Wire returned for a performance at The Nag’s Head on Friday 9th December 1977 for what is believed to be their first headline appearance at the High Wycombe venue. The London based band, formed in late 1976 as part of the original ‘punk’ scene, had supported The Jam at The Nag’s Head in May 1977.
Formed in October 1976 by Colin Newman (vocals, guitar), Graham Lewis (bass, vocals), Bruce Gilbert (guitar), and Robert Gotobed, real name Robert Grey (drums).
Their influence has outweighed their relatively modest record sales. Robert Smith has described how, after seeing the group live, influenced The Cure’s sound after their first album. Wire and The Cure played a double header at Aylesbury Friars in early 1979.
A plagiarism case between Wire’s music publisher and Elastica, over the similarity between Wire’s 1977 song “Three Girl Rhumba” and Elastica’s 1995 hit “Connection“, resulted in an out-of-court settlement.
Their December 1977 date at The Nag’s Head came as part of a nationwide tour to help promote their latest single – Manequin/Feeling Called Love/12XU and debut album – Pink Flag. Dates on the tour also included two nights supporting The Tubes at Hammersmith Odeon (6th and 7th December 1977).
Aside a period of solo activities from 1981 to 1985 Newman, Lewis and Grey continued to perform together as Wire and in January 2017 they released a new album called Silver/Lead – their 16th studio album.
Support act, Trash, appear to be a band with members from Weybridge and Reading. The link below to the excellent boredteenagers website gives more background – including a mention of their gig in High Wycombe supporting Wire.
Having played The Nag’s Head less than two months previous, the Tom Robinson Band made a triumphant return for a Town Hall gig on Monday 28th November 1977. The Nag’s Head date had been at the start of their ‘TRB Delivers’ tour set up to promote their debut single, ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’. The success of the single had thrown the band into the spotlight, with a Top of the Pops debut on Thursday 27th October 1977 and the single subsequently reaching the top 5 of the UK singles charts.
Tom Robinson’s promise to the audience of October 1977 gig at The Nag’s Head to return to the town was honoured with another Ron Watts promoted affair at The Town Hall. Tickets for the gig had been sold at the recently opened Scorpion Records.
A review of the gig was included in the debut edition of High Wycombe fanzine, ‘Buckshee Press’ where Peter Cottridge wrote: “[TRB’s] return [to High Wycombe] illustrates just how far [they] have come since playing The Nag’s Head. From local favourites to pop-stars in just eight weeks! A single in the top five, vast amounts of equipment back drops and young girls (?) hankering for autographs at the stage door. An inevitable process richly deserved by the Tom Robinson Band.”
The fanzine confirms the set list for the gig at The Town Hall was much the same as The Nag’s Head and included the following:
Long Hot Summer
Don’t Take No For An Answer
Winter of ‘79
Better Decide Which Side You’re On
I’m All Right Jack
Right on Sister
Glad to Be Gay
Power in The Darkness
Up Against The Wall
Encores were, Bob Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released’ another play of ‘2-4-6-8’ and Lou Reed’s ‘Waiting For My Man’.
The whole gig was recorded by the Island Mobile and the track ‘Right on Sister’ was included as one of four tracks on the ‘Rising Free E.P.’, released in early February 1978 as a follow to ‘2-4-6-8’.
TRB would release their debut album, ‘Power in the Darkness’ in August 1978 and return again to the Town Hall in April 1979.
Right on Sister – audio recorded live at Town Hall, High Wycombe, November 1977
Don’t Take No For An Answer – audio recorded at Sussex University, Brighton, December 1977
This is the uncensored version. An amazing live performance.
Wayne County and The Electric Chairs returned for a third performance of the year in High Wycombe with a headline slot at The Town Hall on Monday 21st November 1977. Support came from Alternative TV (ATV) and very early appearance by West London outfit, The Ruts.
This was another Ron Watts promoted gig and came on what was becoming a regular Monday night slot. The brief run of Monday night gigs at The Town Hall appears to have come in direct competition to the new Tuesday night ‘punk’ nights at The Newlands Club.
I am indebted again to my friend ‘Buzz’ for not only confirming the date of this gig from his 1977 diary, but also using his diary to recall his experiences at The Town Hall that evening. Buzz’s Diary reports that the doors opened at 7.30pm and the small gathering audience watched Wayne County & The Electric Chairs conclude their soundcheck.
