Nipple ErectorsThe Nips

Formed: London, England, 1977

Nipple Erectors

Band Bio / Discography

The Nipple Erectors were formed in mid 1977 by a pair of Pistols fans, lapsed art student Shanne Bradley and punk "face" Shane MacGowan (he was actually labelled "The Face of 76" on the front cover of the Sounds punk special). MacGowan at the time was calling himself Shamus O'Hooligan and had risen to national notoriety on the strength of a Clash gig at the ICA in October 1976, when he apparently had his ear bitten off on the dance floor by his girlfriend Jane Crockford (Bank of Dresden/The Mo-dettes), prompting one horrified NME hack to declare it a case of "CANNIBALISM AT CLASH GIG". In truth, Crockford had just nibbled his ear with too much enthusiasm and caused a trickle of blood, but this was yet more evidence of the shocking and horrific violence with which punk was habitually associated. MacGowan later published his own fanzine, 'Bondage', which ran for a whole one issue. Bradley, meanwhile, had been romantically linked - very briefly - with Johnny Rotten, and he commemorated this alliance by calling her a "big fat pink baked bean" in the song 'Satellite'.

Mark P, as told to John Robb in Punk Rock: An Oral History: To do a fanzine, you didn't even need a typewriter. Shane MacGowan did a fanzine inspired by Sniffin' Glue. He called it Bondage and he used to have a go at us 'cause we used a typewriter! He just scrawled it in pen. That was more punk than us.

Shane MacGowan and Jane Crockford at the ICA, The Clash 1976Shane MacGowan and Jane Crockford at the ICA, The Clash 1976Shane MacGowan and Jane Crockford at the ICA, The Clash 1976

Bradley had apparently been taught to play the bass by Captain Sensible and played in The Launderettes. When MacGowan unsuccessfully tried to join The Launderettes, she decided to leave that band and they decided to form a new one instead, eventually recruiting Roger Towndrow on guitar and Rick Collett on drums, although Collett was soon replaced by Jerry 'Arcane' Vendetta, who was then replaced by Gerry McIlduff. (From this point on I'll refrain from noting every time the band changed guitarist and drummer, because they did it a lot!)

The story behind the band name was related in SKUM magazine, in October 1977:

MARK: "Why did you choose that name?"
SHANE: "D'You really want me to go into it?... It's a long story.."
MARK: "Yeah.. go on"
SHANE: "Well, one day, I was playing with her, (Shanne), and her nipples suddenly erected, you know... got really big, and I thought, .. 'That's what we'll call our band... The Nipple Erectors'"
MARK: (To Shanne) "Is that true?"
SHANN: "Er.. Yeah.. I suppose so".

SKUM also featured this review of their first gig at the Roxy:

The first gig at the Roxy was a success in the true sense of the word..... In fact I would say it was one of the best punk gigs I have seen... There was no barrier between the audience and the band... Shane, rocking the mike backwards + forwards, fag end hanging out of his mouth. Shanne on bass stumbling about half-drunk... storming through "Downtown", "19 Wasted Years", "Stupid Cow" (about Shanne) "Urban Success", "Abuse", and then... "Poxy Poser".. Shane sings.. "You're a Poxy Poser - you you you" pointing his finger at the seething mass of sweaty pogo-ers at the front of the stage... Halfway through the set, Captain Sensible came in with loads of red and white roses, and we all stared pelting the band with them... The gig ended with all the audience up on stage singing along to "Downtown" again... The second gig also at the Roxy was just as good... Lookout for 'em.

Shane MacGowan and Shanne BradleyShane MacGowan and Jane Crockford at the ICA, The Clash 1976

In June 1978 they released their debut single, King Of The Bop, which came out on Soho Records, which was owned by the group's manager Stan Brennan. Brennan also produced it. A joyous mix of rockabilly and thuggish moronic punk, the cover no doubt caused a few raised eyebrows, what with MacGowan's quiff looking rather our of place on a punk single. MacGowan later expressed disappointment with the single. I've always preferred the wonderful B-Side 'Nervous Wreck', which has fabulous backing vocals. Two more songs recorded at the same session, 'So Pissed Off' (a 90-second punk scorcher) and 'Stavordale Rd, N5' were eventually thrust into the light of day on the posthumous retrospective Bops, Babes, Booze & Bovver.

