The Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols were an English rock band that spearheaded the London punk scene in the summer of 1976. Their debut single, “Anarchy In the UK,” appeared on EMI that November but was quickly withdrawn after the band cursed on television. After two annulled recording contracts, they signed with Virgin and issued the 1977 singles “God Save the Queen,” “Pretty Vacant,” “Holidays In the Sun” and the album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols.

They imploded in January 1978 after a brief, shambolic tour of the US south. Singer John Lydon recorded a string of albums with his next band, Public Image Ltd. Original bassist Glen Matlock formed the Rich Kids with Scottish singer Midge Ure. Guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook continued the Pistols name with the 1978/79 singles “Silly Thing” and “The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle,” followed by a namesake mockumentary film.

Despite their brief existence and small output, the Pistols were the catalyst for UK punk and its outgrowth in new wave and post-punk. They were uninhibited by their technical limitations and this stance inspired numerous onlookers to take up instruments for the first time. Bands that formed in their wake include The Clash, The Damned, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Penetration, the Buzzcocks, The Adverts, X-Ray Spex, The Slits, and Generation X.

Members: John Lydon [aka Johnny Rotten] (vocals), Steve Jones (guitar), Paul Cook (drums), Glen Matlock (bass, harmonies 1975–77), John Ritchie [aka Sid Vicious] (bass 1977–78)


Background

The Sex Pistols evolved from The Strand, a garage-rehearsal band formed in early 1973 by Shepherd’s Bush teenagers Steve Jones, Paul Cook, and Warwick “Wally” Nightingale. They named their band after the song “Do the Strand” by Roxy Music, one of Cook’s favorite bands at the time. Collectively, they were inspired by the “lad’s rock” of Mott the Hoople, the Faces, Slade, and the New York Dolls.[1]

Jones and Nightingale acquired most of their instruments through a heist of the Hammersmith Odeon on the final night (7/3/73) of the Ziggy Stardust Tour by David Bowie and his then-backing band, The Spiders from Mars. As Nightingale later revealed, they “took the whole PA, every single one of their microphones. RCA were recording [the concert], so they were Neumann microphones, about five hundred pounds apiece.”[2]

As rehearsals commenced, the three musical novices assumed new roles: Jones (vocals), Nightingale (guitar), Cook (drums). The bass slot was initially filled by Cook’s brother-in-law, Del Noones, while a fifth member, Cecil, briefly joined on percussion. They played a mix of Small Faces covers and two early originals: “Did You Know Wrong,” a Cook-penned love song; and “Scarface,” a morbid number co-written by Nightingale and his father.

In late 1973, Jones and Cook started frequenting a vintage boutique at World’s End on King’s Road called Too Fast to Live, owned by haberdasher Malcolm McLaren and designer Vivienne Westwood. The place sold retro rocker ware, having once catered to ’70s Teddy boys in its prior incarnation, Let It Rock. Enchanted with the clothes, memorabilia and atmosphere, Jones and Cook spent hours at the shop, where they warmed to McLaren and befriended his weekend sales clerk, Glen Matlock.

(more to come)


Early Concerts

November 6, 1975 St. Martin’s School Of Art, London, ENG – Bazooka Joe

November 7, 1975 Central School Of Art, London, ENG – Roogalator

November 21, 1975 Westfield College, London, ENG – Mobias and Factory, an unsigned Hastings hard-rock band that issued the 1971 single “Time Machine” (b/w “Castle On The Hill”) on small-press Oak.

November 28, 1975 Queen Elizabeth College, London, ENG – Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames, Slack Alice, Mike Absalom

December 5, 1975 Chelsea School Of Art, London, ENG

December 9, 1975 Ravensbourne College, London, ENG – Simon Barker sees them

December 10, 1975 London Polytechnic Fairholt House, London, ENG

1976

January – shows with Dave Berry and City Boy

Siouxsie and Steve see them for the first time

January 23, 1976 Watford College, Watford, ENG

February 12, 1976 Marquee, London, ENG (supporting Eddie & The Hot Rods)

February 14, 1976 Butlers Wharf, London, ENG (Andrew Logan’s Party)

February 19, 1976 Hertfordshire College Of Art, St. Albans, ENG

February 20, 1976 College Of Higher Education, High Wycombe, ENG – Screaming Lord Sutch, Pistols borrow their equipment; Lydon damages a rare vintage microphone. Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley see them for the first time.

February 21, 1976 Welwyn Garden City, ENG – Mr. Big

March 25, 1976 Hertfordshire College Of Art, St. Albans, ENG

March 30, 1976 100 Club, London, ENG – Plummet Airlines and Salt

April 3, 1976 Nashville, London, ENG – 101ers

April 4, 1976 El Paradise Strip Club, London, ENG

April 23, 1976 Nashville, London, ENG

April 29, 1976 Nashville, London, ENG

May 5, 1976 Babalu Disco, London, ENG

May 11, 1976 100 Club, London, ENG

May 17, 1976 Screen On The Green, London, ENG (CANCELLED)

May 18, 1976 100 Club, London, ENG – with Strange Days

May 19, 1976 Northallerton, ENG

May 20, 1976 Penthouse, Scarborough, ENG

May 21, 1976 Town Hall, Middlesborough, ENG – Doctors of Madness

May 25, 1976 100 Club, London, ENG – supported by Dogwatch, an unsigned act still three years away from their singular album (Penfriend, Bridge House Records).

