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Perhaps the Most Important Gig Ever
August 28, 2013 1:32 PM   Subscribe

On Jun 4, 1976, between 40 and 100 people gathered to see the Sex Pistols perform at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester, a gig that has been called "the greatest gig of all time." It was attended by members of Joy Division, New Order, the Fall, the Smiths, A Certain Ratio, Ludus, Simply Red, Buzzcocks, Magazine, the producer Martin Hannett, and voted one of the most important concerts of all time, alongside Woodstock and Live Aid. A documentary about that night is called "I Swear I Was There." (SLYT)
posted by 4ster (60 comments total) 71 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh my god, I had NO IDEA there was a documentary about this. Thanks!
posted by scody at 1:38 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


This gig is recreated in "24 Hour Party People" and it's my favorite scene in the film. I was there, too! (At least from the comfort of my couch and HD television)
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:38 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, but SIMPLY RED????
posted by nevercalm at 1:41 PM on August 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


You will never, ever, ever know Simply Red.
posted by box at 1:47 PM on August 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


The fact that it wasn't packed to the brim is proof that, unfortunately, time travel is not possible.
posted by ckape at 1:48 PM on August 28, 2013 [18 favorites]


"Simply Red, standing by."
posted by Chrysostom at 1:54 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can't wait to see this. Thanks for posting.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:05 PM on August 28, 2013


Holy cow, I had no idea all those things had happened at the Free Trade Hall. And the Peterloo massacre as well! This hall was a fixture of my childhood. I went to countless shows there, sang there several times, and even danced there. I was seven, and played a cat.
posted by Dreadnought at 2:06 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I used to play a cat, but I couldn't keep up with the practise and these days I don't take it out of its case.
posted by Grangousier at 2:08 PM on August 28, 2013 [21 favorites]


It's also where Dylan was called Judas for going electric. Nice looking building too.
posted by Flashman at 2:10 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


You will never, ever, ever know Simply Red.

Oh God, if only.
posted by jontyjago at 2:27 PM on August 28, 2013


I was there too, regardless of if I was -5.
posted by alex_skazat at 2:31 PM on August 28, 2013


Well, I meant to be there, but I was only in sixth grade, and my mom wouldn't let me have the car. She's so unreasonable.
posted by heyho at 2:35 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, I will definitely not swear I was there, Manchester being a bit of a drive from Indianapolis. But, in '76, even in our little white-trash east side of Indy, some of us had inexplicably heard of the Sex Pistols. How, I have no earthly idea (Never Mind the Bollocks wouldn't be released for another year), but there was this deep, deep underground buzz, even though no one had yet heard their music. It was a great time to be finishing high school, and about to head-off to college.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:46 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Simply Red Frantic Elevators
posted by vverse23 at 2:49 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I stop whatever I'm doing to watch anything about the Sex Pistols.
posted by jsavimbi at 2:51 PM on August 28, 2013


"Howard Trafford" and "Pete McNeish" -- nice captioning!
posted by neroli at 2:53 PM on August 28, 2013


I was just reading about this in Peter Hook's new Joy Division book.
posted by cropshy at 3:02 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify: that's future members of all those bands who attended. The impact of the Pistols' gig was to make them go out and form bands of their own for the first time.
posted by Paul Slade at 3:15 PM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


But, in '76, even in our little white-trash east side of Indy, some of us had inexplicably heard of the Sex Pistols.

Same in my neck of the woods. I remember where I first heard of the Sex Pistols; it was around 1976 or so. Back in those days (yore) if a record album didn't have the lyrics printed on the inner sleeve, you had to buy one of those magazines... I can't recall titles, but there were several on the market, and they were dedicated to pretty much just song/album lyrics, and there'd be a few articles about music tossed in. There was one such article WARNING me about the Sex Pistols, in HUGE FONT, so I was instantly hooked. It'd be several years before I got my hands on an album, but it was definitely worth the wait.

