The Rams and 1970s punk rockers

The Rams and 1970s punk rockers

In December 1976 the Sex Pistols were about to begin a 19-date UK tour to promote their first single Anarchy in the UK. The tour was to become one of the most famous in rock ‘n’ roll history as before it even began, the band had already gained notoriety due to their profanity on a live TV interview with Bill Grundy on Thames Television’s Today programme. The ensuing national newspaper headlines and public outcry led most venues to cancel or ban the concerts with only three of the scheduled dates going ahead, as well as four other rearranged gigs.

Malcolm McLaren, manager of John Lydon (Johnny Rotten), Steve Jones, Glen Matlock and Paul Cook, strategically placed an advert for the Anarchy in the UK tour in several football programmes in areas where the Pistols would be playing. The programmes were:

  • Bristol City v Leeds United on 4 December 1976 (abandoned at half time due to fog)
  • Manchester City v Derby County on 4 December 1976
  • Ipswich Town v Liverpool on 4 December 1976
  • Torquay United v Southend United on 18 December 1976 – a single sheet advert was stapled into the programme

The gig at Derby was due to be on Saturday 4 December at Kings Hall, the site of the Queen Street Baths swimming pool which was built over in the winter to become a 1500-seat venue. Rams fans at Maine Road on that Saturday hoping to watch the Pistols in the evening witnessed a 3-2 defeat (Dennis Tueart scoring a 25-yard winner in the 88th minute, Leighton James netting twice for Derby) before having to rush back to Derby to make it in time. However, Derby and Pistol fans were unlikely to have been aware that Derby City Council had decided the best course of action would be to preview the gig, given the exploits of the band on the Today programme only days before. So, local councillors and press gathered at 2pm at Kings Hall to preview a matinee gig as agreed with the band but they did not show up. The council leaders decided that the Pistols would not be allowed to perform, but support bands The Clash, The Damned, and New York’s Johnny Thunder and The Heartbreakers, could. Malcolm McLaren disagreed so the whole event was called off.

The half page Anarchy in the UK advert is on page 10 of the Manchester City away programme, although it is thought that copies exist without the advert. Designed by Jamie Reid, it features letters cut from newspaper headlines in the style of a ransom note which is now part of the defining imagery of the Punk era. The programme is not seen as particularly valuable to football collectors, although collectors of Punk rock memorabilia are seemingly happy to pay more.

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