July/August 1979 – Nag’s Head gigs

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.

Nag’s Head gig flyer July/August 1979
From my own collection – enhanced for wycombegigs.co.uk

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 MatlockThe 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.

Glen Matlock at The Nag’s Head.

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’.

References and further reading

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

http://www.philjens.plus.com/rattle/glen_spectres.html

https://www.roughtrade.com/gb/phil-rambow/whatever-happened-to-phil-rambow

20 July 1979 – Xtraverts/Ladykillers – Multi-Racial Centre

High Wycombe’s Multi-Racial Centre hosted a double headed local ‘punk’ night on Friday 20th July 1979. The Xtraverts continued their comeback following an earlier gig at the same venue in April 1979 and a chaotic slot supporting The Lurkers at The Town Hall.  Meanwhile, The Ladykillers were also building up a fanbase after enjoying support slots to both XTC and UK Subs at the Town Hall in May and June 1979 respectively.

Xtraverts/Ladykillers gig flyer
20th July 1979 – Multi-Racial Centre High Wycombe
enhanced for wycombegigs.co.uk

The line-up of the Xtraverts at the time of this gig is believed have changed slightly from the one that supported The Lurkers at the Town Hall on June 1979, with Nigel Martin (vocals), Steve Westwood (guitar), Mark Chapman (bass) and now Andy Crawford taking over on drums from David Lee.

Elsewhere in the background for The Xtraverts was budding guitarist Glen Spicer.  Glen would help tune the guitars for the band and would join the band later in 1979.

I was shocked to hear that Andy Crawford had passed away around the 40th anniversary of this gig and shortly before the time of this post.  My condolences to his family and friends and offer this page as small tribute to a drummer who was very much part of the local punk scene back in 1979 and 1980.

Andy Crawford – Xtraverts drummer 1979-1980
Photographer unknown. Picture from The Xtraverts Facebook Group
https://www.facebook.com/groups/493155134101819/

R.I.P. Andy Crawford

Picture taken from Xtraverts Facebook group – messages can be left there too

https://www.facebook.com/groups/493155134101819/

27 June 1979 – UK Subs/Ladykillers – Town Hall

The UK Subs made their second High Wycombe appearance on Wednesday 27th June 1979 with a Ron Watts promoted show at the Town Hall.  Local band The Ladykillers were support on an evening where crowd violence caused a halt to proceedings.

The Subs had played to a small audience at the local SU Bar on 2nd February 1979 but in the intervening months they had signed a record deal with GEM records and their increased media prominence had drawn a decent crowd to the town centre venue –albeit including a small minority whose fighting threatened to call a premature end to the evening.

UK Subs – UK tour June/July 1979 – tour advert showing High Wycombe appearance 27 June 1979

Support act The Ladykillers had made their live debut earlier in 1979 – impressing a local crowd as support to XTC at the Town Hall on 6th May 1979.  Close to two months later they had a few new songs to their set, including a cover a Tamla original ‘Money’ but made more famous by The Beatles in 1963 and then a few weeks after this gig, by The Flying Lizards.

Ladykillers setlist for the support slot with The UK Subs included the following:

  • If It Happened Tomorrow
  • Fear of the Night
  • Bad Guys
  • Mother Hates Me Hair
  • Girl Talk
  • Money (Bradford and Gordy cover)
  • White Boys, Making Noise
  • Under The Skin

The UK Subs’ return to High Wycombe was part of a lengthy tour to promote their new single’ Stranglehold’.  The tour would stretch into July and include a prestigious appearance at London’s Lyceum Ballroom – a venue that was not afraid to promote a diverse range of acts.

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)

Music paper reviews of their gigs around the time of their Town Hall jaunt already had them pigeon-holed as ‘punk’ revivalists.

Robbi Millar writing in Sounds about their gig at The Music Machine on 15 June 1979, said: “I’m not sure how long the UK Subs are going to be able to carry on with their present formula but I hope they never mellow.  Right now they’ve got a certain stranglehold on their rowdy band of merry men and bootgirls, so let’s pray that possible chart success doesn’t change them.  Imagine the Subs on Top of the Pops!”

