Aquella noche de Sex Pistols en Manchester

4 de junio de 1976, muchos juran haber estado ahí, pero los que realmente estuvieron saben que los otros mienten, sólo 50 personas vieron ese concierto de Sex Pistols en Manchester, el primero de tres que realizaron.

Mucho se habla de esa fecha, tanto como aquella primera presentación de Ramones de la que salieron grupos como The Clash y Sex Pistols, se le da tanta importancia que incluso existe un libro dedicado a ese único concierto, I Swear I Was There: The Gig That Changed The World. El resultado de esa presentación de los Pistols en el Lesser Free Trade Hall es conocido, de ahí salieron con otra perspectiva quienes después formaron Joy Division, The Fall y The Smiths.

Posiblemente Tony Wilson aclara un poco el punto en su libro sobre Factory Records, pero hasta leer Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division de Peter Hook descubres las razones o al menos una de las 50 diferentes perspectivas de ese concierto.

A continuación, un fragmento de ese capítulo donde Hook habla de aquella noche que impulsó a muchos a formar bandas, crear fanzines e incluso sus propios sellos discográficos:

So that was it anyway, the group of us who went and saw the Sex Pistols at Lesser Free Trade Hall. A night that turned out to be the most important of my life – or one of them at least – but that started out just like any other: me and Terry making the trip in Terry’s car; Barney and Sue arriving on his motorbike; the four of us meeting up then ambling along to the ticket office.

There to greet us was Malcolm McLaren, dressed head to toe in black leather – leather jacket, leather trousers and leather boots – with a shock of bright-orange hair, a manic grin and the air of a circus ringmaster, though there was hardly anyone else around. We were like, Wow. He looked so wild, from another planet even. The four of us were in our normal gear: flared jeans, penny collars and velvet jackets with big lapels, all of that. Look at the photographs of the gig and you can see that everybody in the audience was dressed the same way, like a Top of the Pops audience. There were no punks yet. So Malcolm – he looked like an alien to us. Thinking about it, he must have been the first punk I ever saw in the flesh...

Still, though, nothing out of the ordinary. Normal band, normal night, few people watching, clap-clap, very good, off they went.

The Sex Pistols’ gear was set up and then, without further ceremony, they came on: Johnny Rotten, Glen Matlock, Steve Jones and Paul Cook. Steve Jones was wearing a boiler suit and the rest of them looked like they’d just vandalized an Oxfam shop. Rotten had on this torn-open yellow sweater and he glared out into the audience like he wanted to kill each and every one of us, one at a time, before the band struck up into something that might have been ‘Did You No Wrong’ but you couldn’t tell because it was so loud and dirty and distorted.

I remember feeling as though I’d been sitting in a darkened room all of my life – comfortable and warm and safe and quiet – then all of a sudden someone had kicked the door in, and it had burst open to let in an intense bright light and this even more intense noise, showing me another world, another life, a way out. I was immediately no longer comfortable and safe, but that didn’t matter because it felt great. I felt alive. It was the weirdest sensation. It wasn’t just me feeling it, either – we were all like that. We just stood there, stock still, watching the Pistols...

I was thinking two things. Two things that I suppose you’d have to say came together to create my future – my whole life from then on.

The first was: I could do that.

Because, fucking hell, what a racket. I mean, they were just dreadful; well, the sound was dreadful. Now the other band didn’t sound that bad. They sounded normal. But it was almost as though the Pistols’ sound guy had deliberately made them sound awful, or they had terrible equipment on purpose, because it was all feeding back, fuzzed-up, just a complete din. A wall of noise. I didn’t recognize a tune, not a note, and considering they were playing so many cover versions – the Monkees, the Who – I surely would have recognized something had it not sounded so shit.

So, in fact, sound-wise it was as much the sound guy who inspired us all as it was the Sex Pistols, who were, as much as I hate to say it, a pretty standard rock band musically. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing that they played straightforward down-the-line rock ‘n’ roll, but it didn’t make them special.

No. What made them special, without a shadow of a doubt, was Johnny Rotten. The tunes were only a part of the package – and probably the least important part of it, if I’m honest. Close your eyes and like I say you had a conventional pub-rock band with a soundman who either didn’t have a clue or was being very clever indeed. But who was going to close their eyes when he, Johnny Rotten, was standing there? Sneering and snarling at you, looking at you like he hated you, hated being there, hated everyone.

What he embodied was the attitude of the Pistols, the attitude of punk. Through him they expressed what we wanted to express, which was complete nihilism. You know the way you feel when you’re a teenager, all that confusion about the future that turns to arrogance and then rebellion, like, ‘Fuck off, we don’t fucking care, we’re shit, we don’t care’? He had all of that and more.


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