10 Mar 1977, London, England, UK — The punk rock group, The Sex Pistols, are about to be moved by a policeman as they sign a copy of their new recording contract with A & M Records outside Buckingham Palace. The next record to be released is called “God Save the Queen”. The band members (from far left to right) are John Lydon, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Sid Vicious. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
I’m not gonna lie– life has been kicking my ass a little lately. It’s got me wantin’ to spit, sneer, and swear like Sid Vicious. But instead, I’ll humbly take my licks and lumps, and keep on pluggin’ along the best I know how. I actually have a feelin’ this could end up being one helluva year– for TSY and beyond.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here before, but I spend a ton of time in Dallas for business. I’ve been going down for years, and know it pretty well. Calling it my 2nd home is not a stretch by any means– it’s a cool town, and I’m very comfortable there. Lots of great people and good eats.
So, Friday I was having lunch at El Fenix with my buddy Bruce, who’s a few years older than me, and outta nowhere I ask him, “Hey, man– were you in Texas back in ’78 when the Sex Pistols rolled through on tour? You remember them?”
Well, his face lit-up like a Christmas tree as he said, “You mean that Sid Vicious kid? Yeah man, of course I remember it. It was a mess! He was runnin’ his mouth, spittin’, and swingin’ that bass around like a baseball bat on stage– mowin’ people down. They wanted to kill him!”
The Sex Pistols’ infamous Dallas, Texas show marquee at the Longhorn Ballroom (once owned by Jack Ruby) back in January of 1978– “Sid was really f*cked up. Really drunk. He played for a while without his guitar plugged in. He played for a while with a fish. I think somebody threw it up there, a bass or something. People seemed pissed at him. He’d spit on the audience; they’d spit on him. That’s what you did. There was this element of, ‘You paid to see us play?'”— The Austin Chronicle
From Randy’s Rodeo, a site dedicated to the memory and accounts of the tour–
The band gave their most spirited performance of the American tour in San Antonio. Johnny Rotten came out wearing a T-shirt depicting two homosexual cowboys, and Sid greeted the crowd with some very unkind remarks. The audience hurled anything onstage that they could get their hands on. Items of choice were spit, popcorn, beer cups, cans, hot dogs, whipped cream, bottles, and pies. Steve and Paul did their best to hold the show together while Sid and Johnny took every possible opportunity to insult and infuriate the crowd. Sid removed his leather jacket to reveal “Gimme A Fix” scrawled on his chest. Johnny blew snot into the crowd, and he snarled and screamed the whole night. Steve promptly broke a string during the first number, and he later used his guitar as a weapon against threatening audience members. At one point Sid Vicious tells the crowd, ‘You cowboys are all a bunch of f*cking faggots!’ When a young cowboy attempts physical retaliation, Vicious hits him with his bass. The show is stopped for several minutes while the cowboy is taken away by police. He later denounces the Pistols as “sewer rats with guitars” on TV.
The Sex Pistols’ gig there on January 8th, 1978, and the riotous events that surrounded it, became one of the most notorious chapters in rock history. The Pistols’ Svengali-like manager, Malcolm McLaren, booked the band primarily at Country & Western nightclubs like Randy’s in small markets like San Antonio. It was a perverse, provocative joke. His intent was not to sell tickets, but to incite controversy and mayhem. He succeeded famously.
John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, later expounded on McLaren’s strategy in his autobiography, Rotten: “It wasn’t a question of throwing the band to the wolves when we chose to just play the South during the American tour. We felt that if we were ever going to be taken seriously in America, it would be from a base we built down south. The cowboys seemed to take it for the joke it was meant to be. We weren’t there to destroy their way of life or anything like that. We sought to bring a little freshness into their boring, daily routines.”
