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/

13 November 1978 – Siouxsie and The Banshees release debut album

Siouxsie and The Banshees released their long-awaited debut album on Monday 13th November 1978. ‘The Scream’ consisted of 10 previously unreleased tracks but most already live favourites with a growing fan base.  It proved an instant chart success in the UK, peaking at No.12 and going on to be regarded as a watershed in the transformation from the ‘punk’ musical genre to what would soon be branded ‘post-punk’.  40 years after its release is still sounds as fresh and stark as the day it was released.

The Scream – Siouxsie and The Banshees – debut album – released 13th November 1978 on Polydor

The Banshees had played High Wycombe on three previous occasions. Their most recent had been a riotous affair at The Town Hall in April 1978.  Prior to that they had appeared twice at The Nag’s Head in early incarnations of their line-up.  In March 1977, they played what was their fourth ever gig (not third as widely documented) when they supported Johnny Thunders.  They returned as headliners in May 1977 – both appearances including Peter Fenton on guitar.

Both those early appearances at The Nag’s Head were sparsely attended and it was only when John McKay replaced Fenton on guitar later in 1977 that the now iconic Banshees sound would develop. Two John Peel sessions would follow and a ‘sign the Banshees’ campaign would culminate in a deal signed with Polydor in June 1978 for a rumoured advance of £400,000.

A debut single, ‘Hong Kong Garden’, followed in August 1978 and the tracks for the debut album were recorded the same month and produced by Steve Lilywhite. Commenting on the album, bassist Steve Severin has said: “None of the songs were about current affairs. That was deliberate, as I saw that as a downfall of a lot of the so-called ‘punk’ bands.”

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Metal Postcard/Jigsaw Feeling – Old Grey Whistle Test – 7 November 1978 – BBC TV

4 October 1978 – 999 – Town Hall

999 returned to High Wycombe on Wednesday 4th October 1978 to make their debut at the Town Hall.  The band had formed out of the London punk scene in late 1976 and had played an infamous gig at The Nag’s Head in September 1977 that was marred by violence and resulted in a ‘punk’ ban for the London Road venue.

A year later 999 were heading back to High Wycombe on the back of a well-publicised tour promoting their album ‘Separates’ album released on United Artists record label. Support at the Town Hall were Razar.

999 tour dates – September, October and November 1978.
Including High Wycombe Town Hall – 4th October 1978.
Cutting from New Musical Express

A preview and review of the gig appeared in the local High Wycombe papers. The review of the gig published in the Bucks Free Press Midweek said:

Great gig

New wave pop group 999 gave an exciting and energetic performance at the eighth date in a nation-wide tour at High Wycombe Town Hall on Wednesday night.

The group has just returned from a European tour with The Stranglers and at the moments its following is mainly limited to punk rockers.

The group hopes that this tour will launch it to greater things and if this gig is anything to go by, that should be a long way.

Numbers like ‘Nasty, Nasty’ got the audience up on the stage and all through the show, rockers dressed in anything from leopard skin body stockings to leather drain-pipe trousers, jumped up and down, incessantly, near the stage.

‘Feeling Alright With The Crew’, a single taken off 999’s new album ‘Separates’, sees singer Nick Cash’s voice, plus echo, used to great effect over hypnotic boogie backing. With ‘Subterfuge’ and ‘No Pity’, the group buried any attacks that it is nothing but a two-chord wonder.

There was no safety pins and no violence. 999 responded well and the audience lapped it up.

999 – review of gig at High Wycombe Town published in Bucks Free Press Midweek in October 1978

 

The success of the gig led to promoter Ron Watts bringing the band back to the Town Hall for another appearance in December 1978.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

 Feelin’ Alright With The Crew – 999 – audio

29 September 1978 – Motorhead – Town Hall

Heavy Metal legends in the making, Motorhead, turned up the decibels at High Wycombe Town Hall on Friday 29th September 1978.  The date was arranged to promote their new single ‘Louie Louie’, released as one-off for Bronze Records.  A John Peel session had also been recorded for BBC Radio 1 on 18th September 1978 and popularity for the band was very much on the rise at the time of their Town Hall appearance – much of this also credited to their cross-over with the punk scene.

Bucks Free Press advert for Motorhead and 999 gigs at High Wycombe Town Hall in September and October 1978

A quick look at their history reveals that lead singer and bassist Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, had formed Motorhead in the summer of 1975 following his departure from Hawkwind.  The name of the group had been taken from the final song he had written with Hawkwind.  By the time of the Town Hall gig, the Motorhead line-up and settled to a three piece with 32 year old ‘Lemmy’ on bass, Phil Taylor (24) on drums and ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke (27) on guitar.

Going back to Lemmy’s time with Hawkwind, the group played High Wycombe Town Hall at least three times during the earlier 1970’s, however, their latter of these appearances, on 14 August 1971, is the only date that would coincide with Lemmy’s arrival in their line-up.  A few months later he took lead vocals on the Hawkwind classic ‘Silver Machine’.

Several Hawkwind covers appeared in the early Motorhead set-lists, including the inspiration for the name of the group, ‘Motorhead’.   At the time of publication of this article, there was no confirmation of the set-list at the Town Hall but a recording of the gig at Wolverhampton on 23rd September 1978 exists with the following tracks:

  1. Motorhead (Hawkwind cover)
  2. I’ll Be Your Sister
  3. Leaving Here (Edward Holland, Jr. cover)
  4. Lost Johnny (Hawkwind cover)
  5. The Watcher (Hawkwind cover)
  6. Keep Us on the Road
  7. Louie Louie (Richard Berry cover)
  8. Tear Ya Down
  9. Iron Horse/Born to Lose
  10. White Line Fever
  11. Instro

By the time this article was published to mark the 40th anniversary of Motorhead’s appearance in High Wycombe, all three of the original band members had passed away.

Philthy Animal’ Taylor passed away on 11th November 2015 (aged 61)

‘Lemmy’ passed away on 28th December 2015 (aged 70)

Fast’ Eddie Clarke passed away on 10th January 1978 (aged 67)

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Louie Louie – Motorhead – BBC Top of the Pops – October 1978

Motorhead – Motorhead – official audio – 1978

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mot%C3%B6rhead

8 September 1978 – Rich Kids/Four Daughters – Town Hall

Glen Matlock’s Rich Kids made a long awaited appearance in High Wycombe on Friday 8th September 1978.  The former Sex Pistols bassist had formed the band in 1977 and by the time of the September 1978 date at the Town Hall, interest was high to see what his new band would deliver.  Local band Four Daughters were support for a gig independently promoted by Ron Watts.

Rich Kids – High Wycombe Town Hall – 8th September 1978 – flyer from my own collection

Matlock had been fired by Pistols Manager Malcom McClaren in early 1977 having played High Wycombe on two previous occasions with the punk originals – February 1976 and the College and September 1976 at The Nag’s Head. Matlock, aged 22 at the time of the Town Hall gig, had spent the previous year refining the line-up of The Rich Kids which now included Midge Ure on vocals (aged 24), Steve New on guitar (aged 18) and Rusty Egan on drums (just shy of his 21st birthday).  Ure had previously performed with Slik – best known for their single ’Forever and Ever’ – No.1 in the UK charts at the time The Sex Pistols played High Wycombe college in February 1976.

Rich Kids – 1978 -posing for Oh Boy magazine
Left to Right: Rusty Egan, Glen Matlock, Midge Ure and Steve New

They had signed to EMI records in December 1977 and released their first single, ‘Rich Kids’ in January 1978 – earning them an appearance on BBC’s Top of the Pops and the trailing of ITV alternative music show, ‘Revolver’. A date of 30 January 1978 had been pencilled in by Ron Watts for an appearance at High Wycombe Town Hall but arrangements fell through.

Local live music punters keeping an eye of the national music press would also have been excited with reports of a date of 30 July 1978 at High Wycombe Town Hall with The Slits as support. However, despite this date since appearing in gig archive listings, it never took place. Indeed, promoter Ron Watts was busy that evening with a gig at The Nag’s Head.

What we can be sure of is that the 8th September 1978 gig did take place.  Three of my friends recall the gig and I was also pleased to find a flyer for the gig in my own archives – probably obtained from Scorpion Records and now appearing on the internet for the first time in this article.

My fellow music friends who attended this gig were ‘Buzz’, Martin63’ and ‘Tapps’. The latter recalls that: “The Rich Kids were a bit of disappointment. Their brilliant single ‘Ghosts of Princes in Towers’ was easily the highlight of the night but the crowd expected something more from Glen Matlock, having reputedly penned most of ‘Never Mind The Bollo*ks.”

All three also recall local support band ‘Four Daughters’ – they included former Deathwish, Party, Pretty and Ventilators guitarist Kris Jojvatis. ‘Tapps’ remembers that their drummer was Dave ‘Dudge’ Williams. Does anybody else reading this have more information on this band?

Based on a set-list from a Rich Kids gig at Birmingham Barbarellas a few weeks earlier in 1978, the songs played that night at High Wycombe Town Hall would most likely have included:

  1. Sound Of Marching Men
  2. Put You In The Picture
  3. Here Comes The Nice
  4. Empty Words
  5. Young Girls
  6. Bullet Proof Lover
  7. Lovers And Fools
  8. Twelve Miles High
  9. Holy Holy
  10. Burning Sounds
  11. Strange One
  12. Cheap Emotions
  13. Hung On You
  14. Ghosts Of Princes In Towers
  15. Shake Appeal
  16. Rich Kids.

The band eventually split-up at the end of 1978, with Matlock going-on to perform in several other bands and return to High Wycombe and many occasions. Midge Ure and Rusty Egan went on to form an early incarnation of new-romantic band Visage. Ure later gained commercial success with Ultravox.  Matlock’s time in Visage was short but he returned to live performing with several bands and returned to High Wycombe on several occasions, including Jimmy Norton’s Explosion, Spectres, London Cowboys, Dead Men Walking and reformed Faces.

Steve New later played in Public Image Limited, Generation X and with Iggy Pop. He also helped out Matlock on his solo projects but sadly passed away in May 2010 from cancer.  He played with Rich Kids in January 2010 in an one-off benefit concert for his needs.

In 2016, Matlock reformed Rich Kids again for a show at Shepherds Bush and then went back to solo touring. His was embarking on a solo tour of small venues on Europe at the time of publication of this article.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Rich Kids – Rich Kids + Ghosts of Princes in Towers – Revolver TV pilot show May 1978

Glen Matlock + Midge Ure interview – Thames TV 1978 with Anne Nightingale

Rich Kids – Here Come the Nice (Small Face cover) – live audio 1978

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

https://punkygibbon.co.uk/bands/r/richkids.html

http://www.midgeure.co.uk/archive/index.html

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

 

18 August 1978 – Rezillos/Patrik Fitzgerald/Vents- Town Hall

The Rezillos made a long awaited and welcome return to High Wycombe on Friday 18th August 1978, playing to a near sold-out Town Hall with support advertised as punk poet Patrik Fitzgerald and local band The Vents.

Rezillos August 1978 Tour montage – featuring Friday 18th August 1978 at High Wycombe Town Hall – created for wycombegigs.co.uk

The Rezillos had played The Nag’s Head just over a year previous as a relatively unknown punk outfit from Edinburgh.  By the time of the return to High Wycombe in August 1978 they had released their first album ‘Can’t Stand the Rezillos’ (July 1978) and had just secured their first real chart success with their ‘Top of the Pops’ single.

Promoter Ron Watts had been looking to bring the band back to High Wycombe for several weeks and an original date of 14th July 1978 had been booked (with Sore Throat support) but the gig was cancelled, along with the rest of a proposed Rezillos tour, due to unrest amongst the band.

Their eventual return on 18th August 1978 came just over a week since their Top of the Pops debut – Peter Powell introducing a track that was essentially slagging off the programme.

Here’s a quick extract from the lyrics

Does it matter what is shown

Just as long as everyone knows

What is selling what to buy

The stock market for your hi fi

Take the money, leave the box

Everybody’s on top of the pops

A packed house at the Town Hall witnessed a manic set that included all The Rezillos favourites – they also threw in a 100mph version of ‘Ballroom Blitz’ – The Sweet classic from 1974.

