2 June 1978 – Penetration plus support – Town Hall

County Durham’s favourite punk band, Penetration, played a headline slot at High Wycombe Town Hall on Friday 2nd June 1978.  Their appearance was during a break from their support slot on a national tour with The Buzzcocks.  Support for Penetration at The Town Hall was originally billed as London based Reggae Regulars but was changed closer to the date of the gig to a selection of more local bands.  Although not particularly well attended, the evening was a chance to catch a band that were gaining ever increasing positive reviews and attention through the national music press.

Penetration – montage of memorabilia from High Wycombe Town gig – 2nd June 1978 – created for wycombegigs.co.uk

Penetration had formed towards the tail end of 1976 with a line-up of Pauline Murray (vocals), Robert Blamire (bass), Gary Smallman (drums,) and Gary Chaplin (guitar).  The band was named after a Stooges’ song.  They released their first single, ‘Don’t Dictate’ in November 1977 on Virgin Records and the follow-up, ‘Firing Squad’ was released the month before their visit to High Wycombe.

Their tour with The Buzzcocks had seen them take in another date in Buckinghamshire – Saturday 6th May 1978 seeing them support Manchester’s finest punk export at Aylesbury Friars.  However, the High Wycombe date was a rare chance for Penetration to headline at a decent sized venue outside of a major city.

By the time of their Town Hall appearance, original guitarist Gary Chaplin had left the band – departing in March 1978 and being replaced by Penetration fanatic, 19 year old Neale Floyd. Chaplin had written the entire band’s music to date, with 20 year old Patti Smith fan, Murray providing the lyrics.  During my research for this article, I found a Sounds interview from the 27 May 1978 issue. It reveals that Robert Blamire had just ‘discovered’ his first song – saying: “I came up with the bassline at a soundcheck.” Pauline Murray added that the song proved to be an ‘inspiration’ and she eventually added lyrics, including the following:

Caught up in the scheme/Mixed up in a moving dream
Music in the motion/Rhythm just repeat, repeat
Echo multiplies and waves of sound are lost in space/Motion in the wheels
And pulling all the strings

The song would become ‘Movement’ and get an airing at High Wycombe Town Hall and in Phil Sutcliffe’s Sounds article, the journalist states: “‘Movement’ is probably the crucial song in Penetration’s development, the convincing assertion that they are far more than punk buzzsaw merchants.” He added: “The vocal and and words feel just right with Pauline embodying actual power and potential rather than the impotent, straight-jacketed aggression which characterised early punk. This is the mood of ’78 (I hope), action instead of self-pity”.

I’m grateful again to my long-time friend Buzz who not only attended the gig but also wrote his immediate thoughts in his 1978 diary. The listings for this gig in the music press had the support line-up down as The Ventilators, Vice Creams and The Yonkers.  However Buzz confirms via his diary that the latter two bands didn’t play and were replaced by The Mystery Girls. A band of this name had been due to play at The Newlands Club in October 1977 but they never appeared.  I assume they were a band from the High Wycombe area? I have no more information at this stage, so if you are able to add any background, please get in touch.

Meanwhile, The Ventilators were a High Wycombe based band consisting of far more familiar faces at the time.  They were Kris Jozajtis (guitar and vocals), Kevin Smith (guitar and vocals), Mark White (drums) and Carlton Mounsher (bass).  Jozatjis, White and Mounsher had originally played together during the latter months of 1976 and early 1977 in Deathwish.  Later in 1977 they regenerated into The Pretty and then The Party.  Buzz recalls that the trio were still at school at the time of the Penetration gig in March 1978 and their new band were introduced by promoter Ron Watts before coming on stage as: ‘one of the best bands to come from Wycombe for years.’

Buzz’s diary recalls the performance of The Ventilators as ‘excellent’ but also commented that he was, “dismayed by the astonishingly small audience”.  He added: “By the time Penetration started, the audience was still smaller than the group deserved but at least everyone came to the front of the stage and thus created a reasonable mass of people.”

The small audience can be attributed to a number of factors, including the chaotic and violent scenes at the previous Town Hall gig – the 28 April 1978 appearance by Siouxsie and The Banshees – an evening where the moronic actions of those playing up to the stereotypical ‘punk’ and ‘skinhead’ factions, ruined the enjoyment for the vast majority who had come along to simply enjoy the music. In an attempt to try a fool the ‘thickos’ (as described by gig promoters of the time), details of up and coming concerts were kept low-key. Outcome, the ‘thickos’ struggled to figure out when and where the gigs were. While ‘music-lovers’ (i.e. those who could read), turned up as normal.  Result, smaller audience and no trouble but bands and promoters were left wondering whether it was all worth the bother.

