High Wycombe punk legends The Xtraverts opened the third ‘No More Heroes’ all-day event at The Phoenix Bar in High Wycombe on Saturday 24th June 2017. They played a short set as a way of thanking the other bands for helping to celebrate lead singer Nigel Martin’s 60th birthday.
Also scheduled to be on the bill were:
5 Go Mad
The event follows two previous successful No More Heroes events promoted by Nigel Martin. The two day 2016 bash included Xtraverts, Pussycat and The Dirty Johnsons, East Town Pirates, Dragster, Rage DC and Healthy Junkies.
The 2017 event saw The Xtraverts take the stage at about 1.30pm (yes, in the afternoon!). After a short rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ by the other band members, Nigel took to the stage as the band crashed through four numbers – old favourite, ‘Police State’, plus both sides of their new single (’21st Century Motorbike’ and ‘Wild Boys, Wild Youth’), before finishing with their classic, ‘Speed’.
If you have any pictures or videos from the day, you are welcome to post them in the comments section below or send links via email.
High Wycombe’s local paper, The Bucks Free Press, took to the streets in June 1977 to find the views of the growing punk scene. A “Speakers’ Corner” article written by local junior journalist Janice Raycroft, with photos by staff photographer Bob Mead, was published in the Midweek Bucks Free Press on Wednesday 22nd June 1977. It discovered views on the punk movement that were more or less reflective across the entire UK at the time. ‘Rubbish’, ‘Noise’, ‘Not up to much musically’, ‘It’s just a phase’ and ‘a disgrace’, were just some of the comments printed.
Janice Raycroft had been lucky enough to witness The Sex Pistols appearance at High Wycombe College in February 1976. Her review of the gig, under her maiden name, published a few days later in the Bucks Free Press Midweek is thought to be only the second ever live review of the Sex Pistols. It was the 40 year anniversary of the February 1976 gig that provided the inspiration to start the research for what became wycombegigs.co.uk.
Although High Wycombe had gone on to host several ‘punk’ gigs between February 1976 and June 1977, the local punk scene was still very much in its infancy. Many of the ‘punk’ gigs had been played out to just a handful of people and the musical output had yet to make any serious impact on the UK charts.
However, that was beginning to change following the release of Sex Pistols second single ‘God Save The Queen’ in May 1977 and its subsequent air time ban by the BBC. Intentional or not, the ban lifted sales to an estimated 20,000 copies a day and it peaked at No.2 in the charts during the week of 5th June 1977 – sitting behind Rod Stewart’s ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About it’ – an ironic title considering that the chart compilers ‘didn’t want to talk about’ allegations of possible manipulation of sales figures to ensure The Sex Pistols didn’t reach the top spot.
But what did the High Wycombe public want to talk about at a time when The Pistols shared the top ten with the likes of Kenny Rogers (Lucille), Barbra Streisand (A Star is Born), Joe Tex (Ain’t Gonna Bump No More) and The Jacksons (Show You The Way To Go)?
Secretarial student Iona Crichton said of the Sex Pistols’ ‘God Save The Queen’:
“It’s a load of rubbish really. A lot of talking and noise. You can’t really seem to dance to it but the punk rockers seem to like it.”
Apprentice Engineer Maurice Fish went on:
“Punk will probably be like other crazes and die down when people get bored with it but there are more [punks] appearing in High Wycombe at the moment.”
Interesting to note that both of the first two people interviewed had heard the single played on the jukebox in the Coach & Horses pub in the High Street in High Wycombe.
22 year old motor mechanic Edward Wright added:
“It’s just a phase like all the others. When I was at school it was skinheads or greasers. You grow out of it. When people get bored with this punk rock stuff something else will come along.”
“It won’t last because the music will not appeal to enough people. I don’t take any real notice of it. Tamla Motown and The Beatles are much better to listen to.”
Another 20 something, Peter Seymour of High Wycombe, was far more upset.
“Their ‘God Save The Queen’ is a disgrace to the Queen. I can’t understand why they picked on the Queen. If you are going to do that there’s a lot better people to pick on. She has done no harm and can’t answer back.”