Two weeks after their Town Hall appearance they were back on Top of the Pops as their record of the same name hit the top 20. A follow-up single, ‘Destination Venus’, was released in October 1978 but for reasons what are described as ‘growing tensions in the band’ led to an eventual split by the end of 1978 (all very well documented via the links below).

Please get in touch or leave or comment if you have any memories of The Rezillos gig at The Town Hall – including any more information on local support band The Vents.

For your listening and viewing pleasure:

The Rezillos – Top of the Pops – BBC Top of the Pops – August 1978

I understand that lead singer Faye Fife was wearing something similar at The Town Hall?

References:

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

http://www.rezillos.rocks/

14 July 1978 – Lurkers/White Cats – Town Hall

A new live music Club was launched at High Wycombe Town Hall on Friday 14th July 1978 with the ‘Peppers’ Club promoting a ‘New Wave/Punk’ night featuring London’s The Lurkers, Damned exile Rat Scabies’ White Cats and local band The Vents.

Peppers appears to be joint venture run between local promoter Ron Watts and Wycombe District Council, with the aim of offering membership to gig goers in a similar way to the much longer running Friars Club at Aylesbury.  Punters attending the Lurkers gig were given free membership cards with the promise of cheaper admission at subsequent Town Hall gigs.

The ‘Club’ idea was also intended as an attempt to prevent violence at gigs. The principle being if you caused trouble you would have your membership revoked and thus not admitted to future gigs under the Peppers name.

The Lurkers supported by White Cats – High Wycombe Town Hall Friday 14th July 1978 – Rezillos coming soon too! – Bucks Free Press advert from the wycombegigs.co.uk archive

The opening night for Peppers took place midway through a year that had slowly been taken over by music related blockbuster films ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and ‘Grease’.  By mid-July 1978, ‘You’re The One That I Want’ by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John from the ‘Grease’ soundtrack had been at No.1 in the UK singles chart for five weeks.  In the album charts, ‘Saturday Night Fever’ had been sitting at the top for 11 weeks!

The live music scene at the time was about as far removed from this summer of cheese as you could imagine. A gig at the Town Hall proved a welcome relief from the increasingly nauseating Travolta based music being inflicted via national radio and TV… and the ‘Disco’ nights at the same venue on Tuesday evenings!

The Lurkers, headliners for The Peppers opening night, had formed in West London in the latter part of 1976.  They played some of their early London gigs at the iconic Roxy Club venue in early 1977.  Gigs later that year saw them support the likes of The Jam, Eater and Slaughter and The Dogs.

They released their first record on Beggars Banquet – a track titled ‘Shadow’/’Love Story’ in July 1977. A second single, ‘Freak Show’/’Mass Media Believer’ followed in October 1977, both with limited success.  Their third single, ‘Ain’t Got a Clue’/’Ooh!, Ooh! I Love You’ was released in May 1978 and proved to be their biggest hit – reaching 45 in the UK singles chart.  Their debut album, ‘Fulham Fallout’ was released in June 1978, while another single, ‘I Don’t Need To Tell Her’/ ‘Pills’ was released in the same month as their High Wycombe Town Hall gig and earned them an appearance  on Top of The Pops on 3rd August 1978.

Their line-up at the time of the Town Hall gig is believed to be Howard Wall (vocals), Pete Stride (guitar), Nigel Moore (bass) and Pete ‘Manic Esso’ Haynes (drums).

Ain’t Got A Clue – The Lurkers
Front cover of their 1978 single of Beggars Banquet – with free GOLD flexi-disc

Meanwhile, The White Cats and been formed around January 1978 following the latest split-up by punk originals The Damned – drummer Rat Scabies (real name Chris Miller) recruiting Kelvin Blacklock (vocals), Eddie Cox (guitar) and Steve Turner (bass).  Blacklock had been a member of early early punk band London SS.  The White Cats played as headliners at The Nag’s Head on 6th July 1978 and clearly had impressed promoter Ron Watts to bring them as support for The Lurkers – it was perhaps a role that they didn’t enjoy?

