many people can say that they really were there from the beginning. Mark Helfond
can. A close friend of Glen Matlock since the mid-70s until the present day, Mark
witnessed the genesis of the band from pre-Rotten days, and attended all their
shows in' 75-'76. In this God
Save The Sex Pistols exclusive, Mark shares his memories of the period.
went to St.Martins Art School, located then in Charing Cross Road in 1974. I soon
discovered that it tended to be the male pupils who wished to choose their professions
as Artists. Females were usually placed in Art School by their rich dads to keep
them out of mischief until they decided what they wanted to do in life.(Check
out Pulps Common People Nothing changed in 10 years.). Because of
the vast difference in social strata, the males tended to socialise together.
I met a guy called Glen during the year and we became friends. Other persons in
our year were Frank Tovey (who went on to become Fad Gadget) and Nick Cash, a
drummer who has worked with many groups since. Sometimes Glen would bring some
of his friends into the School canteen. Glen introduced his friends as Steve and
Paul. Nearly all teenagers then had long hair and we were all no different. One
day, Glen, Steve and Paul came into the canteen and they all had their locks chopped
off. They stated that they had started a band that was named QT and the Sex Pistols.
They asked if Nick and I would like to see their band rehearse that night at what
is called the Hammersmith Studios. Steve played guitar but seemed more interested
in playing drums. Paul played drums and Glen bass. Their friend Wally was the
other guitarist. They did not have a singer as yet. In common with most Working
Class kids at that time, they adored the Faces and their playlist consisted of
Kinks, Small Faces and Who numbers. Apart from their appreciation of the Stooges
and The Dolls, their influences were all home based. Indeed there appeared a hankering
to become new model Mods.
the coming months while at Art School, Glen introduced me to the manager of his
group and his friend Bernard Rhodes. While talking to them, I became aware of
many original ideas and philosophies. I read Jean Cocteau`s Les Enfants Terribles
in which children only steal items that are useless and watched films made by
Jean Genet. Indeed the early Pistols London gigs were often accompanied by films
made by Genet, Bunuel, and others. Bernard used to bring artwork he designed to
College for Glen to produce screen prints. These designs ended up on the T-Shirts
that the band eventually wore on stage and were sold in Malcolm's shop.
time later, the band obtained a singer and Wally had left. They obtained a support
spot at Glens and my old college, St.Martins (pictured right - 6th November
'75). They opened for Bazooka Joe who included at that time in their line-up Adam
Ant. Like most of their early gigs, it was a cacophony of sound, but although
the band had not yet mastered their instruments there was an attitude and presence
absent in other young bands at that time. I went to all the London Gigs in 75/76.
One in particular I remember was when they supported Eddie and The Hot Rods at
the Marquee. My memory is very clear about this gig. There were around 15 people
in the audience. From reports Ive read, half of London has claimed to attend
this gig. As is usual, the band had paid for use of the headlining bands' P.A.
Of course this payment means nothing as the levels coming out of the monitors
produce feedback and the sound is atrocious. John gets pissed off and leaves the
stage to walk into the audience. He went round singing to each person carrying
a chair that was at regular intervals bashed onto the floor. Finally the chair
gave up hope of survival and fell apart. John continued to carry parts of the
chair around the auditorium and continued his personal interaction. The audience
in the early gigs consisted of friends of the band and friends of friends. Of
course everybody laughed at Johns performance and it was like something
akin to British old style music hall. The dress code usually consisted of Mohair
jumpers with T-Shirts and either baggy trousers (with gold lame thread) or skintight
jeans. This stuff was obtained from Malcolms shop. I had discovered a shop
in Burnt Oak where you could buy Drainpipe Levis (Burnt Oak was the Skinhead centre
in N. London) and made frequent trips as many people placed orders.
In December 1976, Glen
and I were living in a flat above Chiswick High Road. One night I had gone out
with my friend Jane (she was the one who bottled Shane McGowan on the ear at the
ICA) to celebrate her birthday at Louises (a lesbian nightclub just off
Chinatown). When I came home I saw Glen sitting in the hallway looking well drunk.
He said the band was on the Today show. He said that he tried to call me as many
of the band's friends were also in the studio. He stated that the band had been
a bit naughty and that the interview had been a good crack. The next day, we decided
to go into the West End and jumped on a bus. Everybody started looking at us as
if we were escaped jailbirds. We were a bit perplexed by this until we saw the
papers people were reading. There it was on the front pages! Of course we looked
at each other and started giggling like schoolboys.
didnt see the 1996 gig. The recent gig at Crystal Palace was perfect Pistols.
Only they can release balloons into the crowd during the encore and the wind blows
them totally in the wrong direction. The Pistols were and have always been a great
laugh and tremendous fun."
©Mark Helfond / www.sex-pistols.net
Phil Singleton / www.sex-pistols.net
God Save The
Sex Pistols ©2007 Phil Singleton / www.sex-pistols.net.
All rights reserved.