There’s a documentary available on the BBC iPlayer now (and for another 27 days) about the gig that took place 40 years ago today in Manchester, the first Sex Pistols appearance in that city, at the Lesser Free Trade Hall. It’s called “One Night in Manchester: The Gig That Changed Music Forever”. Peter Hook, Jordan and Ian Moss are interviewed, and they represented nearly 10% of the audience that night. I have heard about it before, and about its immediate effect on music in the city, and enjoyed the documentary.
Among the people in the crowd on 4 June 1976 were Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto, of Buzzcocks (and later Magazine, in Devoto’s case), Morrissey (the Smiths) and Peter Hook (Joy Division and New Order). In the same way that only a few hundred people bought the first Velvet Underground album when it came out but they all went and formed bands as a result, most of the few dozen people in the crowd that night went on to form bands, and to turn Manchester back into a vibrant musical city.
What the documentary taught me this afternoon was that the other act on the bill that night was Solstice, a long-running (and still-running) band that most of us would classify as prog (progressive rock). Buzzcocks were due to play but weren’t ready, so Solstice played instead. I saw them 5 years ago, in June 2011 (it might even have been on the summer solstice itself), at the invitation of an old school-friend who has seen them many, many times, going back to the 1980s. We had seen Hawkwind together six months earlier. Hawkwind could also be classified as prog, and were one of Johnny Rotten’s favourite bands in the early 1970s. Prog and punk came together a bit more than you might think and I’m still partial to a bit of both myself. Never mind the capes, safety pins, synths, tartan, wizards and dog collars, here’s the Sex Pistols, supported by Solstice.