Pistols At Dawn – Malcolm McLaren, Sex Pistols & Hastings Pier 3rd July 1976 by Barry Taylor

Copy of the handbill for Budgie/Sex Pistols gig that Barry handed out around the town to create interest.

PISTOLS AT DAWN – Malcom McLaren, Sex Pistols and Hastings Pier  by Barry Taylor

Malcolm McLaren was the visionary who invented ‘Punk Rock’ to the shock and delight of 70’s Britain. He emerged from an art college background. During this time he became fascinated by the ‘Situationists’ , a group of French artists and intellectuals and went on to apply their ideas to his own career. At Goldsmith College he met up with Vivienne Westwood, they open a boutique in Kings Road, Chelsea which eventually became ‘Sex’ and a flagship for the punk moment.

At this point Mclaren began to ‘assemble’ the Sex Pistols. John Lydon, for example, auditioned in the boutique, by singing along to ‘Schools Out’ on the jukebox. Then, he was joined by messrs Jones, Cook and Matlock and this was the line up which graced Hastings Pier ballroom in July 1976.

I had booked the ballroom for a series of concerts, having kicked off with 50p admission, featuring up and coming groups supported by local talent but this was not a great success. One of the best performances was by ‘The Stranglers’ as a support act! Casting around for a support for heavy rockers ‘Budgie’, I noticed the winds of change heralding the arrival of punk rock from the direction of London.

I managed to somehow contact Malcom Mclaren at his HQ and duly booked the Pistols for a modest sum. Prior to the concert, I was asked to arrange a PA system for them, as they didn’t possess one! I will never forget the shock waves when Mclaren and his motley musicians arrived at the pier on July 3rd. Compared to us hippies, they were a bunch of aliens, with their spiky hair and clothes held together with saftey pins but they were nevertheless, quite friendly. I am not sure what the Budgie fans made of the Pistols shambolic, yet exciting set. It was an incongruous pairing of bands, to put it mildly.

I remember there was an unpleasant scene after the gig. John Lydon was not impressed with the P.A, provided by a local musician and expressed his displeasure. I appreciated Glen Matlock’s intervention as peacemaker, as a fracas loomed but there was an intimidating aura surrounding the Sex Pistols at the time.

I tried to rebook them but Mclaren did not return my calls! The famous Bill Grundy TV interview was December 1976 so fame and notoriety was beginning to whisk the Pistols away. McLarens maverick style of management owed something to Andrew Oldhams guidance of the Rolling Stones and he proceeded to sweep all before him. Malcom negotiated a lucrative recording deal with EMI, who didn’t realise what the Sex Pistols were about! After releasing ‘Anarchy In The UK’ he engineered the sacking of the band from EMI but kept the advance and promtly switched them to A&M. That didn’t last and they ended up with a more sympathetic label in Richard Bransons ‘Virgin Records’. All of this, 3 record contracts, in a very short space of time and plenty of money!

By 1977, cracks were appearing within the Pistols and Glen Matlock was replaced by Sid Vicious, generally acknowledged as a mistake by Mclaren. By early 1978 it was over but he left his mark on rock management and influenced others who came later with a similar disregard for civilised behavior at the time!  Like Alan McGee who steered Oasis to success in the 90’s.

Malcolm reinvented himself as an artist and had a hit with ‘Buffalo Girls’ .. but will always be remembered for the Sex Pistols.

Barry Taylor

Morten Of Norway…I attended the Pistols/Budgie gig. I was 15 year old language school student, from Norway, visiting England for the first time. I knew Budgie, but had, of course, never heard about Sex Pistols. Been addicted to punk rock ever since!

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