In this post I recall three gigs at High WycombeTown 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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’.
High Wycombe gig punters would have been disappointed to hear on Wednesday 14th August 2019 the news that The Antelope pub in the Town Centre had cancelled all forthcoming gigs at their outside stage. A post on The Antelope Facebook page said: “Due to a few people in the local area consistently complaining about the noise during our live music events, Wycombe District Council have decided that we can no longer have any outdoor live music.” A statement from WDC provided to wycombegigs.co.uk explained: “The conditions of the live music licence – and a subsequent noise abatement notice – were continually breached, despite council officers giving extensive assistance and advice to the licence holder.”
The Antelope have since set up a petition to save live music at their venue.
Both statements are provided in full below, plus a link to the petition.
The Antelope is one the oldest pubs in High Wycombe Town Centre and has a long tradition of hosting live music. It was a regular venue for Blues gigs, dating back to the 1960’s and provided a stage for many local acts throughout the 1970’s, 80’s, 90’s and into the 2000’s.
The venue closed temporarily in 2014 but new landlord Mark Adkins stepped in and re-vamped the venue as a live music venue – culminating in the opening of a 500-capacity outdoor, festival style, stage in 2017 under the Management of Mark Adkins. Well known acts, including The Hoosiers, Republica and Doctor and The Medics graced the stage in 2018, while numerous tribute acts, such as NoOasis, Sex Pistols Experience, Metallica and Amy Winehouse continued to pull the punters in during 2019.
The full statement on The Antelope Facebook page on Wednesday 14th August 2019 read:
“We’re very sad to announce that there will no longer be live music on The Antelope Stage, therefore all of our upcoming gigs are cancelled.
Due to a few people in the local area consistently complaining about the noise during our live music events, Wycombe District Council have decided that we can no longer have any outdoor live music.
Initially, they set us a very low decibel limit that was impossible to keep to, and after we failed to keep to that limit they told us we couldn’t have bands with a drummer. We purchased a drum isolation screen as that would likely keep the noise below the required decibel limit, but they’ve now decided we aren’t allowed any live music at all, despite our efforts.
Obviously we are very disappointed with this news, given all of the time, money and effort that has gone into our addition to the Wycombe Live Music Scene. We tried everything we could to stop this from happening, but sadly it wasn’t enough.
Thank you to all of the customers who have supported our stage by buying tickets and enjoying the gigs, and of course to all of the talented bands that have performed on The Antelope Stage x”
Following the news posted on The Antelope Facebook page, I contacted Wycombe District Council for a statement and they provided the following on Monday 19th August 2019:
“Over the last year and a half, Wycombe District Council have received a number of complaints from local residents about the live music from the “lope stage” outside The Antelope pub in High Wycombe. As a result, our Control of Pollution and Licensing Teams have been worked extensively with the premise licence holder to ensure that the business complied with licensing law and was not causing a public nuisance.
Unfortunately, the conditions of the live music licence – and a subsequent noise abatement notice – were continually breached, despite council officers giving extensive assistance and advice to the licence holder. As a result, we decided to refer the premises holder to a licensing panel– this was our preferred option rather than seeking a prosecution.
Given the breaches continued after the final warning and Noise Abatement Notice has been issued, the Panel decided that the licensing objectives could only be met by limiting live music to inside the pub. The decision notice stated that they were “sympathetic to the premises licence holder’s attempts to revitalise the premises, which included live music at the venue”. However, they noted that having volunteered a condition to his licence to minimise a nuisance to local residents from live music, the licence holder had consistently breached this condition.”
On Tuesday 20th August 2019, Roxi Cox from The Antelope set up a petition at charge.org that included the following statement from Mark Adkins (Landlord, Antelope) in response to WDC:
“I took over The Antelope in January 2015 and after a bit of a revamp, the pub opened it’s doors to the public, at the end of February. When I took over, the pub was very run down and attracted less than 50 customers even on a Saturday night. I set about reversing it’s fortunes as I knew it could be a great pub and an asset to the town again. Firstly, I barred any customers that were not well behaved and after a year or so, the pub had a good enough reputation with the Police that I felt confident in applying for a late license. When I spoke to the Police Licensing Officer, I was told that if I went for a 3am license, the Police resources would be split when O’Neill’s closed and that if I went for a 4am license, the resources would be split as Yates closes at that time. I knew that if the closing time was late enough, most customers would have drifted out in small numbers and there would not be an issue with the remaining customers at closing time. I applied for and eventually received a 6am license. I am very pleased to say that the customers have been great and we have not had issues at closing time. I mention this to highlight that as a Pub Landlord, I am always responsible with the decisions I make, and thoughtful of all outcomes of those decisions.
