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, which lives on in a “local server environment” on my my ancient iMac. (As I write this, I’m remembering that one of my two backup drives on that machine has died. Time to transfer the old site with all its writing to my VPS at Brownrice, yikes.)
If you don’t know about the Sex Pistols, I’m not the one to lay it all out. But I can tell you I was a huge 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, since Sid Vicious couldn’t really play bass. It worked, anyway. I may have permanently damaged my hearing that night, but this was the real deal.
And now 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. Naturally, I watched this very carefully, because my wife and I were there…
Alas, we’re not in the video, but at least one person I recognize from Austin is. I was standing ten 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 just two guys away from me, close enough that I had to duck.
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. When it came time to leave, I made sure to take a certain street out of town, but the whole thing was a setup: I’d read in Rolling Stone that the Sex Pistols were on tour in the U.S. and knew full well that they were performing in San Antonio that day at a country-western venue (!) called Randy’s Rodeo. I was dying to see them, but it seemed like an impossible thing to pull off without having tickets in advance, and I didn’t have the nerve to try to add this to our outing. (Idiot.) However, I had looked up the address, and I knew we’d go right past it if I chose a certain route. Oh, I was a devious bastard. As we approached the place, I pointed to the sign and piped up, “Look, this must be where the Sex Pistols are playing! You know, that article I read in Rolling Stone… How about it, wanna go if they still have tickets at the door?” And she agreed. Hoo boy!
I needn’t have been concerned, though. It was our one shot at seeing the Sex Pistols ever, and knowing how much I liked them, she probably would have said yes in advance. There were plenty of tickets, too, which shouldn’t have surprised me if I’d given more thought to where we were. The main thing was, the show was to start at 7:00 p.m., it was already somewhere between 5:00 and 6:00, and we were there. Oh my, oh my.
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, off-duty deputy sheriff moonlighting as security. 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 entire life. And my sweetheart was there to share it with me, even if I’d tricked us into going. We weren’t married then, but that would have sealed the deal for me, right there. I’ve never been the same since. Certainly not my ears, although the tinnitus I have today is probably genetic. But wow. Just wow.
Watching that video brings it all back home. Enjoy.