My friend Buzz can thankfully be included within the ‘music lovers’ group and commenting on the sounds he heard that evening, he wrote in his diary: “Musically, Penetration were very good – though they seemed to have surprisingly little equipment. Also, the three blokes had very little stage presence, but this was compensated by Pauline, who was excellent.  Despite demanding a second encore we only got one.”

Penetration line-up – May 1978 – as published in Sounds 27 May 1978

Songs played by Penetration on that evening on June 1978 would have most likely included:

  • New Recruit
  • MoneyTalks
  • Don’t Dictate
  • Firing Squad
  • Movement
  • Life’s a Gamble
  • Future Daze
  • Stone Heroes
  • Lovers of Outrage
  • Vision
  • Nostalgia (Buzzcocks cover)
  • Free Money (Patti Smith cover)
  • VIP
  • Silent Community

They would recruit an additional guitarist in July 1978 when Fred Purser joined. A first John Peel session was recorded the same month and in October 1978 they released their debut album, ‘Moving Targets’.  A headline performance at Aylesbury Friars followed in November 1978 and a second album, ‘Coming Up For Air’, was released in September 1979.  They split-up the following month to concentrate on separate projects.  However, in 2001 they reformed with original members Pauline Murray and Robert Blamire.  They were later joined by former Buzzcocks drummer John Maher.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Don’t Dictate – Penetration – live Manchester – August 1977

Note classic example of ‘Thicko’ being dealt with by ‘Music Lovers’ at around 1:20.

Firing Squad – Penetration – audio of single – released May 1978

Life’s A Gamble – Penetration – live Reading Festival – August 1978

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penetration_(band)

23 June 2018 – No More Heroes 4 – Wycombe Arts Centre

The 4th annual ‘No More Heroes’ punk festival takes place in High Wycombe on Saturday 23rd June 2018.  There is a change of venue this year, with the slightly bigger ‘Wycombe Arts Centre’ in Desborough Road, taking over from The Phoenix Bar in Bridge Street.

The event kicks-off at 11am and runs right through until midnight, with close to 20 bands expected to take to the stage throughout the day.

Entry is £20, with tickets available in advance or on the door.

The running order is expected to be the following but please check the event links at the foot of this post for the current information.

11-11.30 BRASH BULLETS

 11.40-12.10 INNER CITY

 12.20-12.50 PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

 1.00-1.30 AMBITION DEMOLITION

 1.40-2.10 CHINESE BURN

 2.20-2.50 THE ANORAKS

 3.00-3.30 THE DOLE

 3.40-4.10 NUFFIN

 4.20-4.50 COMPLETE DISFUNCTION

 5.00-5.30 SCREAMING DEAD

 5.40-6.10 HUNG LIKE HANRATTY

 6.20-6.50 SATELITTES

 7.00-7.30 BLUE CARPET BAND

 7.40-8.10 THE KULT 45s

 8.20-8.50 MORGELLONS

 9.00-9.30 THE FECKIN EJITS

 9.40-10.20 ACID ATTACK

 10.30-11.10 CHARRED HEARTS

 11.20-12.00 WITCHDOKTORS

Event links

https://www.facebook.com/events/1326673124115911/permalink/1602443129872241/

http://www.arts4every1.com/events/no-more-heroes-punk-festival

PLEASE SUPPPORT LIVE MUSIC IN HIGH WYCOMBE

Take a look at who played at ‘No More Heroes’ 2017

24 May 1968 – Jethro Tull – Nag’s Head

The Nag’s Head hosted an early appearance for folk/prog rock giants in the making Jethro Tull on Friday 24th May 1968.  The band, formed in late 1967, had released just one single at the point of their Nag’s Head appearance and their debut album had yet to be recorded.  Less than a year later, their first vinyl long-player had hit the top 10 UK album charts and by the early 1970’s they were touring the world playing huge arenas.

Jethro Tull adverts from The Bucks Free Press for gigs at The Nag’s Head and The Crown, Marlow – May 1968

Promoter Ron Watts recalls the gig in his 100 Watts – A Life In Music – autobiography, where he claims he trialled an admission charge increase method.

