Of course it was an important gig.

Possibly the catalytic moment in Manchester’s musical history which sparked lots of the following action.

The Sex Pistols gig at the Free Trade Hall is now 40 years old.

June 4th 1976 was the night that Buzzcocks brought the Pistols up to Manchester for the concert that was attended by some of the key players of the Manchester post punk scene – it’s follow up gig four weeks later saw a few more inspired into action by the Pistols music/image/energy/attitude making the punk band a sort of honorary and huge footnote in the Manchester music history.

The story is much polished and much cherished but there is an added myth that the amount of people who claimed they were there would have been thousands. I can honestly say that in all my years of living in Manchester I’ve hardly met anyone apart from the clutch of people who actually made the gig who claims they were there at either show.

It’s a great myth of course and gives the two gigs a real added sheen but apart from the trusty few who made it down there out of curiousity or coincidence there is actually hardly anyone else who ‘claimed they were there’!

You can read an oral history of the two gigs in John Robb’s Oral History of Punk Rock book here

You can steal John Robb’s ‘Oral History of Punk Rock’ from any good book shop or buy a copy online from here.



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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. I was a student in Manchester at the time and on the strength of the reviews of the Sex Pistols in the NME (which was at the time an important publication) convinced about a dozen of UMIST’s Department of Management Science to go the second concert. We occupied a row of seats at the back of the hall, although I sat next to Caroline Coon who was making notes throughout. This enabled us to observe the clashes between ‘supporters’ of Slaughter and the Dogs and the ‘supporters’ of the Sex Pistols which involved spitting and posturing rather than violence.

    The sound quality was awful, even by 1976 standards, and as it was mid summer and light outside, the visual impact was limited. I recognized ‘Substitute’ and ‘Steppin Stone’ but not much else. I recognized Tony Wilson. But the Sex Pistols looked and sounded original.

    That summer punk became real. For Manchester it began with the music, with the Ranch night club, fashion for using clothes which cost nothing, and it ended later in the year when Hancocks, the jewelers on King Street (still there) began offering safety pins made of gold.

    I am afraid I do not know if any of the others from the Department of Management Sciences regarded the event as having cultural significance, but clearly some of the audience did.


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