Page last updated at 07:44 GMT, Friday, 15 December 2006

When punk rock came to Caerphilly

Sex Pistols
The Sex Pistols had just released Anarchy in the UK

They were public enemy No1 and basking in the notoriety of their first single Anarchy In The UK - but in 1976 the Sex Pistols met their match in Caerphilly.

The punk rockers' gig in the town's Castle Cinema on 14 December has become the stuff of Welsh rock n' roll legend.

The band was met by a large group of singing Christians, who picketed the small crowd attending the concert.

The gig's anniversary is being marked in the town on Saturday with a punk festival at the local rugby club.

The band's December 1976 "Anarchy" tour to promote their recently-released first single had been dogged by cancellations and opposition at many venues.

But concerts at Swansea and Newport on previous nights had passed off relatively quietly.

Caerphilly Sex Pistols protest 1976
Local women were at the forefront of the anti-Pistols picket

However, when the Pistols arrived in Caerphilly, they were met by a well-organised and angry crowd of placard-waving protesters made up of church groups and local mothers.

Attempts to get the gig at the cinema cancelled failed, so the protesters vented their fury outside the venue as the much smaller audience for the gig went inside.

"The reaction we got in Caerphilly was unbelievable," Glen Matlock, the Pistols' pre-Sid Vicious bassist, later recalled.

"We'd never seen anything like it. All these people saying we were sinners."

'Devil's spawn'

Journalist Wayne Nowaczyk, then a reporter on the local Rhymney Valley Express who was sent to cover the Pistols' visit, said he was shocked at the severity of the protests.

He said: "The national media were going nuts suggesting the Sex Pistols were the devil's spawn and that the world was coming to an end.

"A vicar involved said he had met a murderer from Montana but he wouldn't shake the hands of the Sex Pistols, which seemed slightly over the top.

"I was shocked at the ferocity and the intolerance of the reaction.

"I went there expecting a small demonstration, but there was 150 plus there and police all over the place.

"I thought the whole thing was less about the Sex Pistols and more of a comment on British society and media at the time.

"People were quite sheltered and easily shocked and the Sex Pistiols were prepared to ride the media storm."

Ray Davies
Ray Davies said he was "sorry" for his role in the protests

One of the leaders of the protest was local councillor Ray Davies who organsed opposition to the gig after being approached by concerned mothers.

Still a Caerphilly councillor, Mr Davies said that 30 years on he was "very sorry" for his part in attempting to ban the Pistols, adding it was "because the young mothers were against it and I just wanted to represent their point of view".

The events around the Pistols' visit to Caerphilly were immortalised in their film Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle in which Mr Davies can be seen in the forefront of the protests.

He said: "I was conducting the carols and when I look back now and see the couple of young people creeping in there I feel absolutely and thoroughly ashamed of myself.

"I've got some great regrets when I look back at it because who am I, a fuddy-duddy councillor, to tell young people what they should listen to, what they should enjoy and how they should conduct themselves and their lives?

"We should try and put a plaque there to the Sex Pistols to commemorate the event that took place in Caerphilly and I would be prepared to unveil it."

With the cinema since demolished, the 30th anniversary of the gig is being marked on Saturday evening with a punk festival in the town's rugby club.


We asked you to share your memories the infamous Sex Pistols Caerphilly gig - whether you were inside or outside.

Below are a selection of your responses.

I was 15 years old at the time. Me and a mate told our parents that we were staying at respective friends houses and got the bus over to Caerphilly and went to the concert. However, we didn't expect the demonstration and the TV cameras to be present - when the TV news guys recorded the demo and panned the crowd waiting to go in to see the Sex Pistols, me and mate were caught on the news report. Sunsequently, our parents were watching the news and grounded us for weeks.
Martin Simmonds, Crumlin then - Now All over the Place - London, Bermuda where-ever!

I was a 16 year old living in Caerphilly at the time and wanted very much to attend the concert -I'm afraid (ashamed) to say, though, my parents wouldn't let me. The entire adult population of Caerphilly were in fear of what might happen - and, if I remember rightly all the pubs in the town were closed that evening.
Keith Griffiths, Caerphilly, Mid-Glam

It's difficult to comprehend now but back then people really believed it was the end of the world and the Sex Pistols were responsible.