“The normal price of admission was six shillings, but rather than reduce the price for an unknown band as Tull were then, I charged 6/6 (32 ½ p). I gambled that people would think that the higher price meant Tull were well-known, and potential customers would be too embarrassed to admit to their friends that they’d never heard of the night’s star attraction. The gamble worked, the place was full and Tull did a great set.”

The original band members had met in Blackpool. They found success after moving south to base themselves in Luton and settling on the name Jethro Tull.  Scottish born Ian Anderson on lead vocals and flute was a main focus, with other band members at the time of their High Wycombe appearance being Micky Abrahams (guitar), Clive Bunker (drums) and Glen Cornick (bass).  They released their first single, “Sunshine Day/Aeroplane” on MGM records in February 1968, although it was miscredited to ‘Jethro Toe’.

Following their appearance at The Nag’s Head, on 29th June 1968 Jethro Tull played the first ever free concert at Hyde Park, along with The Pink Floyd, Roy Harper and Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Footage of the concert was filmed by Pathe news and has since appeared in documentaries about the band.  In August 1968 they appeared at the National Jazz and Blues Festival at Sunbury-on-Thames and by most accounts, this was the point they became recognised by the national music press and their career blossomed as a result.

Support to Jethro Tull on 24th May 1968 were The Nag’s Head houseband Dynaflow Blues.  They would also share the bill with Jethro Tull at the National Jazz and Blues Festival at Sunbury-on-Thames in August 1968.

Watts also promoted a Jethro Tull gig in Marlow the following week, with a show at The Crown. Watts added in his autobiography: “Six months later Tull’s first album, This Was, had made the top ten album charts and the band had been the hit of that summer’s festival circuit. People were coming up to me in awe, saying, “You booked them, and they became stars.” It was nothing to do with me, I’d hardly heard of Jethro Tull when they played the Nag’s, but they helped me to get a reputation for being able to spot up and coming acts. That meant people were happy to see bands they didn’t know, because they thought that a few weeks later they’d be watching Top of the Pops and telling everyone that they’d seen all those performers playing at the Nag’s.”

It doesn’t appear that Jethro Tull ever returned to play High Wycombe again but there is another connection with the area as Ian Anderson moved to live in Buckinghamshire for a number of years from the late 1970’s through to the early 1980’s – residing in a farm house in Radnage – a village about 7 miles from High Wycombe.  Footage of the farm (with recording studio added), plus the 1968 Hyde Park film, appears in the YouTube clip below.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Fish ‘n’ Sheep & Rock ‘n’ Roll – Ian Anderson documentary – Channel 4 1987

Hyde Park footage is from 1:30 – filmed 29th June 1968
Footage at Radnage is from around 27:30

References:

http://www.ukrockfestivals.com/hyde-pk-6-29-68.html

http://www.ukrockfestivals.com/sunbury2.html

12 May 1978 – Vibrators/Depressions (cancelled) – Town Hall

High Wycombe’s 1978 tale of gigs that ‘never were’ continued on Friday 12th May when The Vibrators date at the Town Hall was pulled just days beforehand.  Crowd trouble at Town Hall gigs earlier in 1978 had prompted promotors to keep selected gig line-ups secret until the week leading up the actual date but, on this occasion, it was a tragic incident at a Vibrators gig in Preston that prompted the cancellation.

High Wycombe Town Hall gigs adverts May and June 1978 from The Buckshee Press – plus NME cutting for cancelled Vibrators gig at The Town Hall

The 12th May 1978 gig date at The Town Hall had been promoted some weeks previous with a line-up of ‘Special Guests’.  Local music fans interested in attending had to keep a keen eye on the music press, coupled with regular visits to the record shops in High Wycombe Town centre for a chance of confirming who might be playing.

The cancellation of the gig was confirmed in the NME published on Thursday 11th May 1978 when they reported a shocking incident at a Vibrators and Depressions gig at Preston Polytechnic on the evening of Saturday 6th May 1978.  The report read: “One person died and three others were hospitalised after a riot broke out between sets at a gig in Preston last Saturday.”  The incident happened after support band The Depressions had just finished their set.  The NME Phil McNiell’s commented in the Thrills section: “The audience seated in a kind of auditorium around the dance floor, watched with horror as two rival football gangs – Preston North End and Blackpool supporters – fell on one another wielding chairs, tables, metal barriers and whatever else they could lay their hands on.” As the incident unfolded, both bands were back in the dressing and unware of the brawl taking place.  Two people were left unconscious on the floor, with 22-year-old Henry Bailey of Higher Walton, near Preston, later dying of head injuries on his way to hospital.  The Vibrators, understandably, did not take the stage to play their set, with the venue swarmed by police in attempt to try control the chaotic and destressing scenes.

