18 April 1979 – Damned/Ruts/Beez/Auntie Pus – Town Hall

The Damned returned to High Wycombe for the first time since their infamous appearance at The Nag’s Head in October 1976, with a headlining slot at the Town Hall  on Wednesday 18th April 1979 – Support were local Chesham band The Beez plus up and coming West London punk lads, The RutsAuntie Pus, a one man target for verbal abuse from the crowd, was also on the bill for well attended Ron Watts promoted gig.  However, the gig ended in chaotic scenes as punters were ushered out of the venue by the local police following The Damned’s refusal to leave after they claimed that former Manager Watts had massaged the band’s cut of the takings.

Damned, Ruts, Beez – High Wycombe Town Hall advert from Bucks Free Press Midweek – enhanced for wycombegigs.co.uk

The Beez, who had first performed live in 1978, were playing their biggest venue to date in their short history after promoter Ron Watts had been impressed with the local following they bought along to a support slot at The Nag’s Head on 8th March 1979.

Their debut single ‘Easy/’The Vagrant’ – on their own Edible records label – was set for release around the time of this gig and they went down well enough with the expectant crowd that evening to be called back for an encore.

The Beez – outside Quest studios – promo photos complete with autographs from my own collection

The Beez confirmed set-list from my own records was:

  • Without You
  • The Vagrant
  • Back Street Love
  • Do The Suicide
  • Girls
  • Hangover
  • Apathy
  • Something Wicked
  • Easy
  • Get Ahead With The Feds
  • All You Need’s A Brain
  • Questions and Answers (Encore)

The Ruts’ appearance in High Wycombe came just as they were gaining a wider audience following the release of their ‘In a Rut’ single in January 1979 on the People Unite label and the constant championing of this track by John Peel on his BBC radio show.

The Ruts had appeared at the Town Hall back in October 1977 as support to Wayne County and ATV but barely drew a cheer from the handful of punters who had arrived in time to see the opening act.  Less than 18 months later it was totally different story.  A John Peel session from January 1979 featuring ‘Savage Circle’, Babylon’s Burning’, ‘Dope for Guns’, Blackman’s Pinch’ and ‘Criminal Mind’, would make much of The Ruts set that night already familiar to the crowd.  Damned drummer, Rat Scabies’ guested on drums during Blackman’s Pinch (later renamed to Jah Wars).

The Ruts line-up that night at High Wycombe Town Hall was Malcolm Owen (vocals), Paul Fox (guitar), John “Segs” Jennings (bass) and Dave Ruffy (drums)

Early Ruts picture from the rutsdc website – note the home made t-shirt with what would become their iconic logo

The Ruts confirmed set-list from my own records was:

  • Savage Circle
  • I Ain’t Sophisticated
  • H Eyes
  • Lobotomy
  • Suss
  • You’re Just A..
  • Something That I Said
  • Blackman’s Pinch
  • Criminal Mind
  • Dope For Guns
  • In A Rut
  • You’re Out of Order
  • Babylon’s Burning
  • Society

The Ruts were called back for an encore and played ‘Human Punk’ – a crowd participation number where lead singer Malcolm Owen passed the microphone along the front of the stage.  Most of the songs that night would feature on their debut album, ‘The Crack’ – released in September 1979.

Warming-up the audience up prior to The Damned was Auntie Pus (real name Julian Isaacs).  He had been on the punk scene since 1977, playing a one-man old style rock ‘n’ roll guitar act.  Essentially between each ‘song’ he would lead the chant of ‘off the stage with Auntie Pus’ – if the crowd didn’t join-in he would continue.  This carried on until Ron Watts took the stage and asked the audience, “OK, let’s get rid of this c**t”.

His short ‘set’ included ‘Halfway to Venezuela’ and ‘Blues Suede Shoes’. Some of his recorded material would eventually be released in 1980 with Chris Millar (Rat Scabies) credited on drums.

The Damned had been on a roller-coaster journey since their arrival on the scene in the summer of 1976.  They had played twice at The Nag’s Head in the autumn of 1976 – their appearance in October 1976 being their first ever headline slot at any venue but that ended in chaos.

They had released a series of singles and two albums before playing a ‘farewell’ gig at The Rainbow, London in April 1978.  Leader singer Dave Vanian went on to perform with Doctors of Madness, while Brian James, Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies formed their own bands, Tanz Der Youth, King and White Cats, respectively.  The latter saw Scabies continue his taunts of the High Wycombe crowd at a Town Hall gig in July 1978.

But The Damned would not die, reforming originally as The Doomed in late 1978 and then returning under the original name.  The new look band would be minus guitarist Brian James – Captain Sensible taking over the lead guitar role and ‘Algy’ Ward on bass. 20 year old Ward had previously been in The Saints.  They coupled with founding members, Dave Vanian (vocals) and Rat Scabies (drums).

The Damned – Chiswick promo pic 1979
Algy Ward, Captain Sensible, Dave Vanian and Rat Scabies

Their return to the punk scene had gained them an ever increasing following thanks to their boisterous live shows but they were still finding their feet and new musical direction by the time of the Town Hall show in April 1979.  It would be fair to say that many of the audience were there out if curiosity value, rather than their recorded out of the time.

It was therefore with a sense of anti-climax that headliners, The Damned, eventually took to the stage to the sound of the traditional version of ‘God Save The Queen’, – not The Sex Pistols version.

