The Sex Pistols at a Church Hall, London, March 1977
A multicolour mob rainsoaked, restless, devouring a West End sidestreet. In conflict. Whether to storm the church hall doors (CHURCH HALL DOORS!) or bide their time.
The doors open. The red flashing light reflection from a night club opposite is replaced by a spiky topped head. A hush. A four hundred fold cheer.
Fifty people fall out looking for all the world like survivors from the raid on Entebbe. Some are greeted by friends. The doors close . . .
A church hall hijacker? A rabid father (it was Catholic) holding his flock to rood ransom? The devil himself? Even, no surely not that, not The Great Boy Scout Massacre?
Mid-afternoon. A smoky pub. A cloistered whisper. “The bleep bleep Church Hall. Tonight. It’s the bleep bleeps.
The bleep bleep, wow. “But get there early. There’s a war on.” Bleeps on the horizon at 7:30 sir. Ready, aim.
The cab pulls up outside which is sandwiched between two clubs, at 6:30. Already a small queue of suspenders, plastic macs, green hair oh, and Danny.
How’d you know it was Danny? He was spitting blood onto a wall and writing his name in it silly.
The hall is new with shimmering plastic stars on the walls and cardboard angels dancing from the ceiling in flocks. Fifty chairs in neat rows a few feet back from the stage. Silence.
And on walk The Sex Pistols
Straight into ‘God save The Queen’ the doomed single in solitary confinement.
Johnny Rotten (that’s the mark two version with the black tail) sonic booming in over Steve Jones crashing guitar “Naaaoooo phuuuuuuucher for yuuu, naaaoooo phuuuucher far meee!”
Rumour has it there are 20,000 copies of the single abandoned and weeping in some A&M ossuary.
A word by way of explanation. NBC, that glorious American TV company have a crew in this country filming the earthquake roars on London’s current rock scene. They’ve already canned The Damned and Eddie & the Hot Rods.
But they also wanted The Sex Pistols. Barrier – the band are banned nearly everywhere. It ain’t looking too bright. Enter – one saviour in a dog collar.
A roman catholic priest who wishes to remain anonymous agreed to let the company and the Pistols use the hall. Conditions: only 50 people in on a first come first served basis and the whole operation not lasting longer than a cuppla hours.
Meanwhile, back at the gig it’s ‘I Wanna Be Me’ time. Rotten in torn red T-shirt and black trousers, a malevolent marionette, no strings attached.
The seated audience, overcome by the, well, strangeness of it all, remain seated. “It’s not worth it,” says Rotten at the end of the number. “Why bother?” Then into ‘I’m A Lazy Sod,
‘On my face,
Not a trace
Sid Vicious who replaced bassist Glen Matlock just before the ill fated A&M signing is uncharacteristically quiet. Concentrating on getting the notes dead right. Tugging along.
He breaks the silence at the end of ‘Lazy Sod’. And swears at them to get up.
“This is really very funny,” chimes in a venomous Rotten. “In one year nothing has changed.”
A girl jumps to the front. “C’mon everyone. Get up.” And around 20 oblige, leaping, kicking, bouncing off each other’s sweat-soaked bodies.
After each number a guy walks on stage, cracks a clapperboard in front of a camera and walks off. Steve Jones makes it a split level leap about. Looking more cocksure than ever, grappling with elusive identity in his plain white shirt and winning. His guitar scorching, breaking into solid shore sound provided by Paul Cook’s drumming on 20 foot breakers.
‘Pretty Vacant’ and stranger on the shore Vicious blending like a Kenwood.
Then the killer, ‘E.M.I.’ The words are pretty difficult to decipher. I made out the tongue in cheek cuplet:
And ‘Unlimited supply’ referring to money and freedom. It flashes with the ironic ‘Hullo E.M.I.’ Goodbye A&M’
Rotten: “Maybe it was a good thing, us being banned from this country. It seems like it anyway.”
“This is from our next LP,” says Vicious and ‘Problems’ follows.
For a band who hadn’t played in public for some months and with the added burdon of a brand new bassist the Pistols acquit themselves admirably. A kick in every note. The arrogance by the indecent exposure they’ve had to contend with.
‘Problems’ segues into ‘No Feelings’. Pause and the anthem ‘Anarchy In The UK’ which is an anti-climax. There is little heart in the song and Rotten cuts it short. Exit.
Forty minutes, eleven songs. For Chrissake somebody see some sense out there sign them up. You won’t regret it.
Outside the natives grow restless. when the 50 file out some guys in the crowd start hurling abuse, and garbage. But it’s all too late. It’s only the early birds that catch the worms.
Record Mirror, 26/03/77