On Friday 1st March 2019 I’m back as a guest on Andy Chalk’s Punkarolla radio show on Wycombe Sound. This time I’m sitting alongside another long-time friend, Martin Percival, talking more about the 40th anniversary of gigs in High Wycombe and reminiscing in particular about an appearance by The Damned at The Town Hall on 18th April 1979 – a gig where the punk originals were supported by a then up and coming punk/reggae group The Ruts and local band The Beez.
We’ll be playing a selection of our Damned favourites from throughout the years, plus tracks from the support acts on the night. There’s also the usual stuff old and new, so please take a listen between 9pm and 11pm on the new monthly (1st Friday of each month) time slot – hosted as usual by Andy.
It is possible to listen live in the High Wycombe area via 106.6 FM, via the internet and radio player.
Shows are also available to ‘Listen Again’ for four weeks via www.wycombesound.org.uk
The direct link to the Punkarolla ‘Listen Again’ page is:
I’ll be posting up more details of The Damned gig from April 1979 in a separate post on or around the 40th anniversary. That will include set-lists from the all the acts that played that evening, plus, I hope to have some previously un-circulated audio clips too. In the meantime, an enhanced version of the advert from the Bucks Free Press is included below.
A High Wycombe District Council promoted ‘Rock Concert’ at High Wycombe Town Hall on Monday 12th February 1979 saw a fledgling Adam and The Ants take to the stage alongside local band The Vents.
The Ants date was part of their Young Parisians tour and the date appears to coincide with their departure from Decca records.
Adam Ant (real name Stuart Goddard) had formed the band in London in early 1977 – originally as The Ants, before adopting the eventually well-known Adam and The Ants title. They went through several line-up changes before signing for Decca records in 1978. The debut single ‘Young Parisians’ had little chart success, although the band had built up a significant cult following, particularly in the London area, with their followers going under the guise of ‘Ant People’. During this post-punk period it was a common site to see gig goers with leather jackets painted with Adam and The Ants.
Further recording for Decca were made during 1978, along with two John Peel sessions. But their time with Decca does not appear to be a happy one.
The date of the Town Hall concert is noted as around the time that Adam and The Ants left Decca records – Goddard is quoted as saying:
“…as you know Decca own things like televisions and missiles and things like that…………..we weren’t dropped by Decca, their A & R department just folded up and they let us go, which was just a joke. Everyone thought we were just a 100% hardcore speed band so we put ‘Parisians’ out. I preferred ‘Lady’ and it was a double A side but Decca played it to Radio 1 and they said that ‘Parisians’ was better.”
A bootleg recording of this concert has been widely circulated and confirms the set-list for the evening was:
Day I Met God
Animals And Men
Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face)
Boil In The Bag Man
Family Of Noise
The line-up of the band at the time of the Town Hall appearance was Adam Ant (vocals and guitar), Matthew Ashman (guitar), Andy Warren (bass guitar) and Dave Barbarossa (drums).
They went on to release their debut album, ‘Dirk Wears White Sox’ In October 1979 on the Do It record label. It would reach the top of the newly formed Independent Album charts.
The history of Adam and The Ants post their Town Hall appearance in February 1979 is an interesting one. Former Sex Pistols Manager Malcolm McClaren was hired by Adam and The Ants in early 1980 to help with their path to wider recognition. However, instead, McClaren convinced Matthew Ashman (guitar), Leigh Gorman (who had by then replaced Andy Warren on bass) and Dave Barbarossa (drums) to leave the band and form a new group under McLaren’s management. A thirteen year old Annabella Lwin would become the lead vocalist for the new band – Bow Wow Wow.
Meanwhile, Adam Ant continued with a new version of his band featuring guitarist Marco Pirroni (an ex-member of Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Models, Rema Rema and Cowboys International) plus Kevin Mooney (bass guitar), and two drummers, Terry Lee Miall and Chris Hughes. The new band would take to the road for their ‘Ants Invasion’ in the first-half of 1980 while still pinning down a record deal. They would visit High Wycombe again in May 1980 for what would become an infamous evening at The Town Hall and one that proved the catalyst for the local Council to end ‘rock concerts’ at the historic venue. I’ll leave the detail of that evening until a later posting but those with memories of the 1979 or 1980 (riot) are welcome to get in touch.