Just under two weeks previous they had supported Iggy Pop at the Hammersmith Odeon.  Chris Bohn, writing in Melody Maker reported much travelled 35-year-old UK Subs lead singer Charlie Harper saying to the crowd:

“It took them 10 years to pick up on Iggy Pop, didn’t it?  Some people say we live back in 1977 but we ain’t going to change our attitudes because of fashion.”

Bohn added himself; “Thus the first punk revival band thrashed their way through amusingly through a catalogue of earnest protest in speedily proficient HM punk style, projecting to he back of the hall where their ardently tribal admirers gathered.”

Bassist Paul Slack was quick to offer his views on the revival tag.  Speaking to Sounds a week or so later, he said:

“People call us a punk revival band, sort of all zips and no sense, but that’s boll*cks because punk hasn’t died.  It might not be trendy now but it’s still there. It’s gone underground.”

Guitarist Nick Garratt added:

“Punk music is last NEW thing and it’s still growing and improving. I don’t see why it shouldn’t go on for years yet, do you?”.

The UK Subs also made their feelings know about the old school of rock when they pulled out of their 22nd June 1979 slot at Glastonbury Fayre (later to become Glastonbury Festival).  Fifteen years before the cameras turned up at Worthy Farm, this was mainly a pilgrimage for ‘hippies’ and probably not a safe place for the relative youthfulness of ‘punks.

Having survived not going to Glastonbury, a day before their appearance in High Wycombe, UK Subs made journalist Robbi Millar’s dream come true when they recorded their debut appearance for BBC’s Top of the Pops.  Peter Powell introduced their ‘Stranglehold’ single on a show that saw Tubeway Army top the charts with ‘Are Friends Electric?’

But their visit to the Town Hall the following evening was a far cry from the BBC studios.  I attended this gig as a schoolboy, along with several other class mates, all interested in seeing a ‘punk’ band in action.  It proved an enlightening evening and a rough recording I made of the gig has helped me piece together the chaos of the night.

35-year-old lead singer Charlie Harper took the stage revealing that the band had: ‘just been through a really harrowing experience’ before shouting to those still in the bar to come out and ‘get the beer over here’.

The set list mainly drew from what would become their debut album ‘Another Kind of Blues’ – recorded in London in the month leading up to the High Wycombe gig and eventually released in September 1979.

The Subs had crashed through more a dozen songs in the opening 25 minutes before fighting broke out amongst a small number of people in the centre of the Town Hall floor.  Charlie Harper was not impressed, shouting to the punters:

“Are we are punks here, or what?  We’ve had enough people picking on us outside without f**king fighting amongst ourselves!  We’ve come here to have a bit of fun from the trials and turmoil’s of today.”

Violence had marred a few previous Town Hall gigs during the 1977/78 ‘punk’ boom but seemed to have quelled into 1979.  However, the danger signs were following an outbreak of crowd mayhem at the previous ‘punk’ gig at The Town Hall when followers of local band ‘The Xtraverts’ chanted the group’s name during song breaks in The Lurkers headline set.

There were subdued chants of ‘Xtraverts, Xtraverts’ again as the fighting died down during the UK Subs set, with guitarist Nick Garratt joking “OK, you can stop fighting now because I’ve changed my string”.  However, it had the reverse effect as a far more intense brawl started, prompting promoter Ron Watts to come on to the stage and shout: “OK, open the doors we’re going home”.

Again, Charlie Harper voiced his displeasure by shouting: “Listen! Everybody who wants to fight, f**k off!”  The majority of the crowd were in agreement and began charting “UK Subs!, UK Subs!”  But with the house lights up and Nick Garrett walking off the stage, it looked like the live action was over.

Step in Charlie Harper again who wouldn’t let the idiots win, declaring: “We haven’t done our set yet.  Just give Nick another minute.”  So around, 12 minutes after the trouble originally broke out, the band were ready to go again, with Charlie Harper asking for the house lights to be turned down because they wanted to carry on.  His request was obliged and they played another eight songs (in 15 minutes!) before a subdued crowd made their way home.

