Punk Bands – Xtraverts
Xtr@verts biography; ‘Who sent the Boys’ ?
In late 1975 a massive shake up within the music industry was emerging and with this came a teenage driven musical revolution, soon to be known as PUNK ROCK.
If the ‘Kings Road London’ was the birthplace of punk then its younger brother the ‘London Road, High Wycombe’ was equally as important. The ‘Nags Head’ High Wycombe as a venue was every bit as important as the legendary ‘100 Club’ in Denmark Street, both were linked by one person and that was rock promoter Ron Watts. At the height of this revolution as Ron booked the likes of the ‘Sex Pistols’, ‘The Damned’, ‘The Clash’ and the ‘The Stranglers’ at both venues, teenagers in Buckinghamshire were being introduced to a major shift in youth culture many months before Punk erupted nationwide.
Mimicking its older London brother in every way in High Wycombe it seemed everybody under the age of 25 was becoming a punk rocker. Hippies had almost been eradicated and with turf wars between punks and teddy boys subsiding further combined with a revival of mod’s, rockers and skinheads the town’s local population was slowly having to accept this new ‘melting pot of anti- establishment’ youth culture.
Shortly after the now infamous Punk Festival of 1976 and the riotous Jubilee boat fiasco Ron Watts continued to book well known punk bands at Wycombe’s Town hall, it was always his policy to give local talent a chance to shine through. There was a vibrant local music scene emerging but with so much focus on London bands I believe there was one band that unfortunately went unnoticed.
………..this is the story of THE XTR@VERTS…………
As early as 1976, a good six months before ‘The Sex Pistols’ played the Nags Head, a group of mid-teens including Kris Jozajtis/guitar, Mark White/drums, Carlton Mounsher/bass, formed their own band ‘Deathwish’. Inspired by 60’s UK bands such as The Who, Small Faces and The Rolling Stones and later stateside offerings such as Iggy Pop and the Stooges, The Velvet Underground and The New York Dolls.
‘Deathwish’ were soon playing their own brand of Punk Rock well before the term ‘Punk’ was even coined.
Their first gig caused a stir when a confused audience who had been expecting the usual hippie drivel turned violent and threw lit fireworks at them. The band had to be escorted from the venue by the police.
At Deathwish’s second gig an A&R rep from CBS came to check out the band following Ron Watts recommendation. Every bit as confused as the audience from the first gig, unfortunately he lacked the vision to sign them, but at least he didn’t throw anything at them, lit or otherwise !!! As fate would have it during the show an enigmatic youth with brightly coloured hair joined in singing with the band on stage, soon becoming lead vocalist, a certain Nigel Martin.
Nigel, influenced by ‘Roxy Music’ and ‘Bowie’ was always outrageously dressed, so Punk was a natural transition for him. Unfortunately High Wycombe didn’t have alot to offer fashion wise in the mid 70’s, except flares and platforms. There was a great Teddy boy shop called ‘Goddards’ which in fairness sold some great gear but that wasn’t enough, so he used to hang out at ‘SEX’, Malcolm McClaren’s shop at the top of the Kings Road with his punk mate ‘Marmite’, probably the first black punk with peroxide hair. (One time Marmite wore a transparent rubber jacket with goldfish swimming inside it..!!)
Nigel was photographed in Malcolm’s shop by ‘Honey’ magazine, standing out because he would get free crazy colour hairstyles at ‘Vidal Sassoon’s’ courtesy of Vivienne Westwood. Malcolm took the fee for the photoshoot and deducted half of the payment, explaining to Nigel that would cover his loss on the t-shirts which Nigel had previously been seen stealing !! At the same time ‘Vivienne Westwood’ had a market stall nearby and Nigel used to go there and get his clothes made to order.
Meanwhile with ‘Deathwish’ floundering, Nigel together with Mark Reilly/guitar and Tim Brick/drums had formed a band called ‘The Xtraverts’ with Kris Jozajtis filling in on bass, a job he swiftly passed on to Carlton Mounsher. With the line up complete and with a set of original songs plus a few covers they played the University circuit and London venues such as ‘The Roxy’, ‘The Vortex,’ ‘Hope and Anchor’ ‘Fulham Greyhound’ and ‘Global Village’, supporting ‘Johnny Kidd and the Pirates’ , ‘Gary Glitter and The Glitter Band’ and ‘Bernie Torme’. Further they were voted best new band in the Aylesbury ‘Friars’ poll.
Whilst at these gigs they rubbed shoulders with the up and coming soon to be punk icons, drinking with ‘Joe Strummer’, ‘Paul Weller’, wet toilet roll fights with ‘Billy Idol’, arguing with ‘Sid Vicious’ and pinching white label copies of ‘Anarchy in the UK’ from ‘Johnny Rotten’. Whilst at an Arsenal football game in early 1976 Nigel dressed up with brightly coloured spiky hair recalls seeing John Lydon later to become Johnny Rotten sporting long hippy hair and a black trenchcoat, one wonders who influenced who !!! These were remarkable times. Carlton also recalls being persuaded by Rat Scabies and Brian James of ‘The Damned’ to help them put just pressed copies of New Rose into their covers at Stiff Records. Although this meant he had one of the first copies of the UK’s first punk records , he still had to pay for it !!!
The band played around with new names and became ‘Nigel Martins Visage’ or ‘Mirage’, but with ‘Steve Strange’ having the same name finally agreed and settled on ‘THE XTR@VERTS’, a name which reflected their image and style. Soon they released their first vinyl single on Spike Records, ‘BLANK GENERATION’, b/w ‘A-LAD-INSANE’, there was a limited pressing of 500 and incidently these singles are now selling for over £175 on e-bay.
The band individually having strong creative drive, unfortunately disbanded the following year and moved in different directions with Carlton and Mark Reilly forming the ‘ Cathedrals’, later Reilly left to join ‘Blue rondo ala Turk’ and then formed and continues to have success with ‘Matt Bianco’. Carlton formed ‘The Ventilators’ later ‘The Vents’, and then ‘The Swamps’. Kris went on to join ‘The Folk Devils,’ whilst Tim did session work with ‘Japan’ and then moved into production.
Before leaving High Wycombe, Mark Reilly introduced Nigel to two young musicians ‘Mark Chapman’ and ‘Steve Westwood’, base and guitar players respectively, to continue with ‘The Xtr@verts’. Recruiting drummer ‘Andy Crawford’ they knuckled down and continued rehearsing and writing new material.
With a new line up, fresh and stronger than ever they hit the circuit running. Ron Watts gave the band many supports at the Town Hall where many well known acts were playing. First gig with the Jones Boys (aka Howard Jones) then support slots with ‘The Slits’ and ‘Creation Rebel’ and then headline gigs at the ‘White Swan’ Southall, the ‘Rainbow’ Finsbury Park and then ’Oranges and Lemons’ Oxford. Further concerts followed and a string of support gigs with the Damned’, ‘999’, ’Angelic Upstarts’, ‘The U.K. Subs, ‘The Vibrators’’ and ‘The Lurkers’.
The band went straight into the studio and during 1979 released two singles, the first was ‘POLICE STATE/DEMOLITION’ a double a) side, costs were shared with another local band ‘Plastic People’ with their song ‘Demolition’- released on Rising Sun records. The second release later in the year with the introduction of a new guitarist was ‘SPEED / 1984’.
The band with its new line up built up a very large following with in excess of 1000 people travelling to gigs far and wide, coaches filled with fans from all over the south of England would come and be a part of the Xtr@verts crew, especially when headlining their own gigs and with the support of ‘Rat Scabies’ drummer of the ‘Damned’ with a band he was managing ‘The Satellites’ played with the Xtr@verts on numerous occasions. Then there was the infamous ‘Oranges and Lemons’ gig in Oxford, The Clarenden, Fulham Greyhound, Hope’n’Anchor, plus many more memorable gigs in and around the home counties.
The Xtr@verts had a massive Punk and Skinhead following from as far as Birmingham to London and they would travel and support the band. The venues were packed with large chanting boisterous crowds and were more reminiscent of a Millwall -West Ham match than a concert.
At one gig in particular, 1980 at the Town Hall , High Wycombe, Rat Scabies even stood in and drummed for the band, and recently some 35 years later a recording of this electric gig has been discovered.