For your listening and viewing pleasure:
Young Parisians – Adam and The Ants – single audio 1978
Lady – Adam and The Ants – single B side audio 1978
999 returned to High Wycombe Town Hall on 20th December 1978 for their second appearance of the year. The London based ‘punk’ band had enjoyed a successful show at the Town just over two months previous and promoter Ron Watts was quick to bring them back.
Support came from Nigel Martin’s Mirage, a spin-off band from The Xtraverts who had split-up earlier in 1978. A late addition to the support line-up was Pinpoint.
Pinpoint were a band originally formed in the Winter of 1977 when Arturo Bassick left The Lurkers. The first line-up included Dave Allen on bass and Paul Bellewithe on drums. Bellewithe had been replaced by Hugh Griffiths by the time of the Town Hall gig in December 1978.
They would go on to release three singles and one album (mid 1980), produced by Martin Rushent. They split shortly after the album was released. Bassist Dave Allen went on to become Rushent’s engineer and worked on the ‘Dare’ album by Human League. Apparently Human League’s Phil Oakey had been impressed with Rushent’s production of 999’s ‘Separates’ album released earlier in 1978. Rushent was moving more into electronic music and had set-up his Genetic Studios at this home in Streatley. The studios were used by Midge Ure and Rusty Egan in their post-Rich Kids days to record the debut album by Visage. Meanwhile, Bassick was less impressed with Rushent’s work and blamed the album production as a reason for the band to split.
Nigel Martin’s Mirage were essentially the latest incarnation of High Wycombe punk band, The Xtraverts. Lead singer Nigel Martin had been inspired to form The Xtraverts in post-Bill Grundy December 1976 and played their first live outings in the first-half of 1977. They had history with 999 having supported the London band at The Nag’s Head in September 1977 – violence at that gig led to a ban of ‘punk’ at The Nag’s Head. The Xtraverts recorded their first single in late 1977 and ‘Blank Generation’ coupled with ‘A Lad Insane’ was released in January 1978 on Spike records. They gigged way their way around the London circuit but split mid-way through 1978.
Headliners 999 had played at High Wycombe Town on 4th October 1978 in support of their ‘Separates’ long-player and new single ‘Homicide’ the popularity of that gig was a major factor in their return less than three months later.
For your listening and viewing pleasure
Homicide – 999 – Old Grey Whistle Test – BBC TV December 1978
High Wycombe favourites Generation X returned to the Town Hall on Friday 24th November 1978 but it was the sparse sound of the act third on the bill, The Cure, that went onto have global success far exceeding that of Billy Idol and his band of rockers. Local band, The Vents, were also on the support bill.
Generation X had appeared at High Wycombe on five previous occasions – four times at The Nag’s Head in 1977, before making their Town Hall debut in April 1978. Lead singer Billy Idol explained the reason for choosing High Wycombe again in a gig preview published in the Bucks Free Press Midweek. He said:“[High Wycombe] has always been great. It is like playing to your best friends.” He went on to say: “We are a wild rock and roll group. Our music is influenced by steel and concrete, not cows and fields.” He concluded: “No one has ever proved that authority works. Drugs, booze, sex and violence makes their rules look like croquet on the lawn. We are anti anything that strikes at individuality.”
The High Wycombe Town Hall gig was the opening night of the latest Generation X tour, initially publicised to promote their second album. A NME article suggests the name of the new album would be ‘Intercourse (Old Meets New)’. The album was eventually released in January 1979 under the title ‘Valley of the Dolls’. Notable tracks were subsequent singles, ‘King Rocker’ and the title track. Production on the album was by Ian Hunter (Mott the Hoople).
The Cure were a late addition to the tour schedule after signing a record deal with Fiction Records in September 1978. They had been signed by Chris Parry at Polydor Records for his Fiction label. A debut single ‘Killing an Arab’ would follow in December 1978 on Small Wonder due to distribution problems with Polydor.
The band originated from Crawley, playing initially under the name of ‘Easy Cure’ and then simplying this to The Cure in July 1978.