Shane MacGowan, Sounds, May 19, 1979: 'King Of The Bop' was meant to be a rock and roll number but we weren't that good at playing. Basically we hadn't got it together properly and we just did it in a couple of nights. It came out like a mixture of punk and rock and roll... I don't think it's that good now.

Nipple ErectorsNipple Erectors

Later that year the group re-emerged with a truncated name (The Nips) and a new sound. The blazing All The Time In The World was a prime cut of '70s punk - all full-throttle sneering and razor sharp guitar - infused with a tasty dash of '60s garage punk raunch. The completely unsubtle lyric was one if MacGowan's best, and the track is a rave-up from start to finish.

People are always telling me that dreams don't ever come true
But I don't need to lie now baby, and I just think of you
All the time, all the time
So lie on your back and think of England and I'll put my hands on you
I've been dreaming on your picture, baby, creaming over you
All the time, all the time

After this the group released their third single, Gabrielle, with Grinny (from Skrewdriver) on drums. Initial copies were pressed on Soho Records in a plain white sleeve and handed out at gigs. Both songs caught the band in a much more pop/new wave style. Some people still compare with this with The Jags, never a good thing, but it's not that bad in all honesty, just a tad disappointingly tame after their previous releases and their reputation for live chaos. Obviously spotting the chart potential of this single, it was repressed on Chiswick in a shiny picture sleeve, but although it received good reviews it did not sell well.

Despite the rather weak production and some reservations about the state punk was in, the Nips still saw themselves as rock 'n' roll purists on a mission to rid the world of tame pop.

Shane MacGowan, NME, October 1979: Punk just seemed to be such a load of shit at the time. When it started it was great, but then you get so many wanky bands coming along. It was getting really bad around the middle of 1977 with all those talentless Vortex groups like The Ants and 999. It was just a load of speeded-up heavy metal calling itself punk. Rockabilly was simpler. You could dance to it. I'm not into it as much now as I was then. Good rockabilly is great but bad rockabilly is awful and there's a lot of that about. But I was younger then, I've got things sussed out a lot more now. The way I see it is that we're coming up to the '80s and somebody's got to save rock'n'roll from all those prats with synthesisers and a university education. And it might as well be me! You've got to have someone to deal with all those people who are into Gary Numan and the Gang Of Four. You've got to get them where it hurts! It is bands like The Undertones that have the right idea. You play songs and you play them loud and fast so that you can dance to them. That's what Punk was all about. That's what everybody was rebelling against... all that progressive shit.

Shane MacGowan, ZigZag, March 1980: It's a good tune, but Chiswick fucked it up and I am fucking ashamed to have been associated with a silly pop record. All these new bands nowadays, especially the so-called mods, are making 'good' pop records and I fucking hate 'good' pop songs. It just doesn't mean anything in 1980 or it shouldn't, anyway!

June 1980 saw the release of a live album, Only The End Of The Beginning, from a recording made whilst on tour with the Purple Hearts. The record looked like a bootleg - the cover was plain white with an image crudely glued onto it, the song titles looking like biro scribbles - and in actual fact sounded a bit like one too, but seeing as the group had split four months prior to its release nobody was about to spend a fortune on making product for a band which no longer existed, and it served as an enjoyable epitaph, committing to vinyl such gems as 'I Love To Make You Cry', 'Ghostown' 'Stupid Cow' and 'Maida Ada'.

Shanne Bradley: We're just sick of each other and I hated the music The Nips were playing Shane and I just weren't communicating. We were just beating each other up all the time.

Nipple ErectorsIn the tradition of The Damned and Sham 69, however, The Nips could not stay dead and before the end of the year MacGowan and Bradley returned with yet another lineup, this time featuring James Fearnley (pre-The Pogues) on guitar and punk rock journeyman Jon Moss on drums. The Nips' final round of shows came in December 1980, when this revised line up played a final gig at London's Music Machine with The Jam, where a heavily pregnant Bradley sported a yashmak (look it up) and her bandmates were made to wear her mum's nighties.

