Before the punk wave broke across the country in the seventies there hadn’t been a rebellious band. Nowadays so many are anti-mainstream that it's boring. Nobody had seen anything like the Sex Pistols though. They were like an incendiary comet hitting the country and were responsible for initiating the punk movement and many musicians for decades to come. Even though they only lasted for two and a half years and made just one album they’re still talked about now. Here I am behind an Aldi store in central Huddersfield where they performed their last ever UK concert in 1977.
Parking in the centre of Huddersfield isn’t easy unless you’re shopping so I parked in the Aldi car park, had a coffee and bought some stuff to justify my stay. I was impressed when the foreign woman serving observed, “That is not a Huddersfield accent is it - where are you from?” So young she looked like she should have been at school rather than deciphering accents. I fed some pigeons and walked down across to the centre of Huddersfield to have a look at the old listed Co-op Building which was empty and looking sorry for itself (a local told me it used to be a nightclub called Heaven And Hell - Heaven upstairs and Hell downstairs.) Thankfully these listed building can’t be demolished. I crossed the road to see the white frontage of the old Grand Picture Theatre - another listed building. In 1977 this was Ivanhoe’s nightclub and on Christmas Day in 1977 the Sex Pistols played a charity show there to raise money for the families of striking firemen. You’d think their last public appearance would be at a big venue in London or Glasgow but oddly it was here in Yorkshire.
It was a busy day - first there was a party in the afternoon for kids. Johnny Rotten handed out badges, posters and other Sex Pistols merchandise. Kids and teenagers danced with Sid Vicious on the dance floor to disco hits by Baccara and Boney M. Later on Johnny Rotten judged a pogo dancing contest and presented the youngsters with a 6 foot cake. A good-natured chaotic food fight ensued. This party for young kids seemed odd as the Pistols were pilloried by the media, excoriated by the Establishment and banned from some council-owned venues due to their corrosive influence. Yet on a freezing Christmas Day they wanted to show support for the firemen who’d been on strike for nine weeks and give their kids a good day.
The party continued through the night and adult punks showed up for the evening's 70-minute concert. Fans couldn't have known this was the last time they'd appear on stage in the UK. Just over three weeks later the band split up. They’d played a chaotic gig at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco and Johnny Rotten left the band. Just over a year later bass-player Sid Vicious was found dead of a heroin overdose after murdering his girlfriend Nancy Spungen (nearing her death his mum confessed she’d deliberately injected her son with pure heroin to spare him from going to prison.)
Anyway the former cinema I'm stood by was where the last gig occurred. I took lots of photographs of the building though it's really just a posh front. If you look at plan views of this place Aldi have craftily cut right into the building and the former theatre has gone (there's a tree growing on top.) Even though Ivanhoe's nightclub is long gone the council had the good sense to keep the facade of a once renown cinema. It opened as a cinema in 1921 (building cost of £32,000) and closed in 1957. Like so many cinemas it was turned into a nightclub and eventually became Ivanhoe's in the 70s.
I had one last look about the place (with keen interest from a woman at the bus stop) and took some footage. You wouldn’t think this was a site of rock history would you? On the day in 1977 it cost £1.75 for a ticket to see the Pistols. I wondered how much people would pay now to see them. I did a salute and left.
There's a documentary about the gig here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNlSNHHmPmE
To some footage please click on the link at the foot of this page.