They might sing about being pretty vacant, but for Andy Mayo and his band, they have been anything but that as they reap the rewards following years of perfecting their tribute to punk’s most iconic band. TOM EARNSHAW reports.
In 1978, English art collective Crass sang that ‘Punk Is Dead’.
Fast-forward 41 years and that could not be any further from the truth for one group of Chorley musicians with a passion for the subculture that made 1977 an historic year for British music, ideology, and fashion.
The four-piece, born and raised in the historic market town, sat down three years ago to dedicate perfecting what they see as the country’s leading Sex Pistols tribute act.
Called Pistol Whipped, the band spent a whole year perfecting the sound in rehearsal before taking to the stage in 2017.
Now, two years after launch, the band has more than 11,000 people following the band on social media from all around the world.
Leader singer ‘Johnny Rotton’, real name Andy Mayo, says: “We’ve got fans from Japan, China, Indonesia. It’s more from around the world than just the UK which is really good for us.
“The idea came about because we were all in cover band The Stories doing punk and ska music. We then had this idea to get into this.
“We’d all been to see the Pistols live. I went to see them at Finsbury Park, Manchester Arena, and in Birmingham.
“We’re really big fans and thought there was a gap in the market for this.
“The first year was spent perfecting the sound. You get a lot of tribute bands and it can just be a guy performing with a backing track and no proper band. We’re about more than that.”
The band are open about their aim, focusing on perfecting the image of the band in the year’s before Glen Matlock left the band.
Matlock was replaced by Sid Vicious after he quit the band in February 1977.
He is credited as a co-author on 10 of the 12 songs from the band’s iconic album Never Mind the B*llocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, released in October later that year.
“We looked into the past and when Glen Matlock played the bass he was a far better player than Sid Vicious,” says Andy.
“He was a stand-in. He looked good and played the persona.
“In the end they became a parody of themselves compared to what they were with Glen.
“Glen was a far better bassist. There was a far better sound.
“Research also showed us that the Pistols also played a lot of covers on stage in that era which fitted in with our knowledge of punk and ska.
“Quote the Sex Pistols name to anyone and they get Sid Vicious [but] he was bass player in the band for just one year.
“Before that time Glen was the bassist for three years and helped to write all the Sex Pistols icon songs.
“Pistol Whipped aim to bring those iconic years on bass guitar back to life.”
In July 2019 the band played the SPIKE’d Punk Festival in Widnes and in February 2020 they will headline the PunkFest 2 at Boulevard venue in Wigan town centre.
The rest of the band are made up of ‘Steve Mones’, ‘Paul Crooke’, and ‘Glen Tatlock’, all comedic takes on the real named musicians behind the iconic punk band.
The men behind the three pseudonyms like to stay out of the limelight – giving their names only as Giz, Andrew, and Finchy.
This forms part of band’s efforts to be an authentic tribute act in sound but also appearance, style, and a general aura.
“You can’t think too much about getting into character,” says 56-year-old Andy.
“If I do I’ll get nervous up on stage when I need to be Johnny.
“I’ve studied how he speaks on stage, how he acts.
“A lot of people think he was mouthing off but if you watch footage he really doesn’t. He was still a professional.”
The band are known within the North West’s tribute scene, which includes Who’s Next (The Who), The Smiths Ltd (The Smiths), and The Complete Clash (The Clash).
And one thing the last two years has taught the foursome is that their audience is featuring a lot of younger faces discovering the iconic British subculture for the first time.
“A lot of people are a lot younger than what you might expect,” said Andy.
“If we can get just one person to pick up a guitar, play the drums, or start singing then we have done well.
“It’s not about making money. You’re lucky if you have enough for a pasty sometimes. We’re playing for free quite often.
“It’s about the passion. The music.”
And for Andy, his lifelong passion for punk is only part of his work to inspire others.
In his day job, the Chorley native spends a lot of his time dedicated to helping those dealing with drugs and alcohol recovery across Lancashire, as well as helping those who are homeless.
“I just do it to help people,” explains Andy.
• To follow Pistol Whipped visit www.facebook.com/PISTOLWHIPPED