The incident made the national paper headlines and subsequently tour dates scheduled for the following few days at Blackburn and Sunderland and then High Wycombe were cancelled by the tour agency. However, other venues were not so quick to make a decision.  The High Wycombe date on the 12th May was relatively quickly replaced by a show at Manchester Rafters, while the majority of the remaining dates were left unchanged.

The NME report also claimed a team of 70 detectives were assigned to the case, with the officer in charge stating: “[We] are prepared to track down every single person at the college that night in order to find the killer.” Looking back some 40 years after the incident, it appears that nobody was ever convicted.

So, it was sobering report from a gig at Preston that consequently left the High Wycombe punters without another weekend gig and a chance missed to see a band who were just breaking into the charts having been part of the original punk scene two years previous and who played The Nag’s Head in both September and November 1976.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Automatic Lover – Vibrators – BBC Top of the Pops – 16 March 1978

Vibrators –4 songs BBC Old Grey Whistle Test – 4 April 1978

11 May 1978 – Wayne County (cancelled)/Stukas – Nag’s Head

High Wycombe favourites Wayne County and The Electric Chairs were due to play at The Nag’s Head on Friday 11th May 1978. This date appears in printed and online histories but my research some 40 years after the original date had revealed that Wayne was forced to cancel the gig late in the day due to illness.  Those arriving at the London Road venue hoping to see Wayne with The Electric Chairs would have been shown a telegram taped to the wall from Wayne apologising for the cancellation and indicating a new date would be arranged as soon as possible.

Wayne and The Electric Chairs – circa 1977

Wayne County and The Electric Chairs had appeared in High Wycombe on at least three previous occasions prior to the scheduled May 1978 date. The first, as part of the March 1977 US Rock Week at The Nag’s Head, drew a decent crowd and prompted promoter Ron Watts to invite them back for another appearance just a month later on 9th April 1977. However, a November 1977 headlining show at The Town Hall proved a step too far, with audience numbers not that much greater than a crammed Nag’s Head and an atmosphere toned down from the intensity of The Nag’s Head stage.

The return to the Nag’s Head on 11th May 1978  was billed as a ‘farewell’ concert for Wayne County – farewell being to the name ‘Wayne’ and hello to the soon to be ‘Jayne’.

The few who stayed on at The Nag’s Head on Friday 11th May 1978 would have seen support band Street Chorus, followed by headliners The Stukas.  Street Chorus appear to be a soul band with horns and a Hammond Organ.

Stukas debut single – reverse of picture cover with details of band members

Meanwhile, The Stukas were returning to The Nag’s Head having supported Chelsea at the same venue a year previous. They had built a small following throughout 1977.  However, by mid-1978 it appears their momentum had waned and they gradually faded from grace leaving a small back catalogue of songs from 1977-1978.

Jayne County and The Electric Chairs would return to High Wycombe later in the year.

4/5/6 May 2018 – Animals Rock Festival – Dashwood Arms

Posh Birds Productions were proud to present a three-day music festival at The Dashwood Arms, Piddington, to raise much needed funds for the residents at Animal SOS Sri Lanka.  The event took place on Friday 4th May 2018, Saturday 5th May 2018 and Sunday 6th May 2018.

Running order (all bands are provided their services for free)

 FRIDAY 4th May

7.30-8.30 2NONBlondes band

8.30-9.00 Steph Willis

9.00-10.00 Stealworks

10.30-12.00 NBS

SATURDAY 5th May

1.30-2.30 Beaver

2.30-3.00 Bob Anderson

3.00-4.00 Big Azza & The Jukesters

4.00-4.30 Bob Newell

4.30-5.30 Tiny Tina

5.30-6.00 Russell Leak

6.00-7.00 Public Service Announcement

7.00-7.30 Dave Dunbar

7.30-8.30 The Relics

9.00-10.00 World Gone Crazy

10.30-12.00 Hustler

SUNDAY 6th May

1.30-2.30 Jokers Parade

2.30-3.00 Sandy Lenny

3.00-4.00 Reeve

4.00-4.30 Thanx

4.30-5.30 The Sobernaughts

5.30-6.00 Mouth on a Stick

6.00-7.00 Papa Truck

7.00-7.30 RAFFLE DRAW (cash prize)

7.30-8.30 Silvervoid

8.30-9.00 Keane

9.00-10.00 Fawesome

10.30-12.00 The MFU

Weekend tickets just £10.

