High Wycombe annual FREE street festival is back again – FROGFEST takes place on Sunday 27th May 2018 in the High Street and surrounding venues. The family-friendly event features a variety of musicians, food stalls and street entertainers. 2018 sees Frogfest celebrate its sixth birthday, and this year’s event promises to be the biggest ever!
FROGFEST LINEUP 2018 MAY 27th from 11.25am.
11.25 – 11.45 – Everyone can sing 11.45 – 12.15 -Main Stage – Hartbeats Vitae Drummers 12.15 -12.40 – Squirrel Stage – The Bailey Sisters 12.40 – 13.10 – Main Stage – The Brightside 13.10 – 13.35 – Squirrel Stage – The Apricot Hounds 13.35 – 14.10 – Main Stage – 3rd Lung 14.10 – 14.35 – Squirrel Stage – 91 Nights 14.35 – 15.10 – Main Stage -Tinlin 15.10 – 15.35 – Squirrel Stage – Maz Manzini Band 15.35 – 16.10 – Main Stage – Dury Service 16.10 – 16.35 – Squirrel Stage – Other Sons 16.35 – 17.15 – Main Stage – Sir Walter J Wallis 17.15 – 17.45 – Squirrel Stage – Steph Willis 17.45 – 18.25 – Main Stage – The Hot House Four 18.25 – 19.05 – Squirrel Stage – AmiR 19.05 – 19.45 – Main Stage – These Certain People 19.45 – 20.30 – Squirrel Stage – Georgia and the Vintage Youth 20.30 – 21.30 – Main Stage – The Defekters
Notice also that The Antelope will be hosting FREE live music from 1.30pm to 10.30pm, including headliners – The Sex Pistols Experience.
Not put off by my guest appearance on 21st February 2018, Andy Aliffe invited me back on to his ‘Emperor’s Bits’ show on Wycombe Sound on 4th April 2018 – this time talking about the early days of the ‘punk’ scene in High Wycombe.
This was another hugely enjoyable hour were I was joined and helped out by friend and Wycombe Sound’s Punkarolla host, Andy Chalk.
Highlight of the show for me was hearing former Bucks Free Press junior reporter Janice Raycroft talking about the iconic Sex Pistols at High Wycombe college in February 1976. Janice, now editor of Buckinghamshire Life magazine, recalled in vivid detail her interview with Johnny Rotten, seeing Sid Viscous wielding a knife and the mixed reaction of the audience.
Posh Birds Productions are proud to present a three-day music festival at The Dashwood Arms, Piddington, to raise much needed funds for the residents at Animal SOS Sri Lanka. The event takes place on Friday 4th May 2018, Saturday 5th May 2018 and Sunday 6th May 2018.
Running order (all bands are providing their services for free)
The Mad Squirrel Tap and Bottle Shop in High Wycombe are hosted a photographic exhibition from Friday 23rd March 2018 until Sunday 25th March 2018. The event displayed photos from local photographer Mark Page, featuring over 160 distinctive monochrome images under the banner of the ‘Faces of Wycombe’.
Mark, a resident of High Wycombe for more than 50 years, began taking the photos during the summer of 2017 at open sessions at The Belle Vue pub. Interest in the photos snowballed, resulting in four sessions and over 160 people and several pet dogs, taking part.
The opening night also featured live music from Maz Manzini Music (from around 7.30pm).
The Phoenix Bar in Bridge Street High Wycombe hosted a four band FREE event on Saturday 24th March 2018.
Details of the bands – taken from The Phoenix website, read as follows:
Parisian Lead singer Nina Courson met British guitarist Phil Honey-Jones in 2009 in the now defunct venue Punk in Soho. Both of them were in separate bands at the time, but it wasn’t long before ideas of their own and a new-found mutual volatility raised its wretched head and they started to write songs together. The shared influences of the likes of Iggy Pop, Nirvana, Blondie, Killing Joke,Sonic Youth, Bauhaus and Bowie played a big part and Inspiration for lyrics came from far and wide, blurring the lines between autobiography and fiction. They played their first gig together at an all day punk festival in Brighton in September 2010 where the promoter ran off with the money and Healthy Junkies only got to play for 15 mins before the festival shut down. Since then the band have played all over the U.K. including several appearances at the mighty Rebellion Punk Festival and their self-hosted monthly night at The Unicorn, Camden, London, called Punk’n’roll rendezvous – and have toured Europe regularly. Healthy Junkies were featured on a New York radio station and talk show in October and are laying the groundwork for an East coast US tour next year. On stage Nina interacts with the other band members and entices her audience in a way that has become the trademark of their live shows. Record releases include their debut album Sick Note in 2011, The Lost Refuge and Box of Chaos (STP Records) and the E.P. ‘Hair of the dog’.
