Wally Nightingale

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Wally Nightingale
Birth name Warwick Alan Nightingale
Born 3 January 1956
Origin London, England
Died 6 May 1996 (aged 40)
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1972–1975, 1981, 1995
Associated acts The Strand
The Swankers
The Sex Pistols
Key West

Warwick Alan "Wally" Nightingale (3 January 1956 – 6 May 1996) was an English musician. He was notable in English pop music history as the founder of the band that went on to become The Sex Pistols.

Early life[edit]

Nightingale was born in West Kensington, in London, the son of an electrician. He received his formal educated at the Christopher Wren Boys' School, in Shepherd's Bush, where he met Paul Cook and Steve Jones, who were also pupils.[1]

The Strand & The Swankers[edit]

In 1972, at the end of their school years, Nightingale one day suggested to Cook and Jones that they should form a new pop music band, which they agreed to, and subsequently named The Strand after Roxy Music's song “Do the Strand”, with Jones as the singer, Nightingale on guitar and Cook as the drummer.[2][3][4] Obtaining instruments and amplifiers through theft led by Jones with Nightingale in tow from professional headline musical acts,[5] they began rehearsing frequently, mostly upstairs at Nightingale's family home in Hemlock Road in East Acton during the day when his parents were out at work. The early band included Del Noones (Paul Cook's brother-in-law)[6] as well as a couple of Steve Jones' friends from Christopher Wren Boys' School, Steve Hayes[7] and Jimmy Macken. It also had a Conga player called Cecil briefly.[6]

By the Autumn of 1974 the band had obtained a large professional rehearsal space using one of the sound stages of Riverside Studios (demolished in 2014 for a luxury apartment block) on the North bank of the Thames river next to the Hammersmith Bridge, via Nightingale's father's professional work there, which they had free use of for a year to hone their skills.[8] In late 1974, Noones was kicked out of the band due to his lack of appearance at rehearsals, and replaced by Glen Matlock, a part-time shop assistant at Malcolm McLaren's avant-garde fashion boutique shop in the King's Road, where Jones and Cook had begun socializing.[9]

At this time Bernie Rhodes had shown an interest in becoming the manager of the act, but the only public performance during the life of the band at this period - which around this time had been renamed The Swankers - 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 act's line-up consisted of Jones on vocals, Nightingale on guitar, Matlock on bass and Cook on the drums.[10]

In early Summer 1975, Malcolm McLaren, on the look out at that time for a new band to use as a vehicle to forward his fashion impresario career ambitions, agreed to become the group's manager, after repeated requests for his involvement from Jones.[11] However, on assessing the act, McLaren thought Nightingale's character type and look didn't fit with the rock band that he had in mind for the act to evolve into, and told Jones and Cook that they would stand more chance of becoming a success without Nightingale on board.[12] In tandem with this Nightingale's position in the line-up was undermined by the fact that Jones didn't feel comfortable in the frontman/singer's role. He had himself wanted to move into the guitarist slot occupied by Nightingale for some time, and had been covertly working hard for several months to learn to play the instrument away from the band's rehearsals with Nightingale, to delay a confrontation which would risk the loss to Jones, Cook and Matlock of the use of the practice space in Riverside Studios that was being provided by Nightingale's father.[13][14] With McLaren's involvement broadening the band's prospects, Jones decided it was safer to make his move, and Nightingale was informed of the decision that he was out of the act upon his arrival for a rehearsal, when on walking in he found Jones wielding a guitar.[5] In an interview years later Nightingale stated:

I was so gutted that I didn't say anything, I was almost in tears. I even went for a drink with them that evening.[15]

The Sex Pistols[edit]

With Nightingale gone, the band changed its name to QT Jones & his Sex Pistols [16] at McLaren's suggestion, but the name was soon reduced to The Sex Pistols. McLaren quickly came to the view that Jones wasn't an effective lead vocalist/guitarist for the act, and Jones' indication of a preference for the role of guitarist/backing vocals led McLaren to begin looking for a new dynamic replacement front-man, which he soon found in the form of a 19 year old who frequented his shop called John Lydon. The Sex Pistols played their first gig on 6 November 1975, six months after Nightingale's departure. In a later interview Nightingale recalled watching them perform at the 100 Club in Oxford Street, commenting that his old bandmates Jones and Cook:

... 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 of it. After I left (the band) Steve and the others slagged me off in the music press really badly. I never really knew why, I never did them any harm? [17]

With regard to his views in retrospect on McLaren's part in removing him from the band, in the same interview Nightingale stated:

... McLaren was devious and 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.[18]

Later life[edit]

After being forced out of the band Nightingale continued to try to pursue a career in pop music, but without success. He co-founded a band named Key West in 1981, and a demo of four songs written by Nightingale and Ron Evans was submitted to Warner Bros. Records, who showed initial interest. The band performed at the Ad Lib Club in Kensington, had an MTV video filmed and aired, and recorded at Fastbuck Studios in Chiswick. However, Key West failed to secure a recording contract and disbanded after a few months.

