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VIDEO: Rare footage of secret Penzance Sex Pistols gig

By LeeTrewhela  |  Posted: September 18, 2012

Sex Pistols

Sex Pistols in Penzance

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IT’S been hidden for 35 years but now film director Julien Temple has released stunning footage of the Sex Pistols’ infamous concert at Penzance’s Winter Gardens on September 1, 1977.

Following a series of banned gigs across the UK, the punk originators were forced to make a number of surprise appearances across the land as SPOTS (Sex Pistols On Tour ... Secretly) and no one was more surprised than the people of Penzance when the country’s most incendiary band travelled to the town.

They had played the previous night in Plymouth (promoted as The Hamsters) and found themselves the following day in Penzance. Winter Gardens founder John Adams could have billed them as SPOTS, but chose to only include a question mark in the poster, billing them as “A Mystery Band of International Repute”.

Rumours flew around the town that it could be a warm-up slot by a new supergroup or even the Rolling Stones. John refused to divulge who was playing, telling the locals to pay your money and take your chance.

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The gig has gone down as a thing of legend among Cornish music fans and now those of us who were either too young, unaware or simply didn’t realise the gig’s significance at the time can witness three and a half glorious minutes.

The video sees the band performing Holidays In The Sun, the month before it was released as the fourth single from the band’s classic debut album, Never Mind The Bollocks.

Snippets have previously been shown in Pistols’ films The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle and Filth And The Fury, but in the new video edit, director Julien Temple cuts the live performance with footage from the band’s earlier trip to Berlin, which is referenced in the song’s lyrics.

The original footage was devoid of sound, so Temple has incorporated the studio version of the track.

It shows Johnny Rotten in wonderful, sneering form, Sid Vicious in typical obnoxious mode, “gobbing” at the camera and Steve Jones throwing rock star shapes on the guitar.

There are also great shots of the crowd – there are bound to be some ageing punks in Penzance who recognise themselves.

Temple, who went on to make The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle and Absolute Beginners, said: “The performance was shot using one camera and shows the extraordinary captivating quality of the band at the time. There was shock in the room, it was hypnotising, contagious, and unfolded right in front of you.

“The Pistols arrived in Penzance unannounced and the audience couldn’t believe what they were getting.”

Among the other songs played at the gig were No Fun, Steppin’ Stone, Pretty Vacant, God Save The Queen and Anarchy In The UK (twice).

One of those present, Roland Woods, told What’s On: “Good times. I was 15 and saw them and The Ramones the same year at the Wints.”

On a web page dedicated to the venue, Nico Maeckelberghe says: “At the time I was at Sussex Uni but was spending the summer in London. Word had got out earlier in the week that the Pistols might be playing Wints in Penzance which was my hometown. I took a risk and hotfooted it back.

“Queued two hours in pouring rain, my mate Kevin had seen Johnny earlier so we knew it was them. There used to be a phone box outside Wints and I went to use it to tell friends it was definitely the Pistols. Imagine my surprise when there was a knock on the door, Sid wanted to use the phone! No mobiles in those days ...”

The Cornishman reported at the time: “The Sex Pistols appeared on stage at 10.30pm to abuse, harangue and blast a capacity audience with some full-tilt punk rock.

“Johnny Rotten shouted: ‘Is there anyone here from Penzance?’ and a huge cry of ‘Yes!’ came from the audience. It was difficult to believe that the area had so many punk followers.”

It is alleged that rock history was made on the band’s visit to Penzance, when Rotten (John Lydon as he would revert) and his friend John Wardle (who would become Jah Wobble) came up with the idea of Public Image Ltd while strolling the town’s streets late at night.

The Winter Gardens also played host to punk era concerts by The Stranglers, Talking Heads and the debut show by Elvis Costello And The Attractions. Other decidedly unpunk bands who played the venue in the 1970s included Queen, Genesis, Yes and Fleetwood Mac.

The previously unseen Holidays In The Sun performance is featured on a new deluxe boxset of Never Mind The Bollocks, which is being released to celebrate the album’s 35th anniversary. The boxset, which includes music, videos, interviews, pictures and replica memorabilia, is scheduled for release on September 24.

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