The Damned confirmed set-list from my own records was:

  • Jet Boy, Jet Girl
  • Teenage Dream
  • Stretcher Case Baby
  • Ballroom Blitz
  • Born to Kill
  • Burglar
  • Melody Lee
  • Problem Child
  • Lookin at You
  • Love Song
  • So Messed Up
  • New Rose
  • Neat, Neat, Neat

The set was played through with barely a break to breath.  ‘Jet Boy, Jet Girl’ saw Captain Sensible take vocals on a song to the tune of Plastic Bertrand’s 1978 hit ‘Ça plane pour moi’.

The gig preceded the forthcoming General Election by two weeks (3 May 1979) – by this stage it was widely predicted that a Margaret Thatcher led Conservative Party would run out victors – hence The Damned had their own eloquent way of predicting the future of the country – including changing the lyrics to Sweet’s ‘Ballroom Blitz’, to ‘Great Big Tits’.

The set also included their recently released debut on Chiswick Records, ‘Love Song’.  On the 10 May 1979, The Damned would make their Top of The Pops debut as the song climbed the charts.

The Town Hall set would finish with their two classic punk singles, ‘New Rose’ and ‘Neat, Neat, Neat’ before the house lights were turned on and the punters ordered out onto Queen Alexandra Road.

An explanation of the chaotic nature to the end of the gig eventually came to light in Ron Watts’ book. Watts commented: “[The Damned] probably hadn’t forgiven me for the way our business partnership had ended three years earlier, refused to leave the stage and the caretaker of the hall called the police, who were stationed next door.  They arrived and lined the side of the hall, with the band finishing sharpish and their fans filtering out, although by now the average age of a Damned fan was about 15 so there was never any danger of a riot ensuing. The band were on a percentage of the door take and reckoned I’d fiddled them, even attempting to sue me.”

Watts claims that the financial situation was eventually sorted out but it proved the last dealings he had with The Damned as a promoter – although Watts does recall meeting Captain Sensible over 25 years later at The 100 Club where he initially said; “That tosser from The Damned is here.  If he wants a fight, he can have one.”  A few minutes later they were chatting away ‘like old mates’, recalling those early pioneering days of punk rock.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

The Vagrant – The Beez – audio of debut single ‘B side

In a Rut – The Ruts – live in Paris 1980

Half-Way to Venezuela – Auntie Pus – audio of 1980 single

Love Song – The Damned – live on BBC Top of the Pops – May 1979

References and further reading:

https://www.boredteenagers.co.uk/BEEZ.htm

https://rutsdc.com/

https://www.punk77.co.uk/groups/auntiepus.htm

http://www.fearandloathingfanzine.com/auntie-pus.html

http://www.officialdamned.com/

4 April 1979 – Tom Robinson Band – Town Hall

The Tom Robinson Band returned to High Wycombe Town Hall on Wednesday 4th April 1979 on a date midway through their promotion of their second studio album, TRB 2.  The Ron Watts promoted concert was a sell-out and the TRB set was recorded by the BBC mobile for a later broadcast on the Saturday evening Radio One ‘In-Concert’ series.  Support came from British rock/pop all-female outfit, The Straits.

During my research for the 40-year anniversary of this gig, the very sad news that TRB guitarist Danny Kustow had passed-away came to light.  Kustow’s guitar provided much of the musical power behind the lyrics of Tom Robinson and his band.  This article is dedicated to his memory and may his many wonderful licks and solos live on forever.

Tom Robinson Band – montage of memorabilia from the 4th April 1979 gig at High Wycombe Town Hall.
Left to right – Danny Kustow, Ian Parker, Charlie Morgan, Tom Robinson
Specially created for wycombegigs.co.uk

TRB had last officially played High Wycombe in a Town Hall concert in November 1977.  However, my research suggests they were also lined-up for a secret gig at The Nag’s Head on 30th July 1978, shortly after the release of their debut album ‘Power in the Darkness’, but I’ve been unable to confirm if the appearance actually took place.  Previous to the Town Hall gig in November 1977, they had also graced the stage at The Nag’s Head on two occasions, making their return in April 1979 as long awaited ‘homecoming’ following the rise to fame through late 1977 and 1978.

Their move into the media spotlight had also seen the band feature in a Granada TV documentary, recorded in the main during their tour of Autumn 1978 and broadcast for the first time on national UK TV in February 1979.  However, fame had taken its toll on relationships in the band.  By the time of the TRB Two tour, original drummer ‘Dolphin’ Taylor had left and been replaced with Charlie Morgan.  Keyboard player Mark Ambler had also flown ship and replaced by Ian Parker.  That left lead singer/bassist Tom Robinson and guitarist Danny Kustow, the remaining original members from the foursome that burst onto the seen during 1977 with their heavily polictical rock/pop collaborations.  More than 40 years after its release, the messages with the debut album, ‘Power In The Darkness’ remained eerily valid at a time when the UK was being tortured with the political farce of Brexit.

Politics were not the main agenda for support act for the TRB Two tour UK in 1979.  Leeds based band, The Straits, had their influences heavily entrenched from 1970’s glam rock.

Their set-list included original songs ‘Strait To The Point’, ‘Release My Soul’, ‘You Belong To Me’, ‘Studio 54’, ‘Come Fly With Me’, ‘Fairground Boys’ and ‘Sacha Shoes Mafia’.  However, it was the T.Rex cover ‘Get in On’ that brought the best reaction from a crowd mainly in waiting for the main act.

