For those attending a gig by a new look Adam and The Ants at High Wycombe Town Hall on Friday 23rd May 1980, memories will of a night where violence dominated and prompted the local authorities to impose a ban of ‘rock concerts’ at the town’s biggest venue – a ban that was never formally lifted and sadly signalled the end of gigs at a venue that hosted the likes of The Who, Rolling Stones, Kinks, Small Faces, Tina Turner and The Jam, as well as giving local bands the chance to play on a bigger stage as support to their peers.
The sorry tale of the Adam & The Ants gigs came just over a year since they had previously played the Town Hall. In the intervening year The Ants had undergone a major overhaul of personnel. During the early months of 1980, founder member Stuart Goddard (AKA Adam Ant) had brought in Marco Pirroni (guitar), Kevin Mooney (bass), plus two drummers, Terry Lee Miall and Chris Hughes. This had followed former Ants Manager, Malcolm McLaren, persuading former members of the band to jump ship and join his new venture, Bow Wow Wow, fronted by a then 13-year-old Annabella Lwin.
Meanwhile, a 25-year-old Adam Ant was developing the sound of his new band, recording a new track, ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ as a means of gaining record company support. This was coupled with an ‘Ants Invasion’ tour that kicked off at the Electric Ballroom, London on 22nd May 1980 but events would really ‘kick-off’ the following evening in High Wycombe.
In the two years leading up to this date, gigs at the Town Hall had regularly been disrupted by a small group of Wycombe based ‘skinheads’. This group of Neanderthals would take pleasure from creating chaos and terror at gigs and particularly during performances by bands that didn’t fit into their own small-minded stereotyped view of what a ‘punk’ band should sound and look like. And just for good measure, this was interspersed with racist chanting because presumably in their eyes it was, in modern day terms, ‘banter’.
During my research for this gig, I was excited to find an audio recording of The Adams & The Ants set. The inter song exchanges between the band (mainly Adam) and the small moronic element of the audience capture the poisonous atmosphere of the evening.
The band came on stage to the intro of music of Gary Glitter’s ‘Hello! Hello! I’m Back Again’ before opening up with ‘Physical’ and then going into the now iconic ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’. You can hear the track on the YouTube clip below but for the record, at the conclusion of the song the ‘Skinhead’ chants start up followed by a quick call for local band “Xtraverts”. Adam Ant retorts with “That was last week’s thing mate. You’ve been watching too much Tiswas. You go and stick your skinhead up your ****ing arse. We’ve got one type of person here. Ants!”
The taunts and exchanges continue with Adam Ant adding: “You don’t scare me. Just go away”, and then sarcastically adding after the following song: “My Mum would love it – nice short hair [but] we’re concerned with the future not the past.”
Then as the ‘Sieg Heil’ chants continue, the band are pushed to tipping point, shouting out: “I don’t know about skinheads but you’re just a right bunch of w**kers. If you want to say it, come down here and say it. We’ve had enough of you. We’ve had enough of it. Ant Music.”
Vague fanzine, published shortly after the gigs documents the gig from a Adam & The Ants fan perspective and I’ve included the full piece below.
Adams & The Ants – set list Town Hall, High Wycombe – 23rd May 1980
Kings of the wild frontier
Beat My Guest
Killer In The Home
Were you at this gig? Send your memories here or via the Twitter link below
For your listening pleasure
Kings of the Wild Frontier (live audio) – High Wycombe, Town Hall 23rd May 1980
Friday 31st March 2000 – The Damned – White Horse, High Wycombe
The Damned return to High Wycombe after near 21 year absence. Captain Sensible greets the audience: “Good Evening! High Wycombe’s a sh*t hole, except this place of course because it gives us free beer.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 “
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
My Mother Ate My Soul
Girls Don’t Count
A Certain Ratio
Do the Du
And Then Again
All Night Party
Turn To Red
Are You Receiving?
Bodies (Sex Pistols Cover)
The Sound Of Music
A Means To An End
The Sound Of Music
A Means To An End
Twenty Four Hours
Love Will Tear Us Apart
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
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
Wednesday 23rd January 1980 was the evening when many music fans from High Wycombe travelled the short (and ever familiar) journey across Buckinghamshire to see The Ramones at Aylesbury Friars. The occasion was one of the opening dates of their UK tour promoting their ‘End of the Century’ album – their 5th album release since they spearheaded the rise of the US punk scene in the mid 1970’s.
The US band were one of the few early punk pioneers not to have played High Wycombe and as the UK entered a new decade, demand for tickets was enormous. The local outlet in High Wycombe for tickets was Scorpion records. The £2.95 tickets (5p cheaper than The Clash gig at Friars on 5th January 1980) went on sale on the morning of Monday 31st December 1979 and were snapped up as fast as was humanly possible at the time.
My old school-friend, Martin Percival, and also a companion at many gigs over the intervening years, were both up early enough to get tickets. Martin recalls this gig as his first time seeing The Ramones and the catalyst for his love of the band rising to a different level. Over to you Martin, 1,2,3,4..
“This was the first of the 33* Ramones gigs that I saw between 1980 and 1996. Although I had enjoyed The Clash Friars gig two weeks previously, this was the gig that had a much greater impact on me at the time as well as over the longer term
Their January 1980 gig was the Ramones’ third and what proved to be their final Friars gig after playing twice in 1977 with Talking Heads in June and the Rezillos in December.
The Boys supported the Ramones for the whole tour and at the Rainbow gig in London their keyboard player Casino Steel accompanied the band on a very rare live rendition of the Ramones only top 10 UK hit single – a cover of the Ronette’s ‘Baby, I Love You’, produced by Phil Spector and featured on the ‘End of the Century’ album.
16 years previously in January 1964 the Ronettes original version peaked at No.11 in the UK charts, 3 places lower than the Ramones version did in 1980. Back in 1964 the Ronettes were touring the UK with a relatively new young UK band supporting them on their first national tour…… the Rolling Stones! On 21st January 1964 the 2 bands played 2 sets in Aylesbury at the Granada cinema. It was an incredibly foggy day – The Ronettes arrived late and didn’t even have time to change into their stage clothes before starting their first set. But at least they arrived… Brian Jones was lost in the fog and missed the gig completely!
Thankfully there were no weather problems for the evening in January 1980 where the sold out gig was also the night that The Ramones received the FA Cup – the Friars Aylesbury Cup! Joey Ramone looked slightly bemused when he was given the cup on stage on the night by Friars promoter Dave Stopps, but the band were very proud of it. When the compilation album ‘Ramones Mania’ was released in 1988, Arturo Vega, who designed the iconic Ramones eagle logo, made sure the cup was featured amongst other band memorabilia in a collage on the front cover of the album.
Friars was a venue that the Ramones loved and when I interviewed Johnny Ramone in Birmingham in December 1992 and mentioned the Friars gig he laughed and said how much he had enjoyed the venue and the Aylesbury crowd.”
Ramones – set-list – Aylesbury Friars 23rd January 1980
I Can’t Make It On Time
Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment
Rock ‘N’ Roll High School
I Wanna Be Sedated
Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio?
She’s the One
I Just Want to Have Something to Do
Sheena is a Punk Rocker
All the Way
Judy Is A Punk
I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You
Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World
Beat on the Brat
*A big thank-you to Martin for his memories and yes I checked that the thirty three was not a typo.
References and further reading
Aylesbury Friars website – memories and photo galleries from January 1980
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?
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.
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:
Ping Pong Affair
Man Next Door
Or What Is It?
Adventures Close to Home
Spend, Spend, Spend
In The Beginning There Was Rhythm
‘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.
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!