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Leeds Polytechnic Social Secretary Anarchy Tour 1976

Conducted by Phil Singleton

The Sex Pistols' appearance on Thames TV Today show on 1st December led to the decimation of the planned Anarchy In The UK Tour. The first three dates in Norwich, Derby and Newcastle bit the dust and it fell to Leeds Polytechnic on 6th December to hold their nerve. Stephen Green was the Student Union Social Secretary at the Poly and recalls how it all unfolded.

We were approached early on to do a punk gig with four bands, the Sex Pistols weren't the headlining band. I've actually got a press cutting somewhere that originally came from a Vibrators ad. Initially it was going to be the Ramones, Talking Heads, The Vibrators and the Sex Pistols. There were other bands mentioned at the time and then according to The Vibrators, the Ramones couldn't take the heat, so they pulled out, and that's why it ended up being the four bands that were on the tour.

Press Johnny Rotten in Leeds I was the social secretary, but above me was the vice president for recreation who had been the social secretary. Leeds Poly could only get about 650 people in. Around the corner was Leeds University, which is the biggest university venue in the country that did The Who, the Stones and all the big bands. Most universities would pay for a band to play and then they would sell the tickets and most of the time they'd end up making a loss, but it was all, "Oh, we've got to do it for the students, blah, blah, blah". And this guy, the vice president, hit on the idea in '76 of approaching promoters and saying, "Look, you've got a space in your tour, why don't you bring your band to Leeds and we'll do a deal on the door?" which is fairly comon now, you know, 9% of net. So basically they take the money, but they're also taking the risk of nobody turning up, but we don't lose money. He did it for the freshers in September '76 and we had the Strawbs and Manfred Mann's Earth Band in the space of four days. They would obviously sell out, but we didn't lose anything, we took 10% of the net takings, that's how it worked.

He contacted the promoter, or the promoter contacted us who was doing the Sex Pistols tour, and that's how we ended up with it. Now, we knew about the Bill Grundy thing, but we didn't know what happened because it was only broadcast in London. Then of course we saw the front pages of the daily newspapers, and then we saw the gigs were being cancelled. But we were organising it as a student union, so the Polytechnic and the council couldn't stop us putting it on. So we said, "We're doing it. Don't stop us. We're doing it. It's good publicity." There was a lot of press interest in it because it was going to be the first gig after Bill Grundy. The guy who was the vice president in the student union was a budding journalist, so he dealt with it all, he was excited because it meant there was lots of press. He was in his element. I'd been away at the weekend and when I got back on the Monday he got hold of me and said, "Oh, God, the shit's hit the fan, we've got to be on form." So my job on the day was to look after all the four bands who were using one big dressing room that we'd never used before because we only had a tiny little dressing room. My job was basically to make sure they didn't misbehave and wreck the dressing room. There was a bit of competition between them so they kept themselves to themselves. It was quite a big room, it had a big window that looked out into the hall. To be honest they were all meek and mild. There was absolutely no hints of trouble. They were all just desperate to play. I think they were all pissed off about driving around Britain on a coach together, without being able to play. That's when I was talking to Glen Matlock, I remember, and he had no money and I gave him 50p. Now, okay, this is '76. When he came back with the Rich Kids to Leeds Poly he remembered, but he never repaid me! And I mentioned that story on Twitter, and he turned around and said, "Oh, I must owe you a pint now!"

Was it a good crowd?

gig advert It was a sell-out crowd. Most of the people didn't know what to expect, a lot of them were students. As the months went on, more and more people came dressed as punks but a lot of them were just students thinking "What's all the fuss about?" I think Johnny Rotten was a bit scathing in the beginning, but they were really up for it.

There were a lot of press there who were looking for trouble. Now, I have a copy of the review that the Yorkshire Evening Post did and it was scathing. The headline was, "Jeers for punk rock group as fans walk out. How the Sex Pistols misfired... The great Sex Pistols' myth exploded in Leeds last night when a vile, disgusting show was met with derision, scorn and hoots of laughter from scores of fans. Many walked out... those that stayed were told by lead singer Johnny Rotten, 'You're just a load of dummies. You're dead.' But, in fact, it was punk rock and its crude, mindless message that was dying." I'm quoted in it as well. "Steve Green, an official of the Students' Union, said, 'It's not been a bad night. There has been no trouble, although many people walked out. I think many people came out of curiosity as a result of the Sex Pistols reputation and the controversy surrounding them.'". Now, you remember this is December '76. By the following May, when we did a week of punk with The Clash and the Ramones, the same two journalists were saying, "Wow, look at all these punk bands coming to Leeds, it's only because we did the Sex Pistols!"