James Fearnley, Here Comes Everybody: We did a gig somewhere in South London, the floor incompliantly empty throughout our set, the audience having retreated to the walls, behind iron pillars. Halfway through, Shane, wearing a plum-coloured, quilted smoking jacket, hurled himself from the stage to writhe on the flagged floor, his legs working his body round, singing the whole time. To watch him as if at the nether end of an exorcism, surrounded by what there was of an audience, some of them giggling nervously, scared me. The gigs in what seemed to be the Nips' stamping ground of North London were raucous, teeming, claustrophobic events. I recognised faces I'd seen around the neighbourhood. Jem Finer was a familiar presence at Nips gigs - at the Hope and Anchor, Dingwalls - and held Shane in high esteem. For our support slot at the Music Machine, to John Weller's anger, we wore pyjamas and nighties and forced our new drummer Jon Moss to wear a negligee.

Moss recovered from this ordeal sufficiently enough to team up with a rather more successful cross-dresser, Boy George, when they formed Culture Club in 1981.

October 1981 saw more posthumous product when Test Pressings Records released a two-track single, Happy Song ("Whenever I'm feeling crazy/And everything's going wrong/I sing a happy song"). Again, this had the look of the bootleg but wasn't. 'Happy Song' and its B-Side 'I Don't Want Nobody To Love' had actually been recorded in early 1980 as a demo for Polydor (along with 'Ghost Town and 'Fuss 'n' Bother') which obviously never led to a deal. The P. Weller credit on the cover was for the Paul Weller, who had for long time been a fan of MacGowan.

After The Nips, Bradley formed The Men They Couldn't Hang. MacGowan meanwhile teamed up with a bloke called Spider Stacey and formed The Millwall Chainsaws, described by Mike Barson of Madness as purveyors of "gratuitous swearing & punky noise". The Chainsaws played seven gigs before the pair of them teamed up with Fearnley to form Pogue Mahone /The Pogues.

Spider Stacey: Millwall is in Dockland, and Millwall football club are notorious for their supporters. And a chainsaw is a chainsaw. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, that's really cool. Typical middle-class white kids. We did seven gigs in two years. It was more the idea of having a band than actually being in one. But, as far as I'm concerned, we've never actually split up. It's still an on-going concern. I can't really say I prefer the name the Millwall Chainsaws to the Guildford Stranglers, because my wife absolutely loves the Stranglers, more so than she does the Pogues. I love the Stranglers, too, their malevolence: I don't give a fuck if we are too old to be doing this, we're gonna do it anyway. What are you gonna do about it? (Read full interview here)



All records credited to The Nips except where shown.

Singles & Albums / Extraneous Items / Bootlegs / Various Artists

The Nipple Erectors - King Of The Bop King Of The Bop (7", as Nipple Erectors, 1978)

The Nips - All The Time In The WorldAll The Time In The World (7", 1978)

The Nips - GabrielleGabrielle (7", 1979)

The Nips - Only The End Of The BeginningOnly The End Of The Beginning (LP, 1980)

The Nips - Happy Song Happy Song (7", 1981)

Extraneous Releases

Nips 'n' Nipple Erectors - Bops, Babes, Booze & BovverBops, Babes, Booze & Bovver (LP, as Nips 'n' Nipple Erectors, 1987)


The Nips - The Tits Of Soho The Tits Of Soho (LP, 2000)

The Nips - The Tits Of Soho / Only The End Of The Beginning The Tits Of Soho / Only The End Of The Beginning (CD, 2000)

The Nips - Live '79Live '79 (CDR)

The Nips - 1978-811978-81 (CDR)

Nipple Erectors ‎– The Lost EPThe Lost EP (7", as Nipple Erectors, 2002)

Various Artists

Chiswick Aquaria Collection Spain LP 1980 (Chiswick): Gabrielle / Vengeance

Sonido Chiswick Vol. 3 Spain LP 1980 (Chiswick): Grabrielle [sic]

Pogo A Gogo! UK Tape 1986 (New Musical Express): King Of The Bop

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

Gary Crowley - Punk And New Wave UK 3xCD 2017 (Edsel): All The Time In The World

Action Time Vision (A Story Of Independent UK Punk 1976-1979) UK 4xCD 2016 (Cherry Red): Nervous Wreck

Harmony In My Head: UK Power Pop & New Wave 1977-81 UK 3xCD Box Set 2018 (Cherry Red): Happy Song



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