Pistols 96

                SEX PISTOLS  1996


In 1993, for the first time in over 10 years, Steve & Paul were re-united on record. The duo provided the backing for Patti Palladin on the track "Leave Me Alone" which opens the Johnny Thunders tribute album "I Only Wrote This Song For You" (Essential Records). They had performed the same duties on the same song for Thunders himself on his "So Alone" album 15 years previously.

The feeling of deja vu was set to continue.

Following their studio reunion, July '94 saw Steve & Paul performing on stage together for a one-off gig at the Viper Room, L.A., as... The Professionals!  Assisted by 2 of Steve's friends, the pair ripped through a set of Professionals' standards.

Then, on 18th March 1996 came the announcement the Sex Pistols were to terrorize the world once more.............

 The FILTHY LUCRE 20th anniversary tour

    23rd  JUNE 1996


             A personal account by Philjens

Steve Finsbury ParkThe story began March 18, 1996. After months, nay years, of speculation, the announcement was made. That lovable group of no good low lifes, equally vilified & celebrated, were back, the Sex Pistols. Yes, they were older, fatter, skint. Yes, Society's Protectorate were not amused, & yes, even some rock 'n' roll purists were offended, ("it won't be the same as in 1977"). Whatever, the Press were full of it. They made "News At Ten". The Sex Pistols are still news. Still sell. Bottom line. Like it or not.

Finsbury Park, London, 23rd June 1996. The homecoming. The Filthy Lucre Tour had begun. In just one performance, the band would be seen by more people than in their entire previous career, 30,000 fans. The size of the concert had drawn predictable criticism when announced, "Does this mean you're a stadium band?" asked one. "Finsbury Park is not a stadium. It's a field." mocked John Rotten.

Twenty years had passed since the group exploded onto an unsuspecting, lethargic, flares wearing public. 1976. The year of the long hot summer, of the drought, the water bans, the sunburn. Strange that today should be so reminiscent, as if recreating those hot, sticky, gasping conditions. The time travelling experience did not end with the weather. Punks everywhere. Young, old, babies with mohicans. Punks at the train station, lining the streets, falling out of bars, blocking the traffic. Punks making their way to their place of worship, to behold the second coming. So strange, so at odds with what the group had stood for. But today was not a day to theorize, it was a day to savour. To be there.

Mid-day & the gates were open. It was a festival, make no mistake. Stalls lined the park, selling burgers, beer, tie-dye shirts(!), drug paraphernalia. Have your body pierced, do a bungey jump. My God! Is this Woodstock '96? Mustn't theorize, just saviour. Buy the £5 programme (& find Sid Vicious written out of the history of the group). Great nonetheless.

Check out the T-Shirts. Major disappointment. Standard "God Save The Queen", "Never Mind..." designs. Expected something more, ah well. Time to sit on the grass, soak up the sun, & check out the supporting cast.

Eight bands had the arduous task of keeping us entertained for the afternoon. 3 Colours Red, Fluffy, Stiff Little Fingers, 60FT Dolls, Buzzcocks, Skunk Anansie, The Wildhearts, & finally the Godfather of punk himself, Iggy Pop.

Late afternoon. The open spaces were receding, people already jostling for position for the evening mass. The anticipation was mounting, an undercurrent of tension almost tangible. The sun which had baked us so mercilessly was bidding farewell, the cooling down process enhanced by the increasingly inebriated crowd throwing half-empty (thankfully plastic) glasses at, well, anything/body. Punk rockers have seemingly come of age. Spitting is out, drink tossing is in.

An inspirational, yet nostalgic performance by Iggy had filled me with hope. If an old croc could still cut it, the Pistols, well, maybe, just maybe....

The atmosphere changed again. Unreal, surreal, almost dreamlike. As the band's equipment was set up, an amplifier was moved into position, the words "Sex Pistols" stenciled across it. I shivered. It's happening.

The stage disappeared behind a huge paper curtain, a collage of tabloid headlines circa the "Bill Grundy Incident". The crowd became restless & anxious, a mixture of nervous excitement & disbelief.

The PA then pumped out a 70's pop song, then another,& another. Abba, Bay City Rollers, you name it. Unrest dissolved into laughter as punks-a-plenty joined in a communal sing-song. Ah, I thought. Brilliant! It's a reminder of how awful the music scene was pre-Pistols. A recreation of the conditions that resulted in the Pistols coming into being. Was I alone in thinking this? I looked around. Punk Rockers were singing "Dancing Queen". Today wasn't a day to theorize, it was a day to savour. To be there.  

England football stars, Stuart Pearce & Gareth Southgate appeared on stage. "Who said there were no more heroes?" mumbled Pearce, "Ladies & Gentlemen....the Sex Pistols."

The group burst through the paper curtain to rapturous applause."Are you ready?" enquired Johnny. We had to be. The group launched into a terrifying "Bodies". A whole damn field went crazy. 30,000 people spanning more than 2 generations, punks, straights, hell!- a mobile phone could be seen held aloft!- all singing, all committing a breach of the peace on a massive scale. The crowd surged, people fell, they ran, they tried to run, they danced, they surged again. Hang on, ride with it & hope you come out the other side.

One song in & a great sense of relief could be felt. They were good, very good. My god, they're still vital. Johnny Rotten sensed this too. "Any journalists out there?" he taunted, proud of his band's opening salvo. Steve Jones simply asked the audience to give journalists "A good hiding". Keep it basic Steve.

Paul CookThey looked the part as well. Johnny Rotten, determined not to disappoint, had a new hair-do on show. Easy to copy. Shave sides, dye green, spike a la Bart Simpson. A check suit completed the ensemble. Steve Jones, guitar, L.A. rock ligger, bleached hair & leopardskin lame trousers. Paul Cook, reliable, steady behind his Union Jack drum kit. Glen Matlock, bass, appearing not to have aged during the 19 intervening years between his Pistols duties, casual in jeans & T-shirt.

Two songs in & the crowd were actually enjoying the show. "Fat, 40 & back" John was in self-mocking mode. It was cabaret. The fun continued, "You fat bastard" we sang in honor of Mr. Rotten's girth. "Don't be naughty" sparred our hero. Hero? Yes, don't deny it. People were smiling, happy, at a Sex Pistols concert. Don't look for explanations, juxtapositions. Don't theorize me! Enjoy! We've waited close on 2 decades for this moment. Right or wrong, right now, we just don't care.

Sure there were no surprises. Note perfect renditions came & went. The adrenalin which had all but exploded from the crowd at the start had left us drained. "You seem a bit tired" said John, almost expressing concern. The feeling of danger had disappeared as well. The pogoing was replaced by bopping on the spot, but hey, most of us are not teenagers anymore.

The songs kept coming, "Pretty Vacant" sounding even more powerful than on record, its sing-a-long-a-bility causing a second adrenalin rush. "They only did it 'cos of shame" spat Johnny as "EMI" closed the set. The crowd caught their collective breath. No time to relax, we wanted more! We demanded more!

"How can we resist that?" asked Johnny as the Pistols emerged, refreshed, ready to thrill & insult us some more. "We have an old song some of you old tossers out there might remember." "Anarchy In The U.K." & 30,000 pairs of fatigued legs went crazy. Not as crazy as before, but not far short. A tight sounding "Problems" followed & off they went. Sex Pistols fans are persistent. We called for one final look at our heroes. We got it. "No Fun", all 7 glorious minutes. It dipped, it soared, it lifted & finally dropped us. It was over.

The crowd dispersed, contented, as they made the journey back to their normal lives, taking with them a slice of history. Let the theorists theorize, let the purists ponder. Good concert? A concert? Not sure it was. An event? Yes. Good? SENSATIONAL.

The tour, which began in Finland on 21st June '96, took the band through Europe, North America, and onto their first ever excursions to Australasia, Japan, and finally South America, finishing in Santiago, Chile on 7th December '96.

Then in 2002....Pistols At The Palace. On 27th July, Steve, Paul, John, and Glen reunited to celebrate their own Jubilee with a concert at Crystal Palace, London. This was followed by,
on 14th September, Inland Invasion 2: Blockbuster Pavilion, Devore, California.


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Written and researched by Phil Singleton.
This feature is copyright to and Phil Singleton and may not be reproduced without written permission.
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All material ©Phil Singleton 1998/2010