The almost completely unknown Ruts were first on stage and according to Buzz’s diary, “played 20 minutes of undistinguished hard punk”. Looking back on the formation of The Ruts some 40 years after their High Wycombe appearance, it appears they got together just a month or so before stepping on stage at The Town Hall. The line-up was Malcom Owen (vocals), Paul Fox (guitar), John ‘Segs’ Jennings (bass) and Dave Ruffy (drums).
Much of the online history of The Ruts has been derived from an interview with ‘Segs’, released as part of the 2001 Ruts compilation album, “Bustin’ Out”. The interview recalls The Ruts first ever gig had taken place on 16 September 1977 at The Target pub in Northolt. The first sessions were recorded in October 1977 (a YouTube audio clip is included at the foot of this article).
At the time of writing this piece I’d not yet had a chance to listen to the interview but this also appears to be origins of the claim that the definitive Ruts line-up (listed above) made their live debut at High Wycombe Town Hall supporting Wayne County – however, the date is listed as 25 January 1978 rather than 21 November 1977. I can only assume that recollections of dates have been blurred over the years – clarification from anybody reading this would be appreciated.
Back to 21 November 1977. Alternative TV were fronted by Sniffin’ Glue fanzine founder Mark Perry and had been formed earlier in 1977 with a line-up Alex Fergusson (guitar), Tyrone Thomas (bass) and Chris Bennet (drums). The catalyst for forming the band appears to be Perry’s disillusionment with the punk movement, which by mid-1977 had succumbed, in the main, to the pressures of record company commercialisation. Perry’s attitude at the time is summed up in his lyrics to ATV’s 1977 ‘How Much Longer’:
How much longer will people wear
Nazi armbands and dye their hair?
Safety pins and spray your clothes
Talk about anarchy, fascism and boredom?
Well you don’t know nuthin’
but you don’t really care
By the time of their appearance at High Wycombe Town Hall it appears that Alex Fergusson had left the band following disagreements with Perry. Thomas filled in on guitar to set-up a basic raw sound that left much of the audience baffled.
It certainly didn’t impress a teenage ‘Buzz’ who wrote in his diary, “To our surprise and disgust [ATV] were useless. On two occasions their guitarists broke strings in the middle of songs and it was a very lifeless set played to less than 100 people. I was very disappointed by the pathetically small audience, although there was a lot still in the bar.”
Clearing the majority of the audience had come to the see the flamboyant Wayne County. He had played at The Nag’s Head on two occasions earlier in 1977 (6 March 1977 and 9 April 1977). The headline appearance, at the much larger capacity Town Hall, was an ambitious step for an act more used to the pub and club circuit but in the week before the High Wycombe gig were also top of the bill for a performance (also with ATV support) at Portsmouth Pavilion Ballroom (16 November 1977). While the following night they supported The Adverts at London Roundhouse, again with ATV as an additional support act on the bill.
With those two previous High Wycombe appearances behind them, they proved more popular with the Monday night audience. Buzz recalls: “Everyone assembled down the front to watch. Wayne County is an extraordinary showman…dressed in multi-coloured socks, sandals, tea-cosy on his head, eyelashes, lipstick, loose shirt and jeans, incredibly funny chats between songs. Great music, great backing band by The Electric Chairs.”
Wayne County would return to the more appropriately sized Nag’s Head twice more the following year (1978), by which time he was on his way to becoming Jayne County. ATV released a few independent records in 1978 and 1979 but don’t appear to have returned to High Wycombe – although friends, ‘Here and Now’ did pack out the Nag’s Head in 1979. The Ruts were the group who blossomed the most, taking reggae and ska influences to produce some of the most powerful post-punk records ever. They would return as support for The Damned at The Town Hall in April 1979 on the verge of their break-through into the public eye.
For your viewing pleasure
Ruts – 1st demo session – October 1977
Alternative TV —Life After Life – live 1977
Alternative TV —How Much Longer?
Wayne County and The Electric Chairs – Live in France October 1977
Judging by this video, it appears he may dressed down for the Town Hall gig a month later!
The Newlands Club in High Wycombe opened its doors briefly to punk gigs during October and November 1977. The venue, sometimes described as a ‘concrete bunker’, had been constructed under the flyover, built as part of the Octagon shopping centre opened in 1968, and was better known for hosting DJ evenings rather than live music. Local punks, The Xtraverts, would be one of the first bands to grace its small stage in 1977, with Eater, Rejects and Pink Parts all following in a flurry of activity before the end of the year.
