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35 Years Ago: Sex Pistols Play Final Show

Virgin Records/SexPistols.com

It’s hard to imagine now, but back in 1978, O.G. punk rockers the Sex Pistols were public enemies in both the States and their native United Kingdom.

In a sense, the public’s revulsion made sense, since the quartet — frontman Johnny Rotten, guitarist Steve Jones, bassist Sid Vicious and drummer Paul Cook — specialized in antagonism. Their songs were both musically and lyrically aggressive (see the riot-fomenting ‘Anarchy In the U.K.’ and blasphemous-toward-royalty ‘God Save the Queen’), and so were the band’s antics, whether it was dropping profanities on live television or heckling fans from the stage.

Naturally, when the Sex Pistols came to America for the first time, things didn’t go well. The January 1978 trek was marred by discord, thanks to bassist Sid Vicious’ growing drug problem and audiences who weren’t exactly fond of the band’s music.

Things came to a head on January 14, 1978, in San Francisco. In front of a sold-out crowd of 5,000 people, the band played after the Nuns and the Avengers. Although the music was allegedly top-notch, according to Wolfgang’s Vault liner notes about the show, fans were spitting at the band and pelting the stage with thrown objects. In addition, there were sound problems.

As the concert progressed, things got worse, says Wolfgang’s Vault:

Asking if the audience is ready for more of this “racket,” they plow on into the blatant honesty of “Liar,” followed by their homage to self-absorption, “No Feelings.”

The stage monitors go out completely at this point and while the tech crew scrambles to fix things, Vicious aims a kick at someone pressed against the stage that was annoying him, Steve Jones hurls a gob back at the audience who have been spitting on him throughout the set, and Rotten sneeringly informs the audience that “The next song is about you—its called “Problems.”

Although he has been stuffing anything of value into his pockets throughout the set, he also requests the audience toss up some cameras, complaining that what has landed on stage so far isn’t good enough.

The show eventually ended with a cover of the Stooges’ ‘No Fun,’ which featured Rotten darkly muttering the chorus like a cranky grandfather for most of the song.

But six-and-a-half minutes in, Rotten, sitting down and staring blankly at the audience as the music staggered to a stop around him, laughed brattily and said, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? Good night.” With a sneer and a mic drop, he left the stage, closing the chapter of the original band.

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