The Real Power of Pop

I have written a few times on the importance of British punk, especially the Sex Pistols. Their last show at the Manchester Free Trade Hall is supposed to be the most important gig ever – with members of many future bands claiming to be present, several times as many as attended. But there was a softer, humane side of these misbehaving young men. This is from Bob Stanley’s Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. The History of Modern Pop:

“Ask 40 punk rocker how they define punk and you’ll get 40 different answers, and they’ll all be right. The Sex Pistols, though really did stand for something. Here’s what it was.

On what turned out to be their final British tour, in December 1977, there were just 4 shows, with 4 more cancelled due to illness or political pressure. The last one was at Ivanhoe’s in Huddersfield. Before the evening show, the Pistols played a matinee for 500 kids under 14. Their parents were striking firemen who, already in the middle of a recession, could expect a Dickensian Christmas.

The Sex Pistols turned the club into a grotto, filling the space with sweets and copies of their LP, Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols – kids of 10 were running about in ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ T-shirts. There were tables of fruit – pomegranates and oranges; there was a talent competition, which was won by a girl reading a Pam Ayres poem. The children were handed skateboards, the single most desirable 1977 Christmas present. Craig Mallinson was a teenager, the son of a striking fireman, and he told the BBC, ‘They came on and sang “Holidays in the Sun”. Sid Vicious spat at the kids and Johnny had to tell him that we weren’t proper fans – we were just little kids! Johnny Rotten just loved it. He seemed really happy. He put his head in the cake at the end. He licked his fingers, passed it around, then put his head in and got it all in his hair.’

Footage of the Huddersfield gig will make you laugh out loud. It may not have been on the scale of Live Aid, but its ethics were unquestionable, and it has had a positive lasting impact on the community: Huddersfield Town football fans still sing ‘I wanna be HTFC’ to the tune of ‘Anarchy in the UK’. On a wall of the building where Ivanhoe’s used to be, graffiti reads, ‘Anarchy in the KU’. Never mind the spelling – people in Huddersfield remember Christmas Day 1977. As a showing of solidarity, a small act of charity, outsiders playing for outsiders, and the very real power of pop, the thought of it can just about break my heart.”

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