Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Sex Pistols in California on the Brink
of Breaking Up
On this date, January 13, in 1978, all of my friends and I were in a frenzy as we were about to drive up to San Francisco from LA to see the Sex Pistols at Winterland the following day, January 14. Winter in California means rain, and rain it did. Just about everyone I know drove up the day of the show, saw the show and drove back home. That's just how we did it back then. I was no different.
The ride I managed to hitch was with my friends from the power pop band, Milk and Cookies, from NYC who were living in LA at the time. Drummer Mike Ruiz had a van, and we rode up Interstate 5 to the promised land -- Mike, me, Sal Maida and Luke Zamperini. As the sole female in the vehicle, I was acutely aware of how many times on the desolate stretch of trucker interstate I made the van stop for bathroom breaks. On the other hand, I know the guys were happy to load up on junk food...
Once we arrived at Winterland, I was unsure of whether or not cameras were allowed. I was wearing my favorite middy top (that's what you call the cropped top that resembles what sailors wear), the one I'm wearing in this picture. That outfit is an homage to the NY Dolls "bend over girl" from an innersleeve - illustrated by my friend Mumps co-founder, Kristian Hoffman.
me, Kristian Hoffman, Dawn Wirth (photo by Dawn's daughter, Sarah)
ANYWAY... under this baggy top, I hid my camera. It was hanging around my neck, and really, since it was raining, I defended how stupid I looked by claiming I was keeping the thing dry.
Two local bands were among the opening acts - The Nuns, pictured above, and The Avengers.
The Avengers held their own against the hostile crowd. I think they were more composed in front of the rowdy crowd than the Pistols! The Avengers played with power, purpose and conviction; they rocked it.
The Sex Pistols put on the Sex Pistols show to be sure... but the crowd was giving them what they thought a punk band wanted - heckling and the throwing of crap on to the stage. Johnny Rotten hurled invective right back! This was definitely a punk rock show.
One man from the Pistols team noticed how well the Avengers did. Rory Johnston, pictured below with the San Francisco punks, became their manager.
Of the couple thousand people who were at the Winterland show, I'm certain every one of them has a different memory. I remember most vividly standing on a folding seat trying to get a better photographic vantage point, and wobbled the whole time.
Not my best work, but I am glad to have whatever first-hand Sex Pistols artifacts I do have.
A couple weeks later, the band broke up and kind of all ended up in Los Angeles. One night at the Whisky a Go Go for a Mumps show, Belinda Carlisle spotted Malcolm McLaren and Johnny Rotten on the street. They came into the club and caught a few Mumps songs even.
And before I could take their picture, Malcolm and John were out the door... although I do believe the rear view of Johnny Rotten and his punk rock hair is unmistakeable.
A couple years later backstage at the Whisky, Paul Cook let me photograph him while Rory Johnston hid from my camera and Slits guitarist Viv Albertine laughed at the notion of not being photographed.
That was just the beginning of seeing one or another Sex Pistol in Los Angeles after their break up. Today, Lydon and Jones make the City of Angels, my birthplace, their home.