Holidays in the Sun: The Sex Pistols at the Seaside: Scarborough Penthouse 24 August 1977

The Sex Pistols Scarborough Penthouse 24 August 1977
Never_Mind_the_Bollocks The Sex Pistols were banned from playing almost everywhere. I’d had a ticket for their show at Newcastle City Hall in December 1976 and was really looking forward to seeing them. The gig was cancelled, as was most of the rest of the tour, in the aftermath of their appearance on the Bill Grundy show. Foolishly I got a refund on the ticket; now there’s a stub I wish I had kept 🙂 By mid 1977 the Pistols had released three classic singles in a row: “Anarchy in the U.K.”, “God Save the Queen” and “Pretty Vacant”. Glen had been sacked and John’s mate Sid Vicious had been recruited as the new bassist.
When they were whispers that the Pistols might be playing some secret dates I was determined to see them. I picked up on hints of gigs through the press and the radio; there was no internet in those days. I also rang around local venues and managed to find out the location of most of the secret gigs. The tour is now referred to as the S.P.O.T.S Tour (Sex Pistols On Tour Secretly) and took in Wolverhampton Lafayette (the Pistols were advertised as S.P.O.T.S); Doncaster Outlook (Tax Exiles); Scarborough Penthouse (Special Guests); Middlesborough Rock Garden (Acne Rabble); Plymouth Woods (The Hamsters); and Penzance Winter Gardens (Mystery Band of International Repute). The gigs all took place over the last week of August and the first week of September 1977. The most local gig for me was Middlesbrough Rock Garden, a venue which I often visited for punk gigs. But sadly I had a dilemma, as I had tickets for the Reading Festival that weekend, and the festival started on the Friday night, which was the night of the Rock Garden gig. And to complicate matters further I had a car load of mates who I had promised to take to Reading. I decided that the best solution was to go and see the Pistols on Thursday in Scarborough, drive home that night, and then get up the next morning and drive to Reading with my mates. And thats exactly what I did.
I rang Scarborough Penthouse, who would only tell me that a “Special Guest Band” would be appearing on Thursday night. They wouldn’t be drawn as to whether it was the Pistols, and when I asked the guy directly I was told that I would just have to come along and find out. But it seemed pretty obvious that the Pistols were going to play Scarborough. I figured that there might a lot of demand, and the venue wasn’t selling any advance tickets. So the only thing to do was to make sure we arrived early. So on Thursday morning, Marie, I and a mate set off for the seaside, and sunny Scarborough. We arrived around lunchtime and found the Penthouse, which was a small club in the town. There were a few punks hanging around but no queue yet. We went to find a chip shop and passed the Pistols walking down the street, which confirmed to us that the gig was indeed taking place. nofunlp A few others arrived, so we formed a queue and waited. We must have stood for 5 or 6 hours until the Penthouse opened its doors, by which time the queue was right down the street. The Penthouse club was a pretty small venue, in an upstairs room as I remember, and it could only have held a few hundred people at the most. The stage was set up with large crowd barriers in front of it, to make it pretty impossible to climb on stage. The gig soon filled up, and by the time the Pistols took to the stage it was absolutely rammed. The atmosphere was electric and the Pistols were incredible. Sid was new to the band, and was just learning to play bass, but he looked great; just the part. John was amazing, sneering and snarling, hanging off his mike stand and at times covered in spit from the crowd. Steve Jones was the ultimate rock guitar hero, all swagger in his leather jeans, and Paul Cook was smashing away at his drums. And they were LOUD, and fast.
The set was quite short; they were on stage for less than an hour. They started with Anarchy and played most of the yet to be released Bollocks album. The setlist was something like: Anarchy in the U.K.; I Wanna Be Me; Seventeen; New York; EMI; Holidays in the Sun; No Feelings; Problems; Pretty Vacant; God Save the Queen. They definitely finished with No Fun. We braved it in the scrum down the front for some of the set, but I eventually bottled it and took up a vantage point at the back, standing on a chair. Too much spitting and pogoing down the front for my liking. My mate tried to tell some punks to stop spitting at John but they took no notice 🙂 The stairs were lined by the local police as we left; they were presumably expecting trouble, but there wasn’t any. Everyone started singing Pretty Vacant right into the face of the policemen as we left. Luckily the police took it all in good spirits.
We drove back home, getting back in the early hours of the morning. I had a few hours sleep, and then I got up, picked up my mates and drove down to Reading where the festival was headlined by Golden Earing, Thin Lizzy, and Alex Harvey. Not much punk on show that year (although Wayne County and Ultravox! played), but there was lots and lots of mud. Another mate went to see the Pistols at the Middlesbrough Rock Garden and said they were awesome. That was the last time I saw the Pistols until a reunion show at Brixton a few years ago, but the gig still sticks in my mind as a very special event. At the time there really was no other live band like the Pistols. The songs, the image, the energy, the volume, the secrecy of the event, all made their gigs occasions like no other. Another one for my time machine.

