30 Years Out: The Sex Pistols live at Randy’s Rodeo

Sex Pistols at Randy’s Rodeo

Photo above from Sex Pistols at Randy’s Rodeo website 

Few things in rock and roll are as fun as being able to “discover” a new band and follow them as they progress into stardom, or obscurity.  Early in 1978 we were hearing rumbles from across the Atlantic about something new, something different, something very, very odd. 

It was, of course, the Sex Pistols … and they toured (more like invaded) the United States in 1978, crossing the southern half of the country playing redneck bars and enduring the insults of (supposedly) hostile audiences.  Manager Malcolm McLaren later admitted this was done on purpose, to get publicity. 

Anyway, I covered the infamous San Antonio gig at a bar called Randy’s Rodeo.  Of course, my newspaper refused to print the review; so did the Associated Press, for which I worked as a stringer.  So to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Randy’s Rodeo gig, here is the complete story, seen publicly for the first time: 

SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 9, 1978) – On the jukebox at Randy’s Rodeo, a bowling alley-turned honky tonk on the outskirts of town, George Jones and Merle Haggard offer to sing their lonely, sad songs to anyone who will listen. 

But nobody wanted them Sunday night, as the British punk rock band the Sex Pistols invaded Randy’s with their trademark brand of switchblade rock and offensive stage antics.

Led by singer/shouter Johnny Rotten, the Sex Pistols snarled through 13 songs from their album Never Mind The Bollocks on Warner Bros. records. 

One of the songs they performed was, by all accounts, “Anarchy In The U.K.,” which ended the chaotic concert.  About 2,000 rock fans crowded into the stuffy venue and greeted the Pistols by tossing beer cans and spitting on the performers. 

Clad in black leather, bass player Sid Vicious whipped off his coat to reveal some mysterious words carved into his bare chest, apparently with a knife.  Audience members seemed to delight in harassing him the most because Vicious responded to every taunt and catcall. 

At one point someone hurled a beer can that hit Vicious in the head.  The stage spotlights went dark immediately, and when the house lights popped on a few seconds later Vicious was swinging his instrument by the neck like a baseball bat, trying to mow down audience members standing closest to the stage. 

Rotten also seemed to delight in stoking the crowd.  “All you cowboys are faggots,” he said at one point. He was hit square in the face with a food item, possibly a fried pie – but that didn’t stop his endless taunts and goofy facial contortions. 

The presence of large security guards on either side of the stage promised that none of the shenanigans would get out of hand, and would suggest that the Sex Pistols’ act was more put-on than punk. 

In fact, the most “punk” act of the night was the defacing of Ray Price’s photo outside Randy’s.  Someone carved a swastika in the country crooner’s forehead. 

When the show was over, and fans waded through an ankle-deep sea of beer cans toward the exits, a few country couples wandered in wearing their cowboy hats and boots. 

“What happened here?” they asked.  Even those who were there would find that question a little tough to answer.

MP3: No Fun (live)

Sex Pistols website


3 Responses to “30 Years Out: The Sex Pistols live at Randy’s Rodeo”

  1. I remember that show! I’d say that the audience was about 1/3 hard core punkers, 1/3 curious (which included me), and 1/3 hell raisers. It’s been a while. but I recall more than one beer can being tossed (many of the them full, with the tap pulled and the beer flying), as well as plates of food. The band was in constant motion dodging debris. I’ve never seen an act feed off of hostility the way those guys did. And thanks for documenting that Sid V. referred specifically to cowboys with the “faggots” remark: That’s often dropped off of accounts of the show. Great post!

    P.S. I saw Patty Smith at Randy’s a few months later. She came out wearing a Confederate flag like a poncho.

  2. 30daysout Says:

    That was a great night at Randys, I wish I could have seen that Patti Smith show! I seem to recall people got much more hostile after the “faggots” remark …

  3. Absolutely effin’ incredible is all I can say about the Pistols that night. And Johnny’s comments after Sid’s slugger action was priceless: “aww, Sidney dropped his guitar!”

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