The entrance of the Newlands Club was located almost opposite the entrance to Tesco’s Supermarket and just before the main vehicle entrance to the High Wycombe Bus Station –the latter also built as part of the Octagon shopping centre. From 1968 until the early 1970’s, the small venue hosted the Windrush Twylight Club and boasted early appearances by Sweet and Genesis. During the mid-1970’s it then become more popular as a disco venue and is well documented as a place where locally born Adrian Sherwood would go to play reggae records bought during his Saturday afternoon shopping excursions to London.
The loss of the Nag’s Head as a ‘punk’ venue in September 1977 is believed to be one of the driving factors why The Newlands Club was targeted as a new live music venue in the latter months of 1977. A 999 gig at The Nag’s Head on 1 September 1977 had seen altercations between the young punks and an older crew out for a fight. ‘Punk’ gigs at The Nag’s Head were subsequently banned by the Landlord but just over a month later an alternative venue was found.
On Tuesday 4 October 1977, a day after The Bunch of Stiffs Tour at High Wycombe Town Hall, a relatively small crowd turned up to see The Xtraverts blast out their version of punk rock. Support came from The Vermin but despite their threatening name, were not considered part of the local punk rock scene. Meanwhile, The Xtraverts were continuing to build up their local following having started gigging mid-way through 1977. They included former Deathwish bassist Carlton Mounsher but he was set to leave and join up with a new band playing the following week.
On Tuesday 11 October 1977, it was the turn of The Party to try their luck. The Party had been created out of the remains of Deathwish and The Pretty – Deathwish had been formed in the latter months of 1976 but had played their last gig by the time they supported Generation X at The Nag’s Head in March 1977. Deathwish founder Kris Jozajtis, Mark White and Carlton Mounsher formed The Pretty shortly afterwards but played their only gig at the Nag’s Head High Wycombe Punk Night in June 1977. The Party included Mark Reedman on vocals but their time would be relatively short too. The songs they created in their brief time together as The Party included ‘This Last Daze’, ‘And This One’ and ‘I Used to be Happy’, ‘Kicks’ and ‘Fear of the Night’.
It’s also understood that members of The Party were responsible for organising the gigs at The Newlands Club. Gigs were originally advertised with posters stuck up outside the venue but this later briefly expanded to adverts in the Bucks Free Press and listings in the regular weekly music papers, including NME, Melody Maker and Sounds.
The regular Tuesday ‘punk nights’ would continue on 18 October 1977 when the Varicose Veins would headline. The support act was billed as The Mystery Girls but they pulled out at the last minute. A delve around the internet 40 years after this gig reveals that The Varicose Veins were a ‘punk’ band based in Arlesey in Bedfordshire. They had formed earlier in 1977 and had played support slots at The Roxy, Neal Street in London. However, their punk pedigree did not make for a successful evening in High Wycombe. My long time friend ‘Buzz’, recalls via his 1977 diary that ‘every aspect of the gig was a flop’. In addition to the no show by The Mystery Girls, there were technical problems with the PA and microphones. The lead singer of The Varicose Veins moaned about the equipment, sound, audience and their female guitarist. Buzz recalls: ‘Eventually the drummer kicked the drums over and stormed off, followed by the vocalist and lead guitarist. The girl sat down, obviously upset, and was comforted by friends.’
Buzz also remembers fellow High Wycombe Grammar School pupil Kris Jozajtis selling badges at the gig but was baffled at the poor attendance and how the venue could survive.
A quartet of gigs for the month was completed on Tuesday 25 October 1977 with an appearance by The Rejects. The London based band had formed at the tail end of 1976 and made their debut live appearance as support to The Damned at The Roxy in January 1977. They would later support the likes of The Jam, 999 and Generation X. The line-up for the Wycombe gig is likely to have been frontman Bruno Wizard (real name: Bruno McQuillan), Jim Welton (bass), David Dus (drums) and Anton Hayman (guitar). Dus was later drummer for Wayne County. The band changed their name to The Homosexuals in early 1978.
The Newlands Club gigs may have not been that popular but they certainly filled a need for at least the growing curiosity of the younger generation keen to see what ‘punk rock’ might have been all about. However, the addition of a rival venue to The Nag’s Head it not gain 100% acceptance. Ron Wattsrecalls in his ‘100 Watts’ biography: ‘I didn’t fancy the idea of sharing my audiences so I made myself busy for a few weeks putting on more punk than usual and the new venture didn’t last long. It might sound mercenary, but I’d spent years building up the very crowd they were trying to take away from me’.
