Photo: The Pistols at Ivanhoe’s, Huddersfield, 25/12/1977, by Alex Sokol
In my last post I said nothing of the connection between the two artists, John Lydon and Mark Burgess. Like countless other punk and post-punk musicians, Mark didn’t know he was going to play in a band before he saw the Sex Pistols. The section of View From A Hill where he describes his first live encounter with them is one of the book’s highlights, and is an exciting account of a very special occasion, not just for the coach loads of kids who were treated to a matinee performance – the band put on a special show for the children of striking firemen that same day, which Mark inadvertently gatecrashed – but because it was their last ever show in the UK.*
I’m not going to give the game away – you’ll have to get hold of the book to read the whole story – but here’s an excerpt that details Mark’s journey to the venue on a snowy Christmas day, 1977:
I made my way up to the junction of the motorway. During the night it had been snowing quite heavily, so I augmented my usual leather and mohair punk attire with a borrowed hippie Afghan coat turned inside out against the freezing cold. Little was moving on the motorway, and the clothes certainly didn’t help, but eventually a car stopped and I got in.
The elderly man driving the car got it into his head, for some reason I was never able to fathom, that I was a soldier making my way home on Christmas leave – perhaps he thought only soldiers desperate to get home to their families would be mad enough to hitchhike on Christmas Day.
“So where are you going?” he asked me.
“I’m on my way to Huddersfield to see the Sex Pistols.”
“Oh that’s nice. So where are you stationed?”
“Where is your unit stationed?”
“No, I’m not in the forces, I’m going to see the Sex Pistols.”
“My son’s in the Air Force, you might know him.”
“It’s unlikely. I’m not in the Air Force.”
“Oh you’re in the Army then are you?”
“No, I’m on my way to see the Sex Pistols.”
“Oh yes? So how long is your leave then?”
“Erm, I’m on a forty-eight hour pass.”
This kind but dim gentleman took me all the way to Huddersfield – “No I’ll take you all the way in, I insist, I mean if you have to report back to your C.O. in forty-eight hours that doesn’t leave you with much time to choose your next pistols…”
And what happened next? Well, that’s where the story really gets going.
* Of course it’s lovelier to forget that any kind of reformation took place.