A year and a half before they could even cut an album — what would be their only album — in one of the quickest yet influential burnouts in music history, the Sex Pistols assembled at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England on this day in 1976 to headline “The Gig That Changed the World.”
This was pre-Sid Vicious. Pre-punk. And only 42 people showed up.
So why was the damn show so important? Well, the frothing, oi!-it attitude of the band was single-handedly propelling the explosion of the UK version of whatever it meant to be ‘punk’. And like the Brian Eno-induced Velvet Underground adage that only 1000 people bought the band’s first album, but every one of those thousand started a band — so goes the who’s who crowd of 42 at the Sex Pistols gig.
A handful of the figures in attendance: Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley, the dudes that co-founded the Buzzcocks. Morrissey. Tony Wilson, launcher of the invaluable communal hub, Factory Records. Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner, the founding members of Joy Division. And Mark E. Smith of cult punkists The Fall.
Here’s a perfectly snide Sex Pistols verse-chorus combo to tie it all together, and recreation of the infamous gig via 2002’s 24 Hour Party People below it: