PUNK has left a lasting legacy on music, fashion and even the social history of the UK, but in some more repressed nations it had even more of an impact.
This was brought home to Nick Cash, lead singer with the group 999, on a recent visit to the Czech Republic.
“It was one of the best experiences of my career,” says Nick, who this year celebrates his 39th year with the London-formed quartet. “The agent who booked us had been brought up there [in the Czech Republic] and obviously, in his youth it had been behind the Iron Curtain.
“He told us you weren’t allowed to listen to punk music and he was arrested and put in prison for listening to one of our early singles, Nasty Nasty, after a neighbour grassed him up!
“He basically came the full circle – now he puts on gigs and he’s earning a living from the music that got him put behind bars,” explains the band’s frontman.
“It’s a real honour to think that in some small way the things we did helped inspire people like him and maybe changed things. It’s been a brilliant thing to be involved with.”
Punk rockers 999 formed in 1976 and were part of the explosion of bands, alongside the likes of Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Stranglers and The Jam, of that generation. Their singles, like Nasty Nasty, Emergency, Homicide and I’m Alive became punk standards and Nick says he’s proud of the way the movement changed attitudes.
“We were one of the first white bands to play Rock Against Racism gigs,” he recalls. “There were all kinds of things going on.
“I was reminded recently when we were in Liverpool and went to the museum there. Obviously that city has a huge musical heritage but there among all the exhibits was a 999 badge – it was there because we were the first band to put on matinee shows for under-18s in Liverpool.
“We started doing them from about 1978 onwards for all the kids that weren’t allowed into the clubs at night.”
Nick travelled the world as a child because his father was in the RAF and formed his first band, The Pentagon, as a 15-year-old in Malta.
Later in London he worked with Ian Dury in Kilburn & The High Roads but left to form 999 because he wanted to do ‘something completely new’. The band have played more or less consistently ever since, with virtually the original line-up, and have released 11 studio albums.
“Our last album Death In Soho did very well,” adds Nick. “But obviously at gigs people like to hear all the old songs and I don’t mind that at all because it’s still really good fun and it remains fresh and the reaction is usually great; they go pretty mad.”
Nick and his 999 bandmates will headline the Winter Warmer event at Bisley Pavilion, on Saturday, November 21.
Promoted by the team behind the Undercover Festival at the same venue, the line-up also includes Witchdoktors, Church of Eon, Charred Hearts, Xtraverts and more. Full details can be found at www.undercoverfest.com.