The winners in this battle of the gigs would the general public, with a host of gigs to choose from during October and November 1977. Further gigs at The Newlands would take place on more Tuesdays during November 1977: 1 November – Pink Parts, 8 November – The Lurkers, 15 November – The Crabs and 22 November – Eater. But Watts would step up his gig output via The Nag’s Head and The Town Hall – with the latter remaining the major venues in the Town as 1977 ended and 1978 brought a more commercial version of punk to the music scene both locally and nationally. The Newlands Club would eventually fall to the wayside as a live music venue – although around 18 months later a similar venture at The Multi-Racial Centre (another ‘concrete bunker’ at the opposite end of the flyover), would open its doors to a ‘second-wave’ of punk.
If you remember going to any of this short run of gigs at The Newlands Club, please get in touch. I would particularly excited to hear from anybody who has copies of posters, photos or any other memorabilia.
For your viewing pleasure
Varicose Veins – Hiroshima – early 1978 single
Lurkers – Shadow – live 1977 at The Red Cow
Crabs – Lullabies Lie – Live at The Roxy December 1977
Eater performing ‘No Brains’ at The Roxy earlier in 1977
The long-awaited debut album from The Sex Pistols was finally released on 28th October 1977. ‘Never Mind The Bollocks – Here’s The Sex Pistols’ hit the record shop shelves amid a flurry of controversy over the seemingly offensive nature of the title. A record shop manager in Nottingham was eventually arrested under the then 88-year-old Indecent Advertisement Act for displaying the sleeve in his shop window. Record shops in High Wycombe were quick to react and make comment.
Harlequin Records in White Hart Street (on the site of the former Percy Prior’s shop), took the decision the remove the display from their window following the much-publicised case a couple of weeks after the long player was released. Having said that, the album was on full display inside the shop.
High Wycombe’s other major record shop at the time, Derek’s Records in Octagon Parade, didn’t have the album cover on display in the window but made no attempt to hide the cover inside the shop. Shop Manager Graham Hale was asked about the album in a Bucks Free Press article by Janice Raycroft. He said: “It’s not really a case of offending people. The record has been selling so quickly, there’s hasn’t been time to get a sleeve in the window.”
The Manager agreed to pose with the album cover for a photo for publication in the Bucks Free Press. He added: “After all, I’m broadminded and I can’t see that it would really offend other people either. It’s not the worse in common use and you can hear more on the television. It’s about time people stopped living in the past. A word can’t hurt them.”
Meanwhile, a local fan of punk rock had stuck a gigantic poster for the album on the wall of High Wycombe Guildhall. Initially the complete title was in full view before what was described as a ‘less broad-minded citizen’, ripped the top off the poster to remove the problematic word.
The Sex Pistols had famously played High Wycombe on two occasions on route to their route to notoriety – in February 1976 they caused havoc at a Screaming Lord Sutch gig at The College, while in September 1976, local promoter Ron Watts brought them to the Nag’s Head for a performance that pre-dated their rise to fame following the Bill Grundy incident in December 1976.
The YouTube video below is the wonderful Classic Album documentary for the iconic album.
The Tom Robinson Band made a return to The Nag’s Head on Sunday 9th October 1977 for a low key warm-up date to promote their debut single – 2-4-6-8 Motorway. The band had signed for EMI just a few weeks previous and their previous appearance at The Nag’s Head on 25th August 1977 had gone down a storm with the locals – and with a near sold out venue, promoter Ron Watts was a very happy man too!
The 2-4-6-8 single had been released the Friday before their second appearance at The Nag’s Head and it was another busy night.
Peter Cottridge, writing in the December 1977 issue of the High Wycombe fanzine, Bucks Shee Press, said of the Tom Robinson Band: “When the band played at The Nag’s Head recently it was something special. The atmosphere was almost tangible, the audience becoming spontaneously involved in a way rarely seen at most rock and roll outings.”
He added: “Tom’s songs are securely rooted in the reality of 1977 and are social comment with a definite political stance.”
The set list for the gig at The Nag’s Head included the following:
Long Hot Summer
Don’t Take No For An Answer
Winter of ‘79
Better Decide Which Side You’re On
I’m All Right Jack
Right on Sister
Glad to Be Gay
Power in The Darkness
Up Against The Wall
Encores are most likely to have been popular covers, Bob Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released’ and Lou Reed’s ‘Waiting For My Man’ – plus another play of the new single, 2-4-6-8 Motorway.