May 30, 1976 Reading University, Reading, ENG

June 4, 1976 Lesser Free Trade Hall, Manchester, ENG – with Mandalaband

June 15, 1976 100 Club, London, ENG

June 17, 1976 Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London, ENG (supporting Kilburn & The High Roads & The Stranglers)

June 29, 1976 100 Club, London, ENG

July 3, 1976 Hastings Pier Ballroom, Hastings, ENG (supporting Budgie)

July 4, 1976 Black Swan, Sheffield, ENG – The Weak Heart Drops (after a lyric in a Big Youth record)

July 6, 1976 100 Club, London, ENG

July 9, 1976 Lyceum, London, ENG – Pretty Things and Supercharge

July 10, 1976 The Sundown, London, ENG

July 20, 1976 Lesser Free Trade Hall, Manchester, ENG (supporting Slaughter & The Dogs) – Buzzcocks first gig

August 10, 1976 100 Club, London, ENG – The Vibrators

August 14, 1976 Barbarellas, Birmingham, ENG

August 19, 1976 Village Inn, Runton, ENG

August 21, 1976 Boat Club, Nottingham, ENG

August 29, 1976 Screen On The Green, London, ENG (supported by The Clash & The Buzzcocks)

August 31, 1976 100 Club, London, ENG

September 2, 1976 Nags Head, High Wycombe, ENG – Suburban Studs

September 3, 1976 Club De Chalet Du Lac, Paris, FRA

September 5, 1976 Club De Chalet Du Lac, Paris, FRA

September 11, 1976 Royal Ballroom, Whitby, ENG

September 12, 1976 Fordgreen Ballroom, Leeds, ENG

September 13, 1976 Quaintways, Chester, ENG

September 15, 1976 Lodestar, Blackburn, ENG

September 17, 1976 H.M. Chelmsford Prison, Chelmsford, ENG

September 20, 1976 100 Club, London, ENG (Punk Special, supported by The Clash, Subway Sect, Siouxsie & The Banshees & Stinky Toys)

September 21, 1976 Top Rank, Cardiff, WAL

September 22, 1976 Stowaway Newport, WAL

September 23, 1976 Bubbles, Swansea, WAL

September 24, 1976 76 Club, Burton On Trent, ENG

September 27, 1976 Outlook Club, Doncaster, ENG

September 28, 1976 The Place, Guildford, ENG

September 29, 1976 Strikes Club, Stoke, ENG

September 30, 1976 Cleopatras, Derby, ENG

October 1, 1976 Didsbury College, Manchester, ENG

October 2, 1976 Priory Ballroom, Scunthorpe, ENG (CANCELLED)

October 5, 1976 400 Ballroom, Torquay, ENG (CANCELLED)

October 8, 1976 Lafayette Club, Wolverhampton, ENG (CANCELLED)

October 9, 1976 The Cricket Ground, Northampton, ENG (CANCELLED)

October 12, 1976 College of Technology Student’s Union, Dundee, SCOT

October 13, 1976 Porterhouse, Retford, ENG (CANCELLED)

October 13, 1976 Lafayette Club, Wolverhampton, ENG

October 14, 1976 Mr Digby’s, Birkenhead, ENG

October 15, 1976 Eric’s, Liverpool, ENG – The Yachts

October 19, 1976 Winter Gardens, Cleethorpes, ENG (CANCELLED)

October 20, 1976 Bogarts, Birmingham, ENG

October 21, 1976 Queensway Hall, Dunstable, ENG

November 15, 1976 Notre Dame Hall, London, ENG

November 19, 1976 Hendon Polytechnic, London, ENG

November 29, 1976 Lancaster Polytechnic, Coventry, ENG

Image-wise, the Sex Pistols were among the first in a wave of bands — which also included Split Enz, Sailor, Easy Street, Deaf School, Roogalator, Slik, and the Kursaal Flyers — to sport short hair in the post-Beatles era. This, combined with their anti-triangular mode of dress, is often cited as a catalyst in the fashion world’s move away from the scruffy, bedraggled styles of the early-to-mid 1970s and toward the cleaner aesthetic of the following decade.

Notorious for their loud and abrasive approach, the Pistols gleefully displayed limited levels of skill at their respective instruments, a posture that emboldened hundreds of inexperienced onlookers to follow suit.

Discography:


Sources:


References:

  1. INC19: “An Interview with Drummer Paul Cook of Sex Pistols and Manraze.” (Nov. 29, 2011)
  2. Savage, Jon. England’s Dreaming

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