Johnny Rotten was still squirming a bit after the presenter had called him out on his naughty word. Schoolboy humiliation washed over him as Bill Grundy, dapper in his gray sport coat, black shirt and black and blue tie, mocked. Johnny scolded himself – the best you could come up with was “shit.” How weak!
“Good heavens,” said Grundy with false shock, “You frighten me to death.”
Johnny shrank at the ridicule, looking down at his fuzzy black and white sweater that suited a 1950’s pinup girl more than a Sex Pistol. Guitarist Steve Jones sat, smoked and stewed.
Grundy went on, addressing Siouxsie Sioux, standing to his right. After a bit of banter, Sioux took the piss out of the older man.
“I always wanted to meet you,” she said coyly, sarcastically, batting her clownishly made up eyes.
Grundy was repulsed by these dirty punks, but attracted as well. The bleached blond Sioux in her white shirt and suspenders intrigued him. He'd had worse. Imagining her attentions to be pure, Grundy, reeking of gin, pursued.
“We’ll meet afterwards, shall we?”
That was it for Jones. In his sleeveless t-shirt that featured a monochromatic pair of tits, he puffed on his ciggy and let Grundy have it.
“You dirty sod. You dirty old man,” spat Jones contemptuously.
Grundy, sensing a scene, pushed him. “Well keep going, chief, keep going. Go on, you've got another five seconds. Say something outrageous.”
And he did. “You dirty bastard. You dirty fucker. What a fucking rotter.” The other Pistols, Glen Matlock and Paul Cook, laughed. Johnny smiled weakly, knowing Steve had taken the spotlight from him. After Grundy signed off, Steve stood up and after a bit of celebratory dancing, the entourage ran off to the green room backstage for more of the free drink that had greeted them upon their arrival.
Telephones rang. Steve and Sioux picked up the receivers, and were met by complaining viewers, appalled at the foul language they’d been subjected to. “Fuck off, you stupid cunt!” yelled Sioux.
Everyone giggled but John. He was ashamed that he hadn’t risen to the occasion and knew he needed to seize the moment.
“Ah, he thought he bloody had us, didn’t he. Well, we wiped his arse off the floor, didn’t we!”
Steve couldn’t believe it. He’d done the deed, and Johnny, that big headed pain in the ass, wanted all the credit.
“You didn’t say a word, you little shit,” said Steve, gobbing on the carpet in disgust.
Rotten knew he’d been a coward and deflected Jones’s rightful scorn to Glen.
“Me? I said ‘shit’! I started the whole row! It was Glen who said nothing, sitting all neat with his clean cut hair and his poofy sweater.” Rotten turned and lashed out at Matlock, sitting quietly. “You ain’t one of us, Glen. You’re a prim little schoolboy, a real musician.”
Glen got up to protest, but thought better of it. He’d hated John’s guts ever since the press had gone to his skull. On top of that, Glen had already been planning his own group and EMI was interested. He wanted to write melodies mainly and that wasn’t what The Sex Pistols were interested in.
“Fine, I’ve had enough of this.” said Glen. “I quit.”
“Maybe you can join Wings,” Johnny sneered. “You always loved The Bay City Rollers any way.”
Steve and Paul watched with disinterest. Jones never really got on with Glen, thought he was a wee bit poncified, not one of the lads. Once Steve had stolen a bass and gave it to Glen to sell. Poor Glen, innocent as always, hadn’t a clue it was hot and was arrested. Paul met Glen first, when they were kids playing football on Wormwood Scrubs, but he didn’t care whether Matlock was in the band or not.
“You’ll regret this John, you need me,” Glen threatened. “Who you gonna get to replace me?”
“Ah, you’re not so special. It’s easy, we’ll get Sidney!”
Steve and Paul recoiled. Sidney? Sid Vicious? Sid was crazy and couldn’t play a lick. He may have been acting the drummer in Sioux’s band The Banshees, but he couldn’t play. Sid followed John everywhere. Once he was a conservative kid worried about his exams, but Sid became Sex Pistols’ fan number one, transforming into a reprobate, drinking, fighting and shooting up at the gigs he attended night after night.
Jones jumped in. “That nutter? He can’t play bass.”
“Who the fuck cares? He’s one of us,” replied John. “He’s not some suburban geezer like Glen, listening to Paul McCartney and writing pretty little songs.”
“Wait a bloody minute, John. Glen may be a fuckin’ wanker and a tart but he can write and he can play.” Steve looked at Glen, who stared straight back. “There’s no way Sid will join this band. God, you’d be sorry if you brought that stupid fucker in. HE CAN’T PLAY!”
“Does it matter?”
“Of course it matters, you twat. We are a band. Bands need people who can play instruments.” Steve was disgusted with John.
Just as he was put in his place by Bill Grundy, Johnny found himself again contrite, with Steve in charge. He hung his head as Jones spoke.
“Listen Glen, you’re a tosser for sure, but you are the best musician of the lot of us and we can easily make it big. Whaddaya think?”
For a moment Glen was quiet, but quickly realized that The Sex Pistols would be huge if they hung together and Johnny didn’t fuck things up with his massive ego. It was worth a go.
“Just keep Johnny on a leash, Steve, ‘kay?” Johnny remained mute.
Later that night, at the 100 Club, The Sex Pistols put on a killer show, with blistering versions of Matlock’s “Pretty Vacant” and a cover of The Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction.” Out in the crowd, Sid Vicious pogoed, springing up and down doing the dance he created. In a quick, he heaved a beer bottle against the wall and a shower of glittering specks of glass descended on the writhing revelers. Listening to his favorite band, accompanied by the screams of those cut by the shards, Sid grinned like a baby. He was living his dream.
The power struggle between Johnny Rotten (Lydon) and manager Malcolm McLaren would cause a rift between Rotten and Glen Matlock. Matlock, the group’s bassist and primary songwriter, was seen by Rotten as a McLaren stooge. Glen was sacked and, on March 3, 1977, was paid less than £3000 settlement and subsequently vilified by Rotten as conservative and liking The Beatles too much. Matlock would form The Rich Kids with future Ultravox front man Midge Ure. Sid Vicious was brought in as the band’s new bassist, but without Matlock’s writing skill The Pistols hit a creative dead end and broke up in January 1978 after a disastrous tour of America. Johnny regretted bringing Sid into the group and hated him from day one, as Sid and his heroin addicted girlfriend Nancy Spungen annihilated the band.