During late 1979, even after plays of both singles on ‘John Peel’s’ radio show, topping the N.M.E and SOUNDS charts, knocking ‘pretty vacant’ of the top of the independent charts also in the top 3 of the ‘Oi’ charts and a brief appearance on ‘20th Century Box’ a ‘Janet Street Porter’ production with an interview by ‘Danny Baker’ on the subject of independent record labels and unsigned bands releasing and distributing their own records. Unfortunately the writing was on the wall.
Coupled with musical differences, changing line up and dissallusion with the punk ethos and the arrival of a new breed of Punk more commonly known as ‘Oi’ which had started causing violent confrontations and injecting absolute ch@os between fans at latter gigs, on the 31st January
…………THE XTR@VERTS short life from 1976 to1980 was over……….
Reunions: album release and new line ups:
After the break up members went in different directions, Mark Chapman the totally flambouyant and outrageous base player became a top London DJ playing re mixes of 70’s disco classics in London Nightclubs becoming a promoter and entrepreneur, founder of ‘Car Wash’ and rubbing shoulders with new found friends ‘ Sigue Sigue Sputnik’.
Nigel played with a few local bands but moved into promoting rather than performing and opened the ‘Kat Klub’ under the flyover in the centre of town packing out the venue with bands like the U.K Subs, Crass, King Kurt, 999, the ‘Meteors’, ‘Angelic Upstarts’ and the ‘Vibrators’, keeping music live after the demise of the Town hall due to skinheads causing so much trouble at an ‘Adam Ant’ gig the venue was closed by the council.
During the next 10 years there was a handful of re union gigs, re hashing of old songs albeit very well received locally, during the mid eighties with the arrival of new guitarist Alistair Murray and drummer Steve McCormack ( who had been close friends with the band from day one) the Xtr@verts performed 3or 4 gigs with new image and style with a complete new set of songs.
After the release of a compilation Xtr@verts album, with songs and versions unheard of in the day, entitled ‘So Much Hate’ was released on ‘Detour’ records in the mid 90’s which has sold incredibly well worldwide, the Xtr@verts reformed once again and a launch gig was organised with the UK Subs….this was the last time the band were to play. A chapter in all the lives of the band members was finally put to sleep……….
Until now… 2014,
After the sad death of base player Mark Chapman and a chance meeting with long time friend and organiser of Brighton’s Skinhead Reunion Symond Lawes and with such a worldwide interest in past punk history and youth culture, the XTR@VERTS have reinvented themselves yet again and with a brand new and exciting line up are now in the process of recording a new album and rehearsing for a launch gig at the ‘100 Club’ (to be announced shortly).
The band’s new line up includes ;
NIGEL MARTIN Original ‘Xtr@verts’ and ‘Deathwish’ lead vocalist and front man.
CARLTON MOUNSHER Original Deathwish and Xtr@verts bassist now lead guitarist.
STEVE McCORMACK Later band member, having previously played with ‘Xtr@verts’ on many occasions, sang and recorded with his own band in the late 80’s early 90’s with his rocker outfit the ‘T-Birds’. Even supported ‘Screaming Lord Sutch !!’ Also appeared on Granada TV’s ‘Stars in their Eyes’ as ‘Billy Idol’ 1993/94 and has played drums with rockabilly bands home and abroad and is an accomplished Jazz singer.
NICK ‘BO’ CHAPMAN Also known as Joe Hope and brother of former base player Mark Chapman. Nick has played guitar for over 30 years, playing with local Folk Rock and Electronic bands throughout the 80’s to the present. ‘Were not the same were individuals’.
IAIN WOOSTER Iain has actively been playing in bands for the past 30 years, touring extensively through the 90’s UK and America, playing on albums for various artiste’s and an appearance with his band on the B.B.C’s ‘Eastenders’ during the 1990’s
The XTR@VERTS were a group that slipped through the media net and in their heyday were every bit as good as their contempories and although not up there with the flagship bands of the time they are credited and historically placed in the period that was punk rock. They appear in the top 100 punk bands of all time and have rubbed shoulders with many of the punk greats, perhaps now is the time to let people see what they missed or what might have been.
The Xtr@verts were one of Wycombe’s finest. So now let’s see what big brother’s little brother has to offer…….?????
‘Who Sent the Boys’. The story of the Xtraverts.
Biography written and researched by Steve McCormack. April 2014