Sex Pistols \ The Heyday [BOUCD 6603]
Documentary interview CD containing material first released as Fact 30 by Factory Records. 68 minutes in total, detailed liner notes in booklet.
Bernard Brook-Patridge (1.54)
Sid Vicious (22.39)
Steve Jones (6.03)
Paul Cook (6.40)
John Lydon (14.12)
Glen Matlock (14.27)
Rose Corre and Malcolm McLaren (2.13)
All tracks are interviews recorded by Fred and Judy Vermorel in August 1977.
"A fascinating and crucial document. Not only are the band members interviewed individually, they are aware that they are being interviewed for a band biography, and as a result respond with more considered replies than the average journalist would have elicited. There is no substitute for capturing the views of those in the eye of the storm, while the storm is still raging" (God Save the Pistols website, 05/2003)
"An essential alumnus for anyone with more than a passing interest in this infamous British institution. It's the interviews with the two group's two erstwhile bassists that are the chief object of fascination here. Matlock speaks with conviction and a tinge of disappointment rather than bitterness" (Whisperin' & Hollerin', 05/2003)
"A fascinating social document, if occasionally tedious" (Glasgow Herald, 07/2003)
In August 1977, husband and wife team Fred and Judy Vermorel were commissioned to write the first (and arguably definitive) book on the Sex Pistols, by then the most controversial band in the known world and already recognised as a cultural landmark. Their pedigree was impeccable. Fred Vermorel had met Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren (then Malcolm Edwards) in 1965 at Harrow School of Art, when they were respectively 16 and 17 years old, and embarking on a pre-diploma course in Fine Art.
Fred met Judy in 1969 at the Polytechnic of Central London, where both were studying communications. They married in 1973. Judy's first job was at Decca Records, where she was instrumental in signing Adam Ant. Fred began his career as a freelance writer with a sleevenote for another Decca artist, Mantovani.
Their Pistols book - The Inside Story - was completed in three months, and published by Star Books in January 1978. A revised and expanded edition appeared in 1981. The original edition took the Pistols' story up to September 1977, by which time the band had reached terminal velocity. Eight months earlier, in December 1976, their infamous television appearance with Bill Grundy had kneecapped their career as a live attraction, while the departure of main songwriter Glen Matlock in February 1977 marked the beginning of the end. Indeed after Matlock's departure the band would write just four new original songs. His exit was in part engineered by McLaren, who was perturbed that Matlock (the most educated and middle class member of the band) had begun asking awkward questions about band finances. In fact, much band revenue was being spent on McLaren's growing obsession with making a film.
By August 1977, when the interviews on this CD were recorded by Judy Vermorel, work on Never Mind the Bollocks was complete, but the album was not yet in the shops, and in the UK the band were obliged to play secret gigs as SPOTS (Sex Pistols On Tour Secretly). Five months later, in January 1978, the Pistols finally disintegrated on tour in America. Just as the Vermorels' book hit the stands, in fact, after being serialised in the Sun newspaper.
The Inside Story came wrapped in the kind of rubbish jacket design typical of any number of cheapo cash-in paperbacks on Abba or the Bay City Rollers a couple of years earlier. In fact it was an excellent book, which took the form of a smartly edited 'collage of interviews, factoids and jottings' centred on conversations with the five main protagonists - John Lydon, Sid Vicious, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Glen Matlock - as well as key supporting players such as Bernie Rhodes, Jamie Reid, Dave Goodman and roadie John Tiberi (aka Boogie). The diary of Glitterbest secretary Sophie Richmond was also worked in, although Richmond admitted to being suspicious of the Vermorels' motives at first.
The Vermorels never tried to interview McLaren formally, relying instead on Fred's intimate acquaintance of 13 years' standing, and privileged access to the band and management team. The Inside Story was the first text to point out the Pistols' Situationist pedigree, and established that the filth and fury surrounding them amounted to more than a classic rock scam. A French edition quickly followed, since when the book has been translated into many other languages.
Three years later, the interviews with Lydon, Vicious, Cook, and Jones were released on a limited edition cassette by Factory Records, the celebrated Manchester independent founded by Tony Wilson. Wilson, desiring some Factory connection to the Pistols, approached Fred Vermorel with a view to a release. At their first meeting, which took place in an Italian restaurant, Fred, seeking to emphasise a point, made an expansive gesture which splattered Wilson with tomato sauce. Wilson jumped to his feet, shrieking "That's my new fucking suit!" Despite this setback, an agreement was reached. Bearing the catalogue number Fact 30, The Heyday appeared in October 1980 in a limited run of just 5000 copies retailing at £2.99. Billed as a 'Factory Records Documentary Cassette' it was housed in a stylish plastic wallet (and a not so stylish gold cassette housing) designed by Peter Saville. A few copies came with a Christmas card, and in December Factory broke with tradition and took out a full page ad for the tape in the NME. Despite the label's pseudo-Situationist credentials, however, The Heyday was dismissed by many as a cheap cash in, quite unworthy of Factory's highbrow standards, and little better than Some Product - Carry on Sex Pistols, released by Virgin a year earlier. Some Product, in turn, owes something to the editing style employed by the Vermorels in The Inside Story.
