There are a few revered flashpoints in rock and roll history, those moments that sparked the audience to go out and form their own bands — The Beatles appearing on Sullivan, for example. For a handful of English kids the rally point may have been The Sex Pistols first ever concert, opening for Bazooka Joe at a show at St. Martin’s College in November 1975. Bazooka Joe’s bassist? Stuart Goddard, later known as Adam Ant.
But wait, that’s sort of a false start. Roughly six months later the Pistols played a show at Free Trade Hall in Manchester, and that’s when things really get moving. Future members of The Fall, The Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, The Buzzcocks, and Magazine were at that gig. A small group of rabid fans/hangers-on quickly formed around The Pistols that included Siouxsie Sioux, Steve Severin, and Billy Idol. This little grouping of groupies eventually was christened “The Bromley Contingent.”
So love them or hate them, The Sex Pistols were the catalyst for a tremendous amount of music. Here are some of my favorites from that lineage:
“Car Trouble (Part 2),” Adam and the Ants: Bazooka Joe’s Stuart Goddard reinvented himself as Adam Ant, one of the biggest pop stars of the Eighties. This is my favorite cut off of 1979’s Dirk Wears White Sox.
“Blindness,” The Fall: The Fall’s catalog is huge, a very prolific band. I’d recommend checking out Henry Rollins’s “Fanatic” books for some great write-ups, as Rollins is a true Fall fanatic. I think that this is a particularly cool track. The Fall’s Mark E. Smith attended the Pistol’s legendary Manchester show.
“Death Of A Disco Dancer,” The Smiths: Morissey is said to have been at the Manchester gig, too. This track off of Strangeways Here We Come has always been my favorite, and will always remind me of my time working at Record Bar in Savannah, Georgia circa 1987 — but that story is for another day.
“Ever Fallen In Love,” The Buzzcocks: I am doing a horrible job of bringing the deep cuts today, but this is such a nice bit of footage I can’t pass it up. Besides, I suppose there might be a few people out there who aren’t familiar with The Buzzcocks, and this is definitely the place to start. Free Trade Hall gig attendees: Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley.
“A Song From Under the Floorboards,” Magazine. Another legendary Howard Devoto band. Love the bass line in this song.
“Cities In the Dust,” Siouxsie and the Banshees: Oh, to hell with it. Who needs deep cuts anyway? Let’s just revel in the greatness. My all-time favorite track from Bromley Contingent originals Siouxsie Sioux and Steven Severin.
“She’s Lost Control,” Joy Division: Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner were at the Manchester gig, too.
“Blue Monday,” New Order: From the ashes of Joy Division came New Order. Confession time: I was never a fan — just not my style — but 1987’s compilation Substance is another one of those albums that conjures my time behind the counter at Record Bar in Savannah. Remind me to tell you about the time we had a mini-riot when rappers The Fat Boys made an in-store appearance. Incidentally, The Fat Boys were not at the Pistols’ June 4, 1976 Manchester show. Just sayin’.
“Right To Work,” Chelsea: Bromley Contingent member Billy Idol had brief tenures in Siouxsie and the Banshees and Chelsea before forming Generation X with Tony James. “Right to Work” was Chelsea’s first single, released in 1977. Sadly, it’s still relevant in 2011.
“King Rocker ,” Generation X: Not my favorite Gen X song, but worth a look just for a mulleted Billy Idol.