Much has been said about the Sex Pistols' final performance at the Winterland Ballroom on January 14, 1978 - and much of it has been said by the Sex Pistols themselves. Johnny (John Lydon) Rotten has described it as the worst of their only U.S. tour and their worst performance ever. At the time of this performance, Rotten was disgusted by Malcolm McLauren's mismanagement and pettiness having, as Rotten recalls in their glorious documentary The Filth and The Fury, turned guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook against him, and bassist Sid (John Ritchie) Vicious, who replaced original bassist Glen Matlock, was on a downward spiral due to his ever increasing heroin addiction. On the night of this historic 14-song performance, there was no sound check. Steve had to tune his guitar before each song. Sid was flying high on junk. Rotten had the flu. And good ole Paul was doing his best to keep the beat. Indeed, these dreadful details are the ingredients for a diasterous performance. However, after giving this concert, which is available on You Tube, another look, I believe their Winterland gig is their best.
This concert is absolutely hillarious. Rotten is bloody hysterical. From the look on his face as the band roars into their opening song "God Save The Queen," to his pleads to the audience to throw him more gifts and trinkets ("Cameras? Can we have a couple of cameras? I can get rich this way. Any more presents?"), to his quips between songs. "If you can put up with that you can put up with anything," he tells the audience after the band plays "Seventeen." Steve The Wiseass calls the crowd a "bunch of fucking cowboys." Sid is quite the comedian also. "This song is about you," he tells the audience like a bullying schoolboy, "it's called 'Problems,'" and he proceeds to count it off. He cracks me up everytime. Of course, there is the Pistols' infamous encore a cover of The Stooges "No Fun." "You'll get one number and one number only because I'm a lazy bastard!" No truer words were spoken by Rotten as the group rip into the song that proves to be their swansong. Of course, the performance has its issues. Sound monitors went off unexpectedly. However, these details did little to obscure the Pistols' greatness. Amazingly, the more pissed off and miserable Rotten becomes - and by the encore Rotten is livid - the better the Pistols are or the best they can be at that time. Overall, this performance is genius.