Share Tweet Submit Pin Despite an initial career that lasted less than three years and produced only one album and a handful of singles, no group is more responsible for fueling the English punk rock movement than the Sex Pistols. Now regarded as one of the most influential bands in the history of rock, they quickly became notorious not only for the tension and hostility of their music, but for the mayhem they intentionally created everywhere they went.
Encouraged by their manager, Malcolm McLaren, the group began their assault by rebelling against social conformity with their single "Anarchy In The U. Rebellious lyrics were nothing new within a rock music context, but unlike previous groups, the Sex Pistols lyrics reflected a nihilistic, highly politicized stance.
Johnny Rotten's sneering attitude and shrieks of "I am the anti-christ" and "There's no future" became a politically charged manifesto for the English punk movement. The Sex Pistols' music rapidly became an ideological weapon and controversy and violence naturally followed them everywhere they went. Although the band despised the established rock and roll journalism found in the pages of Rolling Stone magazine, they were praised for playing "with an energy and conviction that is positively transcendent in its madness and fever.
Following a brief run of controversial concerts in the Netherlands and Britain during the latter months of , the Sex Pistols ' manager, McLaren, who had designs on America, booked the group on their first tour of the United States. Intentionally facilitating an atmosphere of tension and hostility, both on stage and within the band, McLaren primarily booked the band into clubs and bars in the Southern states, guaranteeing belligerent audiences and openly hostile situations everywhere they went.
During this two week assault on America, which was plagued by poor planning and predictably violent reactions, the group's bass player, Sid Vicious, paved the way toward a whole new level of decadence.
During the band's engagement in Memphis early in the tour, Vicious, now addicted to heroin, went in search of a connection and was later found in a local hospital with the words "Gimme a fix" carved into his chest with a razor.
He engaged in numerous fights both on and off stage, sustaining numerous other injuries as the tour progressed. Vicious even wound up getting his ass kicked by one of the band's own bodyguards, who were not immune to his hostile challenges. The tour eventually culminated in a high profile gig in San Francisco, where concert promoter Bill Graham convinced McLaren that the band was popular enough to play Winterland, dwarfing any performance the band had previously attempted by far.
This now legendary concert, the biggest of the group's career, would also turn out to be the Sex Pistols' last. Headlining a triple bill that included local punk bands the Nuns featuring a young Alejandro Escovedo and the Avengers featuring a young Penelope Houston , this night would prove to be an extraordinary theatrical event and the Sex Pistols' final gig before a sold-out audience of Due to local demand, the Sex Pistols set was also simulcast on KSAN radio, where it would be heard live by thousands of additional listeners and would soon circulate far and wide, becoming the most ubiquitous bootleg recording of the group.
Evaluating this Sex Pistols' performance in terms of music is a relatively pointless exercise, as the band had no desire to please the audience in terms of music, nor could they even play well in any traditional sense.
The performance, devoid of pacing, range, tempo, or melody, is instead an onslaught of rage, rebellion, and release, which is relentlessly ragged throughout the set. Despite this, and the fact that Sid Vicious' bass was little more than a prop, the group seethes with an undeniable raw energy and raises contempt for an audience to a new, almost artistic level. Shouts of "fuck you" and projectiles being hurled at the stage are taken as encouragement, confirming the purpose of this performance.
The group expresses total contempt for their audience and demand the same in return. Despite all this, guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook are extraordinary, literally carrying all the musical weight on their shoulders alone. They are the driving force here and what they lack in technical ability, they more than make up for in raw energy. It is Jones' monstrous guitar sound and Cook's pummeling unadorned drumming that provides the sonic onslaught over which Rotten can snarl his vitriolic lyrics.
The audience responds with insults and by hurling objects at the stage, which the group encourages throughout the performance. They kick off the set with their signature song, "God Save The Queen," a seething attack on the British monarchy. Loud and uncoordinated due in part to stage monitor issues that plague the entire set this song actually comes across as a curious form of British patriotism. Although not nearly as shocking in retrospect, these songs were all breaking new ground at the time and Rotten's vocal delivery was creating the mold for countless punk singers to follow.
Amidst the onslaught of debris being hurled at the stage, which included coins intended to inflict pain on Rotten, he is undaunted and provokes even more of this behavior by saying, "Any more presents?
Here Rotten denounces a society that forces its women to seek illegal and potentially life-threatening abortions. Drummer Paul Cook next leads the way into a chaotic "Holidays In The Sun," which begins with an annoyingly long repetitive thud of his bass drum, but when the Pistols launch into the song proper, it is remarkably well played, with even Vicious managing to contribute to the unstoppable force.
Continuing to provoke the audience, Rotten next inquires "What just hit me in the head? They wind the audience into a final frenzy with the anthemic "Pretty Vacant," followed by further inquiries from Rotten, who exclaims, "What's it like to have bad taste? One might expect the group to leave the audience totally frustrated, by refusing to do an encore, but amidst roars for more, the Pistols return to the stage and launch into a cover of the Stooges' "No Fun.
The song comes to an abrupt halt and in his most insinuating manner, Rotten poses the question that has by now become infamous, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated? These were true anarchists who were revolting against conformity and they were prepared to fight their way out of the social injustice and economic oppression surrounding them in Britain. Unlike everything that came before them, their music was clearly focused on destruction, anarchy, and chaos in a literal sense and not as any popular trend.
Despite releasing only one album during this tumultuous era, the Sex Pistols created one of the great paradigm shifts in modern music, forever changing the landscape of the music industry.