If the Sex Pistols seem to be having a good time in these never-before-seen photos from Christmas Day 1977, it might be because to a children’s party, food fights, and dancing to Boney M.
The photographs will be shown at Photo London, the first photography fair to be held physically anywhere in the globe since the outbreak began.
They bring attention to a pivotal period in British music history. It was not just a day you couldn’t make up, but it was also the band’s last performance in the United Kingdom. The Sex Pistols disbanded a few weeks later, after a catastrophic tour of southern US states.
Kevin Cummins, aged 23, was asked by the Pistols’ manager, Malcolm McLaren, to shoot the band at a Christmas Day performance at Ivanhoes in Huddersfield.
He misses his family. Christmas was a spectacle in and of itself. “It was the 1970s, and leaving the house on Christmas Day was terrifying,” Cummins said. “A three-line whip was issued to be at the table and watch the Queen’s speech.
“Leaving the house was bad enough, but seeing the Sex Pistols was even worse. My family was shocked. For three weeks, they didn’t talk to me.”
Cummins, on the other hand, was a young and impulsive freelancer for NME who, importantly, had a vehicle to drive him from Manchester to Huddersfield.
The midday get-together was for the striking firefighters’ families. Children would joyfully hurl Christmas cake at Johnny Rotten while wearing their newly issued Never Mind the Bollocks T-shirts and Anarchy in the UK badges.
Children joined Sid Vicious to dance to Boney M’s Daddy Cool and Baccara’s Yes Sir, I Can Boogie during the band’s brief performance.
There was also the concert that night. Normally, Sex Pistols shows are aggressive and even frightening, but not in Huddersfield.
“I’d seen them a dozen times, and this was the best show I’d ever seen. They were all in such high spirits, and so was the crowd… They felt like they were part of a secret society since they were permitted to attend to a concert on Christmas Day, despite their parents’ objections. It wasn’t aggressive in the least. Everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time.”
Cummins was allowed to shoot from the side of the stage by McLaren, which added to the brightness of the photos.
“The fact that they had such a good afternoon carried over into the evening is why the show was so good. There weren’t any of the typical squabbles, people spitting at them, or beer being thrown at them.”
Cummins had his photos produced on Boxing Day, and they were widely distributed in the music press.
The fresh, previously unseen photographs are on exhibit at Paul Stolper Gallery’s Photo London booth. They’re all for sale since it’s a business fair.
The gallery is one of 88 from 15 nations taking part in Photo London’s sixth edition.
According to Michael Benson, the fair’s co-founder, the fact that it’s occurring at all is a small miracle: “Policy has been so mixed, muddled, and misleading that planning anything has been recast as a branch of medieval theology.”
The Pistols performed approximately 80 shows in the United Kingdom, despite the fact that many local governments refused to let them perform. Several shows were canceled at the last minute, even on the last tour.