Wally Nightingale

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Wally Nightingale
Birth name Warwick Alan Nightingale
Born 3 January 1956
Origin London, England
Died 6 May 1996
Occupations Electrician
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1972–1976, 1989, 1995/96
Associated acts The Strand
The Swankers
The Sex Pistols

Warwick Alan Nightingale (1956–1996), known as Wally Nightingale, was an English musician. He was best known as the guitarist and founder of the band that eventually became the Sex Pistols. According to guitarist Steve Jones, Nightingale left the band in 1975 after Malcolm McLaren agreed to manage the band, but "... only if we got rid of Wally."

Nightingale died in May 1996 from complications of substance abuse.

Nightingale and the Sex Pistols[edit]

Born in West Kensington, there are few known details of Nightingale's life. In the documentary The Filth and The Fury, drummer Paul Cook said "I think it was Wally, the famous Wally Nightingale, who had said 'Well, let's start a band' ," accompanied by pictures showing the early band, which consisted of Nightingale on guitar, Steve Jones on vocals, and Cook on drums.[1] No name for the band is given in the film, but Gerald Kean[who?] says that it was called "The Strand", after Do the Strand by Roxy Music.

The band was formed in 1972. They rehearsed quite a lot, mostly upstairs at Nightingale's house on Hemlock Road in East Acton during the day when his parents were working, and may have played a few gigs in the area although no verifiable reports exist. The band had a very fluid line-up; at some point Paul Cook's uncle handled the bass guitar duties.,[2] at some point Steve Hayes played bass guitar with the outfit.[3] Jimmy Mackin played organ with the band from 1974 to early 1975, and the band also had a conga player, Cecil.

By 1975 the band was rehearsing at Crunchy Frog, a studio near the London Docklands. They were at the time managed by Bernie Rhodes, who tried to set up gigs for the band. The only reported gig during the entire existence of the band was in early 1975 at a birthday party for one of Cook's friends above Tom Salter’s Café on Kings Road in Chelsea, London. At the short, three-song gig, The Strand consisted of Steve Jones on vocals, Wally Nightingale on guitar, Del Noones on bass and Paul Cook on drums. The band had changed their name to The Swankers prior to the gig. Nightingale recorded the performance on a cassette tape, but accidentally erased the tape two years later. Noones, despite being married to Cook's sister and thus being Cook's brother-in-law, was ejected from the band shortly afterwards, due to his unreliability and unwillingness to rehearse. In the early summer of 1974, Glen Matlock stepped in as a permanent bass player at the suggestion of McLaren.

After persistent requests by Jones, McLaren agreed to become manager of The Strand. However, McLaren thought Nightingale was "too nice", and by early 1975 Nightingale and Jones were in disagreement over the direction the band should take. Having been after McLaren to manage them for some time because of his previous connections in the music business (primarily as a very brief manager for The New York Dolls), Cook and Jones eventually decided to take McLaren's advice. Jones switched to guitar and the band continued on as The Swankers, without founder Nightingale. Nightingale was informed of the decision upon his arrival to a rehearsal. In interviews he has stated he "was so gutted that I didn't say anything. I even went for a drink with them that evening.".[4]

With the personnel changes, the band initially changed their name to "QT Jones & his Sex Pistols"[5] at McLaren's suggestion, but the name was later shortened to Sex Pistols. McLaren considered Jones's singing unsuitable and John Lydon was recruited in August. Sex Pistols played their first gig on 6 November the same year, a little over six months after Nightingale had left. When Nightingale saw them at the 100 Club, "they wouldn't even talk to me. In hindsight I suppose I'm proud to have been involved in the punk scene though I don't go around telling everyone. After I left, Steve and the others slagged me off in the music press really badly. I never really knew why; I never did them any harm." About the person who got him fired, he simply stated "McLaren was devious but clever. He'd see things which other people didn't see and I suppose that's what gave him his edge. Malcolm made the Sex Pistols."[6]

After The Swankers[edit]

After Nightingale was ousted from The Swankers he tried to form a new band but without lasting success. He developed an addiction to heroin after his father, an electrician and part-time film technician at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, died in 1981. He was subsequently jailed in the early 1980s after receiving a 6-month sentence for undisclosed "drug-related offences".[7]

Wally co-formed the band "Key West" in 1981 with Ron Evans on guitar, Steve Giles on bass, Bob Stocker on drums and various singers including Gary Martin - the voice of The Honey Monster - and Shaun Newnham. A demo of four songs written by Nightingale and Evans was submitted to Warner Brothers who showed interest. They played at "The Kensington Ad Lib" club and kept going for about eight months. Key West had an MTV video made which was aired and made several recordings. Warner Brothers were ready to sign when the band had a fist fight and it was all over. A few gigs were done at The Ad lib club in Kensington and some others in Clapham. During these gigs Wally's state became apparent, he took heroin before entering the stage, collapsed, and spent the gig in the dressing room with Peter Perrett. There are several recordings of "Key West" recorded at "Fastbuck" studios in Chiswick. These early recordings are all written by Evans/Nightingale and show a heavier side of Punk Rock...almost pop rock with catchy riffs and choruses but all guitar based. some of these sessions featured Mick Underwood on drums, and bass guitar by "The Only Ones" bassist and featuring Mickey Simmonds on Keyboards..who later went on to be "Fish"'s co writer and keyboardist. Long after Wally's death in May 1996..Paul Cook attended a "Renegades" gig in Shepherds Bush with Ron Evans on guitar..but Paul didn't acknowledge the connection.

Nightingale performed as a one-off guest guitarist with Brentwood punk rockers Beat of the Beast in 1989.

On 16 November 1995 Wally recorded on Mat Sargent's Sex Drugs and HIV album. The song "Rich Girls" also featured Captain SensibleThe Damned, John McKay – Siouxsie & The Banshees, Kev Nixon – Anti-Pasti and Andy Ellison – Radio Stars/Johns Children. Wally also performed live with the HIV project band Rock'n'Roll Gypsies on 18 November 1995.

Nightingale planned a new band called Daylight Robbery to feature Topper Headon from The Clash on drums, Roly Wynne of Ozric Tentacles on bass and Mat Sargent of Sham 69 on vocals and guitar. Daylight Robbery planned to record an album in New York as soon as Wally's cheque from the Sex Pistols arrived for the unpaid royalties of "Did You No Wrong."

Nightingale died in May 1996 from drug related complications; his cheque from the Sex Pistols arrived the following morning.

Authorship[edit]

The only original songs from the "Nightingale period" band that can be verified are an unreleased track called "Scarface" (with lyrics penned by Nightingale's father, according to Matlock) and the track "Did You No Wrong" (which Nightingale wrote the music for while Jones wrote the lyrics).[8] The lyrics to the latter were subsequently rewritten by Johnny Rotten and in 1977 the song was released as the b-side to the Sex Pistols second single God Save The Queen. It was later included on the compilation album Flogging a Dead Horse and has regularly been played live by the Sex Pistols during their reunion shows in the 90's and 00's. The Warner Chappell Music database recognizes Nightingale as co-author;[9] however, the band itself refuses to and Nightingale never received any songwriting royalties.

Fictional portrayals[edit]

A character based upon Nightingale, billed as "Wally Hairstyle", appeared in the 1986 Sid Vicious biopic Sid & Nancy, portrayed by Graham Fletcher-Cook.

References[edit]