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Caerphilly, Castle Cinema
 14th December 1976

Pictures taken by Dave Smitham

A God Save The Sex Pistols' World Exclusive

Eye Witness Account

Anarchy in Caerphilly: Obviously - No Nostalgia Intended

"So your Mummies and Daddies let you come to see us …" sneered Johnny to his audience slouched in faded crimson cinema seats, " WELL GET OFF YOUR FUCKING ARSES --- AND FUCKING DANCE!" In a gloomy side aisle the youthful Steve Strange commenced a desultory pogo throttling his mate as the Pistols slammed into their next song / the front rows gathered to pose menacingly before the low stage.

Early December 1976 the Anarchy Tour was in ruins after the Rank Organisation reneged on the venue contract - in direct consequence to the Pistols' tea-time television exposure. Unperturbed by Cardiff's Top Rank cancellation, local promoter Andy Walton hastily rearranged the Anarchy gig a few miles out of town at Caerphilly's Castle Cinema - a privately owned venue he'd previously used for small-scale Welsh bands. Led by churchmen and town councillors, a heated campaign in the South Wales Echo to ban the concert ensued - but the gig survived, thanks in no small measure to the Castle Cinema's elderly lady owner who refused to be bullied by Caerphilly's worthies.

Like a scene from a spaghetti western - the little valleys market town braced itself for the arrival of riotous punk hordes. No chance of a pre-gig pint - all pub doors were locked and windows boarded up in anticipation of mayhem / hastily scrawled signs directed regulars to back door entrances.

Having survived a gauntlet of demonstrating carol singers, the few who turned up to the 1930s white-painted Cinema shivered in a ragged queue. From the opposite car park - against the backdrop of Caerphilly's ruined 13th century castle, a vengeful Pentecostal preacher spat fire and brimstone - threatening eternal damnation to those who dared watch the spawn of Satan.

Willing to shell out a few quid for a Tour t-shirt or poster? No chance - no promotional stalls were to be found in the Cinema foyer! Valleys punks and the curious gathered themselves in the cinema's front seven rows - row upon row of empty seats tiered to the back of the unheated seedy auditorium, a more cautious few made it to the safety of the upstairs balcony. A subdued buzz preceded the Clash setting up: in marked contrast to the anticipated mayhem, everyone was exceedingly well behaved - these were the days before appreciative gobbing. Punk garb was in rare evidence - some zips and safety pins, some graffitied (Army and Navy Store surplus) fatigue jackets, definitely no mohicans … but one exotic Merthyr punkette in black plastic trousers and pink t-shirt.

One, Two Three, Four! / a gob to the left from Paul Simonon / a huge wave of abrasive electric noise … the Clash opened the evening with a twenty minute rush of three minutes songs. Strummer sported a hand stencilled Social Security £9.70 green shirt. Mick Jones displayed a 'Red Guard' armband - Simonon wielding his Pollock paint dripped bass. Don't ask me what they sang, I couldn't make out any lyrics with vocals barked like angry dogs … all delivered so much faster than on their first album.

The Heartbreakers came on Second (the Damned of course had been thrown off the Tour). Between each set, a DJ played dub reggae from the central aisle / in the interval before the Pistols, I shared the Gents with Johnny Thunders - pissing next to a legend!

Thirty years on - my strongest memories of the Sex Pistols performance was brain numbing noise … and a clear sense of threat from the stage - never before or again experienced at a concert. Dressed in a black bondage suit festooned with pins and zips, Johnny Rotten shambled up to the microphone - and although he never left the stage, his implied menace contravened any agreed barrier between performer and audience. You felt any moment he might leap into the stalls and threaten physical violence! Johnny was a mesmeric performer - in a class of his own / he commanded attention. Between songs he leered from the microphone and abused, heckled and threatened his audience. Songs were spat out with a vitriol that exceeded the car park preaching. The Pistols set will have consisted of most of what was to be Never Mind the Bollocks (Anarchy in the UK, Pretty Vacant …) and the early Dolls / Stooges covers - but as with the Clash there were no Pistols recordings to help identify what you were hearing!

I left the cinema as the Pistols went into their second encore - the last train to Cardiff left around 10:30. My ears buzzed from the noise assault all through the next day - it wasn't until a full thirty-six hours later that my hearing returned to normal!

No nostalgia or boasting intended, but I still feel extremely fortunate to have participated in this event … sitting in the sixth row of a small cinema experiencing the Clash, Heartbreakers and Sex Pistols live for a mere £1.75!

Dave Smitham
March 2006

Caerphilly, Castle Cinema
With special thanks to Dave Smitham for allowing the publication of his photographs on www.sex-pistols.net
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