In fact, the Vermorel tapes stand as a fascinating aural document, and provide a more revealing insight into the reality of the Pistols than any number of more recent, well-rehearsed recollections by the main protagonists, coloured as they are by hindsight and spin. To the original Factory release, Fred Vermorel has now added equally revealing interviews with Glen Matlock, Bernard Brook Partridge (of the Greater London Council), and Malcolm McLaren's grandmother, Rose Corre.
The CD kicks off with a fatuous rant by Bernard Brook-Partridge, the man largely responsible for banning the Pistols from performing in the Greater London area in the wake of the Grundy furore. A Conservative, Partridge was first elected onto the GLC in 1967, and represented the east London wards of Havering and Romford until 1981. Back in May 1977 the Tories had just won back control of the GLC from Labour, although BBP would have objected to punk and the Pistols regardless, and went on establish a second career as the voice of the outraged establishment. For more of the same, see his performance in Lech Kowalski's film DOA (1981), taped several months after this interview with Judy Vermorel.
The GLC was abolished in 1986, and thus was unable to ban the Pistols from performing their first reunion show in Finsbury Park in June 1996.
Whether Sid Vicious (born Simon John Beverley) can properly be called a 20th Century icon is open to debate. Bizarrely, he is the only member of the group named in Lebrecht's Companion to 20th Century Music. Nevertheless, this conversation is the only detailed (or sentient) interview with the Pistols' second, and incapable bassist to survive on tape, and is by turns surprising, amusing and chilling. Surprising, in that Vicious seems almost intelligent on a couple of occasions, such as when he discusses the gulf between "grown ups" and "kids", and amusing when discussing his role in the making of several watershed records on which he played not a note.
Regardless of whether you view Sid Vicious as a juvenihilist Romeo or simply a pathetic drug casualty, it is hard not to flinch at his promise that both he and girlfriend Nancy Spungen will be dead before they reach 24 - "if not sooner". Judy Vermorel conducted the interview on the couch at his mother's flat in Stoke Newington, with Spungen beside him. Fourteen months later, in October 1978, Spungen was found dead in Room 100 of the Chelsea Hotel in New York, having been stabbed in the lower abdomen. Vicious was charged with second degree murder and remanded, but overdosed on heroin on February 2nd 1979 after being released on bail. The funds for his last fatal fix came from his mother, Anne Beverley, who herself committed suicide at her remote Derbyshire home in September 1996.
For years most were happy to accept that Sid Did It, or that the pair made a suicide pact, which Sid then failed to conclude. Yet it's unclear whether Vicious ever actually admitted killing Spungen, and in recent years some have offered a posthumous Not Guilty verdict. On the night Spungen died, October 12th, Room 100 was robbed, and several thousand dollars stolen. The room was a Mecca for dealers and lowlife, and apparently busy that night, yet Vicious was unconscious on Tuinol for most of the time. Unfortunately most of the material witnesses are either dead themselves, or have long since gone to ground.
Yet even if Vicious was innocent of murder, at trial he may well have gone down for manslaughter. Here was a man - barely - of 20 who had already wounded Nick Kent with a bike chain in May 1976, glassed a female punter at the 100 Club punk festival four months later, threatened DJ Bob Harris at the Speakeasy, and assaulted Patti Smith's brother Todd in a New York club in December 1978 - the latter violent act committed while on bail. Here too was a heroin addict who called himself Sid Vicious. Certainly the Vermorel tape would have sent the prosecution into transports of delight, as it offers graphic evidence of a profound death wish, in particular the promise that "my friend here" would be dead within four years - "just try making us grow up."
The references to the Jack Lewis interview are to a piece in the Daily Mail. Lewis was the first journalist to interview Vicious and was by then aged 60, which makes it easier to understand how the Sex Pistol managed to pull the wool over his eyes. Elsewhere, the Judy Vermorel interview is the source for a treasured pearl of Vicious wisdom, frequently cited with approval by Factory boss Tony Wilson, that "99 per cent is shit" ie the man on the street is a cunt. It's a little ironic, given Vicious admits that "I feel things - I don't think about things very much."