The Straits – article from Sounds magazine 1979 – taken from the TRB bulletin No.14 given away on the TRB Two tour

For the record, band members, according to a Sounds article published shortly before the tour, were Judi Rock (lead guitar/vocals), Di Harde (bass/vocals), Shirley Newman (rhythm guitar) and Suzi Roll (drums).  With the exception of Ms Newman, I think it’s fair to assume those names are pseudonyms.  They were touted as heading for success but at the time of this post there appears to be no record of what became of them.  Anybody have any clues?

TRB burst onto stage to loud cheers from the packed house and went straight into the opening track of TRB Two, ‘All Right, All Night’, quickly followed by the classic ‘Winter of ’79 – the latter seeing new keyboard player Ian Parker showing his creativity by taking the mid-song instrumental break to a new level – definitely worth a listen on the YouTube audio at the foot of the post.

Tom Robinson Band set list for the Town Hall gig on 4th April 1979

  • All Right, All Night
  • Winter of ‘79
  • Black Angel
  • Blue Murder
  • Too Good To Be True
  • Getting Tighter
  • Law and Order (**)
  • Sorry Mr Harris (*)(+)
  • I Shall Be Released (**)
  • Glad to be Gay (**)
  • Martin (**)
  • Bully For You
  • Don’t Take No For An Answer (**)
  • Ain’t Gonna Take It
  • 2-4-6-8 Motorway
  • Right on Sister (encore) (*) (+)
  • Jumping Jack Flash (encore) (*) (**)

An edited version of the concert was broadcast on BBC Radio One in May 1979.

The tracks indicated (*) were NOT broadcast by the BBC.

In 2013 a TRB Anthology collection was released with a slightly different selection of tracks.

The tracks indicated (**) were NOT included on the Anthology release.

The tracks indicated (+) were included on the Anthology release but not the BBC broadcast.

The second encore, ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ remains the only track not available from the BBC mobile recording.  And if by magic, I’ve managed to find a recording of that in my own collection and include it below (via YouTuber) as further tribute to Danny Kustow, who took on lead vocals for the Rolling Stones cover.

Tom Robinson’s affection for High Wycombe was confirmed in a brief interview for the Bucks Free Press published in the 12th April 1979 edition. Robinson said:

“I don’t know why we’re so popular here but I know why I like playing here, because the people are so friendly and the audience is one of the best I’ve ever played to.”

TRB were to split later in 1979 but Tom Robinson and Danny Kustow would return to High Wycombe within the year – Robinson as a member of his new band, Sector 27 and Kustow as a guitarist with ‘punk’ super-group, Jimmy Norton’s Explosion – the latter featuring Glen Matlock, Paul Cook and drummer Budgie.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

 Winter of ’79 (audio) – Tom Robinson Band – High Wycombe Town Hall – 4 April 1979

At the end of the track Tom Robinson reveals to the audience that the gig is being recorded for Radio 1.

”Tonight High Wycombe is to be immortalised again (cheers).   I wish those at home could see the sight that confronts us here at High Wycombe Town Hall tonight.  Strong men would cry”.

Note: The video is incorrectly dated 1 January 1979

Too good to be true? – Granada TV documentary – broadcast UK TV February 1979

Jumping Jack Flash (audio) – Tom Robinson Band – High Wycombe Town Hall – 4 April 1979

References and further reading

https://tomrobinson.com/

Tom Robinson’s tribute to Danny Kustow, as read at his funeral on 14 March 2019

https://www.facebook.com/tomrobinsonmusic/posts/1146208828880788

 

8 March 1979 – The Beez – Nag’s Head

The Beez, a local band from Chesham, made what is believed to be their Nag’s Head debut on 8th March 1979 when they supported The Alligators.

Formed in 1977, they originally performed under the name of Bloo Lite – making their live debut as The Beez at a gig in April 1978 at The Elgiva Hall in Chesham.

Line-up for The Beez was Robert Boughton (guitar/vocals), Gordon Watson (guitar/vocals), Tim Heal (bass) and Paul Morris (drums/vocals).

The Beez quickly built up a local following and recorded their first material in December 1978 at Quest Studios in Luton. A demo tape from The Quest Studio sessions was circulated in order to gain more gigs and two tracks would eventually become their debut single –‘Easy’ coupled with ‘The Vagrant’.

The Beez – outside Quest studios – promo photos complete with autographs from my own collection

They  clearly impressed local promoter Ron Watts at The Nag’s Head on 8th March 1979.  Watts would have been delighted with the paying punters they attracted to the London Road venue and rewarded them with support slot  on the Town Hall stage on 18th April 1979 next to The Damned and The Ruts – it was by far the biggest venue they had played in their short history to that date.

The band would continue their rise to relative local fame with support appearances at Aylesbury Friars, plus further support slots at High Wycombe Town Hall and headline slots at The Nag’s Head.

An EP would follow later in 1979 but by 1980, perhaps frustrated with their lack of wider success, they had split-up. However, their recorded output remains the perfect example of truly independent record releases and the vinyl copies are collectors’ items.

