Friday, 27 December 2013

Never mind the Baubles - Xmas '77 with The Sex Pistols - Review

As Barnets leading entertainment and gossip blog, we like to bring you reviews of all the best shows on TV. We watched quite a lot of TV this Christmas as we digested the copious amounts of food and drink associated with a Tichborne family Christmas. For me, there was only really one stand out show. That was Julian Temple's film on BBC 4 last night "Never mind the Baubles - Xmas '77 with The Sex Pistols".Being a big fan of the work of both Julian Temple and the Sex Pistols, this was a big treat for me. Now those of you (like my wife) who are not fans of the Pistols, would probably not bother watching the show. Luckily for her, I insisted. We were not disapponted. Wheras most "rock documentaries" are hagiographical glimpses of what the marketing department want you to see of the band, this was something altogether different. It was the story of Xmas '77 with the Sex Pistols as the conduit for telling the story. The full state of the economic decline of Great Britain in the '70's was there for all to see. Not only that, but the film gave a graphic illustration of how the times and social mores have changed.

For those who weren't around, or weren't paying attention, the Sex Pistols were viewed as a serious threat by the establishment. The full might of the Murdoch press was used to attack them. John Lydon pointed out that it is only now perhaps people see who the real threat was. MP's would have the band's gigs closed down and a 27 date tour of the UK was decimated, with tour buses going to gigs, only to find the council had banned it. Can you remember the last time a gig was banned  by a Local Council? Ironically, I can. It was here in Barnet and the gig was organised by Councillor Robert Rams, to promote local libraries. Sadly Robert forgot to get a music license from his own council, and he got the Sex Pistols treatment from the authority he is a cabinet member of. Then it was different. The Lord Provost of Glasgow announced that the Pistols would be banned as "Scotland has enough hooligans of their own". 

The film featured copious amounts of footage of "Top of the Pops", "The Generation Game" and even the 1977 Xmas Weather forecast. We had Chancellor Dennis Healey on an Entertainment show asking celebrities for a few quid to repay the IMF. We had John Lydon comparing the members of the Pistols to members of the Carry On team, stating that Steve Jones was Sid James. 

And we had stories of the firemans strike of '77 with the firemen on strike for nine weeks before Christmas. The Pistols had nowhere to play and the Fireman had nothing in the pot for their kids. So they offered to host a Christmas Day party for the children of striking Firemen at Ivanhoe's in Huddersfield. This was followed by a gig in the evening "for the adults". We saw a completely different side of the Pistols. Lydon talked about how he loved Xmas as a kid, but always preferred the boxes the presents actually came in to the toys. Steve Jones talked of how miserable his Christmas experiences were as a kid. Paul Cook explained that Jones would come around to his house, because it was always happier. One of the kids who attended the party spoke of how special the whole thing was. "Rock Stars" didn't play kids parties in Huddersfield on Xmas day. The band came with free badges, T-shirts, Skateboards and cake. Lydon spoke of how you had to keep it real for the kids. Footage showed him chatting and relaxing with 8 & 9 year olds. Steve Jones commented how Lydon was always great with kids and how they loved him. During Pretty Vacant, Lydon jumped off the stage and put his face in the cake, getting pelted with more cake by the kids. I doubt there is any footage anywhere of any Rock Star looking so truly happy whilst playing. Even Sid Vicious was seen to smile. Steve Jones noted that Lydon refrained from swearing (part of the bands trademark) and Lydon recalled that he'd lectured Sid Vicious on the importance of doing the right thing by the kids, because kids will always see through if you are faking it. 

Various '77 punks talked about how they turned up for the evening show. The Pistols refused to play unless they were let in. Some of them reminsced after how Lydon spent half an hour chatting with them after the show. They said he was "just like one of your mates". They said that before Punk they'd been football hooligans and how they saw people from other towns as "different crews" to be battled. The punk experience opened their eyes to the fact we are all the same. One stated how he'd travelled all over the country and made friends everywhere, being put up at strangers houses.

In some ways, it all seemed so much more innocent. Wheras today such a show would be accompanied by a marketing exercise and "look how wonderful these boys are", the whole thing was unheard of and the footage, shot by Temple who accompanied the band everywhere, left it on a shelf for 35 years. Lydon said that it was incredible that the band split up a month later, anyone seeing the footage would have thought they would last forever. It was their last UK gig and Lydon said that in some ways, it was a fitting end to the band. He said that the US tour and what followed was like some strange afterthought. 

The band are still hugely influential. Their album "Never Mind the Bollocks" will probably always be listed as an all time classic. We remember the Pistols for many things, but perhaps not for truly understanding the meaning of Christmas. Lydon stated that he'd never write a Christmas song. I believe he already has, for me, the song Rise, by Public Image is the greatest Christmas song of all. 

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