Styles & Forms | Punk | The First Wave (1976) | Key Events
The Sex Pistols’ First Gigs
The Sex Pistols played their first gig at London’s St Martin’s School of Art in November 1975, racing through a batch of Faces and Who numbers plus some of their own, including ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ‘Did You No Wrong’, while Rotten sneered at the audience, calling them ‘f***ing boring’. The pattern was repeated at isolated shows around London in early 1976 but promoters were reluctant to book them because an aura of violence hung over their shows. There were instances of journalists and punters being beaten up and Rotten even tried to goad Glen Matlock into a fight on stage at the 100 Club, storming off stage when he couldn’t.
As The Sex Pistols’ antics raised punk’s profile, several bands sprang up around London looking for a way to join in. The provocatively named London SS was formed in March 1975 by guitarist Mick Jones and bassist Tony James. They never actually played a gig or released a record but, over a period of nine months, what would become a Who’s Who of the punk scene auditioned for the line-up, including Brian James and Chris Miller (a.k.a. Rat Scabies), who would shortly form The Damned, Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) and Matt Dangerfield (The Boys). When the band ran out of people to audition, James switched to guitar and joined Chelsea before forming Generation X.
Richard Hell Falls Into The Voidoids
Richard Hell lasted nine months in The Heartbreakers before quitting early in 1976, describing them as ‘too brutish’. After failing to settle in two bands, the obvious solution was to start his own. Hell duly formed The Voidoids to back him on songs he’d had since his days in Television, including the seminal punk anthem ‘Blank Generation’ with its opening lyrics, ‘I was saying “Let me out of here” before I was even born’. Malcolm McLaren had tried unsuccessfully to get Hell to relocate to London, believing that he had the ‘perfect punk image’.
The Coming Of The Clash
After London SS imploded at the start of 1976, Mick Jones took up with drummer Terry Chimes and one-time vocalist Paul Simonon, now on bass. Malcolm McLaren’s assistant Bernie Rhodes, who had tried and failed to bring some order to London SS, stayed with Jones and together they looked for a singer. In April 1976, after a gig by The 101’ers at London’s Nashville Rooms (where they were supported by The Sex Pistols), Rhodes and Jones approached lead singer/guitarist John Mellor, who had recently renamed himself Joe Strummer. Simonon gave the new band their name – The Clash – and they played their first gig, supporting The Sex Pistols, in Sheffield in July 1976.
The Ramones’ ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’
The definitive sound of punk finally made it onto record in April 1976 when The Ramones’ first single, ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, was released. Relentlessly pummelling the same three chords for two minutes and 12...
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