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.

20 January 1978 – XTC release debut album

Swindon based XTC released their debut album White Music on 20 January 1978. The Virgin record release came just over six months after they had made two appearances at The Nag’s Head.  Their debut at the London Road venue came on 16 May 1977, with promoter Ron Watts bringing them back again on 6 June 1977.

White Music included classic pop singles ‘Radios in Motion’, ‘Statue of Liberty’ and ‘This is Pop’, plus their take on Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’. The album, recorded at The Manor Studio in Oxfordshire, was put to tape at the time of their Nag’s Head appearances and produced by John Leckie.

The XTC line-up for White Music was Andy Partridge (guitar and vocals), Colin Moulding (bass and vocals), Barry Andrews (keyboards and piano) and Terry Chambers (drums). That line-up would record follow-up album Go 2 in October 1978 before a change of personnel saw Barry Andrews depart – eventually opting not to replace him with another keyboard player and instead bring in second guitarist Dave Gregory.  XTC would go on to record the straight pop album Drums and Wires – recorded at Townhouse Studios in West London and produced by Steve Lilywhite after the band were apparently impressed with his work on Siouxsie and the Banshees debut The Scream.  The second single from the album, ‘Making Plans for Nigel’, would become a Top 20 UK hit just a few weeks after a May 1979 appearance at High Wycombe Town Hall.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

White Music – Full Album audio via YouTube

BBC Sight and Sound – March 1978

Live on French TV – Chorus 1978

14 January 1978 – Sex Pistols’ last ever gig

Less than two years after their infamous High Wycombe debut, The Sex Pistols took to the stage for what would be their last ever live appearance for the foreseeable future.

Their appearance at San Francisco’s, Winterland Ballroom on 14th January 1978 came at the end of an ill-fated debut mini tour of the USA.  The Pistols line-up at the time was Jonny Rotten (vocals), Steve Jones (guitar), Paul Cook (drums) and Sid Viscous (bass).  By the end of the evening, Rotten’s contempt for the situation was summed up by his farewell quote: “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

The original UK punks had debuted in late 1975 and it was their appearance at High Wycombe College of Further Education on 20th February 1976, witnessed by local promoter Ron Watts, that proved the catalyst for Pistols Manager, Malcolm McClaren, to ask Watts for live gigs at London’s 100 Club.  After a ground-breaking residency at The Oxford Street venue, Watts, would bring the Pistols back to High Wycombe for an appearance at The Nag’s Head on 2nd September 1976.

Debut single Anarchy in the UK was released in November 1976, Bill Grundy wound them up on live TV in December 1976 and the rest is history (as they say). They have since become the most written about ‘punk’ band of all-time and the measure that all subsequent controversial bands have been judged.

Following the split-up, Johnny Rotten reverted back to his original name of John Lydon and later in 1978 formed Public Image Limited (PIL). Steve Jones and Paul Cook would form The Professionals, while Sid Viscous played one live concert as part of the Viscous White Kids (August 1978), before a heroin overdose in February 1979 would take his life.  Original Pistols bassist Glen Matlock (replaced by Viscous in February 1977) had already formed The Rich Kids by the time of the Winterland gig and his new band would play High Wycombe on two occasions in 1978.

The set-list for the Winterland gig was:

  1. God Save the Queen
  2. I Wanna Be Me
  3. Seventeen
  4. New York
  5. E.M.I.
  6. Belsen Was a Gas
  7. Bodies
  8. Holidays in the Sun
  9. Liar
  10. No Feelings
  11. Problems
  12. Pretty Vacant
  13. Anarchy in the U.K.
  14. No Fun

Watch the entire performance from Winterland: