**** UPDATES, 8/09/20: NOW POSTED: My review of HEART FULL OF SOUL, the first bio of the late Yardbirds lead singer, Keith Relf (1943-1976), and email chat with the author, David French -- have a raveup on us, so to speak. ALSO: My review of The Stooges: Live At Goose Lake: August 8th, 1970.
PLUS: I separated the title track of I WATCH THE BIRDS (2019) from "Summer Is Here," so they're now posted separately in Featured Songs, just because...I wanted to celebrate the onset of summer, what else? That's reason enough, I think.
MOVED: My epic three-part chat with Curt Weiss about his Jerry Nolan biography (STRANDED IN THE JUNGLE) is now in Author Interviews. AND: "We Are The Clash: Reviews & Updates 5/07/19)" is now filed under Clash Book Dispatches. (No medal for you if you didn't make the connection. :-)
ALSO: My writeup on my cover version of "Police" (The Proles, 1979) is now included in the description box (Featured Songs). AND: My version of The Animals' 1965 classic, "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place," now over on Featured Songs, which I've also combined some tracks to free up some space.
COMING SOON: DESPERATE TIMES #2, chronicling the rise and fall of Safari Sam's, the legendary Huntington Beach night spot -- an oral history, and hard-boiled narrative of its brief, but highly-charged two year-run (1984-86).
PLUS: A 1:50 (in other words, nearly two hour) audio clip from Philadelphia, PA (7/10/18), where Mark Andersen and I appeared at Brickbat Books for our book, WE ARE THE CLASH: REAGAN, THATCHER & THE LAST STAND OF A BAND THAT MATTERED...plus, our pre-event interview with Joseph Gervasi, for Loud Fast Philly...over on the Spoken Word Tracks page. Our 60-minute clip from Politics & Prose (Washington, DC, 7/06/18) is there, too.
DELETED (FOR NOW): HAPPY TRAILS (LITTLE BUDGIE IS 47)...because I only have so much space. It'll return at some point, I'm sure. :-)
Comment capability's back for now, but stay on topic. If not...I'm taking the toys away again! :-) In the meantime: stay cool. ****
History is written by the winners, and rock 'n' roll is no exception. The late Sex Pistols guitarist Wally Nightingale looms large in our "coulda been a contender" file, since information about him is hard to come by...sacked as the classic Sex Pistols lineup began to emerge in 1975, he essentially fell off the map thereafter, save for the odd fleeting glimpse or two that he left behind.
If you've seen Alex Cox's SID & NANCY (1986), you'll meet a character named "Wally Hairstyle." Glen Matlock's account (I WAS A TEENAGER SEX PISTOL: 1991) contains some interesting anecdotes, and -- even though the abbreviated version of Wally's given name (Warwick) translates into Brit slang for "idiot" -- he definitely doesn't come across that way in the two interviews that I've seen from Jon Savage's book, ENGLAND'S DREAMING (2002), and his ROCK COMPACT DISC chat from 1993 (posted on the God Save The Sex Pistols website, www.sex-pistols.net/). I haven't seen an obituary for him, although he apparently died on the eve of the Sex Pistols reunion tour in 1996 (if someone can confirm or rule out this information, this site would appreciate it).
Other than those tidbits I've mentioned, that's it...which makes our latest excerpt all the more fascinating for the questions that David raises about the machinery of fame. Why do some people seem to catch all the breaks, while others get chewed up, and spat out? How do those who don't cross the finish line deal with the inevitable "what might have been" feelings? And finally, what does their treatment say about ourselves, and how rock 'n' roll mythology is shaped for masss consumption? Answers on a postcard, please...otherwise...I'll get out of the way, and let you get on with your reading!
A DRUM BEAT BEHIND, CHAPTER SIX:
The Wally Nightingale story (Edited/adapted excerpt)
For my twenty-fourth birthday, in the April of 1988, I went out with the band for a daytime drink in Camden Town, North London. Drinking with us was Wally Nightingale, a strange guy who I’d met at the 100 Club just a few weeks earlier. He’d been standing talking to the Sex Pistols Glen Matlock and the legendary British DJ John Peel. At first I was more interested in meeting John Peel, as I’d met Matlock before in the toilets at a Damned gig back in 1979. At this point I hadn’t clocked Wally but once I had my mind started working and I asked him if he wanted join me for my birthday pissup.
In the early '70s Wally Nightingale, along with two of his schoolmates, had started a band, The Strand or The Swankers. Later, on Malcolm McLaren's suggestion that they get rid of Wally, he was kicked out and replaced by Johnny Rotten.
On the day Wally arrived pretty messed up, holding a briefcase that contained an assortment of drugs – including cocaine and speed. Behind Wally’s back I kept saying to everyone. “Wally's such a fucking wally.” And I really thought he was, but as I needed him for my plan, I just put up with him and we all got shitfaced.
