Introduction: Early this morning a Twitter friend happened to mention the Sex Pistols. Whenever anyone does this, no matter where I am, I have to tell the story of how my wife and I actually saw them. It almost didn’t happen, either. The above video is from the show. What follows is a slightly edited 2010 blog post from my old FarrFeed site.
I was a major fan of their one and only album. The main takeaway from seeing them play one of their very last gigs was how good the sound was. Not that you can tell from the video, of course. Guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook carried the band. I may have permanently damaged my hearing that night too, but this was the real deal.
From the vault:
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Oh wow. Gotta love YouTube!
On a whim, I just searched for a video of the Sex Pistols’ show at Randy’s Rodeo in San Antonio, Texas on January 9, 1978, and I found one! This blows me away because my wife and I were there.
We’re not in the video, but at least one person I recognize from Austin is. I was standing 10 feet in front of Sid Vicious with broken glass crunching under my shoes, loving every second of it. So loud, the loudest music I’d ever heard until that time. If you watch clear to the end, you can see Sid taking off his bass guitar and hitting someone with it.
So how did this come about?
We were visiting my sister in Austin over the between-semester break (my wife was teaching at Washington College in Chestertown, MD). To have a little time to ourselves, we’d gone to San Antonio for the day. I knew the Sex Pistols were on tour and playing at Randy’s Rodeo, a country-western dance hall, but hadn’t even brought it up because I thought for sure the venue would be sold out. When it came time to drive back to Austin, I took a road that went right past. Tempting fate and all. It’s a little complicated, but the upshot was we saw the sign, I said let’s go, and she agreed. The whole thing lasted hours.
The Sex Pistols had chosen a raunchy cowboy venue just to piss off the regular patrons, which worked like a charm. They also didn’t come on until almost midnight, five full hours after we’d walked in and had our ticket stubs stapled to our collars by an armed guard. There were at least four opening acts, all local, loud, and very bad. From what I read afterwards, the local bands were chosen because they were bad. By around 11:30 p.m., the mood had turned decidedly ugly, and the mixed crowd of rednecks, Latinos, and Austin hippies was ready to crack heads.
Finally, the Sex Pistols took the stage. Before they’d even played a note, the air was full of flying pizza slices, beer bottles, and spittle. Johnny Rotten began by making fun of the “cowboy faggots,” which cranked the tension up even more. Obviously relishing the chaos, the Pistols then launched into a bone-crushing rendition of “God Save the Queen” that transported me to another realm of pure rock and roll joy. It was also the loudest thing I’d ever heard in my life. (Three days later, my ears were still ringing.)
The bare concrete floor was wet with spilled beer and vomit. Tossed beer bottles littered the joint with broken glass. The Pistols were outstanding. The noise was beyond pain. All in all, it was one of the most outrageous, dangerous, wonderful experiences of my life.
Watching that video brings it all back home. Enjoy.