1978, Tulsa, Oklahoma– Sid Vicious, Paul Cook, Johnny Rotten, and Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols in concert. Outside the show, a Baptist pastor protested the show, saying, “There is a Johnny Rotten inside each of us, and he doesn’t need to be liberated, he needs to be crucified.” Photographer Bob Gruenrecalled, “We had a long drive from Dallas to Tulsa through five inches of snow and ice. Sometime in the night we pulled into a gas station where there was a restaurant. I went in with Sid and sat at the counter. Before I knew it Sid had started a conversation with a cowboy and his family. They invited him to sit with them and Sid carried his eggs to their table. After the cowboy heard that Sid’s name was Vicious he started to challenge him. He crushed his cigarette out in his own hand, then he asked Sid what could he do. Sid just took his knife, cut his own hand and kept on eating as blood flowed on his eggs like ketchup. The cowboy grabbed his family and ran out.” — Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis
The Sex Pistols landed in New York on January 3rd and performed their American debut in Atlanta on the 5th. Just nine days later after whistle stops in Memphis, San Antonio, Baton Rouge, Dallas, and Tulsa, the tour ended ignominiously with a dispirited show at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco — ironically, the only reasonably appropriate venue on the itinerary.
The Sex Pistols broke up only days after their final performance. Within months, Sid Vicious had allegedly killed girlfriend Nancy Spungen in a drug-induced rage, and was later found dead himself of a drug overdose. Soon after, John Lydon claimed the Pistols had “killed” Rock and Roll and embarked on his next musical adventure with Public Image Limited. In the late 90s the Sex Pistols reunited (with original bass player Glen Matlock standing in for Sid) for the aptly monikered “Filthy Lucre” tour.
Dallas, TX, 1978– Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, performing in concert at the Longhorn Ballroom. Sid’s chest is covered in blood from a female fan head-butting him in the nose, and on his chest he has recently carved the words, “Gimme a Fix” with a razor (some say it was the work of a magic marker, either way it’s classic Sid). — Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis
1978– Sex Pistols singer Johnny Rotten drinking a beer in concert. — Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis
1978 — Sid Vicious and Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols in concert. — Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis
1978 — The Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious poses with a couple fans. — Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis
Check out what Tom Brokaw and the corporate media had to say about the Sex Pistols tour–
1978– Sid Vicious & Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols — Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis
January 1978, Atlanta, GA– Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten perform during the Sex Pistols’ United States debut in Atlanta. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
1978– Sid Vicious & Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols — Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis
1978– Bass guitarist Sid Vicious, singer Johnny Rotten, and guitarist Steve Jones of the punk band the Sex Pistols perform in concert. Vicious has scrawled “Gimme a Fix” on his chest with a razor. — Image by © Jay Dickman/CORBIS
1978– (Left)Paul Cook of The Sex Pistols mingling with a couple ladies at the Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas, Texas, (Right) Sid Vicious). — Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis
1978– Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols during their tour of the South — Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis
1978– Johnny Rotten displaying classic Punk Rock style… and you thought plaid was boring? Well, I’m here to tell ya’ Tartans Rock! — Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis
Say what you will about the Sex Pistols– they woke-up the 1970’s sterile, corporate rock scene that had begun to dominate the radio, and reminded us what Rock ‘n Roll was really all about– youth, rebellion, energy, innovation and heart.
It was a moment in Rock history that was short-lived, horribly tragic, and incredibly epic.
great read! On january 11th, 1978 I was supposed to see the Tulsa Oklahoma show, but being 14 year old kid and the snowny night mentioned left me stranded at home. my mother wouldn’t drive us downtown due to the road conditions. in my old days box, i have my unused ticket and a few clippings from the local paper.
you show a photo from the tulsa show, its the shot of Johnny singing with the fringed banner above his head that reads ‘CAINS” thats the only spot still open from all the places they played on the tour.
if you want any details on the whole tour and breakup, read the book ’12 days in on the road: the Sex Pistols in America” by Noel Monk. it really chronicles the 7 shows over 12 days here.
thanks for the memories
I don’t think that the members of the Sex Pistols got many hugs as children. Tee hee.
I cracked up when I read the list of items thrown at them in San Antonio, “spit, popcorn, beer cups, cans, hot dogs, whipped cream, bottles, and pies.” Pies? Yee haw! Gotta love Texas!
I’ve lived in the Dallas area for over 20 years, and have never heard these stories. How did I miss out on all the drama? Especially with a younger brother like mine. Check him out: http://ineedinsulation.blogspot.com/2009/08/who-is-james-arthur-what-is-manhunt.html.
Great post! Thanks!
Hard to believe it was 32 years ago! Yikes!
This is one of the great bizarre twists in music. Was it genius/suicide that Malcolm McLaren decided that they head South first? For that matter was the whole enterprise genius/ridiculousness on an epic scale?
Oh, and you’re right this will be a legendary year for TSY.
I’ve rolled through Cain’s a few times. Sid punched a hole in the dressing room wall. They cut it out and framed it in their office. Actually, here‘s a shot of it.
just want to point out that it was never proven sid killed nancy. other than that brilliant
Sid did confess to it, then later recanted. I would never confess to killing someone unless I were really guilty of it, so I have serious doubts about his innocence. He was a violent addict. It didn’t take Sid long to find a new girlfriend either. Ultimately, who really knows.
It is a FACT Sid did not kill Nancy !!
A drug dealer did !
I wish people would STOP writing about history when they do not know the facts !
What is a fact is Sid Vicious had absolutly nothing to do with the murder of Nancy Spungen !
He did not even know anything about it till he was woken up and told she was dead.
That is a fact..
in a great band Sid was nothing other than a total fuckwit, no talent bum . . . . that’s a fact.
The Sex Pistols in Texas: the great “malentendu”, but a really rock punk rallye.
De bons souvenirs, merci.
The Sex Pistols were a totally made-up band not unlike The Monkeys, I think.
What ! ?
He is correct. Created by Malcolm McClaren for the purpose of shocking the populace and making him rich. Sid didn’t even know how to play an instrument. It was all about image.
This isn’t actually true. Malcolm was good at image, and did a very good job promoting his own image as well.
The band existed before Malcolm became involved. They knew how to play (not brilliantly), They wrote their own music and lyrics. They were not a manufactured pop act like the Monkees or 90s boy bands.
Malcolm did great work creating image (as a really good manager should. Do you think the Beatles painted their own album covers or dressed themselves?), and in some ways went above and beyond what a normal manager would do in that area.
Malcolm’s shop provided half of the band’s name, and much of their clothing. He provided lists of words for Johnny that he thought would inspire controversy. Just words, not lyrics. Johnny used some (he mentions in Rotten that “anarchy” was on one of these lists), didn’t use others, and subverted some specifically to fuck with Malcolm.
There’s very little that Malcolm did that any other manager does not do (except the part where after they broke up he spent 20 years claiming it was all him, and refusing to pay the band what they were owed).
What makes it different is that no band has a manager when they’re 17-20 years old and are still learning how to play their instruments. They had a professional clothing designer and really good artists producing stuff for them at a point in their careers where most bands would still be trying to find a place to play.
True, the others could play, but Sid (who replaced Matlock) couldn’t play to save his life…
The others could play ?
No they could not.
Steve was totally illiterate till at least 1984.
Sid was illiterate.
This was what it was…PUNK
Malcolm owned the clothing store they hung out in in London.
This was idea Malcolm came up with and he chose John, Sid, Steve and his best friend Paul.
And yet another brilliant post TSY.
I was living down the street from the place where the Sex Pistols played in San Antonio. I was a young lad tucked away in bed not five blocks from the show that went down in history as the worst Pistols showing ever. Ah if only I had known I would have jumped out the window a sneaked over to see the show. 🙂
Look at their hair, clothes & attitude.
They created the future by totally destroying the past.
Short life* to The Sex Pistols.
*(they probably wanted it that way).
I’m not sure if the article was more interesting or the responses… (Mr. Troy Bennett, sir, if you watch both the Sex Pistols’ Great Rock N Roll Swindle and the Monkees’ HEAD, that being a made up band does not negate a resultant genius… And kdance, I had no idea that it was ever in question as to who killed Nancy Spungeon… Perhaps it was the same person who shot JFK, MLK, Lincoln…lol Just teasing…) TSY…loving you still…
I was a student at UT and went gome to San Antonio to visit my family. When I heard that the Sex Pistols were going to play Randy’s Rodeo I called everyone I knew in Austin and told them to get their asses to SA because they would never see anything like this again. I think there were ten of us who finally wound up there and it was the most surrealistic thing I have ever experienced. Even 32 years later I still feel as if it were an out of body experience or some movie I was in. How we got out of there in one piece is still a mystery to me.
good recollections by photographer bob gruen of this tour in the book please kill me…great post!