American listeners will need to know that Hughie Green hosted a popular 70's TV talent show called Opportunity Knocks, and perfected a ghoulishly insincere grin. As for the occasional bursts of inexpert bass playing, they serve only to reinforce Lydon's pithy, Ziggy-derived appraisal of Sid's career given some years later: he took it all too far, and boy he couldn't play guitar. The interviews with Paul Cook and Steve Jones are typical of any number of chats with working musicians, although (unlike Jones) few can claim to have equipped an entire band and backline by the simple expedient of theft.
Far more interesting is the conversation with ex-Pistol Glen Matlock, recorded at his parents' semi in Greenford, Middlesex, and not featured on the original Factory cassette. Despite being the main songwriter in the band, Matlock had been eased out in February 1977, and was written out of history by McLaren. A few weeks after this interview was taped, Matlock formed the Rich Kids with Steve New, Rusty Egan and Midge Ure, and re-signed to EMI. He would also back Vicious at his Sid Sods Off show in August 1978. Here Matlock vents some candid opinions about McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, and offers several insights into his fractious relationship with Lydon. Tellingly, he is the only Pistol to actually discuss the music. The show with Screaming Lord Sutch was at High Wycombe College of Higher Education in February 1976, and the 100 Club date a month later. Both incidents are described in more detail by John Savage in England's Dreaming.
The conversation with John Lydon (then still Johnny Rotten) is uninspired. This is partly due to constant interjections from the resident Lydon fan club, illustrating well an unflattering point made by Matlock elsewhere on this CD. Lydon meanders around the education system, the Queen, Sixties hippies and the Sex shop, but appears profoundly disinterested. Given that Pretty Vacant had reached the Top Ten the previous month, it is perhaps not surprising that Lydon seems content with his lot as a Sex Pistol. Nevertheless, it seems surprising today that Lydon has nothing derogatory to say about McLaren, who since January 1978 has been the object of his unswerving emnity. So one way or another, it stands as a revealing dialogue.
The CD closes with another piece not included on the Factory cassette, recorded by Fred Vermorel circa 1970. In 1969 Malcolm McLaren began work on the short film The History of Oxford Street, which would have been his major project at Goldsmith's College. Due to what Jon Savage describes as 'a lack of money and conceptual focus' this 'piece of proto-Situ psychogeography' was never completed, although over an 18 month period other collaborators included Helen Wellington-Lloyd and Jamie Reid. Much later, in 1991, McLaren turned in a television descendent, The Ghosts of Oxford Street, for Channel 4. Here, McLaren's colourful grandmother Rose Corre (aged 83) struggles to recite the then-current version of the Oxford Street script, prompted by Malcolm himself.
Only Rose's cackle appeared on the original cassette of The Heyday. Ever get the feeling you were cheated?
In February 1988 Fred and Judy Vermorel collaborated with Factory again, this time on a 'tactical campaign' against the BPI (Fac 199), which attempted to wreck the Brit Awards by issuing forged press releases. The related poster campaign was called Bums for BPI, and Factory also released a 12" single, Stereo/Porno (Fac 198). Eventually the BPI issued an injunction. The couple divorced in 1991 after co-writing seven books, including the seminal study of pop fandom Starlust (1985). Both went separately into education, Judy into administration and Fred as course leader of a Masters in media. Fred Vermorel quit teaching in 2002 to focus on writing. In 1996 Bloomsbury published his biography of Vivienne Westwood, Fashion and Perversity. He also collaborated with Tony Wilson and Factory 2 on a spoken word drama titled Pornucopia, although this remains unreleased. Currently Judy Vermorel lives in the UK, and Fred in Paris.
Sex Pistols: The Inside Story, Fred and Judy Vermorel, 1978
England's Dreaming, John Savage, 1991
Satellite, Paul Burgess and Alan Parker, Abstract, 1999
Rotten - the Autobiography, John Lydon, Hodder & Stoughton, 1994
I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol, Glen Matlock, Omnibus, 1990
Sid & Nancy: Who Really Dunnit?, Mark Paytress, Mojo, 3/2000
The Great Rock n' Roll Swindle, dir. Julian Temple, 1980
Sid and Nancy, dir. Alex Cox, 1986
The Filth and the Fury, dir. Julian Temple, 2000
All material on the CD is copyright to Fred and Judy Vermorel. Re-edit engineered by Stephane Kurower. Additional engineering by Frank Brinkhuis. Thanks to: Fred Vermorel, Frank Brinkhuis and Mike Herbage. Artwork by Julien Potter.