The Sex Pistols‘ 1978 U.S. tour was a fucking fiasco. Legendary punk Sid Vicious was seriously addicted to heroin, and Johnny Rotten was barely speaking to Paul and Steve. It was a shit storm.The band had never been to America, for obvious reasons, but they’d been in the press for the better part of a year and could have easily played relatively large venues in big cities. Instead, Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren booked them at redneck bars across the Deep South and made sure an army of journalists chronicled the 12-day odyssey in great detail. He figured the inevitable chaos would further bolster the legend of the Sex Pistols.
Needless to say, the locals of cities like Baton Rouge and San Antonio didn’t think much of the pissed up Pistols, especially when Vicious called one crowd a “bunch of faggots.”
The brief tour crashed head on into a world of rock and roll carnage on January 14th at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom. It was the biggest venue of the entire tour, without any close second. The crowd was mainly stoned hippies, curious to see what all the fuss was about.
“In America, what fucked it up was that they treated us like rock stars,” Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones said in Jon Savage’s book England’s Dreaming. “They didn’t know any different. They treat anyone who comes over the same way. At Winterland, I had a cold. Sid wasn’t playing a note, and he wasn’t even plugged in half the time. Me and Paul just wanted to play. I kept cutting out, strings breaking left, right and centre.”
The sound was fucking awful, and Johnny Rotten’s voice started to give out. The band closed with a cover of the Stooges’ “No Fun,” and near the end Rotten melts down. “There’s no fun in being alone,” he says. “This is no fun. It is no fun at all.” When the song ends he famously asks the crowd, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” He then drops the microphone and walks offstage....Beautiful.