Music History

A Great Retro Read: The Only Time the Sex Pistols Appeared on the Cover of Rolling Stone

I vividly remember this issue.  I’d yet to discover the power of punk and wasn’t on board yet, so I was rather dismissive of this noise coming out of New York and the UK.  (It an Elvis Costello concert to change my mind forever.)

Rolling Stone - Sex Pistols 20 October 1977

Note the line on the cover:  “Rock is sick and living in London.”  Rolling Stone was appalled at how music had been hijacked by a bunch of lower-class yobbos.  And readers weren’t impressed, either.  This apparently was the lowest-selling issue in the history of the magazine to date.

All the more to review the article, don’t you think?  It was written by Charles M. Young and appeared on October 20, 1977.

Alittle before midnight, my taxi arrives at a club called the Vortex. The weather is atypically dry, and the neighborhood, like the rest of London, is a shopping district with its eye on the tourist trade. Half a block away ten or twelve teenage boys dressed like horror-movie morticians jump up and down and hit each other. Their hair is short, either greased back or combed to stick straight out with a pomade of Vaseline and talcum powder. Periodically, one chases another out of the pack, grabs the other’s arm and twists it until he screams with pain. Then they rush back laughing and leap about some more. Sitting oblivious against a building, a man dressed in a burlap bag nods gently as a large puddle of urine forms between his legs.

Shouting epithets at themselves in a thick proletarian accent, the boys finally bob down the street as another cab pulls up to the entrance. A man with curly, moderately long, red hair, a pale face and an apelike black sweater gets out. It is Malcolm McLaren, manager of the Sex Pistols, the world’s most notorious punk band who I have flown from New York to meet and see perform. McLaren has been avoiding me for two days. I introduce myself and suggest we get together soon. He changes the subject by introducing me to Russ Meyer, the softcore porn king of Supervixens and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls fame, who is directing the Sex Pistols’ movie. “You’re a journalist?” asks Meyer. “Do you know Roger Ebert? He won the Pulitzer Prize for film criticism and he’s writing the movie with me. You should talk to him. At the Chicago Sun-Times, he’s Dr. Jekyll. With me, he’s Mr. Hyde. He’s really into tits.”

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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