UK Subs setlist for High Wycombe Town Hall – 27 June 1979

  • Emotional Blackmail
  • I.D.
  • I Couldn’t Be You
  • I Live in a Car
  • Tomorrow’s Girls
  • Blues
  • World War
  • Rockers
  • TV Blues
  • Crash Course
  • Telephone Numbers
  • Killer
  • Lady Esquire
  • B1C (abandoned due to crowd trouble)
  • Disease
  • Emotional Blackmail
  • I.O.D.
  • I Don’t Wanna Know
  • Young Criminals
  • Stranglehold
  • Scum of the Earth
  • C.I.D.

Despite the audience problems at this gig, it is credit to promoter Ron Watts and the band that they returned to the Town Hall in September 1979 as part of a tour promoting their debut album, ‘Another Kind Of Blues’.

High Wycombe was lost from the major gigging circuit during the 1980’s but The UK Subs would return several more times in smaller venues and at the time of this article were set to appear at The Phoenix in Bridge Street on November 2019 – just over 40 years since their first appearances in the town.  You can do the calculations on how old Charlie Harper would be at this point.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Stranglehold – UK Subs – BBC Top of the Pops – 28 June 1979

Punk Can Take It – 1979 documentary featuring UK Subs

Filmed by Julien Temple at the Lyceum on 15th July 1979

Includes C.I.D., Live In A Car, Stranglehold, Emotional Blackmail, I Couldn’t Be You

References and further reading

http://www.uksubstimeandmatter.net/

An amazing treasure trove of UK Subs information

20 June 1979 – After Science –Nag’s Head

Four years before Howard Jones would make his breakthrough in the UK charts with his synth based pop, his three younger brothers had formed a band and began gigging in the High Wycombe area.  Their first outings came under the name of After Science, with an appearance at The Nag’s Head on Wednesday 20th June 1979 being one of their first ventures.

After Science/The Runs
Nag’s Head – 20th June 1979
Flyer from my own collection

Brothers Roy Jones (20, vocals), Martin Jones (21, guitar) and Paul Jones (17, drums), were joined by friend Majid Ahmed (19, bass) for the gig billed to be in aid of Friends of the Earth.  The self-made flyer was the only form of advertising for the gig but that and word of mouth amongst their music loving friends drew a decent crowd to the London Road venue.

I’m grateful for Roy Jones confirming, shortly before this article was published, that he had previously gained experience playing with local band ‘prog rock’ band Beowulf, which featured Sabir Ahmed (brother of Majid on bass), plus High Wycombe Royal Grammar classmate Paul Ferguson on drums.  Ferguson went on to perform with Pink Parts during the 1977 ‘punk’ explosion.

By 1979, the ‘post-punk’ scene was in full swing and Ferguson had teamed up with a fledgling West London based Killing Joke.  Meanwhile, Roy had begun collaborating with his younger brothers – all boasting natural music talent – and bringing a relatively fresh sound to the local scene and one that was in stark contrast to the bands harking back to the days full on punk days of 1976 and 1977.

Drawing influences from the likes of XTC, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, Talking Head and Public Image Limited; After Science quickly built up a local following playing the smaller local venues but seemed to struggle to make the step into the larger venues.

Later in 1979 they would change the band name to The Jones Boys and start to record tracks at The Boiler House studios in High Wycombe (Sands) along with engineer Derek Timms.  By the end of 1979 they had built up enough material for an album and were gaining interest from record companies.

Roy Jones commented: “We used to rehearse two nights a week for four hours in the evenings after work. Then we used to play live in local venues like The Nag’s Head in High Wycombe. We even got record company interest from CBS who sent an A&R man down to see us play live.”

Roy also recalls that during one of their Nag’s Head appearances in 1979 brother Howard would join the group on stage.  It would be the only time that all four brothers ever played live together before an audience.

After Science / The Jones Boys
Majid Ahmed plus Martin, Roy and Paul Jones
Picture taken circa November 1979 in High Wycombe – photo Jim Rendell

In 2014 Roy Jones would re-visit the tracks recorded at The Boiler House and issue a retrospectively titled album, ‘Endless Waiting Game’, via download and streaming platforms.

