999

Formed: London, England, UK

999 - Punk, London, England, UK

Band Bio / Discography

Ex-Kilburn & the High-Roads' guitarist Keith Lucas (calling himself Nick Cash) and company had the dubious smell of chancers, but that didn't stop them making some pretty darned fine records, at least during that short period when they were at their peak. Originally naming themselves 48 Hours after The Clash song (drummer LaBritain was an old public schoolfriend of Joe Strummer and had drummed for The Clash for a short while), they adopted the 999 moniker (presumably after ‘London's Burning') and came up with their distinctive raffle ticket logo, a design that in its small way is one of the most memorable images of 1977.

This original lineup was (and remained until 1985):

Nick Cash - vocals, guitar
Guy Days - guitar, vocals
Jon Watson - bass
Pablo Labritain - drums

999 - London, England, UK Punk Band

Dressed in colourful clothes and playing energetic, choreographed stage shows, they quickly became one of the most popular bands on the scene, issuing an independent single in 1977, the manic I'm Alive, on Labritain's label before the inevitable major label deal. It's a classic.

999 - Emergency - Belgium Picture Sleeve999 - Emergency - Japan Picture Sleeve

ABOVE: Belgian picture sleeve for Emergency; and the super-rare 1978 promo version of Nasty, Nasty, which plays as 78 r..p.m.

I'M ALIVEI'm Alive  - Labritain 7"

It's a sad affliction causing me restriction
This isn't what I wanted to do
I just cant belive it I would like to leave it
And get into something new
Just about to lose my mind
Working just drives me wild
Watch out for me now cos

I'm alive I'm alive I'm alive

Don't like pretty bureaucracies and detentions
Don't wear those funny clothes
Get into schemes or pensions
Do the same thing every day
I cant stay up to late
Watch out for me now cos

Stuff you in a pakage send you
Flight inter-continental
Your not having me that stuff
Just drives me mental
I'm gonna stay right here
Aint got nothing to fear
Watch out for me now cos

I'm alive watch the clock
I'm alive sitting here
I'm alive fall asleep
I'm alive loads of sheep

Nasty Nasty - FranceNasty Nasty - Holland

ABOVE: Nasty, Nasty - Picture Sleeves from France and Holland

999 - Punk, London, England, UK

NASTY, NASTY999 - Nashville Flyer

Nasty nasty walk the streets at night
Nasty nasty loocking for a fight
Nasty nasty you're the reason why
Nasty nasty made somebody cry

What the hell is wrong with you
What the hell you going to do
You gonna do

Nast nasty always telling lies
Nasty nasty never really tries
Nasty nasty want to make them pay
Nasty nasty brave to turn away

Nasty nasty rivals blaming you
Nasty nasty all explotion news
Nasty nasty adding up the score
Nasty nasty what's it really for

Nasty nasty shockning head to feet
Nasty nasty think you're really neat
Nasty nasty into something new
Nasty nasty soon that won't be true

Despite containing ‘I'm Alive', the urgent ‘Emergency' (which many would consider their crowning glory), the breathless ‘No Pity' (the flip of their second single, Nasty Nasty) and ‘Me And My Desire', a decidedly un-sexy number with some winning vocals, 999 is a rather tame debut, with an excess of forgettable songs and watery production by Andy Arthurs. Among the better songs (i.e. the singles) are the sprightly ‘Chicane Destination' and ‘Hit Me'.

Ticket

999 - Punk circa 1978

EMERGENCY

We've heard it all before999 - Emergency
We're learning to ignore
You must confess this awful mess
Isn't just a bore
It's more than we can bear
But do you really care?
The kiss of life to save a life
All you do is stare
Sell yourself for cheap
Make your mother weep
Losing pride is hard to hide
And harder still to keep

I'm back in full attack
Never give in until they crack
Emergency

Raiders strike but where
Panic in the air
Running scared I'm oh so scared
It gets you everywhere
Heard it on the news
Rebels get accused
Fighting for another cause
But why and where and whose
Carry out their plan
Release us if you can
What's your worth to a pile of earth
You're just another man

