“Ever get the feeling that you’ve been cheated?” – John Lydon’s closing words at one of the Sex Pistols‘ last gigs. I actually had a similar thought upon my first listen to Live ’76, the Pistols’ latest release; which marks the anniversary of some of their most iconic gigs.
Now, I understand that you probably wouldn’t want to extract the ballsy, punk aesthetic that you expect from Sex Pistols, but the album isn’t exactly a pleasurable listening experience. I guess that’s what John Lydon does best, he rubs you up the wrong way but you still love him.
The Lesser Free Trade Hall gig in Manchester is hailed as “the gig that changed the world” – It was the day that punk really began. I hate to say it, but Disc 1 is anticlimactic to say the least. That aside, discs 2,3 and 4 are some of the greatest live footage of the Sex Pistols that I have ever heard, and that is something that is very hard to come by. You can’t help but admire the sleazy, reckless energy flowing through the band.
Lydon’s grim yodellings are exactly what put you on edge whilst listening, but at the same time are the only thing holding most of it together and makes it even marginally listenable. The rest of the band seem so half soaked, lifeless even, in comparison to John who pours his heart and soul into the shows. Most of the tracks greet you with the same old grating ring of Jones’ guitar and the dull mumblings of Matlock’s sloppy basslines. Both of which are out of tune, almost to perfection.
So, you’ve sat back and listened to about a disc and a half of this beautiful looking box set and things take an unexpected upward turn from ‘Seventeen’ during the Screen On The Green gig in Islington onwards. The rebellious, live energy that could only be expected from this band finally shows up to smack you in the face through the hours and layers of remastering for the remainder of the box set, which makes it all worthwhile in the end.
All of the gigs have been released as bootlegs in the past but this is the first time that you can buy them all together. It’s definitely one for the collectors out there. The Manchester gig even inspired Joy Division to become a band. Moz was there, Mark E Smith was there. These were the string of gigs that inspired the new generation of musical mavericks.
Live ’76 will be released on August 19th via Universal.