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/

2 June 1978 – Penetration plus support – Town Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For your listening and viewing pleasure

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For your listening and viewing pleasure

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

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

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

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

Wayne and The Electric Chairs – circa 1977

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For your listening and viewing pleasure

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

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

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

 

28 April 1978 – Siouxsie and The Banshees – Town Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For your listening and viewing pleasure

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

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

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

14 April 1978 – Generation X – Town Hall

High Wycombe favourites Generation X returned to the Town Hall on Friday 14th April 1978 for a riotous  performance with Scottish band The Jolt as support.

Generation X – High Wycombe Town Hall – 14th April 1978 – poster

The Billy Idol fronted band had previously appeared in High Wycombe on four occasions – all at The Nag’s Head but were invited back by promoter Ron Watts for their first appearance at the much larger capacity Town Hall.

By the time of this appearance, Generation X were well established – releasing their self-titled debut album in March 1978 – reaching No.29 in the UK album charts. Their third single, ‘Ready, Steady, Go’ was released at the same time, with a Top of the Pops appearance following just a few weeks before their Town Hall show.

Their local reputation meant that the gig was played out before a full-house and an intense atmosphere. My friend Buzz recalls being at the gig as a teenager – having already seen them at The Nag’s Head the previous year.  He was keeping a diary at the time and wrote: “The whole gig was incredible, absolutely fantastic! [The gig] had everything.”.  He went on to say: “When Gen X came on everything was great. Suddenly the place was jam-packed and their set was superb. The group really enjoyed it.” The crowd reaction prompted Billy Idol to thank the audience for such a great reception.  Describing the crowd, Buzz added: “Masses of pogoing in the front, behind were the skinheads looking for trouble, throwing bog rolls at Gen X and even beer cans, but the excitement was such that no-one cared about them.”

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Ready, Steady, Go -Generation X – Top of the Pops -March 1978

January/February 1978 – High Wycombe music memories

January and February 1978 were relatively quiet months for live gigs in High Wycombe, compared to the wealth of shows in the closing months of 1977. However, I doubt it wasn’t for the want of trying on the part of local promoter Ron Watts.

Watts’ baby was The Nag’s Head and he put on Liverpool ‘power-pop’ hopefuls The Yachts on Thursday 19th January 1978.  The Yachts had appeared at the same venue on 16th October 1977 shortly after the release of their debut single on Stiff Records, ‘Suffice to Say’ and the popularity of that gig saw a repeat booking – albeit not a date to set the pulses racing for those keen to see something new in the same week that The Sex Pistols had played their final live date.

However, there was excitement for fans of the local music scene when the national music press, including NME and Sounds, reported that The Rich Kids, a band who included former Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, were due to appear at The Town Hall on Saturday 28th January 1978.  The High Wycombe appearance looked to be a real coup for Watts as it would be part of national tour that had seen virtually all dates sell-out.  But there was bad news in store for Watts and punters, when, for reasons I’ve been unable to trace, the gig was cancelled and the local gig goers were left with another free Saturday evening to fill.

‘Pub Rock’ outfit Roogalator played at The Nag’s Head on Thursday 2nd February 1978.  They had been a regular live act under Ron Watts – dating back to a late 1975 gig at The Crown in Marlow.  They went on to appear at The Nag’s Head during 1976 and 1977 – drawing decent crowds from their loyal following despite not entirely fitting in with the direction that popular music was taking.

Their Nag’s Head date came a few weeks after they appeared at ‘Front Row Festival’, a three-week event at the Hope and Anchor, Islington, in late November and early December 1977. This resulted in the band’s inclusion, on a UK top thirty selling double album of recordings from the festival released in March 1978.  They disbanded shortly after the release of the album.

One of the most popular dates during January and February 1978 was a Patrik Fitzgerald gig at The Nag’s Head.  I’ve yet to be able to confirm the exact date but it was February 1978 and most likely on the regular Thursday slot.  Support came from Frumious Bandersnatch and one of the last appearances by local band, The Party.

The picture below is an extract from Issue 2 of High Wycombe fanzine The Buckshee Press. A great selection of pictures by Pete Bird and Henry.

Bandersnatch, The Party, Shucks and Patrik Fitzgerald – pictures by Pete Bird and Henry – as published in The Buckshee Press – April 1978

Several music historians have designated Fitzgerald as ‘folk punk’, presumably based on his link with rise of the punk movement during 1976 and 1977. He released three EP’s through London record label Small Wonder – the first and best known being ‘Safety-Pin Stuck in My Heart’.

He proved popular with the crowd and would return to The Nag’s Head and Town Hall later in the year.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

The Bingo Crowd – Patrik Fitzgerald – 1978 Revolver TV

1978 – High Wycombe music memories

1978 would see another shift and mixture of trends in UK popular music and those changes appear to be reflected in the live music scene in High Wycombe.  Memories of the year to follow throughout 2018, in the meantime a bit of background on the music culture of 1978, based on my own memories.