At the time of the Town Hall gig The Cure were a three piece – Robert Smith (guitar and vocals), Michael Dempsey (bass) and Lol Tolhurst (drums). They were all 19 years old.
The events surrounding their appearance at the Town Hall are fairly well documented in a couple of Cure biographies. At the Town Hall gig the band were left surprised that, rather than receiving a fee for the gig, they would have to pay £25 for the privilege of using the Generation X lighting and sound system. They couldn’t afford £25 at the time, so they wheeled in their own amps and operated the sound and light system with the aid of a roadie and ‘encouragement’ from the audience.
In his 2016 biography, Cured, Lol Tolhurst went on the describe the events as the punters made their way into the Town Hall:
“The doors opened and we were ushered on stage almost immediately ‘to warm the punters up as the tour manager informed us. I’m sure Robert gave him a disdainful look as we marched on stage. We were not the same as these old hippies running the show. That much was obvious to all. However, we welcomed the opportunity to play, even if it meant we had to deal with the predictably capitalistic remnants of the counterculture from time to time.”
Earlier in 1978, Tolhurst, had apparently been given the opportunity to play for the UK Subs, but turned down the request in order to distance himself from the ‘punk’ movement. Commenting on the main event at the Town Hall, he added:
“The Gen X show was quite a spectacle of punk rock. As the opening number, ‘Ready, Steady Go started, Billy idol, resplendent in a red leather jump suit, strode to the front of the stage and then, almost on cue, a thousand gobs of spit came arching over the stage front like arrows shot from longbows into the spotlight towards Billy. To our amazement he didn’t recoil from this assault of phlegm but positively revelled in the ghastly gobbing frenzy.
Suddenly, the purpose of the red leather suit became shockingly clear, it was the only suitable material for such an onslaught, especially considering this same scene was repeated every night of the tour. We watched from the side of the stage for a few more minutes, transfixed by the spectacle of Mr Idol being drenched sputum. I think we were all secretly glad that the audience had decided we weren’t worthy of their shower of spittle.”
Just under 40 years after The Cure’s appearance at High Wycombe Town Hall, the band celebrated the landmark by playing an open-air gig at London’s Hyde Park in front of an estimated 50,000 people. The encore at Hyde Park (including 1978 songs ‘Killing An Arab’ and ’10:15 On A Saturday Night’) lasted longer their than Town Hall slot!
For your listening and viewing pleasure
Valley of the Dolls – Generation X – BBC Top of the Pops – April 1979
Killing An Arab – The Cure – Small Wonder single 1978
10:15 On A Saturday Night – The Cure – promo video – early 1979
Pere Ubu, a USA band who described themselves as ‘avant-garage’ appeared at High Wycombe Town Hall on Monday 20th November 1978. Support came from The Soft Boys.
Pere Ubu formed late 1975 in Cleveland, Ohio with lead singer David Thomas as constant member during their performing career. Listening back to their music now would probably see them lumped in the ‘post-punk’ bracket – although they were, essentially around before ‘punk’. They released four singles before their debut LP, The Modern Dance, came out in January 1978.
Their date at The Town Hall in November 1978 was part of a UK tour to promote Pere Ubu’s second album, ‘Dub Housing’. Originally arranged for Sunday 19th November, the gig was switched to the following evening having opened the tour in Middlesbrough and Newcastle. Other dates on the tour included appearances at Manchester – The Factory, Liverpool-Eric’s, London – Electric Ballroom.
A feature on Pere Ubu was published in the Bucks Free Press Midweek at their time of their 1978 appearance at The Town Hall. The piece, authored by ‘CJK’, described the band as; “One of the most radically innovative and challenging bands to appear in the last couple of years.”
The article went on to quote lead singer David Thomas saying that he refused to allow the band to be classified: “Classifications aren’t valid any more. We have much in common with jazz and early folk, we’re pioneers, out there on our own, getting it together.” He added: “We try not to be anything other than what we are. We have no time for false images.”