For your listening pleasure

Easy – The Beez – audio of debut single ‘B’ side

The Vagrant – The Beez – audio of debut single ‘B’ side

References and further reading

https://www.boredteenagers.co.uk/BEEZ.htm

1 March 2019 – Punkarolla – Damned special

On Friday 1st March 2019 I was back as a guest on Andy Chalk’s Punkarolla radio show on Wycombe Sound.  This time sitting alongside another long-time friend, Martin Percival, talking more about the 40th anniversary of gigs in High Wycombe and reminiscing in particular about an appearance by The Damned at The Town Hall on 18th April 1979 – a gig where the punk originals were supported by a then up and coming punk/reggae group The Ruts and local band The Beez.

We played a selection of our Damned favourites from throughout the years, plus tracks from the support acts on the night.  There was also the usual stuff old and new.  It was broadcast  between 9pm and 11pm on the new monthly (1st Friday of each month) time slot – hosted as usual by Andy.

It is possible to listen live in the High Wycombe area via 106.6 FM, via the internet and radio player.

Shows are also available to ‘Listen Again’ for four weeks via www.wycombesound.org.uk

The direct link to the Punkarolla ‘Listen Again’ page is:

http://listenagain.wycombesound.org.uk/index.php/shows/punkarolla/

Shows from the earlier series are also available to listen to via MixCloud

https://www.mixcloud.com/WycombeSound/playlists/punkarolla/

Andy also has a Punkarolla Public Group Facebook Group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/224313594628909/

I have since posted up more details of The Damned gig from April 1979 as a mark for 40th anniversary.  This include set-lists from the all the acts that played that evening.  If you want to hear previously un-circulated audio clips, please leave a comment and I’ll try to get these online.

An enhanced version of the advert from the Bucks Free Press is included below.

Damned, Ruts, Beez – High Wycombe Town Hall advert from Bucks Free Press Midweek – enhanced for wycombegigs.co.uk

More on the 18th April 1979 gig via this link >>

 

12 February 1979 – Adam and The Ants – Town Hall

A High Wycombe District Council promoted ‘Rock Concert’ at High Wycombe Town Hall on Monday 12th February 1979 saw a fledgling Adam and The Ants take to the stage alongside local band The Vents.

The Ants date was part of their Young Parisians tour and the date appears to coincide with their departure from Decca records.

Adam and the Ants plus The Vents – High Wycombe Town Hall – Monday 12th February 1979 – advert from Bucks Free Press

Adam Ant (real name Stuart Goddard) had formed the band in London in early 1977 – originally as The Ants, before adopting the eventually well-known Adam and The Ants title. They went through several line-up changes before signing for Decca records in 1978.  The debut single ‘Young Parisians’ had little chart success, although the band had built up a significant cult following, particularly in the London area, with their followers going under the guise of ‘Ant People’.  During this post-punk period it was a common site to see gig goers with leather jackets painted with Adam and The Ants.

Further recording for Decca were made during 1978, along with two John Peel sessions. But their time with Decca does not appear to be a happy one.

The date of the Town Hall concert is noted as around the time that Adam and The Ants left Decca records – Goddard is quoted as saying:

“…as you know Decca own things like televisions and missiles and things like that…………..we weren’t dropped by Decca, their A & R department just folded up and they let us go, which was just a joke. Everyone thought we were just a 100% hardcore speed band so we put ‘Parisians’ out.  I preferred ‘Lady’ and it was a double A side but Decca played it to Radio 1 and they said that ‘Parisians’ was better.”

A bootleg recording of this concert has been widely circulated and confirms the set-list for the evening was:

  • Nietsche Baby
  • Day I Met God
  • Animals And Men
  • Cleopatra
  • Kick!
  • Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face)
  • Catholic Day
  • Boil In The Bag Man
  • Family Of Noise
  • Press Darlings
  • Zerox
  • Lady
  • Puerto Rican/Scab
  • Fall In
  • B-Side Baby
  • Hampstead

The line-up of the band at the time of the Town Hall appearance was Adam Ant (vocals and guitar), Matthew Ashman (guitar), Andy Warren (bass guitar) and Dave Barbarossa (drums).

Adam and The Ants – Decca promo picture 1978 – showing Adam Ant, Matthew Ashman, Andrew Warren and David ‘Barbe’ Barbarossa

They went on to release their debut album, ‘Dirk Wears White Sox’ In October 1979 on the Do It record label. It would reach the top of the newly formed Independent Album charts.

The history of Adam and The Ants post their Town Hall appearance in February 1979 is an interesting one. Former Sex Pistols Manager Malcolm McClaren was hired by Adam and The Ants in early 1980 to help with their path to wider recognition.  However, instead, McClaren convinced Matthew Ashman (guitar), Leigh Gorman (who had by then replaced Andy Warren on bass) and Dave Barbarossa (drums) to leave the band and form a new group under McLaren’s management. A thirteen year old Annabella Lwin would become the lead vocalist for the new band – Bow Wow Wow.

Meanwhile, Adam Ant continued with a new version of his band featuring guitarist Marco Pirroni (an ex-member of Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Models, Rema Rema and Cowboys International) plus Kevin Mooney (bass guitar), and two drummers, Terry Lee Miall and Chris Hughes. The new band would take to the road for their ‘Ants Invasion’ in the first-half of 1980 while still pinning down a record deal.  They would visit High Wycombe again in May 1980 for what would become an infamous evening at The Town Hall and one that proved the catalyst for the local Council to end ‘rock concerts’ at the historic venue.  I’ll leave the detail of that evening until a later posting but those with memories of the 1979 or 1980 (riot) are welcome to get in touch.