The performance was extremely well received by the Nag’s Head gig-goers and Tom promised the crowd he would see them again soon. It was a promise he would keep – returning to the much larger Town Hall venue at the tail end of the tour – by which time the band had celebrated a top five hit and appeared on Top of the Pops.
This is a live performance of 2-4-6-8 Motorway recorded at a similar time to the Nag’s Head.
High Wycombe Town Hall had the privilege of hosting the opening night of The Bunch of Stiffs Tour on Monday 3rd October 1977 and this piece was written and published shortly after the 40th anniversary of this historic occasion.
The much-publicised tour would showcase five artists on The Stiff label, Elvis Costello and The Attractions, Ian Dury and The Blockheads, Nick Lowe, Wreckless Eric and Larry Wallis. The initial idea was for each act to play around 20 minutes on a rotating headline basis but the partially chaotic events at the opening night in High Wycombe led to a change of plan – Elvis Costello and Ian Dury would eventually alternate the headline slot, with the remainder sharing the support roles during a tension filled tour across the UK.
The Stiff publicity machine encouraged a host of journalists to attend The Town Hall gig, but the tour entourage did little to please promoter local Ron Watts. The events are recalled in Will Birch’s ‘No Sleep Till Canvey Island’ book first published in 2000.
The book claims that on arriving at High Wycombe Town Hall in a torrential downpour; the journalists marched to the front of the queue, where they were greeted by promoter Ron Watts. “You’re not bringing that lot in,” roared Watts, “they’ll all have to pay.”
It goes on to say that Jake Riviera [Stiff boss] was apparently furious and ordered Glen Colson [Stiff Publicist] to resolve the issue at once. The book then quotes Paul Conroy [Stiff Manager] as saying: “Jake always liked a guest list, but for Ron, who had been doing the local Nag’s Head for years, the Town Hall was the big one.”
These were comments that obviously riled Watts and he attempted to put the record straight in his ‘100 Watts’ autobiography, saying: “I admit I wasn’t happy at the sight of dozens of Stiff employees, journalists and hangers-on demanding free entrance and eating into my takings, but I’d worked with bigger and better artistes than Elvis Costello and Ian Dury, good as they were.”
However, Watts would have been delighted with the turnout from the general public. By the time the doors opened at 7.30pm, the queue outside the front entrance of the Town Hall was tailed back around 100 yards towards the High Street.
Birch’s book is less than accurate about the running order on the evening of the High Wycombe gig. The recollections from more than 20 years previous suggest Nick Lowe opening proceedings, followed by Elvis Costello, then Wreckless Eric and Ian Dury headlining. However, reviews in Record Mirror, Sounds, Melody Maker and local fanzine Bucks Shee Press, written within days of the gig, give a more reliable sequence of events.
By 8.30pm the punters inside the venue (described by Melody Maker journalist Allan Jones, as having, ‘the immediate feel of a youth club on a cancelled Sunday afternoon’) had to be patient. A mass of roadies on stage battled with the logistics of dealing with five sets of equipment before the first act could take to the stage.
Les Prior, a member of Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias, was sent on stage to keep the audience amused. “We’re here tonight to play a benefit concert. A benefit concert for the Save The Whale Fund!” he joked. “..but unfortunately the whale’s been held up at Dover.” He waffled on for a few more minutes before introducing Wreckless Eric (playing only his third gig). W.E., donning a hideous pink knitted jacket, played a short set with Ian Dury guesting on drums. The highlight is when he plays his single, ‘Whole Wide World’.
Ian Dury would return next with his Blockheads for a set that would ultimately steal the show. He made his entrance by shouting ‘Oi! Oi!’ at the crowd and adding: “I used to go to a school near hear at the top of Amersham Hill. The headmaster was cruel to me because he didn’t like me, an’ that’s why I’m warped.”
Dury had previously played High Wycombe with his previous band, Kilburn and The High Roads, and this was one of his first outings with the highly professional Blockheads. The set drew mainly from The New Boots and Panties album, and included, ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock n’ Roll’, ‘Plaistow Patricia’, ‘Sweet Gene Vincent’, ‘Wake Up and Make Love to Me’, ‘Billericay Dickie’, ‘Clever Trever’, ‘I’m Partial to your Abracadabra’ and ‘Blockheads’.
