Monday, January 14, 2008

30 Years Ago - The Sex Pistols Last Concert

Sex Pistols

January 14, 1978 - Winterland in San Francisco was the site of the last Sex Pistols concert... that is until they reunited twenty plus years later with original bass player Glen Matlock to rake in some filthy lucre and claim the spotlight again.

It was a rainy day and a rainy night. Nearly all my friends and I attended this concert and did it in the same manner: we drove up for the show and then turned around and drove right back home to LA afterwards.

Johnny Rotten & Steve Jones

Thirty years hence, I continue to have mixed feelings about this show. It was great to have the Sex Pistols in the States and see them play... but this show at Winterland was odd... there was tension in the band, there was chaos in the crowd. I remember that some of it seemed pretty bad... and it was definitely a short concert... but years later, seeing clips on Youtube, I find that it wasn't bad at all.

There was certainly a lot of camaraderie amongst friends at the show. We, like most people we knew, chose to drive up the state of California on Interstate 5 - the main artery going north and south - from Baja California to Northern California right smack dab in the middle of the state. This was the route favored by truckers and moved quickly. To this day, I've never figured out if anyone caravan'd but just about everyone I know ended up at Winterland, so we were all on the road at pretty much the same time, passing through stinky Button Willow and other cowtowns in the driving rain.

jennifer NUNS

Local bands opened the show - The Nuns (above) and The Avengers (below) had it pretty hard. Everywhere they went in the USA, The Sex Pistols drew controversy and people from the fans to lots of media outlets didn't know what to make of them. A lot of people in the audience were not really punk music fans - but came to heckle and harass the bands - all of them...

avengers BW

What stands out in my mind is that the Avengers pulled off their set with amazing aplomb and with their integrity intact at the end of their set. Their performance and grace under pressure caught the eye of the Pistols' management man in the USA, Rory Johnston who went on to guide the Avengers career for a while. (If you scroll down a couple of posts below, you'll see a pic of Rory and the band.)

penelope sally
Penelope Houston & Mutants' Sally Webster backstage in San Francisco

Because one of the people I was traveling with was a noted musician - Sal Maida who previously to playing in Milk n Cookies played in Roxy Music and in Sparks - we all were able to go backstage, tagging along with Sal, whom everyone at Winterland seemed to know. I've mentioned before how I was surprised by Johnny Rotten's middle class manners, and how it seemed rather low-key for such a high profile event. There was supposed to be a party at the Miyako Hotel, which we also gained entry to, courtesy of Sal's celebrity... but the members of the Sex Pistols had disbursed...no one was there... the writing was on the wall... and then Rotten quit the band... they broke up soon afterwards.

rotten mclaren on street by whisky2 grey

That's a night-vision styled shot of my stealth snap of Malcolm McLaren and Johnny Rotten walking past the Whisky a Go Go on Sunset Blvd. They eventually came in and saw Mumps perform a couple songs. Both Johnny Rotten and Steve Jones stayed in Los Angeles, and live there still. The Sex Pistols have reunited a few times since the turn of the New Millennium and toured more in the USA. We have to thank them for being the avatar around which the continuing interest in punk rock revolves... well, I do, at any rate.

Do you feel like you've been cheated?

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