I went to the gig along with several mates from Nelson, some out of curiosity and some looking for a dust up. On arrival we found the Castle Cinema doors securely locked and we were moved on by the law. We listened to the bands through one of the fire exits down the side of the Cinema for some time before having a quick drink in the Boars' Head next door. We loitered around the fire exit again with intent to enter somehow but found ourselves scrutinised by a large police presence, of Miners Strike preportions, who always seemed to appear to a fresh rendition of Chrismas carols.

We settled for a few more beers in the Bluebell Inn on the other side of the Cinema and amused ourselves by counting the coming and goings of 'plain clothes' policemen (an anorak haphazardly thrown over a blue uniform) like a waddle of comical penguins. A terrified landlord told us we were welcome to stay in the pub if we so wished but he was now locking the doors as the show was about to end and he expected the world to shortly end along with it. We decided to take our chances outside, after all, we had the God Squad out in force that night.

We waited at the Cinema entrance along with a News Crew from BBC Wales and some of the lads amused themselves by giving spoof interviews and taking the micky in general. We were genuinely disappointed the following evening when none of our efforts appeared on Wales Today.

There didn't seem to be many in the Cinema and they soon dispersed into the night once passing the News Crew, along with the police and the carol singers. I wonder if they really did save the world that night.

Its a shame the Castle Cinema is no longer there or the pubs for that matter. It was an interesting evening which has passed into Punk folklore and I'm glad to say I was there and part of it, however over the years I've regretted not getting there earlier to see the show.
Kevin Dicks, Cardiff

I was 30 at the time & a member of the local church leading the singing of Christian songs outside. I also wrote the lealet distributed on that evening. Those from the large group from my local church were neither angry nor ferocious. But we did wish to take a clear stand against this further decline in moral standards. It is amazing that Glen Matlock should be surprised at being termed a sinner. Their own advertising explicitly spoke of their being "antichrist". Hardly the stuff of saints! Not that we consider ourselves superior. Had I not been converted at university, I dread to think how I would have ended up. But God... As for the remarks about not speaking to "punks", several local punks attended our coffee bar & we often spoke together on the streets. One was converted & joined us.
John L Birkin, Caerphilly, UK

I was at Art College in Newport at the time and got involved with the infamous Sex Pistols concert in Caerphilly.

There were far more strange people outside the cinema than inside and not one of the protestors had any idea who the Sex Pistols were, but all were adamant that they shouldn't be allowed to ever perform in public. Given their tolerant attitudes, I have often wondered how those screaming young mothers' children ended up !

The show itself was awful, mainly because none of the band had any musical skill at that time.

Malcolm McClaren was a brilliant publicist though and was probably responsible for setting up the protest too.
Steve, Porthcawl

For 30 years I and all my teenage proto-punk mates have had to live with the eternal regret and shame that we didn't manage to travel a few miles up the road from Ponty to Caerphilly for this legendary night. We probably had better things to do, like mooch around on street corners. A couple of people we know did get there, though: Spider Evans, as I remember, even cropped up briefly in The Great Rock 'n' Swindle and as a result became an icon who walked among we mere mortals. To make up for it, a few of us middle-aged revolutionaries went to see one of the Pistols' reunion gigs in London a couple of years ago. Occasionally funny, but mostly depressing and shambolic, at least it means we can now go to our graves saying we've seen the Pistols. And if no-one asks too closely, we'll pretend it was Caerphilly '76.....
Nick, Cardiff now, Pontypridd then

I was 17 years old at the time and Caerphilly was practically my universe. I was the right age; in the right place; at the right time; but somehow the whole experience passed me by. I only recognise the events from news clips and from the film although I was a regular customer at the Castle cinema an lived less than a mile away. I just don't remember it being such a big deal at the time. Sorry.
Jonathan Golding, Caerphilly then, Cardiff now



video and audio news
Watch footage of the 1976 Caerphilly protests



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