Watch the Sex Pistols’ Christmas Party for Children–Which Happened to Be Their Final Gig in the UK (1977)

I’m not sure the Sex Pis­tols had “avail­able for children’s par­ties” on their press release, but on a cold and grim Christ­mas in 1977, that’s exact­ly what hap­pened. While many Britons were set­tling in for a warm yule­tide, the Pis­tols decid­ed to host a party/benefit for the chil­dren of strik­ing fire­men and min­ers at a venue called Ivanhoe’s in Hud­der­s­field, UK.

It turned out that this after­noon gig, along with an evening con­cert with full-grown punks in the audi­ence, would be the Pis­tols’ final UK appear­ance. In a few weeks the band would fly to Amer­i­ca for a set of ill-fat­ed gigs and then break up. Soon after that Sid Vicious would be dead.

At the children’s con­cert John Lydon hand­ed out t‑shirts, but­tons, records, and posters. There was a pogo danc­ing com­pe­ti­tion with a skate­board as a prize, dis­co music on the sound sys­tem, and a gigan­tic cake with “Sex Pis­tols” writ­ten on it. (A food fight not only broke out, but was encour­aged.)

Under­stand that by Decem­ber 1977, the Pis­tols were pret­ty much banned from play­ing any­where in Britain, so the announce­ment of this ben­e­fit show was a big deal, and what we would now call “com­mu­ni­ty out­reach” was the oppo­site of the mon­strous image that the British gut­ter press had whipped up against the band.

But Lydon knew they weren’t mon­sters or any threat at all, except towards the estab­lish­ment. And his mem­o­ry of the day is noth­ing but sweet.

Fan­tas­tic. The ulti­mate reward. One of my all-time favourite gigs. Young kids, and we’re doing Bod­ies and they’re burst­ing out with laugh­ter on the ‘f*ck this f*ck that’ verse. The cor­rect response: not the shock hor­ror ‘How dare you?’ Adults bring their own filthy minds into a thing. They don’t quite per­ceive it as a child does. Oh, Johnny’s used a naughty word. ‘Bod­ies’ was from two dif­fer­ent points of view. You’ll find that theme runs through a lot of things I write like ‘Rise’ – “I could be wrong, I could be right”. I’m con­sid­er­ing both sides of the argu­ment, always.

Film direc­tor Julian Tem­ple caught the entire gig on a “big old crap­py U‑matic low-band cam­era” and while clips from the footage have been used in var­i­ous docs before­hand, it was only in 2013 that the entire footage was shown on British tele­vi­sion, along with rem­i­nis­cences from the adults who were chil­dren at the time of the gig.

In the Guardian inter­view with Tem­ple, he looked back at the footage and com­ment­ed on the strange­ness of a UK Christ­mas in 1977:

“In a way, the Pis­tols seem the only thing that’s con­nect­ed with today. Every­thing else seems halfway into the Vic­to­ri­an peri­od, where­as the Pis­tols seem very mod­ern and aware of what’s going to hap­pen. Hope­ful­ly, there’s res­o­nance in the fuel bills and fire­men’s strikes of today. Even though it’s a dif­fer­ent plan­et, peo­ple face the same prob­lems.
“The sound with just one cam­era is raw and sear­ing. I hope kids watch­ing it today will go: ‘Fuck me, bands like that just don’t exist.’ ”

via The Guardian/Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

John Lydon & Pub­lic Image Ltd. Sow Chaos on Amer­i­can Band­stand: The Show’s Best and Worst Moment (1980)

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 Sex Pis­tols Play in Dal­las’ Long­horn Ball­room; Next Show Is Mer­le Hag­gard (1978)

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

The Sex Pis­tols’ 1976 Man­ches­ter “Gig That Changed the World,” and the Day the Punk Era Began

The Sex Pis­tols Make a Scan­dalous Appear­ance on the Bill Grundy Show & Intro­duce Punk Rock to the Star­tled Mass­es (1976)

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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