Sex Pistols play 1st ever gig
Concept albums and 15 minute drum solos. Keyboards players whose gear had to be carried in three trucks. Bands with their own private jets. In the mid-70s rock music had lost touch with the kids who came to see it and who dreamt of getting up there themselves. In a brief explosion of anarchic noise at their first ever gig the Sex Pistols started to build the barricades against the ancien regime.
The gig was fittingly brief, shorter than many of the guitar solos favoured by the ageing hippy bands against which the Sex Pistols were kicking. The venue was St Martin’s College, the date November 6th 1975. It is perverse that a band rebelling against the art- school-flared-trousers-long-haired-twelve-string-guitar bands should choose an art school for their debut.
Thrown off after less than ten minutes on stage, the Pistols were a succès de scandale, word of mouth getting round London that finally something different was out there. Although the gig was tiny, the number of people now claiming to have been there is huge such is its place in rock history.
It is debateable if this really was their first gig, as the band could trace its formation back to 1972, evolving through various incarnations and names (including The Strand and The Swankers). But it was the first gig as The Sex Pistols, a name suggested by manager Malcolm Mclaren , and the first gig with John Lydon – Johnny Rotten – as singer. Paul Cook on drums, Steve Jones on guitar, and bassist Glen Matlock were the other members (it was because Matlock was at St Martins that they got the gig).
Rotten had been chosen for his attitude – spotted wearing a t-shirt proclaiming ‘I hate Pink Floyd’ – rather than his musical ability, though he proved to have a unique and dramatic vocal style. Punk suddenly spread like a bread riot targeting the increasingly bloated and pretentious bands and super-bands of the day. Kids with no musical experience grabbed instruments like weapons and shouted songs as slogans at their audiences. Some really innovative and exceptional musicians emerged from the revolutionary chaos. And for a short while fashion was something you did for yourself rather than buying off the peg.
Of course Pink Floyd are still selling albums and Led Zep are sexy again, and for good reason. But the Sex Pistols – the Robespierres of rock – for a few PVC-shining moments shook the music world.
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