In the early 1980's Nightingale developed a narcotic habit, and was imprisoned for six months for a conviction associated with it.[19]

His subsequent public musical appearances were rare and sporadic. He appeared as a one-off performance guest guitarist with the Brentwood punk rock band Beat of the Beast at a gig in 1989. In November 1995 he played guitar on the song "Rich Girls" on Mat Sargent's Sex, Drugs & HIV album,[20] using the performance pseudonym Wally Pistol. In the same month he also performed live with the HIV charity awareness project band the Rock'n'Roll Gypsies.[21]


Nightingale died on 6 May 1996, in his 40th year, from a medical condition associated with narcotic use.

Song writing credits[edit]

The band that went on to become the Sex Pistols played mainly cover versions of other bands' work, and had only two self-written songs before the arrival of Glen Matlock and John Lydon, and Nightingale had a strong involvement with the creation of both of them. One was called "Scarface" (with lyrics originally written by Nightingale's father, according to Glen Matlock) which was never released; the other was "Did You No Wrong", which Nightingale composed the music for and Jones wrote the lyrics.[22] Jones' lyrics to the latter song were subsequently rewritten by John Lydon in 1977, but Nightingale's musical arrangement remained unchanged, and the song was commercially 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 was regularly performed live by the band during their reunion tours in the 1990s and 2000s. The Warner Chappell Music database recognises Nightingale as its co-author.[23]

Fictional portrayal[edit]

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


  1. ^ Jones & Cook interview, 'They'll Always be an England', Freemantle Home Entertainment, 2008.
  2. ^ The Filth and The Fury
  3. ^ "Interview with Wally Nightingale". Retrieved 20 July 2010. 
  4. ^ Savage, Jon (January 18, 2002). England's Dreaming, Revised Edition: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 77. ISBN 0312288220. 
  5. ^ a b Interview with Nightingale, 'Rock Compact Disc Magazine,' Issue 14, 1993.
  6. ^ a b Jones, Steve (January 11, 2017). Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0306824817. 
  7. ^ "Life and times of the Sex Pistols". [permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Interview with Steve Jones & Paul Cook. 'They'll Always be an England', Freemantle Home Entertainment, 2008.
  9. ^ 'I was a Teenage Sex Pistol', by Glen Matlock (Pub. Reynolds & Hearn, Ltd.), 2006.
  10. ^ 'I was a Teenage Sex Pistol', by Glen Matlock (Pub. 2006).
  11. ^ 'Malcolm McLaren: The Artful Dodger', television documentary, British Broadcasting Corporation, 2010.
  12. ^ 'The England's Dreaming Tapes', by Jon Savage, University of Minnesota Press (2010).
  13. ^ Interview with Jones and Cook,'They'll Always be an England', Freemantle Home Entertainment (2008).
  14. ^ Undated excerpt from an interview with Nightingale, online article (2017) on 'The Strand' band. http://www.reocities.com/kutie_jones/wally.html Archived 30 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine. "Steve was playing the guitar behind my back, I was too naive to suspect that he wanted my position in the group."
  15. ^ "The Strand – Short Summary". Archived from the original on 30 September 2012. Retrieved 20 July 2010. 
  16. ^ "Sex Pistols timeline". 
  17. ^ Interview with Wally Nightingale, Rock Compact Disc Magazine, Issue 14, 1993.
  18. ^ Wally Nightingale interview – RCD (Rock Compact Disc Magazine) Issue 14, 1993.
  19. ^ 'The Pistols are Born', 'Time Out' magazine, 24 July 2006."The Pistols are born". 
  20. ^ Details of the 'Sex, Drugs & HIV' project. https://www.tht.org.uk/get-involved/Fundraise/Shop-and-Give/Sex-Drugs-and-HIV
  21. ^ Website (2017) detailing the Rock'n'Roll Gypsies. http://littlelondonstudios.com/draftSDH/launch.html
  22. ^ Interview with Nightingale, 'Rock Compact Disc Magazine', Issue 14, 1993.
  23. ^ "Warner Chappell Music author database".