Daily ticket prices

Friday £4

Saturday £6

Sunday £6

Free entry for children

 More details from the following facebook pages 

https://www.facebook.com/poshbirdsproductions/

https://www.facebook.com/thedashwood/

 Please support your local live music venues

3 May 1968 – Rainbow FFolly release debut album on Parlophone

Rainbow FFolly, High Wycombe’s pop band in the making, debut album ‘Sallies Fforth’ hit the record shops on Friday 3rd May 1968.  With heavy pop and psychedelia influences from the time, the band were looking to hit the big-time, with 21 year old vocalists and lead guitarist Jonathan Dunsterville stating (with tongue in cheek) that his ambition from fame would be to own a ‘gold plated house’.  His dream didn’t quite work out but the album has since become a collector’s item and prompted the band to reform and release a follow-up some 38 years later!

Sallies Forth – 1968 Parlophone release from High Wycombe’s Rainbow FFolly

Rainbow Ffolly consisted of Jonathan Dunsterville, 21 years old (lead guitar), Richard Dunsterville, 23 (guitar) Richard Newell,19 (bass) and Stewart Osborn, 21 (drums).  The band had originally formed in early 1967 under the name ‘Force Four’ and had played many of the local smaller venues, including High Wycombe’s Needham Bowl and Townfield House.

Band ‘leader’ Jonathan Dunsterville was a former student at ‘High Wycombe College of Technology and Art’ and designed the cover for the album which had been partly recorded in the front room of Stewart Osborn’s house in London Road, High Wycombe – however, the main recording had been carried out at John Jackson’s legendary studio in Rickmansworth. The recordings were intended as demo tracks for distribution to record companies but EMI were so impressed they agreed to issue the recordings ‘as is’ on their Parlophone sister label – the same label the used at the time by The Beatles.

During my research for this article I found several mentions of the band in the 1968 editions of the Bucks Free Press. An article from 3 May 1968 – the day the album was released reports that a reception for the album was held at the EMI offices in London the week before its release. The BFP feature says the group made their way to the occasion using their ‘trusty ambulance’.  It also reports the fact that fans of the group had gathered in Hazlemere (at the home of Manager John Sparrowhawk) earlier that day to wish them off on their trip to London.  The ambulance they used for transporting their gear to gigs had been decorated with a clockwork key on the roof, rainbow coloured wheel hubs and cartoon caricatures of the group on the windows.  The band themselves wore what was their usual regalia – an assortment of Edwardian clothes, embroidered silks and silver jewellery.

Rainbow Ffolly and their clockwork ambulance – picture from www.rainbowffolly.com

 

The reception included a photo session with Paul Fleviz and Beatle label mate George Harrison was apparently on-hand to watch the boys pose for photos on top of the ambulance.  The photo also attracted the attention of nearby office workers, while a female traffic warden was put-off ticketing the ambulance via the gift of a Rainbow FFlolly card.  The band then continued their photo session in other well-known locations in London before ending the day by visiting HMV records in Oxford Street to see their album on special display.  Back in High Wycombe, local record outlets Percy Prior and W.H.Smith also had picture displays of the band to promote the release.

Rainbow FFolly – montage of press cutting from the Bucks Free Press – 1968 – created for wycombegigs.co.uk

The album was followed by a single release, ‘Drive My Car’ (not The Beatles song). In August 1968 another Bucks Free Press article revealed they were due to play at the famous Star Club in Hamburg – the same venue where The Beatles had made a name for themselves earlier in the 1960’s.  The feature also said a tour of Canada had been planned – starting in Montreal and taking in most of the country.  Radio and television shows were also said to be planned in Canada.  By contrast UK dates appear to be fairly low-key but perhaps exclusive affairs?  Following the release of the album they played at a number of London clubs, including ‘Hatchetts’ in Piccadilly, while the BFP article from August 1968 claimed the band ‘have plans for a tour of East Anglia’.

