Remodeling Culture: How the Sex Pistols defined punk from their first gig

Remodeling Culture: How the Sex Pistols defined punk from their first gig


On this day almost half a century ago, in the common room of St Martin’s School of Art in London, a group of teenagers gathered for the first concert of one of the most famous punk bands.

The band, of course, was the Sex Pistols. From their live debut in 1975 until the band’s dissolution in January 1978, the Sex Pistols left a short-lived but indelible mark on the cultural zeitgeist. Today, their look is still at the heart of any “punk” aesthetic.

Was the entire project an industrial plant? Is the punk aesthetic fully curated? What really happened between guitarist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen?

All of these questions are still at the forefront of any punk fan’s mind when the band’s name is mentioned. However, at that gig at an art school in north London, the seeds of the group’s shifting mythology were not yet fully formed. Vicious – arguably the band’s most famous member – did not join until late 1977.

At the time of the gig, Glen Matlock was still playing bass. He joined the band under the guidance of Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols’ manager. To understand the story of the Sex Pistols, it is important to appreciate the role McLaren played in shaping the band.

McLaren worked alongside Vivienne Westwood In a clothing store in Chelsea. By 1974, the store was named SEX and was known as a hangout for people interested in the emerging punk rock scene. With the help of Bernard Rhodes – who later introduced the members of The Clash to each other – McLaren found a new lead singer for the band, a role with which founding member Steve Jones was not comfortable.

The couple met John Lydon. Lydon was an immediate fit for a manager who was looking for someone to encompass the anarchic spirit and manifestation of societal apathy into punk rock. Renamed Johnny Rotten, Lydon joined Jones, Matlock and Paul Cook on drums.

Before Rotten was found as lead singer, McLaren toyed with ideas of importing New York Dolls frontman Sylvain Sylvain for the project. Despite the somewhat artificial way the band was formed, the Sex Pistols were created from a genuine ambition to create something strongly counter to the popular music of the time.

When the Sex Pistols first appeared on stage, it was in support of the rock ‘n’ roll band Bazooka Joe – whose frontman became rocker Adam Ant. The punk band played a set consisting mostly of covers of bands such as The Monkees and The Who, as well as their single “Seventeen”.

The following year, the Ramones would release their debut album and The Clash would form. But before all that, in a small college room, one of the bands from which rock’s most visually distinctive movement emerged took its first tentative steps.

(tags for translation)punk

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