That's also where I first saw Iggy Pop in a photograph, on stage, doing what he did best. I totally remember the caption... Iggy Pop: Cock Rock!
I was scandalized, so I bought Raw Power the first chance I got, which was a couple years later, but again... definitely worth the wait.

posted by heyho at 3:52 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I saw them at Erics in October 76. There can't have been more than 100 people in the audience that night either.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:16 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


4ster: thank you for this. As a kid in Cincinnati who, along with my friends in the late 1970s, became huge fans of the early Manchester bands (meaning we were much cooler than the other kids at school, and getting laid a lot less than the other kids at school ;) I've always heard about the Free Trade Hall concert. Watching the documentary let me relive those years. Best line from the video: "The Sex Pistols are, if possible, even better than the lovely Joni Mitchell." Indeed.
posted by codex99 at 4:29 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I cannot tell a lie: On June 4, 1976, I had turned 10 about three weeks prior, and was contemplating a long summer ahead of bike riding, ice cream truck triangulating, and chasing my brother in the woods near our house in Mount Laurel, N.J.

[pauses to reflect]

Christ, what I would give to have been a few years older, or just tuned in even just a little to rock music.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:52 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I LOVED this! Way more than it probably deserves in a sense. I mean:

- Nothing from John Lydon at all
- Live footage from Slaughter and the Dogs gets more airtime than the Pistols !!??!??!

But, the absence of Lydon allows everyone else room and that's actually a good thing. And Howard Devoto is freaking lovely. And MARK E SMITH is in it!!

Thanks for posting. And yeah, every single time I hear 'Anarchy in the UK' the hairs on the back on my neck stand up.
posted by maupuia at 5:19 PM on August 28, 2013


If Sid Vicious had thrown his bass into the crowd and killed Mick Hucknall, it would have been the greatest gig of all time.
posted by w0mbat at 5:33 PM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's a lovely image, but Sid Vicious wasn't in the Sex Pistols at that point. It was still Glenn Matlock, who would be kicked out for not being punk enough.
posted by Flashman at 5:42 PM on August 28, 2013


I saw them at Erics in October 76. There can't have been more than 100 people in the audience that night either.

Presumably including Julian Cope, Ian McCullough, Pete Burns, etc...
posted by snofoam at 6:19 PM on August 28, 2013


On June 4th 1976, Bernard along with his girlfriend Sue Barlow, Peter Hook, Terry Mason, former school friend John Berry and a man known only as 'Crazy Mike' went to see the Sex Pistols at the Lesser free Trade hall in Manchester. The gig had been organised by budding musicians Howard Trafford and Pete McNeish. The pair had hoped to support the Pistols with their band Buzzcocks, but weren't ready in time. Bolton prog rockers Solstice took their place instead.
posted by unliteral at 6:42 PM on August 28, 2013


Check out this - Print the Truth, Not the Legend: Sex Pistols: Lesser Free Trade Hall. 4 June 1976.
The attendees with reasonable corroboration are: Pete Shelley, Howard Devoto and Steve Diggleof the proto-Buzzcocks; Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook (later of Joy Division/New Order); Paul Morley (later an author, music journalist and cultural commentator); Morrissey (later of The Smiths); Sex Pistols and their entourage (including Malcolm McLaren and Jordan); the support band Solstice. Several others attended (somewhere between 30-100) including Eddie Garrity (later of Ed Banger & the Nosebleeds), Ian Moss (later of the Frantic Elevators with Mick Hucknall - who wasn’t there (Stokes 2003, p.16)) and Jon the Postman, a committed and omnipresent figure on the punk and post-punk scene in Manchester…

…Mark E. Smith and the fledgling Fall in all likelihood attended the second gig, as did Mick Hucknall (later Simply Red).
It also has research findings on a mystery Sex Pistols gig at Didsbury College, Manchester on 1st October 1976.
posted by unliteral at 7:14 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


The fact that it wasn't packed to the brim is proof that, unfortunately, time travel is not possible.

Not even close.

/winks at personal time-traveling nano-drone camera cloud swarm hovering against the ceiling
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:23 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


/winks at personal time-traveling nano-drone camera cloud swarm hovering against the ceiling

I remember you saying the same thing next week.
posted by 4ster at 7:25 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Did you ever get the feeling that you've been cheated?
posted by Renoroc at 7:28 PM on August 28, 2013


[39:07] It was about fucking time that somebody fucking winded up that fucking bunch of fucking (garble).
posted by Slothrup at 7:55 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I loved it when he's like "Bakunin would've loved it" :)

It's so weird to see this which is all like relatively tame and to realize just how radically world-shattering it was.
posted by symbioid at 8:34 PM on August 28, 2013


Renoroc: "Did you ever get the feeling that you've been cheated?"

