The Sex Pistols Whitby 11 September 1976

The Sex Pistols Whitby 11 September 1976
pistolslogo I’d read about the new punk movement and The Sex Pistols in NME and Sounds, and was curious and interested in going to see them. Unbeknown to me the Pistols has already performed in the North East at Middlesbrough Town Hall and Northallerton Sayers club as support for Doctors of Madness in May 1976. I wish I’d been at those gigs. Anyway, I saw that the Pistols were playing at the Royal Ballroom in Whitby on a Saturday night, so I persuaded Marie that we should go along and see what this punk thing was all about. Whitby is around 60 miles away from home, just a nice drive for a Saturday night out. We didn’t bargain for the rain that night, which was torrential. Still, when I’m determined to do something I’m not easily put off, so we drove through flooded roads and past broken down cars in my little old MG sports. When we arrived in Whitby we went straight to the Royal Hotel, which is the splendid white hotel which overlooks the harbour. We went into the bar and asked where the Sex Pistols were playing. The staff gave us strange looks and didn’t seem to know anything about the gig, but suggested it might be in the disco which was in a room somewhere around the back. I remember that we went back to the car and drove away from the hotel until we saw a poster advertising “Saturday Disco Night featuring Top Band The Sex Pistols” on a gate, which led us into a pub, or the back room of the hotel. I’m not sure which. pistolsbus We got absolutely drenched just going from the car to the door, the rain was so heavy. We paid our entrance fee which around 50p each, and went into the venue which was pretty empty. We soon spotted the Pistols who were sitting at a table in the corner, so we knew that we had arrived at the right place. John was wearing a tam, a pair of bondage trousers and a teddy boy jacket. I went to the bar to buy some drinks and John and Steve came and stood next to me and ordered some food (chicken and chips, I think). Malcolm McLaren wasn’t with them; it was just the Pistols (Johnny Rotten, Glen Matlock, Steve Jones and Paul Cook) with Nils Stevenson. Nils was their road manager and drove them to gigs in his van at the time. The place started to fill up around 9ish with a regular Saturday night crowd of young people, all dressed up for their normal disco. I swear that Marie and I were the only people who looked like they had come to see the Pistols. There were no punks there at all (except the Pistols, that is šŸ™‚ ). The DJ started to play some 70s charts music, from behind his set-up surrounded by lights, and a small group of girls took to the dance floor. After a little time, the DJ introduced tonight’s “group”: The Sex Pistols. The girls dancing at the front didn’t know what was happening. The Pistols were deafening and started with Anarchy in the UK, which hadn’t been released as a single yet, but I had heard John Peel play on the radio. anarchy I’d read reviews of Pistols gigs in London, so I knew what songs to expect. From memory, they played Seventeen (then called I’m A Lazy Sod), New York, No Lip (the Dave Berry song), and Stepping Stone (the Monkees song). By the time they were into Stepping Stone the crowd were getting restless, and couldn’t believe their eyes or ears. John was staring at them, snarling the lyrics. The DJ sensed that the Pistols weren’t going down too well with his normal disco crowd, who seemed totally phased by the whole thing; and between songs he turned their sound off, said “Thank you for tonight’s band the Sex Pistols, now its back to the disco” and started his disco up again. And that was it. The Pistols had played for around 20 minutes or so. But that was enough for me to know that I’d witnessed something pretty special. From then on I went to every punk gig that I could. We ran through the rain, which was still pouring down, back to the car, and drove back, passing more broken down cars on the way. The roads were flooded and the water was coming in to the car. How we made it back without breaking down I don’t know. The next night the Pistols played the Fforde Green hotel in Leeds, where they apparently played a full set and went down well. A month later they appeared on the Bill Grundy show and achieved notoriety. Anarchy in the UK was released a month after that.
I was back in Whitby with David a few months ago, and we went to the Royal Hotel to try and find the venue where I saw the Pistols. We drove around all of the streets near to the hotel, but couldn’t find the venue. Maybe it doesn’t exist any more. I saw the Pistols again the following year, again at the seaside, and this time in Scarborough. I’ll write about that gig tomorrow.
Note. My scan: “Anarchy in the UK” is the front cover of the first issue of a Pistols magazine which was released in 1976 or 1977. To get my copy I sent a cheque off to Glitterbest, which was Malcolm McLaren’s company. I’m not sure if there were ever any further editions after No 1. The large newspaper size mag contains picture of the early Pistols, incuding both Sid and Glen, although I am pretty sure that Sid was not a member at the point I bought it. The girl on the front cover is Soo Catwoman:
The bus is from the back cover; this image was used to promote the Pistols on tour.

21 responses to this post.

  1. That is a great story…You were there at the start…I caught the Clash at the R.P.I Fieldhouse in Troy N.Y in 1982 for the last dying embers of punk…It was a horrible show and it was over.