The final word went to Rosemary Dawson who travelled five days a week to work in London where she had noted the rise of punk rock fashion on the streets. She said:
“The music has nothing to offer me. There is no musical ability involved and the result has no artistic merit.”
Looking back on this piece some 40 years later, it’s a shame there was nobody even remotely ‘punk’ looking interviewed for the piece and there was literally not one good word said about a release that went on to be set in stone as an iconic piece of punk rock. However, that is probably more reflective of the slow up take of punk in both High Wycombe and the nation as a whole, rather than a deliberate ploy by the journalists to suppress alternative viewpoints.
The outpouring of negative and prejudice views on punk rock are also typical of the time. Dressing as a punk and/or simply just liking punk music during the first half of 1977 would have you labelled as a freak.
But after ‘God Save The Queen’ become the first truly punk single to make the top 10 of the UK charts, it set the scene for several more ‘punk’ singles to break into the charts. The Stranglers, Peaches followed shortly afterwards, while The Sex Pistols’ third single, Pretty Vacant, released in early July 1977, also burst into the top ten during the summer of 1977.
The High Wycombe punk scene also started to explode during the summer of 1977. In July 1977 there was a first ever local punk band night down The Nag’s Head, while promoter Ron Watts started putting on gigs at The Town Hall to cater for the growing demand for the punk and new wave scene. Keep an eye on wycombegigs.co.uk for details of those gigs – and, of course, if you have any memories, memorabilia or just a screwed up gig ticket, please get in touch.
It’s a busy Thursday night at The Nag’s Head on 16th June 1977 as Billy Idol’s Generation X return for their third appearance at the High Wycombe venue since forming in London at the tail end of 1976. They had previously performed at The Nag’s in January 1977 and March 1977.
By the time of their June 1977 appearance they had replaced drummer John Towe with 18 year old Mark Laff. He had been recruited after the remaining members of the band had auditioned more than 20 other drummers. Laff (AKA Mark Laffoley) had previous drummed with Subway Sect and joined Generation X following the completion of a support slot on The Clash’s nationwide tour.
The new look line-up is the final piece in the Gen X jigsaw and record companies are now starting to take note. They will record a John Peel session on 12 July 1977 and sign a long-term deal with Chrysalis Records the following day.
The band would return for another appearance at The Nag’s Head in August 1977 before releasing their debut single, ‘Your Generation’ the following month.
High Wycombe punk legends The Xtraverts released their first single in 36 years on Friday 9th June 2017. The re-energised version of the band, with roots dating back to 1976, blast out two new tracks, ‘21st Century Motorbike‘and ‘Wild Boys, Wild Youth’ that manage to capture the energy of their live performances at least as well as any of their previous three singles.
For those keeping a list, The Xtraverts’ first single was released in 1978 – ‘Blank Generation’ and ’A-Lad-Insane’ both being live favourites. A year later they shared a release with fellow Wycombe punk outfit Plastic People – Xtraverts contributing ‘Police State’, with Plastic People delivering ‘Demolition’. Completing the trio in 1981, of what are now hugely collectable punk vinyl releases, was ‘Speed’ backed with ‘1984’.
Line-up of the band at the time of the 2017 single was Nigel Martin (vocals), Poe Diddley (lead guitar), Nick Chapman (rhythm guitar), Andy Chalk (bass), Reg Charles (drums).
The Sex Pistols hit the headlines again on Tuesday 7th June 1977 after a publicity stunt promoting their new single, ‘God Save The Queen’, attracted the attention of the police. This was the occasion that The Pistols and their entourage launched their very own Silver Jubilee celebrations on a boat down The River Thames.
Various versions of the events that day have been recollected. Julian Temple’s film record gives a visual reminder, while Ron Watts recalls the day in his autobiography [100 Watts – A Life in Music], saying:
“It was all a big fuss about nothing but the tabloids had their headlines, another fire of moral outrage was fuelled and the public got their ration of scandal. Just another day at the office, but it was to prove the last time I ever saw the Pistols play live.”
This is some fairly decent quality footage of the afternoon from YouTube.
Monday 6th June 1977 saw Swindon’s XTC return to The Nag’s Head for a second appearance within a month as record companies continued to ponder offering them a record deal. A contract was eventually agreed in August 1977 with Virgin Records and their debut release followed a month later.