Black jack what a quack
Never get your money back
Pack attack in the back
By a bloody maniac
Better see industry
Take it fast and make it last
Go away make them pay
Never make the same mistake
Sometimes care sometimes not
See them bleed and see them rot

999 - Punk, London, England, UK

Far more substantial is Separates, a prodigious album that kicks off in a rockier direction and originally came with a voucher for a 12” single that paired the emphatic ‘Action' with the Pete Shelley-esque ‘Waiting'. As for the album itself, tougher production makes the band sound much more forceful, especially on the set's best two songs, the interestingly arranged ‘Homicide' (which was edited for a single) and the narcissistic ‘Feelin' Alright With The Crew', an intriguing venture into white reggae. Cash's knack for interesting, thoughtful, sometimes witty lyrics, first demonstrated on the debut, bears full fruit here. High Energy Plan is the American (and also Canadian) equivalent, aptly named after a song on that album, substituting two album cuts for the two 12” tracks and cutting ‘Crime' in half.

999 - separates - Japan999 - Emergency - Japan Picture Sleeve

ABOVE: Picture sleeves from Japan - Separates LP and Emergency 7",

999 - Emergency - Holland999 - Homicide - Holland

ABOVE: Picture sleeves from Holland - Emergency and Homicide

MY STREET STINKS

Narrow minds are everywhere
Someday its going to show
Follow anything at all
Belive all theyre told

My streets stinks
The world stinks too
And if you walked on my street
They're bound to hate you

Every problem that exists
Is living right next door
Being fed on how to be
By papers press and TV

Can't think for themselves
See all the rubbish they buy
But money can't change the way they think
Try and ask yourself why

Freed from their deal with UA - record sales were poor - they retreated to Radar for one single, the insistent Found Out Too Late, a minor UK hit. On this release the band was expanded to a five piece with the temporary addition of Ed Case, because of an injury sustained by Labritain. UA/EMI issued The 999 Singles Album, a fifteen-track collection of all their singles for UA, and is undoubtedly the perfect introduction, even if it does place ‘I'm Alive' right near the end of side two, in keeping with the label's reissue program.

999 - The 999 Singles Album - UK LP 1980 (United Artists - SOS 999) 999 - Boys In The Gang

ABOVE: Two German releases

999 - HomicideHomicide

 

In late 1979 they signed to Polydor. Unfortunately, The Biggest Prize In Sport was a major duffer. The title track is as good as the LP gets, and that's quite some way behind the second LP: Cash's homage to waking up in the morning with an erection, it was apparently used as incidental music for the Olympics by some TV executives who were clearly unable to see past the title. The melodramatic ska-fest ‘Trouble' is fairly good without being exciting, and ‘Boys In The Gang' has since become a crowd favourite, despite sounding a bit gay. Everything else is low rent filler. Coinciding with this the group took off to America for a whirlwind tour and allegedly introduced the States to slamdancing, a somewhat dubious suggestion! A 12” EP, The Biggest Tour In Sport, was released over there at the same time, and stands as a well-recorded document of an exciting time.

THE BIGGEST PRIZE IN SPORT

When I wake up in the morning
Or when I go to bed at night
Suddenly without warning
You know it make me feel alright

The biggest prize in sport
The biggest prize in sport

You know that I will get a prize
It's one especially for me
I could even get a rise
It makes me feel good can't you see

The biggest prize in sport
The biggest prize in sport

A prize surprises all the time
There's only one game that's for me
The sport will make you feel just fine
The very best don't you agree