  2. Posted by m a jackson on July 18, 2013 at 8:07 am

    i suspected this gig didnt take place in the actual ballroom. iwent looking for the venue a few years ago now and the only pub i could find was a derilict one which was on the corner of a back street. if you are looking at the main entrance of the hotel,then walk right to its corner so you are looking at the sea,turn left and keep walking to the next left turn,the pub i saw was on that corner of the back street,dont know if it was the venue they played or not. went back in june 2013 and the pub as been turned into some kind of accommodation.


  3. Posted by abitoftap on September 5, 2013 at 11:46 am

    I should have been there but wasn’t…I took my Mam and Dad out for a meal as a just about to return to LIverpool student.
    I worked at the Royal over a couple of summers. The venue wasn’t the “derelict” pub on the corner (that was the Dutch Courage…..air thick with cigarette smoke..had a jukebox on legs..(loved Candi Staton and the Elton/Kiki song). It was the White Horse Inn club/bar actually round the back (walk along West Terrace away from the sea, turn first left and the entrance was in the far left corner past the refuse bins!) Still part of the Royal.
    There was a guy who promoted there..mainly the disco but with bands as well, usually 60s veterans (the Nashville Teens were good!). The place was vile….locals getting drunk v quickly, sick in the corners and fights most weeks. It was always on the verge of being closed down.
    My younger brother saw them but can’t remember..he was there for the drink..although he did recall seeing them wandering along the pier the next day.
    Meanwhile back in Liverpool Erics was being born….great time to be there


  4. Posted by abitoftap on September 5, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Sorry forgot…99% sure the White Horse hasn’t existed as a venue for some decades…I’ll ask my brother!!


  5. Posted by vintagerock on September 5, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Aha I think I remember the roof! Many thanks for your help Peter


  6. Posted by abitoftap on September 6, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    I called by this morning. The area behind the Royal and other hotels/houses has been tidied up. There’s a tarmacked car park behind the Royal now and an entrance. The Tyrolean facing has gone and where the entrance to the White Horse was is just what is, I presume, a service door. The building is still there though, If I was modern enough to have a phone which took photos, I would have. I wouldn’t make a special journey.
    The Dutch Courage bar on the corner has been bricked up so it’s now j(almost) indistinguishable from the rest of the hotel
    On a side issue, the Metropole hotel, further along the front (where I’ve also worked!) had a gorgeous, corner American Bar..beautiful mirroring behind the bar..very 1930s…looked through the stripped out and v ordinary..shame..


  7. Posted by vintagerock on September 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    That’s great. Many thanks for your help and interest. Very useful and a little sad how things change over time. Best wishes Peter


  8. Posted by joe noble on September 9, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    I was there in 76 great night i was only 15 got in through a bouncer that was my brothers best friend, a teacher at my school told us about them, it was a life changing experience they were raw loud and exiting, it was the best time to be a teenager ever, i saw them lots of times since the last been brixton academy 2007.


  9. Posted by john6747 on October 25, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    The Dutch Courage was a refuge to many of us old hippies in the late 60’s It was possible to buy 8 pints of Newcastle Brown for a pound. Agnes was behind the bar and she looked after us. When Whitby was cut off by snow we sought refuge there in front of the fire and then slept in the Seaman’s Mission. Happy days.


  10. Posted by Kevin dench on January 21, 2020 at 3:44 am

    It was in the hotel’s “White Horse Club” a single storey pebble-dash render, asbestos and creosoted Alpine effect fire hazard round the back. It served exotic chicken in basket teas in a cosy Wild-West setting for families of drunk holiday parents before segueing into a soul night – often v. good dj-ing, but UV on plastic gingham table-tops kept it “edgy”. Re-named “The Big Bamboo” for the 80s.

    I don’t remember the rain, but you don’t when you’re 17, and we locals were all out of order in one way or another.

    The group was pretty good (they had a bass player then). Loud and on the front foot. The jolt was not wasted on quite a few.

    They didn’t seem too unhappy to be there, except angry John.

    Like you say, DJ turned them off after a few songs. Win-win-win! I should think they’d just about done their set-list and would be glad to get paid-off early, their “fans” wouldn’t be spending much more, and the night was still young with pints of Malibu and Vodka Strawberry Snowballs to be shifted.

    A good night.


  11. Posted by Earl Delaney on September 14, 2022 at 10:46 am

    This is a great story, do you know if any tickets, posters or photos survive from this night.


    • Posted by vintagerock on September 14, 2022 at 11:56 am

      I wish I could say yes Earl. I do have an image of an advertisement from the local paper. However I promised not to use it as someone else wanted to use it first for a book they are writing. That reminds me, I must follow up on this! Otherwise I don’t think anything else exists. There was a poster outside the venue. I wish I had sneakily taken it down! Happy days Peter


  12. Posted by Tony Millward on November 8, 2022 at 6:03 pm

    I was that DJ at the Whitby gig.


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