1976: As the murk of another British winter approached a couple of exciting things happened.Firstly The Sex Pistols released their first record ‘Anarchy in the UK’. Bear in mind that by now the band had been gigging for a year and were occupying increasing amounts of column inches in the UK music press. Despite this the only way anyone could get to hear them (unless you lived in Ganadaland) was to see them live.
When Sergeant Pepper was finished the Beatles took the acetate disc to Mama Cass’s flat in Chelsea. They then opened the windows and blasted the neighbourhood at six in the morning. The local residents opened their windows and listened without complaint to what clearly was the latest Beatles album playing as the sun came up. It sounds like a beautiful moment, the flowering of the summer of love, of course can never happen again with popular music, the innocence is lost. The best we could manage nine years later was John Peel playing the Sex Pistols record to us for the first time without hearing it himself so we could have a communal experience by proxy. My memory is that when the record ended Peel said something along the lines of “I was expecting something a bit more frightening”.
The NME had similar thoughts about the single, reporting how the Pistols had come for a fight only to find that everyone was welcoming them with open arms. The reviewer also noted that the music sounded like speeded up Uriah Heep !
The Pistols, of course, had signed to a big record company namely EMI and had recorded their single with a proper record producer who knew what all the knobs on the mixing desk did. Chris Thomas had a pedigree that went all the way back to the Beatles (he engineered on The White Album). Thomas had overdubbed Jones’ guitars to make a very professional rock sound but one that was not exactly new. It was Rotten that gave the record the punk treatment although lyrically it wasn’t a lot more profound then Teenage Rampage by The Sweet.
And so we at last had a ‘product’, I liked the record, it’s certainly my favourite by the Sex Pistols, the great British public was underwhelmed, it only got to number 38 in the charts and you wouldn’t hear much of it on daytime radio. At this point punk hadn’t really captured the public’s imagination.
There was no way I was going to actually buy the record, I was skint and singles were relatively expensive. I would rather spend my money on gigs and LPs. My luck was in however, it was announced that the Pistols would tour with The Damned and The Clash and The Heartbreakers, a one stop shop for all my punk needs (remember The Clash hadn’t even released a record at this point, I had no idea what they sounded like). The first date of the tour on Dec 3rd would be UEA (University of East Anglia) where I attended my first ever rock gig with Gentle Giant all those months ago.
This was clearly going to be a landmark gig, bigger that Budgie or Curved Air, possibly even more significant that the Feelgoods. There was one problem though and it was a big one; no one wanted to go with me. I didn’t really push it with my new friends who still thought Hatfield and the North were the best band ever, I didn’t really push it with my older friends it was just that no one wanted to go. And so I had the option of going on my own, I had never done this before, there was also the possibility there would be violence. The guy who was beaten up at the Nashville gig looked a lot more like me that the Pistols did. What if Malcolm McLaren set Sid Vicious on me, this lanky long haired guy like he did to Nick Kent? More realistically there was a possibility some of the hard nuts from the local council estate might turn up with the express purpose of a fight with whoever was around. I wanted to go but dare I ???
Luckily the gig was cancelled at short notice. The reason being that overnight The Pistols became public enemy number one and punk suddenly became headline news.
But that’s for next week!!