For your listening pleasure
Non-Alignment Pact – Pere Ubu -track from their 1978 Modern Dance album
Siouxsie and The Banshees released their long-awaited debut album on Monday 13th November 1978. ‘The Scream’ consisted of 10 previously unreleased tracks but most already live favourites with a growing fan base. It proved an instant chart success in the UK, peaking at No.12 and going on to be regarded as a watershed in the transformation from the ‘punk’ musical genre to what would soon be branded ‘post-punk’. 40 years after its release is still sounds as fresh and stark as the day it was released.
The Banshees had played High Wycombe on three previous occasions. Their most recent had been a riotous affair at The Town Hall in April 1978. Prior to that they had appeared twice at The Nag’s Head in early incarnations of their line-up. In March 1977, they played what was their fourth ever gig (not third as widely documented) when they supported Johnny Thunders. They returned as headliners in May 1977 – both appearances including Peter Fenton on guitar.
Both those early appearances at The Nag’s Head were sparsely attended and it was only when John McKay replaced Fenton on guitar later in 1977 that the now iconic Banshees sound would develop. Two John Peel sessions would follow and a ‘sign the Banshees’ campaign would culminate in a deal signed with Polydor in June 1978 for a rumoured advance of £400,000.
A debut single, ‘Hong Kong Garden’, followed in August 1978 and the tracks for the debut album were recorded the same month and produced by Steve Lilywhite. Commenting on the album, bassist Steve Severin has said: “None of the songs were about current affairs. That was deliberate, as I saw that as a downfall of a lot of the so-called ‘punk’ bands.”
For your listening and viewing pleasure
Metal Postcard/Jigsaw Feeling – Old Grey Whistle Test – 7 November 1978 – BBC TV
999 returned to High Wycombe on Wednesday 4th October 1978 to make their debut at the Town Hall. The band had formed out of the London punk scene in late 1976 and had played an infamous gig at The Nag’s Head in September 1977 that was marred by violence and resulted in a ‘punk’ ban for the London Road venue.
A year later 999 were heading back to High Wycombe on the back of a well-publicised tour promoting their album ‘Separates’ album released on United Artists record label. Support at the Town Hall were Razar.
A preview and review of the gig appeared in the local High Wycombe papers. The review of the gig published in the Bucks Free Press Midweek said:
New wave pop group 999 gave an exciting and energetic performance at the eighth date in a nation-wide tour at High Wycombe Town Hall on Wednesday night.
The group has just returned from a European tour with The Stranglers and at the moments its following is mainly limited to punk rockers.
The group hopes that this tour will launch it to greater things and if this gig is anything to go by, that should be a long way.
Numbers like ‘Nasty, Nasty’ got the audience up on the stage and all through the show, rockers dressed in anything from leopard skin body stockings to leather drain-pipe trousers, jumped up and down, incessantly, near the stage.
‘Feeling Alright With The Crew’, a single taken off 999’s new album ‘Separates’, sees singer Nick Cash’s voice, plus echo, used to great effect over hypnotic boogie backing. With ‘Subterfuge’ and ‘No Pity’, the group buried any attacks that it is nothing but a two-chord wonder.
There was no safety pins and no violence. 999 responded well and the audience lapped it up.
The success of the gig led to promoter Ron Watts bringing the band back to the Town Hall for another appearance in December 1978.
Heavy Metal legends in the making, Motorhead, turned up the decibels at High Wycombe Town Hall on Friday 29th September 1978. The date was arranged to promote their new single ‘Louie Louie’, released as one-off for Bronze Records. A John Peel session had also been recorded for BBC Radio 1 on 18th September 1978 and popularity for the band was very much on the rise at the time of their Town Hall appearance – much of this also credited to their cross-over with the punk scene.
A quick look at their history reveals that lead singer and bassist Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, had formed Motorhead in the summer of 1975 following his departure from Hawkwind. The name of the group had been taken from the final song he had written with Hawkwind. By the time of the Town Hall gig, the Motorhead line-up and settled to a three piece with 32 year old ‘Lemmy’ on bass, Phil Taylor (24) on drums and ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke (27) on guitar.
