999 celebrated their 40th anniversary on 5th December 2016. The reason for their longevity is not airplay, massive publicity, hype or even a major recording deal but word of mouth and that “word of mouth” now extends to nearly every country on earth.
999 were first conceived in late 1976 when Nick Cash (vocals/guitar) and Guy Days (vocals/lead guitar), who were at school together, decided to form a group. Within a couple of months they had teamed up with Jon Watson (bass) and Pablo Labritain (drums) and 999 were officially born. Their first gig was at the Northampton Cricket Club in January 1977. Interest in the band was immediate and constant gigging around London brought with it critical acclaim and a hard core following of supporters from Southall, calling themselves The Crew. These ranks were soon swollen by the Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Munich, Vienna, Zagreb, Stockholm, Oslo, Berlin, New York, LA., Toronto, Philadelphia, and San Francisco “Crews” each proving as dedicated as the last.
The frenzy and raw energy of the early days were captured by their debut single ‘I’m Alive’ on the bands own Labritain label and sold well enough to become a minor hit. Next through their association with United Artists records the second and third singles, ‘Nasty Nasty‘ and the now classic ‘Emergency‘ were released both scaling the lower reaches of the charts and confirming 999 to be one of the major forces in the British New Wave Movement.
The first album titled simply ‘999’ was released and was greeted with impressive sales and critical acclaim. Extensive touring took them throughout Britain and Europe where they now encountered full houses.
The second album ‘Separates’ was released and immediately the single ‘Homicide’ leapt straight into the UK top forty without any radio airplay and was banned by the BBC and most radio stations.
Early 1979 saw the band embarking on their first U.S. tour, which was an achievement in itself, as they were still without a record deal in America at the time. Response to the band was ecstatic, all the venues being filled and import albums being sold out in a rush of enthusiasm. The band were immediately booked for a return trip and signed to Polydor in the USA with the band’s third and fourth studio albums: ‘The Biggest Prize in Sport’ and ‘Concrete’, each charting on the U.S. Billboard 200.
In the US, ‘Homicide’ and ‘Hollywood’ garnered frequent rotation on Rock of the 80s format radio stations like KROQ in Los Angeles. According to journalist and author 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.”
Since leaving United Artists in 1979 999 have recorded another eleven albums. Jon Watson was replaced in 1986 on bass by Danny Palmer and subsequently by Arturo Bassick in 1991. To date the band have completed 17 U.S. tours, played over 130 London gigs, more than 50 UK tours and over 30 European tours.
They released their last album ‘Death in Soho‘ in 2007.
They have also been the subject of a welter of compilations and live albums in the wake of renewed interest in punk nostalgia.
Web Site: www.nineninenine.net/
- Bomb You
- Christmas Cards
- Cruel World
- Deep Peace
- Games We Play
- Don’t Deny
- Heart To Heart
- Like Any Other
- V.G.C. (Very Good Condition)
- Gimme The World
- The System
- Last Breath
- 99 Days
- Rock ‘n Roll World
- Get Off The Phone
- Horror Story
- Stealing Beauty
- What Do You Know
- Too Much Money
- Life Of Crime
- The Avenue