The album also featured on BBC Radio One’s ‘Saturday Club’ show on 13 July 1968, where DJ Keith Skues gave the band close to 20 minutes of airtime. Sadly, for the band, the album and single crept under the radar and they split-up later in 1968.  However, over the years the Rainbow Ffolly recordings have acquired cult status.  That demand was partly responsible for the band reforming in 2016 to bring out a long-awaited follow-up – aptly named ‘Ffollow Up’.

There are a number of articles on the web relating to Rainbow Ffolly. I’ve listed what I have found below, including a website set up by the band in 2016 at the time of their new album.  Do you have connection with the band or remember seeing the band back in 1968?  Please get in touch, or post in the comments section.  Did they ever get to perform on Canadian TV?

For your listening pleasure

Sallies Forth – Rainbow Ffolly – full audio of 1968 album

References

http://www.rainbowffolly.com/ – band website launched 2016

https://www.loudersound.com/features/rainbow-ffolly-release-second-album-48-years-after-their-debut – Louder Sound interview with bassist Roger Newell from September 2016

http://www.radiolondon.co.uk/sixties/rainbowff/reccoll/rffstory.html – article from Record Collector magazine published in November 1999 – including comments from Roger Newell

http://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2011/09/rainbow-ffolly-interview-with-roger.html – another interview with Roger Newell from 2011

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

30 April 1968 – Bill Haley and the Comets – Town Hall

Rock ‘n’ Roll legends Bill Haley and the Comets played a nostalgic concert at High Wycombe Town on Tuesday 30th April 1968.  The Bucks Free Press advert promoted the evening with the strap-line: ‘A Legend in Their Own Lifetime! From U.S.A. – the Kings of Rock ‘n’ Roll.’ 8/- (40p) would have gained you entry with ‘Seats available in the balcony for non-dancers’.

Bill Hayley and The Comets – High Wycombe Town Hall – 30th April 1968

The U.S.A. group had first hit the charts in the 1950’s, with ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll’ becoming the first rock ‘n’ roll single to break in the UK charts in December 1954. Their most famous song, ‘Rock Around The Clock’ was originally released before this date as a ‘B’ side and its success didn’t take off until it was used in the opening credits to the film ‘Blackboard Jungle’, released in March 1955.

Returning to their 1968 appearance in High Wycombe, the Bucks Free Press previewed the gig by saying: “Perhaps the greatest group to come out of Rock and Roll was Bill Haley and the Comets. They will be playing at High Wycombe Town Hall on Tuesday.  Though for most teenagers the days of rock and roll are a bit distant, Bill Haley has a fantastic stage act and this should be an evening worth watching.”

Unfortunately there was no review of the gig in the BFP but mention of the gig can be found in the August 2016 edition of Record Collector magazine where a letter from Dean Smith recalls: “I did get to see Bill & His Comets, at High Wycombe Town Hall. I was in the darker area at the back of the hall enjoying not only the full spectacle but also lots of 30-40-something couples trying to get space enough to jive amongst clumps of young teenagers jigging up and down and trying to throw shapes copied from rock’n’roll film posters.”

The gig appeared to briefly relight the old school rock ‘n’ roll scene in High Wycombe and a ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival Show’ was subsequently arranged at the Town Hall on Tuesday 14th May 1968.  However, a brief mention in the BFP of that evening suggests it was not well attended and further Tuesday evening concerts tended to stick to the more current ‘pop’ acts.

For you listening and viewing pleasure

Bill Haley returns to England – 1968 Pathe News

References:

http://recordcollectormag.com/letters/hail-haley

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Haley_%26_His_Comets

30 April 1978 – Anti-Nazi League march and concert – Victoria Park

There was a mini-pilgrimage from High Wycombe on Sunday 30th April 1978 to attend a joint ‘Anti-Nazi League’ and ‘Rock Against Racism’ march and concert in London.  The march started from Trafalgar Square and would make the 4 mile trek towards Victoria Park in Hackney, East London, for an open air concert attended by an estimated 80,000 people and featuring X-Ray Spex, The Clash, Steel Pulse and Tom Robinson Band.

Those travelling from High Wycombe journeyed mainly on organised coaches departing from outside the Stewart and Arnolds factory in Temple Street. Those travelling independently by public transport used the regular service National Express from the Bus Station (built as part of the Octagon Shopping opened in 1968) or the dilapidated train service of the time – heading for Marylebone and then choosing to either join the march at Trafalgar Square at 11am or most likely catching the Hammersmith and City line to Mile End, before walking to Victoria Park for the start of the concert.