Going back to Lemmy’s time with Hawkwind, the group played High Wycombe Town Hall at least three times during the earlier 1970’s, however, their latter of these appearances, on 14 August 1971, is the only date that would coincide with Lemmy’s arrival in their line-up. A few months later he took lead vocals on the Hawkwind classic ‘Silver Machine’.
Several Hawkwind covers appeared in the early Motorhead set-lists, including the inspiration for the name of the group, ‘Motorhead’. At the time of publication of this article, there was no confirmation of the set-list at the Town Hall but a recording of the gig at Wolverhampton on 23rd September 1978 exists with the following tracks:
Motorhead (Hawkwind cover)
I’ll Be Your Sister
Leaving Here (Edward Holland, Jr. cover)
Lost Johnny (Hawkwind cover)
The Watcher (Hawkwind cover)
Keep Us on the Road
Louie Louie (Richard Berry cover)
Tear Ya Down
Iron Horse/Born to Lose
White Line Fever
By the time this article was published to mark the 40th anniversary of Motorhead’s appearance in High Wycombe, all three of the original band members had passed away.
‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor passed away on 11th November 2015 (aged 61)
‘Lemmy’ passed away on 28th December 2015 (aged 70)
‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke passed away on 10th January 1978 (aged 67)
For your listening and viewing pleasure
Louie Louie – Motorhead – BBC Top of the Pops – October 1978
Glen Matlock’s Rich Kids made a long awaited appearance in High Wycombe on Friday 8th September 1978. The former Sex Pistols bassist had formed the band in 1977 and by the time of the September 1978 date at the Town Hall, interest was high to see what his new band would deliver. Local band Four Daughters were support for a gig independently promoted by Ron Watts.
Matlock had been fired by Pistols Manager Malcom McClaren in early 1977 having played High Wycombe on two previous occasions with the punk originals – February 1976 and the College and September 1976 at The Nag’s Head. Matlock, aged 22 at the time of the Town Hall gig, had spent the previous year refining the line-up of The Rich Kids which now included Midge Ure on vocals (aged 24), Steve New on guitar (aged 18) and Rusty Egan on drums (just shy of his 21st birthday). Ure had previously performed with Slik – best known for their single ’Forever and Ever’ – No.1 in the UK charts at the time The Sex Pistols played High Wycombe college in February 1976.
They had signed to EMI records in December 1977 and released their first single, ‘Rich Kids’ in January 1978 – earning them an appearance on BBC’s Top of the Pops and the trailing of ITV alternative music show, ‘Revolver’. A date of 30 January 1978 had been pencilled in by Ron Watts for an appearance at High Wycombe Town Hall but arrangements fell through.
Local live music punters keeping an eye of the national music press would also have been excited with reports of a date of 30 July 1978 at High Wycombe Town Hall with The Slits as support. However, despite this date since appearing in gig archive listings, it never took place. Indeed, promoter Ron Watts was busy that evening with a gig at The Nag’s Head.
What we can be sure of is that the 8th September 1978 gig did take place. Three of my friends recall the gig and I was also pleased to find a flyer for the gig in my own archives – probably obtained from Scorpion Records and now appearing on the internet for the first time in this article.
My fellow music friends who attended this gig were ‘Buzz’, Martin63’ and ‘Tapps’. The latter recalls that: “The Rich Kids were a bit of disappointment. Their brilliant single ‘Ghosts of Princes in Towers’ was easily the highlight of the night but the crowd expected something more from Glen Matlock, having reputedly penned most of ‘Never Mind The Bollo*ks.”
All three also recall local support band ‘Four Daughters’ – they included former Deathwish, Party, Pretty and Ventilators guitarist Kris Jojvatis. ‘Tapps’ remembers that their drummer was Dave ‘Dudge’ Williams. Does anybody else reading this have more information on this band?
Based on a set-list from a Rich Kids gig at Birmingham Barbarellas a few weeks earlier in 1978, the songs played that night at High Wycombe Town Hall would most likely have included:
Sound Of Marching Men
Put You In The Picture
Here Comes The Nice
Bullet Proof Lover
Lovers And Fools
Twelve Miles High
Hung On You
Ghosts Of Princes In Towers
The band eventually split-up at the end of 1978, with Matlock going-on to perform in several other bands and return to High Wycombe and many occasions. Midge Ure and Rusty Egan went on to form an early incarnation of new-romantic band Visage. Ure later gained commercial success with Ultravox. Matlock’s time in Visage was short but he returned to live performing with several bands and returned to High Wycombe on several occasions, including Jimmy Norton’s Explosion, Spectres, London Cowboys, Dead Men Walking and reformed Faces.
