“Abysmal Performance of Depravity Rock”: The Sex Pistols in Leeds, December 1976

  • by Antony Ramm, Local and Family History, Central Library

Forty-years ago this week, the Sex Pistols finally began their 1976 UK tour. “Finally,” because – as the BBC has remembered this week – all but three of the projected dates on that tour were cancelled following the band’s notorious TV appearance on Bill Grundy’s Today show.

Those cancellations included the intended first show, at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, meaning that the actual first performance took place at Leeds Polytechnic on the 6th of December. The Pistols’ reputation for ‘bad’ language followed them to Leeds, where – as the Yorkshire Evening Post reported – college officials and local Councillors expressed serious reservations about the group’s arrival in the city:


It’s probably no surprise to hear that the band didn’t keep to those demands that they cut out the swearing while playing at the Polytechnic, as this review of the gig made clear (also from the YEP):


Strong words, indeed – “a vile, disgusting show”; “crude, mindless”; “abysmal performance of depravity rock”; “musically bereft, verbally moronic and crude”; “an abomination of bawled revolution” – the language of a cultural war fought with the kind of venom and ferocity that has only now returned to public discourse.

You can judge for yourself whether the Pistols’ performance matched or exceeded the spectacularly low levels described in the YEP by listening to the full concert: the first time, indeed, that ‘God Save The Queen’ – that “abomination of bawled revolution” – was heard by a live audience; a transmission from an era distant past and yet also now, perhaps, all our tomorrows.

The newspaper articles seen here were found using the newspaper archive available in the Local and Family History department of the Central LibraryA complete guide to all our newspaper holdings is available. Contact us on 0113 37 86982 for more details.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. val383 says:

    Ah December 1976. The end of my first term at UoL. Punk was huge in places like the students’ union, the Fav and the Hyde Park. So too, though, was funk. Not much in common there. How can all this be forty years ago? .

  2. Kris Larner says:

    I was there, and I’ve just found a photo of me from an Evening Post article from December 9th 2019

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