Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sex Pistols last UK concert 1977 - eye witness account

Found in a scarce 1977 punk fanzine Dat Sun which also has a Wyndham Lewis inspired 6 page 'Blast' against current stuff. Anonymous*. It covers the last (or penultimate) appearance of the group on British soil at Cromer, Norfolk on Christmas Eve 1977 (punk's annus mirabilis.)

God rest you merry gentlemen in a quarter of an hour the Sex Pistols will play. We slip into the Links pavilion and buy tickets - easier than the village dance. Due to slippery disputes and reports of cancellation in the East Anglian they had not sold out. Dub Disco falls heavily on country in years, 75% East Anglian punks. Johnny Rotten in fashionably squashed pith pelmet surveys the audience critically from the balcony : Sid Vicious tries on T-shirts. The audience is a bit shy of them, and pretends it hasn't noticed. There is no mystique about the boys arriving in a limo or helicopter at the last big moment - the group are, it seems, actually waiting for everyone to turn up before they play.

The hall is mercifully free of posers, backstage passes, obnoxious roadies, boring rival celebrities, pushy photographers and all the detritus... a few old politicos, beards and folkies (typical of the area) perplexed but pleased. Straw-haired country boys and sturdy young girls in daubed nightshirts mix with Suffolk/Norfolk rich children back for Christmas with their parents.. just as they were getting a little tired of the unfamiliar dub music the Sex Pistols trooped down to the stage -Rotten takes of his helmet to reveal laughably wild Struwwelpeter hair which he touches up with an aerosol. In his sardonic deliberate voice he upbraids the audience for their passivity and general lack of seasonal rowdiness called: 'why can't you be more like us' - the assembly takes the ticking off without a murmur. A couple of tattooed musclebound types standby to keep the peace but play no part in the ritual. They kicked off with God Save the Queen -instant pogo, instant gob. The band is loud and raucous JR is naturally the focus of attention, his ironic, irreverent visage  a sneering delight. He won't fit in any pigeonhole, you can only describe in by negative – he is no puffed up strutter, no maacho git, there is no real vanity. He is nothing but himself. From the very first numbers you realise that just one of his songs has more wit and sussed than the entire oeuvre of ELP, ENO,and ELP. Seriously man.

Surly Sid vicious stands close by, barechested and daintily mutilated. His role in the band apart from genius bassist appears to be a mix of sedition and sex appeal. The muscle and no small part of the wit is down to Steve Jones whose playing is devastating, colossal.. Hidden away behind his drums , literally out of sight, is the unassuming Paul Cook – so sure-footed,so central to the entire racket.  A backbeat you cannot lose, what more do you want? 

The main body of the audience's pogoing or relaxing apres pogo. There is some spitting which, of course, goes unreprimanded and miraculously seems to miss the sensitive lads. Talking of miracles Johnny Rotten threw 30 or 40 cans of beer to the thirsty dancers. Long hairs with rubber bands pogo,  black rubbish bags pogo, nobodies in anoraks pogo, cats in corduroy pogo,  fishnet tights pogo. It's all a good laugh, the very opposite of 'No Fun'. This latter number they do far better than on the single although JR misses out on the splendid intro. Cries for 'Bodies'. Forget all that abortion stance stuff – this song is done as a big demoniac laugh.

A few more observations on Rotten, seeing as it's the first time most of us Anglians have seen him. He doesn't take himself seriously as other rock stars – stupid fools who stand in line. He has an endless range of facial expressions from deeply offended to deeply menacing. He glances around between vocals like an insolent buffoon or a crackerjack comedian trying to cheer up the dispirited boys and girls. . He rakes the audience with his glassy, joke fanatical eyes; he jerks his mischievous grinning bonce about like a chicken -'you steal with a kiss.' What was he wearing? A tasteless ripped and torn salmon pink T-shirt held together with safety bid and large laced shoes which people get unlacing...  There were a few ex tempore changes to the lyrics. On 'Submission'; perhaps inspect inspired by the sea air, he chimed in with 'I do like to be beside the seaside' on I'm a lazy sod he change 'when your money dies' to a rather pointed 'when your business dies.' Some were also accused of spending 'a cheap Christmas in someone else's misery.'

I noticed in the galleries chaps who could have been councillors or cops, watchdogs or dogsbodies.  They must've been somebodies anyway to have been up there. [Deadline watchers?] We watched particularly when the Sex Pistols, followed the underrated situationist inspired 'Holidays in the sun' with 'Belsen was a gas' - but it was cool, it seems to be a continuation in the mood of 'Holidays' with some great scat laughter as at the beginning of 'Anarchy' but much extended. 'We've done everything' Vicious reminds Rotten and the Patriots troop off -encore 'God save the Queen.'

*Thought to be the work of one Denis Browne -noted as the author by the punctilious pop music writer Jon Savage. 

2 comments:

  1. Wowcher! This was like being there. Punk never really went away, glad to say.

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  2. Excellent except for one small important detail now this is I like etc. The following day they played two gigs for the families of striking firefighters in Huddersfield. One was the children's matinee show and the other was for adults. Then they flew off to the USA. The rest is History. Accounts of the quality of the performance of the Cromer links gig do vary. Used tickets were handed out afterwards, stamped "Bollocks." by the management. So double plus ++ excellent.

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