I installed an ID scanner that ensures that anyone who is barred cannot show up months later with a different look, or approach the door when a different door-person is working. We have less problems than any other late-night venue in the town for this reason. We are still the only venue that has this technology in place.
My license allowed me to have live music in the garden as long as it finished by 11pm (which seemed reasonable), so I set about building a stage. It is a large construction – approx. 9m wide, 5m deep and 1.2m high. I built it in sections so that it could be moved if required and it is not attached to the ground and therefore does not need planning permission. If I do something, there are no half-measures; it is built so solidly that a 4×4 could drive on it. After covering the stage with an inflatable cover, erecting the truss and setting up the lights and sound equipment, we then had (in my opinion) the best live music set up in the area. Last year The Antelope was proud to host Toploader, Republica, The Hoosiers and Doctor and the Medics. We also hosted various popular tribute bands and lesser known original bands. We have a policy of giving the support slots to small, up and coming local bands and thus we were able to help promote local talent. As luck would have it, the sound system that I purchased (with no knowledge what-so-ever) gave an excellent and clear sound. The Antelope has become, in a very short time, a music venue that both attracts bands and customers. Indeed, many bands have told us that with the sound quality, size and all the other great aspects of our stage, we are their favourite music venue in the Bucks area.
The stage events not only paid for bands to perform, but also gave employment to photographers, sound engineers, stagehands, door staff, advertising staff and booking agents. Customers & bands would often eat at other businesses prior to a gig and also visit other pubs before and after the gigs, which helped bring revenue into the town. While not the most important thing on a list of reasons to visit or study in the town, it does attract people that would otherwise look to other towns and is a benefit to the town as a whole.
We were informed that the sound was carrying too far, so began working with the council to fix the issue. I designed and installed a sound wall that runs along the church wall which had reduced the sound escaping by about 10 decibels (Db). I also purchased sound limiting crossovers that stop the sound going above the limit that they are set at. We were set a limit of 48Db at a measuring point outside Tiger Taxis on Castle Street. The important point to note here is that the crossovers only work with the sound that goes through the speakers. I asked the sound person from WDC about the fact that drums are generally louder than the 78Db that was set by them at the front of the stage and was told that as they are very quick hits, they would not affect the overall reading, as the 48Db is measured over a 15 minute period and the average is taken.
We were informed that a sound reading was taken during Frogfest that was above the limit but as we had around 450 people in the garden, and there were many other people in the town centre still due to the other stages, this did not set alarm bells ringing, as a crowd of this size is bound to produce a lot of noise.
I have sound level measuring equipment that does not give the average reading but does show the peaks. When I have taken measurements outside Tiger Taxis, the readings are both corrupted by passing traffic (a lot louder than the stage music) and also anyone nearby talking, car radios etc. I was concerned that the peaks from the drums were causing an issue as my research informed me that there is reverb on drums, i.e. the beat is not as short-lived as I was informed by the WDC sound person.
I asked the WDC sound person for help as they have equipment that can give an average reading (and costs about 7K!). I was told that they could not assist me again as they were taking action against the pub. I purchased a drum isolation booth (which cost over £1400.00) but as it had to be made and shipped, it arrived too late for us to test it by the time of the license review hearing, and was not taken into account when mentioned in the hearing.
I have never ignored the sound levels and due to the information given by WDC, I thought that the pub was within the limits. The sound limit was added to my license as a voluntary change and I was told it was achievable. I do not believe that WDC (or their employees) seriously think that live music does not generally include a drummer. I know that if I ask you, there may be a clever-clogs that can name some bands that don’t use drums but I personally struggle with it. An employee from the council actually suggested that we only have bands without drums!