Nag’s Head promoter Ron Watts had first seen the band at The Plough, in Shelbourne, Wiltshire (near to where his family had originated). Recalling XTC in his autobiography, Watts said: “XTC weren’t anything remarkable at the time, yet they had a certain quality about them and they plugged away getting bigger and more appreciative audiences until they suddenly changed style and became pop stars.”
It was on the verge of their ‘pop-star’ status that XTC returned to High Wycombe for a Watts’ promoted appearance at High Wycombe Town in May 1979.
This is the promo for their debut release, Science Friction.
Saturday 4th June 1977 saw some of the biggest queues ever seen at The Nag’s Head, as The Jam returned for their third performance of the year. In the month or so leading up to this appearance, the London band had released their debut single and album, appeared on Top of The Pops and had become one of the hottest live acts on the pub circuit.
However, they were rapidly outgrowing pubs. They could quite easily of sold out the venue two times over – and their appearance was as much as thank-you to promoter Ron Watts, as anything else. Ron had championed the band at The 100 Club, as well as The Nag’s Head – Watts was a happy man that evening.
Watts recalls The Nag’s Head appearance in his autobiography [100 Watts – A Life in Music] when he noted The Jam attracted more girls than any other band he had promoted:
“The amount of girls in school uniforms waiting in the queue was amazing.”
“The girls were all over Bruce Foxton, for some reason, which pi**ed Paul Weller off, who thought as singer, they should go for him.”
Watts was also taken aback by the band’s stage presence and cited them as his favourite live act following the initial outbreak of punk in 1976:
“For a three piece The Jam were a sensation. It was very brave of them to be doing the sort of soul covers they were playing, when everyone around them was singing about rioting and political events. They went down a storm.”
It was clear after this night that The Jam would move on the bigger things and bigger venues. For Watts, that meant looking at promoting gigs at The Town Hall on a regular basis.
This is The Jam performing their second single, ‘All Around The World’ on Top of The Pops in July 1977. They would play High Wycombe Town during the week it was released.
Nag’s Head promoter Ron Watts gave his own band, Brewers Droop, an outing at the London Road venue on Thursday 2nd June 1977. Support came from The Zoots. The Droop were no strangers to The Nag’s Head stage but this was a relatively rare performance due to Ron’s ever increasing promoting duties at both the Nag’s and London’s 100 Club.
The Thursday night slot was usually reserved for ‘rock’ but with The Jam set to the play two days later on the Saturday, this ‘Blues’ night was a throwback to the nights when Watts first promoted at the venue back in 1968.
This is Brewers Droop from their 1972 album, Opening Time – the cover of which (above) was taken outside The Antelope pub in High Wycombe Town Centre. At the time of this post, it was still open and going strong and easily recognisable from the album cover.
London punk group The Models made an early headlining performance at The Nag’s Head on Saturday 28th May 1977. The band had been formed in Harrow earlier in 1977 as The Beastly Cads but changed their name The Models after just two gigs. The line-up consisted of Cliff Fox (vocals and guitar), Marco Pirroni (guitar), Mick Allen (bass) and Terry Day (drums).
Pirroni had famously played with Siouxsie & The Banshees at their debut gig at The 100 Club in September 1976 but had not formed part of the new look Banshees that had played at The Nag’s Head in March 1977 and earlier in May 1977. Kris Jozajtis attended the latter gig and recalls The Models as support.
Post their Nag’s Head appearances, The Models recorded a John Peel session (July 1977) and released what would be their only single – the double A side ‘Freeze’/’Man of The Year’ – on the Step Forward label.
Their early gigs included the controversially titled ‘I Wanna Form My Own Nazi Party’ – it was apparently aimed at some of the early punks who thought it was ‘cool’ to wear swastika arms bands (this included Siouxsie!). However, it was taken the wrong way and was dropped from their set as the year went on.
Pirroni and Allen later formed ‘post-punk’ band Rema-Rema. Guitarist Pirroni would then join drummer Terry Day in a new look Adam & The Ants. The later would play High Wycombe a couple of times in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Allen would go on to form Wolfgang Press – later signed by 4AD and performing between 1983 and 1995.