The tracks featured were:

  • Con 79
  • Endless Waiting Game
  • Talking
  • Goodtime Music
  • Disco-O
  • It’s Science
  • Falling Apart
  • Television Hum (featuring Paul Ferguson)
  • Crazy Rhythm
  • Chinese Takeaway Experiment
  • Visit to Earth
  • Yes No Running

The tracks were essentially the material performed live by After Science and The Jones Boys up until early 1980, when the chaotic events at a planned support slot for Killing Joke and Joy Division at The Town Hall, High Wycombe provided the catalyst to move to London and make another name change, this time to Red Beat – and finally a breakthrough to play the bigger stages in London and beyond.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Jones Boys/Red Beat – Endless Waiting Game – 1979 remastered in 2014 by Roy Jones

References and further reading:

http://dredzilla.com/bio/

https://www.facebook.com/RedBeatWorldwide/

https://twitter.com/roybakerjones

 

6 June 1979 – Lurkers/Xtraverts – Town Hall

The Lurkers won’t recall their return to High Wycombe on Wednesday 6th June 1979 which much pleasure.  The London based band owed their background more to ‘pub rock’ than ‘punk rock’ and when faced with a resurrected version of local boys, The Xtraverts as support, there was only ever going to be one winner.

The Lurkers – tour advert June 1979 – opening night at High Wycombe Town Hall

The Lurkers had appeared at the Town Hall the previous July at the height of their popularity and were looking to carry that relative success over into 1979.  The Town Hall date was the opening night of a tour to promote their latest single, ‘Out in The Dark’ and new album ‘God’s Lonely Men’.  The single crept into the UK charts at No.72 in the week they visited High Wycombe but would drop out again the following week – perhaps summing up their fortunes at a time when the media were keen to find the next the next musical trend.

To give an idea of the landscape of British popular music at the time, a glimpse at the UK singles chart for that week has Blondie’s ‘Sunday Girl’ in the No.1 position.  Elsewhere in the Top 30, there were several acts that had played High Wycombe in the previous two years or so.  ‘Roxanne’ by The Police were at No.16, ‘Masquerade’ by The Skids at No.17, The Clash with ‘I Fought the Law’ at No.24, The Damned with ‘Love Song’ at No.26 and Elvis Costello with ‘Accidents Will Happen at No.30.

Meanwhile, The Xtraverts, led by singer and founder member Nigel Martin, has their roots very much in the spirit of The Sex Pistols, with ‘Hate’, ‘Anarchy’ and ‘Chaos’, giving their now mainly teenage following a feel for what it may have been like to witness the original punk scene in late 1976/early 1977.  Promoter Ron Watts had given them a rare chance to grace the Town Hall stage following their return with a new-look line-up a few weeks earlier at The Multi-Racial Centre.

The Lurkers and The Extroverts (sic) at High Wycombe Town Hall 6th June 1979 – advert from Bucks Free Press

The line-up of the Xtraverts at the time of this gig is believed to be, Nigel Martin (vocals), Steve Westwood (guitar), Mark Chapman (bass) and David Lee (drums).  Drummer Lee recalled his introduction to band and the Lurkers gig in an interview for boredteenagers.co.uk in April 2006.

Lee had been to Wellesbourne school in High Wycombe with Chapman in 1978/79 and was invited to audition for The Xtraverts alongside Martin and Westwood, even though he wasn’t totally into the punk scene.  Lee recalls: “Anyway here I was playing in a punk band, a little different for me as I was into Deep Purple and that kind of thing. I thrashed out a number of tunes and I was in!”

Lee said his finest hour was supporting The Lurkers at The Town on 6th June 1979: “The local support was fantastic. I had just bought a new Ludwig vistalite kit from the States. It looked great and sounded big!  My first gig with the kit was supporting the Lurkers.”

