'Anarchy' by the seaside - Remembering one of the Sex Pistols final UK shows in Cromer, 40 years on
PUBLISHED: 09:42 21 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:50 21 December 2017
They swept onto the world music stage in a hurricane of bad language, studded leather jackets, rebellion and royal disrespect.
The Sex Pistols lived in the moment and set out to shock, attacking conformity and encapsulating the pent-up rage of a new generation.
The punk rockers led by Johnny Rotten become household names after swearing their heads off on Bill Grundy’s Today programme in 1976 - reputedly the first ever to do so on television.
And when the Sex Pistols played their second last gig ever at Cromer’s The Links they were at the height of their fame, having released the album Never Mind the Bollocks with its much-remembered anthems including Anarchy in the UK.
Among the crowd of around 500 young punk rockers and members of the constabulary who were present was Pete Strike, who went to the gig in a hired minivan along with a “ragamuffin bunch of misfits, non-conformists, music lovers and thrill seekers.”
Mr Strike, who lives in Poringland, described the gig as a “life-changing experience.”
He said: “I have seen a thousand bands and groups since that Christmas Eve as a 17 year old but very few if any have ever left me with such a profound memory and impact on my life.”
Mr Strike recalled the audience was “not your average seaside crowd” as they arrived to see the punk icons.
He said: “The punters slowly began to file into the paint-peeling hall, dressed in ripped clothes, pins and badges, torn shirts daubed with slogans tight trousers, fishnet stockings and spiked-up hairdos - and the occasional Vivienne Westwood designs from Malcolm McLaren’s shop on the King’s Road.
“Sid Vicious was walking amongst the crowd revelling in his notoriety and living up to his threatening persona.”
Mr Strike said the band started their set with God Save the Queen: “a thundering call to arms to the nation’s disillusioned youth”.
He said: “The crowd loved it. Some were in awe while others danced, with pogoing and spitting being the order of the day.
“The band had stopped briefly during the show only to swig beer from cans, and to throw some cans grenade-like at the audience which went down a storm.
“This gave Sid (Vicious) an opportunity to cut his already heavily scarred bare chest with a broken bottle whilst strutting around the stage half grinning and half snarling menacingly at the people below.”
Mr Strike said the Sex Pistols finished their set after the 60 minutes granted them by the promoters and the council.
He said: “Contrary to fears and expectations the gig had passed without trouble and incident.
“As the punters drifted away and melted into the cold December night we knew that we had witnessed something special.
“There was no bar, there was no support band, there were no fancy backdrops, no light shows, no screens and no smoke and mirrors.
“This was back to basics - a real spit-and-sawdust affair.
“But none of that mattered at all - this was no pilgrimage for the faint-hearted, we were here to see the Sex Pistols in all their glory and they didn’t disappoint.”
The Royal Links had been a popular dance hall in the 1960s and 1970s, hosting the likes of The Who, The Sweet, David Bowie and Thin Lizzy.
By the time the Sex Pistols arrived it had not witnessed a live event for nearly two years, and never would again.
Mr Strike said it was: “a dilapidated, crumbling, rotting corpse of a space dragged back to life for one night only to play host to the final nail in its coffin - The Sex Pistols. It was to burn down to the ground in the April of the following year with never another act to follow.”
Tribute band The Sex Pistols Experience is planning to bring a bit of ‘anarchy’ back to Cromer on December 23 with an anniversary concert, at Cromer Social Club.
Punk explosion was short-lived
Another face in the crowd at the Sex Pistol’s penultimate gig was Steven Ashley, who had also seen the famous punk rockers at a far more low-key show at the West Runton Pavilion the year before.
Mr Ashley, who was 20 at the time, said he had got into the Sex Pistols after following David Bowie, The Velvet Underground and The Stooges.
He remembered the gig at The Links: “It’s a bit of blur now really. It was a fun evening - absolutely packed and quite loud.
“By that time Glen Matlock, the original bass player, had left, and Sid Vicious had joined the band.”
Mr Ashley added: “The British punk explosion didn’t last that long - but the whole excitement of it was that it was so immediate.
“By 1979-1980 it had changed into something else and most bands went off in different directions.
“Punk was reinventing itself all the time. Although the influence carried on, something of the spirit of that time had gone.”