I’m indebted again to a couple of friends who kept diaries during 1978 and both attended The Lurkers event at The Town Hall. First up, ‘Buzz’ recalls The White Cats set as being ‘very aggressive’ and added: “I wasn’t impressed by their performance, and it seemed neither was anyone else. They got absolutely no reaction from the audience whatsoever.  The White Cats were pi**ed off, and called one song ‘Bollo*ks to Wycombe Town Hall’.  No-one seemed to care.”

Meanwhile, ‘Tapps’ also recalls the attitude of The White Cats and confirms they introduced their final song of the evening as ‘Bollo*ks to Wycombe Town Hall’.

The White Cats were fairly short lived as they struggled to find their own identity. Their set included The Damned’s ‘Stab Your Back’ and another Damned song in the making, ‘Second Time Around’.  The latter appeared on The Damned 1979 album ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’, but renamed as the title track.  Other songs in their set-list that night would most likely have included ‘Escalator Love’, ‘Teenage Dream’, ‘Junkyard Angels’, ‘Detectives’, ‘Here I Go Again’ and ‘Shotgun Lovers’ – all recorded for John Peel Sessions in April and August 1978.

‘Buzz’ also recalls The Lurkers in his 1978 diary, saying: “The Lurkers played a fast, exhilarating set to a larger audience, some of which may have been their fans from London. From start to finish there was a massive area of pogoing and we all really exhausted ourselves! There was no violence at all.”

So the Club idea appeared to have worked, at least for this gig?

A review of Town Hall gig also appeared in ‘Rock On’ magazine and I include the complete text below as it collaborates with the memories from ‘Buzz’ and ‘Tapps’ :

“The hall was half full and the atmosphere wasn’t exactly electrifying either, which was disappointing when an exciting band like the Lurkers are appearing.

First on were a young band called the Vents. A lack of aggression and attack produced a rather timid less than ordinary performance.  The only memorable thing was the contorted expressions worn by the lead guitarist.

Next on were White Cats. With the inimitable Rat Scabies. Their performance was an improvement on the Rainbow showing, but only just.  Vocalist Kelvin Blacklock was a poor shadow of Billy Idol, and proceeded to act the fool throughout.  There was a good performance of the Damned’s Stab Your Back, but that apart, they were predictable, and when trying to be nasty, merely irritating.

Finally, on came the Lurkers, and alter a disastrous start when Pete Stride’s guitar strings broke during Ain’t Got A Clue, they proceeded with a superb rock ‘n’ roll performance.

The set included Be My Prisoner, Shadow, Then I Kicked Her, Total War, and the new single, Pills. Howard Wall was brilliant, and Esso gave a stunning performance on drums during the unexpected break. All in all a memorable gig, confirming their brilliance on stage and album.  But the Lurkers apart, the evening was a pretty poor one.”

For your listening and viewing pleasure:

The White Cats – Second Time Around – audio – demo 1978

The Lurkers – I Don’t Need To Tell Her – Revolver TV show 1978

The Lurkers – Shadow – live video – Red Cow, Hammersmith 1978

References:

https://www.thelurkers.co.uk/history/

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

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

 

30 June 1978 – The Skids – Nag’s Head

Scottish punk/new wave band The Skids played their first gig outside of Scotland or London on Friday 30th June 1978 (*) with a date at a Ron Watts promoted night at The Nag’s Head.

Skids – Return To London (and make first visit to High Wycombe) advert from Record Mirror – June 1978

(*) I’ve seen the date of The Nag’s Head appearance documented as both Thursday 29th June 1978  and Friday 30th June 1978. – The Thursday date was certainly the originally intended date and would tie in with the usual Thursday ‘Rock Night’s under Ron Watts’ promotion.  The music paper listings for that week show Thursday 29th June but I was delighted (and more confused) to discover the above tour advert in The Record Mirror showing The Skids ‘Return To London’ dates with The Nag’s Head appearance indicated the 30th June. My theory on why it might have been moved is below.