Lee continued:  “We had a sound check and all seemed well.  I met the Lurkers drummer ‘Esso’ who admired my new shiny kit.  We went on and then all hell let loose – The sound completely died.  The fans thought it was the Lurkers sound engineers, all you could hear was my acoustic drumming! What had happened was, the evil sound limiter.  The council were having a meeting and cut the sound.  Not Good!  Meanwhile, we eventually rectified the problem and the sound came back on. We blew the place away the fans went mental pogoing and spitting in appreciation. In fact the fans booed the Lurkers off the stage wanting the Xtraverts back on. The Lurkers were very upset!”

The Lurkers – Beggar’s Banquet – 1979 promo picture

The Lurkers set-list would have been drawn from the following songs as performed at the Lyceum on 24th June 1979 but it’s not sure how far they got through their set before calling it a night.

  • By My Prisoner
  • It’s Quiet Here
  • Freak Show
  • I’ll Be With You
  • Out in the Dark
  • Jenny
  • Cyanide
  • What Ever Happened to Mary
  • I’m On Heat
  • I Don’t Need to Tell Her
  • Take Me Back to Babylon
  • Shadow
  • She Knows
  • Suzie is a Floozie
  • Hey You
  • Ain’t Got a Clue
  • Pills
  • I’m on Heat

The appearance by David Lee’s for The Xtraverts turned out to be his last!  “Now as I wasn’t a true punk- not into the dyed hair, safety pins, tattoos etc.  All I could see was my new black Ludwig vistalite kit caked in SNOT! I loved the band but I also loved my new kit!! That was the last gig and I left the band.”

Xtraverts – July 1979
Mark Chapman, Andy Crawford, Steve Westwood, Nigel Martin

Lee was replaced shortly afterwards on drums by Andy Crawford and The Xtraverts continued to gig in around High Wycombe during the summer -building up an even more enthusiastic following, spurred on by such songs as ‘Police State’, ‘Individual’, ‘Who Sent the Boys’ and ‘I Hate You’ – the latter including the lyrics

I hate you
The things you do
The way you dress
Your discotheque

Lead singer Nigel Martin spoke the local press a few weeks after The Lurkers gig: “That was fantastic. The Lurkers were really mad  l don’t think they’ll ask us to support them again.”  He added: “All the papers and the bands keep saying that punk is dead, but there’s a lot of punks in the Wycombe area and we’re the only group staying true to the ideals that punk first stuck to.  We don’t want to be millionaires and live in Los Angeles, ·and we won’t sign with some major company and be patronised. We want to play our music to our fans because they’re the ones who’ve stayed with us all along.”

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Out In The Dark – The Lurkers – audio of 1979 single

I Hate You – Xtraverts – audio of 1979 track

References and further reading

http://www.boredteenagers.co.uk/xtravertsdavidlee.htm

https://www.punk77.co.uk/groups/lurkers2.htm

 

27 April 1979 – Wadada/Xtraverts/Plastic People – Multi-Racial Centre

A hand written flyer found on social media provides evidence of a comeback gig by High Wycombe’s perennial punks, The Xtraverts, at High Wycombe’s Multi-Racial Centre on Friday 27th April 1979.  The flyer shows the headline act as Wadada, with additional support from Plastic People.

Wadada/Xtraverts/Plastic People
Multi-Racial Centre, High Wycombe
27th April 1979 – flyer

At the time of this gig, then 21-year-old lead singer Nigel Martin was the only founder member from the original version of The Xtraverts, who had spawned from the ‘post-Bill Grundy’ era of late 1976 and first known to have gigged mid-way through 1977.  The band continued to play live in and around High Wycombe and London but split-up shortly after the release of their debut single, Blank Generation (recorded in late 1977 and released in January 1978).

Martin returned to the stage briefly with a new band, Mirage – supporting 999 at The Town Hall on 20th December 1978 – but the resurrection of The Xtraverts  coincides with what is often described as the ‘second-wave of punk’ during 1979 – with bands including The Ruts and a reformed Damned driving the local interest (particularly amongst teenagers) following their appearance at the Town Hall on 18th April 1979.

The line-up of the new look Xtraverts at the time of this gig is believed to be, Nigel Martin (vocals), Steve Westwood (guitar), Mark Chapman (bass) and David Lee (drums).  Lee was replaced on drums later in the year by Andy Crawford but not before an infamous gig supporting The Lurkers at High Wycombe Town Hall on 6th June 1979.