As far as I am concerned the fact that the sound levels were not addressed before is due to the incorrect advice given by the WDC officer. I could have purchased a sound booth for the drums much sooner had I known it was an issue. I intend to appeal the decision of the license review hearing, and I was not going to ‘go public’ with this, but the WDC statement cannot go unanswered. Interestingly, although I have requested a copy of the minutes of the hearing, I have been told that I need to find them for myself on the WDC website. After spending hours looking without success, I even sent a request in to their website techs. No response as of yet. If there is anyone out there that has managed to find the key to unlock that secret level, please let me know the code.
I apologise to any residents nearby that have been affected by the live music at The Antelope, but I do hope that they take into account the fact that we only have live music on weekends during the warmer months and not all year round, and that they recognise it is only ever in the evening, and always finishes before 11pm. I’ve personally noticed that the town centre is always noisy during and even after this time on weekends due to the presence of pubs and bars in the area. There have even been instances in the past where The Antelope was accused of causing a sound disturbance with the stage, but we were able to prove with CCTV that the stage wasn’t actually in use at the time of the disturbance. This highlights to me that the town centre is naturally noisy enough on a weekend to receive complaints, even without our stage in use.”
“The Authority wishes to support, where appropriate, licensees to provide a wide range of entertainment activities throughout their opening hours and to promote live music, dance, theatre, regulated informal entertainment etc. for the wider cultural benefit.
They are a factor in maintaining thriving and sustainable towns and villages which is one of the Council’s aims. Where there is any indication that regulated entertainment, especially live music and dancing, are being deterred by licensing requirements, the policy will be revisited with a view to investigating how the situation might be reversed.”
Local promoter Ron Watts was busy throughout the summer months of 1979 putting on a variety of gigs at both The Nag’s Head and The Town Hall in High Wycombe. A flyer I discovered in my own collection reveals some interesting dates during July and August 1979, including a debut for Mod revival band Merton Parkas, a Blues Loft Reunion and ‘World Debut’ for former Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock’s band.
So, a quick skim through the list
Thursday 19th July 1979 – Merton Parkas/Panther 45
I believe this was Watts’ first venture into promoting a band from 1979 Mod revival. Curious to see what all the fuss was about, I recall making one of my ever trips to the Nag’s Head on a warm evening and being amazed to see at least a dozen scooters parked up along the London Road as punters from their London following made the trip into Buckinghamshire.
The Merton Parkas (formerly The Sneakers) consisted of Mick Talbot (keyboards and vocals), Danny Talbot (guitar and vocals), Neil Hurrell (bass and vocals) and Simon Smith (drums). At 20 years old, Mick Talbot and Simon Smith were the oldest members.
At the time of this gig they had just signed for Beggars Banquet after being recommended by The Lurkers. They would release their debut single, ‘You Need Wheels’ a few weeks after their appearance at The Nag’s Head.
Their set list that evening included the soon to be released single, plus covers, ‘Tears of a Clown’, ‘Stepping Stone’ and ‘Kids are Alright’, plus originals, ‘Plastic Smile’, ‘Give it to me Now’, ‘Hard Times’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Know You’.
Thursday 26th July 1979 – Blues Loft Reunion
This gig came just over ten years since Ron Watts had launched his Blues Loft in High Wycombe. According to the flyer, the featured artists were Paul Jones, Tom McGuinness, Hughie Flint, Shakey Vick and Dave Kelly. I’m pretty sure that Ron himself and the rest of Brewers Droop would have been on stage too.
Thursday 2nd August 1979 – The Jimmy Norton Explosion
This was billed by Watts as a ‘World Debut’ for a band put together by former Sex Pistols and Rich Kids bassist Glen Matlock. The Rich Kids had split up at the end of 1978 and Matlock had drafted in Steve New (guitarist formerly of Rock Kids), Danny Kustow (guitarist formerly of Tom Robinson Band) and ‘Budgie’ (drummer at the time for The Slits). Watts’ hand written flyer misspells the latter as ‘Busby’!