The biggest prize in sport
The biggest prize in sport

9999 - Lil Red Riding Hood999 - Indian Reservation

999 - Indian Reservation Advert999 - Wild Sun Advert

999 - Lil Red Riding Hood Advert

Moving to Albion (home of Hazel O'Connor, the DB's and Pin Point), Concrete is a marked improvement over the previous album but it's still clear that they've lost a hell of a lot of ground to bands like The Exploited and Discharge. Outside of Cash's unmistakable whiny vocals the sound is faceless, and some of the songs are truly awful ('Bongos On The Nile' indeed), and covers of ‘Lil Red Riding Hood' and ‘Fortune Teller' are pointless (but preferable to much of the junk on the third album). It is partially redeemed by ‘Obsessed' (which shows the Ennio Morricone influence as filtered through Theatre of Hate), the chirpy ‘So Greedy' and ‘Mercy, Mercy', and the vaguely menacing pairing of ‘Taboo' and ‘Silent Anger', but the band is not particularly inspired. This period was moderately successful, with three singles - Obsessed, Lil Red Riding Hood and Indian Reservation - infringing on the lower reaches of the charts, but 1982's Wild Sun flopped, despite being a good song and being issued on both 7" and 12" on both yellow and red vinyl. (Below, right-ish: The Japanese version of Concrete)

SILENT ANGER999 - Concrete - Japanese LP

Get your seat by the window
Watch the scape goats come one by one
Sit tight the picture repeats itself
Only the cast they're not the same

So beware the silent anger
If it's not there it's everywhere
Watch out for silent anger
If it's not there it's everywhere
It ain't a lot
But it's all you got
It ain't a lot
But it's all you got

On a street late at night time
Nothing matters if there's someone to blame
The nightmare becomes a reality
As the power goes to the insane

And I know they like it
And I know they want it

When everything's over
And the years have passed right on by
And the people look back and wonder
How it could happen and why

Continuing the downward spiral, 13th Floor Madness is their worst album by far, a poorly-produced stab at soft disco with eleven unbelievably boring songs. It completely alienated their audience and failed to secure them a new one. Believe me, this is much, much worse than the Angelic Upstarts' reviled Still From The Heart.

Face To Face isn't exactly pogo-tastic either, but it also happens to their strongest, most consistent album since 'Separates', despite sounding like barely produced demos. Part of it has a celebratory feel (‘Hallelujah', ‘Dancing On Me'), some of it looks at the state of the nation (‘20 Years') and some of it has a wistful yet somehow sinister undercurrent (‘Spiritual Independence', ‘Lucy Dead'). A far cry from their first couple of singles, but a rewarding album that has been too easily dismissed.

999 - Face To Face - UK LP 1985 (Labritain - LAB LP1000) Side 1999 - Face To Face - UK LP 1985 (Labritain - LAB LP1000) Side 2

Jon Watson left soon after but the band soldiered on anyway, although they didn't venture into the studio for eight years. In the meantime the market was flooded with a series of compilations and live albums.

Lust Power & Money features Watson's replacement - Danny Palmer - and has most of their hits (as well as three songs unique to this record) but the playing is far too slow, making this concert recording a chore to sit through.

999 - 1993 Lineup

Nick Cash - vocals, guitar
Guy Days - guitar, vocals
Pablo Labritain - drums , vocals
Arturo Bassick - bass, vocals

Returning to the studio with Lurkers' singer/bassist Arturo Bassick on bass, You, Us, It! (1993) is a straight-forward punk/pop album very similar to latter-day Lurkers, with fifteen songs that stick closely to the three minute pop song formula. A return to form that surprised everyone, the same lineup has since recorded Takeover (1997), Emergency (also 1997, a bunch of shitty re-recordings of old songs) and Death In Soho (2007).

DISCOGRAPHY

Singles / Albums

I'm Alive Nasty, Nasty Emergency 999 Me And My Desire
I'm Alive (7", 1977) Nasty, Nasty
(7", 1977)
Emergency (7", 1978) 999 (LP, 1978) Me And My Desire
(7", 1978)
Feelin' Alright With The Crew Separates Homicide Waiting High Energy Plan
Feelin' Alright With The Crew (7", 1978) Separates (LP, 1978) Homicide (7", 1978) Waiting (12", 1978) High Energy Plan
(LP, 1978)
Found Out Too Late Trouble The Biggest Prize In Sport The Biggest Tour In Sport Obsessed
Found Out Too Late
(7", 1979)
Trouble (7", 1980) The Biggest Prize In Sport (LP, 1980) The Biggest Tour In Sport (12", 1980) Obsessed (7", 1981)
Concrete Lil Red Riding Hood Indian Reservation 999 - Wild Sun 13th Floor Madness
Concrete (LP, 1981) Lil Red Riding Hood
(7", 1981)
Indian Reservation
(7", 1981)
Wild Sun
(7"/12", 1982)
13th Floor Madness (7"/12", 1983)
13th Floor Madness Face To Face Lust Power And Money    
13th Floor Madness
(LP, 1983)
Face To Face
(LP, 1985)
Lust Power And Money (LP, 1987)    