The Plastic People were another local ‘punk’ band – this time headed by Gary Quelch (guitar and vocals).  The remainder of the line-up at the time of this gig is believed to be Steve Hyland (guitar), Pete Hyland (drums) and Glen Spicer (guitar and vocals).  Anybody with more accurate information, please get in touch and I will update this post accordingly.

What we do know about Plastic People is that they went on to release a joint double ‘A’ sided single with The Xtraverts– their contribution, ‘Demolition’, appearing alongside The Xtraverts’, ‘Police State’.  It was released in November 1979 on Rising Sun records- Rising Sun being a record stall in High Wycombe Fayre, an indoor market on the site of what was previously Woolworth’s in Church Street and what would become The Chiltern Centre in the mid 1980’s.

From my own memories, I recall seeing both bands several times in 1979 at local venues, including the Multi-Racial Centre and SU bar.  On each occasion the tribal following gathered pace, with much of their fan base drawing from recent school leavers and other teenagers who had been too young to witness the original punk explosion or were just simply unaware of the underground culture taking place on their doorstep.

At the time this flyer came to light (some 40 years after the gig) there was little, to no, information on the billed headline act Wadada.  However, the beauty of the internet has pointed me into the direction of a Michael Wadada who, in 1979, began collaboration with High Wycombe based Adrian Sherwood, creator of the On-U-Sound record label.  Unfortunately, Michael has no re-collection of the gig, so maybe the name of the act is just a coincidence. Anybody with any more information, please get in touch.

For the time being, I will leave you with a picture of the Multi-Racial Centre.

Multi-Racial Centre, High Wycombe
circa 2009

This venue took over from The Newlands Club as a relatively small capacity, non-pub venue, in the Town Centre.  It was situated under the Abbey Way flyover, at the end of Paul’s Row.  If you left the venue and made your way under the flyover, you would reach the entrance to the college buildings where gigs also took place in the main hall and SU Bar.  The site of the re-developed ‘Gateway Building’, opened in 2009, is built on the location of the main hall where The Sex Pistols played their infamous High Wycombe gig in February 1976.

12 May 1979 – Uncle Llama – Town Hall

A fairly elaborate folder out poster/flyer, from my own collection, is the only evidence I have of a gig by Uncle Llama at High Wycombe Town Hall on Saturday 12th May 1979.  The poster folds-out to an advert for the gig, while on the reverse there are details of the band line-up and for some bizarre reason, a food recipe!  My best guess, based on the photos of the band on the reverse of the poster, are they fell into the ‘prog rock’ category.  I’m fairly certain I would have picked up the poster, either from Scorpion or Venus record shops in High Wycombe.

Uncle LLama – High Wycombe Town Hall – 12th May 1979
Poster/Flyer montage by www.wycombegigs.co.uk

For the record and search engine recognition, the line-up quoted was John Hill (lead guitar and 12 string), Steve McDaniel (synth, string and organ), Joe Pritchard (bass), Tim Medcalf (drums and percussion) and Clive Brooks (vocals and 12 string).

The only online reference to Uncle Llama I could find at the time of this post was a comment by Andy Glass of Buckinghamshire based ‘prog rock’ band Solistice on www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk. It was in relation to their gig at Aylesbury Friars in 1983, where Glass said: “We also had a great time playing with Marrillion and Uncle Llama (whose keyboard player Steve McDaniel is now a member of Solstice).”

If nothing else, evidence of this gig, re-affirms that gigs in High Wycombe during 1979 were not limited to ‘punk’ and ‘new-wave’ acts. Indeed, the ever changing face of music at the time of this gig had seen the first release by ska band, The Specials – their ‘Gangsters’ single being released on 4th May 1979 on the Two-Tone record label.  Meanwhile, a month or so later, a Mod revival would begin with the likes of Merton Parkas, Chords, Purple Hearts and Secret Affair all enjoying a degree of chart success.  The latter revival had initially been sparked by The Jam but more specifically by the filming of ‘Quadrophonia’ and its cinema release later in 1979.  The differing styles of music and the sometimes obsessive tribalism (often media fuelled) connected with these ‘scenes’ did not always make gig going a pleasant experience, especially where promoters attempted a mix of bands.

References and further reading

Solistice

https://www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk/solstice83.html

http://www.solsticewebsite.com/

.

 

6 May 1979 – XTC/Camera Club/Ladykillers – Town Hall

XTC were another band to return to the High Wycombe having played the town during their embryonic years.  The Swindon based outfit had appeared twice at The Nag’s Head in 1977 and the gig at The Town Hall on Sunday 6th May 1979 was most likely a favour to promoter Ron Watts.  Support on the night were local band The Ladykillers and Bruce Woolley and The Camera Club.  Attendees of the gig would have left the gig unware they had witnessed a live rendition of a future No.1 single in the UK charts.

Events at High Wycombe Town Hall – May 1979 from Bucks Free Press Midweek
Including XTC on Sunday 6th May 1979 showing Brian James Band as the original support.
Jack Thackeray also billed and just look at those prizes for the Miss Teenage Wycombe Contest!

Originally billed as support for the XTC gig were The Brian James Band.  However, James, a former guitarist and founder member of The Damned, would not appear.

Support on the night came from High Wycombe band The Ladykillers – the latest outfit to include local boy Kris Jozajtis (ex Deathwish, The Pretty, Good Guys and Four Daughters) on guitar.  Other band members were Stuart Rillstone (lead vocals), Ian Hutchby (bass) and Dave ‘Dudge’ Williams (drums).  Jozajtis and Hutchby were the co-writers of the original songs in their set-list.

Kris Jozajtis recalls that Rillstone came from Chorley Wood and had previously been in a band called Nuclear Rouge. Jozajtis, Williams and Hutchby had also played together in two other High Wycombe based bands, Good Guys and Four Daughters, but with Dom Williams on vocals.  Four Daughters had supported The Rich Kids at High Wycombe Town Hall in September 1978 and the rock/pop style of Glen Matlock’s band is the best comparison I can come up with for The Ladykillers.

Their set on 6th May 1979 is believed to have followed their debut live appearance at The Nag’s Head earlier in 1979.  The familiarity of some of the band members with the audience, plus songs recognised from their former groups, was a factor in them receiving a decent reaction from the audience.  Unusually for a first band on, they were called back for an encore and then promoter Ron Watts insisted they played one more song in ‘30 seconds’.  I was delighted to be reminded of this incident while sorting through a number of live recordings from that era.  A YouTube clip of the audio is posted at the foot of this article.

Ladykillers – set-list from my own records included the following – some titles guessed.

  • Under The Skin
  • Fear of the Night
  • Mother Hates Me Hair
  • You’ve Been Seeing Another Women
  • Hear The Sound
  • Bad Guys
  • White Boys, Making Noise

As far as I can tell, The Ladykillers did not commit any of their songs to official recordings. They played further dates in the High Wycombe area during 1979 but appear to have split up before the end of the year. Kris Jozajtis would go on to join The Folk Devils in 1983.

Any other memories of The Ladykillers gratefully received.

The final support act were Camera Club, a relatively unknown band featuring Bruce Woolley on guitar and lead vocals, Matthew Seligman on bass, Rod Johnson on drums, Dave Birch (ex-Vibrators) on guitar and a 21 year old Thomas Dolby on keyboards.

Bruce Woolley and Camera Club – still from BBC Old Grey Whistle Test appearance just a few months after their Town Hall gig supporting XTC

Midway through their set that evening they would play a catchy song called ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ – a tune that Woolley penned with friends Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn in 1977. In September 1979 the same song would be released by The Buggles (featuring Downes and Horn) – it proved to be quite popular, reaching No.1 in the UK charts, plus topping the charts in at least nine other countries.  For those at High Wycombe Town Hall on 6th May 1979, this would have been the first of many times they had heard the song.  By chance, I manage to record the audio of that evening on fairly primitive equipment – it was a Boots ‘Walkman’ type device and was all I could afford at the time – being still at school.  I’ve uploaded the audio to YouTube as an historical record.