The Skids had been formed in 1977 in Dunfermline by then 19-year-old guitarist Stuart Adamson. He recruited Bill Simpson (bass), Thomas Kellichan (drums) and a 16 year old Richard Jobson on vocals. They played their first gig in August 1977 and released their first record in February 1978, the Charles EP on the No Bad record label (Tracks: ‘Charles’, ‘Reasons’ and ‘Test Tube Babies’). The EP was championed by John Peel and led to a rapid rise in their popularity away from their homeland.

Skids 1978 – Bill Simpson, Richard Jobson, Stuart Adamson and Thomas Kellichan

The Skids subsequently made their first journey ‘down south’ during April 1978, playing well-known London venues; including The Rochester Castle (Stoke Newington), Red Cow (Hammersmith), Hope and Anchor (Islington) and The Nashville (Kensington). The trip coincided with a record deal being signed with Virgin Records.

Their return south in June 1978 followed a first John Peel session recorded on 16th May 1978 and first broadcast three days later. The tracks were: ‘Of One Skin’, ‘Open Sound’, ‘Contusion’, ‘Night and Day’ and live favourite ‘TV Stars’.

The tour dates show The Skids playing a 28th June 1978 show at The White Hart in Acton.  Listings show this gig with the Scottish lads supporting Tubeway Army (Gary Numan’s electronic band in the making).  By some accounts it was a violent evening at a venue famous for its ‘punk’ nights.  I also noted a couple of other interesting gigs from the same weekly listing. The Clash made their Aylesbury Friars debut on Wednesday 28th June 1978 in front of a sell-out 1,000 plus crowd – they had played the Nag’s Head in November 1976 in front of barely 100 people!  On Thursday 29th June 1978, David Bowie played before around 20,000 fans at London’s Earl Court.  He had made a very early appearance in High Wycombe during 1966 – also playing to less than 100 people.  Perhaps the original date was moved to avoid clashing with The Bowie date? Members of The Skids were big fans of Bowie? Meanwhile, if you stayed at home to watch Top of The Pops on the Thursday night, you could have seen Dave Lee Travis presenting a typical show for the year – culminating in John Travolta and Olivia Newton John’s – ‘You’re The One That I Want’ video being shown for the third consecutive week. It would remain at No.1 for a further seven weeks! There was hardly a ‘punk’ revolution storming the top of the charts in the summer of 1978!

Back at The Nag’s Head the crowd for The Skids was also around the 100 mark. Promoter Ron Watts recalls the evening in his 2006 autobiography – 100 Watts – A Life In Music, saying:

“The Skids [were] yet another band with obvious massive potential. Richard Jobson was a dynamic singer, not blessed with the greatest of voices but he could handle a crowd. They also had Stuart Adamson, a guitarist who went onto even greater things with Big Country before sadly committing suicide in America. That was a real tragedy; Stuart had so much talent, yet he couldn’t cope with the situation.”

Success for The Skids would come relatively quickly following their Nag’s Head appearance. Within 12 months they had recorded three further sessions for John Peel and released a trio of singles that would propel them into the limelight.  Their debut on Virgin, ‘Sweet Surburbia’, was released in September 1978, while their ‘Wide Open’ EP released in October 1978 featured the storming lead track ‘The Saints Are Coming’.  Both singles had minor chart success but that was blown out of the water with the release of ‘Into The Valley’ in March 1979 – reaching No.10 in the UK charts and earning them regular appearances on Top of the Pops.  The track was taken from their debut album, ‘Scared to Dance’ – released in February 1979.  In November 1979 – less than 18 months after their Nag’s Head show, they had sold out The Rainbow Theatre in London.

For your listening and viewing pleasure – starting from the era The Skids played The Nag’s Head

Skids – 1st John Peel session for BBC Radio One – recorded 16th May 1978

The Saints Are Coming – The Skids – BBC Top of the Pops – November 1978

Into The Valley – The Skids –BBC Top of the Pops – March 1979

References and further reading:

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

http://www.the-skids.com/WEBPROTECT-timeline.htm

http://auralsculptors.blogspot.com/2012/01/tubeway-army-early-years.html

https://writewyattuk.com/2017/05/26/absolute-game-on-reconvening-the-skids-the-richard-jobson-interview/