PollyPikPocketz are a double-vocalist rock band from London. The two front girls Ally and Myura formed as a songwriting harmony duo in 2014. Frog joined to help produce their tracks and soon they were churning out songs like lyrical machines, developing songs that were metaphorical, humorous, full of fun and sung with angst. A year and a half later Pollypikpocketz evolved dramatically when Mat joined as the guitarist, bringing an improv-style that chose “awesome sounding ” over technical. Frog, previously a singer, found a new direction playing bass for PollyPikPocketz. The group today have a take-no-prisoners punk-rock feel. Their live sound has been described as “an intense, passionate performance that is in your face but with genuine emotion and laughter. Flowing harmonies and unique lyrics, that are tongue in cheek but always written from the heart. Incomparable to a single genre.”
AReading-based high-energy original punk/post-punk band with a growing reputation as an incendiary live act, Who Killed Nancy Johnson? formed in 2015 and began gigging in 2016. Their 2017 EP Cops and Robbers was followed in 2018 by Flat Earth Theory, and an album is in the works for later in the year. They have played in Europe and have radio appearances and support slots for name bands under their belts.
A four-piece punk band from Surrey, Freakouts formed with the idea of inspiring carnage. Their raucous live shows make them ones to watch as they are beginning to break out of the hills and take the rest of the UK by storm. They’re loud, fast, and in your face.
A FREE entry five band ‘punk’ spectacular took place at The Phoenix, High Wycombe on Saturday 10th March 2018.
To give you an idea of what to expect the following was posted before the gig – in no particular order and with descriptions as quoted from their respective websites/social media outputs – here’s a list of the bands:
“Hard hitting biting lyrics with a driving yet understated beat that lets you scream at the worlds faults while dancing ya arse off.”
They impressed at The Phoenix on their previous appearance in November 2017.
“Woking’s favourite rebel sons Carter Daze’s DIY approach mixes a punk ethos with rock ‘n’ roll storytelling to create a diverse sound that’s somewhere between ‘Blue Album’ Weezer and ‘Up The Bracket’ Libertines, with a socio-political twist. With a whole host of gigs coming up across Surrey and London this spring, their live show is always intense, chaotic and not to be missed!”
I was again honoured to be asked to guest on local radio station Wycombe Sound – this time by Andy Aliffe for his ‘Emperor’s Bits’ show broadcast on Wednesday 21st February 2018.
Andy, assisted by his friend Stevyn Colgan, launched the show earlier in 2018, with the website description claiming : ‘The Emperor’s Bits’ is an eclectic mix of music and chat and looks at the quirkier side of Wycombe history. It is not wrong!
I was extremely grateful to be called in to promote the wycombegigs.co.uk website and also give from some background to High Wycombe appearances by a few of the iconic artists featured to date – including The Rolling Stones, The Who, David Bowie and The Move.
It was also amazing to share the studio with fellow guest Barbara Arucci. Barbara attended The Rolling Stones gig at Wycombe Town Hall in December 1963 aged just 13 and was lucky enough, through a family connection, to be allowed backstage with members of the group. A photo of this meeting appeared in the Bucks Free Press and an original survives as a prize possession of Barbara until this day.
Back in 1999, Barbara and her friends were invited to attend a re-launch of Wycombe Museum in Priory Road, where a blown –up version of the photo was proudly displayed.
It was fantastic to hear from somebody who was actually at these great moments in the history of the town and her recollections of other music venues. Barbara also brought along another picture of The Rolling Stones, with a complete set of autographs on the rear – including the sadly departed Brian Jones.
An enjoyable hour or so in the company of Andy and Stevyn. Both gentlemen can boast an fascinating history of working in all manner of walks of life – Andy spent 20 years with the BBC, Stevyn spent 30 years working for the Police in Cornwall but has more recently worked as researcher on the QI TV show and also written several books. You can read more via the link at the foot of this page.
They warned me I might be invited back to track through memorable music moments from the 1970’s, 1980’s and beyond. So keep an eye and ear out for that and tune in for an hour of random fun.
You can use the ‘listen again’ feature on the Wycombe Sound website to hear the show again for up to a month after the original broadcast date.
The passing of The Fall frontman Mark E Smith on Wednesday 24th January 2018 cannot be left without comment on this website. If I don’t write something, I fear my mind will literally explode with all the thoughts and memories of the Fall over the past 40 years.
The Fall have played a huge part in my discovery of music and sadly (for me and many other Fall fans in the area), despite a live career spanning more than 40 years, The Fall never made a live appearance in High Wycombe – hence I offer them up as the greatest band NEVER to have performed in a town where so many other iconic names in the music industry have graced the likes of The Nag’s Head and Town Hall stages.