For your listening and viewing pleasure:

Young Parisians – Adam and The Ants – single audio 1978


Lady – Adam and The Ants – single B side audio 1978

References and further reading:

http://www.antmusic.co.uk/my_story/1979/1979.html

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

https://killyourpetpuppy.co.uk/news/adam-and-the-ants-decca-records-1978-do-it-records-1979/

https://punkygibbon.co.uk/bands/a/adamandtheants.html

 

2 February 1979 – UK Subs – Bucks College SU Bar

The UK Subs made what is believed to be their first ever appearance in High Wycombe on Friday 2nd February 1979, with a gig at the Buckinghamshire College of Higher Education Student Union Bar.  The date is also significant as it was on this day that Sid Vicious was found dead in his New York flat following a heroin overdose.  Meanwhile, back in High Wycombe, according to music paper gig listings, there was also the choice of seeing Adam and The Ants appearing at The Nag’s Head.

2nd February 1979 gig listings from Record Mirror – UK Subs and Adam & The Ants in High Wycombe

The basis of what would become the UK Subs had been formed out of the 1976 London punk scene, when ‘30 something’ hairdresser, Charlie Harper pulled together a band that performed under various names before settling on ‘United Kingdom Subversives’ and then the abbreviated UK Subs for their first gigs around the summer of 1977.  John Peel sessions followed but it was not until September 1978 that they released their first studio recordings – a three track single on City Records featuring live favourites ‘C.I.D’., ‘Live in a Car’ and ‘B.I.C.’  Earlier in 1978 they had two live tracks included on the ‘Farewell to the Roxy’ LP.

The UK Subs line-up for their debut release was the same as the one that appeared at their High Wycombe appearance in February 1979:

UK Subs – Gem Records promo photo 1979
Left to right: Nicky Garratt (guitar, 23), Paul Slack (bass, 21), Charlie Harper (vocals,34), Pete Davies (drums, 24)

This gig at The SU Bar pre-dated their signing to Gem Records and subsequent rise in popularity by a few months – their first widely available single, ‘Stranglehold’ would be released in June 1979 and they would return to High Wycombe to play the Town Hall twice more in 1979 to promote the single and their debut album release ‘Another Kind of Blues’.

The UK Subs still continued to perform at the time of this post – with lead vocalist – veteran rocker Charlie Harper the only common face throughout and aged 74 as of February 2019!  Their gigging history has seen them return to High Wycombe on a number of occasions – playing The Flint Cottage, White Horse and The Phoenix.  They were due to return to The Phoenix in November 2019 – an incredible 40 plus years since their appearance at the SU Bar back in February 1979.

Back in February 1979, a much younger (but still ‘old’) Harper would have heard the news of the death of Sid Vicious by the time his band took to the SU Bar stage.  Less than three years previous, Vicious (real name John Beverley) had seen The Sex Pistols in at the close by College Main Hall – a notorious character on the London ‘punk’ scene, he later became bass player for the Sex Pistols before the band split in January 1978.  He was just 21 years old at the time of his death.  The circumstances surrounding his death were still being discussed and analysed at the time of this post.

Sid Vicious obituary from Record Mirror – 10th February 1979

Advertised for the same evening as the UK Subs gig were Adam and The Ants at The Nag’s Head. The The London based band were fronted by Adam Ant (real name Stuart Goddard).  24 year old Goddard was in the stages of promoting his band, Adam and The Ants, formed around the summer of 1977 and on the back of the ‘punk’ explosion but starting to move more towards a ‘pop’ sound.  I’m unsure if the Nag’s Head appearance actually took place on 2nd February 1979.  It is listed in some publications as High Wycombe Town Hall but I can confirm the Town Hall appearance was a few days later on Monday 10th February 1979.  Perhaps The Nag’s Head was a warm-up date or simply never took place?

Advertised for the same evening as the UK Subs gig were Adam and The Ants at The Nag’s Head. The The London based band were fronted by Adam Ant (real name Stuart Goddard).  24 year old Goddard was in the stages of promoting his band, Adam and The Ants, formed around the summer of 1977 and on the back of the ‘punk’ explosion but starting to move more towards a ‘pop’ sound.  I’m unsure if the Nag’s Head appearance actually took place on 2nd February 1979.  It is listed in some publications as High Wycombe Town Hall but I can confirm the Town Hall appearance was a few days later on Monday 10th February 1979.  Perhaps The Nag’s Head was a warm-up date or simply never took place?

If the multiple events of Friday 2nd February 1979 weren’t enough to keep up interest at the time, local gig goers could have also taken in an appearance by Sham 69 at Aylesbury Friars on Wednesday 31st January 1979 – this was the gig where lead singer Jimmy Pursey claimed this would the final live appearance for this band – Pursey becoming increasingly frustrated with crowd trouble at Sham 69 gigs.  A day after The UK Subs gig at The SU Bar you could have travelled across to Friars again to see Stiff Little Fingers play as headliners on their Rough Trade tour to promote their recently released debut album, ‘Inflammable Material’.  A busy week!

Anybody with any memories or clarification of these gigs, please get in touch.

For your listening and viewing pleasure:

20 December 1978 – 999/Pinpoint/Nigel Martin’s Mirage – Town Hall

999 returned to High Wycombe Town Hall on 20th December 1978 for their second appearance of the year.  The London based ‘punk’ band had enjoyed a successful show at the Town just over two months previous and promoter Ron Watts was quick to bring them back.