Camera Club – set-list from my own records included the followin

  • Flying Man
  • Too Late For Tears
  • Clean, Clean
  • The Picture is Taken, The Glass is Broken
  • Goodbye to Yesterday
  • Johnny
  • Video Killed The Radio Star
  • No Surrender
  • Dancing with the Sporting Boys

It would be fair to say that the reaction to their set at the Town Hall was mixed. The introduction of synthesisers and keyboards in a live environment so soon after the ‘punk’ explosion came as a surprise to many. However, fast-forward a few years, and the likes of Gary Numan, Human League, Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark were all chart bound with a similar style – plus, of course, local boy Howard Jones, who was often compared to Thomas Dolby when he broke the charts in 1983.

The Camera Club set-list calls mainly from songs that would appear on their ‘English Garden’ LP released on Epic records in November 1979.

It would be fair to say that the reaction to their set at the Town Hall was mixed. The introduction of synthesisers and keyboards in a live environment so soon after the ‘punk’ explosion came as a surprise to many.  However, fast-forward a few years, and the likes of Gary Numan, Human League, Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark were all chart bound with a similar style – plus, of course, local boy Howard Jones, who was often compared to Thomas Dolby when he broke the charts in 1983.

Meanwhile, back at The Town in May 1979, headliners XTC were out on their first tour since original keyboards player Barry Andrews had left the band.  He had been replaced with Dave Gregory, who also hailed from their hometown of Swindon, but in fact played guitar and not keyboards.

XTC – early 1979
Dave Gregory, Andy Partridge, Terry Chambers and Colin Moulding

Andrews had been a member of XTC since 1976 and played with them twice at The Nag’s Head in 1977. The remaining members, Andy Partridge (guitar and vocals), Colin Moulding (bass) and Terry Chambers (drums) were those that linked with Gregory on the stage at the Town Hall in May 1979.

Gregory’s first work with XTC was on their new single ‘Life Begins at The Hop’, released on 27th April 1979.  Considering their previous 7” releases (including, ‘This is Pop!’ and ‘Statue of Liberty’), it is surprising to find that this was their first single that troubled the UK charts – peaking at No.54 and prompting their first Top of the Pops appearance on 17th May 1979.

It was their persistence that finally earned them the chart success they deserved.   They were using the April/May 1979 tour to debut some of the material that would feature on their August 1979 album release, ‘Drums and Wires’.  One of the songs falling into that category and played at the Town was, ‘Making Plans for Nigel’.  Released as a single in September 1979 it reached No.17 in the UK charts but deserved much higher.  ‘Computer errors’ have since been blamed for the single not reaching higher but the song remains an iconic pop tune and its distinctive drum and guitar sounds deserved so much more recognition at the time.

XTC – set-list from my own records

  • Beatown
  • Meccanik Dancing
  • Making Plans For Nigel
  • The Rhythm
  • Roads Girdle The Globe
  • Science Friction
  • Life Begins At The Hop
  • This Is Pop
  • Battery Brides
  • Cross Wires
  • Outside World
  • I’m Bugged
  • Crowded Room
  • Radios In Motion
  • Are You Receiving Me
  • Set Myself On Fire
  • Dance Band (encore)
  • Statue Of Liberty (encore)

The XTC set-list drew material from their three albums to date, their single back catalogue and previews of tracks from their yet to be recorded ‘Drums and Wires’ album.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Under The Skin – The Ladykillers – live audio from High Wycombe Town Hall 6 May 1979

Video Killed The Radio Star – Camera Club – live audio from High Wycombe Town Hall 6 May 1979

WW9/Clean Clean – Camera Club – BBC Old Grey Whistle Test – 30 October 1979

Making Plans For Nigel – XTC – live video from Bristol Locarno 13 May 1979

Further reading and references:

XTC history

http://chalkhills.org/

XTC gigography

http://www.optimismsflames.com/Gigs%20Text%20Only.htm

Bruce Woolley

http://www.brucewoolleyhq.com/pop.html

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

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