Swindled, more like.
posted by symbioid at 8:38 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Uff da, I'm old but I was still in short pants for this one.
posted by Sphinx at 8:54 PM on August 28, 2013


Is this the part in the thread where somebody mentions that Malcolm McLaren's prior experience managing the New York Dolls and seeing early Television gigs, specifically with Richard Hell still on bass and, more importantly, ripped shirt, was basically the genesis of the Sex Pistols? I'm not trying to pull any kind of rank here, my initiation to punk had a lot to do with whatever Dead Kennedys CDs one could cop from Best Buy, I just think any discussion of one of the landmarks of rock and roll iconoclasm is shockingly incomplete without its own chorus of nay-sayers.
posted by Rustmouth Snakedrill at 8:59 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm definitely in the camp of "the-sex-pistols-are-further-proof-that-everything-cool-in-the-UK-was-done-previously-and-better-in-the-US" (think about it, it's true) but I love this story. This exchange by itself nearly redeems the band:

"You don't look very sexy!"

"Why, do you want some sex?"

Watching their first appearance on British TV, I really do understand why they were felt by a certain generation to be earth-shattering. Then I go watch the first Dead Kennedys shows and realize Johnny Rotten was a hack.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:22 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this the part in the thread where somebody mentions that Malcolm McLaren's prior experience managing the New York Dolls and seeing early Television gigs, specifically with Richard Hell still on bass and, more importantly, ripped shirt, was basically the genesis of the Sex Pistols?

This is all true, but I also don't know that (generally speaking) it's even much in question, is it? I've always gotten the impression that everyone involved with the Pistols, the Clash, et al. have always been quite open about their debt to the New York scene. I think it was in the End of the Century documentary where Joe Strummer was being interviewed about seeing the Ramones on their first UK tour in 1977, and how virtually every punk band in London was in awe of them because everyone had been listening to them religiously for a couple of years.
posted by scody at 9:58 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Presumably including Julian Cope, Ian McCullough, Pete Burns, etc...

I can remember Pete Burns being there, but I'm pretty sure the likes of McCulloch, Wiley, Cope, etc. weren't. Wiley and McCulloch didn't really show up until the club opened proper the following year, and even then, they were both at school. Audience were mostly hippies.

I'd always thought it was before they appeared on So It Goes -- and before Anarchy was released as a single, but that video proves me wrong. The thing that prompted me to go see them was -- just like Shelley and Devoto, the reviews in the NME, and specifically, the NME review of their gig at the Screen on Islington Green where Shane McGowan got his ear bitten off.

Weird things I remember about that night? It was Erics very first ever night -- they took over another club for the night, and although the door they used was on the opposite side of Matthew Street to the Cavern, they were actually using an emergency exit as the front door and the front door of the club proper was in Victoria Street.

No support act played before the Pistols, so they just came on cold, did their half hour or forty minutes, and then stopped -- opening and closing their set with Anarchy.

The Pistols played in a smaller, downstairs room, and then after they'd finished, they moved the whole audience upstairs to a bigger room where a local art rock band called Albert Dock who went on to become Yachts played. The only thing I really remember about them was that one of the members was a guy called Henry Priestman who went on to become one of The Christians.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:52 PM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh, the reason I remember Pete Burns being there was because at that time, he used to sweep the floors in a City Centre hairdressers -- I think called Cut Above The Rest -- where Jayne Casey was the receptionist. Even pre-punk, they were probably the two most stylish people in town.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:59 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Probably time to drop my New York Dolls story here too.

When I was a street urchin, I was part of this little crew that used to religiously sneak into every concert in the city. We were such a nuisance that rather than devote all of his time to chasing us, Roger Eagle gave me and my friends a gig at The Stadium, helping the roadies lug in the gear from the vans to the stage, so between about 1971 and 73, we got to see everyone who played there.

One night, the line up was Nazareth, The New York Dolls and Lou Reed.

Nazareth -- an unremarkable rock band -- played first. The Dolls were due to follow, but Reed insisted that he wouldn't go on stage if the Dolls played, so they stuck a crappy battery operated portable cassette player on a stool, and played a cassette tape of the Dolls through the PA while the band went off and got pissed somewhere.

At some point in the evening, it was discovered that Nazareth's van had been broken into and some of their gear was stolen. The New York Dolls got the blame. But I can reveal today that it wasn't them that did it.