Firstly, I would like to pass on my sincere condolences to Mark’s family and friends. Plus, my heart goes out to the many Fall fanatics who will see Mark’s loss as potentially leaving a significant void in their lives.
In the days following Mark’s passing I have read numerous tributes and it is perhaps ironic (but not surprising to Fall fans), that he and The Fall will now gain wider recognition for their 40 years of constant output.
It was as recent as 12th January 2018 that I was able to ‘joke’ on Wycombe Sound’s Punkarolla radio show that a two hour Fall special was in my mind. I’m grateful to Andy Chalk for allowing me to indulge in The Fall on his show and on that particular occasion, send my best wishes to Mark, before playing the title track off the ‘New Facts Emerge’ album, released in the summer of 2017
Most Fall articles will pretty much write themselves. The check list/The Fall bingo, will read something like:
One constant name
X number of band members in Y number of years
Z number of albums
One of John Peel’s favourite bands, always different, etc
Girlfriends/Wives in the band
Punch-ups and knob twiddling on stage
So, bearing that in mind, I don’t intend to write a tribute as such. There are trained journalists who will be able to collate the necessary words and pictures and I’ll give some links at the foot of this article to some that I read in the first few days since Mark’s passing.
I discovered The Fall in 1978, via John Peel of course, (oops, one off the Bingo list) but despite keeping an eye out for local gigs involving the Manchester band, it wasn’t until the early 1980’s that I managed a trip to The Hammersmith Palais to witness them in person for the first time. I went with my friend Martin. It was the first gig I drove to having passed by driving test a few days before. For Fall fanatics (and I know there are plenty), they will appreciate this was their ‘Hex Enduction Hour’ period. However, I soon learnt that The Fall, unlike the majority of the other bands, didn’t ‘tour’ an album with a ‘standard’ set-list. They would also throw in unreleased songs – with many still a work in progress.
Fascinated by their Palais appearance, a month later I drove to some weird nightclub venue in Oxford – getting there around 7pm to give me more chance of getting in without a ticket but then had to wait for more than a hour before the doors opened and then until about 11pm before the band came on stage. The set at Oxford included at least three songs that were completely new to me. I particularly remember the mesmerising bass lines. I wanted to hear these songs again. I had to wait a few months before they were back in area for another gig (a marathon four or five bander Sunday night at The Lyceum) but needless to say the set-list had changed dramatically again and it was Monday morning before I got home.
The non-conformist set list, the random stage times and as I had now realised, an introduction at literally every gig by Mark E Smith during their opening number with his iconic slur – ‘Good Evening WE ARE THE FALL’, would become a trademark.
I was pretty much hooked from those first few gigs. All so different – The Palais gig seeing them able to sell out a major London venue and then a month later playing a dingy nightclub where you could, if you chose, stand as close to the stage as you dared. It is a quality to be proud of and one that lasted throughout their career.
So, how many time have I seen The Fall? A question that I’ve been asked a few times over the years and several times since we lost MES. I’ve actually lost count but from an old list I found this week, the figure was well in excess of 50 by the mid 1990’s. Yet, even that figure would not get me into ‘Fall nutter’ category. Fall fans embraced the internet right from the early days and the lovingly created and maintained website http://thefall.org/ is a remarkable archive and ongoing discussion place for all things The Fall and prior to this, the Fallnet mailing list proceeded all the Facebook and Twitter malarkey. It’s still going strong now, close to 25 years after it was first set-up.
So, back to my point about The Fall being the greatest band NEVER to have played High Wycombe. The nearest venues to High Wycombe The Fall played at were in Slough (birthplace of famous Wycombe promoter Ron Watts). The rather unassuming Slough Centre on the Farnham Road in the summer of 1986 was the first chance. I recall being quite disappointed with the set and crowd reaction but went to The Town and County Club in Kentish Town the next night and they played seven encores! The Fall returned to Slough for a festival in July 1992 and it wasn’t until 1996 that they finally made it to Aylesbury to play the Civic Centre – the same venue as used by Friars but a venue, for some reason, they had never previously played.
Slightly further field from High Wycombe, Reading was a regular location for Fall gigs – ranging from various appearances in front of 1,000’s at Reading Festival, to gigs in front of a few hundred-people crammed in at venues such as The Alleycat and The Fez Club. It was during a 1998 gig at one of those latter venues that I witnessed the shear tenacity of MES to carry on regardless. Unfamiliar, at that stage, with what had gone on a few earlier in the USA, the gig was played out with a completely unfamiliar line-up and when the songs fell apart, a guitar was handed around the front row to help out.
