Wednesday evening Dec 1st was when the storm hit. Thames Television programme ‘Today’ meant diddly squat to us in the provinces but in London it was popular family viewing- and remember these were the days when the family really did sit down together and watch TV in real time. On the night in question the band Queen were due to appear but cancelled at late notice and their EMI stablemates The Sex Pistols were dragged in. Interviewing the band was Bill Grundy an old school journalist who had actually been the first person to introduce the Beatles on Granada TV in 1962. It’s possible that Grundy was drunk, journalists often were in the 1970’s but if he was it wasn’t going to faze him.And so here is the interview
In retrospect a few things stand out
• Grundy was the real punk here, he was outnumbered but he didn’t give a shit
• The spokesman for the group initially was Glen Matlock soon to be ex bassist.
• The first expletive goes unnoticed by everyone, if this happened on say ‘The One Show’ imagine the amount of grovelling the presenters would do.
• Johnny Rotten is really shy, there’s no eye contact and no aggression, he wants to be a bad boy but he’s not quite up to it yet. When he swears he actually tries to cover it up and move things on.
• Grundy provoked the band
• Steve Jones may not be able to read or write but if you ask him swear on television he will oblige in spades.
Remember that most of the country didn’t even have an option to watch this show, the whole event could have been buried if it were not for the media choosing to go off on a moral panic. For the next week stories were conjured out of the ether with various moral guardians each taking it in turn to be more outraged than the others. And so Paul Cook’s mother told the papers how her drummer son would no longer be welcome home while the Rank organisation banned punk from their ballrooms. One viewer claimed to have kicked his TV set in while Radio 1 issued a statement that they might not be playing punk records if they had ‘no musical merit’ (as the station had played Brotherhood of Man’s ‘Save All Your Kisses For Me’ to death over the summer this was a huge act of musical hypocrisy).
Grundy, of course was hung out to dry and wouldn’t appear on prime time TV again.
This, of course, was the best thing that could happen to punk, most commentators agree that McLaren shat himself on seeing his charges behave like this and thought that was the end of their careers but by the next day he had found a way to capitalise on the action and was making speeches about censorship and free speech.
And the band would be censored. The first victim would be me! The gig at the UEA was cancelled, to be honest I probably wouldn’t have gone and I would have spent the rest of my life regretting that, but now I had no choice, I was able to sleep at night again.
So thank you Mr Grundy!