The former Grammar School boy won most of the crowd over but part way through the set a local wag shouted out, “The guitar solos are too long”. Dury responded to the heckler with; “An’ what exactly do you know about it? Anyway, the guitarist gentlemen is now at the Joanna [piano].” Not put off by Dury’s retort, the heckler adds: “The guitar solos are still too long.” Dury comes back again with: “What is this, a f**king debating society? Shadup!” The face in the crowd is not heard again.
Nick Lowe (formerly with Brinsley Schwarz) had the task of following Dury – coming on stage in a green suit covered in question marks. His band included two drummers, including Dave Edmunds and Larry Wallis (ex-Pink Fairies) on guitar. They opened with ‘So It Goes’ – a familiar number with the crowd. Wallis took over the vocal duties later in the set to perform his most well-known song, ‘Police Car’ but the set never hit the heights of Dury.
Headliner for the night, Elvis Costello and The Attractions, had played a sell-out night at The Nag’s Head just a couple of months previous. However, he chose to play mainly new numbers for his Town Hall appearance – a situation that didn’t please some the crowd when some called for more recognisable numbers. “If you’ve got it, you can go home and listen to it. If you haven’t you can go out and buy it.” It was not the greatest tactic so late into a multi-act show.
The evening got worst for Costello when half-way through the set, Ian Dury’s publicist B.P Fallon threw hundreds of badges into the crowd. The badges were a set of four, saying ‘Sex and’, ‘Drugs and’, etc. The Town Hall punters scrambled to collect the set while Costello played on. The incident did not amuse Jake Riveria who was seen to physically ‘reprimand’ Fallon.
Interesting to note that the High Wycombe date was originally intended to be recorded for an official live album to be released just four days after the gig. However, for whatever reasons, the Town Hall recordings were never used and the live album instead called upon material from later dates at Norwich, Leicester and London Lyceum. I wonder if the live recordings made at High Wycombe are still in existence?
If you have any memories, memorabilia or pictures from the gig please get in touch via the contact page.
Here’s a few YouTube clips of the artists on show at High Wycombe on 3rd October 1977.
Wreckless Eric – Whole Wide World
Nick Lowe – Sound of Breaking Glass – this is from 1978 but he’s performing in the same green jacket as the one from the Town Hall gig
Larry Wallis – Police Car
Ian Dury and The Blockheads – Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll
Elvis Costello and the Attractions – Watching the Detectives
Tragic news broke on the morning of 16th September 1977 when it was revealed that glam rock icon Marc Bolan had been killed in a car accident. Bolan had appeared seven years previous at High Wycombe Technical College (4th December 1970) as front man of the soon to be giant T.Rex. He had also appeared a few years earlier at The Nag’s Head in their earlier incarnation – Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Just 29 years old at the time of the his death, Bolan was being driven by common law wife Gloria Jones, when their purple Mini hit a tree in Barnes, London. A 30 year old Jones escaped with a broken jaw and but was initially not told of the heart-breaking news of the death of her partner and father of two year old son Rolan.
This is Bolan in his last TV appearance before his death – an impromptu jam session with David Bowie on the ‘Marc’ TV show broadcast in the UK on ITV during August and September 1977.
The ‘Marc’ TV show also featured several up and coming ‘new wave’ bands, including some who had played live in High Wycombe earlier in 1977.
Here is Generation X performing ‘Your Generation’ – they had performed at The Nag’s Head on four occasions in 1977 before they appeared on the ‘Marc’ show.
‘Punk rock’ at The Nag’s Head came to a violent and controversial end on Thursday 1st September 1977 after trouble broke out at 999 gig, with local punks Xtraverts as support. In what was becoming a more regular occurrence, local punks were targeted by alternative cultures of the period (affectionately known at the time as ‘long haired boring old farts’, or words to that affect).
999 were a band formed in what some regard as the second phase of the punk explosion. The idea of what was to become 999 originally came from London based musicians Nick Cash (vocals and guitar) and Guy Days. Cash was a former member of Kilburn and the High Roads, with Days a session guitarist on some of the High Roads’ demo tapes.
Via a late 1976 Melody Maker ad around October 1976, the duo recruited Jon Watson (bass) and two months later, Pablo LaBritain (drums). Their first gig is recognised to be at Northampton Cricket Club in January 1977 but the 999 name was not used until mid-way through 1977 when the now classic raffle ticket logo was devised. Previous incarnations of the band had been The Dials, Fanatics and 48 Hours.
