Sex Pistols stagger down memory lane
Along with its own noisemakers, the group throws in covers in an hour's uneven
By Greg Burk, Special to The Times
The Sex Pistols rock-and-comedy revue mounted another of its periodic
resurrections Thursday at the Roxy. Having offered free tickets to fans
through Indie 103.1 (KDLD-FM), the radio station at which Pistols guitarist
Steve Jones is a DJ, the heroes of rock destruction assembled for their
first-ever L.A. club gig to commemorate the initial digital download offering
of their gate-crashing 1977 album, "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex
They've also re-recorded a couple of their hits for the "Guitar Hero III"
video game and will be soiling several stages in their native Britain next
Bragging that the group had labored for three full hours rehearsing for this
gig, lead taunter Johnny Rotten (a.k.a. John Lydon) marshaled Jones, drummer
Paul Cook and early bassist Glen Matlock (whose replacement, the more famous
Sid Vicious, died of an overdose in 1979) through an hour's half-tight,
half-slop memory junket.
"Just remember, we're the ones who brought [punk rock] to you first!" declared
Rotten early on, and then he made himself a liar by sprinkling hints of the
American bands he'd ripped off, starting with "New York," the Pistols'
backhanded tribute to the New York Dolls, and later ticking off time-tested
covers of other punk bridge builders: the Stooges' "No Fun" and Paul Revere
& the Raiders' "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone." (What about the Modern
Lovers' "Roadrunner"? The Pistols used to do that too.)
The irony was only one blat in an overall symphony of goofery that commenced
pre-show, when the audience was subjected to a half-hour of mirror-ball
sparkle and disco music (the '70s dance craze the Pistols were supposed to
The self-deflation continued with the opening selection, the formerly
class-conscious "Holidays in the Sun" (Rotten and Jones have enjoyed permanent
holidays in Los Angeles for decades), and spiked with Rotten mock-pitifully
singing "I'm a lazy sod" ("Seventeen") and hugging himself while sobbing, "No
future for me!" ("God Save the Queen").
Resplendent in polyester vest and plaid pants, Rotten worked his showbiz
outrage to the point of near collapse, taking a break after 40 minutes for
what he claimed was an irresistible response to nature's call -- well, that
middle-aged prostate can indeed be a bummer.
He popped his eyes for "Did You No Wrong," rolled his gut and gargled cognac
for the standout "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone," blew snot and spat liberally
throughout. "You're ugly," he informed the crowd, "but I can yell all night,
'cause I'm . . . uglier."
His complaining tenor rang in mighty condition.
The T-shirted and truck-driverish Jones, meanwhile, wearing a look of bluff
stupefaction, raked his Les Paul diligently; dapper Matlock nailed the groove
like a musician; Cook kept up a rat-battering racket. Volleying clean and hard
at first, the Pistols' mid-tempo barrage began to misfire halfway as Rotten
ceded vocal duties to the chanting crowd, which knew the words better than he
did. But the band regrouped after Rotten's excursion to the loo, even
inspiring a bit of a slam-dance for "EMI" among the mostly unyouthful fans,
who were packed in like war refugees.
Nobody indulged in the '70s tradition of spitting on Rotten, though he
pretended to be incensed when some boor doused him with a drink.
He left the stage raining theatrical abuse on nameless oppressors and "all
that . . . they used to call music."