"The Sex Pistols were my introduction to West Runton Pavilion, during the tinder box summer of 1976. An older school friend, John, suggested a trip to West Runton to see “ a band from London called the Sex Pistols”. As a 15 year old, I was thrilled and a bit anxious. I remember clearly him asking me whether the admission fee of £1.50 was OK, as this was considered at the expensive end for the time.
The ticket had red revolvers on the vertical axis.
I’ll never forget the feeling of having “arrived” on entering “the Pit” (as we called the Pavilion) and ordering a vodka and lime in a plastic glass. The bar seemed to go on forever. As it was, there was no crush at the abr that particular evening. Who were the Sex Pistols anyway?
The PA was enormous. I’d been playing in a band at school for a couple of years, but this was another league. I remember thinking, how loud is this going to be? Subsequently I saw close on a hundred bands at west Runton Pavilion, but I maintain that the Sex Pistols were among the loudest - if not the loudest - act I experienced there.
The support act was a folk band called Grendel - heavy on the beard side. Grendel were acoustic, save for the vocal and the bass, so I was spared the PA for a while. No-one seemed to take any notice of Grendel and I was keen to explore the Pit. It had everything a naÏve 15 year old could ever need: two bars, a pinball table and chips / hot dogs. Nirvana. There were girls too - well a few, it wasn’t a Girl’s night.
Grendel came and went (never saw or heard from them again). A few more people drifted in. By the time the Pistols came on there were probably a couple of hundred in there, I can’t say, but certainly the venue was more empty than full.
Something I’ll never, ever forget was when the main PA was switched on there was a “pop” as thousands of litres of air were momentarily thrust in my direction. This was followed by a loud menacing, expectant electric hum. Anxiety confirmed.
And then it began. The Pistols were astonishing - first gig or last gig. Johnny Rotten was wearing bondage gear: his jacket was ripped, it had safety pins on the lapels / shoulders and had “F*** the Queen” written on the front. Some of the locals weren’t impressed - I was too scared not to be! The energy was truly astonishing.Rotten screamed lyrics and leered at the audience. A few lads at the front (there weren’t many) swore at him, which seemed to incite him to antagonise them further. Glen Matlock was a good bass player and he was well in control; somehow different to the other three. Steve Jones, I think, played an ivory Les Paul. Matlock had a Fender Precision bass. Jones was terrific - arrogant, punchy, great riffs. Matlock was left stage, Jones right. Paul Cook played drums, and that was about it. Again, very tight, plenty of energy.
1- Take a cheap charity shop fanboy t-shirt.
2- Write "I HATE"
3- Wear and share. Most of the Pistols wore this t-shirt.
The set was probably about an hour. Many, if not all, of the songs that ended up on Never Mind the Bollocks were played that night. No-one really knew what to make of it. The regulars didn’t seem to enjoy it at all. I think Rotten referred to them as yokels (or similar) and said that London audiences “got it”. I don’t recall anyone dancing, pogo-ing or engaging with the music at all. They finished, we went home - deafened and confused.
No-one understood what they had seen that night and I had nothing to compare it to. When a group of us saw the Pistols (with Vicious) a year later at Cromer Links, everyone understood.
From "What Flo Said" - the story of West Runton Pavilion. Recollections by Paul Life:
This video shows the Pistols performing a few weeks (2-9-76) later in High Wycombe. The scenes of "anarchy" are from the Notting Hill Carnival of 1976, Northern Ireland and demonstrations. This is the original band line-up with Glen Matlock.
A voucher seems to have been available to pick up but where did it came from? An ad in the local paper, to the right, asserts that the Sex Pistols had been on the front page of Sounds, NME and Melody Maker. I don't think this is right - they had been in all those papers but were only on the front of Melody Maker at this time.