I have to confess, the chaos of that night, temporally put my fascination of The Fall on hold. I attended a few gigs in London in the next couple of years but like watching a football team I came away thinking, I didn’t really enjoy it that much but I’ll just go to the next game and hope things got better.
It was after travelling to see Wycombe Wanderers play their final game of the 2001/2 season at Swindon that myself and a few friends decided that seeing The Fall could be a perfect antidote for seeing our team enter that ‘difficult period’. We arrived in London from Swindon by train and made our way to The Garage venue at Highbury Corner. Approaching the doors sometime around 7.30pm, it was obvious the gig was in high demand. Problem, we had no tickets and The Fall, by this stage were not the band to attract the usual low life London ticket touts – although I would have appreciated them at this stage. I joked to the others that I had attended Fall gigs previously and the band had gone for drinks in a bar close to the venue. They might have spare tickets. We randomly selected a fairly awful pub/wine bar just across the road from the venue. It was fairly quiet – most gig punters were now in the venue. We ordered our drinks and then realised that Mark E Smith was sitting across the room with a non-band member. I can’t say I was star-stuck to say something but perhaps more shy or afraid of a negative reaction. A friend in our group, better known to us as ‘Oily Sailor’, was less shy. Being considerably younger, he was less of a Fall fan and wasn’t bothered what response he would get from MES. The next thing we know is that Oily is having a conversation with MES, explaining that the two ‘old gits’ at the bar are massive Fall fans but don’t have tickets. Almost without hesitation, MES pulled out two photo passes for the gig and handed them over. It made the two ‘old gits’ very happy and I felt it only fair that I took a few photos of a gig that completely restored my loving of the band.
It was the beginning of another period of amazing creativity for The Fall and one where MES would eventually settle on a fairly stable line-up (by Fall standards) for his band. Fall fans will argue forever about what their favourite album or track is but from that period the ‘Fall Heads Roll’ long player is generally regarded as a classic. I never tire of seeing and hearing the version of ‘Blindness’ on Jools Holland in 2005 and wondering what on earth Mr Holland is thinking about the sound emanating from the keyboard.
The Fall may not have been everyone’s cup of tea and of course musical tastes are very much subjective. I once ‘treated’ my partner Jane (pregnant with our daughter) to a Fall performance at Cricklewood – for me, right at a high point of The Fall’s musical output. I have to confess the sound that night was loud, the bass was thudding away so much it vibrated right through your stomach. Jane had to leave some of the gig because she said she ‘felt sick’. Her post-gig review was that it was, ‘just a noise’. Pretty accurate and perhaps a complement? I didn’t admit that I had seen other Fall gigs that had made me feel sick.
I recall MES describing Fall fans as ‘Salt of the Earth’ and it is Fall fans who will be best placed to attempt to explain the diverse range of output of the past 40 years. However, remember, if you are a non-Fall fan then don’t consider criticising The Fall – only Fall fans have that option. We will defend the band to the very end – and returning the football analogy, just like you may do with the football team you support?
However, it always seems strange to me that The Fall sometimes were on the end of criticism from those that confessed to be lovers of ‘punk’ and other diverse musical genres. Perhaps it was the characteristic of Mark E Smith never to be drawn into the importance of style or image. MES and The Fall were very much anti-fashion. It is certainly a credit to MES that The Fall never became a lame tribute to themselves, playing ‘greatest hits’ set-lists or following the usual rock conventions. He performed, created and evolved constantly in the 40 plus years since he formed The Fall. The Fall influence has been and will be felt for years to come – for Fall fans we know that already, for others you have that to come.
Goodbye Mark. It was an absolute pleasure to have been a small part of witnessing The Fall journey.
My old school friend Andy Chalk started the Punkarolla radio show on Wycombe Sound in November 2016 – and I was privileged and honoured to be invited as a guest on the very first show.
The show plays ‘Punk Rock’, old and new and has also been another means to celebrate the live music history of High Wycombe. The show includes regular studio guests, phone-ins and interviews pre-recorded on Andy’s travels around watching and listening to the punk rock scene.
By January 2018, the show had continued into a fifth series – broadcasting between 9pm and 11pm on Friday evenings. Andy invited me in again for the show broadcast on Friday 12th January 2018 where the featured album was ‘Can’t Stand The Rezillos’ and other music with Wycombe connections, including Generation X, Damned, New York Dolls, Wire, Adam and The Ants, Joy Division, TRB and Basta Roc. If you get a chance, please listen in and give Andy feedback through the links below.
It is possible to listen live in the High Wycombe area via 106.6 FM, via the internet and mobile app. Shows are also available to ‘Listen Again’ for four weeks via www.wycombesound.org.uk
The direct link to the Punkarolla ‘Listen Again’ page is: