Recently, I’ve heard different people speculating about the Sex Pistols last concert at Winterland in January, 1978. Mostly from people who weren’t at the show. Speculating about whether it was boring or if the Pistols sucked or if the whole thing had been over-rated.
Myself, I loved every minute of the show. It was one of those rare times when you knew you were taking part in history while it was happening. Plus, in my opinion, the Sex Pistols were way UNDER-rated, then and now, as rock musicians. The songs on “Never Mind the Bollocks” are almost all tightly written, with built-in hooks and exciting sonic textures. To hear some people talk, you’d think it had just been a bunch of yobs screaming and bashing about.
One thing that might surprise some people. In my memory, I only remember maybe about 5% of the audience actually looking like “punk rockers.” And they were mostly in the front rows, screaming and spitting and pogo-dancing and throwing shit at the stage. But most of the rest of the crowd looked like any other Winterland rock concert crowd of the ’70s. If you hadn’t of known better, it could’ve been a Huey Lewis & the News concert. In fact the San Francisco punk scene was pretty small at the time. I’d guess maybe a couple hundred people and only a hand full of bands (though that would all start to change rapidly after the Sex Pistols show). The Mabuhay — one of the few punk venues at the time — was a surprisingly small club.
One of my oddest memories of the show: In between bands I was hanging out in the lobby, looking at this big Grateful Dead trivia posters that was hanging in the hallway. One of those “How many Dead song titles can you spot from the pictures?” kind of deals. Anyways, this guy passes by me — he had long hair and a beard just like me at the time. And he says, with sort of an expression of bafflement and exasperation (like “What is this world coming to?!!” kind of tone):
“What the hell are two Deadheads like us doing at a Sex Pistol show?”
Ha ha. Good question. Ahh, memories. . .