One ‘In-Concert’ series.  Support came from British rock/pop all-female outfit, The Straits.

During my research for the 40-year anniversary of this gig, the very sad news that TRB guitarist Danny Kustow had passed-away came to light.  Kustow’s guitar provided much of the musical power behind the lyrics of Tom Robinson and his band.  This article is dedicated to his memory and may his many wonderful licks and solos live on forever.

Tom Robinson Band – montage of memorabilia from the 4th April 1979 gig at High Wycombe Town Hall.
Left to right – Danny Kustow, Ian Parker, Charlie Morgan, Tom Robinson
Specially created for wycombegigs.co.uk

TRB had last officially played High Wycombe in a Town Hall concert in November 1977.  However, my research suggests they were also lined-up for a secret gig at The Nag’s Head on 30th July 1978, shortly after the release of their debut album ‘Power in the Darkness’, but I’ve been unable to confirm if the appearance actually took place.  Previous to the Town Hall gig in November 1977, they had also graced the stage at The Nag’s Head on two occasions, making their return in April 1979 as long awaited ‘homecoming’ following the rise to fame through late 1977 and 1978.

Their move into the media spotlight had also seen the band feature in a Granada TV documentary, recorded in the main during their tour of Autumn 1978 and broadcast for the first time on national UK TV in February 1979.  However, fame had taken its toll on relationships in the band.  By the time of the TRB Two tour, original drummer ‘Dolphin’ Taylor had left and been replaced with Charlie Morgan.  Keyboard player Mark Ambler had also flown ship and replaced by Ian Parker.  That left lead singer/bassist Tom Robinson and guitarist Danny Kustow, the remaining original members from the foursome that burst onto the seen during 1977 with their heavily polictical rock/pop collaborations.  More than 40 years after its release, the messages with the debut album, ‘Power In The Darkness’ remained eerily valid at a time when the UK was being tortured with the political farce of Brexit.

Politics were not the main agenda for support act for the TRB Two tour UK in 1979.  Leeds based band, The Straits, had their influences heavily entrenched from 1970’s glam rock.

Their set-list included original songs ‘Strait To The Point’, ‘Release My Soul’, ‘You Belong To Me’, ‘Studio 54’, ‘Come Fly With Me’, ‘Fairground Boys’ and ‘Sacha Shoes Mafia’.  However, it was the T.Rex cover ‘Get in On’ that brought the best reaction from a crowd mainly in waiting for the main act.

The Straits – article from Sounds magazine 1979 – taken from the TRB bulletin No.14 given away on the TRB Two tour

For the record, band members, according to a Sounds article published shortly before the tour, were Judi Rock (lead guitar/vocals), Di Harde (bass/vocals), Shirley Newman (rhythm guitar) and Suzi Roll (drums).  With the exception of Ms Newman, I think it’s fair to assume those names are pseudonyms.  They were touted as heading for success but at the time of this post there appears to be no record of what became of them.  Anybody have any clues?

TRB burst onto stage to loud cheers from the packed house and went straight into the opening track of TRB Two, ‘All Right, All Night’, quickly followed by the classic ‘Winter of ’79 – the latter seeing new keyboard player Ian Parker showing his creativity by taking the mid-song instrumental break to a new level – definitely worth a listen on the YouTube audio at the foot of the post.

Tom Robinson Band set list for the Town Hall gig on 4th April 1979

  • All Right, All Night
  • Winter of ‘79
  • Black Angel
  • Blue Murder
  • Too Good To Be True
  • Getting Tighter
  • Law and Order (**)
  • Sorry Mr Harris (*)(+)
  • I Shall Be Released (**)
  • Glad to be Gay (**)
  • Martin (**)
  • Bully For You
  • Don’t Take No For An Answer (**)
  • Ain’t Gonna Take It
  • 2-4-6-8 Motorway
  • Right on Sister (encore) (*) (+)
  • Jumping Jack Flash (encore) (*) (**)

An edited version of the concert was broadcast on BBC Radio One in May 1979.

The tracks indicated (*) were NOT broadcast by the BBC.

In 2013 a TRB Anthology collection was released with a slightly different selection of tracks.

The tracks indicated (**) were NOT included on the Anthology release.

The tracks indicated (+) were included on the Anthology release but not the BBC broadcast.

The second encore, ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ remains the only track not available from the BBC mobile recording.  And if by magic, I’ve managed to find a recording of that in my own collection and include it below (via YouTuber) as further tribute to Danny Kustow, who took on lead vocals for the Rolling Stones cover.

Tom Robinson’s affection for High Wycombe was confirmed in a brief interview for the Bucks Free Press published in the 12th April 1979 edition. Robinson said:

“I don’t know why we’re so popular here but I know why I like playing here, because the people are so friendly and the audience is one of the best I’ve ever played to.”

TRB were to split later in 1979 but Tom Robinson and Danny Kustow would return to High Wycombe within the year – Robinson as a member of his new band, Sector 27 and Kustow as a guitarist with ‘punk’ super-group, Jimmy Norton’s Explosion – the latter featuring Glen Matlock, Paul Cook and drummer Budgie.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

 Winter of ’79 (audio) – Tom Robinson Band – High Wycombe Town Hall – 4 April 1979

At the end of the track Tom Robinson reveals to the audience that the gig is being recorded for Radio 1.

”Tonight High Wycombe is to be immortalised again (cheers).   I wish those at home could see the sight that confronts us here at High Wycombe Town Hall tonight.  Strong men would cry”.

Note: The video is incorrectly dated 1 January 1979

Too good to be true? – Granada TV documentary – broadcast UK TV February 1979

Jumping Jack Flash (audio) – Tom Robinson Band – High Wycombe Town Hall – 4 April 1979

References and further reading

https://tomrobinson.com/

Tom Robinson’s tribute to Danny Kustow, as read at his funeral on 14 March 2019

https://www.facebook.com/tomrobinsonmusic/posts/1146208828880788

 

1 March 2019 – Punkarolla – Damned special

On Friday 1st March 2019 I was back as a guest on Andy Chalk’s Punkarolla radio show on Wycombe Sound.  This time 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 played a selection of our Damned favourites from throughout the years, plus tracks from the support acts on the night.  There was also the usual stuff old and new.  It was broadcast  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 have since posted up more details of The Damned gig from April 1979 as a mark for 40th anniversary.  This include set-lists from the all the acts that played that evening.  If you want to hear previously un-circulated audio clips, please leave a comment and I’ll try to get these online.

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

More on the 18th April 1979 gig via this link >>