They used a photograph of a punk rock fan with a razor blade earring on and that guy became the lead singer of the Mekons for a while. I did find out, through looking through old photographs, Green Gartside (later of Scritti Politti) was there, because he was a student in Leeds. The Gang of Four were at the gig. I don't know whether Soft Cell were at the gig, but they were certainly students in Leeds at the time.

Steve's Poster for the Notice Board Whenever we did a gig, we'd contact the record company and I remember ringing up and saying, "Oh, we've got the Sex Pistols on. Can you send us some promotional material?" I did get a box of Anarchy in the UK singles and I gave them all away. I did put some on the jukebox, and I've got one copy in the black sleeve. At least I've got one. I'm a Prog Rock fan, a rock fan, but I thought it was just absolutely amazing. When the tour was being done, the promoter sent somebody up to fly post around Leeds with the poster for Leeds Poly. And he got stopped by the police and he was told to drop the posters off at my flat. So I had a bundle of Sex Pistols posters for Leeds Poly. I went out the following day and I fly posted them. The posters that can sell for 3 grand each and I fly posted them, because that's what they were there for. There's a picture of a yellow A4 poster which I've seen all over the internet that I did to put on the notice board, based on the Anarchy tour poster. The handwriting on it, of Leeds Poly, 6th of December, is my handwriting. I once saw it for sale!

Leeds was the only date that the Damned played on, because they got kicked off the tour after that. After the gig we went to the hotel with the bands. We sat in Malcolm McLaren's room and he wanted to play another gig at Leeds Poly the following night. Well, we couldn't do it because the hall was being used. If you've seen the Pistols documentary where they interviewed the bloke in charge of Leeds Poly, a guy called Paddy Nuttgens. He was fairly blase about it, I think he was quite happy that the Poly was getting a load of publicity. He actually said, "Well, while the Sex Pistols are playing in one part of the college, in another part of the college, we've got Handel's Messiah" or whatever. Well, the following night it was coming to the hall that the Sex Pistols had played in, so that's why we couldn't do it. They were desperate to play Leeds again, but we couldn't do it because we didn't have the hall.

How did you find McLaren?

I found him alright. You've got to remember, although I was a student there, I had gone to do an accountancy course. I was 21 at the time so I was possibly older than the Sex Pistols. All the people who were involved in putting the gig on were older than the Sex Pistols. We weren't that much different in age to Malcolm McLaren. They'd been used to dealing with council officials who wanted them to do private shows so they could decide whether they would go ahead and obviously he was revelling in the controversy. So were we, we were loving it. So for us it was great. I'm sure there were people there filming the gig from their side of things. I know that Caroline Coon was there (footage from Leeds appears in 'Sex Pistols Number One' film).

It's also the first time they played God Save the Queen.

Was it? I never knew that. I actually went to the Sex Pistols office in London, Glitterbest. I went to try and speak to some of the people, to see if I could get the Sex Pistols back. There was somebody in the office, but nobody of significance. On the door of the office, which is like three floors up on this suite of offices in a building - this is before God Save the Queen came out - they'd pinned on a photocopy of the artwork.

So that was my year as social secretary. The following year, I did the sabbatical position of vice president, where I was paid to pick all the bands and stuff. We were still using promoters and doing stuff like that. Bands like AC/DC and all the punk stuff that was coming out. The guy who was the deputy president who was the budding journalist who dealt with all the press, he became an associate editor of The Sunday Times. After he was made redundant in 2009, he carried on doing his other job, which was editor of The Sunday Times Rich List!

I went to Leeds University a few years back when they unveiled the blue plaque on the building for The Who Live at Leeds, and I'd love for something like that to happen to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Pistols gig.

What happened for us following the Pistols gig, we then got known for being the place to play for punk bands. So on April 1st, 1977, we had The Stranglers supported by The Jam. In May, we did The Clash's first tour on the Tuesday and on the Friday, we had the Ramones supported by Talking Heads. We were told that all the punk bands want to play Leeds Poly. So it was good for us. It was that one gig that propelled us into the big league.

Johnny Rotten in Leeds

Thank you to Stephen Green for the interview & the images.

Interview February 2024  Phil Singleton / 2024

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God Save The Sex Pistols /  Phil Singleton / 2024

God Save the Sex Pistols

God Save The Sex Pistols Phil Singleton /