I recently did an online survey “Which 70’s punk band should you be in?” It turns out that I should be in the Sex Pistols. Hmm…they did lose one bass player to murder/suicide, but they brought the original one back for their reunion. So I don’t think there will be any auditions anytime soon.
I missed the Pistols at Winterland (I was too young to go, but I did see Public Image Ltd live on their first U.S. tour in 1980 at the South of Market Cultural Center. The first band on the bill was Toiling Midgets. The curtain goes up, and on stage playing bass I recognize “that guy who goes to University High School and rides the 24 Divisadero bus” I had never talked to him on our mutual bus route (I was too shy). I was shocked to see a fellow high school student playing in a band in front of a big crowd…opening for Johnny Rotten. It gave me faith that my secret fantasy (to be in a band) could someday come true.
Flipper also played that show and were the best worst band I’d ever seen, albeit completely inspiring . They sounded terrible, reinforcing the punk rock concept that anyone could start a band. But there was, and still is, only one Flipper.
In the book Gimme Something Better, Jello Biafra says this show was “his favorite show of all time. I commend Johnny Rotten for refusing to play for Bill Graham. Which meant it was a poorly run Paul Rat show which was way oversold.” (check out more on http://www.gimmesomethingbetter.com) It was my first, of many more to come, poorly run Paul Rat shows.
I also met my first boyfriend while waiting in line to get in. We’re in the above picture, in front of the people with the white shirts on. Oh, yeah, PiL was pretty good too.
I saw PiL again a couple of years later at the Galleria Gift Center. The stage was in the middle of an open rotunda, so you could take the elevator upstairs and look down upon the band. Some idiots had gone up a few flights and were leaning over the rail and pouring beer on the musicians. John Lydon (he’d gone back to Lydon at this point as he was in a legal dispute with McClaren over the name Johnny Rotten) was obviously annoyed (his hair was spiky green if I remember right) and people were handing him their hats to wear for protection. He would take the hat, flip it over, look at the label, and then shake his head and give the hat back to the person. I was wearing a hat that had belonged to my grandfather. While I was happy for the beer protection, I thought John needed it more than me, so I handed it to him. He flipped it over and looked at the label. He smiled at me and put the hat on. For the rest of the show he wore the hat. I had another one of my grandpa’s hats at home, so I was willing to lose this one. But, at the end of the show, John Lydon walked over, tipped the hat and handed it back to me. I still have the hat and the label reads Lock and Co. Hatters, London. I lost my grandpa’s other hat, so I’m so glad that I still have this one. Of course the real value comes from it belonging to my grandpa, but it’s nice to think that it protected Johnny too.
The next time I saw PiL was in 1984 at Fort Mason Center, Pier 2. It was jammed packed, and people were pushing to get to the stage and moshing, which didn’t really fit at a PiL show. I was proudly wearing my creepers. You can probably get creepers at Target now, but back then they were a sought after, expensive commodity. You could only get them in England, so people would give money to friends who were travelling overseas to bring some back. I was lucky in that my boyfriend’s sister worked at one of the first shops to import creepers from Doc Marten in London, and she got me a pair wholesale. Well in the crush of the crowd, one of my creepers came off and I couldn’t find it. I spent the rest of the show with one shoe, dismayed. At the end of the gig, I stared scouting around for my shoe, and when I got close to the stage a punk rock chick was waving my shoe yelling “WHO LOST THEIR CREEPER?? SOMEONE IS GONNA BE REALLY BUMMED THAT THEY LOST THEIR CREEPER!!!” I hopped up to her and showed my shoe-less foot, and she handed me my shoe. “I knew you’d be looking, ” she said, “no one would leave without it.” I thanked her. She knew how hard it was for me to get those shoes; it was like I had fallen down in the pit, and she picked me back up.
According to a website that lists all of PiL’s shows, they evidenly played the Stone, the Warfield and the Civic Auditorium in the years after this, but I must have been busy touring and eschewing large concerts to attend any.
I finally saw the Sex Pistols at the Warfield in 2003. My brother bought me a ticket ( I was over my fear of larger shows, but too still cheap to buy tickets to them). My expectations were low, but to be honest, I was blown away by Lydon. He was a pure entertainer, cleverly manipulating me and the crowd into having a great time.
I did go see PiL again in 2010 at the Regency. Gone are my high fashion days of hats and creepers. My friend Paul and I stood in the back in comfortable shoes, and I have to say that John Lydon/Rotten still delivers.