Young Flesh Required

Extract Three

It is often said that a good idea only usually works first time and unfortunately for the Sex Pistols this reunion proved no exception to that particular rule. The novelty value from 1996 had long since been dispelled and the re-release of ‘God Save The Queen’ wasn’t going to change the groundswell of opinion. While there were a goodly number of fans poised by the phone with their credit card details at the ready when the tickets – priced at a whopping £32.50 + £3.50 booking fee – went on sale, Crystal Palace is a large venue to fill. As Saturday 27th July loomed ever closer and the ticket sales showed little signs of improving (and with a guest list as long as the London Yellow Pages too) John was forced to do the unthinkable by appearing on several naff TV talk shows to drum up publicity and make a personal appeal to those fans still wavering over how to spend their Saturday evening, along with anyone else wanting to stick two fingers up at Queen Liz. The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis, who’d also been unimpressed by the official Palace Party of six weeks earlier, was even less impressed with the Pistols, and saved his harshest critique for John’s chat show shenanigans: ‘He [John] cuts a strangely pathetic figure, a 47- year-old trapped in perpetual sneering adolescence, unable to grow up because he has nothing new to offer’. Ouch!

We can only assume that the failure to shift the allotted tickets had a knock-on effect on the band’s morale, for while it’s one thing for Joe Public to show apathy to what’s on offer, it’s quite another for a band to show total disinterest in the proceedings. Yet that’s precisely what happened at Crystal Palace. Any lingering doubts we had about the disaster waiting to unfold came to the fore upon seeing our beloved Pistols take to the stage and open with Hawkwind’s 1972 hit ‘Silver Machine’. On the train ride through darkest South East London we had amused ourselves by eavesdropping on our fellow punters who were all feverishly debating which ‘classic’ Bollocks track the Pistols would chose to kick-off the proceedings. The obvious favourite – given the occasion ­– was ‘God Save The Queen’, but there were those who were still willing to put their money on ‘Bodies’, while the other frontrunners were ‘Anarchy In The UK’, ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ‘Holidays In The Sun’. But no one, absolutely no one, aboard that train would have believed in their wildest nightmares that their heroes would – after a few lines of unpatriotic patter from Chairman John – open the set with a whimsical ode to a silver bicycle. And falsetto-segueing into ‘God Save The Queen’ midway through wasn’t going to spare any blushes!

Although it’s fair to say the 1996 reunion tour had already laid waste to the Sex Pistols’ myth, in those five shameful minutes John, Steve, Paul and Glen became their own tribute band. While our own mindset may well have been predetermined owing to our having spent the preceding hours holed up in a salacious bar in Shoreditch, to be brutally honest, things didn’t get any better from there on in. So, midway through the show, having decided it was indeed ‘No Fun’, we headed for the exit; we weren’t on our own. As we joined the meandering procession of yellow and pink clad disgruntled fans heading back down to the train station a bemused on-duty WPC enquired as to why we were all leaving so soon. ‘It’s not very good,’ one lad offered with a resigned shrug. ‘It wasn’t any good twenty-five years ago either,’ came the retort. Given the meandering dirge emanating from the stage behind us, it proved one to which we could provide no justifiable answer.

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