Ah, John Lydon in the original Vivienne Westwood ‘Sex’ outfits…so cool.
Of the whole gang (the band, plus Malcom McLaren, and hangers-on), it is Queen Viv who came out on top. She slaved away until she was thin and sallow making the outfits for Malcolm’s band and their funky little shop ‘Sex’ on King’s Row, and got very little credit for creating the ‘look’ of punk. Hot Topic should be paying her royalties, as should everyone else who puts on a studded belt. Now she’s doing very well thank you, and is widely celebrated as a genius of design.
I recommend her autobiography, and the books mentioned in other comments – they all make great reading. And even though the Pistols were created by Malcolm to further his Situationist notions, they are truly one of the most influential bands ever.
Here in the North/ Midwest (Detroit) the Pistols (McClaren?) chose not to make their way to this neck of the woods to perform for us the first time around, although I did get to see them in 1996 when they embarked on their Filthy Lucre tour. I honestly prefer them with Matlock on bass, since Sid really didn’t know how to play the thing. It’s all about the music with me, and the band sounded great in ’96. Johhny Rotten/Lydon and Iggy Pop are two of my favorite people, as showmen we can count on them giving 110 %, which is why I’ll be going to see Public Image Limited here the end of April. Rock on boys.
I rented the place out last year for a motorcycle/scooter rally. Actually tried to get John Lydon on board through George Gimarc, but it was way too expensive for my broke ass. Did get a sex pistols cover band to play and they look and sounded freakishly like the original..
The Nervebreakers opening act and local Dallas talent…..were playing their opening set and Bryce Parker of E.S.R. recording studio, RIP threw that fish up to The Nervebreakers and Barry Kooda, one their guitar players put the fish in his mouth and continued to play. Look for that photo in Rolling Stone magazine.
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Once more J.P an insightful, fresh and evocative overview choc loaded with all that juicy goodness in every fresh flipped Vicious Burger, or was it Rotten, I got to see them at the Filthy Lucre gig in Bris Vegas and they went off for fifty minutes then went back to the hotel, te he he – ‘the swindle continues’ I whispered in the ear of a very vocal and clearly peeved grommet on the way out. The year of the Montreal Olympics and I was at boarding school,I loved watching just the snippets of The Pistols, The Saints, thankfully in larger doses being an Aussie, et al, that made it onto t.v, however I don’t think any of my mates were so affected because I was cast out from the many and – it didn’t matter a squirt of billy goat’s pee !!! Suddenly being a 15 year old/plug-ugly/red headed/only child/service brat with double generation gap parents seemed ok, I didn’t get, or like, the gobbing and so forth, but then I wasn’t cool chillin with Maggie T. in a squat in the arse end of London in ’75 and ’76, daddy was-a schoolin me proper like he never hay-ed, but the music and the absence of pretty people, having never felt in the least good or even average in the looks department, grabbed me by the love marbles and altered the chemistry in my tiny mind. Along with bikes moto and non, cars, Dogtown, cinema, books and, even then, a sort of prickly weirdness that I seemed to be the only one of my friends who thought Scanlan’s gum Ed Roth stickers still looked cool on pedally’s and skaties, but somehow, for the first time, it all gave me the assurance that it was cool to be just who and where I was. I wasn’t sure where or what that was and 34 years down the track I still don’t know too much differently, but wherever it was I just wanted it to be mine and with things and people I like. . . . . now, where’s the beer . . . thinking of Hunter S recalling whoever it was, might have been Janis . . . . one toke over . . . . . P.S – sorry about the blither but the stuff you’re hawking here buddy is pretty powerful kit, love your work, Dog.
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this band did more with one record than the stones did with their whole catalog . i love the sex pistols i was never a big ramones fan there was a political element to the sexpistols that spoke to me . john lydon has to be one of the most sensitive , cerebral and angry frontmans in the history of rock . axl rose and the gunners took alot from the sexpistols.