Support came from Nigel Martin’s Mirage, a spin-off band from The Xtraverts who had split-up earlier in 1978.  A late addition to the support line-up was Pinpoint.

999 – High Wycombe Town Hall – Wednesday 20th December 1978
promoted by Peppers (Ron Watts)

Pinpoint were a band originally formed in the Winter of 1977 when Arturo Bassick left The Lurkers.  The first line-up included Dave Allen on bass and Paul Bellewithe on drums.  Bellewithe had been replaced by Hugh Griffiths by the time of the Town Hall gig in December 1978.

They would go on to release three singles and one album (mid 1980), produced by Martin Rushent.  They split shortly after the album was released.  Bassist Dave Allen went on to become Rushent’s engineer and worked on the ‘Dare’ album by Human League.  Apparently Human League’s Phil Oakey had been impressed with Rushent’s production of 999’s ‘Separates’ album released earlier in 1978.  Rushent was moving more into electronic music and had set-up his Genetic Studios at this home in Streatley.  The studios were used by Midge Ure and Rusty Egan in their post-Rich Kids days to record the debut album by Visage.  Meanwhile, Bassick was less impressed with Rushent’s work and blamed the album production as a reason for the band to split.

High Wycombe Town Hall events listing from Bucks Free Press Midweek 19th December 1978

Nigel Martin’s Mirage were essentially the latest incarnation of High Wycombe punk band, The Xtraverts.  Lead singer Nigel Martin had been inspired to form The Xtraverts in post-Bill Grundy December 1976 and played their first live outings in the first-half of 1977.  They had history with 999 having supported the London band at The Nag’s Head in September 1977 – violence at that gig led to a ban of ‘punk’ at The Nag’s Head.  The Xtraverts recorded their first single in late 1977 and ‘Blank Generation’ coupled with ‘A Lad Insane’ was released in January 1978 on Spike records.  They gigged way their way around the London circuit but split mid-way through 1978.

Headliners 999 had played at High Wycombe Town on 4th October 1978 in support of their ‘Separates’ long-player and new single ‘Homicide’ the popularity of that gig was a major factor in their return less than three months later.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Homicide – 999 – Old Grey Whistle Test – BBC TV December 1978

Pete Shelley – 17 April 1955 – 6 December 2018

In this article we fondly remember Pete Shelley, founder member of ‘punk’ band Buzzcocks, who died on 6th December 2018 at the age of 63.  Shelley’s legacy includes a memorable list of classic pop songs, as well as his part in evolving the ‘punk’ music around his home-land of Manchester.  As a 20-year-old he travelled with two friends to see a Sex Pistols gig at High Wycombe College.  What they saw that evening provided the catalyst for what would become two iconic gigs at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall in June and July 1976 and pave the way for the likes of Factory Records, Joy Division, The Fall, The Smiths and of course Buzzcocks, to help shape the future of British music.

Shelley (real name Pete McNeish) had tentatively formed a band in late 1975 with 23-year-old fellow Bolton student Howard Trafford (later to become Howard Devoto).  On Wednesday 18th February 1976 they saw a first ever live review of a Sex Pistols gig in the New Musical Express and it inspired them to travel to London to track down the Pistols’ next gig.

Hence, with the help of a borrowed car, the pair, plus to-be band Manager Richard Boon, would travel the 180 miles south and learn that the Sex Pistols were due to play support to Lord Sutch in High Wycombe at the Buckinghamshire College of Further Education on Friday 20th February 1976.

It was also while they were down south that they would pick up a copy of Time Out magazine where the headline for the review of TV programme Rock Follies, ‘FEELING A BUZZ, COCKS’, gave them the idea for the name for their yet to be seen band –.  After seeing the Pistols in High Wycombe they would return to Manchester to form Buzzcocks and promote the famous gigs at The Lesser Free Trade Hall.

Buzzcocks would play one of their first ever gigs at the latter of these two dates.  Devoto took on lead vocals, while Shelley played guitar, aided by Steve Diggle on bass and John Maher on drums.  In January 1977 they would release their debut EP, ‘Spiral Scratch’, on their self-funded New Hormones label – one of the first truly independent record releases in the UK.   The EP included the now iconic ‘Boredom’ but the other three tracks, ‘Breakdown’, Time’s Up’ and ‘Friends of Mine’ had the same fresh sound and catch riffs.

Spiral Scratch EP – released January 1977

soon after the release of ‘Spiral Scratch’, leaving founder member Shelley with decisions to make.  Rather than recruit a new singer, Shelley bravely took on the front man role himself and the distinctive Buzzcocks sound was cemented with Steve Diggle moving to second guitar and Steve Garvey eventually becoming the permanent bass player.

With song-writing duties firmly on his shoulders, Shelley developed a way with lyrics that was virtually unique amongst his punk counterparts.  Back in those formative years of punk rock, rather than tap into what was fast becoming clichéd lyrics referencing such topics as hate, war, crime, anarchy and violence, Shelley wasn’t afraid to mention love and write songs that included backing vocals of grown-men going ‘ooh, ooh’.

Also, unlike some of the other early London ‘punk’ bands who morphed out of the ‘pub-rock’ scene, Buzzcocks genuinely struggled to play their instruments during their early outings on the live circuit.  Their early gigs would see the band muddling their way through primitive incarnations of their hits in the making – Shelley, in particular, with his sawn-off cheap guitar.  However, the sound quickly developed into something unique and one that was enhanced to a new level in the studio.

Buzzcocks would eventually sign for United Artists in August 1977 – releasing their debut album, Another Music in a Different Kitchen in March 1978 – their rise to success would be fuelled by a series of consecutive pure punk pop singles – ‘Orgasm Addict’, ‘What Do I Get?’, ‘I Don’t’ Mind’, ‘Love You More’, ‘Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve Fallen in Love With)’, ‘Promises’, ‘Everybody’s Happy Nowadays’, the list goes on and on.

It is relatively sad to look back to see that while many of the other original iconic British ‘punk’ bands played High Wycombe – including, Sex Pistols, Damned, Clash, Stranglers, Jam, Siouxsie and The Banshees and Generation X – Buzzcocks were never to perform on a High Wycombe stage – perhaps they weren’t ‘punk’ enough in the eyes of the promoters of the time?  The nearest they came were appearances at Aylesbury Friars – first on 6th May 1978 and then on 28th March 1979.

It was at the latter of these two appearances, while still at school, that I was lucky enough to see them for the first time.  I’d been captivated since seeing their Top of the Pops appearance of ‘I Don’t Mind’ in April 1978.  I remember being amazed that it was possible to write a song that included the lyric ‘pathetic clown’.  A couple of months later I heard their follow-up single ‘Love You More’ for the first time – lasting less than 2 minutes, I had to hear it again as soon as possible – hence a trip to town to buy the single in, by this time, its easily recognisable Buzzcocks style graphics.

My Buzzcocks memorabilia.
Including song book, badges, bootleg tapes and flyer from Aylesbury gig, March 1979

I took the cover to the Friars gig in March 1979 in the hope of an autograph. At the end of the gig those with similar thoughts patiently waited to the left-hand side of the stage for the band to return.  There was not much of a delay before Pete Shelley and fellow band member Steve Diggle emerged and happily signed autographs and chatted with their fans.  At this point some random meathead security man decided he wanted to clear the hall and claimed the band had ‘gone home’ and there was no point in waiting.  At which point Pete Shelley said in his distinctive high-pitched voice, ‘I’m still here!’.  The intellectually challenged security man then repeated his claim that the band had ‘gone home’.  Shelley responded with a slightly louder, ‘I’m still here!’  I can still hear his voice in my head saying those words.

In my youthful craze to hear more, I began accumulating live and early demo recordings of the band and soon discovered that Shelley’s pop songs were not limited to singles, or just three-minute songs. ‘Fast Cars’, ‘Moving Away From The Pulsebeat’, ‘Fiction Romance’, ‘E.S.P.’, ‘I Believe’, to name just four.

The band split in 1981 leaving a hole for many of their followers.  The records and tapes were stored away and we all moved on (for a while).  Then in 1989 they re-formed and we were reminded what an incredible back catalogue of songs they could call on.  The live shows were more powerful than ever.  They recorded new music and also gigged until the point of Pete’s death and had arranged a 40 year anniversary gig at The Albert Hall in June 2019.  I’d already got tickets and was in the process of going through the Buzzcocks archives when the tragic news arrived.

‘Oh Sh*t!’ was my one of my first reactions on the evening of Thursday 6th December 2018.  Shelley had a song title for almost every emotion and in this case, the ‘B’ side of the 1977 Shelley penned classic ‘What Do I Get?’, seemed the most apt.

If by chance any family or friends of Pete read this, I send them my sincere best wishes and thanks for Pete’s life.

Love You More – from Paul

My signed ‘Love you More’ cover, ‘To Paul’ from gig at Aylesbury, March 1979

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Breakdown – Buzzcocks – Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall – July 1976

I Swear I Was There – Granada TV documentary 2001
Listen from 3:16 for Devotto and Shelley recalling the trip down south in February 1976

Buzzcocks in their own words – interview at British Library – 9 June 2016
Listen from 13:50 for comments from Shelley and Boon about Sex Pistols gig at High Wycombe February 1976

I Don’t Mind – Buzzcocks – Oxford Zodiac – March 2006 – first published December 2018

24 November 1978 – Generation X/Vents/The Cure – Town Hall

High Wycombe favourites Generation X returned to the Town Hall on Friday 24th November 1978 but it was the sparse sound of the act third on the bill, The Cure, that went onto have global success far exceeding that of Billy Idol and his band of rockers.  Local band, The Vents, were also on the support bill.

Generation X – gig preview from Record Mirror – note two other gigs in High Wycombe on the same evening!

Generation X had appeared at High Wycombe on five previous occasions – four times at The Nag’s Head in 1977, before making their Town Hall debut in April 1978. Lead singer Billy Idol explained the reason for choosing High Wycombe again in a gig preview published in the Bucks Free Press Midweek. He said:“[High Wycombe] has always been great. It is like playing to your best friends.” He went on to say: “We are a wild rock and roll group. Our music is influenced by steel and concrete, not cows and fields.”  He concluded: “No one has ever proved that authority works. Drugs, booze, sex and violence makes their rules look like croquet on the lawn.  We are anti anything that strikes at individuality.”