After all that explanation, I fairly sure that this gig never took place. They were also booked to appear at The Music Machine in London on 3rd August 1979 but I not sure if that took place either. From what I can make out, after recording a session for John Peel in July 1979, Matlock and New went off to tour with Iggy Pop and the JNE project was put on hold until early 1980 – they definitely appeared at The Nag’s Head on 29th February 1980.
Thursday 9th August 1979 – Phil Rambow
Rambow was a well-respected guitarist who had worked with Brian Eno and Mick Ronson. A quick search of Google reveals he also wrote songs with Kirsty MacColl and created the classic ‘classic ‘There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis’.
Another blow for live music in High Wycombe with the news that the gig below was CANCELLED due to Council restrictions.
Statement from Public Service Announcement said
It is with great regret that tomorrows gig has been cancelled! This is due to the council restricting the volume for live gigs to be an unworkable level. Let’s hope that the issue is resolved as The Antelope and particularly Roxi were trying to promote live music in Wycombe.
A quick mention of a cheap entry gig at The Antelope, High Wycombe on Friday 26th July 2019.
£1 will get you into to see Public Service Announcement, Calico Street Riots, Freudian Session and Bleed Happiness. Doors open at 7pm.
Regular visitors to the this site will be aware of Public Service Announcement. They released their first EP earlier in 2019 and this date will be first of three gigs on consecutive evenings. They play Holroyd Arms, Guildford on Saturday 27th July 2019 with The Members, while on Sunday 28th July 2019, they make their return to the annual Red Lion festival in Chinnor.
Some brief information on the other bands I found online
Calico Street Riots
Six piece English Folk Punk!
The idea to make a festival band was born whilst at Reading 2008.
Check them out on YouTube – obviously influenced by The Pogues (plus more swearing!)
The Freudian Session
Four piece Punk/Metal band bringing all the noise and banter to every show they play! Huge influences from the likes of The Wildhearts, Metallica, Rise Against, Therapy?, The Clash, Maximum The Hormone, anything punk or metal related!
The line-up of the Xtraverts at the time of this gig is believed have changed slightly from the one that supported The Lurkers at the Town Hall on June 1979, with Nigel Martin (vocals), Steve Westwood (guitar), Mark Chapman (bass) and now Andy Crawford taking over on drums from David Lee.
Elsewhere in the background for The Xtraverts was budding guitarist Glen Spicer. Glen would help tune the guitars for the band and would join the band later in 1979.
I was shocked to hear that Andy Crawford had passed away around the 40th anniversary of this gig and shortly before the time of this post. My condolences to his family and friends and offer this page as small tribute to a drummer who was very much part of the local punk scene back in 1979 and 1980.
R.I.P. Andy Crawford
Picture taken from Xtraverts Facebook group – messages can be left there too
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.
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
Mother Hates Me Hair
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.
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
I Couldn’t Be You
I Live in a Car
B1C (abandoned due to crowd trouble)
I Don’t Wanna Know
Scum of the Earth
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
Watching The Killers play their headline slot at Glastonbury Festival on Saturday 29th June 2019 reminded me that one of their first headline slots in the UK came in High Wycombe. On Monday 24th November 2003 they had been down to play support to British Sea Power at The White Room venue at was then known as Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College. However, bizarre events on the afternoon of the gig saw BSP forced to pull out, leaving The Killers to play on their own in front of a barely half-full venue.
I have first-hand re-collections of the evening having been keen to see British Sea Power. On arriving at around 7pm I was informed at the front desk of the venue that a member of BSP had hurt themselves and the band wouldn’t be performing. There was a slight pause, and then the student union rep said: “However, the support band are really good. They are sound checking now”. In the background The Killers were playing what I would later discover to be ‘Somebody Told Me’.
I didn’t discover the circumstances leading to BSP’s withdrawal until a few days later when the NME reported that bass player Hamilton was collecting branches to decorate the stage when he inadvertently sawed through the branch he was holding on to and fell to the ground, suffering a sprained wrist.
A spokesperson for the band said: “The BSP man had skilfully scaled a Copper Beech to selectively prune a few branches for the purposes of stage decoration. The accident occurred when, in Harold Lloyd style, the bass man sawed through the branch he was hanging onto. The fall resulted in a badly-sprained wrist, which made playing impossible.”
