Sex Pistols still shocking 45 years after being banned from Preston

Punk band the Sex Pistols are still causing a stir 45 years after they first rocked and shocked the world of music.

By Brian Ellis
Friday, 22nd January 2021, 11:38 am
The Sex Pistols on stage in Amsterdam three weeks after Preston banned them.
The Sex Pistols on stage in Amsterdam three weeks after Preston banned them.

An original poster for a Preston gig in 1976 is expected to sell for up to £3,500 next week - even though the show never happened.

The council-owned Charter Theatre pulled the plug on the Pistols just days before they were due on stage following a foul-mouthed rant on live TV.

Preston was one of 17 towns and cities to cancel appearances by the band on their infamous Anarchy in the UK Tour.

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The Preston poster which could fetch up to £3,500 (courtesy of Omega Auctions).

But instead of wrecking the band's image, the ban had the opposite effect, catapulting the Sex Pistols to fame and notoriety - one of the seminal moments in music history.

"It was one of the most famous concert tours ever," said Dan Hampson, auction manager at Omega in Newton-le-Willows where the poster will be one of the lots in a music and memorabilia sale next Tuesday.

"Only a small number of the concerts actually took place, the rest were called off.

"This poster is rare and valuable. It's condition is fantastic, it has been kept so well.

The tour dates which were changed numerous times as councils pulled the plug.

"There has been tons of interest in it. We've put an estimate of between £2,500 and £3,500 and already, with a week still to go to the sale, the bidding has reached £2,400.

"To be fair it isn't even one of the rarest Sex Pistols posters we've had - there was one which made £18,000 for a Manchester gig which did go ahead at the Free Trade Hall.

"But because this is from the famous 'Anarchy' tour it is attracting a lot of attention. We expect there's going to be plenty of bidding on the day."

John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten), Paul Cook, Glen Matlock and Steve Jones launched the tour on Friday December 3, 1976, just a couple of days after they had appeared on the Today programme in London hosted by Bill Grundy.

The Pistols tearing up an EMI poster after splitting with their record company in the wake of the disastrous tour.

They Pistols fired off a volley of four-letter words which shocked the nation, coming as it did at 6pm when children were watching.

Their first gig was meant to be at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, but vice-chancellor Dr Frank Thistlethwaite stepped in and barred the band "on the grounds of protecting the safety and security of persons and property."

In the backlash that followed a total of 17 gigs were called off and only seven - three of the original venues and four re-arranged performances - went ahead.

One of the original dates was December 10 at Lancaster University, but when that was abandoned, the gig was switched to Preston's Charter Theatre, only to be called off too by the town council.

Entertainments officer Vin Sumner said at the time: "In view of what has happened there is no way I am accepting this booking.”

Also on the tour were The Damned, American band Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers and a special guest appearance from a new band on the scene called The Clash.

The rare poster shows how "fluid" the tour itinerary was with Preston already included instead of the original venue Lancaster. And the promoters even got the name of the Charter Theatre wrong - calling it the Charlton Theatre.

An article in the LEP on the day after the TV outburst was headlined: "Banned! 'Filth' row Punk group."

The story read: "Sex Pistols, the country's most outrageous and depraved pop group, have been banned from appearances in Blackburn and Lancaster next week. And now Preston is about to be scrubbed as a venue on their first UK tour."

And the article went on to describe their appearance on TV the previous evening as having "the filthiest language ever heard on television."

The band had performed in Lancashire in August that year at the Lodestar in Ribchester - they were billed as an "outrageous London punk rock group" and were paid just £60.

Four months later, when they wanted to return to the area, the venue's promoter Andy Grimshaw said the Pistols could not find anywhere to take them in the whole of Blackburn. "They just didn't want them," he said.

In Liverpool, where the band were scheduled to appear after Preston, a councillor announced she would picket a club where the Sex Pistols planned to perform, in defiance of their ban in the city, calling their music "rubbish" and declaring: "We don't want them here."

Methodist trustees of a hall in Rochdale threatened to take out a court injunction to prevent them from playing there.

Despite the condemnation, the band did manage to find some towns and cities to play to their fans. The tour finally got underway at Leeds Polytechnic, there were two concerts at Manchester's Electric Circus and gigs in Caerphilly, Cleethorpes and two in Plymouth.

In Caerphilly a group of carol-singing protesters staged a demonstration outside the venue, the Castle Cinema.

But with 17 dates called off the Pistols spent more time in hotel rooms feeling bored than they did on stage.

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