Steve New later played in Public Image Limited, Generation X and with Iggy Pop. He also helped out Matlock on his solo projects but sadly passed away in May 2010 from cancer. He played with Rich Kids in January 2010 in an one-off benefit concert for his needs.
In 2016, Matlock reformed Rich Kids again for a show at Shepherds Bush and then went back to solo touring. His was embarking on a solo tour of small venues on Europe at the time of publication of this article.
For your listening and viewing pleasure
Rich Kids – Rich Kids + Ghosts of Princes in Towers – Revolver TV pilot show May 1978
Glen Matlock + Midge Ure interview – Thames TV 1978 with Anne Nightingale
Rich Kids – Here Come the Nice (Small Face cover) – live audio 1978
Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac appeared at High Wycombe Town Hall on Tuesday 20th August 1968. Some 50 years later, at the point of publication of this article, the name Fleetwood Mac is linked with legendary rock n’ roll status. However, back in 1968 they were a far different band compared to what they would evolve into during their world concurring success of the 1970’s and 1980’s – they were also embarking on a 50th anniversary tour at the time of this post!
A quick look at their history has guitarist Peter Green forming the band in London in 1967 along with fellow guitarist Jeremy Spencer and drummer Mick Fleetwood. They soon added John McVie on bass as they took their initial steps on the road as a traditional rhythm n’ blues outfit – a combination of the band members names made up the title of the band. The foursome recorded their first album between April and December 1967 and the self-titled work was released in February 1968 and reached No.4 in the UK charts. A second album, ‘Mr Wonderful’ was recorded in April 1968 and released at the time of the Town Hall date in August 1968.
It was also around the time of the Town Hall date that they had recruited a further guitarist in the form of Danny Kirwan. It’s at this point that it’s worth mentioning that an early rehearsal and gigging venue for the band was The Nag’s Head in Battersea, South London. Kirwan’s live debut with the band is documented in many recognised biographies as August 1968 at this Battersea venue. However, the nature of the internet has seen some printed and online articles turn this into a performance at the equally famous Nag’s Head in High Wycombe. It’s not inconceivable that Fleetwood Mac did play the Nag’s Head in High Wycombe but during my research of the local High Wycombe press, I have found no evidence of them playing the London Road venue and Ron Watts’ autobiography makes no of Fleetwood Mac either.
Having said that, I was delighted to find an advert in the Bucks Free Press for the 20th August 1968 at one of the regular Tuesday evening dances at the Town Hall, High Wycombe, with Fleetwood Mac described as ‘The Biggest Drawing BLUES BAND in the County’. The date doesn’t appear to be documented elsewhere on the internet, so hopefully people with far more knowledge of the band than I’ve been able to piece together in the time available, will be able to corroborate.
Also interesting to note that a few days after the Town Hall gig, Fleetwood Mac played an open air concert at Hyde Park, London. The free concert took place on Saturday 24th August 1968 with Family headlining, supported by Fairport Convention, Roy Harper, Peter Sarstedt, Ten Years After and Fleetwood Mac.
Fleetwood Mac’s set-list at the time included: ‘Need Your Love So Bad’, ‘I Believe I’ll Dust my Broom’ and ‘Black Magic Woman’ – the latter becoming a massive hit for Santana in 1970. Fleetwood Mac’s first major hit, ‘Albatross’ was still at the writing stage but would be recorded in October 1968 and released the following month. In between those times it also appears the band returned to the Town Hall on Tuesday 8th October 1968 – again billed as ‘Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac’.
Where you at any of these gigs to see the legends in the making?
For your listening and viewing pleasure
Need Your Love So Bad – Fleetwood Mac – Dutch TV 1968
Black Magic Woman – Fleetwood Mac – Single audio March 1968