We left the bar sometime late afternoon and made our way to the back of London Zoo. We all climbed over a high barbed wire fence, not having a fucking clue what animal lived in the enclosure and jumping into. This wasn’t such an easy climb, not for the not so agile Wally, so together Big Jim and Joe pulled him over and we got in for free. As I stood with Wally drunkenly watching the penguins I asked him if he wanted to guest at one of our gigs, he said yes, I jumped in with the penguins and we later set about putting my plan into action.
A few days after my birthday while sitting around his house, where he still lived with his mum in Shepherd's Bush, West London. We all sat drinking tea while Wally told us stories about when he roadied for the Clash, his pre-Pistols days and the time he spent in prison for possession of Class A drugs. He also told us that he’d written the Sex Pistols song: “Did You Know No Wrong,” but was never credited on it. While standing with him and his mum in there garden, he said to me that not being a famous Sex Pistol had played a part in his nervous breakdown. At the time I didn’t realise that what I was planning, was going to end up as such an historical piece of punk history. But apart from mentioning that he’d hung around with Sid Vicious, this is pretty much all I can remember about what Wally told us.
We had a gig booked at the hometown Castle on the 20th of April 1988 and I wanted Wally to guest on two songs for our encore. I knew that our fans would turn out in force, as we hadn’t played there since December, four months previously. This was going to be so different, it was Porky's debut as our new/fifth member, and Wally, the living legend onstage with us as well. All that Wally had to do was learn two covers, the Ramones's “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and “Born To Lose,” by Johnny Thunders; it was as simple as that! As we went to leave his house he whispered in my ear.
“Any chance of some money up front.”
Not prepared for this I simply said, “No.” And we left. For this gig I sent the press just a small flyer of our poster. Over background pictures of ourselves it read: “The Beat of the Beast, with very special guest Wally Nightingale of the Sex Pistols.” This was only 10 years after the Sex Pistols had split up and they were still big business, and as far as I’m aware we were the only other band Wally played in. Although he did tell me he’d worked with the avant-garde New York band Suicide. But he may have made that up.
Before the big night we paid one more visit to Wally's house and while passing his bedroom on my way to take a piss, I noticed that on his wall he had one of our posters. As shivers ran down my spine, I noticed Wally had added a picture of himself to it. I then felt really bloody sorry for the man because he actually had nothing going for him at all, apart from being the punk rock version of Pete Best, the original Beatles drummer before Ringo Star. This broken man was the only other person in the whole world, apart from Paul Cock and Steve Jones, that could honestly say: I started the Sex Pistols. He never fulfilled his dreams and the whole situation had completely turned around. It was Wally who needed us and it must’ve been really important to him. I remember thinking, bollocks! What the fuck have I got myself into?
The day of the gig arrived and so did Wally with his guitar case in hand. He brought us unseen video clips of the Sex Pistols, but we never got to see them because we were all to out of it by the end of the night. After setting up Wally frantically tried to hold down a chord on his guitar but as his hands were shaking so much, he only managed to make a horrible fucking racket. Big Joe eventually shouted out:
“Wally, will you shut the fuck up.” And then, said nicely: “What song do you wanna do first?” This was our soundcheck come first rehearsal with Wally and he replied to Big Joe, saying. “Blitz Bop.” Before he’d even had time to shut his mouth we all shouted out together: “It's fucking 'Blitzkrieg Bop!'” And in Dee Dee Ramone style, I shouted out “1-2-3-4,” and we all went straight into the song, apart from Wally. We were all looking at each other as we realised that our Wally didn’t know the song and for once not one of us said a fucking word. It turned out that he didn’t know either of the songs, so Big Joe tried to show him but he just didn’t get it! Once Wally was up onstage for the encore, he played fret wanker fiddly guitar parts over the songs. But because everyone was drunk and having a good time, this was kind of un-noticed by most of the two hundred people in the audience.
Later the same night I found out that Wally wasn’t such a wally after all and we ended up having a really great time. He was very sensitive and a really nice guy, but he was lost in the what might’ve been head fucks that had been going around in his mind for far too long. As far as I know, this was the end of his musical days, but at least he managed to end his story with a small piece of glory. Sadly after this night, I never got around to seeing him again. The famous Wally Nightingale died in 1996 from drug related complications.
The four original members of The Beat of the Beast are all still alive, Vince the singer is an artist and part-time postman, living in Romford, Essex. Both Big Jim and Joe have lived in Canada for the last 20 years; Porky, the fith member, sadly died on New Year's Day 1999, and I’m living in Upton Park, East London. Today I hold down a full-time job working in a music college, I’m a photographer/artist.
ROLL THE CREDITS, THEN...
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