Last weekend’s performance was the Who from 1970, when they were in the midst of a run of highly successful albums that included Tommy (’69), Who’s Next (’71) and Quadrophenia (’73).
By 1977, the year before this weekend’s concert takes place the Who’s formidable energies were tied up in legal wrangling over royalties.
Finally, one night in March of that year Pete Townsend, the group’s guitarist and principal song writer and in this instance, negotiator walked out of an 11 hour meeting with a seven figure check in his hand.
He headed to a bar called the Speakeasy where a couple of his protégés were playing (John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett). He got drunk on only two shots of whiskey.
(all this is from Dave Marsh’s Before I Get Old, the Story of the Who, p.484) “He began ranting, preaching, punching friends, smashing glasses, and generally going berserk.
At the bar he spotted two punks…
‘Who are they?’ he asked.
‘They’re in the Sex Pistols’ he was told.”
He raced over and accosted the two who turned out to be drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones.
”’Rock & roll’s going down the f*****g pan!’ he shouted. You’ve got to take over where the Who left off – and this time, you’ve got to finish the f*****g job!”
He ripped up the check, threw it on the floor spat on it and ranted on for minutes before he ran out of steam.
Finally, Paul Cook got enough courage to ask; “the Who aren’t going to break up are they?”
The following year, the Who released the album, Who Are You featuring the song of the same name about that night where Townsend accosted the two Sex Pistols.
The ‘Pistols released one studio album (Never Mind the Bollocks), performed one tour and then singer Johnny Rotten left. Essentially, that was the end of the band.
There were other albums released with the Pistols name on them, but they were mostly lame attempts to cash in by the record company and the remaining members of the band (Cook & Jones, as Sid Vicious went off on
his own and died shortly after).
They’ve largely been forgotten or left as a side note but in 1977&8 they were the needle that punctured the inflated rock & roll balloon, full as it was of Rod Stewarts and Elton Johns and other performers
who had ceased to matter artistically.
They showed that the whole business was a farce and they treated it as such. And when they were done making that point, they left the stage.
Musically this concert is awful.
The sound mix features Sid Vicious’ base and he couldn’t play, only having picked up the instrument 1 year or so before. Rotten’s singing is what it is and the satisfying rumble of Steve Jones and Paul Cook is largely lost (get Bollocks for that).
What this concert does have is Johnny Rotten constantly prodding the audience, telling them what suckers they are. Making them question the whole concert experience.
“Do you feel you’re being used – because you are.” That was a mantra of the Sex Pistols.