Listen To This Eddie is a weekly column that examines the important people and events in the classic rock canon and how they continue to impact the world of popular music.
“You’ll get one number, and one number only because I’m a lazy bastard,” singer Johnny Rotten sneers at the 5,000 punk rock kids gathered before him at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom. Then, underscoring his apathy while simultaneously introducing the encore number of The Sex Pistols’s final show in America, he decrees, “This is ‘No Fun.’” For the next seven minutes, the room fills with a cacophony of crashing cymbals, razor sharp guitars, and off-kilter bass lines approximating something similar to the Stooges’ 1969 proto-punk classic. Around the middle of the song, while the rest of the band at least attempts to maintain some semblance of musicality, Rotten has plainly had enough. Enough of the song. Enough of the tour. Enough of the Sex Pistols.
For three minutes, he writhes around on the floor of the stage, intoning the song’s title over and over again. “No fun. No fun. No Fun.” He croaks the words. Spits them out. Screams them. Then, after a final squealing bleat, he crouches near the floor, surveying the teenage wasteland convulsing at his feet. Someone throws trash at guitarist Steve Jones. Next to him, with his glistening forearm bandaged from a self-inflicted needle wound or God knows what else, and with his chest laid bare, Sid Vicious tries to keep time on bass with the frenetic pounding of drummer Paul Cook. “This is no fun,” Rotten admits. “This is no fun. At. All.” A look of sad recognition washes over his face as his bandmates bring the music to an end. “Ever get the feeling you been cheated?” he asks before throwing the microphone down and walking off.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the Sex Pistols, one of the most violent, virulent, caustic, and vital punk rock bands the world has even known, came to an end. Not with a bang. Not with a promised revolution. Just a sigh and the dull thud of a microphone crashing into wood.