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Sex Pistols had a future after all, but Sid Vicious wouldn't have liked it

Sex Pistols singer Johnny Rotten roars at Toronto's Molson Amphitheatre during the band's 1996 reunion tour. Photo: Dick Loek, Toronto Star.

Peter Howell

Toronto Star

This seems obvious, but just in case, my review below of the Sex Pistols' August, 1996 Toronto concert during their "Filthy Lucre" reunion tour is what the Brits call a "wind-up." I was absolutely delighted to see the Sex Pistols, whom I'd missed during their 1970s heyday. And I didn't really think Sid Vicious was still alive — although, if he was, he'd now be a senior citizen since his 65th birthday was in May. Sid, are you out there and ready for your discounts? You can now get free drugs and 20% off razors.

Open letter to Sid Vicious (wherever you are):

Sid, it finally happened.

After years of saying "never" — and you know what that word means in rock 'n' roll — your alleged former mates in the Sex Pistols have reunited, 18 years after it all blew apart.

Frontman Johnny Rotten, guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook and bassist Glen Matlock (that scheming pretender to your throne) played here last night, at the Molson Amphitheatre at Ontario Place.

It's an amusement park, Sid. The first show in Canada by the legends of punk was in a venue built by a beer giant and sponsored by a cellphone firm.

Cellphones, Sid: Portable jobs invented after you supposedly died of a drug overdose in 1979. It's called progress. Not your death, the phones.

I know these bogus Pistols are calling it the Filthy Lucre Tour, and they're having a laugh at scamming us with the Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle once again. Who'd have thought it would come to this?

I mean, I've even heard that Johnny has allowed "Anarchy In The U.K." to be used in a karaoke machine, for a tour promotion contest.

Karaoke machines, Sid: Oh, never mind.

Sure, the band can still play the old hits and non-hits. They did every song from their one and only studio album, "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols," and a couple of others besides. They still know how to rock like a chainsaw rips through logs.

The point is, Sid, it was never supposed to be like this. Punk and the Pistols were supposed to be about smashing down pompous rockers, not joining them. The "no future for you" chant from "God Save the Queen" used to sound like dire prophecy. Now it sounds like sweet nostalgia.

The fact that the Pistols split so decisively in 1978, after a single LP and just 12 days into their first tour of North America, stood for something.

I know it did to me. "Never Mind The Bollocks" meant more to me than "Sgt. Pepper" or "Pet Sounds." I believed in punk.

But I have to admit, I'm partly to blame. I wanted this reunion to happen, Sid. I always felt cheated that I'd never seen the Pistols.

I had bet a friend a lunch that the place would sell out all 16,000 seats, not just the 9,000 or so that actually did come. I guess I'd better dig out those McDonald's coupons . . .

But I digress. What really bugs me is how disrespectful everybody has been, worst of all the band.

Johnny said that you couldn't really play bass, Sid. He said you were just a "coat hanger" on stage.

And to think they replaced you with Matlock. I know he was in the band before you, and he can actually play bass and write, but he hasn't an ounce of your sneering style, Sid.

He refuses to slash his bare chest with a broken beer bottle, like you used to do as easily as drawing breath.

Until the band walked out, commencing with the thundering fetal nightmare of "Bodies," I held out hope that you'd be there, Sid. Like Elvis and Jim Morrison, I knew you hadn't left us, you'd gone into hiding.

Hiding in disgust at things like last night's concert, where we all herded like sheep to watch a parody of what punk used to mean to us.

Ever get the feeling you've been bleated, Sid? 🌓

(This review originally ran in the Toronto Star.)



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