Generation gig preview in Bucks Free Press Midweek – November 1978 – enhanced for wycombegigs.co.uk

The High Wycombe Town Hall gig was the opening night of the latest Generation X tour, initially publicised to promote their second album. A NME article suggests the name of the new album would be ‘Intercourse (Old Meets New)’.  The album was eventually released in January 1979 under the title ‘Valley of the Dolls’.  Notable tracks were subsequent singles, ‘King Rocker’ and the title track.  Production on the album was by Ian Hunter (Mott the Hoople).

Generation X tour dates from NME November 1978

The Cure were a late addition to the tour schedule after signing a record deal with Fiction Records in September 1978.  They had been signed by Chris Parry at Polydor Records for his Fiction label.  A debut single ‘Killing an Arab’ would follow in December 1978 on Small Wonder due to distribution problems with Polydor.

The band originated from Crawley, playing initially under the name of ‘Easy Cure’ and then simplying this to The Cure in July 1978.

At the time of the Town Hall gig The Cure were a three piece – Robert Smith (guitar and vocals), Michael Dempsey (bass) and Lol Tolhurst (drums). They were all 19 years old.

The Cure – 1978
Source unknown

The events surrounding their appearance at the Town Hall are fairly well documented in a couple of Cure biographies. At the Town Hall gig the band were left surprised that, rather than receiving a fee for the gig, they would have to pay £25 for the privilege of using the Generation X lighting and sound system.  They couldn’t afford £25 at the time, so they wheeled in their own amps and operated the sound and light system with the aid of a roadie and ‘encouragement’ from the audience.

Extract from Ten Imaginary Years book by Steve Sutherland and Robert Smith – published 1987

In his 2016 biography, Cured, Lol Tolhurst went on the describe the events as the punters made their way into the Town Hall:

“The doors opened and we were ushered on stage almost immediately ‘to warm the punters up as the tour manager informed us. I’m sure Robert gave him a disdainful look as we marched on stage. We were not the same as these old hippies running the show. That much was obvious to all. However, we welcomed the opportunity to play, even if it meant we had to deal with the predictably capitalistic remnants of the counterculture from time to time.”

Earlier in 1978, Tolhurst, had apparently been given the opportunity to play for the UK Subs, but turned down the request in order to distance himself from the ‘punk’ movement. Commenting on the main event at the Town Hall, he added:

“The Gen X show was quite a spectacle of punk rock. As the opening number, ‘Ready, Steady Go started, Billy idol, resplendent in a red leather jump suit, strode to the front of the stage and then, almost on cue, a thousand gobs of spit came arching over the stage front like arrows shot from longbows into the spotlight towards Billy. To our amazement he didn’t recoil from this assault of phlegm but positively revelled in the ghastly gobbing frenzy.

Suddenly, the purpose of the red leather suit became shockingly clear, it was the only suitable material for such an onslaught, especially considering this same scene was repeated every night of the tour. We watched from the side of the stage for a few more minutes, transfixed by the spectacle of Mr Idol being drenched sputum. I think we were all secretly glad that the audience had decided we weren’t worthy of their shower of spittle.”

Just under 40 years after The Cure’s appearance at High Wycombe Town Hall, the band celebrated the landmark by playing an open-air gig at London’s Hyde Park in front of an estimated 50,000 people. The encore at Hyde Park (including 1978 songs ‘Killing An Arab’ and ’10:15 On A Saturday Night’) lasted longer their than Town Hall slot!

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Valley of the Dolls – Generation X – BBC Top of the Pops – April 1979

Killing An Arab – The Cure – Small Wonder single 1978

10:15 On A Saturday Night – The Cure – promo video – early 1979

References:

https://en-gb.facebook.com/genxpunkband/

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

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

http://www.thecure.com/bio/

20 November 1978 – Pere Ubu – Town Hall

Pere Ubu, a USA band who described themselves as ‘avant-garage’ appeared at High Wycombe Town Hall on Monday 20th November 1978.  Support came from The Soft Boys.

Pere Ubu formed late 1975 in Cleveland, Ohio with lead singer David Thomas as constant member during their performing career. Listening back to their music now would probably see them lumped in the ‘post-punk’ bracket – although they were, essentially around before ‘punk’.  They released four singles before their debut LP, The Modern Dance, came out in January 1978.

Pere Ubu – 1978 tour advert from the NME – featuring High Wycombe Town Hall gig November 1978

Their date at The Town Hall in November 1978 was part of a UK tour to promote Pere Ubu’s second album, ‘Dub Housing’. Originally arranged for Sunday 19th November, the gig was switched to the following evening having opened the tour in Middlesbrough and Newcastle. Other dates on the tour included appearances at Manchester – The Factory, Liverpool-Eric’s, London – Electric Ballroom.

A feature on Pere Ubu was published in the Bucks Free Press Midweek at their time of their 1978 appearance at The Town Hall. The piece, authored by ‘CJK’, described the band as; “One of the most radically innovative and challenging bands to appear in the last couple of years.”

The article went on to quote lead singer David Thomas saying that he refused to allow the band to be classified: “Classifications aren’t valid any more. We have much in common with jazz and early folk, we’re pioneers, out there on our own, getting it together.”  He added: “We try not to be anything other than what we are. We have no time for false images.”

Pere Ubu – cutting from Bucks Free Press Midweek – November 1978

For your listening pleasure

Non-Alignment Pact – Pere Ubu -track from their 1978 Modern Dance album

References

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

http://www.ubuprojex.com/