The first band on were X-Ray Spex – taking the stage around 1.30pm as many of the crowd were still making their way to Victoria Park.  Sound problems plagued the day throughout but X-Ray Spex battled along with their sax based punk sound, led by the charismatic and outspoken Poly Styrene.

‘Folk Punk’ Patrik Fitzgerald braved the stage next but for some reason was met with hostility from a small section of the crowd who decided to lob beer cans at the stage.  Fitzgerald would have been familiar with the small contingent from High Wycombe – he had played The Nag’s Head earlier in the year and unlike his time at Victoria had received a warm reception.  He abandoned his set part way through and was later quoted as saying: “If the crowd hate the Nazis as much as they do me, then we will be OK.”

Perhaps the reaction to Fitzgerald was the anticipation of waiting for The Clash?  Looking back some 40 years later it would be easy to play the revisionist trick and hail The Clash at that point in time as a mighty force with a huge back catalogue of classics.  Truth be told, back in April 1978 they were still trying to find their true direction having been one of the original punk bands from the UK punk explosion of 1976 and 1977.

The Clash had been formed in the summer of 1976 and played an early gig at The Nag’s Head later that year in front of a crowd that barely approached 100. Just a few months later a six-figure sum had enticed them to sign for CBS records and they released their debut self-titled album in April 1977 to wide acclaim.  The album reached No.12 in the UK charts but CBS didn’t consider it suitable for the US market and it wasn’t until early 1979 that a modified track listing version was thrust upon the States and much later in 1979 that the classic ‘London Calling’ album was a success on both side of the Atlantic.  The intervening time was one of evolution for The Clash.

Punk seemed to be losing its way during tail end of 1977 and the early months of 1978. The Sex Pistols had split in January 1978, while The Damned had played a ‘farewell’ concert at The Rainbow in April 1978.  The Clash’s debut album had been hailed as punk classic but the follow-up, was still in the making and their latest single,’ Clash City Rockers’ (released in February 1978) had been met with mixed reviews – the band themselves later admitted to hating it and sacked producer Mickey Foote as a result.

The Clash seemed a perfect for the RAR concert at Victoria Park but ended up being a late addition to the bill after the band’s management were seemingly reluctant to associate themselves with political causes. Luckily the band thought otherwise and agreed to an early slot in order to fit in with a re-arranged evening gig in Birmingham the same evening.  Reports that they were pushed down the bill to reduce competition with TRB appear to somewhat exaggerated over the years.

They arrived on stage around 3pm with some of the set being filmed for a drama/documentary, ‘Rude Boy’. They burst on stage to play ‘Complete Control’ followed by ‘London’s Burning’. Later in the set they would showcase new material, including ‘Tommy Gun’, ‘White Man in Hammersmith Palais’ and ‘English Civil War’.  Their set closed with Sham 69’s Jimmy Pursey taking the vocals on ‘White Riot’.

However, there were sound problems throughout their set too, while lead singer Joe Strummer also complained of a sore throat. The footage seen when the film was released some two years later, included overdubbed versions of the songs played.

The political edge was taken up a further notch with Birmingham’s Reggae finest Steel Pulse coming on stage around 4pm.  It will come as no surprise that their Ku Klux Klan track was the highlight of their set.  The sound seemed better than The Clash but the band themselves never seemed happy and eventually cut their set short.

The most political band of the time were left for the final say of the afternoon. The Tom Robinson Band came on stage around 5.30pm and played a short but powerful set in order to comply with the GLC’s live music curfew of 6pm.  TRB had played High Wycombe three times previous to the day at Victoria Park, so provided a very familiar face to most of those making the trip from High Wycombe.  Tom Robinson was a natural for the politically charged atmosphere at Victoria Park, getting the crowd fist pumping to the pop of ‘2-4-6-8- Motorway’, singing along to ‘Sing if You’re Glad to Gay’ and spitting out the lyrics to ‘Don’t Take No For An Answer’.

After TRB had finished their set, Robinson returned to the stage alongside Jimmy Pursey, Mick Jones and members of Steel Pulse to perform’ We Have Got To Get It Together’ – a song written especially by Robinson for the event.

An amazing day and one that has rarely been matched in the years since, from the point of view of bringing together such a huge group of people with a common love of music and the desire to protest for humanity.