;-)
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:09 PM on August 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm definitely in the camp of "the-sex-pistols-are-further-proof-that-everything-cool-in-the-UK-was-done-previously-and-better-in-the-US" (think about it, it's true)

More like, everything cool in the UK was done before in the US, but never recognised as such until somebody in the UK refined it first (Bowie and Iggy Pop, Ramones and Sex Pistols, all R&B and the Stones, etc). America has always had trouble with seeing what's right in front of its nose unless dady England validates it for y'all.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:37 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, Manchester, so much to answer for.

SOMEONE had to!
posted by Mezentian at 11:52 PM on August 28, 2013


But I can reveal today that it wasn't them that did it.

And I can reveal I am the lead singer of Nazarath!

Well, no. But I am vaguely aware of said band since their recorded seemed to have taken up permanent home in the second hand record bins of my youth. And are probably still there, lonely, and wanting to be loved. Or even just remembered...
posted by Mezentian at 12:01 AM on August 29, 2013


I'm flogging this dead horse with a whip I fashioned from Ian Curtis' cigarette butts and tears.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:56 AM on August 29, 2013


Oh, Nazareth isn't completely unknown, though does stand out a bit in a line up with the New York Dolls and Lou Reed.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:58 AM on August 29, 2013


Before Simply Red, Mick Hucknall was in The Frantic Elevators. Before they sounded like this they sounded like this - so the influence of The Pistols is not as tenuous as you might imagine. But something very un-punk sure happened.
posted by rongorongo at 2:19 AM on August 29, 2013


But something very un-punk sure happened.

I always assumed he made sweet, sweet love to Sade while some smooth Yacht Rock sounds were playing.
posted by Mezentian at 2:54 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always assumed he made sweet, sweet love to Sade while some smooth Yacht Rock sounds were playing.
See also I Am The Man - which is from a John Peel session for god's sake. Sade would have had him keel hauled.
posted by rongorongo at 4:28 AM on August 29, 2013


I love the fact that is wedged between Simply Red and Discharge.
Someday, some teenager is going to be so confused.
posted by Mezentian at 5:01 AM on August 29, 2013


“Here lies the bloke, the only bloke in Harpurhey
Who wasn’t at the Lesser Free Trade Hall”

posted by whuppy at 7:12 AM on August 29, 2013


"At some point in the evening, it was discovered that Nazareth's van had been broken into and some of their gear was stolen. The New York Dolls got the blame. But I can reveal today that it wasn't them that did it."

It was at this moment that, unbidden, the opening bars of 'Hair of the Dog' popped into my head.
posted by box at 7:42 AM on August 29, 2013


And I can reveal I am the lead singer of Nazarath!

IOU one very nice pair of green, knee length, stack-heeled leather boots.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:06 AM on August 29, 2013


From 2004 here are Steve Jones and Siouxsie Sioux asking David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain what it was really like having Malcolm as a manager. Soundcloud

This thread has been good to get me to go back to listen to some old interviews. The Buzzcocks and Steve talking about their Free Trade hall gigs etc
posted by stuartmm at 1:19 PM on August 29, 2013


Me? I was mostly oblivious. There but not there.
posted by unliteral at 3:16 PM on August 29, 2013


Finally got a chance to watch the whole thing, and I'm very glad I did. Great documentary. Except... before I watched this, I had no feelings one way or the other about Slaughter and the Dogs. Now I hate them with a passion.
posted by languagehat at 5:48 PM on August 29, 2013


I watched the documetary and thought about it for a day. 24 hours wondering why I didn't catch punk fever back then.

Music wasn't so bad where I was in 1976.

Peter Frampton could play the bejezus out of that guitar. Bob Marley. Holy crap I saw Frank Zappa and Jean Luc Ponti that year.

I knew a lot of rock was fake and posers. But punk didn't seem to have musicians. So I didn't buy into punk right off. But it still got into me eventually. Iggy Pop and Liz Phair, for examples. She's got punk sound. post-punk. Like the Cars and the Police.

Funny how punk came along but disco won the next 4 or 5 years. Disgusting. The Stones, Rod Stewart, BeeGees, even Zevon doing disco. Thanks disco, for 3 piece suits, greed is good, don't do drugs, and Reagan.

Nice try, Punk. But you couldn't stop the machine.
posted by surplus at 6:11 PM on August 29, 2013


Great post. Thanks, 4ster.
posted by homunculus at 8:54 PM on August 29, 2013


Then I go watch the first Dead Kennedys shows and realize Johnny Rotten was a hack.

Related post.
posted by homunculus at 9:06 PM on August 29, 2013


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