Extraneous Releases

Titanic (My Over) Reaction The 999 Singles Album Boys In The Gang 999 - Arabesque Identity Parade
Titanic (My Over) Reaction (7", 1979) The 999 Singles Album (LP, 1980) Boys In The Gang
(7", 1980)
Arabesque (7", 1984) Identity Parade
(LP, 1984)
In Case Of Emergency Live And Loud!! The Cellblock Tapes Greatest Hits Live 999 - Concrete / 13th Floor Madness Twofer
In Case Of Emergency (LP, 1986) Live And Loud!!
(LP/CD, 1989)
The Cellblock Tapes
(LP, 1990)
Greatest Hits Live
(CD, 1991)
Concrete/13th Floor Madness
(2xCD, twofer, 1992)
The Early Stuff - The UA Years Slaughter & The Dogs / 999 - The Slaughterhouse Tapes / The Cellblock Tapes Sham 69 / 999 - Live And Loud!! The Albion Punk Years Scandal In The City
The Early Stuff - The UA Years (CD, 1992) The Slaughterhouse Tapes / The Cellblock Tapes (CD, twofer, split with Slaughter & The Dogs, 1994) Live And Loud!!
(CD, twofer, split with Sham 69, 1995)
The Albion Punk Years (CD, 1996) Scandal In The City
(CD, 1996)
Live At The Nashville 1979 Homicide - The Best Of Slam! Dancing In The Wrong Shoes English Wipeout
Live At The Nashville 1979 (CD, 1997) Homicide - The Best Of (CD, 1998) Slam! (CD, 1998) Dancing In The Wrong Shoes
(CD, 1999)
English Wipeout
(CD, 2001)
The Punk Singles 1977-1980 The Biggest Tour In Sport / The Biggest Prize In Sport Outburst! Demos & Outtakes '77-'79 999 - 999 / Separates  
The Punk Singles 1977-1980 (CD, 2001) The Biggest Tour In Sport / The Biggest Prize In Sport
(CD, twofer, 2002)
Outburst! Demos & Outtakes ‘77-'79
(CD, 2003)
999 / Separates
(CD, twofer, 2003)
 

Promos

       
999 - Hollywood 999 - 999 12" Promo      
Hollywood
(7", 1980)
999 (12", 1981)      

Bootlegs

999 - Sharp Objects Vol. 1        
Sharp Objects Vol. 1 (CD)        

Various Artists

Punk Off Italy LP 1977 (United Artists):

Hope & Anchor Front Row Festival UK 2xLP 1978 (Warner Bros): Crazy / Quite Disappointing

Meet The New (Punk) Wave Holland LP 1978 (EMI): Emergency

Street Music - No Heroes No Legends Japan LP 1978 (United Artists): Emergency / Nasty Nasty

20 Of Another Kind UK LP 1979 (Polydor): Homicide

URGH! A Music War UK 2xLP 1981 (A&M): Homicide

Burning Ambitions (A History Of Punk) UK 2xLP 1982 (Cherry Red): I'm Alive

The Best Of 20 Of Another Kind! UK 2xLP 1989 (Castle): Homicide

The Best Punk Album In The World ... Ever! 2 UK 2xCD 1996 (Circa): Emergency

1-2-3-4 Punk & New Wave 1976-1979 UK 5xCD 1999 (Universal): Emergency

No Thanks! The '70s Punk Rebellion US 4xCD 2003 (Rhino): Homicide

Links

999 - Official Website

PUNK 77 - Typical great page

 

You can add stuff and make comments/corrections by emailing me at:

jane@punkygibbon.co.uk

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