Take a tour of legendary punk locations across London with Steve Jones in this excerpt from his autiobiography, Lonely Boy
On 26th November 1976, the Sex Pistols’ released their debut single - considered by many to be Britain’s first punk song - Anarchy in the UK. A year later the single would feature on their debut album, Never Mind the Bollocks, but not before the Sex Pistols shot from underground musicians, to international fame. Between the single and album release, the Sex Pistols were dropped by two record companies, replaced their bass guitarist with Sid Vicious, and hit the front page of national newspapers after swearing live on a TV talk show. That year threw them into the stratosphere of pop culture and cemented them as a landmark punk band. And you thought 2016 was busy.
The Sex Pistols were an unashamedly British punk band, with references and lyrics tied to political and social issues of the UK. London in particular was home to an explosion of punk musicians in the 1970s, from The Clash to The Buzzcocks, these were musicians changing the British music scene.
With Sex Pistols’ guitarist Steve Jones autobiography, Lonely Boy, published to coincide with the anniversary, we’re going to take you on a tour of some of the key punk locations around the Capital. So Never Mind The Bollocks, here’s…
The 100 Club
100 Oxford Street, Fitzrovia
The 100 Club is a music venue that has been in existence for our 70 years, and in the 1970s it became inextricably linked with punk rock. Nearly every major UK punk band of the 70s played in the venue, and in 1976 they hosted the first Interantional Punk Festival, with performances from the likes of the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Buzzcocks, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Here's Steve Jones on the infamous Punk Festival:
“Anyway, back to the punk festival at the 100 Club. All the insiders who’d been hanging around for a while were starting to get their own bands together by then. As well as The Clash, there was the Subway Sect, who’d seen us at the Marquee the time Rotten heard himself for the first time, and an early version of Siouxsie and the Banshees where Siouxsie and Steve played with Sid (on the drums – best place for him) and Marco, who ended up in Adam and the Ants. Of course, they were no good, in fact they were awful – none of them could play a note – but that didn’t seem to matter much back then.”
St. Martin's College
Granary Square, Kings Cross
In 1975 the Sex Pistols performed their first gig in a small room of the London art college. They were young, unpolished, and they exploded onto the scene.
“The gig was only in a small room and once that amp was cranked up it was so fucking loud it was like having a jumbo jet landing in your living room. I was so nervous that I had a couple of pints and a Mandrax beforehand to calm me down. The Mandy came on during ‘Did You No Wrong’ and I remember looking at John and leaning on him for a second as we were playing. He kind of pushed me away a little bit and at that moment I was thinking, ‘This, right now, is the best thing in the world.’ He was the singer and I loved playing in the band with him and the whole thing felt fucking great. Sadly, that feeling wouldn’t return too many times, but at least I’d always have the memory.”
36 Causton Street
Originally a converted rubber factory/garage building (and now a church), it played host to The Clash in 1979 when they wrote and recorded their landmark album London Calling. The building is no longer there, although the location is now next door to one of the Penguin random House UK offices.
“I liked The Clash once they got going. And The Damned, Buzzcocks – even The Stranglers, though they never really got accepted because they were older. It was great to have some decent new bands around for a change. We were the tip of the spearhead, but they weren’t far behind, and I never looked down on them for starting after us. After all, there was fuck all else going on, so I never blamed anyone for gravitating towards their version of what we were doing.”
24 Oxford Street, Fitzrovia
What began as a small record shop on Oxford Street grew into a world famous record label, and it was punk that helped it get there. The record label side of the business launched in 1973 with Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells to huge critical acclaim, however they became the home of many punk bands in the late 70s after Richard Branson was the only one willing to sign the Sex Pistols after their infamous TV appearance.
“[Richard Branson] was the only one out of all the label bosses we dealt with who you could actually talk to. All the others were just blokes in suits you never saw, who would probably cross the street to avoid you if your paths crossed outside the office. Even though Branson was a public school toff, he was definitely approachable. We went on his boat up by Maida Vale and he didn’t seem to mind us taking the piss out of the way he looked by calling him Catweazle. Fair play to him on signing us as well, because a lot of the other fuddy-duddy labels wouldn’t touch us with a shitty stick by then, and if it hadn’t have been for Branson, Never Mind the Bollocks . . . might never have found a home.”
6 Denmark Street
Denmark Street in London’s Soho was the ‘Tin Pan Alley’ of Britain, housing multiple music publishers offices. And number 6 was, infamously, a rehearsal space used by the Sex Pistols. Now a musical instrument store (along with much of Denmark Street), it’s now a Grade II listed building, preserving it as an important part of Punk history.
“Luckily – probably in the nick of time, looking back on it – Glen saw an advert which this guy who used to tour – manage for Badfinger had put in the paper for a rehearsal space to rent at 6–7 Denmark Street. It was right in the heart of the old Tin Pan Alley, where all the guitar shops were. Malcolm promised him a load of money, which he may or may not have finally given him. I hope he did, because he was a really nice old guy.”
Notre Dame Hall
Now the home of a Leicester Square theatre, in March 1977 Notre Dame Hall played host to the Sex Pistols first performance with their new bassist: Sid Vicious. Things would never be the same after he joined the band.
“At first he did at least attempt to fit in on the musical side. He tried hard at the rehearsals and for his first few gigs he started out with his bass held up really high so he could actually play it, not down by his knees where it ended up in America. Unfortunately, that horrible bird came along with the heroin, and from then on all he was interested in was getting high. It wasn’t totally her fault either – no one was twisting Sid’s arm to make him put a spike in it, not even Nancy.”
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Foreword by Chrissie Hynde
Without the Sex Pistols there would be no Punk. And without Steve Jones there would be no Sex Pistols. It was Steve who formed Kutie Jones and his Sex Pistols, the band that eventually went on to become the Sex Pistols, with his schoolmate Paul Cook and who was its original leader. As the world celebrates the 40th anniversary of Punk – the influence and cultural significance of which is felt in music, fashion and the visual arts to this day – Steve tells his story for the very first time.
Steve’s modern Dickensian tale begins in the streets of Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush, West London, where as a lonely, neglected boy living off his wits and petty thievery he is given purpose by the glam art rock of David Bowie and Roxy Music and becomes one of the first generation of ragamuffin punks taken under the wings of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. For the very first time Steve describes the sadness of never having known his dad, the neglect and abuse he suffered at the hands of his step father, and how his interest in music and fashion saved him from a potential life of crime spent in remand centres and prison. From the Kings Road of the early seventies, through the years of the Sex Pistols, Punk Rock and the recording of Never Mind the Bollocks (ranked number 41 in Rolling Stone magazine’s Best Albums of All Time), to his self-imposed exile in New York and Los Angeles where he battled with alcohol, heroin and sex addiction – caught in a cycle of rehab and relapse – Lonely Boy, written with music journalist and author Ben Thompson, is the story of an unlikely guitar hero who, with the Sex Pistols, changed history.