Sheehan was witness to
one of the most famous rock 'n' roll concerts of them all, the 'final'
ever Sex Pistols show which took place at the Winterland Ballroom in
San Francisco, 14th January 1978. Not only was
he in attendance, but he had the foresight to take his film camera with
In this exclusive interview, Glen relives the evening as well as his
motivation for being there.
Carlos: I read that you
played in a punk band and attended film school in San Francisco. What
were you doing with a Super 8 camera at
Winterland, working or recording as a fan?
Glen: In the winter of '78 I was going to film
school at S.F. State and playing in a band that had started with a
bunch of high school friends and
went on for a few years. The DIY movement of the punk scene grabbed a
us. It was about expression, creativity and just doing something to
connect. I was playing in a band that started out of a couple of
from high school, DV8. Michelle, our singer and I were friends with
Anderson (aka Jennifer Miro of The Nuns) in high school; we were a
little outside of the hippie, woolly Grateful Dead scene of Tam High.
I was also going to film school at the time. First at College of Marin,
that's where I met Alejandro Escovedo and Jeff Olener. Alejandro was in
my class and Jeff was, I think, just hanging out sometimes at
The Nuns were originally formed as a band for a film Alejandro was
at the time.
(2nd from left) with his band
The Ramones had been through town a few times,
along with a couple of other N.Y. bands. But the news coming from
about the social revolution
and the scene there was a bit wilder and seemed more creative. The
around the Pistols represented a lot of the rebellion, the
not just of government but also of the music business and the
a lot of the big bands touring.
Even getting your hands on the Pistols first album
took effort and
resourcefulness. Calling the local record shops to see who would have
the first imports shipped over well in advance of any US distribution.
believe I got one of the first discs in S.F. that came into Odyssey
Records. I had been harassing the manager about when they would have a
and finally he called to let me know they would have it and my
(now my wife) and I hightailed it down to the Sutter store and grabbed
of the 100 copies they had. As we drove back west to the Richmond we
blocked by a motorcade passing, we could see in the limo Prince Philip,
a bit of irony to punctuate our adventure.
The news that the Pistols would come to San
Francisco was a big deal for many of us. And also a symbolic inflection
point. The call-ins to radio
had a lot of "classic rock" fans up in arms, they took offense to what
represented and there was a lot of bluster about how they were going to
come just to shut down the show with boos and laugh at it all.
My best friend Tom, my girlfriend and I all got our tickets and were
pumped up to see the show. With great excitement about what this
represented as the validation of our music taste and lifestyle, and for
bands The Avengers and The Nuns, making the bill. I figured I would
take my Sankyo Super CM 300 camera and four rolls of Kodachrome film
Super CM 300
Did you arrive
early at the gig to see the band arrive or soundcheck? How was the
atmosphere inside Winterland? From your vídeo I
can see that you recorded from lots of angles. How did you manage with
the camera around the packed audience that night?
Like all shows at Winterland we went to, we
arrived a couple of hours before the show to line up so we could get
to the stage. You could hear
soundchecks booming out of the closed side exit doors. I remember
The Nuns do Suicide Child, and The Avengers do The American in Me, but
don't recall the Pistols soundcheck happening prior to entry. The
scene outside had a buzz, the usuals you saw around the city at
clubs and shows were there in full regalia, but there were also the
and other fans there out of curiosity and animosity. Just gawking and a
few taunts shouted out.
Security at shows was different then, they would
frisk you, but it was a bit more casual and if you knew the tricks and
even knew the style of
the different people at security you could get stuff through. This
though had a bit of tension with the opposing tribes wanting in for
different agendas. Bill Graham had a few extra security folks and as I
was a bit slower than normal getting into Winterland.
Once in we grabbed our spot in the crowd maybe two or three people deep
from the stage. For The Avengers and The Nuns we all just held our
and I stayed put. There was crap being shouted from the balcony seats,
the gawkers, the curious and the offended. The crowd was excited, but
tough during the opening bands. There was a bit of push, shove and
nothing like a show at the Mab or Temple Beautiful.
