Watch the Sex Pistols’ Very Last Concert (San Francisco, 1978)

Many things have hap­pened on the inter­net this week, among them some get off my lawn out­rage at a $375 Urban Out­fit­ters leather jack­et designed to repli­cate the home­made swag every punk rock kid once draped over their shoul­ders. Then there’s the Justin Bieber/Black Flag mash-up t‑shirt that “ruined punk for­ev­er.” I may have spent some for­ma­tive years immersed in ersatz punk and hard­core cul­ture, but no mat­ter how old and cranky I may be com­pared to the tar­get mar­ket of this mer­chan­dise, I just can’t bring myself to get both­ered. No one has said it bet­ter than Dave Berman: “punk rock died when the first kid said / ‘punk’s not dead, punk’s not dead.’”

The stri­dent desire of some to cling to a punk rock ethos can be amus­ing since the move­men­t’s most famous fig­ure­heads, the Sex Pis­tols, crashed and burned a lit­tle over three years after form­ing and one year after intro­duc­ing their mas­cot, Sid Vicious. The band’s cre­ative destruc­tion often seems like the most viable expres­sion of punk. It burns itself out on its own ener­gy. Every­thing else you can say about it is just more Mal­colm McLaren mar­ket­ing.

Or, put dif­fer­ent­ly, maybe the only dis­cus­sion worth hav­ing about punk rock is archival. It came, it went, get over it—but oh, what a glo­ri­ous comet trail left by the likes of John­ny Rot­ten! And we have evi­dence of the tail end on film. Above, you can see the Pis­tols very last per­for­mance at San Francisco’s Win­ter­land Ball­room in Jan­u­ary of 1978.

The film opens with text excus­ing some qual­i­ty con­trol issues: “The footage con­tained in this video is rare archive mate­r­i­al and irre­place­able. The pub­lish­ers feel that the qual­i­ty of the con­tent… far out­weighs any minor… short­com­ings of sound and vision.” Then we’re off to the races, intro­duced by a pair of announc­ers, male and female, like an Olympic event. Despite the dis­claimer, this is decent film and audio, and def­i­nite­ly “qual­i­ty con­tent.” Bril­liant, in fact (Sid actu­al­ly plays!), and an excel­lent argu­ment for why this band need­ed no future. A YouTube com­menter help­ful­ly breaks down the video into the track­list below. Great stuff.

01:45 — God Save The Queen , 05:56 — I Wan­na Be Me , 10:04 — Sev­en­teen , 12:27 — New York , 15:54 — EMI , 19:38 — Belsen Was Gas , 21:50 — Bod­ies , 25:50 — Hol­i­days In The Sun , 31:17 — Liar , 35:40 — No Feel­ings , 38:55 — Prob­lems , 43:26 — Pret­ty Vacant, 46:57 — Anar­chy In The UK , 52:43 — No Fun

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Sex Pis­tols Front­man John­ny Rot­ten Weighs In On Lady Gaga, Paul McCart­ney, Madon­na & Katy Per­ry

John­ny Rotten’s Cor­dial Let­ter to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Next to the Sex Pis­tols, You’re ‘a Piss Stain’

Mal­colm McLaren: The Quest for Authen­tic Cre­ativ­i­ty

The His­to­ry of Punk Rock

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Krokodyle says:


  • Jacques Rigaut says:

    Down in the dark and down in the cryptnnDown in the dark where the type­writer fitnnDown with your pen and pad ready to kill to make me illnnDown wan­na be some­one wan­na be some­o­nen­n­Make it as some­one you wan­na be me ruin men­nA type­writer God a black and white king

  • Mr. Beer N. Hockey says:

    Bril­liant show. Reminds me of how sad I was a few days lat­er when I learned the ini­tial punk rock wave reached shore far from my home. Any chance the cam­eras were rolling when the Avengers played ear­li­er that night?

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