They released a partly self-financed debut single – “I’m Alive”/”Quite Disappointing” in July 1977 and having established themselves on the London punk circuit, were signed to United Artists around the time of their Nag’s Head appearance. Their debut release on UA – “Nasty Nasty”/ “No Pity” followed in October 1977.
Meanwhile, support band, Xtraverts, were now firmly established on the local ‘punk’ scene having played their first gigs earlier in 1977 – including a ‘Wycombe Punk Night’ down The Nag’s Head in July 1977. By the time of their September 1977 appearance, 20 year old lead singer Nigel Martin had recruited Tim Brick on drums and a 17 year old Mark Reilly (*) on guitar. Meanwhile, Ian Stavan (formerly of Cardiac Condition) was set to replace Carlton Mounsher on bass – the latter joining the newly formed Party with Kris Jozajtis.
* It is obligatory to mention at this point that Mark Reilly later went on to form early 1980’s pop band Matt Bianco – Matt Bianco being the name of the band, rather than a name change.
Much of The Xtraverts self-penned set at the time was written by Brick and Reilly – including ‘Read it in the Papers’ and ‘Interview’ (a song about the infamous Bill Grundy/Sex Pistols debacle and formerly called ‘Hey, Bill Grundy). However, Martin had written the lyrics for ‘Blank Generation’ and ‘A Lad Insane’ – these two songs would be recorded in December 1977 and released in January 1978 on the Spike record label – the record being produced with the help of local musician ‘Spike’ Jones.
Nigel Martin commented on the targeting of punks in the December 1977 issue of local fanzine Bucks Shee Press “Everyone picks on punks. We’re just a target for everyone. “
The violence and subsequent action by the Nag’s Head landlord, also prompted at least one disgruntled punter to write a letter to the Sounds magazine:
‘Katie Komplex’ from Gerrards Cross made it quite clear why the trouble had started:
“This was due to some ignorant individuals who looked at the gig as a good excuse to beat up punks, and naturally we got the blame for the trouble.”
“Anyone who has been to the ‘Nags Head’, will know that it is a good little club, with a good atmosphere, which has had some brilliant new wave bands over the past year.”
And finally, back to the music you may have heard during the eventful night at The Nag’s Head in September 1977.
999 – I’m Alive audio via YouTube below
Xtraverts – Blank Generation audio via YouTube below
The Tom Robinson Band made their debut appearance in High Wycombe on Thursday 25th August 1997 with a Ron Watts promoted evening at The Nag’s Head.
The set consisted of mainly politically edged songs touching on the subjects of gay liberation, racism and political issues surrounding the country at the time. The repertoire also included the pure rock/pop of ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’ – a song that attracted the attention of record companies.
Lead singer and bassist Tom Robinson had originally been inspired by the early pirate radio shows of John Peel. He moved to London in 1973, aged 23, and joined acoustic band Café Society. But it was in 1976 that Robinson got another wake up call. He stumbled across an early Sex Pistols gig at The 100 Club in London and although he openly confesses to not liking the music, it was something about the anger, attitude and spirit of the Pistols that caused Robinson to have a complete rethink of his own musical aspirations.
After a few solo gigs in late 1976, Robinson drafted in guitarist Danny Kustow, drummer ‘Dolphin’ Taylor and organist Mark Ambler to form the Tom Robinson Band. Robinson would take on bass and vocals and they performed their first gigs in late 1976 at the usual London pub outlets.
Some might say that TRB were a watered down version of the early punk bands but the message they were putting across was as hard as anything the Clash or the Pistols could come up with. For many, it also seemed a perfect fit for the more laid back suburbia of High Wycombe.
2-4-6-8 Motorway may have been an ear catcher of the record companies but followers of their live gigs would soon realise they were not a one trick pony, with a series of classic songs, that despite not yet being committed to vinyl, were now sing along or fisting pumping standards – from ‘Glad to Be Gay’, to singing about Grey Cortina’s – from preaching ‘Don’t Take No for an Answer’ or predicting the future with the haunting ‘Winter of ’79’.
This is the band appearing on Janet Street Porter’s London Weekend Show in mid 1977 – shortly before they signed for EMI. They would return to The Nag’s Head in October 1977 before a near sell-out appearance at The Town Hall later in 1977.