14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Molly Hartley on July 31, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    My Dad was meant to go to this gig, as his friends were older than him and he’d just turned 13 so it was kind of a gift. He ended up not going because a teacher at school said he’d be there and watching him for underage drinking and classic punk violence (it was a joke, so he discovered when he next saw his mates…). I’ll never forgive him for missing such a display that came to our hometown because of his cowardliness! I did make it up to him though by taking him with me to see The Damned, Buzzcocks and Sham 69, but nothing beats the Pistols!


    • Posted by vintagerock on August 1, 2014 at 7:19 am

      Hi Molly Great story Many thanks. Hope you are not too hard on your dad about this 🙂 Cheers Peter


      • Posted by Molly Hartley on August 1, 2014 at 10:41 am

        No, I’m nice to him about it. To be fair I would’ve been wussed out even if I’d of gone I think. Still a really annoying story. By the way, you’ve seen some awesome bands! 😀

      • Posted by vintagerock on August 1, 2014 at 10:52 am

        Thanks Molly Best wishes Peter

  2. Posted by Stuart on January 23, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    Thanks for the memories, I was there that night, remember it a bit differently, I’ve been the same since!


  3. Posted by Gary Nattrass on August 3, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    I was there on holiday aged 16 with my Mam and Dad and saw them in the street too on the afternoon. I think I was about third in the Q to get in and had a red nylon jacket on! I had two bottles of broon ale and ended up right at the front beside Sid! They were fab and really could play so it inspired me further with my own north east band The Coils! Our tracks are released this xmas on bored teenagers vol 9 so 40 years later the spirit of 76 and 77 lives on!


  4. Posted by Stuart Boreman on June 7, 2020 at 8:09 pm

    i was there that night
    i have never been the same since
    priceless (well 75 p for a ticket)


    • Posted by vintagerock on June 8, 2020 at 11:57 am

      Yes John was on fire. I too was totally blown away. The Pistols changed the face of music and their like will never be seen again; I suspect. Right place, right time and they captured the mood of the kids. One of the best nights of my life Peter


  5. OK, Peter, I’ve had a look and have found two posters for August 1977 and as you can see, The Pistols definitely aren’t mentioned. In fact they’re not even hinted at which suggests that the secret gigs had not even been conceived of at the time of printing.

    For the record, I didn’t go.
    Word had already got out around the locals that they were playing that Thursday night but I’m afraid that Sex Pistols were not my idea of a fun time, and, like you, I had to be up early the next morning to get the bus down to Reading.
    It’s strange how musical tastes change down the years because now I really like their NMTB album with it’s fabulously energetic singles.
    Funny, eh?

    And, yes, the Penthouse was a small venue and it was indeed in an upstairs room, above an old NatWest Bank building.
    For three years it was my local rock venue and was where I received my musical appreciation grounding!
    I have very fond memories of the place, but can’t remember any occasion when barriers were set up to protect the stage, which goes to show just how “busy” they were expecting your gig to be!



  6. Edit: for the previous post… Lloyds Bank, not NatWest Bank


  7. Here you go. A close-up from the HUGE poster that was produced to celebrate ten years of The Penthouse – and the Pistols finally do get a mention. By the way, the poster is currently up for grabs on eBay… if you have a spare four hundred knicker to part with… 😮


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