After the openers were done, I wanted to really
get out and shoot the show, so I left my friends and went to grab
angles from behind the first
riser of seats on the floor, to the side of the stage where you could
through the wire that was between the speaker towers and then up to the
behind the band. I went back to where my friends were, but the scene
down there had gotten a bit rougher. Punks slammed and pogo'd with a
fun, but there were now a few hooligans that wanted to slam and do a
damage and they were the ones mostly lobbing garbage and other crap at
the band. So I shot a bit in Pogo Vision but then backed out and worked
my way around the show.
How was it for
you seeing the Sex Pistols live, not knowing it was their "last" show
Did you feel "cheated" or elated by their
Going to see the Pistols come to America and play in our town was a
validation of my generation. My sister had the hippie and new age and
this represented a shift in sensibility of art, of society against
injustices and maybe even more - our taste in music and art.
It felt like a coming out party that we were going to. That it would
mark a point in time, an inflection. It was that, but maybe not the way
hoped. The day itself was a little like the buzz of going to a horse
race. That build up, the hum of anticipation and excitement that
head to the gates of the first race. What happens after that is often
tied to the fortune of the horse you chose to get behind. And in some
this was no different. We had all heard the reviews, seen the picture
in Rolling Stone and elsewhere about how the tour was going. That Sid
was literally a bloody
mess and the bookings were in odd and tough places for any band to
The first splash of lights and noise as they
opened with God Save the Queen was electric and visceral.
What became apparent quickly was the chemistry or lack of it on the
stage. Paul Cook and Steve Jones were powerful,
Sid was a mess, and Johnny while appropriately acerbic and
seemed tired, over it and just burnt out. Sid had a bass hanging on
him, but barely played. Sid had the look and the theater of it all with
windmills, but that was all he had.
By the end, we were still excited to have seen
them, but they did not bring the power that a great band has to win the
day. I can't say we were
disappointed, we saw the Pistols, but we also felt like they let the
myth down of themselves and what a transformative rock concert can be.
But we also have been able to say we got off our asses and went and saw
them. We witnessed a bit of rock history and marked a moment that yeah,
punk had arrived, but maybe not with the style and power we had hoped.
made you release part of the footage after all these years?
When did you digitize the footage and what source of audio did you
use for your film? Any plans to release the complete concert
footage in the near future?
I had cut the footage back in '78 into a 5 minute or so bit of film,
silent. I actually only have a few strips more than what I re-edited
this year. I had been sitting on this, knowing it was in a pile of film
also included student films, complete and incomplete.
last year I tasked myself to get this stuff
digitized, knowing that the Pistols footage had an audience that would
appreciate it. There was no
motivation for $$$, just to share and give a new perspective to a
time (complete videos exist with better imagery). So what you see is
what I have. I just listened to the CD from the show (Never Mind
Winterland) that I bought in London some years back on a business trip,
and Holidays in the Sun was the best
candidate (I also have the KSAN broadcast on cassette). I had the
footage of the
lights and crowd and needed a track that could set that up and create a
bit of that feel of the buzz of the show. I just cut it as best I could
to sync it
up as it is footage shot over multiple songs, and give the feel of what
the band was like that night. I took the famous words from Johnny and
that into the end of the song to bring the title to life and punctuate
There really is no other footage.
memories or thoughts you might want to share about that historic night
I do love seeing this footage again, because it
does pull up the
underlying tension between the rebelliousness we often look for rock
and roll to bring us, that sense of the wild and dangerous, but it also
remember how self-conscious the commercial manipulation of the music
often is. While it represents anti-culture, it really was a form of
marketing in the end, posing as art. But damn, I love the music and the
attitude and strength it brought. So I am fine if it manipulated me a
So maybe this goes in some tidy little time capsule someday and people
wonder what was that all about?
Thank you Glen
for your time and sharing your
memories and historic footage.