From a popular music point of view, 1977 will always be remembered as the year that ‘punk’ made the breakthrough from an underground scene but by the early months of 1978, many of the higher profile acts from the ‘safety pin’ brigade had either burnt-out or, in the eyes of punk idealists, ‘sold-out’.

High Wycombe had been blessed with a host of the breakthrough ‘punk’ acts during 1976 and 1977 but while The Nag’s Head and Town Hall continued to be the main outlet for gigs during 1978, the venues struggled to keep pace with the ever-changing demands and complications of hosting live music.  Several gigs throughout 1978 suffered from various combinations of poor attendance, violence, last minute line-up changes, rumoured ‘special guests’ that didn’t show or in some cases a complete cancellation.  Just finding out about gigs was a challenge in itself.

However, there were still noteworthy gigs in store for the local punters, thanks mostly again to the promoting connections of Ron Watts. Gigs at The Town Hall would include Siouxsie and The Banshees (still without a record deal until much later in 1978), Generation X, Rezillos and 999 – all returning to High Wycombe after Nag’s Head appearances in 1977.  There were also debut appearances for The Lurkers, Motorhead and Penetration.  Down the road at the Nag’s Head, gigs were generally ‘punk’ free but would include a number of post-punk (or new-wave’) bands looking for a breakthrough – most notably, The Skids.  Meanwhile, local bands aiming for a piece of the action were generally restricted to support slots at the two major venues but there were occasional headline slots gigs at High Wycombe College and Townfield House.

High Wycombe would also host bands as a direct consequence of the fall-out from the split of two of the original iconic punk bands. With two High Wycombe appearances to their name during 1976, The Sex Pistols played their final live show on 14th January 1978 during a tour of the USA.  A few weeks later, The Damned, also with two or three Nag’s Head shows under their belt, disbanded (albeit temporary).  Spin-off bands would come to High Wycombe later in 1978.  This included former Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, who would bring his Rich Kids (featuring Midge Ure) to The Town Hall.  Meanwhile, Damned drummer Rat Scabies would also grace a High Wycombe stage with his band, The White Cats – there would be mixed reaction to both those gigs!

Meanwhile, the other punk originals who had played locally during 1976 and 1977 (including The Clash, The Stranglers and The Jam), had outgrown the venues available in High Wycombe.  However, the local rumour mill, stirred up on more than on occasion by local promoter Ron Watts, always seemed to have the possibility of one or more of these names returning as a ‘special guest’ – sadly they never seemed to happen.

In contrast, all this was happening as record sales (still vinyl back then), particularly singles, were set to reach a new high. The popularity of buying discs prompted an expanding culture of record selling outlets in High Wycombe – the town’s shops and market stalls would become meeting places for local music fans desperate to buy the latest releases and also find out about where they could see their vinyl favourites at a live gig.

However, don’t get the impression that this era was all about the ‘punk’ or the ‘new-wave’ scene. A quick look at the UK singles charts from January 1978 reveals that ‘Mull of Kintyre’ by Wings had hogged the top spot for several weeks, while No.2 was ‘Floral Dance’ by The Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band.  The closest to ‘punk’ in the charts at the time was ‘Mary of the 4th Form’ by The Boomtown Rats.  Local heroes Otway and Barrett had also just managed to creep into the early January 1978 top 30 with their iconic ‘Really Free’ single.

1978 was also a year where the Disco scene boomed following the massive success of music-based films ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and ‘Grease’. The two films would account for 18 weeks of No.1 singles throughout 1978, while the respective albums would take the top spot for 30 weeks.  The films would also attracted more punters to the local Cinemas than most of the gigs in High Wycombe during 1978 – with queues a regular occurrence when they were shown at The Palace Cinema in Frogmore.

The rise of the Disco scene was mirrored by a wealth of new sounds that would make the weekly BBC show Top of the Pops a sometimes bizarre mix of disco, new wave and novelty. The line-ups could see The Adverts up against Althia and Donna, The Stranglers take on The Smurfs, Elvis Costello v Earth, Wind and Fire, The Rezillos v Rod Stewart, The Vibrators v Village People and The Jam v John Travolta to name just a few culture clashes.

To help capture these new sounds, the local music scene was boosted in 1978 by the opening of two new record shops. Second-Hand shop Scorpion Records had opened in late 1977 and became the outlet for ticket sales for gigs at both High Wycombe Town Hall and Aylesbury Friars.

Rising Sun Records would also open in early 1978 at the rear of ‘Wycombe Fayre’ – a small shopping arcade built constructed in 1977 on the site of the former Woolworths store on Church Street.  At the time of this article (2018), The Chiltern Shopping Centre is now on that site.  Meanwhile, Derek’s Records in Octagon Parade, became Venus Records and became another regular haunt of local music fans hoping to find details of the latest gigs.

I’ll be aiming to dig a little deeper into some of these gigs for the 40th anniversary during 2018 and would be extremely grateful again for any memories and memorabilia you may have tucked away.  Please get in touch via the useful contact methods.