Diving into the early days of Punk with 999, during their first set at the first night of concerts at Old Waldorf in San Francisco and broadcast live from the stage by UC Berkeley station KALX. 1979 marked the year a big influx of bands coming over from the UK and making the case that Punk was alive and well and taking hold of America.
They had achieved huge popularity in the UK almost from the get-go – between their debut single and their first break-up, 999 had five singles in the top 75 in the UK charts. By the time of this concert, they already had two albums out. By the time of their debut U.S. tour, their second UK album had been issued (with modifications and different tracks) in the U.S. and this initial tour was involved in promoting the group to American audiences.
By the sounds of it, the Old Waldorf audience was already familiar with the band via imports and word of mouth. Luckily, UC Berkeley FM station KALX managed to record this first gig and preserve it for posterity.
This was during a time Punk was still very much a lethal commodity for mainstream American radio. The only airplay they got (as did so many other bands from the period) was either from pioneering FM stations like KROQ or college radio stations like KALX in Berkeley or KXLU in Los Angeles and many other college stations around the country – and aside from word-of-mouth, this was about the only avenue of exposure these bands had at the time. Once MTV arrived and the initial wave of Punk was traded in for New Wave, mainstream radio started to pick up on the popularity they were missing all along, but by that time, 999 had already gone through their first break up (in 1982) before reuniting in 1983 for another four years.
If you missed this initial exposure of Punk in the U.S. – this gig, and many others which were broadcast and preserved via KALX, will serve as a reminder of what was a time of big musical changes that the mainstream was just not ready to deal with.
Crank it up and enjoy.