The NME report added that support band The Killers still played the concert, winning the crowd over while British Sea Power watched from the wings. Sound engineer Joe Harling stood in on bass for the remainder of the tour, while Hamilton recovered in time for BSP’s dates supporting The Strokes in December 2003. British Sea Power would eventually fulfil their High Wycombe date the following year.
Before then it was The Killers turn to try and impress the High Wycombe crowd. It was a long way from Las Vegas home where they had formed in 2001 – their name inspired by a logo on the bass drum of a fictitious band portrayed in the music video for the New Order song ‘Crystal’.
After gigging locally, a five track demo recorded in 2003 impressed the bosses of British label Lizard King and they signed a record deal with in July 2003. Two months later they travelled to the UK for the first to play at small venues in London (including The Garage and The Dublin Castle). The shows would help promote their debut release, ‘Mr Brightside’ released on 29th September 2003. They finished recording what would be their debut album, ‘Hot Fuss’, in November 2003 and returned to the UK for their support slot with British Sea Power. And so onto High Wycombe where a broken branch gave them a chance to be headliners.
At the time of the High Wycombe appearance their line-up was Brandon Flowers (22 years old, vocals and keyboards), Dave Keuning (27, lead guitar), Mark Stoermer (26, bass) and Ronnie Vannucci Jr. (27, drums).
I don’t have a record of the exact set-list for the High Wycombe gig but based on other appearances around this time, it would have included:
Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
Somebody Told Me
Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll
Smile Like You Mean It
Under the Gun
I believe their High Wycombe appearance was their first ‘headline slot outside of the USA and London. The Killers first official headline tour in the UK came in May 2004, with the ‘Hot Fuss’ album finally be released on 7 June 2004. Later that month they made their Glastonbury debut in a tent. The short set was broadcast on the BBC and help propel the band into the national spotlight just over six months after playing to a curious audience in High Wycombe.
Three years later (in 2007) they were headlining Glastonbury. They returned again in 2019, including in their set five of the songs they had performed in High Wycombe more than 15 years previous.
I was delighted to be able attend a celebration of Pete Shelley’s life on the evening of Friday 21st June 2019 at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The concert featured Buzzcocks (and an array of special guest singers) with support from The Skids and Penetration.
It would dismissive and rude of me not to squeeze in references to High Wycombe in this article. Buzzcocks may never had played High Wycombe but that was the place, back in February 1976, that Shelley (then named Peter McGleish) first witnessed The Sex Pistols. The rest is history.
Meanwhile, support acts, The Skids and Penetration both did make it to play live in High Wycombe – Richard Jobson and his merry Scottish band treading The Nag’s Head stage in June 1978 for their first appearance outside of Scotland and London. Penetration also sampled the delights of High Wycombe Town in June 1978 as they took a break from supporting Buzzcocks on their UK tour.
So, fast forward more than 40 years to the Royal Albert Hall in 2019 and it seemed almost surreal to witness all three of these acts on the same night and on the same stage.
It was perhaps apt that Penetration kicked off with their Buzzcocks cover, ‘Nostalgia’. It set the tone for an evening that proved that Shelley will be remembered as one of the greatest pop song writers of his era.
Penetration – set list
Come Into the Open
Shout Above the Noise
Beat Goes On
Richard Jobson is a great frontman and the latest version of The Skids he has assembled is able to do admirable justice to the impressive back catalogue of classics from the late 70’s and early 80’s. We even got a run through of, according to Jobson, the ‘worse ever Skids song’ in the form of ‘TV Stars’.
Skids – set list
Of One Skin
Kings of the New World Order
The Saints Are Coming
Working for the Yankee Dollar
Scared to Dance
Hurry On Boys
A Woman In Winter
TV Stars/Pretty Vacant /What Do I Get?
Into The Valley
Buzzcocks came on stage to an ever-rotating backdrop of band and Shelley memorabilia – just in case you got bored with the music. However, from the opening guitar riff of ‘Fast Cars’, sung by Buzzcocks original Steve Diggle, there was little chance to draw breath.
