999 are an English punk rock/rock band, formed in London in December, 1976. From the period of 1976 to 1985, the lineup of 999 consisted of Nick Cash (vocals, guitar), Guy Days (lead guitar), Jon Watson (bass) and Pablo LaBrittain (drums). (As a result of injuries sustained in a motor accident, LaBrittain was temporarily replaced by drummer Ed Case in 1980.) Jon Watson left the band in 1985; being replaced by Danny Palmer, who remained with the band until 1991. Palmer was replaced by Arturo Bassick, who remains the bass player with 999 to this date.
Between 1978 and 2007, 999 released fourteen singles and twelve studio albums. Five of the singles released by 999 between 1978 and 1981 charted within the Top 75 in the UK Singles Chart, with one further single released by 999 in 1978, Homicide, charting within the Top 40. In addition, as a result of extensive touring in theUnited States in the early 1980s, the band's third and fourth studio albums: The Biggest Prize in Sport and Concrete, each charted on the U.S. Billboard 200.
Despite having formed in 1976, 999 have only experienced two permanent changes to their original lineup and has continued to record and play live to the present day, leading Allmusic to describe the band as "one of the longest-lived groups of the punk era."
Career[edit source | edit]Edit
Named after Britain’s emergency telephone number, 999 was founded in London by singer/guitarist Nick Cash and Guy Days. Cash and Days met each other when the former was a member of the pub rock band Kilburn and the High-Roads, and the latter was a session guitarist who played on some of the band’s demo tapes. In late 1976, they placed an advertisement in Melody Maker for band members and ended up turning down Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), Jon Moss (Culture Club) andTony James (Generation X). They recruited Jon Watson on bass and Pablo LaBritain on drum, LaBritain having briefly played with The Clash. The band that eventually became known as 999 performed their first concert at the Northampton Cricket Club in January 1977. After experimenting with several different band names, the band became 999 in May 1977.999 button, Toronto-the Edge Club present
999 soon established themselves as a powerful live act on London's punk scene and became regulars at the Hope and Anchor, Islington. On the strength of their well received, self-financed debut single, 999 were signed to United Artists Records around the same time as the Buzzcocks. "I'm Alive" became a firm favourite in the punk clubs. The band's second single, "Nasty Nasty", was cited nearly 20 years after its release as a seminal punk single.
Their self-titled debut album, produced by Andy Arthurs, was released in March 1978. One retrospective review claimed it "demonstrated their limitations as well as their strengths. The 45 cuts like "Me And My Desire" and "Emergency" demonstrated the latter, but the album lacked that special ingredient, uniqueness or originality to make it stand out from the crowd." The album reached No. 53 in the UK Albums Chart. The following year, the song "Emergency" from the album appeared — alongside songs by bands like The Jam and The Stranglers — on the punk compilation 20 of Another Kind. That album reached No. 45 in the UK chart. Years later, "Emergency" was included in Mojo magazine's list of the best punk rock singles of all time.
The band's second album, Separates was produced by Martin Rushent. One reviewer lists it as one of the best punk albums of all time. In the United States, a slightly altered version ofSeparates, re-titled High Energy Plan, became the band's first American release. In October 1978, a month after the album’s release, 999 recorded their only session for John Peel atBBC Radio 1. 999 also played at Front Row Festival, a three-week event at the Hope and Anchor in late November and early December 1977. This resulted in the band’s inclusion, alongside the likes of Wilko Johnson, The Only Ones, the Saints, The Stranglers, X-Ray Spex, and XTC, on a hit double LP of recordings from the festival.
999 toured widely in the United States and the band was rewarded when their albums The Biggest Prize In Sport and Concrete charted on the Billboard 200. In the US, "Homicide" & "Hollywood" garnered frequent rotation on Rock of the 80s format radio stations like KROQ in Los Angeles. According to Dave Thompson, "For many Americans, they were the first to actually bother with the backwoods, playing places which other Brit bands hadn't heard of, and returning to them again and again. And while no one knows how many American bands were first inspired to take up arms by 999, those that did still wear their loyalties loudly."
Despite a number of minor hit singles, the band's critical appeal in Britain had begun to wane. Their stock was lifted temporarily with the arrival of the self-released Face To Face 999's popularity continued to decline steadily, leading to the group disbanding twice in the 1980s, reforming soon afterwards. They have since released several albums and continue to tour, including playing at the 11th Antifest in 2005. Bassick also plays for The Lurkers.
Line-ups[edit source | edit]Edit
- Original: Nick Cash (b. Keith Lucas, 6 May 1950) – vocals and guitar; Guy Days – guitar and vocals; Jon Watson – bass; Pablo LaBritain – drums.
- End of 1979: Ed Case temporarily replaces an injured LaBritain on drums.
- Spring 1980: LaBritain returns after injury.
- Split up in 1982 but reformed in 1983.
- 1986 Watson leaves. Danny Palmer replaces him on bass
- Split up in 1987 but reformed in 1993.
- 1993: Arturo Bassick (of The Lurkers) replaced Palmer on bass.
Reviews[edit source | edit]Edit
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- 999's debut single, "I'm Alive", was "a headlong rush of anti 9 to 5 rebellion complete with a bruising power-pop punk guitar attack and rent-a-yob pitched-in vocals."
- "It's a three-minute Charge of the Light Brigade with all the hallmarks of 1977: the vocals are histrionic, the music embarrassingly simple, the instruments turned up to full volume and the production almost absent." 
- "They produced a series of snappy singles sung with urgency - "Nasty Nasty", "Me And My Desire" and "Emergency" - which received favourable reviews but didn't sell in sufficient quantities to make the charts."
- "A ferocious live band, the group harnessed every iota of their stage performance for the studio, turning in an album that zips past at the speed of light, in a blur of chant-worthy choruses and pogo-able riffs."
- "Singer Nick Cash has a sort of affected, high pitched snarl when he wants to emphasize a point, but when the band sings straight verses or chorus parts with backing vocals they can have a nice punk pop sound that's a lot like the Boys".
- "They have also been the subject of a welter of compilations and live albums in the wake of renewed interest in punk nostalgia, but the better elements of their back catalogue argue strongly against the 'dregs of punk' tag that has hung around their necks in recent times."
- "Not until they’re all laid out in front of one, does it become apparent just how many great 45s this band had!" 
- "While never gaining back their original popularity and record sales, they have for the past 30 years or so maintained a live and recording profile to become one of Britain's best loved punk acts and always a great live act."
Discography[edit source | edit]Edit
Studio albums[edit source | edit]Edit
- 999 (March 1978, United Artists Records, UAG 30199) # 53 UK Albums Chart
- Separates (September 1978, United Artists, UAG 30209)
- High Energy Plan (U.S./Canada Release only: 1979, PVC / Radar / Passport) Based upon Separates, it replaced various album tracks with various singles
- The Biggest Prize in Sport (January 1980, Polydor Records, POLS 1013) # 177 U.S. Billboard Album Chart
- Concrete (April 1981, Albion, ITS 999) # 192 U.S. Billboard
- 13th Floor Madness (November 1983, Albion, AS 8502)
- Face to Face (March 1985, LaBritain, LABLP 1000)
- You Us It! (November 1993, Anagram)
- Takeover (March 1998, Get Back)
- Dancing In The Wrong Shoes (1999, Receiver Records)
- Outburst (2003)
- Death in Soho (2007)
Live albums and compilations[edit source | edit]Edit
- The Biggest Tour in Sport - recorded live (1980, Polydor)
- The Singles Album (1981, SOS)
- The Early Stuff (1981, EMI)
- In Case of Emergency (1986, Dojo)
- Lust Power and Money (Live) (1987, A.B.C.)
- Live and Loud (1989, Link)
- The Cellblock Tapes (1990, Link)
- Live in L.A.: 1991 (1994)
- The Albion Punk Years (1996, Anagram)
- Scandal in the City (1997)
- Live at the Nashville 1979 (1997, Anagram)
- Emergency (1997, Receiver)
- Slam (1999, Overground)
- The Punk Singles Collection: 1977-1980 (2001, Captain Oi)
- English Wipeout: Live (2002, Overground)
- Nasty Tales: Live (2006, Secret Records)
Singles[edit source | edit]Edit
- "I'm Alive" / "Quite Disappointing" (July 1977, LaBritain) Re-released on United Artists in 1979
- "Nasty Nasty" / "No Pity" (October 1977, United Artists) Also released as a 78 rpm promo disc
- "Emergency" / "My Street Stinks" (January 1978, United Artists) # 75
- "Me And My Desire" / "Crazy" (April 1978, United Artists)
- "Feeling Alright With The Crew" / "Titantic (My Over) Reaction" (August 1978, United Artists)
- "Homicide" / "Soldier" (October 1978, United Artists) # 40 UK Singles Chart
- "Found Out Too Late" / "Lie Lie Lie" (September 1979, Radar Records) # 69
- "Trouble" / "Make A Fool Of You" (January 1980, Polydor)
- "Hollywood" / "Boiler" (April 1980, Polydor)
- "Obsessed" / "Change" / "Lie Lie Lie" (April 1981, Albion) # 71
- "Li'l Red Riding Hood" / "Waiting For Your Number To Be Called" / "I Ain't Gonna Tell Ya" (live) (June 1981, Albion) # 59
- "Indian Reservation" / "So Greedy" (remix) / "Taboo" (remix) (November 1981, Albion) # 51
- "Wild Sun" / "Scandal In The City" / "Bongos On The Nile" (June 1982, Albion) Also released as a 12" single with "Don't You Know I Need You"
- "13th Floor Madness" / "Nightshift" / "Arabesque" (October 1983, Albion) Also released as a 12" single
Music Videos[edit source | edit]Edit
- Emergency (1978)
- Homicide (1978)
- Obsessed (1981)
Appearances on various artists compilations[edit source | edit]Edit
- "Quite Disappointing" and "Crazy" are on the Hope & Anchor Front Row Festival double compilation LP (March 1978: Warner Bros K66077) No. 28 UK Albums Chart
- "Emergency" and "Homicide" are on 20 of Another Kind (February 1979: Polydor, POLS 1006) UK No. 45
- Urgh! A Music War
- "Obsessed" is on Trauma (1979: Pickwick International Inc (GB) Ltd., SHM 3122)
- Inside Out featured on US version of Showtime Networks Shameless