“Jumbo” Edwards made me sit with Steve Hammond in French. This was meant to stop us disrupting the class. It did not work, but we discovered that we were both guitarists. Not long after, we started our first band and a little while after that I failed O-level French. By the time I started medical school, we were gig-hardened seen-it-all musicians. In autumn 1975, Steve became social secretary at Ravensbourne College of Art. He inherited the bookings for the Christmas dance from his predecessor.
He made an error designing the gig poster, which read “FOGG plus Sex Pistol”. The name “Sex Pistol” sounded like a funk band to me. As this was only their third gig, the Sex Pistols played for free, but they were given free beer. As a favour to Steve, I went on the door.
Whilst the audience slowly gathered, a ginger-haired man dressed entirely in leathers approached my table. “Fifty pence please, mate” I said. He blanked me and walked straight past. I got up, ready to accost him, until Steve indicated that he was the support band’s manager. This was my historic encounter with Malcolm McLaren.
Even at this early stage, the Sex Pistols’ act was fully formed and competent: Small Faces and Monkees covers played in the general style of Iggy and the Stooges. It did not seem particularly arresting or original to us, apart from the fact that John Lydon seemed to be doing an impression of Lou Reed playing Richard III. He was entertainingly obnoxious. At the end of the set he snarled “If you liked us, great. If you didn’t, fuck off!”. Then he glared threateningly and walked off.
Not only did The No-Fee Sex Pistols have a manager, but Fogg used their PA, as it was better than their own. Free beer had to be withdrawn when the bar bill hit double the normal support band fee. At the end of the evening, as Steve and I cleared up, Lydon approached a group of supporters who were standing by me. They were students from St Martin’s, where the Pistols had played the week before.
“Well,” he said, with a shy smile, “thanks ever so much for coming. I hope you enjoyed it”.
The gig had an improbably huge cultural impact. It inspired Siouxsie Sue and Billy Idol. It led to the formation of the Bromley Contingent, the hardcore of the London punk scene. Bromley and Lower Manhattan became the acknowledged global heartlands of the 1976 revolt into style. I first saw a Mohawk hairdo in Bromley High Street, birthplace of HG Wells, and we used to see Siouxsie and the Banshees buying milk in Safeway.