The guests started to take stage from the fifth number in – The Damned’s Captain Sensible attempting to the take on Boredom with the assistance of an oversize lyric sheet!
Former Buzzcocks John Maher and Steve Garvey joined the line-up for the short and sweet ‘Love You More’, with vocals coming from Penetration’s Pauline Murray.
You can see from the set-list below how the remainder of the evening panned out – all the guests adding their own unique style to the songs. The versions may not have been perfect but this was more about the remembering the songs rather than the performances.
Buzzcocks – set list
A Girl From the Chain store
Boredom (featuring Captain Sensible)
Love You More (featuring Pauline Murray))
Why Can’t I Touch it (featuring Peter Perrett)
Fiction Romance (featuring Richard Jobson)
What Do I Get? (featuring Dave Vanian)
Something’s Gone Wrong Again (featuring Dave Vanian)
Time’s Up (featuring Thurston Moore)
Noise Annoys (featuring Thurston Moore)
Sixteen Again (featuring Tim Burgess)
You Say You Don’t Love Me (featuring Tim Burgess)
Harmony in My Head
I Don’t Mind
Ever Fallen In Love (featuring all the guest vocalists)
Four years before Howard Jones would make his breakthrough in the UK charts with his synth based pop, his three younger brothers had formed a band and began gigging in the High Wycombe area. Their first outings came under the name of After Science, with an appearance at The Nag’s Head on Wednesday 20th June 1979 being one of their first ventures.
Brothers Roy Jones (20, vocals), Martin Jones (21, guitar) and Paul Jones (17, drums), were joined by friend Majid Ahmed (19, bass) for the gig billed to be in aid of Friends of the Earth. The self-made flyer was the only form of advertising for the gig but that and word of mouth amongst their music loving friends drew a decent crowd to the London Road venue.
I’m grateful for Roy Jones confirming, shortly before this article was published, that he had previously gained experience playing with local band ‘prog rock’ band Beowulf, which featured Sabir Ahmed (brother of Majid on bass), plus High Wycombe Royal Grammar classmate Paul Ferguson on drums. Ferguson went on to perform with Pink Parts during the 1977 ‘punk’ explosion.
By 1979, the ‘post-punk’ scene was in full swing and Ferguson had teamed up with a fledgling West London based Killing Joke. Meanwhile, Roy had begun collaborating with his younger brothers – all boasting natural music talent – and bringing a relatively fresh sound to the local scene and one that was in stark contrast to the bands harking back to the days full on punk days of 1976 and 1977.
Drawing influences from the likes of XTC, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, Talking Head and Public Image Limited; After Science quickly built up a local following playing the smaller local venues but seemed to struggle to make the step into the larger venues.
Later in 1979 they would change the band name to The Jones Boys and start to record tracks at The Boiler House studios in High Wycombe (Sands) along with engineer Derek Timms. By the end of 1979 they had built up enough material for an album and were gaining interest from record companies.
Roy Jones commented: “We used to rehearse two nights a week for four hours in the evenings after work. Then we used to play live in local venues like The Nag’s Head in High Wycombe. We even got record company interest from CBS who sent an A&R man down to see us play live.”
Roy also recalls that during one of their Nag’s Head appearances in 1979 brother Howard would join the group on stage. It would be the only time that all four brothers ever played live together before an audience.
In 2014 Roy Jones would re-visit the tracks recorded at The Boiler House and issue a retrospectively titled album, ‘Endless Waiting Game’, via download and streaming platforms.
The tracks featured were:
Endless Waiting Game
Television Hum (featuring Paul Ferguson)
Chinese Takeaway Experiment
Visit to Earth
Yes No Running
The tracks were essentially the material performed live by After Science and The Jones Boys up until early 1980, when the chaotic events at a planned support slot for Killing Joke and Joy Division at The Town Hall, High Wycombe provided the catalyst to move to London and make another name change, this time to Red Beat – and finally a breakthrough to play the bigger stages in London and beyond.
For your listening and viewing pleasure
Jones Boys/Red Beat – Endless Waiting Game – 1979 remastered in 2014 by Roy Jones