Did you travel from High Wycombe to see this concert? Please get in touch with your memories.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

London’s Burning – The Clash – Victoria Park 30 April 1978

White Riot – The Clash (with Jimmy Pursey) – Victoria Park 30 April 1978

The Clash – Victoria Park – April 1978 – Original audio of full concert

 

28 April 1978 – Siouxsie and The Banshees – Town Hall

Fast rising punk icons Siouxsie and The Banshees braved the hostile atmosphere of High Wycombe Town Hall on Friday 28th April 1978.  The eagerly awaited gig was promoted by Ron Watts and came as a band initiated campaign was underway to get The Banshees signed to a major record label.  Support on the night came from El-Seven plus ‘Special Guests’, sparse guitar and vocal duo Spizz Oil.

Siouxsie and The Banshees – NME advert for their High Wycombe Town Hall gig on 28th April 1978. Also up and coming gigs at The Nag’s Head

Siouxsie and The Banshees had played The Nag’s Head twice in 1977 in an earlier incarnation of their line-up. The Town Hall show came as their popularity had snowballed following their debut sessions for John Peel – the first broadcast in December 1977.  Just over a week before their trip to play at The Town Hall they had sold out London’s Music Machine venue in near record time.

The campaign to wake record companies up to The Banshees was shifted to a different level when the London offices of the likes of EMI, CBS and Polydor suffered graffiti messages saying ‘SIGN THE BANSHEES – DO IT NOW!”

The graffiti coincided with the broadcast of a second John Peel Session – broadcast in February 1978. The session included ‘Hong Kong Garden’ and stark version of The Beatles ‘Helter Skelter’.  Other new tracks were ‘Carcass’ and the haunting ‘Overground’.

Lead singer Siouxsie was quoted in Mark Paytress’s 2003 Authorised Biography of SATB as saying: “We picked up a publishing deal before we got a record contact. All I can think is that record companies saw no future in the concept of a woman fronting a band – or at least a woman with an attitude.  The Sex Pistols were rooted in rock ‘n’ roll tradition.  They were just The Who or Small Faces with an edge, whereas what we doing didn’t fit into anything they could relate to quite so easily.  Perhaps [the record companies] thought if they didn’t sign we’d go away?”

For anybody who attended the gig at the Town Hall on Friday 28th May 1978, their memories will be sure to include the intimidating atmosphere that boiled over on a number of occasions.  Support acts El-Seven and the then two-piece Spizz Oil attempted to warm up the audience for The Banshees but crowd trouble was always bubbling under – with band members and some of the audience having to run for cover during the most violent parts of the evening.

Once again, I call upon the diary of my music loving friend Buzz for his musings – written within 24 hours of the end of the gig. “For long periods the gig was in a state of complete chaos as the most horrific mass violence erupted repeatedly from 9pm onwards. And it didn’t only affect the audience – the groups were forced to stop playing, especially when [Spizz Oil] were literally chased off stage by a mob.  It seemed for a time that SATB would not appear, and certainly that future gigs are seriously jeopardised by the incidents.”  Buzz had also witnessed violence at the Generation X gig at The Town Hall two weeks previous but this was far worse in comparison.

The set-list for The Town Hall gig remains unconfirmed but bootleg recordings of gigs during the same tour suggest the songs and order would have been something similar to this:

  • Helter Skelter
  • Mirage
  • Nicotine Stain
  • Metal Postcard
  • Make Up to Break Up
  • Hong Kong Garden
  • Overground
  • Carcass
  • 20th Century Boy
  • Suburban Relapse
  • Pure
  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • Love in a Void (possible encore)

Buzz concluded: “The fear seemed to anaesthetise the atmosphere rather than add to it. Siouxsie and her group, forced to stop on a couple of occasions, showed disgust at the situation and showed that they were not prepared to tolerate it, but also that they were prepared to play for the real fans if they could.  Siouxsie was magnificent. Obviously scared at times, but also angry, she handled the tense situations superbly. The group played a little warily, but I was lost in admiration for Siouxsie and her group.  They are the greatest on Earth…”

Record companies agreed and at last started to think there were hits in the making. They eventually signed for Polydor records in June 1978 for a rumoured £400,000 advance.  They never returned to High Wycombe.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Siouxsie and The Banshees – John Peel session audio – February 1978

Spizz Oil – 6,000 Crazy – John Peel session audio – August 1978

Did you survive the evening at High Wycombe Town Hall back in April 1978?